CULTURAL & SCENIC TOUR 8 DAYS

This trip provides us the opportunity to traverse through the culturally centered valleys of Paro, Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue, experiencing the enchantment of pure and exotic land, through its ancient fortresses, monasteries, and temples that dot the countryside. Thanks to its isolation, small population, mountainous terrain, and the national religion of Buddhism, which stresses the sanctity of all life, Bhutan has protected its forests and wildlife. As a result, this tiny kingdom, in contrast to all of its neighbors, possesses the last truly intact, large-scale ecosystem in the Himalayas. Protecting not just nature but culture is a huge priority for Bhutan. The Bhutanese people constitute one of the most interesting and least disturbed cultures in the world. It is not uncommon to be engaged in discussion by passerby, or to be invited in for lunch by a Bhutanese family. The Bhutanese are often as curious about outsiders as tourists are about them. Over the course of our 08 days in Bhutan, we will immerse ourselves in the country’s rich Buddhist culture and ancient traditions.


DAY 01  ARRIVE PARO BHUTAN & DRIVE TO THIMPHU:

PARO ALTITUDE 7,600 feet / 2,280 meters

THIMPHU ALTITUDE 7,730 feet / 2,320 meters

DISTANCE PARO – THIMPHU = 54 kilometers / 33.75 miles time taken 2 hours

Fly to Paro, From a window seat on clear days you can experience a spectacular view of Himalayan peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival our representative will receive you, and then drive to Thimphu, which will be approximately 1.5 hrs drives. Rest of the day will depend on arrival of the flight. Overnight at Hotel


DAY 02  SIGHTSEEING OF THIMPHU VALLEY:

After breakfast you will start your sightseeing of Thimphu starting off with a visit to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, here traditional medicines are prepared according to ancient practices and a museum of herbal medicines and herbs are displayed. Then we head to The National Institude of Zorig Chusum, in this institute the 13 different traditional arts are kept alive through young Bhutanese who take 4-6 years course in different arts. Next we will visit the National Library and then to Bhutan heritage Museum, a nineteenth century house, preserved to present the visitors with how middle class Bhutanese lived in the past. A Bhutanese traditional lunch will be served here. After lunch, we’ll visit Textile Museum, the traditional gold and silver smith workshop, weaving center and other places of interest. Overnight at Hotel.

OPTION: If you are in Thimphu during Friday Saturday and Sunday then the sightseeing will visit Thimphu weekend market, which is in a permanent set of stalls, vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and foodstuffs. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip. At the northern end of the market is a collection of stalls called the indigenous goods and handicrafts section. Here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups. Continue your sightseeing to Zangdopelri temple, the Changlimithang where you can witness young Bhutanese practicing their favorite archery game. Return to hotel for lunch, after lunch visit the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang (Monastery for the nuns) and other places of interest.


DAY 03  THIMPHU-PUNAKHA/ WANGDUE :

PUNAKHA: ALTITUDE: 4,162 feet / 1,250 meters

DISTANCE: 71 Kilometers / 44.38 miles

TIME TAKEN: 2.5 hours driving

ALTITUDE GAIN: 2,730 feet & ALTITUDE LOSS 6,298 feet

After breakfast we will start our drive to Punakha early before the clouds come in and block the view of the Bhutan’s Snowcapped Mountain seen from the Dochula Pass. Leaving Thimphu, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (10,460 feet / 3,140 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350 meters/ 4,162 feet). We then began our short walk to Chimi Lhakhang temple, this temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility; it is about one hour of round trip walk which will take about one hour and then drive to hotel for lunch. After lunch we will drive to Wangdue, from the roadside we will climb uphill to visit the clustered village of Rinchending, this village is known for its skill in Masonry work, it is said that the people of Rinchending were brought in for construction of Wangdue Dzong and later the people got settled here. Return to the roadside and continue your drive to Wangdue Phodrang dzong, after the visit drive back to hotel. Overnight at Hotel.


DAY 04  AT PUNAKHA

After breakfast we drive north to visit the Khamsum Yuelley Chorten, after crossing the suspension bridge, we start our hike uphill for about 45 minutes and reach the beautiful four storied stupa. The view of the valley from here is superb. Dotted with terraced paddy field in the middle of the valley with scattered village farmhouses and flanked by mountains that is covered by lush green mixed coniferous forest. We then start our hike downhill and drive further south to visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, situated between Phochu and Mochu. This dzong is the most magnificent dzong of Bhutan and had served as the capital of the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. Presently the Dzong is the district administration and judiciary office as well as the winter home for Bhutan’s spiritual leader Je Khenpo and the 600 monks of Thimphu and Punakha. After the visit of the dzong if time permits we will take short walk along the River for bird watching. Overnight at Hotel.


DAY 05  PUNAKHA – PARO (Driving 4 hours)

PARO: ALTITUDE 7,600 feet / 2,280 meters

DISTANCE: 129 Kilometers / 80.62 miles

TIME TAKEN; 4 hours driving

ALTITUDE GAIN: 6,298 feet & ALTITUDE LOSS 2,860 feet

After Breakfast resume your journey to Paro. We stop at the Dochula Pass for few minutes for a leg stretch and photographs, if lucky you might be able to view the Bhutan’s 200 mile snowcapped peaks in the north if you had missed it the other day. Your next stop will be at the oldest Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It now houses the institute of traditional studies for laymen and women. Continue your drive to Thimphu. Lunch will be served here. After lunch you will have about an hour to do the last minute shopping before you resume your journey to Paro. On your way to Paro you will stop at the Tachogang Temple, built by Thangtong Gyalpo in the 15th century, who was responsible for numerous iron bridges throughout Bhutan. Continue your drive to Hotel. Overnight at Hotel.


DAY  06  SIGHTSEEING OF PARO VALLEY:

After breakfast visit, Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, the Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Chomolhari, alt. 7314 m / 23,990 ft. Drive south to Satsam Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rinpochey, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in seventh century by a Tibetan King, Songtsen Gonpo. After lunch visit the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armor and rare stamps. Take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. You will walk through a traditional covered bridge across the river to your waiting car at the valley floor and take you to the Hotel. If time permits, hike up the near by hill to get a panoramic view of the Paro Valley. Overnight at hotel.


DAY 07  EXCURSION TO TAKTSANG MONASTERY.

ALTITUDE: 10,240 feet / 3,075 meters

ALTITUDE GAIN: 2,640 feet / 793 meters

HIKING HOURS : 2.5 – 3 hours

After breakfast your car will drop you at the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike (if not tired) for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s and renovated in 2002, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery, flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria. Overnight at Hotel.


DAY 08  DEPART PARO BHUTAN

Morning drive to Paro International Airport for departure to your onward destination.

Note: This is a sample intended to give you a general idea of the likely trip schedule. Numerous factors such as weather, tour conditions, the physical ability of the participants’ etc., may dictate itinerary changes either before departure or while on the tour. We reserve the right to change this schedule in the interest of the trip participants’ safety, comfort and general well being. RATES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

Thanks again so much for all your patience and kindness while I was there.

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