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Adventure in Bhutan, Temples Tour

offered by supplier M21637 (read about supplier)

Key Information:
Tour Duration: 7 - 14 day(s)
Group Size: 1 - 21 people
Destination(s): Bhutan  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey   Photography and Videography  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 1880 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 3910 US Dollar (USD)

Bhutan is paradise for photographers since most of the outsiders often compared as Switzerland, has beautiful snow clad mountains and vibrant landscape dotted with enchanting Buddhist temples and Gonpas (in centuries-old style), rugged dzongs and houses in traditional architectural design decorated with most elaborate paintings and sculptures of the flying phallus. Taking photos of red-robed monks presiding over religious ceremonies like the consecration of new houses by invoking spirits from village homes, celebrating weddings and births. The overwhelming people retaining beautiful traditional costume making pilgrimages to monasteries to offer prayers and butter lamps offers outstanding photo taking experiences.

During Tshechu/Festivals, you will inspire taking photos of rare spellbinding mask dances and rituals performed by monks in the courtyard of the Dzong filled with people wearing their finest clothes and unfold of a huge sacred religious Thangkha or "Thongdroel". This is truly a special photo trip because a journey will open your heart and mind to experience and understand Bhutan’s rich spiritual tradition with a unique photography experience.

Itinerary:
Day 1.
Arrival in Paro/Travel to Thimphu (altitude: 7,700 feet). Early morning proceed to the airport to check in with Druk Air. If we are lucky, we’ll have glorious views of the snow-capped Himalayas. On its way to Paro, Druk Air flies over eight of the ten tallest peaks of the world including Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga. The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro Valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to our adventure. Already you can feel the pace of life slow down. After visa formalities and collection of baggage, we’ll meet with our local guide and the Driver. We’ll then drive through the beautiful agricultural valley of Paro to visit National Museum, which used to be the watchtower to learn the culture and natural history since it houses everything that is Bhutanese in a very different museum style that will delight you. Photography within is not allowed but there are many photo options of the exterior and the valley below. We’ll then visit the Rinpung Dzong (the fortress of the heap of jewels). Built in 1645, this complex houses the administrative and religious headquarters for the Paro district. The central tower, called the “Utse” of the Dzong, is clad in superb woodwork and is considered to be the nation’s most beautiful tower. A part of Bernardo Bertolucci's movie, "Little Buddha," was filmed inside this Dzong. We have numerous photo option in the dzong. We then walk down through the flagstone path to the bridge to take pictures of the bridge, dzong and watchtower. Then we will drive (1 and half hours) the winding road following the Pa Chu (Paro River) downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu (Thimphu River), then up-valley to Thimphu, the capital. Upon arrival in Thimphu (the only capital city no traffic light!), we'll check in to our centrally located hotel and have the rest of the evening free.

Day 2.
Thimphu/Punakha (altitude: 4,500 feet). This morning we'll visit the Bank and the General Post Office to exchange money and to buy Bhutan's famous and beautiful stamps and postcards. Later in the morning, we will head eastward to Punakha Valley. The road winds through pine forests and small villages and passes by chortens (stupas) and prayer flags before heading up to Dochula Pass (10,000'). The prayer flags on mountain slopes, bridges and high passes, transmit prayers to the Gods and keep up a constant communication with the heavens. At the pass, we'll see 108 chortens (stupas) dedicated to Bhutan's continued peace and happiness.

As we descend from the Pass and continue our drive to the lowlands of Punakha Valley, we will notice the dramatic change in vegetation. At the lower elevation of the valley floor, cactus, banana plants, poinsettia and other semi-tropical plants dominate the landscape. After a few hours, we will come to the green terraced fields of Punakha Valley, where red rice and winter wheat are the staple crops. In the village of Lobesa, we will enjoy a nice short hike to visit Chimmi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, who as a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people has known affectionately as "The Divine Madman". The temple is on a hillside in the middle of rice fields and has become a pilgrimage site for childless couples.

We'll visit the Punakha Dzong, the "Palace of Great Happiness" built in 1647 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the one who unified Bhutan. The Dzong lies between the Pho Chu (male river) and the Mo Chu (female river) and is the winter home of the central monk body. There are many photo options of the Punakha Dzong. You will enjoy it!!! If time permits after the Dzong, we will enjoy a beautiful drive alongside the Mochu River through several small villages and past traditional farmhouses till we reach Serigang village. From here, we may opt to go on a short hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten (Stupa). Hiking an hour there is not a mistake, you could get the good picture of the stupa, village, and terraces below. The stupa contains some of the best Tantric art in Bhutan, and a visit there will serve as a balance to the more traditional Buddhist statuary and wall painting visible at the Punakha Dzong. After the hike, we will drive to the hotel.

Day 3.
Punakha to Trongsa (altitude: 7,200 feet). After breakfast, we'll drive to Trongsa enjoying magnificent views of small villages, terraced fields, diverse forests of exotic Himalayan plants, trees, and wildflowers. As we climb higher up and above the cloud the forest gets more beautiful with big 30-40 feet rhododendron trees, and massive hemlock and fir trees. Near the Pelela Pass (10,825 feet), we'll enjoy a nice walk through a beautiful forest of blooming rhodendron and fields of dwarf bamboo in a good high altitude birding area. This is a likely time to see yaks, as they live only in high altitudes. We’ll definitely have many stops for the photographs.

Before reaching Trongsa, we’ll see the 18th century Chendebji Chorten, a whitewashed stone chorten (or stupa) built in order to nail into the ground a demon who had been terrorizing the inhabitants of the valley. An hour away from Trongsa we make our first sight of the crimson-roofed Trongsa Dzong, with the Mangdechu river cascading in one continuous waterfall down through the valley beneath. You will want to use your long lens to capture this scene, and then use it again from Trongsa looking back at the road you were just on--the road at the lookout point is carved out of the solid Stone Mountain. Then to another sight of the Trongsa Dzong (a “Dzong” is a fortress), the largest in Bhutan, is from across the valley. But the road winds another 12.5 miles before we’ll actually get there. Magnificent views around every turn! Overnight at Hotel in Trongsa.

Day 4.
Trongsa to Jakar, Bumthang (altitude: 8,500 feet). This morning, we will visit Trongsa Dzong and explore the surrounding area. Built in 1647, it is the largest Dzong in the country. It is also the ancestral home of the Royal Family, and both the first and second kings ruled the country from Trongsa. The Dzong sits on a narrow spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde-Chu River and overlooks the routes east, west and south. It was built in such a way that in the olden days, it had complete control over all east-west traffic. This helped to augment the strategic importance of the Dzong which eventually placed its Penlop (regional ruler) at the helm of a united country when His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuk became the first king of Bhutan. To this day, the Crown Prince of Bhutan becomes the Penlop of Trongsa before ascending the throne, signifying its historical importance.

Explore the tunnel-like passageways to find the four original entrances of the Dzong. The original footpath, barely visible in the forested valley, has recently been uncovered and the cantilevered bridge restored. Hiking the 2 hours path and entering the Dzong like locals did once upon a time is now possible again, and an option for anyone interested. Above the Dzong is the medieval Watch Tower, which has recently been renovated as a museum showcasing Buddhist art and Bhutanese royalty. Views from here are astounding for unobstructed shots of the Dzong in the surrounding Mangde valley.

After lunch, we’ll drive east to Jakar (Bumthang), crossing the Yutong La Pass (11,200 feet). We may visit and attain prayer ceremony for our special journey in "Sangna Thig Chog Lhakhang", the temple of prophecy on the way into Bumthang. This is a very special temple, newly built as per the predictions and prophesies of the oracle of Damchen Dorji Lekpa, one of the most important protective deities of the Nyingma School of Buddhism founded by Guru Rinpoche. As we near the first of the four beautiful valleys of Bumthang, Himalayan blue pine dominates the landscape. In the village of Chumey, we’ll stop at special wool shops. This place is famous for Yathra weaving, colorful hand-woven woolen textiles. Overnight at Hotel in Jakar.

Day 5.
Bumthang Valley sightseeing. The sightseeing today includes several monasteries which are of great significance to the Bhutanese and to other Buddhists. Hike through the beautiful valley visiting several ancient temples, including Tamshing Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Saint Pema Lingpa that contains some of the oldest untouched wall paintings in Bhutan. Under protective covering, 36 paintings line the vestibule where pilgrims can atone their sins by wearing a 25- kilo iron coat of chains around the sanctuary. From here walk to Kurje, a sacred place where Guru left his body imprinted on a rock to signify the place where he meditated, subdued a wrathful deity, and converted King Sendhu Raja to Buddhism. Bumthang valley is truly the most sacred place in Bhutan. After lunch, continue a day hiking to Padmasambhava Lhakhang crossing the suspension bridge. This is another meditation site of Guru Padmasambhava. It was founded by Terton (Treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa in the 15th century. Overnight at Hotel in Jakar

Day 6.
Bumthang to Phobjikha or Wangdi (altitude: 9,800 feet). After breakfast, we'll drive back past Trongsa crossing the Yutong-la and Pele-la passes to the hidden valley of Phobjikha in the Black Mountains National Park. Circled by pine and rhododendron covered mountains, this is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. The rare Black Neck Cranes migrate from Tibet to Bhutan and use the swampy center of this valley as their winter residence from mid-November to mid-March. Considered a symbol of peace, black-necked cranes have been revered by Bhutanese people for centuries.

In Phobjikha Valley we'll visit the Black Neck Crane Information Center. The Center works to conserve cranes and the wetland ecosystem on which they depend. The center's various conservation and education programs and projects stress the interdependence between the birds and their habitat the relationship that exists between the birds, habitat, and people.

If time permits, we'll enjoy a nice and easy hike through the beautiful valley among a cluster of traditional houses, past the village school and through a beautiful Himalayan Pine forest. We may also visit Gangtey Goenpa, perched atop the ridge overlooking the valley. The Gompa is directed by Gangtey Tulku, the ninth reincarnation (a “tulku” is a reincarnate) of Pema Lingpa. According to the Buddhist tradition and as a mark of their devotion, the cranes circle the monastery three times on their arrival in November and before they fly back to Tibet in March. We may spend the night in Phobjikha (Gangtey) or continue to Wangdi Valley.

Day 7.
Wangdi to Paro (altitude - 7,400 feet). After breakfast, we drive to Thimphu, crossing the Dochula Pass. Once in Thimphu, We'll explore Bhutan's exotic capital city—a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life. There are numerous things to do here. A visit to Takin Preserve to see the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal is a favorite. Many visitors also enjoy visiting the handmade paper factory along with some interesting handicraft shops, where they sell masks, beautiful hand-woven textiles, carpets, jewelry and Bhutanese wooden products. Other choices include a chance to see Bhutanese Archery Game - Bhutan’s national sport and an integral part of all festivities, and an evening walk to the Memorial Chorten, a sacred shrine built in honor of the current King’s father. The Chorten is an impressive three-story monument with Tantric statues and wall paintings of three different cycles of Nyingma teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. You will find many elderly people making the Kora (pilgrimage circuit). Later we drive about an hour to Paro. Overnight at Hotel in Paro.

Day 8.
Excursion to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. We will conclude our visit to the Dragon Kingdom with a hike to the magical temple known as Taktsang (the "Tiger's Nest). Taktsang is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the Himalayan World. The temple itself is perched on a granite cliff that drops 2,000 feet to the valley floor. The name is derived from a legend that Guru Rinpoche flew across the mountains to this spot on the back of a tigress, reaching a cave in which he meditated for three months, converting the people of Paro Valley to Buddhism during his stay. Hiking the 2-hour trail to reach this holy temple requires stamina and an absence of vertigo, but can be accomplished by all! Just take it slow to counter the high altitude. Horses are available to the tea house if you request one in advance. The trail winds through a forest of oak, moss-draped hemlocks and rhododendron before arriving at a small chorten surrounded by prayer flags. Not far from here is the teahouse with spectacular views of Taktshang. Power up for the final climb. Stairs built into the steep ridge bring us past cleft-side meditation caves and a waterfall before ascending to the temple itself. Visit the temples inside the Tiger’s Nest monastery and see the magnificent relics that adorn the altars and the fearful deities that decorate the walls. Peek into the holy cave where Guru meditated before you begin the descent.

After a leisurely hike back, we’ll then drive through beautiful Paro Valley which will bring us to the ruins of Drugyel Dzong sitting in the shadow of Jhumolhari’s towering peak that rises 24,000 feet. This sacred mountain marks the border with Tibet and is the home of the goddess Jhumo. The Dzong was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung Namgyel to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. A fire, caused by a butter lamp, destroyed the Dzong, but the dramatic ruins remain clear where it featured on the cover of the US National Geographic magazine in 1914. Then visit Kichu Lhakhang/Temple, built in 7th century by Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gonpo in order to pin down the left foot of a giant ogress who was thwarting the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. Evening take leisure walks along the 200 meters stretch of Paro town for last minute shopping and also packing. Overnight at Hotel in Paro

Day 9.
Departure. After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, we'll drive to the airport to depart from the Land of the Thunder Dragon and for your onward journey.

Notes:
Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
-All meals and sightseeing
-All hotel and guesthouse accommodations
-All ground transportation
-Entrance fees
-The services of knowledgeable, English-speaking local guides

Price Excludes:
-International airfare and en-route stopovers
-Travel Insurance
-Luxury hotel accommodation option
-Excess baggage charges
-Personal items like laundry or toiletries
-Beverages (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks)
-Optional gratuities to trip leader, guide and driver.

About This Supplier
Location: Bhutan
Joined InfoHub: Oct 2016

M21637 is officially recognized and licensed by Tourism Council of Bhutan. We have been started to create unique trips that will give a much closer looks of our country at the best possible value to promote sustainable tourism in Bhutan. We focus on reducing the environmental impact of travel, preserve the local...

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