Legends Of The Peaceful Thunder Dragon
Places Covered: Paro, Phuentsholing, Punakha, Thimphu, Wangdiphodrang
Duration of Tour: Seven Days (Six Nights)
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 – 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.
Third Day – Excursion to the Tiger’s Nest and Trip To Thimphu
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.
Your overnight stay will be at a hotel in Thimphu
Fourth Day -Thimphu Sightseeing
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
Your overnight stay will be at a Hotel in Thimphu
Fifth Day – Punakha sightseeing
The day’s program is scheduled for after lunch, which is travelling to Punakha. In the morning, there’s time enough to make a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum, National Library, Painting School and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine in Thimphu.
The drive to Punakha, which is the old capital of Bhutan begins after lunch.
The Dochula pass (altitude – 3,050m above sea level) falls on the way, so make sure to take time and enjoy the view of the mountains from the pass. Dochula also has 108 chortens built on it that adds to the scenic grandeur of greenery and mountain peaks.
The journey to Punakha is about two and half hours. In Punakha, you will visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple built by Lama Drukpa Kuenlay most popularly known as the Divine Madman due to his odd and at times grossly weird mannerisms through which he propagated his teachings or subdued demons and demoness.
The temple is most visited and worshipped for it is believed to bless sterile men and women with the boon of fertility. Many foreign couples have also visited Bhutan specifically to receive blessings from Drukpa Kuenlay and have their children named after the Buddhist saint or his temple, as has been the custom so far to add the name ‘Kuenlay’ to their names or ‘Chimi.’ In the evening, you can visit the Pungthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss) or simply Punakha Dzong.
Punakha Dzong houses the sacred Machen Lhakhang, which is the holy sanctum where Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s relics are preserved. The Kings of Bhutan receive blessings and ceremonial scarves for their coronations which are blessed by the lhakhang.
The dzong was built in 1636-37 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is a fine specimen of Bhutanese architecture. It is said that not a single nail was used in the construction of the dzong. It served as the ancient capital of Bhutan for centuries before it was shifted to Thimphu in the 1950s.
Your overnight stay will be at the Hotel in Punakha
Sixth Day – Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Chorten then to Thimphu
After breakfast, you will visit the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a temple that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above Punakha valley. The temple was built by the Queen Mothers to ward off negative energies, promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world after it was prophesied in the scriptures by Thragthung Dudjom Lingpa.. It is said all its unique architectural designs have been drawn from the scriptures.
A three hour journey awaits you so Lunch accordingly. The drive will however be very pleasant as you surf through the sights and scenery of mountains, green forests, check out birds and animals that you may sight on the way.
Your overnight stay will be at a hotel in Thimphu
Seventh Day – Thimphu to Phuentsholing (179km. 6hrs)
After breakfast drive to Phuentsholing at the Indo-Bhutan boarder (180Km). The drive between Thimphu to Phuentsholing is beautiful with varying forests, waterfalls and quaint hamlets. You can stop for Lunch at Phuentsholing.
After lunch representative (s) of A Way To Bhutan will bid you farewell.
Note: For visitors wishing to enter by land and exit by Druk Air, the program can be reversed.