Day 1: Paro (2250 M)
Arrive at Paro International Airport by Druk Air. On arrival at Paro International Airport, your tour representatives will meet you. Check in hotel / lunch. Start the day by visiting the National Museum (Ta- Dzong). Once the watchtower for Rinpung Dzong (Fortress), it was converted into the national Museum in 1968. The museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. Visit Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and buttressed by two guardhouses of the Dzong. Today, this massive fortress built in 1646 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan.
Day 2: Tiger’s Nest
Drive up to Ramthangkha (10 Km from Paro Town) and walk to the Monastery. The name Taktsang means "Tiger’s Nest". The Monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 4000ft overlooking the Paro valley. Taktsang is one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the Himalayas. However, most people can only visit the main site called Taktsang Pel-phu. According to legend Padmasambhava founded Taktsang Monastery in the eighth century. It is believed that the Guru came to this place on the back of a tigress from Khengpajong in the Kurtoe region and meditated here for three months in a cave before converting the Paro valley to Buddhism.
Day 3: Paro / Thimphu (65 km, 2 hours, 2350 m)
Drive to Drukgyel Dzong (a ruined fortress – 16 kms away from Paro Town). The Dzong, although in ruins today, holds historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means "The victorious Bhutanese". This spot also offers a magnificent vista of Mount Jomolhari, "Abode of the Goddess Jumo" (7315m). On the way back you will have the pleasure of visiting one of the oldest monasteries we have in Bhutan, The first King of Tibet. Songtsen Gampo built Kichu Lhakhang in the 7th century to introduce Buddhism to our country, when our country was still influenced by the Bon beliefs. In the late afternoon two hours drive will take you to Thimphu (7,700 feet).
The only Capital City in the world without traffic lights. Drive through the Paro Valley, which lies beneath chomolhari, one of Bhutan’s "Mountain Goddesses". The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic. Especially in April (spring season in Bhutan), as you will find nature in it’s festive mood with rushing turquoise rivers which can be heard from miles away and mountains transformed into a Master artist’s palette - brilliant vermilion, yellows, purples, pink, oranges and reds to dazzle your senses. Wild cherry, mountain plums, cotton silk and forests of rhododendron trees bloom with astonishing beauty and abundance. Magnificent monasteries, stupas in the valleys and mountains tops. Experience the "Last Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom" on earth.
Day 4: Thimphu
After breakfast visit the National Memorial chorten (built in memory of the late king). We will encounter lots of interesting people circumambulating the chorten. We then drive to the Changangkha Temple via the R.I.C.B housing colony, which offers a good location to photograph the temple. Drive to Takin National Animal sanctuary to photograph the Takin (Bhutan’s National Animal). Drive to the National Library to see the collection of old manuscripts & then visit the Folk Heritage Museum. Lunch in town. Afternoon: we visit the Institute of Arts & Crafts, where young artists are trained in the traditional ways of painting & statue making. Drive to Zilukha Nunnery & on to a viewpoint to photograph the city at sunset. If the time permits, we will visit a traditional hand made paper factory & goldsmiths workshop. Visit Trashi Chhodzong. This old fortress now serves as the center of administration, housing His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s office, the central Monastic Body as well four branches of administration.
Day 5: Thimphu / Punakha (77 km, 3 hours, 1350 m)
Early rise and drive to the Dochula (3150m pass) for breakfast. If the weather is clear, the Dochu - la pass offers the most spectacular views of the eastern Himalayas mountain ranges. Then we drive to Punakha for lunch at hotel. After lunch we visit Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful in Bhutan. It was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The Dzong is located at the convergence of two rivers, the Pho-chu & Mo-chu. After Dzong we drive further to take a small hike to Nyzergang to visit the Khamsum Yuelly Namgyal Temple. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 6: Punakha / Trongsa (128 km, 5 hours, 2200 m)
We will drive to Trongsa. It is 128 kilometers and 5 hours drive from Punakha. Wangdue is another District and is only a half hours drive from Punakha. In 1638 wangdue was Dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal one year after the Punakha Dzong. The road will climb all the way to Pele-la pass at 3300m. It is main landmark between east & west and from here we will drive all the way down to Trongsa. On the way we will come across Yak herder’s camps and encounter Yaks especially during the winter, we will also see high Himalayan villages like Rukubji and Chendebji. All the houses cluster together separate from the fields.
Day 7: Trongsa / Bumthang (68 km, 2 hours, 2600m)
Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s Royal Family. Both the First and Second King ruled the Kingdom from this ancient seat. All the Kings of Bhutan have to become Trongsa’s Penlop (Honorary post of Governor) prior to being crowned as the Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan). Trongsa Dzong (Fort), is one of the largest & most impressive in the country. It was first built in 1648 and later enlarged many times. Because of being situated on a high commanding position on the only connecting route between the eastern and western sectors (where the trail actually runs through the Dzong), the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region very effectively for many centuries. Visit the ancient watchtower (Ta-Dzong), which is situated above the town.
About three hours drive from Trongsa; we will reach to the famous valley of Bumthang. Bumthang is made up of four main valleys, Chummey, Tang, Ura and Choskhor (Jakar). A few miles after crossing Yotong La Pass (3400m), you will encounter buckwheat fields and the only straight road in the country entering the first valley of Bumthang, Chummey. The main development center of the province is situated in Choskhor commonly known as the Jakar valley where you can see a little bit of the modern touch with Swiss influence. On the way one can see girls weaving Yathra the traditional woolen materials used for different purposes on a traditional handloom. The finished products are all displayed in a shop outside in the open & on sale. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 8: Bumthang / Bumthang
Bumthang is different from all the other valleys in Bhutan. It is very spacious and open ranging in altitudes from 2600m to 4000m. Bumthang is a heaven for hikers and trekkers, not to mention the numerous beautiful and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites, making it the Cultural and Historic heartland in Bhutan. One could spend months exploring this fascinating valley. Almost every little valley or hill has a background of interesting myths and legends about Kings, Buddhist masters and Serpents. Bumthang is especially dominated by the religious influence of Padmasambhava (believed to be the second Buddha 7th –8th A.D) and his reincarnation the Treasure revealer. Terton Pemalingpa 1450-1521, who is known to have discovered many sacred Buddhist texts hidden by Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) in various places.
Take a walk up to Tamshing monastery, founded by Terton Pemalingpa, where about 200 monks reside. Visit the historical temple. Visit the Wangdichholing Palace, Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, and the oldest monastery in the Kingdom. All the Kings of Bhutan are taken for their cremation rites to Kurjee Monastery. Visit some more temples. Drive to the sacred Mebartsho (meaning Burning Lake). The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and is considered as one of the most holy places for Buddhist pilgrimage. After this visit drive back to Chamkhar and stroll in town.
Day 9: Bumthang / Mongar (193 km, 7 hours)
After breakfast the drive will take you through the pine forests keeping the Jakar Dzong view behind us. Taking a half hour drive you will cross the Tang Chu climbing towards and through Tangsebgi village. The drive reaches Ura valley the highest and most eastern part of Bumthang. It takes around 2 hours drive through blue pine trees, villages and onto the high pass of sheltheng la 3600m/11800 ft. Looking towards the north in clear weather one can see the high white Gangkar Punsum (7541m/2974ft) the highest peak in Bhutan. The landscape of Ura valley is different from that of the others, with round sweeping slopes, fertile pastures and wide fields. At the bottom you will see the large and unusual village with its cluster of big houses united by the paved flagstone alleys, a rare sight in Bhutan.
The big community monastery dominates the village. It is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche (the great teacher). Ura festival usually takes place in the 2nd week of May & sometime in June, depending on the Bhutanese lunar calendar. Thimshingla National park starts here and if one wishes one can visit the field office at Ura. It is open Monday to Friday and closed on holidays. The drive from here will take you through the National Park. There is also the Rhododendron Flower Park this way (only worth seeing in spring time). Today you will cross the highest point of the road in Bhutan. The Thimshing La Pass at around 3800m and you will see a lot of changes in vegetation and villages. Overnight in Mongar.
Day 10: Mongar / Lhuntse / Mongar. After an early breakfast take excursion to Lhuntse (another district in the eastern part of Bhutan). In this part of the District, villages produce the most hand woven fabric, which is called Khusuthakra. This tradition has been passed down through the centuries. Evening drive back to Mongar. Optional Excursion: Lhuntse.
Day 11: Mongar / Trashing (92 km, 1h). After breakfast drive to Trash gang, crossing a low pass between these two Districts called Kori – La Pass 2400m. You will go through villages like Yedi and cross the Chakzam, the iron Bridge. Trashigang is considered to be one of the Biggest Districts in Bhutan and it holds the headquarters of Trashigang. The 3rd Temporal Ruler of Bhutan Menjyur Tenpa built it in the 17th century overlooking the convergence of Drangme Chu & the Gambri Chu. Overnight in Trashingang.
Day 12: Trashigang / Trashi Yangtse (53 km, 1.5 hours). You can choose any one of these excursion options and explore the remote eastern parts of Bhutan. If you have a longer period you can drive to the southeast Khaling Weaving center and blind school as well as the only University in Bhutan.
Day 13: Trashigang / Mongar. After breakfast follow the same route back to Mongar and having free time on this day, explore anything you have missed.
Day 14: Mongar / Bumthang. After breakfast drive to Bumthang crossing the highest Pass on the way back.
Day 15: Bumtang-Via / Gangtey / Wangdue
Gnagtey Gonpa was built on a small hillock surrounded by blue pine trees. A descendant of Pema Lingpa (the great Bhutanese saint of Bumthang) built the Gonpa in the 16th century and it is a Nyingmapa monastery. At the end of the 17th century it was enlarged once and at present it is headed by the 9th reincarnation called Gangtey Trulku. It is under renovation at present. It is run by the family houses of Gomchens (layman), who worship and work at the monastery. Further down you will reach the Phojikha valley. This place is reserved for the migration of the black neck crane. The people out here have become friendly with the endangered species and every consecutive year starting from the 2nd week of November to the 1st week of April the fields and marshes of this undisturbed valley offer a truly magnificent sight as you watch the cranes.
Day 16: Wangdue / Thimphu / Paro. Drive back to Thimphu for lunch and last stop for shopping. You could also see some more sights in Thimphu. In the evening drive back to Paro for tomorrow’s departure.
Day 17: Departure. Representative from our company will bid you a farewell and safe journey home.
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Asia Bhutan Local Culture Cultural Journey
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