Bhutan - Cycling, hiking and culture

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made during Apr, May, Sep and Oct to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Bhutan - Cycling, hiking and culture

Local mountain guides, cooks and porters: The Tourism Council of Bhutan have trained more than 50 people, villagers from Merak and Sakteng as cooks and porters. We know how valuable it is to use local knowledge on this tour to make sure that our trip runs safely and smoothly. Therefore we truly enjoy engaging the local folks who make our program so successful and in return we provide them with a means in the form of good wages to help address the needs of local communities.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan also trained six high school professional minded graduates each from the villages of Merak and Sakteng as tour guides. The training included investing in professional instruction courses, first aid management, and a dedication to learning the hard-skills necessary to conduct safe tours. This makes us very comfortable knowing that our staff is prepared to handle whatever comes their way. We also know that hiring locally means another important source of income for the villagers and therefore most gladly employ the young generation of local guides on our treks in Merak and Sakteng villages. So while our guests enjoy a song, or a dance or a story with our educated community guides, we help make the nomadic way of life economically and socially attractive for the younger generation of educated nomads by paying good wages for their services on the Merak and Sakteng Trek.

Horse Contractors: A committee of horse con­ductors has been formed to ensure a smooth arrangement of ponies in Merak and Sakteng. A list of contractors along with individual contact information is available on the Tourism Council Website. On our tours and Treks to Merak and Sakteng we make contact with local horse contractors from the list available and hire their services for a good rental fee that helps supplement income for nomadic groups through rentals received from animal pottering services during the trekking season.

Community owned Camp sites: The guesthouses in Sakteng and Merak is run by the community and provides services to trekkers in Merak and Sakteng. We use the community campsites for safety and also for cooking classes for guests who want to learn more about Eastern Bhutanese cooking. We rent space at these community sites because The campsite has created local jobs and shared benefits equitably to participating communities and through payment of camp fee we help out in meaningful community efforts.

Buying Locally: Our meals on the Merak and Sakteng trek is prepared with organic produce, including milk, butter, cheese, flour, and vegetables, direct from the village. The farmer gets full retail price for the goods. We do not have to bring food stuff all the way from the town engaging extra vehicles. By buying locally we conserve the energy that is used for transport.

Art and craft made by local Artisans: To promote local income generating activities we encourage our guests to buy authentic arts and crafts made by local artisans from small Private and community-owned enterprises involving the sale of local products and services like weaving, yak riding, milking, renting of traditional dress for photographic purposes, handicrafts and sale of organic vegetables like cabbage, radish, saag, potatoes and turnips etc.

Community distinctive cultural programs showcasing nomadic culture and heritage in an authentic setting is arranged at a fee paid to the community and helps put together a bonus income. Our Merak & Sakteng tours also promote income generation opportunities through sale of local agricultural products, livestock products and handicraft retailing. Community identity and pride is generated through our community based tour programs in Merak and Sakteng. We have been successful in reinforcing a positive sense of community identity.

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