TOUR in BRIEF
Duration: 10 Nights / 11 Days
Season: 17th – 21st March 2019
Altitude: Western Bhutan (1300 m – 3000 m)
Bangkok/Kathmandu/New Delhi-Paro (2,200 m)-Thimphu
Fly into the Kingdom amid a breathtaking vista of the world’s highest mountains like Mt Everest, Kanchenjunga and other peaks revered by the Bhutanese as the “Mountain Fortress of the Gods”. Finally, land at Paro International airport, an adrenaline-rushing experience as we take a hair-raising descent onto a narrow strip of flatland flanked by the mountains. On arrival, you will be received by your tour guide at the airport. After lunch, you will drive to the capital city, Thimphu. Along the way, see the Tachog Temple and see an iron chain bridge built in the 14th century. In the evening you can either relax at the hotel or take a stroll around Thimphu City.
Night halt in Thimphu
Thimphu Valley (2,200 m)
Thimphu provides a rare glimpse of a large mix of culture, customs and traditions around which Bhutan has built its identity as a nation. Today, we begin the day with breakfast before we start visiting historical places in Thimphu. For our first stop we drive up to Kuensel Phodrang to pay respect to the Biggest sitting Buddha statue in the world. Next, we visit the Memorial Stupa built in the memory of the Third King, the 12th century Changangkha monastery which blesses every Bhutanese child born in Thimphu valley, and the 17th century Tashichhodzong that serves as the seat of the central government and also houses the office of the King.
After lunch, we visit the Bhutanese Paper factory and cap it off with a stop the Mini Zoo and then Sangaygang where you can get an expansive view of the sprawling city. Other sites include the Folk Heritage Museum, the Art Academy and the magnificent Parliament building
The sub-tropical valleys of Punakha and the surrounding mountainsides offer a large variety of attractive places to explore and discover monasteries and the most impressive Dzong in the country. Roughly, 40 minutes we will arrive at the Dochula Pass (3050 meters). If weather permits, we will have great views of the extended eastern Himalayas in Bhutan. A brief stop at the pass and continue the journey by winding our way into Punakha valley (1300 meters).
On our way to Punakha valley, we will stop at the village of Sopsokha to hike the famous Chimi Lhakhang (Fertility temple). After lunch, we will drive down valley to visit the stunning Punakha Dzong.
Today, we climb gradually to the glacial valley of Phobjikha (3,500m.) Here we see probably Bhutan’s biggest stretch of plains in the north which has been adopted by the elegant but endangered Black-Necked Crane as its winter home. There is an air of deep spirituality about this place as well as the iconic Gangtey Monastery, the seat of the revered Peling Branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, is located atop a mound here
We retrace our journey to Thimphu via Wangdue valley. It is known as the valley of “ornamental speech” because of the local people’s innate ability to come up with verses that are elegant, poetic and meaningful. This valley was once governed from Wangdue Dzong which, unfortunately was destroyed by fire and is being entirely rebuilt.
This is our last sojourn in Thimphu. We spend time doing some shopping and seeing a few other places before we head for Paro after lunch. In Paro, we visit the ruined “Fortress of Victory” at Drukgyal which, in 1644, repelled a Tibetan invasion which could have seriously compromised the sovereignty of Bhutan. Our last stopover for the day is the Kyichu Temple, built in the 7th century and thus the oldest and one of the most sacred in Bhutan. In popular myth, this temple was built to pin down the right knee of a giant ogress which was lying spread-eagled across the entire Himalayas.
This is the climax of our Bhutan trip. We dress up in formal clothes and head to the confines of Paro Dzong to witness one of Bhutan’s most colorful and sacred festivals. At the venue, we meet local people, dressed in their finest clothes, having travelled miles to watch the masked dances, to pray, and to revel. We see items after items of ancient dances, with dancers donning surrealistic masks and costumes that hark back to the days of yore. In between, we also see folk dances of various traditions, and, of course, a magnificent display of Bhutanese dress, jewelry and food. The mood is carnival-like with so much gaiety and fun
“Liberation on Sight” For Bhutanese it is. Today, we get up in the wee hours of the morning and head back to the festival venue to see a gigantic appliqué painting exhibited against the masonry wall of the fortress. Called Thongdroel – meaning, “liberation on sight” – Buddhists believe that this painting displaying a pantheon of Buddhist Gods and deities has the divine powers to bless the onlookers and cleanse their sins. The moment is very precious for this happens just once every year. We round up the day with visits to the National Museum, formerly a “watch tower.
Take a deep breath! Today, we hike up to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, a literal translation of Taktshang. This monastery edifice is precariously built on a sheer wall of granite cliff some 1,000 meters above the valley floor. Some say, it was built with the help of celestial nymphs in the 17th century for, otherwise, it is beyond human feat. This temple complex houses many caves, one among which is the site where the great Tantric saint – worshipped in the Himalayan Buddhist world as the “Second Buddha” – came riding on a tigress in the 8th century to destroy evil spirits and anoint the grounds to spread the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The four-hour round trip hike is a pleasant experience through the chirpine woods of Bhutan with picturesque views of the idyllic Paro valley down below.
Horses can also be arranged on request
Paro – International Departure