Day 1: Paro (Altitude: 2250m)
Fly into the Kingdom of Bhutan. On the flight, you can see breathtaking views of the Great Himalayan Mountains. Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide from the Travel Agent and lunch at hotel. Start the day by visiting the National Museum (Ta- Dzong). Once it was watchtower for Rinpung Dzong (Fortress) 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. The flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roof and abutted by two guardhouses to the Dzong. Today, this massive fortress built in 1646 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as home for the monastic school. The central watchtower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the country. Overnight in Paro.
Day 2: Taktsang
Hike or take a horse ride to Taktsang Monastery viewpoint. Taktsang meaning "Tiger’s Nest" is built around a cave in which Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated clings seemingly impossible to a cliff at 3000 feet above the valley floor. For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery can be exhausting, thrilling and mystical. The legend has it that Guru Rimpoche is had flown to the site of monastery on the back of tigress from Tibet and meditated in the cave there for three months. Although the main building of the temple was destroyed by fire on 19 April 1998, the hike up to the viewpoint is still worth the effort as the temple has been restored to its original form. When we are coming back and reach to main road we turn right and drive further to Drukgyel Dzong. It was built in 1649 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It was damaged by fire in 1951. On way back we will visit one of the oldest monasteries that we have in Bhutan. It is called Kichu Lhakhang and built in the 7th century by the first King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo to spread the Buddhist Dharma throughout Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.
Day 3: Paro / Thimphu (65km, 2 Hours Drive, Altitude: 2350m)
After breakfast a two-hour 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 the Bhutan’s Mountain of the Goddess. The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic. In the spring season in Bhutan, you will find nature in a festive mood with rushing turquoise rivers which can be heard from miles away and mountains transformed into Master artist’s palette of brilliant vermilion, yellows, purples, pink, oranges and reds to dazzle your senses. Wild cherry, mountains plums, cotton silk and forests of rhododendron trees bloom with astonishing beauty and abundance especially in spring. Enjoy the magnificent monasteries, stupas in the valleys and the mountains. Experience the "Last Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom" on earth. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimphu
Visit the General Post Office and purchase the worlds most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value. Visit the Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work. Visit the Traditional Medicine Institute where the ancient healing arts are still practiced. Visit the Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honor the memory of the Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi storied stupa that will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism. Observed traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and maybe purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Visit the mini zoo/sanctuary where one can see the Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan. Drive up to the viewpoint and take a hike for about an hour to see clear uninterrupted views of the Thimphu valley. Explore Thimphu on foot, visiting the Handicrafts Emporium and other Arts & Crafts stores. Buy stunning Kiras that can be used as bed covers or wall hangings, jewelry and much more. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 5: Thimphu / Punakha / Wangdue (77km, 3 Hours Drive, Altitude: 1350m)
The drive begins with the ascent to the Dochula pass at an altitude of 3150 meters. On a clear day, you can see the whole range of the Bhutanese Himalayas from here. The pass has 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens. Then descend to Punakha. Punakha was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of the second King. Punakha Dzong that dominates the whole area was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khenpo (chief Abbot) and the central monastic body. It was built at the confluence of two rivers called the Po-Chu and Mo-Chu. Which means, Male&Female. After lunch continue driving to the town of Wangdue. Another Dzong built 1 year after that of Punakha Dzong. Which it is the District Head Quarters of Wangdue. Overnight in Wangdue.
Day 6: Wangdue / Trongsa (128km, 5 Hours Drive, Altitude: 2200m)
We will drive to Trongsa. It is 128 km and 5 hours drive from Wangdue. The road will climb all the way to the Pele-la pass. It is at 3300m. It is a landmark between east & west, and from here we will drive on to Trongsa. On the way we will come across Yak herders camps and encounter Yaks especially during winter. We will see high Himalayan villages like Rukubji and Chendebji. All the houses cluster at one place and fields at another. The road then descends through Rukubji village further down to Chendebji village. Here you will see the 18th century Nepalese style stupa built by saint Shida. The drive to Trongsa from here is about an hour and half with great views of the historical Dzong and valley. Overnight in Trongsa.
Day 7: Trongsa / Bumthang (68km, 3 Hours Drive, Altitude: 2600m)
In the morning after breakfast we will take an excursion drive to Kuenga Rabten. It was the winter Palace for our beloved 2nd King Jigme Wangchuk. It is 23 kilometers from Trongsa and it takes about 2 hours by car. Although, it is mostly empty with only one room occupied for the library. This palace is under Special Commission of cultural Affairs and we do not require any permit to visit the interior. The trip from Trongsa to Kuenga Rabten will give you an intimate insight into the early days of Bhutan’s Monarchy. Beside you will see the beautiful large expanse of rice terraces in the lower Mangdu-Chu valley and as well the big waterfall before the drive back to Trongsa for lunch. Visit Trongsa Dzong. It was built at different periods on a spur over looking the Mangdu-Chu River and it is one of the longest & most impressive Dzongs in Bhutan along with Trashi Chhodzong in Thimphu.
How did Trongsa get its name? Well many centuries ago the horse of Palden Lhamo (Bhutan’s guardian deity) appeared before Lam Naggi Wangchuk who has settled in this village of yueli, a few kilometers above todays fortress of Trongsa. For Naggi Wangchuk, the presence of Lhamo-Pal den’s horse was an auspicious event. In order to immortalize the miraculous event, he built a small meditation hut- Tshamkhang and started to meditation there, gradually more and more meditating huts arose near by & the place looked more like a village. People of yueli called it Dzongsar (New Village) and because they pronounced it as Trong –Sar the name stuck. The evening drive to Bumthang will climb all the way to the Yotong la pass 3400m.It will be the highest pass on your trip to Bhutan After the pass we will go down through the Chhumey valley before we reach Jakar. This valley is famous for yathra weaving in central Bhutan. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 8: Bumthang / Bumthang. After breakfast make a hike to Thangbi Mani countryside. It is a very easy trail and we will come across a few villages. Here they have a very old monastery with Gomchens & the local community school. We will return for lunch in Jakar. After lunch we visit Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Guru Lhakhang, and the Swiss Cheese Processing Unit. Here they produce cheese, apple juice and herbal brandies etc. Visit Jakar Dzong and more if time permits. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 9: Excursion to Ura Valley
Excursion to the Ura valley is (48Km) that takes us across blue pine forests & wonderful views of the Choskar & Chhumey valleys. Visit Ura Lhakhang, which will give you an insight into the lifestyle of the people of central Bhutan. Visit some local houses in village and talk to the local people casually and understand their daily way of life. Ura is one of the most beautiful and interesting villages in Bumthang. The landscape of the Ura valley is different to others, with round sweeping slopes, rich pasture and wide fields. At the bottom you will see the large and unusual village with its cluster of big houses united by paved alleys of stone, a rare sight in Bhutan. The big community monastery dominates the village. Which is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche (the great teacher) and they have Ura festival, which usually take place in the 2nd week of May or sometimes in June, dependent on Bhutanese lunar calendar. Thimshingla National park starts here and if one wishes to see it they have a field office at Ura. It is open Monday to Friday except on holidays. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 10: Bumthang / Gangtey / Wangdue
Gangtey Goemba was built on a small hillock surrounded by blue pine trees. The descendant of Pema Lingpa founded it. The great Bhutanese saint from Bumthang, in the 16th century. At the end of 17th century it was enlarged once and at present it is headed by the 9th reincarnation called Gangtey Trulku. At present it is under renovation and it is ringed with the family houses of Gomchens (Lay man) who work and worship at the monastery. Further down you will reach the Phobjikha 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 2nd week of November to 1st week of April. The fields and marshes of this undisturbed valley are alive with the sight of these rare cranes. After having a picnic lunch here and drive to wangdue. Overnight in Wangdue.
Day 11: Wangdue / Thimphu / Paro (142km, 5 Hours Drive). An early breakfast then drive to Thimphu for our lunch, as well as shopping for souvenirs and then an evening drive to Paro. Overnight in Paro.
Day 12: Departure. Representative from our company will bid you a farewell.
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Asia Bhutan Local Culture Cultural Journey
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