WALKING TOURS

THE BEST WAY TO DISCOVER HAPPINESS
These tours don't go as high as the treks, and they finish at a hotel every night. So even those of you who may be worried about altitude can safely experience them.

 

Exploring Bhutan on foot is a complete pleasure. The serenity and sheer beauty of the landscape makes for peaceful, inspiring walking. The destination for most walks in Bhutan is a temple, fortress, monastery or nunnery, some many centuries old, in incredible locations. Once inside you begin to grasp the deeply spiritual side of this extraordinary country: golden statues, colourful silk hangings, ornate and highly detailed paintings, butter lamps and symbolic mandalas. Even the wood of the floorboards is beautiful, as it has grown silky from use over the years. All of our walking tours finish with a visit to the most iconic temple of them all, the wonderful Tiger’s Nest, situated on a cliff high above the Paro valley. We also take you to Thimphu, one of the smallest capital cities in the world and to Punakha, the seat of government until half a century ago and home to the most beautiful dzong or fortress, stunningly situated on the confluence of two rivers. You will encounter some steep gradients at times, as you would expect in the Himalayas but the climbs are well worth the effort.

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Western Bhutan Explorer

Duration: 7-days, 6 nights
Grading: easy-medium
Walking time: up to 5 hours per day
Price: starting from $3,000 per person

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

This weeklong tour explores the cultural hotspots of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha, which abound with ancient temples, fortresses and monasteries, some of which can only be accessed on foot, our favourite mode of transport at Rare Air! We have created a program of interesting and scenic walks taking you to fascinating destinations, exploring the wonderful culture of this tiny Himalayan kingdom. We take you to see the best that western Bhutan has to offer, all in the company of our wonderful local guide and driver.

Walking With The Thunder Dragon

Duration: 11-days, 10 nights
Maximum elevation: 4,100 metres
Grading: medium-hard
Walking time: up to 8 hours per day
Price: starting from $4,465 per person

BEST SEASON: spring and autumn

 

This is the perfect trip for fit walkers. We take you on some of the best day walks in Bhutan, some quite challenging. Finish every day in a comfortable hotel, most of which offer a massage or a hot stone bath – ideal after a big hike. You’ll get to see some wonderful scenery and visit some of Bhutan’s most picturesque temples. This trip incorporates two short treks, the Sagala trek and the Bumdrak trek and is highly recommended for walking clubs who may not want the experience of a long trek or the high altitude.

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There were so many highlights...the walk up the mountain to the Tshophu Lake and the panoramic mountain views, seeing those gorgeous children at the school, the cultural visits and the baseball game - hilarious.

Anne, Scotland

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Bhutan Heartland

Duration: 13-days, 12 nights
Grading: easy-medium
Walking time: up to 6 hours per day
Price: starting from $5,145 per person;

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

This longer walking tour enables you to see more of Bhutan, particularly Bumthang, considered to be the heart of the country because of its rural lifestyle and temples of great significance to the Bhutanese. We drive slowly eastwards, stopping to walk several brilliant day walks en route. Once in Bumthang we spend a couple of days exploring this wonderful part of Bhutan. We can start our walk from our hotel and simply explore the village, temples and local culture on foot.

CULTURAL TOURS

THE BEST WAY TO DISCOVER HAPPINESS

The culture of Bhutan is quite unique, very different from its Himalayan neighbours, and the preservation of it is enshrined constitutionally in the principles of Gross National Happiness, the term coined by the fourth king that brought the world’s attention to this tiny country. You will still see most Bhutanese wearing traditional clothing: for women a kira and for men a gho, hand woven garments of intricate detail, made of cotton, wool or silk. You’ll also experience their unique style of cooking, from the red rice to the liberal use of chillies – optional, don’t panic! There’s also butter tea, buckwheat pancakes and delicious momos to try.

 

The small population of Bhutan makes for easy travelling, particularly in the company of our wonderful guides and drivers. In eastern Bhutan you might need a good head for heights sometimes but the scenery is simply breathtaking. At Rare Air we try and take you into the heart and soul of Bhutan on our cultural tours and offer authentic experiences that give an understanding of what makes this very interesting place tick.

Textiles of Eastern Bhutan

Duration: 10-days, 9 nights
Grading: Easy
Price: starting from $3,635 per person; includes flight from Bumthang to Paro.

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

This unique itinerary will take you into the heart of eastern Bhutan, the home of traditional weaving. The local women of some of Bhutan’s loveliest and most remote villages practise this thriving craft. The grandmothers and mothers of the village pass down the tradition of hand weaving and dyeing and even very young girls can be seen working at their looms. The fine handicrafts they produce are truly beautiful works of art, woven with luminous silk and wool and are greatly sought after.

These highly colourful designs can be quite intricate, with tantric Buddhist symbols woven in. On this tour you will meet with these wonderful weavers and have the chance to try your hand at dyeing or at the loom. To get there you’ll also get to see some pretty incredible scenery too.

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"The cooks were magnificent in conjuring up meals and even cake.  In fact all the staff were magnificent, as camp was always. Namgyel was very patient and answered all our questions and gave me a better understanding of their culture, political system and their faith.  It was a magical journey through an amazing country.  From the majestic Tigers Nest monastery to trekking in a varied countryside and enjoying the splendour of the tshechu festival - a truly unique experience."

Anne, Scotland

Bhutan On A Plate

Duration: 8-days, 7 nights
Grading: Easy
Price: starting from $3,840 per person; includes 3,4 and 5 star hotels.

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

The best way to get to the heart of Bhutan is through its food and this trip will show you how food is cooked and grown here. Ema Datshi, chillies cooked in cheese, is the national dish of Bhutan but there is a lot more to Bhutanese cuisine than that. Forget cordon bleu: Bhutanese food is cooked very simply but is quite delicious. There’s a big emphasis on vegetables and red rice, all grown in Bhutan without chemicals, with dried pork or dried beef added for richness. And chillies. Chillies are treated like a vegetable rather than flavouring in Bhutan but you’ll find it toned down for visitors. We’ll also try to settle the argument about who makes the best momos, Tibetan style dumplings. This trip will take you to the fabulous markets, great places for people watching, where you might find some unusual ingredients. We’ll take you to our favourite restaurants in Thimphu, some serving traditional Bhutanese food, or maybe excellent Indian food. In between we take you to some of Bhutan’s best cultural sights, including the wonderful Tiger’s Nest.

Bhutan East to West

Duration: 14 days, 13 nights
Grading: Easy
Price: starting from $5,000 per person

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

We start in beautiful eastern Bhutan and travel slowly across the country, an incredible road trip that highlights the diverse topography and culture, as well as flora and fauna, of Bhutan. In the east you find deep gorges and rolling mountainside, with most villages built on sometimes fairly precipitous slopes. You will also experience quite mild temperatures here, as the altitude is lower. As you head west you will start to experience colder temperatures and broad, flat valleys with wide, fast flowing rivers. Culturally the trip transforms from a traditional agricultural society to the relatively modern metropolis of Thimphu. This trip is suitable almost year-round, with clear blue skies in winter, great for mountain views on the high passes. Spring brings gorgeous rhododendrons and in autumn lush green fields.

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Temples of Bhutan

Duration: 12-days, 11 nights
Grading: Easy
Price: starting from $4,805 per person

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

For those with an interest in Buddhism this trip takes an in-depth look at the spirituality of Bhutan and how it influences not only everyday life for the Bhutanese but also government policy. We spend time in Bhutan’s most sacred and important temples, in the company of our knowledgeable guide, learning about the iconography and symbolism of Vajrayana Buddhism. The history of Bhutan is entwined with the development of Buddhism and the main figures that propagated it, such as Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), Drukpa Kunley (the Divine Madman), Pema Lingpa (the treasure discoverer) and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (regarded as the founder of Bhutan). This wonderful trip takes you from Paro to Thimphu, Punakha, Trongsa and Bumthang, visiting sites where these important historical figures were said to have practised their faith.

FESTIVALS

THE BEST WAY TO CELEBRATE WITH THE LOCALS

Bhutan has festivals all over the country throughout the year. The biggest ones are at Paro, Thimphu and Punakha but some of the smaller festivals in more remote areas are quite charming and nowhere near as crowded. We may be able to include a festival in your itinerary, depending on the dates you want to travel. You will need to book early for the big three festivals, as hotel rooms can become scarce at these times. Please Customise to arrange your festival visit.

TREKKING TOURS

TREKS ARE THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE THE HIMALAYAS
These tours go higher than walks, and they include a split between hotels and camping as noted for each tour.

 

Trekking in Bhutan is unlike anywhere else. In this deeply spiritual Buddhist kingdom it is forbidden to climb mountains over 6,000 metres and there is an absence of the whole mountaineering culture. Instead you get to experience Bhutan’s unique culture, whether it’s meeting the semi-nomadic yak herders of eastern Bhutan on the Merak-Sakteng trek or the Layaps of Lasa on the Tibetan border on the Jomolhari-Laya-Gasa trek.

 

You might see the flash of brilliant blue of the Himalayan monal (a native bird) or the deep pink of the blood pheasant on the Druk Path. You will see ancient temples and monasteries in remote locations and tiny villages that can only be accessed on foot. Some treks bring you up close and personal to some of the biggest mountains on earth while on others you can glimpse their snow-capped peaks in the distance. We choose our treks to capture the best of Bhutan and to create the perfect fit for your level of fitness and experience.

 

All of our treks are fully catered. You only need to carry a daypack with your camera, water and extra layers of warm clothing. All camping gear is provided and all meals are freshly prepared and delicious. We use only highly experienced government accredited English speaking guides. Our aim is simply for you to enjoy the journey.

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Dagala Trek

Duration: 12-day trip, including 6-day trek
Maximum elevation: 4,720 metres
Grading: medium
6 nights hotels, 5 nights camping
Price: starting from $4,805 per person; in high season ONLY

BEST SEASON: spring and autumn

This lovely trek is also known as the Thousand Lakes trek and although there are not actually one thousand lakes there are many, all of them very beautiful. It may feel like a remote trail as it sees fewer trekkers than other treks but you do pass through a few small villages and yak herders' settlements.

This is an excellent trek for views of the eastern Himalayan range in the distance. Trekking days are short and this is considered an introductory level trek but in Himalayan terms that means still fairly challenging, with some steep ascents and descents.

Parts of the trek are the habitat of the wonderful Himalayan monal, a bird with bright blue plumage. The lakes themselves are tranquil and crystal clear, in a beautiful pristine setting, with some of them teeming with trout.

Jomolhari-Laya-Gasa Trek

Duration: 18-day trip, including 12-day trek
Maximum elevation: 5,005 metres
Grading: medium-hard
5 nights hotels, 11 nights camping
Price: starting from $6,705 per person

This is the favourite trek of Rare Air.

BEST SEASON: spring and autumn

It doesn’t get much better in Himalayan trekking than the Jomolhari-Laya-Gasa trail. The road to the remote village of Lasa, close to the border ofTibet, offers some of the best mountain scenery in the Himalayas.

The trek passes through a few small villages and the habitat of the tarkin, the national animal of Bhutan. Spotting tarkin is rare but blue sheep are more common. There is also a chance to interact with the inhabitants of Laya, the Layaps, who have their own culture, language and style of dress.

This trek is challenging as some days are quite long and you will need a very good level of fitness but there are rewards for the hard slog. You will get up close to some of the big 6,000 and 7,000 metre mountains: Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, Kang Bum, Gangchhenta, Tserim Kang and Mount Masagang.

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Standing with a view of the magnificent Himalayan mountains in the background & being served a warm bowl of water to wash our hands each morning to our tent was a wondrous humbling experience for the soul, renewing one's hope in our glorious planet. Experiencing Bhutan is a treasure to keep, a joy to share with others as well as a time to learn.

Fran, Ferntree Gully

Druk Path and Dung Tsho

Duration: 12-day trip, including 6-day trek
Maximum elevation: 4,235 metres
Grading: medium
6 nights hotels, 5 nights camping
Price:starting from $4,805 per person

BEST SEASON: spring and autumn

The Druk Path is a wonderful introduction to trekking in Bhutan as it has a little bit of everything: dense green forest, high alpine lakes, views of snow-capped peaks and rocky plateaus. There are heart-pumping passes to conquer, strewn with colourful prayer flags. There is a remote dzong and a monastery to visit and it is home to some of Bhutan’s most beautiful birds: the Himalayan Monal, the Blood Pheasant and the Tragopan. There are dwarf rhododendrons, blue pine and fir and in spring there are wildflowers.

Distances are reasonably short on the Druk Path so there is time to enjoy the views and take some great photos. The first day is the most daunting as it ascends over 1,000 metres but then the gradient becomes a little easier to deal with, although the altitude can be quite challenging. Close to the end of the trek we take a detour to visit a particularly beautiful lake, Dung tsho.

This wonderful trek also links Bhutan’s two major cities Paro and Thimphu. Best walked in March to early June, or September to November.

Merak-Sakteng Trek

Duration: 14-day trip, including 5-day trek
Maximum elevation: 4,100 metres
Grading: medium
9 nights hotels, 4 nights camping
Price: starting from $4,610 per person

BEST SEASON: spring, autumn and winter

If you need an excuse to visit eastern Bhutan this might just be the ticket. There are fewer tourists, the climate is milder and the landscape of rolling mountains and alpine pasture is incredible. The trek passes through the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to the snow leopard, the red panda and the Himalayan black bear. It is also said to be the home of the Yeti, or abominable snowman, known in the local language as migoi. The focus of this trek is the two villages of Merak and Sakteng, home to the Brokpas, an ethnic group with its own traditions, language and culture. They also have a unique style of dress, woven from yak hair.

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Gangkhar (Gangkar) Puensum Trek

Duration: 19-day trip, including 11-day trek
Maximum elevation: 5,000 metres
Grading: Challenging
8 nights hotels, 10 nights camping
Price: starting from $7,300 per person

BEST SEASON: spring and autumn

This beautiful wilderness trek takes you to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkar Puensum, on the border with Tibet and standing at 7,570 metres. This trek starts in Bumthang, in the middle of Bhutan so the trip starts with a wonderful drive along the main east-west highway, with a number of day walks en route, an excellent way to acclimatise for this challenging trek. The trek follows an ancient trail to Tibet, with a gradual but strenuous ascent, crossing a high pass before reaching base camp, with exhilarating views of the Himalayas. There may be the chance to meet the families of yak herders who lead very simple and sometimes hard lives here. The appeal of this trek is its remoteness and pristine beauty that very few trekkers have ever experienced.

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