Why this Tour?
The main difference between this tour and others is our mode of transportation—cars, not a bus. Most of our travelers have seen the world on their own, rarely signing up for an organized tour. So to cater to those who have wanderlust in their core we have built something that is quite unique in all the world. On this tour you will be in a car with your travel companion, a Bhutanese guide and a driver who are ready to stop whenever you decide and as many times as you like. Simply put, you are the captain of your ship as we travel from one side of the country to the other. We limit the tour to 16 participants and rotate you from car to car daily so that you will have the opportunity to get to know our crew of 16 guides and drivers. (That’s right, we are one-on-one with our Bhutanese hosts.) You will also have the freedom to break away for the day and go somewhere else—all things are possible when you travel in your own car. Your personal English-speaking guide is eager to show you his country, introduce you to his family and serve as a cultural guide and interpreter. You will also find them to be good “fixers” as they get you welcomed into farmhouses, pujas (Buddhist ceremonies), farmhouse building sites and farm fields. Many of our participants have helped hand harvest wheat and some have even guided a wooden plow behind two oxen.
Our Spring and Fall tours leap-frog across the countryside and immerse you in non-stop culture of all forms: dance, song, art, farming, archery (the national sport), wildlife, religion, weaving and even visits a few school classrooms, something the government stopped allowing in 2011. You can enjoy sleeping in or rise at 5 a.m. to catch the fog lifting from a castle dzong. Participate in an archery match, ride a pony to Tiger’s Nest, enjoy a hot stone bath, eat lunch at a Bhutanese farmhouse, hike through a forest, and many other special events not listed on other Bhutan itineraries.
You will go to a small temple in Phongmey in the far eastern side of Bhutan for an exclusive festival put on by the nomads of Sakten and Merak--they trek for two days to get to us and even bring their two-man yak costume! We provide the food and prepare a hot lunch for over 100 villagers—you will be asked to wield a ladle in the serving line. (We bring pork, something the villagers hardly ever get to enjoy.) We also spend two nights in Ugen Choling, a small “cluster village” in the Tang valley where our guides and drivers (you, too! if you want) engage the villagers in archery and dago, a form of lawn darts. While we are there the head lama at the Jakar Dzong comes up with several young monks, his best festival dancers, and they perform masked dances in the courtyard, whirling about in colorful brocade gowns for our private festival. We are allowed to take pictures in the temple where they change masks and costumes. We will also erect personal prayer flags, visit farmhouses, and have special access to the unique cultural museum where our tour is allowed to take pictures.
Bhutan's tourism infrastructure is vastly improved over the past fifteen years and we constantly upgrade to new hotels that are a better fit to Western standards. All rooms are en-suite and have wi-fi available, albeit a few only in the lobby. Clean and spacious and except for maybe one or two that might have barking midnight dogs nearby they are quiet and off the beaten path. Some are truly a joy to stay in, especially the five-star NakSel Botique Resort in Paro where we spend the first two nights, owned by our Bhutanese partners at Rainbow Tours and Treks of Bhutan.
Dinner and breakfast are Bhutanese food, always hot (not spicy) and served buffet style in hotels--lunch is usually boxed sandwiches and boiled eggs. Special diets are impossible to obtain. Vegetarians will enjoy abundant vegetables since ninety percent of Bhutan's 700,000 citizens are subsistence farmers. Fiery hot chili peppers are served separately as a vegetable entree and not mixed with other entrees. (In fact, many travelers find Bhutanese food to be quite bland.) Fresh fruit is rarely served but frequently available at roadside markets.
It is said that the single mountainous road that traverses Bhutan turns every nine seconds on average, and while it is paved road repairs cause frequent slow-downs from the usual 30 mph. This road is also the main foot path and domestic animal trail--there are no bathrooms along the way but plenty of trails leading down into the bushes for your convenience.
Altitude sickness has not been a problem with any of the past participants. Altitudes range from 7,200 feet in Paro to 8,500 feet in Ura, with some passes at 12,000 feet. We move through the passes within a few hours and that's not high enough or time enough for altitude sickness to take hold. Our drivers are mature hand-picked family men who know every curve of the road, the only paved highway in their country. Email Robin.
“Best Bhutan adventure with Rainbow Tours” — 5 of 5 stars — Reviewed November 2, 2014—TripAdvisor Reviews of Rainbow Photo Tours