The Kingdom of Happiness Bhutan

Blend of pristine nature with social harmony in a deeply spiritual land, that has earned this gentle nation the title “The Last Shangri-la”.

The Land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan is an extraordinary little kingdom in the Himalayas that lies between Tibet and India. With stunning natural landscapes, it is a dream for those who love nature and the outdoors. But it is the country’s strong sense of tradition and culture, fiercely preserved to the present, which holds the enduring image most travellers will be acquainted with.

One of the few places in the world that practices Vajrana Buddhism, these profound teachings exert a strong influence on every aspect of Bhutanese life, making it the essence of a distinctive identity to its population of 750,000, who are the last believers of this ancient school of Mahayana Buddhism.

Another unique characteristic that sets Bhutan apart is the significance placed upon the country’s Gross National Happiness, which emphasizes economic growth and development, cultural preservation, environmental sustainability and good governance. By virtue of these guiding principles, Bhutan has taken a strict environmental stance and believes in protecting the country’s 72 percent of forest cover, home to a plethora of flora and fauna, just as ardently as its rich Buddhist traditions. Though the country is poor, its fertile lands and small population ensures that everyone is comfortable and that the homeless are a rarity. It is this blend of pristine nature with social harmony in a deeply spiritual land that has earned this gentle nation the title “The Last Shangri-la”.

What to see /

Stunning natural landscapes as well as Bhutan's strong preservation of its culture and traditions has allowed every traveller enduring images of this extraordinary little kingdom.

Taktsang Goemba

Paro’s main attraction “The Tiger’s Nest” or Taktsang Goemba, appears to hang off the edge of a cliff and is a stunning sight. The uphill trek lasts two to three hours.

Dochula Pass

Bhutan’s most famous pass has 108 stupas that were built by the Queen Mother as a tribute to the King. Enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Himalayas on a clear day.

Punakha Dzong

Strategically located where the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers meet, Punakha Dzong, built in the 17th century, is one of the most beautiful fortresses in the country, where the King was married in October 2011.

Punakha festivals

Two major festivals take place every year - the Punakha Drubchen, for its dramatic re-enactment of a 17th century battle with the Tibetan army, and the Punakha Tsechu.

Gangtey nature trail

A two-hour trek through this notable wildlife sanctuary that is home to numerous flora and fauna. It is famous for the black-necked cranes that migrate to the valley between October to December.

Thimphu

where locals stroll around in an unhurried pace. Inside the capital, you will visit Tashichho Dzong, National Memorial Chorten, Buddha Dordenma Statue and more.

Trongsa Dzong

Also called Chokor Raptentse Dzong, it is the largest Dzong in Bhutan, built in 1644 and used to house the seat of the Wangchuck Dynasty.

Farmhouse visit

Observe the simplicity of the locals’ agricultural lifestyle.

Chimi Lakhang

A fertility temple, also know as Temple of the Divine Madman, where many newly married couples go to.

Paro Valley

The valley of Paro, the prettiest in our opinion, with its willow lined river and apple orchards. It also boasts the most charming town where some scenes of the film "Little Buddha" were shot.

Bumthang Valleys

The Bumthang region covers a number of mountain passes and valleys. Including Pele La Pass, Yotong La Pass, Chume Valley, Chokor Valley, Kiki La and Jakar.

Phobjikha Valley

Glacial valley on the slopes of the Black Mountains. This area is also referred to as Gangtey, after the Goemba here.

Jakar Dzong

Located in the Chumey Valley, “The Castle of the White Bird”, is the main administrative centre for Bumthang and was an integral fortress.

Signature Itineraries /

While an eastern Bhutan route is also available, the typical circuit covering the best valleys to explore Bhutan’s richness is Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang, and back. Whether you’re trekking up to “The Tiger’s Nest” in Paro, exploring sacred Buddhist sites in Bumthang, observing black-necked cranes in Phobjikha or simply having a cup of Ara with a farmer, there is much to discover and learn from this gentle culture.

Path to Cheri / 5 days

Thimphu, Paro
Explore the sacred sites of Paro and marvel at the majesty of Taktsang Goemba, a monastery perched almost precariously on the side of a cliff 1,200 metres high. It is a must-see for any traveller to Bhutan.
from USD2,280 >

Path to Punakha / 7 days

Thimphu, Punakha, Paro
In this valley, Punakha Dzong is strategically located where the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers meet. It is one of the most beautiful fortresses in thecountry.
from USD2,880 >

Path to Phobjikha / 8 days

Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha, Paro
On the western slopes of the Black Mountains, Phobjikha Valley is a curved glacial valley best known for playing host to 300 rare black-necked cranesmigrading from arid Tibet between October and February each winter.
from USD3,080 >

Path to Chokor / 10 days

Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, Punakha, Paro
The spiritual heartland of Bhutan, Bumthang, has the highest concentration of sacred sites and some of the country's oldest temples and monasteries. The valley is further divided into four regions: Chokor, Chumey, Tang and Ura.
from USD3,680 >

Festival /

Tsechus are colourful festivals with masked performances and pageantry held annually on the tenth day of the lunar month at various monasteries and dzongs across Bhutan. Though it is supposed to correspond with Guru Rinpoche’s day of birth, the actual date on which a Tsechu is held varies for each temple and location.

2015 Calendar /

23 – 27 Feb Punakha Drubchen Punakha
28 Feb – 2 Mar Punakha Tsechu Punakha
5 & 20 Mar Chorten Kora Trashiyangtshe
27 – 29 Mar Gomphu Kora Trashigang
31 Mar – 4 Apr Paro Tsechu Paro
30 Apr – 4 May Ura Tsechu Bumthang
24 – 26 Jun Nimalung Tsechu Bumthang
6 Jun Kurjey Tsechu Bumthang
18 – 22 Sep Thimphu Drubchen Thimphu
21 – 23 Sep Wangdue Tsechu Wangduephodrang
22 – 24 Sep Tamshing Phala chhoepa Bumthang
23 – 25 Sep Thimphu Tsechu Thimphu
27 – 29 Oct Thangbi Mani Bumthang
27 – 31 Oct Jambay Lhakhang Drup Bumthang
28 – 30 Oct Prakhar Tsechu Bumthang
18 – 21 Nov Mongar Tsechu Mongar
19 – 22 Nov Trashigang Tsechu Trashigang
25 – 27 Nov Nalakhar Tsechu Bumthang
20 – 22 Dec Trongsa Tsechu Trongsa
20 – 22 Dec Lhuentse Tsechu Lhuentse

Meet our Founders /

Ee-Cheng

A dream journey in 2009 to the Kingdom of Bhutan inspired Ee-Cheng to take on a path that she would never have expected. It changed her life significantly and become the impetus for starting a new business – the business of travel.

During her first visits to Bhutan, Ee-Cheng was frustrated at not being able to find authentic and well-made souvenirs to bring home. This prompted her to share her expertise in producing carefully crafted products for luxury resort boutiques to the students at the Nazhoem Pelri skills training centre run by the Youth Development Fund (YDF) in Bhutan. The YDF is a NGO in Bhutan with the 2nd Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, as its patron.

Working with the YDF meant frequent, regular trips to Bhutan. This piqued Ee-Cheng’s curiosity for discovering new places in this secluded Kingdom and to seek out fresh, authentic experiences. Her increasing local knowledge, coupled with a growing interest in travel from a different perspective, helped Ee-Cheng realize that there was gap in the market for insightful private journeys to Bhutan with a moderate luxury component.

Hence, Amala Destinations was founded in 2011 and is one of a handful of destination management companies in Bhutan with an office in Singapore. Licensed in both Bhutan and Singapore, its experienced team curates the most carefully considered journeys for its guests to Bhutan.

“Amala” means purity in Sanskrit, or mother in Dzongkha (the official language of Bhutan). Both meanings have much in connection with Ee-Cheng – the meaning of her name, and her other lifelong career.

Phub Dorji

Born in the village of Dopshari, Paro, in Bhutan, Phub Dorji was a farmer before an interest in hospitality motivated him to change his livelihood at the age of 23, and become a guide to travellers looking for experiences beyond the ordinary in this exceptional Kingdom.

After training as a cultural guide, he continued to improve his credentials by acquiring the qualifications to be a trekking guide as well. He is now licensed to take people on the world’s most difficult trek, The Snowman’s Trek, and is listed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan as a Senior Cultural & Trekking Guide. Dorji relishes learning and sharing stories about Bhutan. Constantly collecting snippets of information, he is always sharing folklore with his guests and entertaining them with local humour. He firmly believes that sharing anecdotes on everyday activities and experiences is the best way for guides to help guests form an authentic connection with the Kingdom. These vignettes about Bhutanese life will form part of the memories they create during their journey.

Dorji has more than 20 years experience as a cultural and trekking guide in Bhutan – first with a travel agent, then with the esteemed luxury chain Aman Resorts at Amankora, where he stayed for eight years before co-founding Amala Destinations. Working in luxury travel has taught him what good service is and how best to serve discerning travellers. This coupled with his earnest wish to ensure the best experience for his guests, by prioritizing their comfort and happiness always, has really set him apart from other guides. It is not uncommon for guests to request for him specifically. His ability to connect to people is a rare talent, and he understands exactly how they would like to experience Bhutan. As with his co-founder, Ee-Cheng, he pays much attention to detail, and has a strong relationship with his carefully selected team of guides, drivers and hospitality partners who are all dedicated to providing exemplary service.

Going to Bhutan /

Visas

All visitors to Bhutan apart from Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizens will require a visa (USD$40 processing fee). Amala Destinations will handle this on your behalf – all we need is a scan of your passport. A visa clearance letter will have to be presented at the point of entry.

Food

The Bhutanese love their food spicy. Chillies feature prominently and the locals are usually not satisfied unless a meal packs a lot of heat. Rice is their main staple, with chicken, beef and pork the typical choice of protein, accompanied by one or two side dishes of vegetables. The country’s favourite dish is Ema Datshi, a simple dish consisting of chilli and cheese.

Mahayana Buddhism

The kingdom’s state religion, Mahayana Buddhism is central to the Bhutanese lifestyle. At the heart of Mahayana Buddhism is a deep compassion for all sentient beings, and as a mark of respect it is advised that visitors engage in the same mindfulness, even if it means refraining from swatting flies or crushing ants.

Bhutanese Dress

A distinguishing element of Bhutan’s cultural heritage, the kingdom’s traditional dress has evolved over thousands of years. The Gho is worn by men only, and is a knee-length robe, which looks similar to a kimono, that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt called a Kera. The women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress, with a light outer jacket known as a Tego, and an inner layer known as a Wonju.


All trips to Bhutan have to be booked via an authorized agent. With most other agencies, that usually entails selecting an existing package that does not allow for much flexibility.

At Amala Destinations, we believe in creating your ideal trip with you. After meeting with one of our knowledgeable destination planners, we take your requirements into consideration before coming up with a specially designed itinerary and handling all the necessary travel logistics. All you need to do is pack your bags and set off on your journey.

  • Step 1 / Fill up online form

    Please fill up our online planner form and our travel planner will be in touch within 24 hours to plan your journey.

  • Step 2 / Meeting with our planner

    You may prefer to speak to one of our destination planners in person, please call us either directly to our office number, or via Skype, or on our chatline during office hours .

  • Step 3 / Approve custom itinerary

    Once you have discussed with our destination planner your journey preferences, we will be able to get back to you within 3 working days or less with your journey options. After confirming your final itinerary, we will need another 2 -3 working days to confirm all your flight bookings and hotel reservations. When all bookings are confirmed we will then require from you a 50% deposit payment, with the balance payment due 50 days prior to your departure date. For bookings made within 50 days, full payment is required.

  • Step 4 / Visas application and trip coordination

    As visa applications take approximately 4 weeks to process, we highly recommend all enquiries to be made at least 2 months in advance. We will then arrange a date for us to meet you in person to hand over all your travel documents once your visa is approved.

    During low season months, it may be possible to process your booking within 3 - 4 weeks.

  • Step 5 / Ready to go

    After receiving all your travel documents about 2-3 weeks before your departure date, you are now ready for your Journey to Bhutan! Do remember to follow our recommended packing list for the different seasons in Bhutan!

What our clients say /

"Vicky and I just wanted to thank you and your team for preparing and running a wonderful board meeting in Bhutan..."

Ms CG Tan, Executive Business Assistant

(Nov 2013, Bhutan)

“We had a great time and everything went well. All the services were provided on time and well done...”

Charles and Veronica Drilling

(Nov 2013, Bhutan)

“...Poh Koon and I agree that this is our best holiday by far. Thank you for the amazing experience, the detailed arrangements as well as the fabulous programme...”

Mr Ching Leng Tang

(Jul 2014, Bhutan)

Let us create your ideal trip /

Amala Destinations takes the hassle of travel planning off the traveller. With our customizable packages and bespoke travel service, we endeavour to cater to any desire.

Plan Your Itinerary