As recently as 1961 all entry into Bhutan was still on horseback. Druk-yul, the land of the thunder dragon is only just emerging from the mists of its self-imposed isolation. The last Shangrila is an exotic land of high mountains and lush valleys, snow clad peaks with clear running springs, a pristine ecology and an incredible wealth of wildlife.
A most striking feature of Bhutan is its architecture. The style and color that characterize every building and house in the kingdom is a distinct source of aesthetic pleasure. The Dzongs themselves – imposing 17thcentury structures built on a grand scale without drawing and without a single nail, are outstanding examples of the best in Bhutanese architecture. Patterns of rich colors adorn every wall, beam, pillar and door in traditional splendor.
Nestled deep in the eastern Himalayas between India and Tibet, the simple pleasure that this country offers gives a sense of kinship with the people and their love for the land. Essentially a rural country with 70 percent of the people engaged in agriculture or raising livestock, Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist, practicing the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism
“Bhutan is a unique blend of the old and new. Here is a country that is slowly opening up to the modern world in a fine balance with its ancient traditions.” – Tourism Council of Bhutan (www.tourism.gov.bt/)
This trip will cover the western part of Bhutan and witnessing of a major Paro or Thimphu festivals. The highlights of the trip are:
· Hike to the Tiger’s Nest
· Viewing spectacular Himalayan sceneries
· Walking the pristine and beautiful valleys
· Driving over the Dochula Pass (over 10,000 ft)
· Experiencing Bhutan’s unique tradition and culture and warm hospitality
· Visiting Bhutan’s old capital city, Punakha
· Rich dzong architecture without a single nail.
· Experience storybook farm houses
Day 1- Arrive Paro; travel to Thimphu and sightseeing in Thimphu (55 km / approximately one and half hours)
You can great a view of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake in Bhutan on your journey to Bhutan.
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport and completion of immigration formalities and collection of your baggage, we will meet you and bring you to Thimphu.
Afternoon, we visit Memorial Chorten (a huge stupa) built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned the Kingdom from 1952-1972. Chorten represents the mind of Buddha.
Thereafter, visit Tashichhodzong, the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan since 1952 that houses the and throne room of His Majesty the King and his the secretariat as well as the Central Monastic Body, the apex organization of the country’s main spiritual order. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 2- Sightseeing in Thimphu
After breakfast, we start exploring Thimphu City with a visit to its cultural sites:
Zorig Chusum (Painting School) where Bhutanese 13 traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive. Students here receive a six-year formal education on the arts and thereafter they start their own art enterprises or find work. Students’ produce are on display at the showroom and the sale proceeds go to them.
Mini Zoo, houses Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. They are usually found above 4500 metres. The fourth King of Bhutan, at one point wanted them to be released to the forest, howerver since they are so used to living with people they kept moving around Thimphu town and had to put them again in an enclosure.
Next, drive to Sanjaygang to have a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley and take some pictures of the big apple of Bhutan.
Bhutan Post has a good collection of Bhutanese stamps that you can take as souvenirs. They also print personal stamps with our photos at a nominal charge.
Handmade paper factory at Jungshi makes local paper out of daphne plants. We can see the whole process of how the paper is being made. They also have a showroom where the products are on display.
We will end the day with a visit to the Buddha Point (Kuenselphodrang), where 161 feet tall Buddha is located. We can also get a good view of the southern part of the Thimphu from the area.
Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 3- Travel to Punakha (71 km / approximately 2½ hours) and sightseeing in Punakha.
Today, we are on our way to Punakha. We will cross over the Dochu La Pass (over 10,000 ft) that offers a first glimpse of the Himalayas. It also houses the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens (Stupas) and Druk Wangyal Lhakhang.
We pass through Lamperi Botanical Park with pine forests, blooming rhododendrons, and beautiful terraced rice fields and within an hour or two, vegetation changes from sub-alpine to sub-tropical.
Upon arriving Punakha, we will visit the Punakha Dzong, the old capital city for almost 300 years. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1637 between two rivers – the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river) and widely believed to be a masterpiece.
It serves as the winter residence for the central monastic body as well as the seat of the district administration. Bhutan’s first King was crowned here and the royal weddings of the fourth and fifth kings were held here.
The annual festival dedicated to the protecting deities of Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali) is held within the fortress in March-April. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 4- Explore Punakha
Morning drive for half an hour to take an uphill hike to Khamsum Yuellay Namgyal Chorten (stupa) built by the Queen Mother of the Fifth King to bring peace and harmony for Bhutan and the world.
Next, we will enjoy a river rafting on Mochu River for an hour.
Afternoon, we will have another hike to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in memory of Lama Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman who used his eccentric behavior to spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Round trip walk would take us about an hour.
The monastery stands for power of fertility. People travel to the site to get blessed with a baby. There has been report that a couple from New York was blessed with a baby. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 5- Travel to Paro; Sightseeing in Paro (126 km, 3 ½ hours)
After breakfast, drive to Paro. ThebeautifulParovalleyprovidesavisitorwithalltheessentialelements of Bhutan, in general ancient temples,massiveforts, monasteries, picturesquevillages, scenic hikes, anddrives.
Upon arriving Paro, we will visit the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) which has been housing the national museum of Bhutan since 1967. It has collection of large vessels used during ancient times to cook and store water. Other items include traditional weapons, a variety of plants and animals, coins, jewelry and traditional costumes, adzes and earthenware pots collected from different parts of the country, scroll paintings on cloths (Thangkhas) and Bhutanese stamps.
Located below the Ta Dzong is the Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) built in 1646 and currently houses the district administrative offices and the central monastic body. The name of the fortress stands for “heave of jewels.” The earthquake of 1897 destroyed the dzong but was restored to its original shape. An annual festival dedicated to the protecting deity of the area is held at the fortress in March/April. During the event, a big Thangka painting (Throngdrol) is unfurled to the public for viewing and getting blessed. It is believed that a mere sight of it can liberate one’s soul. The Film ‘Little Buddha’ was also shot within the premises of the fortress in 1992.
We might be able to witness an archery match as we walk from the dzong to Paro town. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Next, drive 16 km drive towards north to see the Drukgyel Dzong built by Shabdrung NgawangNamgyal to commemorate the victory over theTibetan invaders in1644. A fire from a butter lamp gutted it in 1951, but was being rebuilt.
Stop by a local farmhouse to reflect upon the live of people in the past. In the evening, take a leisurely walk in and around Paro’s main shopping area. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 6- Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Have an early breakfast travel to Taktsang hike (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) base camp for our hike to Taktsang which would take us five to six hours round trip. The trail climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Stop for a rest and light refreshments at the only cafeteria mid-way and then further walk a short distance until we see Taktsang monastery.
The monastery was built in this holy place in1684A.D. Legend has it thatGuru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here in the form of DorjiDrolo mounted on a flaming tigress in 747 A.D. and meditated for 3months.
This incredible monastery clings to heedge ofa sheerrockcliffthat plunges900mintotheParo valleybelow.Lunchwillbeservedatthecafeteria. Thereafter, we return to the hotel. Overnight stay at a hotel.
Day 7- Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, drop you off at the Paro International Airport for your onward flight to the destination.
Thank you & Tashi Delek!