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Ancient & Modern: Bangkok and Bhutan

Take a voyage of contrasts you embark on this 16-day Bangkok and Bhutan journey. You will have the opportunity to experience the bright lights of Thailand’s bustling, modern capital, as well as explore the most rural areas of old world Bhutan. This exciting adventure begins in Bangkok and travels onto Bhutan, with stops in Paro, Bumthang, Gangtey, Punakha and Thimphu. With hiking, rafting and lots of sights to see, there won’t be a dull moment for your entire adventure. 

Highlights
  • Tour the Grand Palace and admire its glittering structures built for Thailand’s royalty
  • Visit ancient fortresses in rural Bhutan
  • Hike up to the unique and remote Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan
  • Raft along the Mo Chu River in Punakha
Day by Day Itinerary

View Ancient & Modern: Bangkok and Bhutan in a larger map
Day 1

Arrive in Thailand’s buzzing capital of Bangkok. Begin your adventure with a tour of the fabulous Grand Palace. Next, check out Wat Arun (The Temple of the Dawn) and continue onto Wat Po - where you will find the sprawling reclining Buddha. Continue on to the fresh and fragrant flower market where the brightly-hued florals create a picture-perfect setting. We suggest staying in the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula Bangkok or the Siam Hotel for an out-of-this-world luxury stay.

Day 2

Start the day by breaking a sweat during your own private lesson in the country’s famous sport of Muay Thai. After getting cleaned up, see the inner workings of the city with a canal tour. A ride on a longtail boat is essential for an authentic Thai experience. Finish the day with a visit to the Jim Thompson House to see a building, where the city’s silk trade began.

Day 3

Leave the city for the day to visit the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya. Once the country’s capital, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is quite well-preserved. The ruins are best explored atop an elephant. Why not give it a try?

Day 4

Depart beautiful Thailand for the more remote location of Bhutan. Fly into Paro very early on your fourth morning. This gives you plenty of time to explore the city. Visit the ancient fortresses of Rinpung Dzong and Drukgyel Dzong. Next, continue on to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, an incredible ancient Buddhist Temple. Check in to either the Zhiwa Ling Resort, the Amankora or the Uma by Como for a comfortable, luxurious stay.

Day 5

Make the most of your time in Paro with an early start. The Kila Nunnery is a special spot, located on the side of a cliff. Next, learn about the area’s culture and history at the National Museum. Enjoy a stop at a local farmhouse before returning to your hotel to relax for the evening.

Day 6

Fly from Paro to the sacred city of Bumthang. You will find a high concentration of revered spots here. Visit the Yathra Center in Chume, the Kyichu Lhakhang Temple - home to the oldest monastery in Bhutan, and the Swiss Farm. The farm makes its own cheese using Jersey cow milk, as well as making the country’s national beer - Red Panda. Stay at either luxurious option of the Amankora or Yugharling Resort.

Day 7

Rise early to make the short trip to the famous Tang Valley. Farmhouses, fields and dense forests paint the countryside, creating a breathtaking sight. Visit Mebartso, the “Burning Lake.” You have the rare opportunity to see a monastic school housing nuns from ages 12 to 70 at the Pemacholing Nunnery. Stroll through Ura Village and spot sheep and yak being herded along the countryside. Return to your hotel in the evening.

Day 8

Spend a third day in Bumthang to ensure you don’t miss any of the amazing sites. Start the day off with a trip to the 16th-century palace converted into a museum - Ugyencholing. Enjoy a fresh-air lunch with a stunning view of the valley outside the palace. See historic artifacts in the galleries and learn about Bhutan’s unique monarchy.

Day 9

Travel to the postcard-perfect town of Gangtey, set in the middle of the Phobjikha Valley. The wetlands are home to the rare black-necked cranes. Explore the ancient Gangtey Monastery with an intricately-carved gate and unrivaled valley views. We suggest staying at the Amankora or the Gangtey Goenpa Lodge. The two hotels are both of the highest quality, offering unforgettable views of the mountain vistas.

Day 10

Enjoy the peace and quiet of a town not frequented by tourists. The area is ideal for hiking. The marshlands and flat, open terrain create a serene natural environment. Relax at your hotel this evening.

Day 11

Travel to the ancient capital of Bhutan - Punakha. The area is full of fascinating historic sites. The island fortress of Punakha Dzong is a must-see. The Chimi Lhakhank is an exotic 15th-century temple said to bless visitors with fertility. We suggest staying at either luxurious option of the Amankora or Uma Punakha for a good night’s sleep.

Day 12

Breathe in the fresh mountain air as you hike to the stunning Khamsum Yuley Monastery and elegant temple chorten. The chorten alone took 10 years to complete. Raft along the Mo Chu River for an exhilarating rush. In the evening you have the option to visit a local farmhouse.

Day 13

Travel to Thimphu via flight through Paro. Drive to Thimphu and enjoy a scenic ride along the way. Visit the Royal Textile Academy to learn about traditional Bhutanese handiwork. Next, visit the National Library which houses many rare manuscripts. Come evening time, stay in either the Amankora or the Taj Tashi - these are the two finest hotels in the area.

Day 14

Considered Bhutan’s cultural heart, strike out into Thimphu to see what the country has to offer. Begin with a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum. Here you can enjoy a delicious and filling authentic lunch. Pay the paper mill a visit, where you can see the creative ways the resource is recycled. In the evening, visit the Buddha Dordenma, where you will find a 149-foot bronze Buddha.

Day 15

Return to Paro to visit more of the city’s sites. Take a hike up to the beautiful Taktsang Palphug Monastery, more commonly known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The monastery is home to several sacred paintings and religious relics. Explore the area’s temples and return to the main town to check in to either recommended option of the Uma Paro and the Amankora.

Day 16
Departure

You adventure has come to a close. You can choose to extend your stay in Bhutan or begin your journey homewards. It’s been a rare, unique cultural experience exploring two of Asia’s jewels.

 

Suggested Accommodations

Location
Accommodation
BANGKOK
Mandarin Oriental, The Peninsula Bangkok, The Siam Hotel

Mandarin Oriental

For almost 140 years, royalty, celebrities, dignitaries and distinguished travelers from Graham Greene to Rudyard Kipling have stayed in the legendary Oriental on the Chao Phraya River. The 368 rooms and suites, with views over the river and the city, are sumptuous. The 10 restaurants and bars, serving all types of Asian and Western cuisine, are in a class of their own: Le Normandie is one of the best French restaurants in all of Asia - with an opulent setting and a superb menu - and is frequented by members of the Thai Royal Family. The Oriental Spa and fitness center are fabulous, with world-class treatments, equipment and facilities. This richly historical hotel has been consistently ranked by top publications as one of the world's finest hotels. The Oriental is a one-hour drive from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).

 

The Peninsula Bangkok

Overlooking the Chao Phraya river, the iconic Peninsula’s commanding views of the city’s skyline make it one of the most elegant choices in Bangkok. Designed with a blend of modern and traditional Thai decor, the hotel provides all of the comforts of home with an exotic flair, all with the level of quality service and amenities that define the Peninsula. The hotel boasts three restaurants: Mei Jiang for Cantonese cuisine; Thiptara for Thai home-style cooking on an open-air pavilion; and the River Cafe and Bar, located on the banks of the river. The excellent spa, ESPA, offers state-of-the-art treatments, and an extensive fitness center includes a pool set in a garden complex. The Peninsula is located approximately 45 minutes by car from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).

 

The Siam Hotel

The Siam Hotel is set on 3 acres of verdant lawn along the city side of Bangkok’s main river, the Chao Praya. The Siam is a private 39-room luxury retreat with its own unique historical background located in Bangkok’s royal Dusit district. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Bill Bensley, the property is Art Deco inspired with infusions of Thai antiques and traditional architecture. Guests have an array of amenities at their fingertips: restaurants, a cooking school, bar, café, spa, gym, yoga terrace, Muay Thai boxing ring, beauty salon, library/cinema, infinity pool, gift/antiques gallery, conservatory and traditional Thai houses. The Siam’s 39 suites and pool villas are noticeably spacious and well equipped with modern conveniences. All rooms are outfitted with plush furnishings, super-sized king beds and lofty ceilings. Each suite is individually designed with original turn-of-the-century Oriental artwork and antiquities and is catered for by a personal butler. Complimentary WiFi is available property-wide. Onsite dining options include a Thai restaurant, international cuisine bistro, bar and coffee and cakes shop. The Siam Hotel is approximately 50 minutes from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

 
 
PARO
Amankora Paro, Uma by COMO, Paro

Amankora Paro

Amankora Paro is located just outside of town and features sweeping views of the Paro valley and snow-capped mountains. The hotel, just 30 minutes from Paro airport, has 24 spacious suites designed to evoke a contemporary and minimalist vision of traditional Bhutanese style, incorporating local wood, stone and terrazzo tile. Each suite has a bukhari, or wood-burning stove, and a luxurious bathroom complete with soaking tub. Bhutanese cuisine and international fare are served in the hotel’s great room lounge, dining room, and terrace. The two-level spa contains private areas for massage and treatments, a glass-walled sauna, hot stone baths and a yoga room with a relaxation area. Fax services are available, as is Internet. There is no fitness center or pool, but the Amankora’s idyllic surroundings are perfect for hiking and mountain biking.

 

Uma by COMO, Paro

Uma by COMO, Paro is a 29-room hotel set in Paro Valley with breath-taking views of the Himalayas. The Bukhari restaurant, set amid pine trees, uses mostly organic food from the surrounding area for Bhutanese delicacies such as pakshee paa, a sliced pork dish with chilies and radishes; ema datsee, a chili and cheese dish, or hewa datsee, a combination of potatoes, cheese and chilies. Uma by COMO, Paro is home to the COMO Shambhala Retreat, a holistic health spa with an open-air yoga pavilion overlooking the Paro Valley. Additional facilities include a business center, fitness center and swimming pool. The hotel is a 10-minute drive from the airport in Paro.

 
 
BUMTHANG
Amankora Bumthang

Amankora Bumthang

Amankora Bumthang is a recently opened Amankora in Bhutan, with views of buckwheat, millet and potato fields, an apple orchard, and Wangdicholing Palace, the Kingdom’s oldest palace, which is now a monastery. There are 16 suites complete with a bukhari and views of the courtyard and palace. Amankora Bumthang has a spa with three treatment rooms and a steam room. There is no business center, but the Library has an Internet station and WiFi access. The resort is approximately nine hours from the airport in Paro.

 
 
GANGTEY
Amankora Gangtey

Amankora Gangtey

Amankora Gangtey is in the remote Phobjikha Valley, with awe-inspiring views of a gorge and the 16th century Gangtey Goemba monastery. Each of Amankora's eight suites is fitted with a bukhari, a wood-burning stove, and wood paneling. The dining room and living room are combined and have views of the Phobjikha Valley out of floor-to-ceiling windows. There is no Internet, business center, fitness center or pool at Amankora Gangtey, but hot stone baths and a spa with two treatment rooms are available. The resort is approximately a 4-hour drive from the airport in Paro.

 
 
PUNAKHA
Amankora Punakha, Uma by COMO, Punakha

Amankora Punakha

Amankora Punakha is located just across a suspension bridge along the Mo Chu River, with suites built around a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse. A small property, there are only eight suites. The hotel is situated in an orange orchard, with views of Punakha Valley and Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most beautiful monasteries. The farmhouse has a dining room, courtyard and tea pavilion for dining and refreshments. The spa at Punakha has two treatment rooms, a steam room and a yoga and meditation area. There is fax and Internet access; however the connection is quite slow. There is no fitness center or pool, but hot stone baths are available. The hotel is approximately a four-hour drive from the airport in Paro.

 

Uma by COMO, Punakha

An intimate luxury lodge situated in a lush valley, the Uma by COMO, Punakha is nestled amongst rice fields and orchards, and overlooks a snake-like bend in the Mo Chu River. The lodge has a selection of villas suitable for a travel party of any size, as well as nine deluxe Valley View rooms with private terraces; all rooms boast comprehensive views of the surrounding landscape. The onsite restaurant, Bukhari, is named for a traditional Bhutanese fireplace, uses ingredients from local farms and can provide delicious meals for any palate. There is also a spa, the COMO Shambhala Retreat, with a range of holistic and Asian-inspired treatments, as well as hot tubs with a birds-eye view of the stunning scenery. Uma by COMO, Punakha is part of the award winning property and luxury retail group COMO Group, with a sister property in Bhutan called Uma by COMO, Paro.

 
 
THIMPHU
Amankora Thimphu, Taj Tashi

Amankora Thimphu


Amankora Thimpu is located on a hillside in a verdant pine forest far above Bhutan’s capital city. The hotel’s architecture is reminiscent of Bhutanese temples, or dzongs, and incorporates white-washed stone buildings around an enclosed courtyard. Sixteen suites are composed of living and sleeping areas, with views of the forest and nearby streams. The spacious terrazzo-tiled bathrooms have soaking tubs and twin vanities. Guests may dine either in an elegant dining room or on the adjacent terrace, both of which serve Bhutanese and international cuisine. Steam and sauna rooms are available, and massage and spa treatments are offered in private rooms nearby. Traditional hot stone baths can be scheduled. There is no fitness center. Fax and Internet are available. The resort is approximately 30 minutes from the airport in Paro.


 

Taj Tashi

Situated in the Thimphu Valley, this new property seamlessly blends Bhutan’s Dzong architecture and modern design. Adorned with classical hand-drawn Buddhist murals, its 52 deluxe rooms, 5 luxury rooms, 3 deluxe suites, 2 duplex suites and 4 luxury suites all afford guests an authentic peek into the region’s art and color. All accommodations have wired and wireless Internet access. Food and beverage options include an all-day, international cuisine restaurant, Ara Bar, an authentic Bhutanese restaurant, and a tea lounge. The Taj Spa is equipped with single and double treatment suites and has a menu featuring Indian holistic and signature treatments, specially designed to maintain physical, mental and spiritual equilibrium. There is a fitness center and a heated indoor swimming pool. The property is a two-hour drive from the airport in Paro, which is the only airport in the country. It is a six-hour drive to Phuntsholing and a 3.5-hour drive to Punakha.

 
 
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