Prepare yourself for something entirely different from what you may have seen in Asia, or elsewhere. Located high in the Himalayan mountains between India and Tibet, Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its progress by Gross National Happiness! On this 15-day journey through mystical mountains, sacred temples, and this richly preserved culture, we will explore Spirituality in Bhutan alongside the local people, discovering their unique perspectives and enjoying the light of their inspiring spirits! You can also enjoy this trip by attending a festival by timing your trip with a festival in Bhutan.
The 15 Day Journey Across Bhutan cultural trip is designed to invoke a deep spiritual and cultural realization traversing through sacred sites of Bhutan whilst discovering one’s own belief. This trip will also truly leave you spiritually nourished and blissfully enlightened.
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and lets have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine.
Sangaygang Drive about 15 minutes from the main city to a hillock where the Bhutan Broad Casting Tower is stationed. From there you can relish the beautiful scene of the whole of Thimphu City. On the way up or down from the hillock, you can also see Takin the national animal of Bhutan. It is a place where many Bhutanese frequent, especially on
Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang, will be open to tourists once it is completed in 2012. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma , Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha.
The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
Takin enclosure– See the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin.
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Thimphu beginning with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernization. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in the year 1972. You will also visit the 12th-century Changangkha Temple and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery. If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong.
Morning drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu to Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in Bhutan. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena. Our trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Thimchhu and we climb steadily to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung built the monastery in 1620, and is the location where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Shabdrung also spent three years in retreat here and it’s a renowned meditation place even today.
After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena, we will have a picnic lunch along the clean and unpolluted Thimphu River. After lunch, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts. The Choki School is private and provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to attend or complete their formal education. After visiting the school we continue along the riverside trail and pass through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu.
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. The inside walls are covered with elaborate murals depicting the teaching of the Buddha. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
After breakfast enjoy a short hike through rice fields up to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before an excursion to visit 15th century Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism of his time. He is considered a symbol of fertility and many childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel or farmhouse in Punakha.
Transfer to Trongsa (6 hrs). Drive via the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang. Drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests and over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. Further down the road stop to visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten. It is built in a style unusual for Bhutan, with painted eyes facing the four directions. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road.
On arrival, enjoy some relaxation time before visiting Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa is the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th Century and there are now 22 temples in the complex. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the impressive landscape for many miles. In the old days, it was the vigilance point for both the eastern and western trade routes, thus a strategically important Dzong.
Following breakfast visit the Ta Dzong museum located on the hill overlooking the Trongsa Dzong. The museum’s main focus is on the history of the monarchy and is dedicated to the coronation and centenary celebrations of the Bhutanese monarchy with very rare and precious artifacts on display. These include statues built in the 17th century, to the first King’s Namza (dress), the Raven Crown and Sword of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal and the 3rd King.
Afterward, proceed to Bumthang (2.5 hrs), one the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the spiritual and historical heartland of the country. The road winds steeply up to Yo Yutung La Pass (3,400m) before descending down through dense coniferous forest to Chummey valley. From here it is about an hour to Jakar, Bumthang’s main township.
Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples, and monasteries. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. The beautiful architecture unique to Bhutan is evident in the many large farmhouses and temples. Bumthang is associated with Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and with Terton Pemalingpa.
After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong, also known as ‘Fortress of the White Bird’. It was founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung. The Dzong was initially built as a Monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.
Day excursion to Tang valley and visit Ogyen Choling Palace, a former feudal home that has now become a very interesting museum. Meet the famous author from Bhutan, Aum Kunzang Choden, also the descendant of the Ogyen Choling palace. Tang valley is a scenic valley, 2 hours drive away from Chumey town.
Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Bumthang beginning with Jampey Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen in the 7th Century. It was here that Guru Rimpoche conducted his first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sendha, the local ruler, his family, and subjects. Continue on to Kurjey Lhakhang, famous for a rock within one of the temples that features a body imprint of the great master Guru Rimpoche. The big cypress tree in the temple grounds is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rimpoche.
Afterwards visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the seat of Bumthang’s famous son, saint Pema Lingpa. He built it himself in 1501. A skilled tantric master and artist, he sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, some of Bhutan’s oldest which can still be seen even today, mostly in their original state. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumambulate the inner sanctum to cleanse sins. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan. The wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Overnight at your hotel or farmhouse in Phobjikha.
Morning visit to view the Black-Necked Cranes (winter only) before departing for Thimphu (approx 6 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley before climbing up over Dochu La Pass and into Thimphu. The remainder of day at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast enjoy a morning hike to Tango Monastery (approx. 1 hr walk). Tango Monastery is a higher education institute for Buddhist monks built there in the 15th century by Drukpa Kunley (‘The Divine Madman’). Like many Bhutanese monasteries, Tango was built over a cave where meditation and miracles were said to take place. The monastery has no less than twelve corners and, it is said, was built in only two months – including the six temples within. On a clear day, the views of the surrounding valley and hills is amazing.
In the afternoon continue sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the School for Arts and Crafts, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum. Afterwards transfer to Paro for overnight.
Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988 m). From the pass, you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the Katso Lhakhang. The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley, so we return to Paro for the night.
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometer above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments before returning to Paro for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, built to commemorate a victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather, the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
Alternatively, day 13 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterized by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.
The Trip Cost Includes
- WHAT WE INCLUDE IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TOURS:
- Bhutan Tourist Tariff Royalty & Visa fees.
- All private excursions and transfers in superior air-conditioned vehicle.
- Local English speaking guide/tour leader.
- Experienced driver.
- Accommodation in carefully selected, highest standard government approved hotels & guesthouses.
- All meals in Bhutan.
- All entrance fees and permits.
The Trip Cost Excludes
- NOT INCLUDED:
- All personal expenses such as bars, beverages, laundry, telephone and tips.
- Medical / Travel Insurance.