Bhutan: Bhutan Discovery
Our Itineraries are provided as a preview of what to expect on our tours. Please, note, that itineraries are subject to change.
drive through the valley towards Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan. Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects. Arrive Thimpu and check in for the stay
This morning, visit the National Memorial Chorten which was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. Later proceed to the Folk Heritage Museum and see the fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life. Also visit the nearby National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, with some works dating back several hundred years. Afternoon, visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine (outside only), where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed. Also, visit Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six-year training course is given in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Towards evening, visit the Tashichho Dzong, the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body (visit after 5pm on weekdays) Later, time permit explore the main street for some interesting Himalayan artifacts or textiles for which Bhutan is famous. If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market (Open only from Friday until mid-Sunday). Note: National Library, Institute for Zorig Chusum, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine remains closed on Saturday, Sunday and Government Holidays.
Start early today for Gangtey. Near the junction of the roads to Paro and Punakha, you will stop to visit the Simtokha Dzong which is believed to be the oldest Monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery now serves as the Institute for Language and Culture Studies; the students being both monks and lay people. Continue your drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour. From the pass, the road drops gradually with changing vegetation to the subtropical Punakha and Wangdue Valleys. As you continue east, the impressive Wangdue Phodrang Dzong comes in view. Lunch at Wangduephodrang and continue to Gangtey, driving over the Lowa-la pass (3,360 m) down into the picturesque Phobjikha Valley. On arrival, check in for your stay. Evening stroll through the quaint Gangtey village, also visit to the Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa Monastery in this region. The beautiful glacial valley bowl below the Monastery is interspersed with villages, potato fields, temples, hiking trails. Explore the villages, stop by the Black-Necked Crane Information Center and if interested in crafts, drive about a mile to visit a small Hand-Woven Carpet Factory run by a local woman that employs 4 women and produces around 30 rugs a year. For hiking enthusiasts, there are a number of short hiking trails in Phobjika Valley that you can consult with your guide and choose one, depending on available time and your interests.
Today’s journey onward to Jakar (Bumthang) is perhaps long, but certainly memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses viewed from the only east west highway that has been ingeniously carved out of the mountain faces. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official business permitting, perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. Also see Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this dzong. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. Upon Arrival, check in the hotel and rest of the day at leisure.
Bumthang Valley is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. In the morning visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and 7th century Jambay Lhakhang. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples. After lunch, visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later on we will visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird” and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the lodge.
Depart for Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan, stopping en-route at Trongsa for lunch and to visit Trongsa Museum. On arrival, check in for your stay. Evening, enjoy a stroll through the Punkha town.
The day in Punakha Valley begins with a beautiful hike along the Mo Chhu, takes to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Following the hike you will drive back up the valley towards Khuruthang passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong, the Dzong built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch. It is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monk body has returned to Thimphu. The Dzong is placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s head and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. A picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chhu at a vantage point of the stunning Dzong and confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. Afterwards drive a short distance for a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing.
In the morning drive to Paro. En-route you have an opportunity to visit handicraft and souvenir stores in Thimphu. Later, continue to Paro. After descending from Dochu-la, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. . In the afternoon, drive towards the north ends of the valley to view the Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum. The museum collection includes ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. Then walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. Built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, this Dzong now houses Paro’s monk body and the offices of the civil administration and is symbolic as the religious and secular center of all affairs of the valley. In the evening, visit a Traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle.
This morning, hike to Taktsang Monastery to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang (Tiger nest). The walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometer above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is more commonly referred to as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’. In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, built to commemorate a victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. Along the way, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the international airport for your flight home.
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