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Mystical Land, Magical Elements
Places covered: Bumthang, Monggar, Paro, Punakha, Samdrup Jongkhar, Thimphu, Trongsa, Wangdiphodrang
Duration for Journey: 15 days (14 Nights, 15 Days)
Explore the highlands of this country enriched with rich biodiversity, exceptional collection of flora and fauna, surf through the changing landscapes of valleys and hills, get a taste of the Bhutanese culture that is unique and aside from anywhere in the world, get to know the lifestyle of the people of Bhutan who have changed from medieval to modern and yet retain the essence of nationality in this drastically progressing world.
Under this tour you will be able to do all that and at the same time feel refreshed by the serenity of places and the deep sense of tranquility you will be presented with.
First Day – Arrival at Paro
Druk Air is the national airline of Bhutan. You can board a flight on it, bound for Paro from Bangkok, Kolkata, New Delhi or Kathmandu.
The preview to what Bhutan has to offer starts immediately once aboard the flight, as you feast your eyes on the majestic peaks of the eastern Himalayas. From above you can see some of the untamed or unclimbed peaks of Bhutan as part of the mountain range. Before that, you will already have had enjoyed a bird eye’s view of the highest mountain range of the world, the Mt. Everest and also Mt. Kanchenjunga.
A representative from A Way To Bhutan, your guide will receive you upon arrival and drive you to your hotel. Feel free to take a walk through Paro’s old-fashioned two-street town toward evening (a guide can accompany you if you wish), browse through the shops, or just take in the scenery which you will find appealingly different.
Second Day – Excursion to the Tiger’s Nest
The catch of the day as far as attractions go, may just be the site you will visit next – Taktsang monastery. Taktsang literally means Tiger’s Nest.
Taktsang Monastery is a most spectacular site, perched high and precariously on a steep 800m rock face. Prepare for a two hour walk uphill after you have been reached at the foot of the Taktsang cliff by the company vehicle. There is also the option to take riding-ponies which can be arranged by the company prior to your arrival, as it is a four hour trip in total back-and-forth.
Taktsang is a most holy pilgrimage site blessed by Guru Padmasambhava who is believed to have flown to this spot on the back of a tigress in his wrathful form called Guru Dorji Drolo and it is believed that his consort Yeshey Tshogyal had transformed into the tigress which he rode. Guru Padmasambhava had meditated at the site for three months giving the temple a highly sacred status and thereby making it a popular pilgrimage destination for Buddhists not just in the country but everywhere around the world. In 1684, the Fourth Desi (temporal ruler) of Bhutan, Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye, built a monastery on the site and named it Taktshang drawing from the origins in the Padmasambhava legends.
Third Day – Sightseeing in Paro
The day’s plans are not nearly tiring as the climbs and drops of the landscape may suggest. After breakfast visit the Ta Dzong. The name Ta Dzong translates to ‘watch tower’ and it served the function of watch tower for the Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Back in the day, similar look-out points were built for other dzongs (fortresses) to counter any approaching hostilities, for those were the days of frequent strife. These towers were specifically built high atop hills and other vantage points during the old days.
Presently serving as the national museum, it houses an array of antiquities such as ancient thangka (exquisite scroll painting), mural paintings and other forms of art done by great personalities of those days, original textiles of the kingdom which represent the culture that still flourishes, weapons & armour used back in the day, household objects typical to the Bhutanese people’s way of life back then and even now, and other natural and historical artifacts.
After a brief walk down from the museum you will have reached Rinpung Dzong (‘fortress of a heap of jewels’). It serves as seat of the Paro district administration and residence for the monastic school. Rinpung dzong like all other dzongs in Bhutan is adorned with wall murals that symbolize the lives of the Bodhisattvas and other prominent saints, drawings from Buddhist parables within which the country’s culture and traditional life is intricately represented and holy symbols that signify their own individual religious meanings.
Drukgyel Dzong or the fortress of the victorious Drukpas will be the next stop. History recalls the dzong as being built to celebrate the victories over several Tibetan invasions which were successfully countered from this defence point. The fort was gutted by a fire disaster in the 1950s but has been left in the form of historical ruins to this day to pay homage to what it stands for. You can also see the white dome of Mount Jomolhari (mountain of goddess) from the location.Day- 04 Thimphu Sightseeing
Fourth and Fifth Day – Thimphu sightseeing and other interests
Breakfast and proceed to Thimphu, the capital city. The journey will be for about two hours and on the way you will be able to visit the Semtokha Dzong, which is the oldest dzong in the kingdom built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The dzong has been serving as a school for Buddhist studies for a long time now and continues to do so. As you warm up to the core regions of Thimphu, you can visit the Memorial Chorten called Gongzo Chorten or Gyaldren Chorten. The chorten was built in memory of the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Later in the list of places to visit are the Handicrafts Emporium, the Textile Museum and the local market. You shall also have the opportunity to visit Trashichhodzong (fortress of glorious heritage), which houses the office of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. It is the seat of the government while it also houses the monks of the central monastic body.
Depending on your interests, visits can also be arranged to other places like the Changangkha Lhakhang, Kuensel Phodrang where lies the giant Buddha Dordenma (touted as the tallest sitting Buddha by the project sponsors), Dechenphug monastery and others.
Most of these places to be visited have ‘no photography’ rules and it has to be respected as it falls in line with the country’s cultural preservation rules. You can enquire with your guide about these rules as and when you visit places, as photography is not entirely prohibited unless for strictly specified areas, as mentioned above.
Sixth Day – Thimphu – Punakha/Wangduephodrang
A drive to Punakha and Wangduephodrang is planned for you today after breakfast. On the way, you can make a stop at the Dochula pass (Altitude 3050m) for a tea or coffee break while you enjoy a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan range. You will be served lunch at a hotel.
Later in Punakha, visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple built by Lam Drukpa Kuenlay the Divine Madman and renowned for blessing sterile men or women women with fertility. Foreign couples have also been known to especially visit this temple and have their children named after the temple, that is ‘Chimi’ or after the saint himself, which is ‘Kuenlay.’
After that, visit Punakha Dzong, a fortress engirdled by two rivers on its left and right. The rivers are designated as male and female rivers and called Phochu and Mochu.
Your overnight stay will be at a Hotel in Wangdiphodrang
Seventh Day – Wangdiphodrang – Trongsa
Have an early but good breakfast. After that we will head to Trongsa which takes about 6 hrs. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Chendebji. Relax, take pictures and enjoy the serene picture of the area around the chorten.
Your overnight stay will be at a lodge in Trongsa
Eighth Day – Trongsa to Bumthang
In the morning we shall visit the Trongsa Dzong. This dzong is supposed to be the longest dzong in Bhutan amongst the ones built across the nation by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. However its length is hardly the reason for which it is significant in the country’s history. Trongsa was the seat of power for the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel who played a huge role in defeating and bringing together different warring factions under a stable system of governance.
This noble objective was continued by his son Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk who succeeded in unifying the whole nation under one king’s common rule when he was enthroned and crowned as The First King of Bhutan, unanimously by the people of Bhutan on December 17, 1907. The day has ever since been celebrated as the National Day of Bhutan.
After taking into detail the architecture of the Trongsa dzong which is a specimen of fine Bhutanese craftsmanship, head for the dzong’s watch tower or Trongsa Ta Dzong. Initially and primarily built to serve as a lookout point for defence and security reasons, the tower now serves as a museum which boasts a collection of antiquities like historic paintings done by great Buddhist saints, teachers and personalities of those times. The museum also has a few items that are demonstration of the art and crafts skills displayed by Jigme Namgyel.
A three hour journey to Bumthang follows, so have your lunch in good preparation of it. Enjoy the drive as the journey will be a pleasant drive-by experience among the sights and scenes along the way. You will be passing over Yongtong La pass (3340m) on the way. Also observe the Yathra weaving center at Zungey.
Ninth Day – Bumthang sightseeing
Start the day with a fulfilling breakfast as the events planned for you involves exploring many a monasteries and temples. The valley has more flatlands compared to other dzongkhags of the country but its different locations are perched at elevations ranging from 8,500ft to more than 13,000ft.
Places you will visit include some of the most ancient and holy temples blessed by the eighth century saint Guru Padmasambhava. One such temple is the Jambay Lhakhang which was built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. He had built 108 lhakhangs to suppress a supine demoness, Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang and Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro are two among the 108.
Also, another Lhakhang blessed by Guru Rinpoche is the Kurje Lhakhang. Kurje means ‘body print’ and the Lhakhang displays an area where the Guru had left his print on the wall of a cave when he meditated in it.
You will visit the two temples in the afternoon while you will be able to visit other lhakhangs just as holy and ancient as the two above. To name a few there’s the Tamshing Lhakhang, which is a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings, Kenchogsum Lakhang and Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley.
The place is also famous for the Bumthang Cheese, Bumthang Honey and Bumthang Bukhari (stove to warm yourselves during winter. And one other product that
In the evening take a stroll through the Bumthang town.
Many other places of interest remain for you to visit so, you can make the changes in the itinerary through enquiries with the company before-hand to extend the duration in Bumthang if you have certain sites that you deeply wish to visit like the Mebartsho or ‘the burning lake’ which is hugely popular among many visitors.
Bumthang, besides being a bastion of holy sites is also a most attractive place for trekking and hiking enthusiasts therefore if you wish to engage yourself with them the request can be made as mentioned above with A Way To Bhutan.
Your overnight stay will be at the lodge in Bumthang
Tenth Day – Bumthang to Mongar
The journey of over 190 kms will take about seven hours as we continues eastward winding through more rugged terrains. The drive will be almost 7 hours long but don’t agonize over it as the whole trip is greeted with spectacular views. Pass through Ura village in Bumthang before climbing sharply to the highest motorable pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass (4,000 m). Gradually drop down to Sengor, with cascading waterfalls on the way.
The descent stops at 700m, on a bridge over the Kurichu. Drive up again through pine forest, maize fields and eastern hamlets to Mongar town. Visit Mongar Dzong, which was built quite recently.
Your overnight stay will be at a lodge in Mongar
Eleventh Day – Mongar – Trashigang
This trip will prove to be longer and may be comparatively tiring for you. The journey will cover about 96 kms take about 3 hours passing through Kori la pass (2,450m), the place marked by a pretty Chorten and a stonewall. The first part of the journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. Later road descends rapidly through cornfields and banana groves and the famous zigzags of Yadi, a recent settlement. About 30 km onward lies Trashigang at 1000m. Trashigang is the biggest and most populated district in the country. Visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of the spur, overlooking the Gamri river. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and the monastic school.
Your Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang
Twelfth Day -Trashigang and Excursion to Trashiyangtse
Situated 24s kms from Trashigang, visit the temple of Gom Kora , set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is the spot where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon. Further ahead reach Doksum village where you can see women weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric and a chain bridge dating back to the 15th century. Visit to Trashiyangtse Dzong, situated at the altitude of 1,850m. Evening return to Trashigang.
Your overnight stay will be at the lodge in Trashigang
Thirteenth Day – Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
The 6 to 7 hour drive to the Samdrup Jongkhar town (in the south bordering Assam) is about 180 kms. We shall be passing through Kanglung, the site of Bhutan’s only university, Sherubtse College .
Stay overnight at a hotel
Fourteenth Day 14 Samdrup Jongkhar – Guwahati Airport
You can drive to Guwahati, which is 2-3 hours to connect your onward flight to Delhi/Kolkotta. Representative (s) of A Way To Bhutan will bid you farewell.
OR… an alternative route could be
Thirteenth Day Day 13 Trashigang – Bumthang
After breakfast drive back to Bumthang where you can have lunch on the way. Your overnight stay will be at a lodge in Bumthang.
Day 14 – Bumthang – Punakha (205 km, 6 hours)
Morning visit Bumthang market and drive to Punakha, a journey of about 6 hours. We can stop for lunch in Trongsa town.
. Your overnight stay will be at a hotel in Punakha
Day 15 – Punakha to Paro
Spend you free time in Punakha and after lunch drive to Paro for overnight stay
Sixteenth Day – Departure From Bhutan
Have a good breakfast at the hotel, drive to Paro airport for flight to your onward destination. The Representative (s) from Absolute Bhutan will bid you farewell.