7 nights / 8 days
To a great extent to set eyes on and experience in Bhutan, how does an individual opt how long to stay and what to catch a glimpse of? We have intended this trip to give you an incredible experience of way of life in Bhutan, from the urban to rural life, natural world and the stunning topography and, obviously, the ascetic life of this Buddhist Kingdom where Gross National Happiness is a privileged priority than Gross National Product.
Accomodations: 4 star Hotels except in Gangtey valley.
Day 01. Arrive Paro (Altitude 2280 m) (By Druk Air) – Thimphu: Your Guide from Bhutan Hallmark Tours and Treks will receive you at the Airport and drive to Thimphu. On the way, visit Tamchog Monastery built by Thangthong Gyalpo (Popularly known as Lama Chazampa, which literally means, the Iron Bridge builder) in the 15th century.
Thang Thong Gyalpo (1385 – 1464) was a wonder working saint from Tibet who came to Bhutan in 1433 looking for Iron Ore. He built 108 bridges across Tibet and Bhutan, out of which 8 were built in Bhutan. His only surviving bridge is in Duksum (Tashi Yangtse in Eastern Bhutan).
Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.
Day 02. Thimphu Sightseeing: (Altitude 2320 m) The day begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (1974) built in honour of our 3rd King, late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (The Father of Modern Bhutan), Tallest Statue of Buddha, Sangaygang view point at Kuensel Phodrang park, Takin Preserve center, Changangkha Lhakhang and the Dupthop Lhakhang one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan.
After lunch, we then visit the National Library, stocked with ancient Buddhist manuscripts, the Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls) and Folk Heritage Museum. In the evening, visit to the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and finally visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.
Day 03. Thimphu – Punakha: (Altitude 1310 m) (76 Kms, 3 hours drive). After breakfast, drive to Punakha via Dochula pass. We stop for a while at Dochula pass to view Higher Himalayas. On the way, visit Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (Popularly known as “The Devine Madman”, in the year 1499. He subdued the demons with his “Magical Thunder bolt” and built the temple on top of a hillock. The Temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”.
Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455 – 1529) was one of the Bhutan’s Favourite Saints who was born in Tibet, trained at Ralung Monastery and was a contemporary and a disciple of Pema Lingpa. He Travelled throughout Bhutan and Tibet as a “Neljorpa” (Yogi) using songs, humour and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings of Salvation through sex.
After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the Government. The construction of the Dzong was foretold by Guru Rimpoche, who predicted, “…a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that housed a statue of Buddha. It is said that Shabdrung ordered the architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of the statue, while Palep was sleeping; the Shabdrung took him in his dreams to Zangtopelri and showed him the palace of Guru Rimpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design for the new Dzong, which in keeping with the tradition, was never committed to paper. The Dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk convened the First National Assembly here in 1952.
In the evening, excursion to Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery. Dinner and overnight in Punasangchu Cottages or similar.
Day 04. Punakha – Gangtey (66 kms. Altitude 3120 m): After breakfast, drive to Gangtey. Enroute sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang includes visit to the Wangdiphodrang Dzong (from outside) built in 1638. Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong; four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered auspicious sign, representing the spread of Buddhist religion to the four points of the compass. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Drive further to Gangtey.
While in Gangtey, visit Gangtey Gompa. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation. It is a Nyingmapa monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamshing in Bumthang.
After lunch, explore Phobjikha valley, the roosting ground of the Rare Black necked Cranes in winter and visit the Crane Information center. Dinner and overnight in Dewachen Guest house or similar.
Day 05. Gangtey – Thimphu: (143 kms – 6 hrs. Altitude 2320 m) After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. Lunch, will be served on the way. In the evening, free for shopping and photography in the town. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.
Day 06. Thimphu – Paro: (Altitude 2280 m, Distance 58 kms, Drive Time 1 hour): After breakfast, drive to Paro and hike to Taktsang Monastery: a short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten, from there a 2 hour walk till the viewpoint point of the monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Taktsang monastery. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1684by the Penlop of Paro Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo, said to be his favourite consort. Dinner and overnight in Tashi Namgay Resort or similar.
Day 07. Paro Sightseeing: (Altitude 2280 m) After breakfast, visit Ta Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge.
After lunch, visit to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m). On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo.
Srongsen Gampo: He was a Tibetan king who married a Chinese princess, Wenchen in 641, as a apart of her dowry was a statue called “Jowo” which was an Indian image of Buddha, Sakyamuni as a small boy. In 659, He decided to build 108 Temples in a single day to pin the Ogress to the earth forever and, at the same time, convert the Tibetan people to Buddhism. 6 of these Temples lie in Bhutan, most prominent of them are Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and Kichu Lhakhang in Paro. Kichu Lhakhang is said to hold the left foot of the Ogress and Jambay Lhakhang pins the left knee.
Dinner and overnight in Tashi Namgay Resort or similar.
Day 08. Departure: (Altitude 2280 m) Early morning, drive to the airport and farewell.