Activity: Cultural tours and natural sightseeing combined with walking and hiking.
It is an all inclusive package and will cover the cost of accommodation in a 3 star hotels on double occupancy, all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), all land transports within Bhutan including airport pick up and drop, professional English speaking tour guide, government royalty and surcharges, all entry fees for monuments and parks and applicable taxes.
Day 01: Paro – Thimphu (55 km / approx one and half hours)
You will be received at the Paro International Airport by our professional representative/government licensed guide with a Bhutanese traditional welcome.
Next, drive to Thimphu. The road will pass through the red rice fields and traditional village houses which are built without using nails. Pass over the confluence of Wangchhu and Pachhu (chhu stands for river) and arrive to Thimphu, the big apple of Bhutan.
In the afternoon, visit the Folk Heritage Museum, a living memory of life style of ancient Bhutan. It is located in the heart of Thimphu City and was opened in 2001. It has a rare collection of ancient arts and crafts, which is a testimony of the Bhutan’s material culture and living tradition.
Memorial Chorten (stupa) was built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Bhutan, who is the father of modern Bhutan, as well as a monument for world peace and prosperity. Its paintings and statues, intricately designed, provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
It is one of the busiest places in the capital city, as people from all walks of life come for circumambulation, especially in the mornings and evenings. Besides, it is also one of the popular places for holding religious ceremonies, almost on a daily basis. Overnight stay at a hotel
Day 02: Explore Thimphu
After breakfast, start exploring Thimphu City with a visit to the cultural sites described briefly as hereunder:
Painting School- It show cases the 13 arts and crafts of Bhutan. Students at the school receive training for six years on thangka painting, slate curving, tailoring, stone carving, embroidery, etc., Upon completion of the training, they either find employment in the government or the private sector and some even start their own art and craft business. In this way, the skills of art and craft is passed down to younger generation and maintained continuity. The school receives support from the government. If you are interested to avail some students made products , they are available for sale.
Traditional Handmade Paper making factory- the art of traditional paper making is one form of art and crafts practiced in Bhutan. The paper is made out of inner pulp of daphne and edgeworthia plants. Before it is processed as paper, the pulp is soaked, boiled, and grinded to a fine pulp and then laid into a layer of sheets, before it is made into sheets. The process is quite labour intensive, but worth it as in Bhutan it is mainly used to print Buddhist Holy Scriptures, souvenirs, and exported to international markets.
We will be able to see the whole process of how the handmade paper is being made. There is also a showroom for display of products as well as for sale at the factory.
Textile Museum serves as the living art of Bhutanese weaving culture. It is located at the heart of Thimphu town. We can feel and experience the unique techniques and styles of intricately designed local dress worn by men and women. A small group of weavers work on looms inside the museum and showcases the artistic works of weaving by the people from Lhuntse, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family in eastern Bhutan. Weaving a complete set of Gho or Kira, the national dress of Bhutan, would take a weaver five to six months and the price of it would vary from US$ 1,000 and 2,000.
Then, visit National Library, which has a stock of holy scriptures especially on Buddhism. Mini Zoo, which houses the national animal-Takin- will be a place of interest to visit. The 4th King at one point wanted the animals to be released to the jungle; however, they kept moving in the Thimphu town and had to be confined again into the enclosure. Then, take a ride to Sangaygang to have a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley and take pictures of the big apple of Bhutan. Further, take a ride to the Buddha Point, where the tallest Buddha statue is under construction and enjoy view of the southern part of Thimphu valley. Overnight stay in a hotel
Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha (71 km / approx 2½ hours)
Today, cross over the Dochu La Pass, located above 10,000 ft on our way to Punakha, a journey towards east.
Dochula Pass offers visitors with a first glimpse of the Himalayas. The pass houses the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens (Stupas) and Druk Wangyal Lhakhang. Both of these were built to commemorate the victory of Bhutanese soldiers over the Indian militants in December 2003 as well as in memory of 8 soldiers that were killed during the war. The His Majesty, the 4th King led the war himself.
The road from Dochula descends via Lamperi Botanical Park through pine forests, blooming rhododendrons, and beautiful terraced rice fields and the vegetation can vary from sub alpine to sub-tropical when we reach Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. The road to Punakha branches off left and curls its way down the valley before reaching Punakha. Next, visit Punakha Dzong in the afternoon.
Punakha remained the old capital of Bhutan for almost 300 years. The third king of Bhutan shifted the capital to Thimphu in 1953. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1637 and is located between two rivers – the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). It terms of architecture it is widely believed to be a master piece. People believe that deities of the area helped Zhabdrung in the construction of the fortress during nights.
It houses the district administration and serves as the winter residence for the Thimphu central monastic body. In October, the monk body led by the Chief Abbot, Je Khenpo, move to Punakha following the age old tradition of spending a night half way, although the road distance between Punakha and Thimphu by car is just two and half hours.
Bhutan’s first king was crowned at the dzong on 17th December 1907. The royal weddings of the fourth and fifth kings were held here in October 1988 and October 2011 respectively. The annual festival dedicated to the protecting deities of Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali) is held within the fortress in March-April.
A glacial lake outburst in the north of Punakha in 1994 heavily destroyed some parts of the structure, but miraculously no sacred relics have been lost during the floods. The structure was rebuilt to its original grandeur. Overnight stay at a hotel
Overnight stay in the hotel in Paro.
Day 04: Punakha to Phobjikha (72 km/ approx 2.5 hours)
Travel to Phobjikha. On the way, take a hike to Chimi Lhakhang (“Temple of Fertility”). The temple was built by a cousin of Lama Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine Madman who was generally known for his eccentric behavior. Bhutanese generally will have a story to tell about him- how he tried to spread Buddhism in Bhutan in an unconventional way in the 16th century.
The monastery stands for power of fertility and people in and around Bhutan who do not have children and desiring to have one, come to the site to offer prayers and receive blessing from the 10 inch wooden phallus. It is strongly believed that those who have come have been blessed with a baby soon. There have been reports that a couple of New York visited the site and they were blessed with a baby. The walk to the monastery will take us about 45 minutes, one way.
We will be passing through the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, which served as the seat of south-central power in the past. Wangdue Dzong has been gutted by fire on 24 October 2012 and plan is afoot to rebuild it in its original shape. The road towards Phobjikha would wind gently towards Pele La Pass (11,152ft).
Before reaching the Pele La Pass (11,152ft), we will take a right turn through the alpine forest, rich in rhododendrons and magnolia in full blossoms during April/May, and dwarf bamboo and arrive to the glacial valley of Phobjikha/Gangtey. The place is known for the harmonic existence between the Black Necked Crane and the local communities.
The area is the biggest and widest glacial valley in Bhutan and one of the wintering habitats for the endangered Black Necked Cranes that come to roost from the central Asiatic Plateau from October to February annually. People of the area revere the birds and do not disturb them. Even there is a song dedicated to the birds.
Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has an information centre located at the area. They provide the local people with some conservation funds. RSPN and local people hold annual crane festival in November, observed by local and international guests. Phobjikha valley provides a good venue for day hikes.
Gangtey Monastery, the only Nyingmapa Monastery in Bhutan is located in the Valley. It is headed by the ninth reincarnate, His Holiness, Gangtey Trulku. Termites affected the wooden structures of the monastery and a major renovation was done to bring back the monastery to its original structure. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 05: Phobjikha – Trongsa (109 km / approx 3 hours):
Today, make an early start to travel to Trongsa. We will be passing through the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, which served as the seat of south-central power in the past. Wangdue Dzong has been gutted by fire on 24 October 2012 and plan is afoot to rebuild it in its original shape. The road towards Trongsa would wind gently towards Pele La Pass (11,152ft). It serves as the dividing border between western and eastern Bhutan in olden days. From the pass, we can have a view of the snow-clad peaks before the road descends via Chedebji Chorten (Stupa) patterned after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu, Nepal. We will pass through the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, very rich in forest cover. In the afternoon, visit the Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong (watch tower)
Trongsa Dzong, lies on a ridge overlooking the Mangdechhu. It is considered one of the best architectural structures in Bhutan. It contains beautiful passages, courtyards, and corridors containing temples. It houses the district administration and serves as the winter residence for the Bumthang central monastic body. Kings of Bhutan, before they are crowned as the king, take the rank of the governor (Penlop) of Trongsa. Trongsa played a strategic place in the unification of eastern and central Bhutan in olden times.
Tadzong served as the watch tower for the Trongsa Dzong, but now it is being converted into a museum and houses armor and weapons that were captured from enemies during wars. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 06: Trongsa – Bumthang (72 km/approx 3 hours)
We cross over the Yotong La Pass (11,234ft) and descent into Chumey valley, the first four valleys of Bumthang. Visit Yathra (local wool) weaving centers and continue our drive to Jakar, Bumthang.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Bumthang
Day 07-09: In Bumthang (festival and excursion)
Bumthang is widely known for its four wide valleys of Chumey, Ura, Tang and Chokhor and is located at an elevation of 2250 m above the sea level. It is rich in forests, beautiful monasteries, traditional stone houses, chortens, and markets and has been the seat of the government during the reigns the first and the second kings of Bhutan. In cuisine, the region is known for its buckwheat noodles called ‘Puta” and buckwheat pancake locally known as “khooli” Woolen products known has ‘Yatra’ is woven out of yak hair and sheep wool. It is intricately designed and is used for giving as presents, table colths and outer jackets. The place is also known for its bhukharis (smokeless stoves), breweries, wineries, fruit products and Swiss and dairy farms. Bumthang is also now connected by a domestic airport and the Drukair flies two times a week to the area. The Chamkhar Chhu which runs through Chamkhar town has a health stock of trout, but due to religious belief, fishing is not permitted. Bumthang Valley is known as the Switzerland of the East and it’s wide and scenic valleys attracts a large number of visitors each year.
King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet built 108 monasteries to subdue a demon whose body lay across the Himalayas. Out of these, Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang are located in Bhutan and were built in 659 AD. The inner shrine of the lhakhang houses the image of Jowo Jampa, the Buddha of the Future, also known as Maitreya and from this the Lhakhang has derived its name as Jampa Lhakhang. People believe that the site was blessed by Guru Rinpoche several times and is extremely considered sacred. Yearly a sacred festival is held at the monastery by laymen and monks in November. On one night, a naked dance is performed to drive away evil spirits. Local people and international guest come to witness the festival. Since it is one of the two oldest monasteries in the country and being blessed by Guru Padma Sambhava, Bhutanese make a pilgrimage to the area to offer prayers and offerings for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The Monastery contains the sacred body print of Guru Padma Sambhava as its main sacred relic. It is used by the central monastic body of Bumthang as its summer residence. During winter, when the weather in Bumthang gets harsher they move to Trongsa, located at a lower elevation. Surrounding the Lhakhang are 108 chortens built by the Royal Grand Mother, Queen Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck in 1984. Yearly a consecration ceremony is being held by the Great Grand Queen Mother of Bhutan and people from different parts of the country come to receive blessings and offer prayers.
Jakar Dzong The literal translation of the fortress stands for ‘the castle of white bird’. It is located on a ridge overlooking the Chamkhar Valley. District administration and central monastic body have their offices located at the dzong. The fortress provided a secure place to repel the Tibetan forces that attacked Bhutan numerous times in the 17th Century. Still a passage used by the Bhutanese forces to collect water during times of war can be seen from the back side of the dzong. Besides, this trip will also cover visits to Indigenous Traditional Medicine Institute, National Library, Textile Museum, Taking Enclosure, Vegetable Market, where residents of Thimphu buy their vegetable supplies in Thimphu and other important historical sites in Thimphu. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 10: Bumthang – Wangduephodrang (200 km / approx 7 hours)
We return by the same route to Bumthang. Drive ascends out of the valleys on a twisting mountain road towards the Yotong La (11,234ft) and then the road winds down to Trongsa. Drive continues via Chendebji Chorten (Stupa), then over the Pele La Pass (11,152ft. Road descends for a few kilometers to the junction where it leads to the glacial valley of Phobjikha/Gantey. We take a return journey following the same route- through dense forest, by Chendeji Chorten and crossing over Pelela to Wangduephodrang. We might be able to spot, macau, grey languar, yellow throated martin on the way. Overnight stay at a hotel
Day 11: Drive to Paro (126 km/approx 4 hours)
Make an early journey to Paro. On the way, visit Vegetable market in Thimphu. It is the only public shopping area from where residents of Thimphu get their locally produced vegetable supply and other food products from farmers on weekends. It will be interesting to observe how they conduct brisk trade in consumable products. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 12: Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Taktsang Monastery is known as the Tiger’s Lair and is the most visited site in Bhutan. It stands hanging upon a rock cliff at an elevation of 2900 m.
People believe that the saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, a tantric master from Tibet who brought Buddhism to Bhutan visited the monastery in the eight century. He came to the area by riding upon a tigress, which was the manifestation of one of his consorts, Yeshi Tshogyal. Guru and his consort mediated in the cave and while here he subdued demons in the Paro Valley and converted them to Buddhism. Later on, the site was used for meditation by numerous saints from Tibet and they further blessed the area.
The Lhakhang was built by Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler (Desi), considered to be the “heart son” of ZhabdrungNgawang Namgyal in 1692. The fire gutted the whole structure in 1998, but was rebuilt to its original shape by the government.
Hiking to the monastery will take us two and half hours walk and trail passes through blue pine and oak trees. It is an uphill trail and once we reach the top of the monastery, we would have gained an elevation of 900 m. Every Bhutanese would make a pilgrimage to the site at some point in time. On our way from the hike, we can also visit the traditional farm house to get an idea of life style of local people. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 13: Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, our representative will drop you at Paro International Airport for your onward flight home.