Bhutan Vegan Tour

13 Day Vegan Tour in Bhutan

Join Vegan Travel Asia by VegVoyages on an epic vegan adventure up into the magnificent lush green mountains and rushing river valleys of the eastern Himalayas as we journey into the heart and soul of the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon! Penned in travel journals as the last Shangri La, Bhutan – the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, to us is so much more than that. It is not a romanticized version of what travelogues portray Bhutan to be, but it’s authentic and very much a living reality, which includes its ups and downs and historical peaks and pitfalls, as seen through its people and the struggle to endure cultures, that makes Bhutan to us so extraordinary. A region that has historically tried to keep its sovereignty intact from outside influences and putting itself throughout history in self-imposed exile from much of the rest of the world. 

What's included?

Vegan Meals

35 Vegan meals
(12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners)

Accommodation

12 Nights Accommodations
(a combination of  an enchanting historic manor, boutique guesthouses, and bed & breakfast)

Tour Transport

  • Private Mini-Bus
  • Local Cars

Also Included

  • Bhutan’ Sustainable Development Fee of $100 per-day
  • Daily Local Cultural Lessons
  • Daily Dzongkha (Bhutanese) Language Lessons
  • Vipassana Meditation and Traditional Yoga Lessons
  • Live Traditional Music and Folk Dances
  • Vegan Bhutanese Full-Course Meal Cooking Class
  • Vegan Bhutanese Momos & Ezay Cooking Class
  • Vegan Bhutanese Noodle-Making Class
  • Fruits, Snacks & Local drinks Tasting Sessions
  • Local Veggie and Spice Market Exploration
  • Vegan Meet-up Dinner with Local Vegans
  • Vegan Meals with Local Families
  • Guests of Local Grassroots Educational Programs and Projects
  • Guests of Local Grassroots Animal Rescue and Protection Project
  • Visit Local Temples
  • Guests of Local Monasteries
  • Local Organic Farming and Foraging Experience
  • Countryside Walks and Himalayan Hillside Hikes
  • Guests of Local Villages and Communities
  • Heritage Walk and Historical Cultural Lessons
  • Introduction to Vajrayana (often referred to as Tibetan) Buddhism
  • An in-depth look into Gross National Happiness & how it pertains to daily life & decision making

Even More Included

  • Introduction to Buddhist Ceremonies & Rituals with Monks & Local Communities
  • Introduction to Bhutan’s code of etiquette as a means of cultural preservation to counter globalization.
  •  All Local Guide Fees
  • All Site Entry Fees
  • Traditional Hot Stone Bath Treatment
  • Traditional 90-minute Himalayan Kyue Nye Massage Treatment
  • Complimentary Refill Water bottle and Unlimited Drinking Water
  • Complimentary Juices, Hard Drinks, and Beers & Wine
  • Vegan Welcome Package and Tote Bag
  • Community Carbon Offsets through Electric Stoves Donated to Himalayan Village, which not only Offset 100% of the Group’s Carbon Emissions from the tour but also helps reduce lung health issues amongst women in the communities caused by inhaling smoke from wood & manure-based stoves.
  • Vegan Cultural Exchange Outreach & Sharing Programs throughout the journey.
  • Bhutan Government Sustainable Development Fee (SDF, which for this trip is US$ 1,400 per person)
  • Bhutan Visa Fee(US$ 40 per person)
  • Free Laundry Day
  • Airport Pick Up*
  • Airport Drop Off
  • …and all other activities, entertainment, and entry fees as per the itinerary.


Airport picks up is provided for free if you arrive a day or two days earlier than the tour date, and staying at our designated hotel. If you will be arriving at a much earlier time, OR if you are staying at another hotel, please arrange your own transfer, and meet us at our hotel on Day 1.

What’s NOT included?

International airfare, personal travel insurance, gratuities/tips, laundry, and other items of a personal nature.

Tour Dates & Pricing

Bhutan – Vegan Tour 2024 (April)

$6,495 (USD)

Bhutan – Vegan Tour 2025 (April)

$6,495 (USD)

Bhutan – Vegan Tour 2025 (August)

$6,495 (USD)

All Vegan Travel Asia by VegVoyages Adventures runs on a twin share basis. If you are a single traveler, we will pair you up with another single traveler of the same gender. If you would like to have your own room throughout the trip, upon making a booking, please select “yes” for Single Supplement and the cost shown below will be added to your total adventure cost.

$895 for 13 days: Bhutan Vegan Adventure

Bhutan Sustainable Development Fee (SDF): 15 days of Sustainable Development Fees is already included. This will allow you to arrive one day earlier and depart one day after the tour ends. If you choose to stay longer, an SDF of $100 per-day will be added to your tour cost.

Extra Night (before the trip in Thimphu; with vegan breakfast): $70

Extra Night (after the trip in Paro or Thimphu; with vegan breakfast): $70

NOTE: The tour itinerary does not include a visit to Bhutan’s Tiger Nest Temple (Paro Taksang). If you are interested in seeing this site, we recommend to have an extra day at the end of the tour to do this.

Penned in travel journals as the last Shangri La, Bhutan – the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, to us is so much more than that. It is not a romanticized version of what travelogues portray Bhutan to be, but it’s authentic and very much a living reality, which includes its ups and downs and historical peaks and pitfalls, as seen through its people and the struggle to endure cultures, that makes Bhutan to us so extraordinary. A region that has historically tried to keep its sovereignty intact from outside influences and putting itself throughout history in self-imposed exile from much of the rest of the world. And when opening up for economic or other reasons, trying to do so as much as possible under its own terms with a continued balance between both its historically spiritual and secular beliefs, whether this is during its ancient day centuries ago, or during its transition to a democratic Himalayan state. And to this day as it continues to open up to the future, including the relatively recent region opening up to tourism, Bhutan and its people cautiously step forward being open to what the future may bring, but rightfully embracing the qualities of its past, that many more “developed countries” have so long ago forgot, that values the balance of living within its diverse nature and ecosystems, which its high elevation passes, mountain river gorges, and fertile valleys sit firmly amongst.

Nestled on the easternmost remote folds of the Himalayas, Bhutan is located along the ancient trade routes with Tibet and China to the North and East, and India to the South and West. Bhutan’s geography of mountainous terrain is epic with peaks as high as 24,000 feet that are carved away by a network of snow-fed rivers that sculpt fertile valleys before draining into subtropical plains at 322 feet and exiting out into the Indian plains. These striking high-elevation valleys pass and river gorges shaped natural trails for trade and travel as far back as the 7th century CE providing invaluable trade links and contact between South Asia and the Tibetan Plateau and China up until the 1950s when China invaded Tibet. Bhutan’s geography is breathtaking!

However, what makes Bhutan stand out, even more, is its unique cultural roots that date back to early Tibetan settlers in the area who adapted to regional geographic, spiritual, and political conditions, but who over time, since this area pinched in the eastern fold of the Himalayas was used more as a trade transit route during the Silk Road times, were able to keep their cultural roots intact evolving into what we know as the cultures of Bhutan today. This also led to Bhutan being the pioneer of Gross National Happiness where overall “happiness” takes precedence over Gross National Product. This means the way of life in theory (and when you visit Bhutan you’ll see, very much still in practice among a majority of its people) matters over money, and a society that promotes a successful life cycle of birth, living, aging, and dying, takes priority over a society that promotes profits and the wealth of a select few. Elements of GNH can be seen in the fact that Bhutan provides free education and healthcare, has no traffic lights, frowns upon single-use plastic bags, billboards, and large-scale tobacco sales, and continues to frown upon slaughterhouses (for the time being), is the world’s only carbon-negative country, and environmental protection is embedded in the constitution.

On your Vegan Travel Asia by VegVoyages Bhutan Vegan Adventure, you’ll experience the country up close and personal. As guests of local families, friends, and communities you’ll have a rare opportunity to see this country as it is and get an unfettered look at one of the most unique, beautiful, and isolated countries in the world. From mountainside villages where life continues at the pace it has for centuries, but at the same time adapts to the changing times. From Buddhist rituals and bustling bazaars to out-of-this-world views, hillside hikes, morning meditation, ancient arts, and enchanting folk music and dance. We’ll learn about life in the Himalayas as personal guests of communities, off-the-beaten-track hamlets, Buddhist monasteries, local home kitchens, grassroots projects, educational institutions, and activists, among others.

And of course, we can’t forget the food. In a place where red rice and buckwheat are the staples and organic is the norm, not the exception, we’ll taste our way through local cuisines all 100% veganized especially for us. This includes their famous “cheese” dishes! Yes, in a country where people love their cheese and where most Top 10 Dishes of Bhutan lists include at least 3 cheese dishes, our friends will create “vegan Bhutanese cheese” with ingredients sourced regionally, so we’ll be able to enjoy all the Bhutanese classics – all 100% vegan!

Itinerary

Get day to day insight of the tour.

DAY 1 THIMPHU

“Kuzu Zamgpo La” and Welcome to Breathtaking Bhutan – Introduction to Bhutanese Culture, Customs, Etiquettes,  Languages, Local Drinks, and Changpa(Snacks), and History Sessions, and Vegan Bhutanese Cheese Dishes (all specially veganized for us :).

Kuzu zangpo la – welcome to breathtaking Bhutan!  Welcome to the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon – the world’s only carbon-negative country. Nestled alongside the Raidak River and surrounded by the spectacular mountains and rolling hills of the Himalayas, Thimphu is home to temples, shrines, prayer wheels, flags, shophouses, chortens (stupas), and a beautiful castle-fortress-like monastery and administrative center known as a Dzong. On arrival in Paro, we’ll meet you at the airport and then transfer you on a scenic drive to Thimphu. After freshening up from your journey, we’ll meet at 4:00 pm at our friend’s boutique hotel for our orientation meeting where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and have your first introduction to the rich cultural heritage, traditions, customs, your first Dzongkha (Bhutanese) language lesson, and cuisines of Bhutan. Then, as the colors of the day slowly turn to night, we’ll meet up with our friends for a local drink-tasting session from plum wine, local apple, and wild berry juice to Bhutan ara (rice or maize whiskey, kind of like sake), Bhutan beers, and vegan butter tea – accompanied by classic snacks and Bhutanese changpa. After tasting our way through Bhutan’s refreshing local drinks and tasty local snacks, we’ll settle down for our first taste of Bhutan – a Culinary Cultural Experience where you’ll be introduced to Bhutan’s classical dishes and the main staples of the country’s often overlooked, but very tasty and fresh, cuisines including the Bhutanese favorites of ema datshi (chili cheese) and shamu datshi (mushrooms cheese) all 100% veganized specially for us.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Detailed Orientation Meeting where you will get to know your fellow travelers and adventure leaders better as we discuss the adventure ahead and have our Introduction to Bhutan’s History and Cultures Presentation.
  • First (of daily) Dzongkha (Bhutanese) language lesson
  • Local drink tasting session – from plum wine, local apple, and wild berry juice to Bhutan ara (rice or maize whiskey, kind of like sake), Bhutan beers, and vegan butter tea – accompanied by classic snacks and Bhutanese changpa.
  • First Taste of Bhutan – a Culinary Cultural Experience where you’ll be introduced to Bhutan’s classical dishes and the main staples of the country’s often overlooked, but very tasty and fresh, cuisines including the Bhutanese favorites of ema datshi (chili cheese) and shamu datshi (mushrooms cheese) all 100% veganized specially for us.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Snacks, Dinner & Drinks

DAY 2 THIMPHU

Magnificent Mandalas, Terrific Thangkas, Buddhist Basics, Sensational Shrines, A Centuries-Old Code of Conduct, Awesome Astrology, the Four Friends, the 8 Lucky Symbols, a Great Grassroots Educational Initiative, and a Little Vegan Outreach in Terrific Thimphu!

Just imagine, Bhutan is 256 times smaller geographically than the USA, and with a population of 800,000 its cultural identity, like other smaller communities around the world, is under threat of absorption and eventual extinction by more commercially focused and propagated values and systems. Cultural absorption pressure doesn’t just come from the West, but also from its much larger neighbors of India and China, whose cultural influences are undeniable throughout Asia. So, after joining our friend and local community cleaning campaigner for our Thimphu Urban Walk – where they’ll introduce you to life in the burbs, and while we walk we’ll also help the clean campaigner collect trash along the trail later depositing it at innovative trash collection centers, today we’ll also focus on the country’s unique approaches to cultural preservation. From learning about Bhutan’s unique Tara beliefs (Goddess (or saint) of Compassion sometimes associated with vegetarian practices) to joining monks at a Vajrayana Bhutanese Astrological College where we’ll learn about local astrological practices. A combination of Chinese, Indian, and Bon influences, this ancient tradition still plays a significant role in people’s daily lives. In the early afternoon, we’ll be guests of a unique grassroots charitable institute providing economically challenged youth training in the local arts, empowering them with ways to earn a livelihood, and at the same time, preserving cultural traditions. The students will share with us their cultural traditions – including introducing us to the 8 lucky symbols in Vajrayana Buddhism and the 4 friends (one of our favorites), as well as teach us some Dzongkha (Bhutanese language), and we will share with them a delicious vegan meal. As the sun sets over Thimphu, we’ll join a local family at their home for an introduction to the country’s code of ethics, conduct, manners, and service that is based on age-old texts setting out guidelines relevant to this day. They’ll also introduce you to the Eating Etiquette of Bhutan and how to properly share a meal – Bhutanese style while enjoying a delicious home cooked meal of their favorite family recipes all specially veganized for us.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning walk with our friend and local community cleaning campaigner for an introduction to life in the burbs of bustling Thimphu. During the walk, we will also help the community clean campaigner collecting trash along the trail, which we will then deposit at the innovative trash collection and selection center in the community.
  • Join monks at the Vajrayana Bhutanese Astrology Center where we’ll learn about local astrological practices – a combination of Chinese, Indian, and Bon influences, this ancient tradition still plays a significant role in people’s daily lives.
  • Learn about Bhutan’s unique Tara beliefs at a sacred Tara Temple. Tara is the Goddess (or saint) of Compassion, and her Green Tara form is often associated with vegetarian practices.
  • Guests of charitable institutes provide economically challenged youth training in the local arts where the students will teach us how to make marvelous mandalas and terrific thangkas. The students will share with us their cultural traditions – including introducing us to the 8 lucky symbols in Vajrayana Buddhism and the 4 friends (one of our favorites), as well as teach us some Dzongkha (Bhutanese language), and we will share with them a delicious vegan meal.
  • Join a local family at their home for our introduction to the code of ethics, conduct, manners, and service of Bhutan that are based on age-old texts setting out guidelines relevant to this day. Also referred to as a code of etiquette, these life lessons promote culturally-based community behavior in how we interact with each other whether that be in greetings, dress and gestures, architecture, polite eating, communication, and basically – good manners in general. Introduction to the Eating Etiquette of Bhutan and how to properly share a meal – Bhutanese style while enjoying a delicious home cooked meal of their favorite family recipes all specially veganized for us.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 3 THIMPHU

Strolling Through the Streets of Thimphu, Marvelous Markets, a Bountiful Bhutanese Culture Culinary Experience ( a.k.a. a really cool cooking class ), the Essence of Gross National Happiness, Traditional Himalayan Massage Treatment, and a Fantastic feast with Fellow Vegans with an Introduction to an Ancient Philosophy of Animal Protection, all on our last day of Thimphu!

After a traditional Bhutanese breakfast, we’ll meet up with our friend who’ll show us around his city sharing with us his town’s rich culture, traditions, and heritage. Our heritage walk will begin in front of Thimphu’s 17th century Tashi Chho Dzong (fort and administrative center), where we’ll have a brief introduction to the unique governance and administration system of Bhutan which has historically been governed and administered through a combination of spiritual and secular systems. We’ll also learn about the roots of Dzong, Dzongkhag, Dzongkha, and Dzongdag and the unique “uniform” code of the traditional Bhutanese dress in a governance system. Then we set out into the backstreets, back alleys, and bazaars as we continue our walk into the heart of Thimphu on a cultural reality walk learning about its architecture, dress, temples, shrines, flags, mandalas, veggie market, town square, and more from a local’s point of view. After visiting the local veggie bazaar, we’ll meet up with one of the country’s most innovative chefs who has strived to bring back and keep Bhutan’s classic cuisines, alive and well. Joining her for a “working lunch” where we’ll learn how to make and enjoy some of Bhutan’s classic dishes – all 100% veganized for us. One of the key elements of community preservation in Bhutan is the concept of Gross National Happiness being valued over Gross National Product when setting policy, so today after a fantastic feast, we’ll also learn firsthand the essence of Gross National Happiness as guests of the GNH Center. In the late afternoon, we’ll unwind with a traditional 90-minute Ku Nye massage based on ancient Tibetan healing traditions. As the colors of the day turn to night over Thimphu, we’ll join local vegans and activists at our home for a delicious vegan dinner and cultural exchange, as we learn about plant-based diets, conservation, and animal welfare, including the historical act of Tsethar, in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon.

Highlights of the Day:

 

  • Strolling through the streets of Thimphu on a cultural reality walk learning about its architecture, dress, temples, shrines, flags, mandalas, and more seen on the street of Thimphu from a local’s point of view.
  • From the fresh farmers’ market to the home kitchen, we’ll meet up with one of the country’s most innovative chefs who has strive to bring back and keep Bhutan’s classic cuisines, alive and well. Joining her for a “working lunch” where we’ll learn how to make and enjoy some of Bhutan’s classic dishes – all 100% veganized for us.
  • As guests of the GNH center, we’ll learn firsthand from a policy point of view the essence of Gross National Happiness in the country including how it relates to environmental conservation, sustainable development, good governance, and preservation of culture.
  • Traditional 90-minute Ku Nye massage based on ancient Tibetan healing traditions that combine healing techniques to stimulate muscles, along with acupressure, & deep-tissue massage techniques.
  • Vegan Meet-up – Join local vegans and activists at Forest Boutique in the garden or conference room for a delicious vegan dinner and cultural exchange, as we learn about plant-based diets, conservation, and animal welfare in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. Learn from local activists about the concept of Tsethar, an ancient philosophy of animal protection, and how it is properly (and as importantly, improperly) practiced in Bhutan in the past, and present, and its thoughts for the future. A traditional practice spanning over the 3 major schools of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, Tsethar is the act of freeing animals that are destined to be slaughtered. Bhutanese values focusing on the Buddhist practices of compassion, benevolence, nonviolence, and concern for all living beings, are also attributed to the tenants of Gross National Happiness.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 4 PHUBJIKHA

The Stunning journey from Thimphu to Phobji and the Farms and Fields of the Phubjikha Valley!

After a tasty Thimphu breakfast, we’ll say goodbye to our hosts and journey into the mountains heading west passing through epic passes to the vast u-shaped glacial valley of Phobjikha – which is both stunning as its home to a lush and epically green scenic ecosystem – which is an important habitat of the beautiful migrating Black-necked Cranes that migrate here in the winter from the Tibetan Plateau, as well as rich in its Buddhist history and traditions. After having a vegan picnic lunch along a truly post-card picturesque journey today, we’ll arrive in Phubjikha in the later afternoon. Just before sunset, we’ll set out on a countryside stroll in the valley through the surrounding farms and fields learning about the different crops historically grown here including the valley’s famous potatoes. As the moon rises over Phubjikam we’ll settle down around the bhukari (fireplace) to enjoy a tasty potato-themed dinner, the famous staple in the Phubjika Valley.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Epically scenic drive through picturesque passes and lush green forested valleys and mountainsides as we make our way from Thimphu to the Phubjikha Valley.
  • Vegan Picnic Lunch along the journey.
  • Countryside stroll through farms and fields learning about the rich ecosystem of Phubjikha.
  • Special vegan dinner of local Phobjika Potatoes (among other valley classics).


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

 

DAY 5 PHUBJIKHA

The History & Heritage of Historical Phobji, Buddhism Roots & Practices in Bhutan the Belief Basics of the Nyingma (Old School)  Sect of Buddhism, Monastery, Meditation, and the Taking in Life in the Phubjikha  Valley!

After a traditional Bhutanese breakfast around the bhukari, we’ll make our way to the Shedra Buddhist College overlooking the glacial valley of Phobjikha. An important institute of learning for Buddhism in Bhutan, as guests of local monks and students, we’ll learn about the basics of Vajrayana Buddhism, its history, and the important role it plays in Bhutanese life and culture. We’ll also have a Vajrayana Buddhism Dhamma Discussion from the Nyingma point of view, and learn about the monks reciting of Buddha’s teachings and how they study it, including the meaning of the recitations and chants. You can’t truly understand Bhutan, without understanding its Buddhist history. The centers of administration in each district also are the centers of religion. The cultural concepts that identify “Bhutanese”, are mostly influenced by, if not directly based upon, monastic teachings. As guests of the college and later the monastery, we’ll also learn from the resident monks about their way of life as monks from their daily chores and eating habits, to rituals and chanting. After having a vegan lunch at the college café, we’ll make our way by foot down into town and to the sacred 16th-century Nyingma Temple – whose roots trace back to the treasure revealer lineage monks called Terton Pemalingpa. Gangtey Gompa Monastery is home to one of the oldest sects of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma sect. Arriving at this auspicious Bhutanese monastery, the monks will teach us about Bhutanese monastery and temple layout and design and the practical, as well as symbolic, architectural concepts synonymous with monasteries here – from the main prayer hall to the monks’ quarters, prayer wheels, flags, stupas, and much more. After learning about Bhutanese Vajrayana Buddhist Monastery design and symbolism, we’ll settle down in the main monastery hall for an introduction to meditation, whose roots trace back to the Buddha. In the late afternoon, we’ll take a scenic walk through the local villages, farms, and fields back to our countryside lodge where you’ll have time to freshen up and relax before we meet up under the stars in the garden around a campfire where we’ll enjoy a special vegan dinner of Phobjikha dishes.

Highlights of the Day:

  • As guests of local monk teachers and students, we’ll learn about the basics of Vajrayana Buddhism, its history, and the important role it plays in Bhutanese life and culture. We’ll also have a Dhamma Discussion on Vajrayana Buddhism from the Nyingma point of view and learn about their monastic way of life.
  • Special vegan lunch at the Buddhist college cafe.
  • Introduction to Bhutanese monastery architecture and design by resident monks as well as symbolic, architectural concepts synonymous with monasteries here – from the main prayer hall to the monks’ quarters, prayer wheels, flags, stupas, and much more.
  • Monastery Meditation – under the guidance of our close friend, we’ll be introduced to the basics of Vipassana Meditation. Its roots tracing back well over 2½ millennia to the Buddha, Vipassana is an ancient form of meditation that helps us be more mindful and roughly translates as “insight, to see into, to see things as they are”.
  • Special vegan dinner around the campfire under the stars of local Phubjika dishes specially veganized for us.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 6 TANG VALLEY

Journey Off-the-Beaten-Path to the Terrific Tang Valley Discovering the History, Heritage & Cultures of this Remote Himalayan Outpost Sitting Along an Ancient Once-thriving Caravan Trade Route Between India and Tibet!

To fully experience the beauty of Bhutan, and to understand the country on the whole, you have to get out to its villages! With this said, we’ll journey further east through epic passes on one of the most scenic stretches of road in Central Bhutan as we make our way off the beaten path to the most remote valley of the Bumthang District – the Tang Valley. Lying at nearly 9200 feet (2800 meters) above sea level, our home for the next three days will be at the manor house estate of the old religious nobility of Ogyen Choling. This enchanting palace comprises the main temple, dance house, central tower, and residence. Though the current structures date back to 1898, their roots date back much further to the 14th century. Nestled on a hilltop overlooking the gorgeous valley below, throughout its history, the estate has been referred to as a monastery, or gompa (village temple and theological institution) because of its spiritual links. This auspicious seat of both spiritual and administrative power was founded by the Great Tibetan master of Buddhism, Longchen Rabjam (1308-63) who was one of the most famous and respected philosophers of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. He is said to have chosen this place as a hermitage due to its location facing the Kanyai Mountain, which resembles an elephant’s head as elephants are associated with vehicles for Buddhist deities. This spiritual retreat also became the center of another great Tibetan saint, Dorji Lingpa, who was known as one of the great spiritual treasure discoverers of Bhutan. The Ogyen Choling descendants include a famous governor of Trongsa who in 1853 handed over his post to the father of Ugyen Wangchuck, the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan whose descendent sits on the throne today. On arrival, we’ll meet our hosts who will introduce us to their manor estate giving us insight into their home’s design and its practical and symbolic architecture. As the colors of the day turn to night, we’ll join our hosts for traditional local snacks and drinks as they share with us their family history, the preservation of their lovely property, and their roots in the Tang Valley. They’ll also share with us a traditional dinner consisting of their family’s favorite recipes all, of course, prepared vegan specially for us.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Scenic drive on one of the most scenic stretches of road in Central Bhutan as we make our way to the most remote valley of the Bumthang District – the Tang Valley.
  • As guests of our hosts, we’ll learn about our home for the next three days which is a manor house estate of the old religious nobility of Ogyen Choling. Learn about the house, its unique architecture, and its historical connection to the valley and its people.
  • Join our host family for a tasty vegan dinner of their favorite family recipes, local drinks, and a discussion on the way of life in Tang Valley and how it has changed over the years, as well as their efforts for cultural preservation and community development.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 7 TANG VALLEY

Morning Meditation, Delving Deeper Into the Tang Valley with Morning Meditation on the Grounds of a Centuries-Old Spiritual Retreat, Hiking Amongst the Himalayas, Learning Age-Old Archery, Foraging, Farms, Fresh Springs, and Making Mouth-watering Momos & Excellent Ezays! 

 

In the lap of the Himalayas amidst the hills and valleys and on the grounds of an ancient spiritual retreat and historical palace, we’ll begin our morning with meditation in a sacred Tara Temple. Then after a traditional breakfast, we’ll set out on a hike to explore the surrounding countryside, forests, riverbank shrines, and fields learning about life in the Tang Valley. Much of Ogyen Choling’s economic wealth and power came from the trade of agricultural products, which due to the high elevation and more arid terrain was traditionally limited to buckwheat, wheat, barley, mustard, radish, and turnips. The village we’ll be staying in sits along a once-thriving trade route between India and Tibet that lasted up until the 1950s where traders, including Ogyen Choling trading caravans, exchanged tobacco, rice, woven textiles, and handmade paper for Chinese tea, salt, and gold dust, amongst others. During our hike out into the fields and farms, and through the Tang Valley, we’ll learn about the local way of life in the countryside of Bhutan from water-powered prayer wheels and Bhutanese stupas to buckwheat fields and potato farming. We’ll also learn about the crops they grow, and how they are planted, harvested, and prepared. We will also learn some of the communities favorite local games including Archery (the national sport of Bhutan) and Digor (kinda’ like Petanque). In sun sets over the mountains, its time to roll up your sleeves and prepare for a farm-to-table cultural culinary experience as we pick the ingredients for and then learn how to make one of the most famous dishes and condiments in the country – and n the Himalayas for that matter, magnificent Momos, and their delicious accompaniments – Bhutan’s excellent ezays! After cooking up a multitude of mouthwatering momos and ecstatic ezays, we’ll sit down to enjoy a tasty dinner of local delicacies all specially veganized for us.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning Meditation at our centuries-old spiritual manor house’s sacred Tara Temple.
  • Hike amongst the Himalayas from our manor house to the village streets into the serenely peaceful countryside we’ll take in the natural beauty and learn about life in Tang Valley – from water-powered prayer wheels and Bhutanese stupas to buckwheat fields and potato farming – we’ll learn about life in the valley and about the crops they grow, how they are planted, and harvested, and later – how they are prepared.
  • Vegan picnic lunch overlooking the Tang River and surrounding Himalaya foothills.
  • Join in local games and learn about how to play them and their cultural significance in Bhutan – including the national game of the country, archery, and digor.
  • Farm-to-table agricultural program – where we’ll focus on what makes up much of the people’s daily livelihood and how to make one of the most famous dishes and condiments in the country – including in the Himalayas, magnificent Momos, and their delicious accompaniments – excellent ezays! Starting with a visit to the garden, we’ll pick out our momo stuffings, as well as evening greens and other fresh veggies, fresh from the field, as well as the seasonal ingredients to mix up a batch of several different delicious types of ezays – our favorite condiments in the Himalayas!


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 8 TANG VALLEY

Another Lovely Day in the Lovely Tang Valley, Ancient Temples & Trade Routes, and Tasting More Mouth-watering Family Recipes Specially Veganized Just for Us! And a Cool Cultural Q&A by the Campfire!

Waking up to fresh Himalayan Mountain air, we’ll start the day with morning meditation in the palace’s sacred Buddhist temple, before sitting down for a delicious local vegan breakfast. After breakfast, we’ll gather in the manor’s historical Tara Temple where we’ll join in a special Bhutanese Tara blessing ceremony and meditative practice ritual. From the Tara Temple, we’ll make our way down to the family’s personal historical collection and museum, where we’ll see the different artifacts and family heirlooms collected over generations and learn about the ancient history of the valley and the family’s heritage here. After learning about the heritage of the community’s historical contribution to Bhutan, we’ll visit the different “naga” lukhangs (shrine homes) and learn about the purpose each of them represents in Bhutanese culture. Then, we’ll head into the village where we’ll be guests of a local family at their home for traditional Bhutanese hospitality and a delicious lunch of local delicacies specially veganized for us. Returning to the palace, we’ll make our way out to the garden which sits amongst various strewn prayer flags overlooking the valley. Since the Tang Valley has deep spiritual roots, this afternoon we’ll learn in-depth about the prayer flags of Bhutan – which you’ll see not just here, but also adorning stupas, temples, monasteries, shrines, hilltops, rooftops, homes, shops, and other structures across the Himalayas. We will learn what prayer flags are all about, their history, and what they represent, as contribute prayers as we hang a series of prayer flags to encourage blessings into the valley. Traditionally believed to bless wherever they wave, the mantras or sutras printed on these flags are intended to be carried by the wind spreading goodwill, health, spiritual success, and positive energy across the land – and symbolize compassion, peace, strength, and wisdom. In the early evening, we’ll gather in the palace courtyard where we’ll join members from the local community for an evening of local folk music and dance accompanied by traditional drinks and tasty vegan changpa (snacks to accompany drinks). After working up an appetite from the song and dance, we’ll sit down for a delicious Bhutanese vegan feast for dinner.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning Meditation at our centuries-old spiritual manor house’s sacred Buddhist Temple.
  • Bhutanese Tara blessing ceremony we’ll learn about Tara prayer ceremonies and meditative practice rituals.
  • Join a local family at their home for traditional Bhutanese hospitality – from the traditional welcome ceremony and learning to make a local drink, to local home architecture, symbolism, and a delicious vegan Bhutanese lunch. As guests of a local family, we’ll join them at their countryside home for traditional Bhutanese hospitality and delicious lunch of local delicacies specially veganized for us. On arrival, the family has a special traditional welcome for us, followed by showing how to make the traditional welcome drink made from fermented barley and wheat grown in their field. They also share with us how the design of their countryside home coincides with both practical climate and living conditions, as well as spiritual traditions and customs.
  • Since the Tang Valley has deep spiritual roots, today we’ll learn in-depth about the prayer flags of Bhutan – which you’ll see not just here, but also adorning stupas, temples, monasteries, shrines, hilltops, rooftops, homes, shops, and other structures across the Himalayas, today we will also introduce what prayer flags are all about, their history and what they represent, as well as we’ll contribute prayers to a series of prayer flags to encourage blessings into the valley.
  • Cultural Music and Dance Program – join the local community to learn about the local cultural music and dance of the Tang Valley and share what each song and dance symbolizes and means to the people of the valley accompanied by traditional local drinks and tasty vegan changpa (snacks to accompany drinks).


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 9 BUMTHANG & TRONGSA

Journey to the Ancient Kingdom and Ancestral Seat of the House of Wangchuk, More Sensationally Epic Scenery, Ancient History, a Classic Bumthang Buckwheat Dish, the Cliffs, Mountain Tops & Epic Dzong of Trongsa, and more Delicious Farm Fresh Bhutanese Feasts – all Veganized Specially for Us!

After morning meditation and an early breakfast, we’ll set off on our journey through the picturesque Bumthang Valley – which is a series of four valleys. Bumthang takes its name from the local words for “beautiful field”, and it’s no wonder as these ancient glaciers carved valleys that make up the region are truly stunning. Known as the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, Bumthang is home to 29 magnificent monasteries and terrific temples, some of which are the oldest in the country making it also home to some of the country’s finest sacred artifacts, paintings, and art. While we journey through this sacred valley, we’ll be guests of local Buddhist Nuns at their monastery where we will learn about their order as Vajrayana Buddhist woman monastics, their way of life, the precepts they follow, their daily life, and women’s issues within Bhutan from a Buddhist point of view. Bumthang is also known as the land of potatoes, apples, and our favorite – buckwheat! People here love their buckwheat, and after you try some of their delicious dishes you’ll see (or should we say taste) why! This being said, we’ll have lunch today at a farmhouse where our hosts will teach us how to make the valley’s famous buckwheat noodles – which we will, of course, enjoy as part of our farm fresh feast for lunch. Bumthang is also home to countless tales and legends, including the story of the great Guru Rinpoche who is credited for bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. It is here that the great Guru persuaded the local king through his spiritual healing to adopt Buddhism, and thus Buddhist roots were set firmly into these lands. So while in Bumthang, we’ll visit one of Bhutan’s oldest Buddhist temples – a historical landmark reflective of the country’s rich spiritual history. Previously known as the Kingdom of Bumthang, from which the current Royal Family trace their roots back, Bumthang was once one of several independent kingdoms in the region. As the current Royal Family began to unite the different kingdoms, they moved west – as we will today as well. Arriving in the ancient Dzongkhag of Trongsa, where the first penlop system (provincial leader system) was based giving way to the current very unique administrative system of Bhutan, we will settle into our home for the next two days which overlooks the epic Trongsa Dzong and equally epic and stunning cliffs, mountain tops, and deep gorges that surrounded it.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning Meditation at our centuries-old spiritual manor house’s sacred Tara Temple.
  • Scenic journey across the countryside of Bhutan as we head continue our journey into the spiritual and cultural heartland of the country.
  • Guests of local Buddhist Nuns at their monastery where we will learn about their order as Vajrayana Buddhist nuns, their way of life, the precepts they follow, their daily life, and women’s issues within Bhutan from a Buddhist point of view. At the nunnery, we also learn about the reciting of Buddha’s teachings and the students can recite for us how they are learning and the meaning of the teaching recitations.
  • Join a local family for a Bumthap Culinary Cultural Experience where we learn about Bumthap culture through their culinary tradition of preparing buckwheat Bumthap noodles which we’ll enjoy with all the sides that accompany this delicious buckwheat dish!
  • From the farmhouse, we’ll hike through the fields and farms down into the valley to one of the oldest and most sacred temples – the Jampa Lakhang.
  • Special dinner overlooking the historical and stunningly epic Dzong of Trongsa and the equally stunning and epic cliffs and valley gorges that surround it.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 10 TRONGSA

Kickin’ it in the Cool Ol’ Dzongkhag Capital of Trongsa, History, Heritage, Dzongs, Penlops, the Dual System of Government, & a Cool Cultural Q&A by the Campfire Complete with Cool Views!

Beginning the day with morning meditation and traditional yoga overlooking the epic valley cliffs and gorges of Trongsa, we’ll then settle down for a tasty breakfast of buckwheat pancakes accompanied by a variety of sweet and savory side dishes. Then without hesitation, we’ll set out to explore the ancient Dzong of Trongsa, which sits strategically high above the gorges right smack in between the key historical trading route connecting the east and west of Bhutan. The route actually passed directly through the dzong’s courtyard so if the doors of the dzong were shut, so would be the trade route. Built in 1644, the dzong was at one time the seat of power for the Wangchuck dynasty before they became rulers of Bhutan in 1907, and traditionally every King of Bhutan should first become the Penlop (governor) of Trongsa, before becoming Crown Prince, and later King, of the country. Appropriately, Trongsa was the location of the “first penlop” where the penlop system (provincial leader system – penlop is similar to a governor of a district) was based giving way to the unique dual system of the government Bhutan historically had and which to this day, still exists on many levels. Starting from the old Trongsa Ta Dzong (watchtower), we’ll make our way by foot down the hillside to the Dzongkhag’s epic Dzong – one of the largest dzong’s in Bhutan, where we’ll learn about the very unique governance in Bhutan that helped form the country into the unique nation Bhutan it is today. We’ll also learn about traditional dzong design and layouts, including the different secular and spiritual divisions of these mighty fortresses (the monastic section of Trongsa Dzong can house roughly 200 monks). While in the Dzong, we’ll also visit the auspicious Vajra Sattva Temple, where we’ll learn about and perform an ancient sacred tradition of honoring our ancestors and those close to us who also may have passed more recently, including a ritual believed to send blessings and light in the life hereafter. As the sun sets over the Himalayas, we’ll settle down back to our mountainside lodge for a cool Cultural Q&A. Under a starlit sky and campfire, we’ll close the evening with a vegan feast of local Trongsa dishes!

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning Meditation overlooking the Trongsa Dzong and its surrounding cliffs and gorges.
  • Explore the ancient Dzong of Trongsa, one of the largest dzongs in Bhutan, where we’ll learn about the very unique governance in Bhutan that helped form the country into the unique nation Bhutan it is today. We’ll also learn about traditional dzong design and layouts, including the different secular and spiritual divisions of these mighty fortresses.
  • Visit the auspicious Vajra Sattva Temple, where we’ll learn about and perform an ancient sacred tradition of honoring our ancestors and those close to us who also may have passed more recently, including a ritual believed to send blessings and light in the life hereafter.
  • Campfire Cultural Q&A “Everything You Wanted to Know About Bhutanese Culture and Vajrayana Buddhism but We’re Afraid to Ask” session. After 10 days in Bhutan, any questions or anything you have on your mind – now is the time to ask.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

 

DAY 11 PUNAKHA

Journey to the Cool Ol’ Country Capital of Punakha, History, Heritage & Cool Cultural Q&A by the Campfire Complete with Red Rice in the Rice Bowl of Bhutan!

Starting the day with morning meditation overlooking Trongsa Dzong and a tasty fusion breakfast, we’ll then continue our journey back west to the “rice bowl” of Bhutan. Surrounded by rolling hills, Punakha is huddled in a fertile valley cut in two by two of the most prominent rivers in the country. Well-irrigated, communities here can harvest two rice crops a year, which includes Bhutan’s famous red rice variety. At the confluence of the two rivers lies the second oldest and largest Dzong in the country, the majestic Punakha Dzong dating back to 1637 – which we’ll be visiting tomorrow morning. This ancient royal capital was the old seat of power in Bhutan until it was transferred to Thimphu in 1955. While in Punakha, we’ll learn about the city’s unique origins and history, including its spiritual legacy. As the sun sets over the Himalayas, we’ll settle down for drinks, vegan snacks, and our introduction to Punakha and its significance in Bhutan’s history as one united kingdom before enjoying a vegan feast of local Punakha classics – including its famous staple, red rice.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Morning Meditation overlooking the Trongsa Dzong and its surrounding cliffs and gorges.
  • Visit one of the higher elevation passes roads traverse in Bhutan and the sacred Chendapji Choten, built in the 16th century to subdue the bad demons of the area.
  • Special lunch at one of our favorite roadside eateries – where we’ll enjoy a very tasty vegan feast of Bhutanese classics from the local area – including a variety of locally farmed and foraged ingredients.
  • Special Punakha Red Rice-Themed Vegan Dinner in the rice bowl of Bhutan.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 12 PUNAKHA to PARO

Explore Punakha, Culture, History, & Cuisines, then Back to Where We Began, in the Paro Valley, where we’ll Unwind with Traditional Bhutanese Stone Bath and a Farewell Feast of Our Local Vegan Favorites!

Waking up to the morning fresh air of Punakha, in the morning we’ll set out to explore Punakha’s epic Dzong, where now, after learning about Bhutan’s unique Dzong and Dzongkhag system in Trongsa, while visiting the Punakha Dzong you’ll be able to relate to the unique Bhutanese dzong administrative system, architecture, and design. Punakha Dzong is also known as the Pungthang Dechen Prodrang, which literally translates as the “palace of great happiness”. It is known as the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. This morning we’ll also visit one of the country’s most revered fertility temples, and learn about its interesting and very different history. We will have a short hike through the countryside and paddy fields to the temple of fertility (the Chimi Lhakhang is believed to grant a child to unsuccessful couples who don’t have children). The temple is associated with the divine Tibetan Saint Drukpa Kinley – the “divine madman”. We will also visit the unique village near the temple where you will see the houses painted with phallus. The symbol of the phallus is believed to be the spiritual weapon that Bhutanese use to shield themselves from misfortunes. After a vegan lunch overlooking the fields and village, we’ll continue west to Paro where in the early evening we’ll unwind, refresh, and rejuvenate with a traditional Bhutanese stone bath. Then as the colors of the day turn to night over Paro, after 12 days of traveling together, this evening we’ll settle down for our festive farewell dinner party complete with live music, local drinks, snacks, and a variety of our Bhutanese favorites throughout the journey.

Highlights of the Day:

  • Visit Punakha Dzong where you’ll be able to reflect on the unique Bhutanese dzong architecture and design we learned about in Trongsa, while taking in the “Palace of Great Happiness” – a.k.a. the Dzong of Punakha.
  • Visit the temple of fertility and learn about the story of the divine madman.
  • Unwind, refresh, and rejuvenate with a traditional Bhutanese stone bath.
  • Festive farewell dinner party complete with live music, local drinks, snacks, and a variety of our Bhutanese favorites throughout the journey.


Vegan Meals
Included Today:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner & Drinks

DAY 13 PARO & THE JOURNEY HOME…

Bidding Farewell to Bhutan, the Journey Home Begins…

After 13 days in Bhutan being personal guests of different communities, off-the-beaten-track hamlets, Buddhist monasteries, local home kitchens, grassroots community projects, and educational institutions. From ancient rituals, shrines, vibrant local organic markets, and out-of-this-world views, to hillside hikes, morning meditation, ancient arts, and enchanting folk music and dance, we’ll say goodbye to Bhutan after our last Bhutanese breakfast together. Then it’s time to catch your flight back home. Most flights from Bhutan leave in the morning. We’ll have our vehicle ready after breakfast to drive you to the airport for your flight back. For any additional onward assistance, our team will be on hand to help. Thank you very much for traveling with us on our Vegan Travel Asia by VegVoyages Bhutan Vegan Adventure!

Highlights of the Day:

  • Special Vegan Breakfast
  • Airport Transfer


Vegan Meals Included Today:  Breakfast

pack up your bags for the new adventures!