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Bhutan is rightly known to the world today as the Last Shangri-La. It was the mighty Himalayas that protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left this Himalayan jewel blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain in a jealously guarded isolation.
This country of rolling hills and towering crags certainly exudes charm. The mountains are magnificent, the forests are dense, the people are delightful, the air is pure, the architecture inspiring, the religion exciting and the art superb. Like timeless images from the past, the traveller encounters the full glory of this ancient land through its strategic fortresses known as Dzongs, numerous ancient temples, monasteries and stupas which dot the countryside, prayer flags which flutter along the high ridges, wild animals which abound in dense forests, foamy white waterfalls which are the ethereal showers, and the warm smile of its friendly people. With its beautiful and largely unspoiled Himalayan setting, its rich flora and fauna and its vibrant Buddhist culture, Bhutan has become an increasingly popular destination for international tourists.
Bhutan – an Enchanting Realm
8 Nights / 9 Days
Trip Start From
Trip Ends At
ARRIVE PARO (BHUTAN) BY FLIGHT & TRANSFER TO THIMPHU (55KM, APPROX. 1.1/2-HOUR DRIVE)
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over Himalayan foothills if flying over Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air.
After immigration formalities and baggage collection you will be welcomed by our representative with a ‘tashi khaddar’ (white scarf offering to the guest which is an auspicious way to welcome guest) and drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan. The road leads through the Paro valley to the confluence of Paro and Thimphu rivers at Chuzom (confluence).
Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see on your left Tamchog Lhakhang, the temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, a pioneering engineer who introduced the construction of suspension bridges into Bhutan and Tibet (several of which are still in use today). The present bridge to Tamchog Lhakhang was restored in 2005 in the design of a traditional style with iron chains and crossing this iron bridge is a wonderful experience. (approx. 50 min, roundtrip walk).
On arrival, in Thimphu check-into the hotel. The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. With the population of about 1,30,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.
Later in afternoon visit National Memorial Chorten, a large white structure crowned with a golden spire. It is located close to the center of Thimphu city and is one of its most iconic monuments. This is the most ideal spot to interact with locals who throng in large numbers to circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at a small shrine inside the gate. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Afterwards an exploratory walk around Thimphu main street and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).
Morning after breakfast, take a short drive to the north of town to Buddha Dordenma, located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni made of bronze and is gilded in gold, measures 51.5 meters in height, making it one of the largest statues, in Bhutan. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue, each of these also have been cast in bronze and gilded. Here at Buddha point, you’ve option to perform meditation at a designated area.
Bhutan is known for its innovative postage stamps and The Postal Museum showcases the progress of postal services and also to some extent communication system in Bhutan & country’s rare and unique stamps issued over the years. Also visit the Postal office located next door to get your own personalised postal stamps made and check out various souvenirs.
Then drive to Textile Museum. With the opening of Textile Museum, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden, Bhutanese textile have reached new heights as one of the most visible distinct art forms. The textile museum has opened its exhibition on six major themes - warp pattern weaves, weft pattern weaves, role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile arts, textiles from indigenous fibres and the Royal collection.
Post lunch, for an insight into traditional crafts of Bhutan, visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum, established in 1971, it is the premier institute to preserve and promote thirteen traditional art and crafts of Bhutan. Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers 4-to-6-year courses in 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
This is followed by visit to The Folk Heritage Museum, dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life.
Then explore Centenary Farmers Market. Popularly known as Weekend market, this bustling, colourful market centre is the biggest where farmers from different part of the country gather to sell their farm products. With its wide assortment of products including handicrafts and its picturesque and colourful setting, the Farmer’s Market is a favourite spot for many.
Conclude the sightseeing of the day with visit to Trashichhoedzong, ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. This is the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Evening at leisure in Thimphu city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).
After breakfast drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m), Kangphugang (7,170 m), Zongphugang (7, 060 m), a Table Mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,570m.
At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty-seven, built around the main chorten.
Then proceed onward to Punakha.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at an elevation of 1300m above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is popular year-round destination.
After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong or ‘Palace of Great Happiness’, built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative centre of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.
Then a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Evening take a stroll in and around Punakha town.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha (Altitude 1,300m).
Morning after breakfast drive to Bumthang via Trongsa.
The drive to Trongsa crosses Pelela pass (3,300 m), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by cluster of prayer flags while the ground is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo. Stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, the stupa built in 18th century by a Lama named Shida. It is Nepalese in style with eyes painted at four cardinal points.
Trongsa town, perched on steep slopes above a river gorge, forms the central hub of the nation and is the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular.
While in Trongsa, visit:
Trongsa Dzong: This most impressive Dzong in Bhutan, was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan and later enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.
Then continue on to Bumthang across Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley.
Take a short stop at Chumey, a wide fertile valley where wheat, barley, potatoes and buckwheat are cultivated. Chumey is particularly known for its famous wool weaving called ‘Bumthang Yathra’.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2,600m)
Bumthang comprising of four valleys namely, Tang, Ura, Chumey & Choekhor, is one of the most richly endowed districts in Bhutan, in terms of historical and cultural legacy. Choekhor valley is the largest amongst all and widely considered as ‘Bumthang valley’. The valleys are broad and gentle carved by the ancient glaciers, housing most venerated temples and monasteries in the country. The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered with fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes, apple orchards and dairy farms.
The day starts with visit of Jambey Lhakhang, the ancient temple built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 A.D. as part of a chain of 108 simultaneously constructed temples in order to subdue an evil demoness that lay over the Himalayan region.
Short distance from Jambey Lhakhang is the site of sacred Kurje Lhakhang comprising of three temples which are surrounded by 108 chorten walls. The first and the oldest structure of the three, was constructed on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The second building is also called the Sampa lhundrup temple and houses a colossal statue of Guru Rinpoche. The third building is known as Ka Gon Phur sum lhakhang dedicated to the happiness of all living beings in the kingdom.
Then visit picturesquely located Jakar Dzong, overlooking Choekhor valley. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the monastery's site and for Jakar Dzong, which translates as 'castle of the white bird'.
Post lunch, visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the temple founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Then go for an interesting visit to Bumthang Brewery. This state-of the-art microbrewery produces Swiss-style unfiltered Weiss beer locally famous as ‘Red Panda Beer’. When launched, this was first of its kind Brewery in Bhutan, producing draught beer, apple cider, wine, apple brandy. At the Brewery, one can see the entire process of making unfiltered Weiss beer while at adjacent Swiss Farm get an insight into the cheese-making process, also taste Red Panda Beer and procure cheese, apple brandy, clover honey etc.
Evening take a short hike to Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery. Located above the main town, the monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984 who was recognized at a very young age by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and H.H. 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama. The monastery has become part of an extensive effort to preserve and revitalize Tibetan culture.
Evening stroll in the village, exploring local shops and market.
After breakfast, drive back to Punakha.
En route at Trongsa, visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five stories, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.
Before entering Punakha town, on the way visit Wangduephodrang Dzong. Founded by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638, on the top of high ridge between Punak Tsang Chhu and Dang Chhu rivers, offering fantastic of the valley below, Wangdue Dzong holds special place in Bhutan’s history. The strategic location of the dzong, provided Penlop (Governor) of Wangduephodrang, chance to protect the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana and Thimphu making him the third most powerful ruler after Governors of Paro and Trongsa. The Dzong had been damaged by fire in 2012 and restored to its original grandeur and splendour recently (in 2022).
Evening at leisure in Punakha / Wangduephodrang towns.
Overnight at Hotel in Punakha (Altitude 1,300m).
PUNAKHA - PARO (125 KM, APPROX. 4-HOUR DRIVE)
After breakfast, drive to Paro along scenic highway. En route visit handsomely proportioned Simtokha Dzong built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and modelled on Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet). Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras), Simtokha is often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan. It is in fact also the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure.
On arrival in Paro, check into the hotel.
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only international airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
Post lunch, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Ta Dzong visit immediately followed by a short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong), meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and cosmic Mandala.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
After breakfast, embark on a fascinating excursion to Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest (approx. 5 hours round trip walk). It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. Legends say that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
Late afternoon, drive end of the Valley to newly restored Drukgyel Dzong. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate an early military victory over Tibetan invaders, the dzong name means, indeed, ‘victorious Druk’. Historically and strategically, this Dzong withstood all its glory and was featured in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) from the village, below the Dzong.
Neary by we will also visit a typical farmhouse. Bhutanese farmhouses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small, isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat.
While driving to Paro town, stop en route at the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m).
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to onward destination.
CLOSING DAYS OF SOME OF MONUMENTS MENTIONED IN ITINERARY:
Ta Dzong – Paro (national museum): closed on Government Holidays |
Textile Museum – Thimphu: Closed on Government Holidays and weekend timing: 9.00 a.m. to 4 p.m. |
Institute of Zorig Chusum (Arts & Crafts School)-Thimphu: Closed on Sunday & Government Holidays and on Saturday open from 9 a.m. to 12 o’clock. 20 December – 10 March closed for winter vacation.|
Folk Heritage Museum – Thimphu: Closed on National Holidays. Saturday timing: 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday timing: 11.30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. |
Ta Dzong – Trongsa: closed on weekends & Government holidays|
Bumthang Brewery – Bumthang: Closed on National Holidays & Sundays. Saturday timing: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
What Is Included
Accommodation in standard 3* Superior hotels, approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan
All transfers and sightseeing as per the itinerary
English speaking accompanying guide
Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) @ US$ 200.00 per person per day for the first four nights after onwards for 4 nights without the daily levy
Bhutan visa fee (@ US$ 40)
What Is Not Included
Insurance of any kind / medical expenses
Beverages (alcoholic / non – alcoholic)
Expenses of personal nature (like tipping, laundry, Telephone/fax calls, camera/video fees etc)