The Spirit of Bhutan 2020 October 25 to Nov. 6
“This peaceful nation … is emerging as a big draw, attracting those in search of a spiritual journey, a hiking adventure — or just a chance to experience a place before the rest of the world gets there.” ~ The New York Times.

Our inaugural trip to this beautiful country exceeded expectations. The beauty combined with the kindness of the people made it a perfect escape from routine. Everywhere we turned was another outstanding landscape. This country has become photographer's hotspot and when you visit, you'll understand why.

Only slightly larger than Switzerland, Bhutan has often been compared to its European cousin, made more relevant by the recent development of comfortable lodges and inns across the country. Unlike Switzerland, however, Bhutan’s mountaintops and slopes are graced not by ski lifts but vibrant and living monasteries where monks contemplate spiritual texts, engage in debate, meditate, study and preserve a way of life that has been endangered in the rest of the Himalayas. In the middle valleys, massive and colorful dzongs or fortresses come alive with festivals, religious events and the daily workings of government and monastic life. Fluttering prayer flags send out goodwill and blessings to the rest of the world while the friendly Bhutanese people welcome visitors with openness and curiosity. Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in Asia and the smallest state located entirely within the Himalaya mountain range. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by China in the north and India in the south. Bhutan lacks a border with nearby Nepal due to the Indian state of Sikkim and with Bangladesh due to the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.

Come with us to the country that measures success by the growth national happiness.
Experience Bhutan and its people by meeting families, participating festivals, staying in small hotels,
enjoying traditions, hiking through the countryside, and sampling regional foods.


If you want to speak to someone who went on last year's trip, contact me for references.


For questions with this form contact us at info@steppinoutadventures.com or call or text Robin at 847-414-4956
Those not paying via credit card, should send their check to Steppin' Out c/o Robin Richman 1730 W. Irving Park Road, Apt. 1, Chicago, IL 60613
2017 Trip Video
2018 Trip Video
TENTATIVE ITINERARY

BHUTAN ITINERARY

Day 1 - Arrive in Paro/Thimpu


Arrive in Bhutan after a stunning flight over the mountains. Your friendly guide will meet you at the airport and take you to Thimpu.

When you get to the capital of Bhutan, marvel at the ancient iron, suspension bridge built by pioneering civil engineer Thangtong Gyalpo.

In the evening, learn about the Buddhist cultures and traditions the people of Bhutan practice. You will end with a delicious dinner and a relaxing evening and the beautiful Ariya Hotel.

Day 2 - Hiking in Thimpu

Start the day with an interesting lesson in the meaning of the prayer flags sold by a local man. We will then embark on the three-hour hike to Buddha Point. You will refuel with a picnic lunch overlooking the stunning mountain scenery.hare in the experience of hoisting your prayer flags and offering well wishes.

The afternoon will start with experiencing the Buddha Shakyamuni, the largest statue of the sitting Buddha in the world. It is situated in Kuensel Phodrang Park, among almost a thousand acres of lush forest. The afternoon will take you to the Bhutan Postal Museum, where you can purchase unique stamps for souvenirs.

Then in the evening, head to town to purchase Gho and Kira, traditional dresses to wear for the festival in Bumthang. The evening will conclude with a nice dinner of ethnic cuisine.



Day 3 - Thimpu to Punakha

Head to a brewery after breakfast and sample local beers. Then begin your journey to Punakha, stopping in Dochula to see the 108 stupas overlooking the snow-capped mountains.

Enjoy lunch in Punakha and walk along the rice fields to visit Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Drukpa Kuenley. Known as the divine madman, Kuenley revolted against the orthodox Buddhist way of teaching.

You will then return to the hotel for dinner and relaxation.



Day 4 - Punakha

Travel to the village of Yabesa after an early breakfast. Hike through farmlands and rice fields to the Stupa and a fantastic view of the valley.

Enjoy a riverside tea before your downstream rafting adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for a view of the fortress and the world’s rarest bird, the White-Bellied Heron. Paddle down the Himalayan River through the lush, green valleys

Return to the hotel for lunch and prepare for the afternoon.

You will either go on a visit to the Dzong Fortress or the longest suspension bridge after lunch. Dinner and relaxing at the hotel will end the day.



Day 5 - Punakha to Phobjikha

Enjoy breakfast then begin your journey to Phobjikha. Keep your eye out for the stunning black-necked cranes as you travel through this beautiful valley.

Visit the monks at the Damchen Monastery, where you will learn more about Buddhism and participate in religious ceremonies.

Enjoy lunch with the monks then set off on a beautiful afternoon hike through the valley.

Spend the rest of the afternoon at your leisure, then return to the hotel for dinner.



Day 6 - Phobjikha to Trongsa

After breakfast, visit the Black Necked Crane Center to learn more about these beautiful, endangered birds. Find out what makes them unique and essential to the harmonious ecosystem. If you are lucky enough to witness the cranes after they return from their migration, you will be able to witness them roosting in the nearby canopy.

After enjoying lunch, you will make your way to Trongsa.

Spend the evening exploring the town and market, returning to the hotel for dinner.



Day 7 - Trongsa to Bumthang

Wake early for a short hike, or sleep in, before visiting The Trongsa Dzong Fortress. The massive structure is an ancestral home of the royal family. Perched atop a majestic hill, you will enjoy views of the surrounding area.

After the visit, enjoy an early lunch, then head to Bumthang. This spectacular complex of four valleys is the heartland of Buddhism and is considered very sacred.

For October visitors, enjoy the exciting Jambay Lhakang Festival. This festival celebrates how good conquers evil. Spend the evening watching cultural dancing and interacting with the locals.

For May visitors, you will try your hand at archery, the national sport, if time permits.

Day 8 - Bumthang

Enjoy an early breakfast, then visit yet another stunning valley, the Tang. Spend the morning with a local family and get a taste of their rural lifestyle.

Enjoy lunch, and possibly check out a local festival.

In the afternoon, head to the Ugyencholing Museum to learn about the relationship between the wealthy families and villagers.

Spend some time in the evening leisurely walking through the town before retiring to the hotel for the evening.



Day 9 - Bumthang

For October visitors, you will have the chance to sleep in, enjoy a late morning hike, and try archery.

For May visitors, enjoy an early breakfast, then head to Ura, a beautiful valley comparable to Switzerland. Enjoy the Ura Festival, a day will be full of culture. The festival is based on folklore and includes historical and fun festivities.



Day 10 - Bumthang to Paro

Arrive in Paro in time for a possible visit to the Kyichu Lhakhang Temple, established by the First Dharma King of Tibet.

Spend the evening exploring the beautiful town and shopping for unique souvenirs. Return to the hotel for the evening for dinner.

Days 11 & 12 - Paro to Bumdra Trek

The Bumdra trek is one of the most beautiful short duration treks in Bhutan. Keep in mind that it requires five to seven hours of sustained, physical activity, so a good level of fitness is required. Travel through beautiful scenery and explore caves where angels were said to gather.

The first day, a three to four hike will take you along the Paro Valley with stunning sites of mountains, meadows, and fluttering prayer flags. Reach your mountain view campsite and enjoy lunch.

You can spend the afternoon visiting the Monastery or hiking even farther up the mountain for even more spectacular views of the valley and Himalayan Mountains. Enjoy your stay at the campsite with a bonfire and dinner against the peaceful backdrop.

Day two of the trek will have you enjoying the early morning sunrise at breakfast and climbing down to the valley through the pine and rhododendron forests till you reach the Zangdopelri Lhakhang Temple, believed to be the depiction of ‘heaven on earth’. You can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Taktsang Monastery / Tiger’s Nest from above. Further down, you will reach the famous Taktsang Monastery.

After visiting the many small temples and the caves, you will hike down to the base from where your vehicle will pick you up and take you to your hotel for a farewell dinner and good night’s rest.

Day 13 - Departure Day

Enjoy one last breakfast at the hotel before your guide helps you with the check-out process and sees








PRE-TRIP TO KATHMANDU
Your price includes the flight to Bhutan from Kathmandu ($275 more if you want to fly from Dlehi)

We are happy to put a a few day/s visit to Kathmandu for you.

** Half day sightseeing tour of Boudhanath & Pashupatinath in Kathmandu.About Kathmandu: Once a traditional medieval city of breathtaking Newari architecture, Kathmandu is now fully grown into an urban capital with a population of 3-million people. Nevertheless, it has not lost its magic, especially in the ancient, narrow streets and in countless temples and shrines where Buddhist and Hindu iconography mix in fantastic ways. Boudhanath is a 1,400-year-old stupa that attracts pilgrims from across Buddhist Asia. At Boudhanath, we see pilgrims circling the stupa to make a kora, turning the stupa's giant prayer wheels as they go. With new monasteries sprouting up all around it, Boudhanath is rapidly becoming a world center of Tibetan Buddhist study. Pashupatinath, with its triple-roofed temple, burning ghats, and wandering sadhus (holy men) along the sacred Bagmati, is one of four major sites of Shiva worship on the subcontinent. Its temples and ghats are set along the Bagmati because the waters of this river eventually river flow south to join the mighty Ganges, holy river of India. Entrance to Pashupatinath's inner temple precinct is for Hindus only, but from the outside, we are able to see the huge structure of Nandi, the bull, and a smaller statue of Hanuman.

** Shivapuri Heights Cottage located in the foothills just north of Kathmandu. The Shivapuri Heights Cottage located just 30 mins drive away from the Kathmandu airport & followed by 15 mins walk uphill in the foothills of the Shivapuri National Park. The cottage combines traditional Nepali architecture with the comforts of modern living and Steve’s own personal touches. The cottage provides a great retreat escape from the madding crowd of Kathmandu. Enjoy a leisurely lunch on the terrace. In the afternoon relax or enjoy a short walk

** A half day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu city & Swyambhunath
** Music Museum.

THINGS TO KNOW: TRIP DETAILS
TRIP LENGTH 13 days, 12 nights (plus optional extension to Kathmandu)


2020 DATES OF TRIP:
Oct. 25- Nov. 6

COST: $5350 double occupancy (based on a minimum of 6)
$5950 single occupancy (not sharing a room)
*** Does not include overnight stay in Kathmandu, which is approximately $225 a room with airport transfer

Payment Plan:
$500 DEPOSIT Upon Registration (unless, you fall into the next payment due date)
$1500 DUE: March 1, 2020
$1500 DUE: May 15, 2020
Final Balance Due: July 1, 2020

We will do our best to help with roommates no guarantee

MEETING PLACE: If you are not doing the Kathmandu extension, you should arrive in Kathmandu the night before Day 1 departure date since we don't know the exact time yet of the flight to Paro on Day 1

DEPART FROM: Kathmandu, Nepal Day 13 after 5:00 pm

GETTING THERE: You can find decent airfares with only one stop in Europe from most of the European airlines. Coming from the West people flew China South, midwest and east people flew Etihad airlines.


Included in Base Cost
• Accommodation based on single & double occupancy basis (respectively as mentioned above) in 3 star hotels and one camping
• All meals
• A licensed Bhutanese tour guide with wilderness and first aid training and an assistant guide for the extent of your stay
• All Accommodations of a mix of 3 and 4 star hotels
• All internal transport
• All activities noted in itinerary
• Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
• All internal taxes and charges
• Visa Fee
• Airfare from Kathmandu to Paro(roundtrip)
• Airfare from Paro to Bumthang
• Donation and/or gifts that we purchase for the service projects and people we meet.
• Cost of gho and kira (festival outfit .. within $40 )
• A sustainable tourism Royalty of $65. This Royalty goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.
• Sleeping bag rental


Not Included in Base Cost
What is not included in the tour price
•Air fare (Other than Nepal- Paro round trip)
• Personal Expenses & laundry
• Gratitude to guide, driver, bell boy, trekking crew, etc
• Travel insurance (IS required and we will quote everyone for everyone. I will see what difference it will to get a quote for the group as a whole)



We will be sending you a full packet of information to prepare for your trip, but the info below is to initially get you started.

GROUP TRAVELLING: Our groups are small in order to be flexible and spontaneous at times. Small groups allow more interaction with the communities as well as the ability to keep an active itinerary. Singles and Couples are welcome!

TRIP FITNESS LEVEL: Level of Physical Activity: Access to some accommodation and sites might require climbing and rocky footpaths. Most of our hikes are a few hours, longer one in the desert (but so worth it!) . It’s all for novices, but it is a rigorous schedule with little down time. We try to fit in breaks for people to relax during the heat of the afternoon, and often that is why dinner is not included, so you can be on your own schedule. But we also want to show you as much of the country as possible.

PASSPORT INFO A valid passport is required for travel. Please make sure that your passport expiration date is at least six months beyond the date of return.
If you do not have a passport, you will need to acquire one for international travel. United States citizens can usually apply for a passport at a number of facilities including many Federal, state and probate courts, many local post offices, some libraries and many county and municipal offices. Apply early! Depending on the agency used, you will receive your passport within 5-6 weeks. If expedited service is necessary, you must apply in person at one of 13 passport agencies found in most major cities. You must present your airline tickets or airline generated itinerary and the other required items for the application. You need to make an appointment with your passport agency for expedited service. If you do not live near a passport agency, you can use an overnight delivery service and your local passport acceptance facility. An additional $35 is charged for expedited service per application. Further information and your local passport processing facility can be found on the website of the U.S. Department of State:
http://www.state.gov/index.cfm

VISA: We will get the visa for you for Bhutan.
Unlike in most countries, where visas are issued from embassies abroad and stamped into your passport before you travel, visas for Bhutan are issued only when you arrive in the country, either at Paro airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing, Gelephu or Samdrup Jongkhar. You must apply in advance through a tour operator and receive visa approval before you travel to Bhutan.

All applications for tourist visas must be initialised by a Bhutanese tour operator and are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu. The operator submits an online visa application with a copy of the photo page of your passport to the Tourism Council of Bhutan in Thimphu. It, in turn, checks that you have completely paid for your trip and then issues an approval letter to the tour operator. With this approval in hand, the tour operator then makes a final application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which takes up to three days to process the visa.

It's not necessary to fill in a special visa application form. Just send a scan of your passport photo and your passport information pages to us. You may also need to provide your permanent address and occupation.

You can get your Visa for Nepal when you arrive at Kathmandu airport.

IMMUNIZATIONS

•Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
• Check with a travel immunization clinic- but typhoid, hepatitis A and malaria prevention.
• If possible, get a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

HEALTH
The roads tend to be windy so if you are prone to motion sickness, bring Dramamine or other medication to prevent nausea as you will be spending a lot of time in the car travelling around Bhutan.

WEATHER AND TEMPERATURES: Average Temperatures
High Season (Mar–May, Sep–Nov)
The weather is ideal in spring and autumn.
Himalayan views are best in October, while rhododendron blooms peak in March and April.
Generally, temperatures in Thimphu,Phojikha, Trongsa, Bumthang and Paro will range from minimum of 5 degree Celsius to maximum of 20 during the time of your visit. Punakha will be little warmer. .
Do pack warm clothes, especially if you're travelling between the months of November and March. As a general tip, it would be wise to always have a jacket when travelling in Bhutan regardless of the seasons as you will experience huge changes in elevation, with certain valleys colder than others. It's best to be prepared!

CURRENCY How to bring it...
You will not need a whole lot of money. Just for incidentals. The local currency is the Ngultrum, which is pegged to the Indian Rupee. Note: The Indian Rupee in denominations of 500 and 1000 are no longer accepted in Bhutan. There are ATMs in Bhutan, but only in the main towns. A word of caution, the ATMs do not always work and if they do, one is usually only able to withdraw small amounts.

- Visitors should be able to pay via credit card at most hotels and handicraft stores


ELECTRICITY
- Bring along a multi-purpose electrical plug and a universal travel adapter. Most hotel rooms have limited electrical plugs, so it'll be wise to take along if you have many devices.

COMMUNICATION:
Most hotels have WiFi, but if you need more connectivity you can get a local SIM card from Tashi Cell or B-Mobile and top up with prepaid cards.


LANGUAGE The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, but most Bhutanese are fluent in English as that is the medium of education so communication shouldn't be a problem.

Remember, If you're visiting another place, whether at home or abroad, you're visiting someone else's home. That's the fact. And the more you remember that, the easier it'll be for you to make friends and contacts. So learn some expressions in the local language. You don't need to be fluent. But there's no doubt that your trip will be far more exciting, and people you meet will be far more interested in you, if you speak some of their language.


Cancellation policy is as follows:
• Prior to 120 days to the departure date: $225 administrative fee will apply.
• 120-90 Days prior to departure date: 50% of the full land fee will be returned.
90 days on prior to departure date: No refunds. If ticket has been purchased, you will receive the ticket.

ABOUT US
Steppin' Out Adventures is a 25 year company well-known for hosting amazing group travel adventures all over the world. We have trips for various markets, special beach and ski trips for Jewish singles, and adventure trips for Jewish adults. We also have volunteer trips across the globe for singles and families. Our Bhutan trip falls under our general trip.


Check out the websites: www.steppinoutadventures.com or email us at info@steppinoutadventures.com for information about other trips..
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