This experience tour will go through western and central Bhutan. This trip will bring you right through rural Bhutan, and get see its people, the beautifully painted architecture, comprising of farm houses, temples, that perfectly blends with the landscape. Even with the onslaught of modernization and developments, the countryside’s still retains the age-old customs and traditions. This trip gets you right to Bumthang, the beautiful and picturesque valley, dotted with numerous temples, and the many villages with beautifully painted wooden houses. The gentle slops surrounding Bumthang, provides ample numbers of country walks, where one can discover this ancient land of myths legends and beauty. This valley also hosts a number of local festivals, so this trip is customizable depending on which season you are traveling.
Flying into Paro is one of the most spectacular flights one can experience. While descending into Paro valley, on a clear day sky you will be greeted by the world’s highest peaks, including Everest. The flight during late autumn is absolutely beautiful, though during the summers it will be cloudy. As the flight gets closer to the only international airport in Bhutan, you will see the Paro Dzong (fortress) on the hillside over looking Paro valley, with Ta Dzong, which now is the National Museum. Upon your arrival our representative will receive you and drive to Thimphu, The capital of Bhutan, The first stop will allow you to view the magnificent Tacho Lhakhang, The hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s Iron Bridge Builder. After the visit we drive further to reach Chuzom, the confluence of Paro Chu (River) and Wang Chu (Thimphu Chu) After crossing Chuzom we enter Thimphu valley. In Thimphu we will stroll the market and mingle with local people. The Authentic Craft Market is place to visit, where you can find various Bhutanese handicrafts.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Thimphu
Today we begin our day by an early morning visit to the National memorial chorten. This is a Tibetan-style chorten built in 1974 in memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk who passed away in 1972. It is one of the most visible religious structures in town and for many people it is the focus of daily worship. Remember to walk around the Chorten at least once to gain merit and good luck. We will take in more of kingdom’s rich culture at the Folk Heritage Museum. The museum is a restored three story traditional rammed mud and timber house inaugurated as a museum by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk in 2001. It showcases the traditional artifacts used now and in the past, which helps connect people to the Bhutanese rural life. Next we will browse the striking collection of intricate textile at the National Textile museum. The Museum introduces you to the living national art of weaving. The exhibition displays the major weaving techniques and styles of local dress and textile made by the Bhutanese women and men. We will have time to quickly visit the Bhutanese Paper factory. The art of handmade paper in Bhutan dates back to the 8th century, although usage was limited mainly to religious purposes. Today it is considered an important element in the preservation of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. The factory allows guests to view the paper making process and purchase gifts from their show room.
Towards evening we will visit Tashichhoe Dzong and have glimpse king Jigme’s Palace. The Dzong is popularly known as Thimphu Dzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” it houses Bhutan’s administration, and the throne of His Majesty and other Government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Just below the dzong we can have a glimpse of King’s palace.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Thimphu
Journey continues as we head towards Punakha at 1300 m and a warmer region. Punakha is the winter residence of the central monk body and it is one of the richest agricultural lands. The valley is blessed with one of the biggest rivers in the country. En-route we will cross over Dochula pass at 3050 meters, and view the most dramatic panoramic view of the greater Himalayas. During summers this mountain pass is covered with mists and the views are obstructed. The dochula landmark is the Wangyel Chortens – 108 stupas built on the mountaintop in a Mandala pattern, further enhances the beauty and tranquility of the pass. From this cooler mountain pass we will descend into a warmer region of Punakha. As we descend we will notice a change in vegetation and temperature too. While we enter Punakha valley, we will stop for a visit at Chimmu Lhakhang the auspicious fertility temple, dedicated to the Tantric Buddhist Master Drukpa Kinley (Divine Madman). He is well known for his oral tradition of legends and songs. His teachings were through outrageous behavior and ribald humor in order to awaken the ordinary people. In particular he took female friends and disciples along the path of sexual desire and relationship to free them from attachment to the illusory world and to awaken their Buddha-nature. We will walk through the rice fields 20 minutes to get to the temple. Depending on season one gets the glimpse of rural farming life, and the rural architecture, decorated with beautifully painted motifs and patterns. Its not unusual to find a huge phallus painted on the walls, so don’t be shocked, just ask our guides for more details. During early spring its time for paddy plantation and late autumns is harvesting season.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Punahka
The sub-tropical valleys of Punakha and the surrounding mountain sides offer a large variety of attractive places to explore and discover monasteries and the most impressive Dzong in the country. After early breakfast we will travel up the valley north and cross the Mo Chhu to hike up and pay respect to the grand Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, The Chorten is 30 meters (100 feet) tall and can be seen in the distance when driving. The three-levelled chorten took eight and a half years to build and was consecrated in 1999. Dedicated to the Fifth King, it was built to remove negative forces and to provide peace, stability, and harmony in an ever- changing world. It is therefore filled with every form of colorful protector imaginable. Heading back down the valley we will stop for lunch. After the lunch we will visit the stunning Punakha Dzong. The Dzong is considered one of the most important and also one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the Kingdom. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637, and was the seat of the government every winter until Thimphu was established as the permanent capital in 1955. It is still the winter residence of the Je khempo (chief abbot) accompanied by the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body). Take time to admire the impressive, colourful and detailed artistry of the surroundings, including huge statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, as well as paintings of one thousand Buddhas. After the visit we will drive roughly 45 minutes towards queens village to visit the Nunnery. Inside the monastery we can see very large statue of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) bodhisattva of compassion. The nunnery has stunning view of both Punakha and Wangdi Valley.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Punakha
Leaving this warm region we will head towards Trongsa, crossing over Pele La pass at 3390 Meters. Trongsa is the central most regions in the country, and its history as a unifying authority gives this place a historical and cultural importance. The beauty of this place is enhanced by the amazing architecture of the Trongsa Dzong built in 1648; the seat of power, as both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this spectacular structure. All the kings will be invested the Trongsa Penlop (Govener of Trongsa) prior to ascending the throne. The Ta dzong sits above the Dzong as a watchtower, which is now turned into a Museum, and we must say that it’s the best museum in Bhutan, in terms of presentation and layout. This museum presents the rich cultural and historical heritage of the Trongsa Dzong. The museum has a shop and also a cafeteria, where we can have a lunch, in the mist of an amazing atmosphere. Once we get inside Dzong, we will go and visit the Buddha Miatrya (the future Buddha) Hall. The sculpture is beautiful and old. The Dzong is an array of Temples, and chambers lined up in complexity, which makes this Dzongs architecture uniquely beautiful. From one of the various courtyards in the Dzong we can get a glimpse of the Mangde Chuu (river) flowing down beneath the deep gorge.
Overnight: Hotel in Trongsa
An early breakfast and, we will drive Bhumthang, with an uphill climb till the Yotong La pass at 3425 meters. From here we can get to view the famous Black Mountains and famous peaks such as Jomolhari, but this depends on the season you are traveling. The pass is marked by hundreds of prayer flags, very common sight at any mountain pass in the country. Crossing the pass we drive downhill into the lush and richly vegetated valleys. We will enter Gyatsa the first village to encounter while we enter the numerous valleys of Bumthang. This wide-open valley is beautiful, dotted with temples and farmhouses. Then we will enter Chummey, the home to woolen textile known as Yathra. Along the way we can visit the shops and even see women at their looms, weaving the unique patterns.
Overnight: Hotel, Bumthang.
Today’s expolaration of the Bumthang valley begins with visit to Jakar Dzong. The Dzong was founded by Ngagi Wangchuk as a small hermitage in 1549. It was expanded in 1646 to help consolidate the Zhabdrung’s expanding power into the eastern region. Scouting for a place for the dzong, a small white bird was seen perched on a hill, which was taken as an auspicious sign, and hence the name Jakar, meaning the “white bird”. The dzong is now the seat of district administration and monastic body of Bumthang valleys. We will then visit the auspecious Jampa Lhakhang. The monastery is believed to have been built in the year 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro, in order to subdue a Tibetan demoness. It was here that Guru Rinpoche conducted the first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sindhu Raja, the local ruler and his family. The place where Guru Rinpoche sat during the sermon can still be seen. Every year in October, the temple hosts a spectacular festival, the Jampa Lhakhang Drup. Two of the main attractions are the fire dance and the treasure dance or ‘naked dance’, and the fertility blessings for women. And later we will visit Kurjey Lhakhang. The monastery is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche who was invited to meditate here in 746 AD to subdue evil spirits and demons. There are three temples; the oldest temple was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The body imprint of the great master can be seen distinctly in the rock cave enshrined in the temple. The second was built in 1900 by the first King when he was still the Governor of Trongsa. The third temple was built in 1990 with the support of the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang. A wall of 108 chortens surrounds the temple grounds and symbolizes Buddha’s victory over the evil spirits. The Cypress tree which is seen near the temple is believed to have grown from the Guru’s walking stick. After the visit we will take a short walk to the Kurjey Drupchhu (holy water). During the 8th century Sindhu Raja, the King of Chakhar invited Guru Padhma Sambawa from Yangleyshey in Nepal (meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche) to cure his prolonged illness. The Guru meditated at the present Guru Lhakhang and subdued the Demon of Dragmar Dorji Tsegpa, known as Shelging Karpo, responsible for the sickness of the Raja. Drupchhu was made available at the end of Guru’s meditation with his spiritual power to celebrate the victory over the Demon and to cure the illness of the King. Therefore it is believed that this water is holy and cures all our sins and illnesses. In the afternoon, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang (temple of good message) The monastery is located in a village across the river from Kurjey. It was built by Pema Lingpa in 1501 and is the most important Nyingma Lhakhang in the Kingdom. Being a skilled tantric master and an artist, Pema Lingpa sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in original state. He also created a 25 kg suit of chain-mail armour and it is believed that you will be freed from your sins if you carry it around the lhakhang three times.
Overnight: Hotel, Bumthang.
Today we will drive to Phobjikha valley. The valley is significant in our country’s effort in preservation and protection the Black- Necked Cranes. Every year the birds arrive on their wintering grounds between mid-October and early December and remain until March through mid- April. On the way we will make a stoppage at Chendebji Chorten, which is patterned on Kathmand’s Swayambhunath Stupa. It was built by Lama Shida in the 18th century to cover the remains of an subdued evil sprit. We will visit the famous 16th century Gangtey Goemba that overlooks the large green expanse of the valley. The monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly be the families of the Gomchens (lay monk ) who take care of the monastery. After lunch we will walk downjill from the mani stone wall at Gangtey Goenpa to Khewa Lhakhang down in the valley. The trail is a gentle walk descending into the Semchubara village leading our way to a square Chorten and the Lhakhang.
Over night: Hotel/ Farm House in Phobjikha
Today’s journey towards Thimphu, before we exit Phibjikha Valley we will visit the Crane Observation Center, where we can learn about the cranes, natural habitat, and phibjikha as a hotsopt for its conservation. We then drive to Wangdue, and briefly stop at Wangdue Dzong. The Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. It is remarkable as it completely commands an impressive view over both the directions. The Dzong is roofed with wooden shingles and has a rustic but disquieting charm to it. Currently the Dzong is going through a major renovation project. After the visit we drive to Dochula Pass for lunch and then visit the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang built by the eldest Queen Mother. The past and present perfectly merges in the intricate details of the Lhakhang murals, that tells the story of a supreme warrior whose vision extends into the distant future. Then we again decend back into Thimphu and take a leisurely walk in the city.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Thimphu
Tango Monastery and Tango Dzongkha
Tango is a beautiful temple, which is easy to reach. The hike all the way up to Tango Dzongkha, a meditation retreat for hermit, is more challenging but will reward you with great views over Thimphu and Punakha valleys on clear days. Abundant flowering rhododendron higher on the ridge makes this hike even more inspiring in the spring. The main trail zigzags up before you reach a point where you can choose to go left along a prettier route (slightly more strenuous) , or straight up along a more direct route. After visiting Tango Monastery, you will follow the upper trail just above the huge prayer flag in front of the temple entrance. The trail passes a few houses occupied by monks before crossing above a small landslide and continuing steeply up a log skid trail in the left side-valley. After leaving the blue-pine behind, the vegetation becomes dominated by spruce and hemlock, prickly barberry bushes and in early spring sweet smelling Daphne bushes. When you?ve reached the meadow, you have completed the steepest part, and can proceed through mixed juniper, cypress and spruce forest. There are a number of hidden meditation huts along this route, so remember to be quiet. A small path past a chorten and through prayer flags will lead you to the Dzongkha itself. Although there is no admission (due to the fact that Tango Dzongkha is a meditation temple occupied by hermits), the view from the temple, of Cheri Monastery, Drolay Goemba, Thimphu and beyond, are excellent. The chorten below the temple is a breathtaking picnic spot. Tango Monastery is a 15th century temple unique in its architecture. When the monastery was presented to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1617, a battle was going on between the Tibetans and Bhutanese. The Zhabdrung therefore meditated in a cave at Tango as a result of which the invading forces were defeated. Today you will see a large stone in the shape of a horse head by the cave, which is supposed to frighten the enemies of Buddhism.
Time: 55 minute drive to starting point. Hike to Tango Monastery and Tango Dzongkha: 4-6 hours round trip (7.5 km return, 850 m climb). Hike to Tango Monastery only: 1 – 2 hours round trip (2.5 km return, 250 m climb) Difficulty level – Strenuous (If only hiking to Tango Monastery – Moderate)
Its hiking day, and we begin by driving to Paro. Today’s exploration of Paro valley begins with a hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s nest monastery) 4-5 hrs hike Tiger’s Nest or Taktshang Goempa is one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments. It literally hangs off the face of a cliff 900 meters (2952 feet) above the valley floor. The legend states that Guru Rinpoche flew into Bhutan on a mythical tigress and meditated in a cave before bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The Taktshang Goempa is built around the cave, which is opened to the public once a year at the end of August. The four-hour round trip hike offers spectacular views of the Goempa and the valley below. Horses or mules can be arranged on request to help lighten the journey. Back from the hike you will visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang, a scared monument pinning down the left foot of a treacherous ogress, which is built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo. This Monastery is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan King to subdue the demoness that lay across the Himalayan region. In the afternoon drive to the Watchtower or locally known as Ta-Dzong. This Watchtower was made National Museum in 1060. The Museum have been partially damaged due to the September 2011 earthquake, so some of the exhibit have been moved to the exhibit hall behind the museum. After the museum, take a short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong. This Dzong was built in the 17th century to defend Paro region from the invading Tibetan forces. The architecture is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. The Dzong serves as a central administrative seat and central monk body. Then we again walk down to the Cantilever Bridge, to get a feel of the ancient way leading to the Dzong. The bridge is one of the fine examples of traditional bridge building in the country.
After this experience, we take a stroll in the town, visiting shops and finishing your journey and experiences of Bhutan.
Overnight: Hotel/Resort in Paro
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