October 2020

Long time friends Karma of Bhutan Street Fashion and John Leupold, CEO of Champaca Journeys are collaborating to curate this Bhutan trip for the Gay & Lesbian Review. This journey open to all, and guaranteed to be fun and illuminating to anyone as we explore both ancient and modern aspects of Bhutan and its culture, history, nature and Bhutan's success at modernizing while maintaining its identity. Special emphasis on the GLBTQ movement in Bhutan, from its infancy to its greater acceptance and participation in the nation. You will see and experience all the beauty of Bhutan, and meet many of its people, friends of Karma and John, who will share their take on life in this most remarkable and unique of countries. Karma is well known for his blog and Instagram platform; Bhutan Street Fashion. His knowledge of Bhutanese culture, fashion, textiles and life make him a wonderful person to have along on this unique journey. 

Cow In Phobjikha Valley Img 0867 River Rafting

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Early morning departure from Bangkok, Thailand to Paro, Bhutan and check into the Zhiwa Ling Hotel, one of National Geographic "Unique Lodges of the World." This luxury hotel makes the ideal welcome to Bhutan. We'll then venture into Paro town for a bit of exploration, followed by lunch in traditional Bhutanese restaurant. Wander around Paro a bit after lunch, then return to hotel in late afternoon. Welcome Party followed by dinner at hotel.

This morning we explore the Paro Dzong, and one of the many fortified monasteries still in use today, nearly 4 centuries after construction. The nearby museum provides a good overview of modern and ancient Bhutan. Sixty-minute afternoon drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.  Dinner party with local friends, followed by night out in Thimphu at our favorite night spots. Overnight at the Druk Hotel.

Full day to explore Thimphu. We’ll visit the School of Traditional Arts, paper making factory, and Folk Heritage Museum. Afternoon get together with some of Thimphu's interesting denizens, followed by dinner and another night out with your new friends. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Morning 90-minute hike to Cheri Monastery. Established in 1620 and impressively perched above the Thimphu valley, surrounded by pine, oak and rhododendron forest. Few foreigners visit this monastery, which is important an important teaching center and meditation site. Return to Thimphu for lunch, then we drive 3 hours to Punakha, the drive takes us over the impressive pass at Dochu-La, at 10,300 feet. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

The morning will be spent exploring the lovely Punakha Dzong, architecturally and aesthetically one of the most beautiful dzongs. Optional afternoon hike to Chimi Lhakhang, AKA the Temple of the Divine Madman, built in 1499 and one of the most revered temples in Bhutan. Specially curated evening presentation. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

High in the hills above Punakha sits the serene Nalanda Monastery. Seldom visited by outsiders, this monastery is home to many monks, several of which are friends to Karma and John. Meet our monk friends as they bless us, sit to meditate with us and share a bit of their lives with us. Then we walk 1.5 hours downhill on foot, though beautiful meadow and forest, and will be picked up by our driver and taken into Punakha town for lunch. Late afternoon return to hotel, a cooking demonstration will precede dinner. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

Adventure this morning, as we drive to the shore of the Mother River and suit up for a gentle yet exhilarating 90-minute float along the river. We next drive 3 hours into the 9000 foot glacially formed Phobjikha Valley. Often said to be one of Bhutan's most beautiful valleys, we'll let you explore and make your own conclusions. Overnight at Dewachen Hotel.

The small ancient village of Gangtey is home to a famed monastery. We'll visit in the morning and then take a gentle hike through the forest until we reach the valley floor 2-3 hours later. There are many great photo opportunities along the way. Reaching the valley floor we'll have a picnic if conditions permit. Overnight at Dewachen Hotel.

We retrace our path back to Thimphu, stopping for lunch at our favorite Punakha restaurant, to arrive Thimphu late afternoon. It's Friday night and we have an evening of fun planned. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Another day to explore Thimphu, visit the National Textile Museum, Buddha Point statue, incense making factory, artists studios, or for those who prefer a more relaxed day, optional visits to local spa, cafes, and shopping. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Early afternoon departure for Paro. Afternoon free to explore Paro town or relax at hotel. Overnight at Zhiwa Ling Hotel.

After breakfast we drive 10-minutes to base of mountain where Taksang Monastery is located. Also known as Tiger’s Nest, and probably the most iconic building in all Bhutan, perched on a cliff 2,700’ above the valley floor. It is said that the Guru Rimpoche arrived here in the back of a flying tiger in the 8th century, and meditated in a mountain cave for 3 months. The site has since been sacred and a monastery has been constructed to commemorate his visit. It is a pilgrimage site for all Bhutanese who gain merit by making the ascent. You too can gain merit while by making the 3-hour ascent and visiting the monastery seemingly glued to the barest concavity of the cliff face. After descending we’ll have lunch and you can partake of massage and the traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath to soothe your tired muscles. Farewell dinner at Zhiwa Ling Hotel.

Breakfast at hotel, then transport to airport for flight home.

prices & registration information


(Inclusive of food, beverages, accommodations, ground transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed Bhutanese guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader, Bhutanese visa and airport taxes.)

$6800 (Based on double occupancy)
$7800 (Based on single occupancy)

NOTE: Gratuities, alcoholic beverages other than local beer with meals, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included.

General Information

Bhutan is accessed most easily from Bangkok, Thailand from where there are daily flights. Flights always depart in the early morning and participants should give themselves at least 24-hour layover in Bangkok in the event flight to Bangkok is delayed. Fares are subject to change without notice.


Flights are with DRUKAIR, ROYAL BHUTAN AIRLINES, operating Airbus 319 jets.