Horse riding holiday Bhutan
Horseback vacation Bhutan
Culture and horse riding in Bhutan
Horseback trekking in Bhutan
Cultural holiday in Bhutan
Cultural vacation in Bhutan
Horse riding in the Himalaya
Staying with local families in Bhutan
Horse riding in Bhutan
Trial riding in the Himalaya
Cultural horse riding holiday in Bhutan
Monastery tour on horseback
Horseback tour in the Himalaya
Explore Bhutan on horseback
Visit villages in Bhutan
Horse riding holiday in Bhutan
Riding in the Himalayan Mountains
Trekking horses in Bhutan
Discover Bhutan

Join us for an off-the-beaten-track equestrian adventure in the Kingdom of Happiness, trekking on local Yueta horses through the Himalayan Mountains. Follow the Royal Trail through some of the most beautiful valleys in the Himalaya and visit monasteries, ancient temples. The easy pace allows horseback riders time to spot some of the unique and hardy fauna and flora that have adapted to live on the mountain sides, and spending some nights in tents is perfect for sky-watching. At the beginning and end of the trip there are also visits to some of the most spiritual and spectacular sites in Bhutan. The tour is a mix of horseback riding, trekking and sight-seeing to include all the highlights of Bhutan, as well as exploring the land and people behind the ‘happiest place on earth.’

Accommodation is in hotels, local farms and monasteries and tents depending on location. Picnic lunches are taken in meadows and alongside sparkling streams, and local dishes are served each night.

Read Rachel's account of this trip from September 2018

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from MT of Bonn on 05/05/2024

Ride Summary
Very carefully organized and conducted trip
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
A guide with a clear passion for his job. We liked very much that he gave us options to individuelly design our program.
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Very strong and surefooted
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
No idea
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
6
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Partially difficult terrain, horses easy to control in all paces
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
This was a really special holiday in a wonderful country.
We were so well cared of from our guide.
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
Riders are met at Paro airport and transferred to the hotel for check in and lunch. Once settled, visit the National Museum and Paro Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most impressive and well-known dzongs, and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture.
Dinner and overnight at Paro in Hotel.

Day 2
This morning starts with a walk to the Taktsang Goemba, known as the Tiger’s Nest monastery, a quintessential Bhutan experience. This hike reaches 3100m so walking boots are recommended. Lunch will be served in the teahouse on return and followed by a visit to the ancient ruins of Drukgyel Dzong situated at the end of the Paro valley. If time permits you the guests can also visit 7th century Kyechu Lhakhang and Dungtse Lhakhang. Dinner and overnight at Paro in Hotel.

Day 3
Take the early morning domestic flight to Bumthang, and from there drive to Tang Valley to meet the horses. After lunch there is an afternoon ride to the nearby village, and a chance to meet the locals and visit their homes before returning to the guesthouse for the night. Dinner and overnight in Tang in Farm House.

Day 4
After breakfast, head to the stables for today's ride. Pass through villages and open fields before riding up into the Pine forests. There might be a few places where riders need to dismount and lead the horses. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way before reaching the campsite near Kunzangdra. There is a temple and hermitage on the cliff (Kunzangdra Monastery), founded by Pemalingpa in 1488, which can be explored before dinner. Tonight is spent n tents at 3200m and is perfect for sky watching.

Day 5
Today the ride travels through forests and hillsides as it travels toward Padselling.The group will be staying in the monastery here tonight which is set high up in the mountains, with incredible views. There is chance to explore the local village before returning to the monastery for dinner. (sometimes the accommodation may be in tents).

Day 6
This morning starts with a relaxing downhill ride to follow the village roads and trails and offer some great opportunities for a few canters. After visiting Dorjibi village,leave the horses behind and take a short drive to the hotel in nearby Jakar. After dinner the group can explore the town and enjoy the festival with your guide. Overnight at Bumthang in a hotel.

Day 7
Today's ride leads through some of the local villages and allows riders the chance to meet the locals. Witness the farmers ploughing and tending their potato fields as the trail meanders through the countryside,. There will be opportunities to trot and canter before camping overnight. (Riders might stay in a local home stay with a Bhutanese family dependent on the weather).

Day 8
After breakfast, The final ride follows a mountain trail to the summit of PhaPha at 3600m, where colourful prayer flags hang from branches. Cross a 3000m pass before heading back towards the stable through local villages, giving riders the chance to practice any local words or phrases they might have picked up along the tour. Once back at the stables, say goodbye to the horses before heading to a local guesthouse. Relax in a traditional hot stone bath with a glass of local wine before dinner. Overnight at the farm house.

Day 9
After breakfast the group is driven to Punakha, the old capital city, passing through the Trongsa valley. Stop in Trongsa and visit the National Museum and the magnificent Trongsa Dzong, the birthplace of Bhutan’s hereditary monarchy.  Cross Pele La pass at 3400m, before descending down to valley floor at 1200m to Punakha. Overnight at Punakha in a local hotel.

Day 10
The morning starts with a to visit Punakha Dzong, ‘The Place of Great Happiness’, built in between two rivers. Drive north to take a short hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a unique example of traditional Asian architecture.. After lunch, drive to Thimphu, the capital city and visit Tashi Chodzong, the seat of government and monastic body and Memorial chorten. Overnight in Thimphu in a hotel.

Day 11
After breakfast visit the sights of Thimphu, including the largest Buddha, painting school, Indigenous hospital and vegetable market before driving back to Paro in the afternoon. Overnight in Paro in a hotel.

Day 12
After breakfast the riders will be transferred to the airport for the departure.

Non-riders are welcome to join the tour, and will be driven to each new site during the riding portion of the tour.

Spring Season Departure (starting on 15th April 2024 - 24th April 2024)
Features the Domkhar Festival in Chumey valley, Bumthang. The Domkhar tshechu festival is a three-day celebration that holds great significance for both the locals and tourists. It was established by Lama Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 16th century and commemorates the birthday anniversary of Guru Rinpoche, the revered Indian Buddhist saint who visited Bhutan in the 8th century.

Autumn Season Group Departure (starting on 6th October 2024 - 17th October 2024)
Featuring the Jakar Festival at the Jakar Dzong in Bumthang. The Jakar tshechu festival is an annual three-day event, renowned for its sacred mask dances and captivating folk songs and dances performed by the local people. It is a festival where people wear their finest attire and is immensely popular among tourists.

The price for this trail ia based on 6 riders for this trail, although it will still operate for 2 or more riders for a small group supplements, payable per person. Should more riders join the trail then the small group supplement will be refunded.

Private departures are possible for this trail, please enquire.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses used on this ride are a sturdy local breed known as Yueta, between 12hh and 15hh. They are mild tempered and well adapted to trekking across mountainous terrain. Due to the small stature of the horses there is a strict weight limit of 90kg for this ride. The riding is mostly at a walk or trot, although there may be opportunities to canter in the flatter valleys. The terrain can be quite steep and rocky in places, riders should be prepared to dismount and walk at times. There is also riding over small hills and across meadow.


Rider requirements

Riders need to be able to walk, trot and canter, and to be able to mount/dismount unaided. Riders should be prepared to dismount and walk alongside their horses when the terrain is particularly steep or rocky. Riders should have a good level of general fitness. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The accommodation on this ride is a mix of hotels (all at 3* level), farm houses, monasteries and camping. Hotels are twin/double rooms with private bathroom. Single and double tents are available for the camping nights - please let us know in advance if you would like a single tent. There will be basic bathroom and shower facilities available on camping nights. When staying in farm houses and monasteries, riders may be sharing rooms with more than 1 other person depending on the space available and number in the group. There will be basic bathroom facilities available.



When staying in hotels, breakfast and dinner will be taken in the hotel or a local restaurant. During the riding trail meals will be prepared by the support team and taken 'home-style'. Picnic lunches will be carried in saddlebags, and you will stop in a scenic place each day around noon for lunch. Meals will be a variety of Bhutanese, Chinese, Indian and continental cuisine including: soup, salad, rice, butter naan, paneer, bhidi masala, mutter paneer, spring rolls, fried dal, chow mein, spaghetti, squash, noodles. 


Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If visas are required the conditions for these can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

All visitors to Bhutan (except Indian nationals) must obtain visa clearance from an authorized tour operator in Bhutan in advance of their arrival. Visas are issued on arrival but you must apply in advance and receive visa approval before you travel. Keep a photocopy of your passport visa pages and flight ticket separate from the originals when travelling. The Bhutanese Department of Tourism sets a non-negotiable minimum daily tariff for all visitors to Bhutan. The rate includes all accommodations, all meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters, and cultural programs where and when available. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Bhutan. Britain is represented in Bhutan by an Honorary Consul. The nearest consular office is British Deputy High Commission in Kolkata. Please note there are also restrictions on where visitors may enter or leave Bhutan.

If you are flying via India, it is recommended for you to carry an Indian e-visa otherwise you will be unable to leave the airport. You can apply for this online for a small cost at the following website, www.indianvisaonline.gov.in. Make sure you apply for the correct e-visa when travelling via India.

Bhutanese Honorary Consulate in London
2 Windacres Warren Road, Guildford GU1 2HG
Phone: (+44) 1 483 538 189
Email: rutland.michael@gmail.com

Royal Bhutan's Embassy in USA
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the UN, 763 United Nations Plaza(1st Ave.) New York, N.Y.10017
Phone: (212) 682-2268/682-2312/682-2371/682-2752
Fax: (212) 661-0551

Bhutanese Honorary Consulate in Toronto
146 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON M5R 1C2
Phone: (+1) (416) 960 3552
Fax: (+1) (416) 960 9506

Climate Summary

The climate of Bhutan cannot be generalized because of its mountainous landscape. Bhutan lies at the same latitude as New Delhi, Cairo and Miami, so one may think it may be hot, and to some its location in the Himalayas suggest Bhutan will be cold. However, it experiences very pleasant weather throughout the year. With the exception of southern regions that border the plains of India, and the northern frontier with Tibet, most people experience a pleasant temperate climate with moderate changes between winter and summer.
Altitude is one notable factor that determines the weather especially for the places of interest like Thimphu, Paro Punakha, Wandgi, and Bumthang. The weather can vary due to changes in elevation. For instance, Punakha and Wangdue (1300m) is warmer than Thimphu (2300) and Bumthang (2580 m) is colder than both, which is due to variation in altitude.
Another factor that can influence the weather in Bhutan is the seasonal cycle. As a whole the climatic conditions varies from sub-tropical in south to the Alpine in the north. Climatic conditions in Bhutan can be broadly categorise into four:

Spring
From March to June, the southern regions experience typical sub tropical weather with hot and humid conditions. Thimphu, Paro, and Bumthang Valley have warmer days with cool nights and clear blue sky. It is noticeably warmer in Punakha & Wangdi Valley. High altitude paths are at their most accessible in this time. Rhododendron and wild flower blooms surrounds the trails especially at higher elevation. This is also the best time to see wildlife as they come out from hibernation after a long cold winter.

Monsoon Season
July marks the advent of monsoon season, which lasts until the beginning of September, bringing much relief and a boon to farmers for the cultivation of their seasonal crops. The rain in the valleys is moderate, with the bulk falling in the southern belt. It carpets the valley and surrounding vegetation with greenery. There is no trekking during the monsoon as the trails get wet, slippery and muddy.

Autumn
From the tail end of September until November the weather slowly stabilizes after the monsoon. The sky becomes clearer with warm autumn sun and continues offering spectacular views of far off peaks.
These months are considered to be the best time for trekking, with accessible high passes and stable temperature. It can get hot during the day so wearing sunscreen is recommended.

Winter
From December until February, it’s the time of year when nights tend to get cold with days being warm with bright sun. Temperatures can drop to -5 degrees at night so bring a suitable sleeping bag. Blue winter skies serve a striking background to the snow-capped peaks. The higher passes experience snow but the valleys receive only an occasional light dusting. The possibility of heavy snow remains only if there is a sudden and dramatic change in temperature.

Climate Chart

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

There is a reasonably well equipped hospital in the capital, Thimphu, with modern diagnostic facilities such as ultrasound, MRI and CT Scan. Outside Thimphu, Bhutanese hospitals provide only basic health care.

You may find the high mountain altitudes demanding. Familiarise yourself with the dangers of altitude sickness especially if you are trekking in remote areas.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, emergency helicopter evacuation to India and repatriation.

Health (ride specific)

You may find the high mountain altitudes demanding. Familiarise yourself with the dangers of altitude sickness especially if you are trekking in remote areas. Ensure you have medication for altitude sickness in your first aid kit before travelling. You will not be going to extreme altitudes on this ride, however all guests should be aware of the symptoms especially if you are new to the environment. For more information please visit https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/26/altitude-illness#undefined

Electricity

In Bhutan the power sockets are of type D, F and G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

When on the horse riding portion of the tour there will be limited or no electricity, phone signal or WiFi. Take spare batteries or a powerpack to recharge your camera. Spare memory cards are also a good idea!. If you want to bring a GoPro please be advised that you will have to have permission from all other guests and guides that they are willing to be filmed.

Packing List

Riding helmet (compulsory)
Jodhpurs/breeches
Hiking boots that are suitable for riding in
Half chaps
Waterproof and windproof jacket
Waterproof trousers
Long sleeved t-shirts
Warm jumper/fleece
Casual clothes for evenings
Warm sleeping clothes
Short sleeved t-shirts for wearing during the day
Head torch for camping nights
Light-weight, loose fitting trousers for visiting temples/dzongs
Day pack for sight-seeing trips
Sun glasses
Sun cream
Personal medications
Toiletries
Towel
Sleeping bag (temperature can drop to -5 degrees in the winter months)
Insect repellent
Power adapter
Wet wipes/tissues
Camera with spare batteries/memory cards
Passport and photocopy of identification page
Copy of visa
Druk Asia flight ticket (or alternative Bhutanese airline)

Generally, clothing should correspond with the average weather conditions. However, it is difficult to recommend one specific set of clothing, the key to dressing is layering so that you can adapt to changing weather condition. As the day progresses and gets warmer, you can take layers off and put them in your day pack. The clothes you bring should wash well in cold water and dry quickly. Bring loose, comfortable clothes and comfortable walking shoes. We recommend bringing well broken trekking boots with ankle support if your trip includes walking.
Shorts that are very short are not always appropriate in Asian countries for men or women. Try wearing light-weight, loose fitting travel trousers. Formal clothing is not necessary for travels in this region but you will need to wear long pants and long sleeves/coloured T-shirts when you visit Temples or Dzongs.

Baggage allowance on Druk Air is 30 Kilograms (2 piece max) per passenger to check-in and one hand-carry (cabin bag) that fits into overhead luggage compartment. Usually Laptops and cameras may be allowed to carry on in addition to cabin baggage. Business class passengers are permitted additional 10 Kilograms to check-in. Excess baggage is charged on a basis of kilograms and so the rates vary by sector and times.

Programmes

This is a 12 day/11 night programme with 6 days riding available on request throughout the year.

Departure Dates

2024: 14-24 April (Domkhar Festival); 6-17 October (Jakar Festival); Other dates on request for groups of 2 or more.

Pricing

Single rooms only available in hotels (single supplement applies), single tents available with no extra charge. Please enquire.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
202412d/11n6double pp group 7-10 pax3,505
202412d/11n6supplement group 3-6 pax109
202412d/11n6supplement group 2 pax329
202412d/11n6supplement 1 pax769
202412d/11n6single supplement (hotels only)275
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
202412d/11n6double pp group 7-10 pax4,085
202412d/11n6supplement group 3-6 pax129
202412d/11n6supplement group 2 pax385
202412d/11n6supplement 1 pax899
202412d/11n6single supplement (hotels only)319
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
202412d/11n6double pp group 7-10 pax4,609
202412d/11n6supplement group 3-6 pax145
202412d/11n6supplement group 2 pax435
202412d/11n6supplement 1 pax1,015
202412d/11n6single supplement (hotels only)365
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
202412d/11n6double pp group 7-10 pax48,255
202412d/11n6supplement group 3-6 pax1,515
202412d/11n6supplement group 2 pax4,549
202412d/11n6supplement 1 pax10,609
202412d/11n6single supplement (hotels only)3,789
Recommended Reading


  •  LONELY PLANET – BHUTAN (COUNTRY GUIDE) BY LINDSAY BROWN.

  •  BHUTAN: HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN KINGDOM, FIFTH EDITION (ODYSSEY ILLUSTRATED GUIDE) BY FRANCOISE POMMARET.

  •  BEYOND THE SKY AND THE EARTH BY JAMIE ZEPPA

  • BHUTAN: A TREKKER’S GUIDE (CICERONE GUIDE)

  • DREAM OF PEACEFUL DRAGON: A JOURNEY THROUGH BHUTAN BY KATIE HICKMAN

  • BUTTER TEA AT SUNRISE: A YEAR IN THE BHUTAN HIMALAYAS BY BRITTA DAS

  •  BIRDS OF BHUTAN BY CAROL INSKIPP • FOOTPRINT – BHUTAN (FOOTPRINT BHUTAN HANDBOOK) BY GYURME DORJEE


Other Activities

Trekking, bird watching, mountain biking, festivals, wildlife sanctuaries, rock climbing, rafting.

Wildlife

The great geographical and climatic diversity of Bhutan results in an outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.
The tiger, one-horned rhino, golden langur, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, common leopard, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope and Himalayan musk deer.
Flora and birds abound with more than 770 species of bird and 5,400 species of plants known to occur throughout the kingdom. Many of these species are endangered or elusive, and sightings are extremely rare. Conservation projects are attempting to protect and improve populations which are threatened, please help by not leaving any kind of litter, and avoid disturbing or damaging the environment as you pass through.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Paro Airport
Transfer:
Included from meeting point.
Flight Guide:
London to New Delhi from £600 return. New Delhi to Paro from £500 return (Druk Asia).
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