This “Spiritual Adventure” immerses you to the only country remaining as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism in the Himalayan region. Buddhism is not just a religion for the people of Bhutan but a philosophy practiced as a way of life. It creates an atmosphere throughout the country, which can best be described as “open-heartedness and kindness. With the presence of numerous sacred sites where the founders of Buddhism have left their permanent imprints.
Under this spiritual tour we will provide you the ability to witness the role of the everyday lives of Bhutanese. We will arrange audiences with monks to gain further insight into our spiritual pursuit and also focus on the art of meditation.
Trip Name : “Spiritual Adventure in the Himalayan Kingdom”
Duration : 12 Nights and 13 Days
Grade : Historical and spiritual blend with cultural tour
Places covered : Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Bumthang,Ura Valley and Gangtey Valley.
Day 1: ARRIVE PARO AND DRIVE TO THIMPHU – Flight into Paro with Druk Air, Bhutan’s National Airline is spectacular. The flight takes you over the great Himalayas, offering most beautiful scenery of the world’s highest glacial peaks. As you enter Paro valley, you will see the Paro Dzong (Fortress) on the hillside overlooking the Paro Chhu (river), with Ta Dzong, formerly a watch tower and now the National Museum, above it. Farm houses dot the hillsides on either side of the Plane. You will be received by our representative at the Airport. You will than driven to the capital, Thimphu which is approximately one hour drive.
Over night at Hotel Riverview.
Day 2: THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING – You will begin photography of cultural interest with the visit to the National Memorial Chorten (Stupa), a shrine built in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan dedicated for world peace and prosperity followed by a visit to the Textile Museum to see a range of beautiful Bhutanese textiles and the Folk Heritage Museum which will provide an insight into traditional Bhutanese farm house and rural past through exhibits and documentation of rural life.
After lunch, visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine where Bhutan’s famed traditional medicines are compounded and dispensed followed by a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts (National Institute of Zorig Chusum) where students undergo training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts where photography of students are allowed. Also visit, the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts and the world’s largest published book, BHUTAN measuring 5x7feet and weighing nearly 150 pounds. Evening visit Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple which lies perched on a ridge above Thimphu and Takin Preserve to see the rare national animal of Bhutan. A further drive towards the BBS Tower will provide a bird’s eye view of the capital.
Over night at Hotel Riverview
Day 3: THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA – We recommend you to drive early morning before the sunrise to be able to capture the golden rays of the panoramic view of the north east Himalayas. It would be worth to drive towards Dochula right before the dawn to shoot the stunning vistas, (assuming clear weather.) Enroute you will stop at Dochula Pass at 10,000ft/3,080m which offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of Eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan’s highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum, 24,770ft/7,550m (provided the day is clear). However skies are mostly clear during the month of October till mid February. Also of interest are the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang built by Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan.
We will also arrange some surprises during the trip like putting up prayer flags along the way for safe journey and well being.
After breakfast at Dochula cafeteria, continue drive to Punakha where you will take a short hike to Chime Lhakhang (the fertility temple) built in 1499. It is an half an hour leisurely walk across a local village, rice fields from the road at Sopsokha to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana where you may photograph local farmers at work and traditional farm houses. You will be served with picnic lunch near the temple which is located on a hill lock, after lunch visit the impressive Punakha Dzong also known as Palace of Happiness which is considered to be the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan.
After the visit, you will be driven to your hotel in Punakha, the ancient winter capital of Bhutan which will take half an hour.
Over night at Meri Phunsum Resort.
Day 4: PUNAKHA TO TRONGSA – Morning, drive to Trongsa. On the way, you will get a good glimpse of Ruin Wangduephodrang Dzong (fortress) built in 1638 which is situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction. A fabulous 6 hour drive from Punakha to Trongsa will take you through forests of pine and cedar festooned with hanging lichens and through Pele-la Pass (10,830ft/3,300m), which will offer great opportunity for photography along the way. Stop en route at Chendebji Chorten, patterned on Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. You will be served lunch at Chendebji. After lunch resume your drive to Trongsa. Programme as convenient on arrival.
Over night at Yangkhill Resort.
Day 5: TRONGSA TO BUMTHANG –Soon after breakfast, take a short walk to impressive Trongsa Dzong built in 1643. Trongsa Dzong exhibits one of the most aesthetic and most magnificent works of the Bhutanese architecture and is the ancestral home of the Royal family. After the visit, resume your drive to Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. From Trongsa the road climbs quickly to Yutong-la pass (11,155ft/3425m) where the scenery changes to fir-covered slopes, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps and then enters the wide Chumey valley of Bumthang. We will stop for a while at Chumey to witness the skilled weavers at work at the “Yathra” (woollen cloth) weaving centre. Then continue drive to Jakar, the center of Bumthang valley.
Over night at Ugyenling Hotel
Day 6: BUMTHANG SIGHTSEEING – After breakfast, spent the day on photography and exploring the fascinating valley of Bumthang with the visit to sacred places, shrine and monuments. The religious heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples. The visit to sacred places and monuments will include Jambay Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples built in 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo followed by Kurjey Lhakhang which consists of three main separately built temples surrounded by 108 chortens (stupa) symbolic of each joint of the human body. A short hike across the suspension bridge will lead you to Tamshing Lhakhang built in 1501 said to have been built with the help of the celestial bodies. It is known for its ancient religious paintings of One Thousand Buddhas and Twenty One Taras (female form of Bodhisattvas). After lunch visit Jakar Dzong, known as the ‘Castle of the White Bird’. Evening is free to take a stroll through town to interact with the locals or shopping. Evening is free to relax or programmed as convenient.
While in the Temple Offer butter lamps and we will conduct special prayer ceremonies by the Buddhist monks for one’s well being, prosperity, and good health or even for the loss of a family member/friend.
Over Night at Ugyenling Hotel.
Day 7: BUMTHANG-Day excursion to URA Valley and back. – From Jakar to Ura is 48 km., about one and a half hours’ drive. To reach here, the road climbs through amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into forest. Sheep pastures line the road up to 20 km. behind the southern tip of the Tang valley. The road crosses Ura-la pass (3,600m), on the approach to which there is a magnificent view of Mt. Gangkar Puensum. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Above Ura village (3,100m) there is a new temple is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the Guru and remarkable wall paintings of the cycle of his teachings. Within the last 25 years Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to a prosperous valley.
Back to Bumthang. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel
Day 8: BUMTHANG TO PHOBJIKHA( GANGTEY VALLEY) – Drive to Phobjikha. Gangtey valley is one the most important wildlife preserves in the country because of the large flock of Black Necked Cranes in winter. Gangtey meaning hilltop housing as a heart of every activity with a small population of about 6500 people/inhabitants. Today’s Exploration of the Phobjikha Valley begins with a visit to the Cranes Observation and Education Centre. We will then take a short walk viewing the roasting ground of the magnificent birds.
After lunch we will drive uphill to visit the famous Gangtey Gompa that overlooks large green expanse of the valley.
Overnight at Ap Pemba’s Farm House.
Day 9: PHOBJIKHA TO WANGDUE –After breakfast, drive toward Wangdue on arrival you will get a good glimpse of Ruin Wangduephodrang Dzong (fortress) built in 1638 which is situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction.
Over night at Dragon’s Nest.
Day: 10 WANGDUE TO PARO – Today after breakfast tour will again takes us back over Dochu La Pass, enroute take the photograph of the Simtokha Dzong, the oldest in Bhutan, now a traditional school specializing in Dzongkha and religious studies. Along this route you will come across many farmers selling farm produces like, apples, peach, plum, pears, asparagus, cucumber, wild mushrooms at numerous spots. We will stop to capture Tachogang Monastery (15th Century) just before reaching Paro.
Over night at Gatana Farm House
Day: 11 HIKE TO TAKTSHANG (Tiger’s Nest)(3,200m) – After breakfast, hike to the most famous Taktshang, popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, built amazingly on a steep cliff. According to legend, Guru Padmasambhava flew here on a flying Tigress and meditated there for three months in the 8th century. It was from there, he propagated the Vajrayana- Mahayana Buddhism (Larger Wheel) that was prophesied by the Buddha at the time of attaining Nirvana. In April 1998, a fire destroyed the main structure of the buildings and its religious contents. A complete restoration was done and resulted in a carbon copy of the original. The return walking time is approximately five hours.
After lunch, drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong or ‘fortress of the victorious Drukpas’ was built in 1649. In fine weather, the towering peak of Mount Jomolhari, (7,314 m / 24,000 ft) appears as a backdrop. This mountain which marks the frontier with Tibet, is sacred, as are all mountains in Bhutan, and it is the dwelling place of Goddess Jomo. Drukyel Dzong, with a delightful village at its foot, is built on a rocky spur that blocked the Paro valley & protected it from invasions from the north. In 1951 a butter lamp fell & started a terrible fire and only the walls remained.
Dinner in a farm house on typical Bhutanese cuisine.
Over night at Gatana Farm House
Day 12: DAY EXCURSION TO HAA VALLEY- (2,736m) – Leaving Paro to the west by road, and after driving through pine and rhododendron forest, we begin our climb of the Chele-la pass (4,200 meters), the highest mountain pass in Bhutan. From here one has splendid views of the High Himalaya, including the magnificent peaks of Jhomolari, Bhutan’s most sacred peak at over 6,700m, and Jichu Drakey. A 22km descent from the top of the pass brings us to the erstwhile restricted zone of Haa. The Haa Dzong is presently occupied by the Bhutanese military, but the views from outside its walls are stunning.
After a picnic lunch there are visits to the Monastery of Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) followed by the Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple). The central shrine of Lhakhang Nagpo is said to resemble that of the Jowo in Lhasa, Tibet.
The three giant hills looming over the fringes of Haa Valley are popularly known today as ‘Rig Sum Goenpa’, signifying three deities: Jambayang, Chana Dorji and Chenrizig.
Return to Paro.
In evening witness especially arranged archery game with traditional bow and arrow followed by lessons in archery by locals.
Over night at Gatana Farm House
Day 13: DEPARTURE – Early transfer to Air Port