Cultural tour from West to Central Bhutan 10 nights and 11 days
Day 01: Arrive by flight to Paro and drive to Thimphu
On arrival you will be received by our representative and after a brief introduction you will begin with the following sightseeing:
Ta dzong: The only National Museum in Bhutan. The best among natural history museums in Asia, the Ta Dzong offers a unique collections ranging from ancient Armour to textiles and THANGKHA paintings. Initially Ta Dzong was built as the watch tower of Paro dzong later it was converted into museum. From the museum it offers a great view of the Paro valley (This museum has been partially damaged by an earthquake last year and it’s under renovation whereby no one is allowed to go inside the building. Mean while you will be able to see some of the artifacts, which has been moved for display to another building above the museum.)
Paro Rinpung Dzong: Also known as “fortress of the heap of jewels “, it was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge to the Dzong, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also venue of the Paro Tshechu, held once a year inspiring.
Lunch will be served at the restaurant in Paro. After lunch drive to Thimphu. On arrival check into your hotel and refresh and relax. Dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 02: Thimphu sightseeing
· Zoo where one can see the national animal of Bhutan TAKIN, which has the head of a goat and the body of a cow.
· Traditional hospital: get a tour of the grounds and learn how they make and distribute the herbal medicine.
· Painting school: The school of arts & painting teaches the children to master in the 13 types of arts and crafts of Bhutan.
· National library: is another sight to see the collection of Bhutanese scriptures some dating back from the 8th century.
· Post office
· Folk Heritage museum is a replica of a medieval farm-house and is patronized by HM the Queen Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. In the village we still have this kind still alive.
· The textile museum is patronized by HM the Queen Sangay Choden Wangchuck to protect the textile heritage of Bhutan. There are some old collections along with the display of vegetable dyes and materials used for Bhutanese textiles.
· Traditional paper factory displays the Bhutanese paper making in process.
· Tashichho Dzong: Also known as “fortress of the glorious religion”, the Dzong was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1965. Tashichhodzong houses the main secretariat building and the central monk body.
In the evening you can stroll around the Thimphu town on your own. Or if you need an assistance of your guide then they will be happy to guide you in the town. Dinner will be served at the hotel or local restaurant.
Day 03: Thimphu: hike to Tango and later drive to Punakha
Have breakfast from the hotel and you will drive for another 12 km to the monastery. Your car will drop you to the nearest motor road where you will begin your hike. The hike to the monastery will be around 45 mins.
Tango Goemba or monastery: the famous Tango monastery in Thimphu derived its name from a deity. The word Tango literally means ‘horse head’. It is derived from the deity Tandin (Hayagriva), which is represented as horse – headed. In 1222, when Phajo Drugom Zhigpo was teaching in Dodeyna, he heard the neighing of a horse from the direction of Tango. On approaching the place, he saw a cliff (behind the monastery) believed to be the body of deity Tandin in flames. The deity appeared before him and prophesied that Phajo would build a meditation centre in Tango and lay foundations for the Drukpa Kagyud school in Bhutan.
The present building was built in the 15th century by the divine madman “Drukpa Kunley”. In 1616 Shabdrung Nawang Namyal visited Tango Goemba and meditated in a cave nearby. The head lama, a descendent of Lama Drukpa Kunley, presented the Goemba to the Shabdrung, who carved a sandalwood statue of Chenresig, which he installed in the monastery.
Today Tango is the residence of an important young trulku (reincarnate lama) who is recognized as the 17th reincarnation of the highly respected fourth desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, whose previous incarnation passed away in 1830. Visit the temple inside and you will retrace to Thimphu. Lunch will be served in one of the restaurant in Thimphu.
After lunch you will drive to Punakha via the Dochula pass 3050 m, which offers great views of Bhutan’s himalyan peak. Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and the religious body still uses as their winter capital. Check into the hotel and dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 04: Punakha sightseeing
After having breakfast you will first hike to Khamsum yueling temple: This temple has the best present day architecture and is being built by the crown prince’s mother Ashi Tsering Yangdon Wangchuck. The hike to and fro will not take more than 2 hrs.
Punakha Dzong: Built strategically at the Junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King.
After lunch you will visit Chimi Lhakhang. A walk to and fro will not be more than 45 mins.
Chimi Lhakhang- temple of the Divine Madman who is popularly known as Drukpa Kuenley. He inherited the Divine madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is believed as a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. The translation of the life of Drukpa Kuenley is done by Keith Dowan –Drukpa Kuenley-The Divine Madman.
Evening back to the hotel and dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 05: Punakha – Trongsa – Bumthang (6-7 hrs drive)
After early breakfast from the hotel begin your drive to Trongsa across Pelela pass (3300 m). This pass is traditionally considered as the boundary between West and Central Bhutan.
On reaching Trongsa you will visit the Trongsa dzong, situated at the altitude of 2300 m and built in 1647 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It is the ancestral home of the Royal family both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings held the post of Trongsa Penlop (honorary governor) prior to being crowned as King. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, which slope down the contours of a hill on which it perches. Because of its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively.
Ta dzong museum, which has the same name to Paro Ta dzong. This watchtower, which once guarded the Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands impressively on the hill and was refurbished and turned into museum in the year 2008. Today it provides visitors an insight on the historical reigns of our monarchs and the other arts and artifacts.
After lunch you shall proceed to Bumthang, the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and the heartland of Buddhism. Ahead of Trongsa cross Yutongla pass (3,400m) and from here the landscape changes with dense forests of conifers. Finally to Bumthang which beings with wide, open, cultivated Chumey valley. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 06: Bumthang sightseeing:
Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600 m to 4,000 m. Today’s sightseeing begins with the cultural visit to monasteries and the dzong.
Jambey lhakhang & Kurje lhakhang (8th century fame) one of the most sacred place in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to the Jambey Lhakhang. Like Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro valley, Jambey Lhakhang is also one of the 3 temples from 108 temples constructed in 7th century by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet.
From Kurje lhakhang, you will take a short hike across the river and the barley field to visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting Buddhist paintings.
After lunch you will visit the dzong and explore the small town.
Jakar Dzong, the dzong of the white bird, which houses the administrative seat of the district and is the only dzong in the country that does not contain a Drukpa monastic community. Your dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 07: Excursion to Tang valley
After early breakfast from the hotel you will drive to Tang valley. The drive is expected to last for almost an hour and half on the unpaved road to the Ki Zam (bridge). From the bridge you will have to hike for another 30-35 mins to the Ugyen chholing palace. Before reaching you will first visit Tang Rinpochen monastery. This monastery was built by Pema Lingpa in the 14th century to mark a sacred place where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The original name “Tag Rimochen” is derived from an impression of tiger’s stripes that appear on a rock cliff behind the building.
After visiting the monastery you will hike further to Ugyen Chholing palace. This palace was originally built by Deb Tsokye Dorji, the one time ruler of Trongsa and a descendent of the terton Dorji Lingpa. The present structures, including the tshuglhakhang (main temple), utse(central tower), Chamkhang (dance house) are more recent, having been rebuilt after their collapse in the 1897 earthquake.
Your lunch will be served at the palace. After lunch you will retrace your hike and then drive back to Bumthang. On the way you will visit Membartsho or the burning lake. It is believed that Pema Lingpa the treasure discoverer has found several of Guru Rinpoche’s terma (treasure). Dinner will be served at the hotel itself.
Day 08: Bumthang – Trongsa – Gangtey
After breakfast you will retrace your drive to Gangtey. Lunch will be served at Chendbji restaurant. After lunch you will walk around 100 meters to Chendbji Chorten built in the 18th century patterned on Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu. It was built by Lama Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was killed at this spot.
On arrival you will first visit Gangtey Goemba/monastery. Gangtey is also known as the winter roosting ground of black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains of Tibetan plateau to pass winter in milder and lower climate.
Gangtey Goemba / monastery enjoy the valley’s prime chunk of real estate, on a hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. The extensive complex consists of the central goemba and outlying monk’s quarters, meditation centers, schools and a small guesthouse. In 15th century Pema Lingpa the famous treasure discoverer prophesied that a goemba named Gang-teng (hill top) would be built on this site and that his teachings would spread from here. This only Nyingma temple was founded here in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinley, the grandson and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, and the goemba was built by Tenzing Legpai Dhendup, the second reincarnation.
Later check into the hotel and dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 09: Gangtey – Wangdue – Paro
After breakfast check out from the hotel and you will retrace your drive to Paro. Lunch will be served at the restaurant in Dochu la. Continue your drive to Paro and on arrival you will visit Kyichu temple, one of the last three surviving temples among 108 temples. In the 8th century a Tibetan King built 108 such temples. Till date only three had survived, two in Bhutan and one in Tibet known as the Jokhang in Lhasa. Later check into your hotel and dinner will be served at the hotel.
Day 10: Paro hike to Taktsang
After breakfast hike to the Taktsang monastery, which was built on the cliffs. The entire hike (to and fro) will take about 3 hours of average walking speed from Ramthangkha (the terminating point of the motorable road)
Taktsang monastery is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of Bhutan. The monastic complex clings to the rock towering 900 m above the valley. Taktsang is located at 2950 m above the sea level.
In accordance with the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche, Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal, the consort of Guru Rinpoche, meditated at Taktsang, transforming herself into a tigress to protect herself from harmful humans and wild animals. People who happened to be in the vicinity of Taktsang in those days had seen a real tigress residing in the cave. The cave thus came to be known as “Taktsang” meaning “the tigress’s lair”. The image of the wrathful Guru Dorje Droloe one of his eight manifestations mounting the tigress, as we witness today inside the temple is the form of a tigress in our impure perception but in reality the tigress is the form assumed of Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal. The monastery was built in the year 1692 with the command of the fourth desi (secular ruler of Bhutan) Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye. Today his reincarnation is residing in the Tango monastery.
After lunch you will visit Drukgyal dzong or the Fort of Drukpa victory, which is almost 10 miles north from the town. From this fortress Bhutanese repelled several invasions by Tibetans throughout the course of history. Looming above the smoldered ruins if the weather is clear you can see the snowcapped peak of Mount. Jhomolhari. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 11: Depart Paro
Have breakfast from the hotel and our representative will see you off at the airport. Good bye and have a nice flight. The Dragon Kingdom will soon disappear within its guardian mountains