ECHO River Trips - vacations and travel

Rafting & Kayaking in Bhutan

Bhutan, Asia

from $3,900* per person 15 Days November
Comfort accommodations Exertion level: 3
Operator: ECHO River Trips 12 people max
  • Paro airport, paro, bhutan
  • Boats, Barges & Small Ship Cruises trips
This mountainous country is often referred to as "the last Shangri-la" and is perhaps one of the least traveled places in the world. However, balancing modernization with ancient culture and traditions, Bhutan has become increasingly accessible to foreigners. Maintaining a tourism policy of "low-volume, high value" and the King's concept of "Gross National Happiness", this tiny land-locked nation offers immense value for nature loving paddlers.

Bhutan is located east of Nepal, south of Tibet and north of India. Two major river systems have carved deep gorges and created vastly untouched natural environments. Rivers are fed by monsoons and the snow run-off of the Himalayas. Thanks to the national religion of Vajrayana Buddhism, which honors nature and the sanctity of life, Bhutan's forests and wildlife remain pristine and intact. The country boasts a 64% forest cover. Paddling the whitewater of Bhutan will offer a unique view of the country rarely even seen by the Bhutanese. October is the perfect time of year to see this country by raft. The summer rainy season has ended leaving rivers high enough to run, and the cold Himalayan winter has yet to descend into the valleys.

You'll spend 12 days traveling and rafting throughout this virtually untouched natural environment. More than a river trip, you will have the chance to embrace the culture and history of Bhutan and encounter the peaceful, fun-loving citizens as you journey down the Paro Chu, Mo Chu or Chumkar Chu. With views of the Himalayas, visits to Buddhist monasteries and an exploration of the rich history of this tiny kingdom, you won't want to miss this incredible journey.

ECHO manager and seasoned river guide, Zach Collier, will lead this exploration of Bhutan. Zach has traveled throughout the world including an extended journey through Southeast and Central Asia. He adores the warmth of the people in this part of the world and looks forward to paddling you through this incredible landscape.

Locations visited/nearby

Bhutan, Asia

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Special information

  • Family oriented trip.

Itinerary

Our Bhutan itinerary changes year to year depending on local festivals, water flow, and river access. This is a typical itinerary, but please realize we will likely deviate from this itinerary so that we can give you the best trip possible.

In Bhutanese, Chhu is a river, La is a pass, Dzong is a monastery fortress, and Chorten is a shrine.

Day 1 - Depart U.S. for Bangkok

Fly from the United States and arrive in Bangkok, Thailand. You are responsible for your hotel room this night, which should be close to the airport since you'll be leaving for Paro, Bhutan very early in the morning on the next day.

Day 2 - Fly from Bangkok to Paro

Flying into Paro, Bhutan is a unique experience altogether. The flight offers views of the majestic eastern Himalayas, and the arrival into a solitary runway at the countryís only international airport is a mind-boggling event with the landscape and weather conditions dictating a steep descent into a narrow valley. The flight normally arrives by about 10 AM local time.

After clearance of immigration and custom formalities, we'll check-in at the local hotel and have lunch. You can sightsee at the National Museum or the Paro Dzong. Dinner will be at a local restaurant and you'll want a good night's rest for the activities ahead.

Day 3 - Raft Paro Chhu, Thimphu

Load up and drive to put-in for Paro Chhu. We'll raft/kayak for a few hours and then drive one hour east to the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu. Located at 7,656 feet in the Wang Chhu valley, this capital replaced the old capital of Punakha.

Just outside of Thimphu, one of the largest Buddha sculptures in the world, the Buddha Dordenma, is currently under construction. You may also want to visit the textile museum, the National Library or the Memorial Chorten. We'll have have time to sightsee and shop before spending the night at a local hotel.

Day 4 - Drive over Dochu La, Punakha Dzong

In the morning we'll have more time to wander Thimphu before we head east for a 3 hour drive over Dochu La (10,300 feet) to thePunakha Valley. We'll have lunch en route, and do some sightseeing along the way.

The Punakha Dzong is a fortress built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637-38 and is the winter abode of the Je Khenpo (the religious head of Bhutan) and the central monastic body of Bhutan. It is perhaps one of Bhutanís most attractive landmarks and has survived 6 fires, 2 glacial lake outbursts, and 1 massive earthquake. It is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and the Pho Chhu (Father River). In 1907, the Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Sir Ugen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan and on October 31, 2008 the coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the 5th King of Bhutan was also held here.

We'll spend the night at our luxury base camp along the Mo Chhu River.

Day 5 - Rafting the Mo Chhu, Temple of the Divine Madman

We'll spend the morning paddling the Mo Chhu and then have lunch on the way to our lodging for the evening.

In the afternoon, we'll visit the Temple of the Divine Madman. Built in 1499 and surrounded by lush rice fields, this temple honors a local folk hero. Decorated with giant phalluses, you can take part in a ceremony focusing on fertility if you wish.

We'll spend the night at our luxury base camp along the Mo Chhu River.

Day 6 - Upper Pho Chhu

We have breakfast and take a short drive followed by a short hike to the put-in of the of the Upper Pho Chhu. This stretch of river is class III/IV with emerald green water fed from the glacial lakes at the source of the Pho Chhu. The trip ends at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Pho Chhu and we'll float past the Punkha Dzong - a perfect photo opportunity.

From the take-out we drive a short distance to our Mo Chhu base camp for lunch. In the afternoon there's time for hiking or rest.

Day 7 - Pele La, Tour Trongsa Dzong

Today we'll drive east over Pele La (11,200 ft.) and have lunch at Chendebji Chorten before continuing on to Trongsa. We'll tour the Trongsa Dzong, which is the secular and religious center and was built in 1644. You can also hike to a viewing platform of the Dzong for a great photo.

Night is spent at a hotel.

Day 8 - Bumthang and Chamkhar Chhu

We'll drive to Bumthang today and raft a Class II section of the Chamkhar Chhu in the morning. After settling into a guesthouse, we'll have plenty of time for lunch, shopping and sightseeing. Bumthang means beautiful field and local farms produce apples, honey, dairy products and buckwheat. Rich in ancient temples, there is plenty to see here.

Day 9 - Chamkhar Chhu, Rest

In the morning, we'll paddle another section of Chamkhar Chhu followed by more time for sightseeing and resting. Night will be spent in the same guesthouse as previous evening.

Day 10 - Back over Pele La, Phobjikha

We'll head back to the West today via the Pele La to Phobjikha, a beautiful valley where the rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes may be arriving for their winter migration. The surrounding hills are also home to muntjacs (barking deer), wild boars, Himilayan black bears, leopards and red foxes.

We'll spend the night here at a farmhouse.

Day 11 - Travel back to Thimphu

We'll drive 5 hours today back to Thimphu and spend the night in a hotel. You'll have some time for more shopping, sightseeing and rest.

Day 12 - Thimphu, Raft Wang Chhu, Paro

There will time to wander Thimphu before we raft a section of the Thimphu Chhu on our way back to Paro. We'll spend the night in a hotel.

Day 13 - Taktshang Dzong (Tiger's Nest)

We'll hike to one of the most picturesque places in Bhutan. Taktshang (aka Tigerís Nest) is perched on the face of a cliff over 2,000 ft. high overlooking the Paro valley. Mythology has it that this was where Guru Rimpoche landed when he first arrived in Bhutan in the 8th century riding on the back of one of his consorts in the guise of a flying tigress. It was here that he meditated and subdued the demons and introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The hike takes about 45 minutes to the view point and another 40 minutes to the monastery itself.

On this last night we'll have a farewell dinner and spend the night at a hotel in Paro.

Day 14 - Fly from Paro to Bangkok

Most flights leave in the morning for Bangkok and this is where we say goodbye. You'll want to spend at least one night in Bangkok before heading home or on to your next destination.

Day 15 - Fly Home or Continue Vacation

Head back home or continue to another destination.

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