Seventeen days tour of Bhutan starts in Paro during one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan and it will take you across Bhutan on a cultural and textile tour of Bhutan. You will fly in west Bhutan and exit via the southern town of east Bhutan. This tour will give you first hand experience of Bhutan, its culture, its people and the pristine environment.
Seventeen days tour
Day 01. April 08, 2017 Bangkok to Paro.
The flight to Paro crosses the Himalaya Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. If you arrive via Kathmandu, which offers the most breathtaking view of the range, it’s possible to see Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga as well.. On arrival you will be greeted by Bhutan representative and transferred to your hotel. Afternoon visit the Paro Dzong and the national museum In the evening you can explore Paro town. Overnight in Paro.
Day 02. April 09, Paro Festival.
Paro festival is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. Its celebrated to commemorate the famous saint Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan. This festival is a great place to mingle with the locals. If you prefer you have the opportunity to sit with and share your lunch with the local family. People dress in their best and come to receive blessings during this festival. It’s a great place to see different type of dress (textiles) people wear. Some of the woman’s dress will be over 90 years old. Such dress are worn only once during such occasion and are passed down generations. Overnight Paro.
Day 03. April 10, Paro.
Morning at the festival. After lunch you will visit the following places: Drugyel Dzong. The victory fort built after victory over the Tibetian forces. Its being renovated now.
Paro Kyichu Lhankhang. One of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.
Dungtshe lhakhang. Build by the famous iron chain bridge builder in Bhutan.
Evening in Hotel
Day 04. April 11. Tiger Nest hike.
After early morning breakfast, We will take you for a morning hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Hanging precariously and magically from a rather steep cliff, the Taktshang monastery is a monument of genuine pride for the Bhutanese nation. It defies architectural principles to the core and amazes tourists from around the world.
It is a sight to behold. Taktsang or the Tigers lair as the monastery is called, it is widely regarded is one of the most important monuments of spiritual significance in Bhutan. Its history is deeply associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the revered Indian saint who came to Bhutan in the 8th century AD. The cave was named Taktsang after Guru Rinpoche flew into the cave from KurtoeSingyeDzong in eastern Bhutan while riding on a tigress. When he landed in the cave, he took the wrathful form of Guru DorjiDrolo who is regarded as one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche to decimate the demons.
Several saints have chosen this sanctuary to pray and meditate in solitude. The monastery was built in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgaye who is said to be one of the reincarnations of Guru Rinpoche. The Monastery consists of four main temples along with their residences that are constructed along the rock ledge. There 8 caves in total out of which 4 are relatively easy to access.
The monastery was ravaged by fire twice in the 1900s first in 1951 and later the fire of 1998, which nearly destroyed the monastery completely. The government then undertook a comprehensive reconstruction in 200 with funding from foreign donors. The monastery was recreated to its original splendor and re-opened to the public shortly thereafter.
From the road, the hike toward Taktsang follows an uphill route and takes approximately 3-4 hours at an average walking pace on a clear, sunny day. We recommend that you carry sunscreen lotion, large quantities of drinking water, a walking stick just in case you need to shoo of the birds and a hat to further protect yourself from the sun.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 05, April 12 Thimphu to Punakha. ( 3 hours drive)
Today early morning after breakfast, we will visit to Punakha via Dochula Pass. We will stop over for tea at Dochula (3,150 m), where on a sunny day, you can get stunning views of the Himalayan ranges. The Dochu La Pass is probably the best known mountain pass in Bhutan. Located at an altitude of 3150 meter above sea level, the Dochu La Pass is about 30 kilometer away from the capital city Thimphu and the road to Punakha.
On a clear day the pass offers visitors a spectacular view of the majestic eastern Himalayan Ranges. A cup of hot coffee or tea at the pass has almost become part of tradition for people travelling to and fro from Punakha to the capital city.
There is a small cafeteria at the pass that offers a chance for travelers to enjoy a hot beverage or a snack, it is located just off the road and overlooks the pass and is an ideal place to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Another striking feature at the pass are the 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens, that were built for the well-being of all sentiment beings on earth. The 108 Chorten were built as a tribute to the Kings of Bhutan for their selfless service and leadership they offer to the people of Bhutan. These Stupas or Chortens also represent the peoples love, appreciation and loyalty towards the country’s King. Then we will drive towards Punakha and visit:-
The Royal Botanical park, also known as the Rhododendron Garden at Lamperi is about half and hour drive towards Punakha/Wangdue.
The Chimi Lhakang or the Chimmy Lhakhang is a Bhuddhist monastery located in the Punakha District of Bhutan. The monastery stands on a small hill close to the village of Lobesa and was constructed in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa heirarch.
The Temple is very deeply connected to the legends of Saint Drukpa Kinley also known as the Devine Madman. It has been said that the demon of Dochu-La with a magic thunderbolt of wisdom in imprisoned him in a rock close to the temple. Drukpa Kuenley is called the Divine Madman due to his unorthodox methods of teaching via songs, humor and sometimes bizarre and shocking behavior with deep sexual overtones. You might be shocked to see that the temple houses a number of wooden phalluses that the Lama had brought with him from Tibet. Pilgrims who visit the monastery receive the blessing by being struck on the head with a ten inch wooden Phallus (erect penis). The symbol of an erect penis is said to ward off evil.
The monastery is also known as the temple of fertility and is visited not only by the Bhutanese but women from countries as far as Japan and United States to receive a special blessing that can help these women conceive children. These women receive the blessing by getting struck on the head with a 10 inch wooden/ ivory phallus.
The Temple can be accessed by undertaking a short 20 minute walk across the rice fields from the nearest road head. The Lhakhang is a square shaped building with a golden spire on its roof. The temple has many rows of prayer wheels and the temples exterior has embedded slate carvings of various Buddhist saints.
Near the temples entrance there is a small Chorten that marks the spot where the Lama subdued the demon of Dochu La.
The Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu River, combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu which in turn is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Dzong was constructed by Sahbdrung Ngwang Namgyal Wangchuck in 1638 on the exact spot as prophesized by the Guru Rinpoche some 800 years ago.
According to the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche “a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. And lo behold! Shabdung Ngawang Namgyal found that the peak of the hill was in the shape of an elephant’s trunk and built the Dzong at that very spot. Another
legend associated with the Dzhong is that of Zowe Palep, the architect of the Dzong received vision of the Dzong in his sleep. This vision got imprinted in the architects mind and enabled him to construct the Dzong without putting his plans to paper.
The Punakha Dzong is the second largest and the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong is home to some of the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism; it is also home to the sacred mortal remains of Shabdrung Nagawang Namgyal and Trenton Pema Lingpa the great treasure discoverer of Bhutan. The Punakha Dzong has also served as the of capital Bhutan till 1955 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. The Dzhong is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the central monastic body.
Overnight in a hotel in Punakha.
Day 6. April 13, 2017. Punakha to Thimphu
After breakfast drive to Thimphu. Do the following sightseeing in the afternoon.
National memorial chorten
The National Memorial was built by Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who is also known as the “father of modern Bhutan.” He wanted to erect a monument carrying the message of world peace and prosperity. However, he was unable to give shape to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state and other regal responsibilities. After his untimely demise in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to eternal peace, harmony and tranquility The National Memorial Chorten was gifted to the nation on 28 July, 1974. The exquisite wall paintings and the delicately carved statues reflect deep insights into Buddhist spirituality and a rich tradition of prayer and learning.
The National Memorial Chorten is known as the ‘most visible religious landmark in Bhutan’. The Chorten was consecrated by His Holiness, the Late Dudjorn Rinpoche. Unlike other Stupas the Chorten is not a shrine for the mortal of the late King. The Chorten on contains a photograph of the King in full ceremonial attire. The King had intend for the Choten to be “ a Chorten that represents the mind of Bhuddha ”
The national Memorial Chorten is located in the center of the capital city, Thimphu and is designed like a Tibetan style Chorten. The Chorten is patterned of the classical Stupa design with a pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. One of the most distinct features of the Chorten is its outwards flaring rounded part that makes the Chorten look more like a vase rather than the classical dome. The interior of the Chorten has a large number of paintings of Tantric deities, in explicit sexual poses that sometimes can be a little disconcerting to visitors.
The Kuensel Phodrang or the Buddha point is the world’s largest sitting Buddha statue, the statue is 167 feet high. The statue is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Timphu, it can be accessed by road and is about 15 minutes away from the city’s center. The word Kuensel means everything is clear and from this place you will sure enjoy a great view of the Thimphu Valley on both sides. The statute will house a temple inside it, the statue and its adjoining car park and recreational center are currently under construction and is expected to be ready by December 2012.
The statue is constructed out of bronze and is studded with many semi-precious stones. Since they are no factories in country that can make such a large bronze cast structure, statute is being manufactured in China and the pieces are brought to Bhutan and are assembled here. On the drive to the statue the steep winding hill road offers an unparalleled view of the city of Thimphu and is an excellent place to capture a view of the city especially after dark. A journalist once described the view as “seeing an oasis of light in the desert of darkness “as the city light of Thimphu shine very bright in an otherwise dark Thimphu valley. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 7, April 14,2017 Thimphu.
Morning visit the centenary farmers market. Its an interesting places to see farmers with their various products for sale.
The Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery cum fortress at the northern edge of Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan. The Dzong was built on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, and has historically served at the seat of the Druk Desi or the Dharma Raja of Bhutan’s government. After the kings assumed power in 1907 this post was combined with that of the king and Thimphu severed as the summer capital of the kingdom before becoming the full time capital of Bhutan.
The original Thimphu Dzong (the Dho-Ngyen Dzong) is said to have been constructed in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa. And was later taken over by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo before the Dzong was conquered by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who found the Dzong to be too small and expanded it to what is now known as the Tashichho dzong is also called the “fortress of glorious religion.” It was erected in 1641 and was subsequently rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s.
The Dzong has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room and the Kings secretariat. The Tashichho dzong is also home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country’s main spiritual order. The monument welcomes visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu festival which is held in autumn each year. The Dzong’s main structure is a two striped quadrangle with 3 storied towers on each of its four corners
Folk heritage museum.
The folk heritage museum was open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. It treasures troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. Try to schedule your visit during the morning hours since the museum is less crowded at that time and there is plenty of sunlight to go around.
The folk heritage museum is housed in a replica traditional Bhutanese house learn first-hand about Bhutan’s rich cultural traditions, its deeply rooted heritage which spans thousands of years and the Bhutanese way of life. The tour of this almost living museum will also give you a glimpse onto how many rural folk of the country live today following the ancient Bhutanese ways.
National textile museums:
The second important Museum that also opened its doors in 2001 is the National Textile Museum of Bhutan. During a trip to this museum you will get an up close and personal experience of the living national art of weaving. The changing exhibitions at the museum will introduce you to the major weaving techniques that the weavers employ to make these beautiful fabrics. It also gives you a chance to see the various styles of dressing of the men and women from different parts of Bhutan. The museums exhibits follow 6 major themes :
Motithang takin preserve
The Motithang Takin Preserve also known as the Thimphu Zoo by many is a small natural preserve for the Takin Bhutan’s national animal. It was originally a mini zoo, but it was converted in a preserve later on as the Takin. The mini zoo contained a small number of Takin but the King of Bhutan later decreed that it was improper for a Buddhist nation to keep an animal in captivity. The animals were set free and the zoo was shut down, but for some reason the Takin refused to leave the area for the forests nearby. Instead the animals were frequesntly found roaming around the streets of the capital city in search for food. As a result the government decided to demarcate an 8 acre fenced location as the Motithang Takin Preserve.
The preserve is a forested preserve that mimics the Takin’s natural habitat, in addition to the Takin there are a few musk deer and barking deer that live inside the preserve. There are plans to expand the preserves collection to include other rarely seen animals that live in Bhutan, currently the preserve plans to add the Red Panda and the Himalayan Serow to the preserve.
National institute of zorig chusum
The art and crafts currently taught in Bhutan, were introduced to the country in the 15th century by Trenton Pema Lingpa. Trenton Pema Lingpa also known as the Great Treasure National Institute for Zorig Chusum – Discoverer is credited to have introduced these art forms to the people of Bhutan. These traditional crafts are a representation of the centuries of knowledge and ability that was been handed down to master craftsmen and artisan through each generation. Bhutan’s unique artistic tradition has played a vital role in shaping the countries distinct culture and heritage.
It was realized that this unique and priceless heritage of the nation need to be protected and promoted with the strong patronage of the royal government. With this vision in mind the royal institute for Zoring Chusum was established in the year 1971 to train the youth in the 13 traditional Arts and Crafts of Bhutan.
The institute now falls under the aegis of the National Technical Training Authority which was established in 1990 to ensure high quality vocational training for the people of the country. The institute has now been operational for almost 40 years and has taught students the arts of painting, embroidery, calligraphy, sculpting and wood carving.
Bhutan’s National Library was established in the 1967. Its mission is to preserve the literary treasures of the nation which constitute a significant heritage. The library was established with a small collection of precious texts, National library Thimphu Bhutan and was housed in the central tower of the Tashicho Dzong. The collection then moved to the its present building located in the Changangkha area of Thimphu. The building that houses the collection is traditionally constructed four storied eight cornered building that is a homage to the central tower temple located in Bhutanese Dzongs. It houses an extensive collection and archive of Buddhist literary works mostly in ancient block-printed format, with some manuscripts several hundred years old. This collection, which is also known as the “Choekey Collection,” mainly comprises Buddhist literature written in Choekey, the religious script of Northern Buddhism. It also includes works written both in Tibetan and in Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language. There is also a foreign literature collection which comprises works written in English with subject interest on Buddhist studies, Bhutan, the Himalayan region and neighboring countries like India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka where the Buddhist religion is also practiced.
The Chagangkha Lhakhang temple is a early medieval Buddhist temple in the capital city Thimphu. The temple is situated on a ridge overlooking the city, near Mothithang on the outskirts of Thimphu. The temple is the oldest temple in Thimphu and was constructed by Lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo in the 12 century AD. Lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo is also the founder of the Drukpa Kaygo School of Buddhism. The Lhakhang’s central deity is Chenirizig. There is a large statue of Chenrizig, the 11 headed, thousand arm manifestation of Avolokiteshwara. The prayer books in the temple are larger in size compared to the usual Buddhist texts. There are also large prayer wheels and paintings in the walls of the temple. The temple offers an excellent view of the city of Thimphu from its courtyard.
Jungshi handmade paper factory
The Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory is a small paper factory located in Thimphu that produces paper using traditional Bhutanese methods. The paper products produced at the factory are made from Daphne or Mulberry plant bark. On you visit to the factory you will see the process from the beginning to the end. The process starts with people pulling the bark off the plant to the process of cooking to create wood pulp to the creation of the final product. There is a small shop at the factory that sells a variety of paper and stationary that is produced from paper made here.
Day 8, April 15. Day hike to Phajoding.
This hike is one of the traditional trade routes between Paro and Thimphu. This is a full day hike and you will climb an altitude of 4000 meters. Depending on the pace of your walk you will either visit the monastery and return or climb the ridge above the monastery. From here you will be able to see some of the tallest peaks in Bhutan. Overnight Thimphu.
Day 7, April 16, Fly Paro to Bumthang.
Check in the your hotel and take a walk around the Chamkhar river. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 09. April 17. Bumthang
After breakfast you will visit the following places:
*** Jakar Dzong (fortress)
*** Jambey Lhakhang (one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan)
*** Kurjey Lhakhang (temple of Guru Rinpoche’s body print)
*** Tamshing Lhakhang (see old Buddhist paintings)
*** Short hike to Thangbi Monastery
You can spend the evening exploring Bumthang town.Overnight in Bumthang
Day 10, April 18, Bumthang to Mongar
You will begin your journey to eastern Bhutan, which is different from western and central Bhutan in terms of development and lifestyle. The steepness of the region lends itself to some spectacular views, with rushing waterfalls and sheer drops. The drive on this day is an exhilarating 8 hours, particularly the Thrumshing La (pass), which peaks at 3,750 meters. You can wander around Mongar town in the evening and sit down to a relaxing dinner. Overnight in Mongar.
Day 11, April 19,Mongar Lhuntshe to Mongar
After early breakfast,drive about 77 km to Lhuentse with a packed lunch as there are no good restaurants and hotels in Lhuentse district. Lhuentse is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs,gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is notably famous for its special skills of weavers, and special textiles and fabrics.Textiles from Lhuentse is normally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is also the ancestral home of the Royal dynasty in Bhutan.
After lunch,walk to Khoma village which is famous for textile in Bhutan.Here you will see women folks weaving different types of textiles with intricate patterns.If you would like, you may also purchase textiles at a little cheaper rate than handicraft shops.
If time permits, Lhuentse Dzong: The approach to this Dzong (fort) is through a flag-stone-paved path over the vertical drops. The Dzong houses a body of 100 monks of the country. In the 16th century Pema Lingapa’s son Kunga Wangpo set up this Dzong in the form of a small Gompa. In 1654 it was renovated by the Trongsa penlop Mingyur Tenpa.
Drive back to Mongar for overnight stay at a hotel in Mongar.
Day 12 April 20 – Mongar – Tashiyangste After a leisurely breakfast we visit Mongar Dzong, Yagang Lahkang and the Community Farming Centre. We may even see the brewing of wine from corn. After lunch we head for Tashiyangtse. En-route we visit the historical Gom Kora Chorten (stupa) – a popular pilgrimage site where Guru Rimpoche meditated and subdued a massive demon. Every spring the Gom Kora Festival is held here. On arrival in the quiet and lovely town of Trashiyangtse we visit the local dzong and Chorten Kora (stupa). Chorten Kora was constructed in 1740 and it is said to be a replica of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandhu, Nepal. There are only two other replicas – one in Tibet and one in Arunachal Pradesh. Gom Kora also has an annual masked dance festival that is well worth a visit. Tashiyangtse is famous for woodcarving. There is an area where the black cranes may fly in annually from Tibet. We may, if time permits, visit the Institute for training in traditional arts and crafts.
Day 13 April 21. Tashiyangtse – Trashigang Trashigang is about a 3 hour drive. It is the second largest district in Bhutan and the main market place for the East, including people from Merak & Sakten. You will recognize them by their unique little yak hair hats and yak leather coat. From Trashigang we take an excursion to the village of Radi and visit the weavers. We travel back to Trashigang and visit its impressive dzong – a 17th century fortress standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri River.
Day 14 April 22 – Trashigang – Samdrup Jongha Early morning breakfast, drive out of the high ranges into the thick jungles to Samdrup Jonghar (6 hours). Along the way we pass by Sherubste, the first college of the country in Kanglung, then we go on to Khaling to the National Institute for the Disabled and the Weaving Centre. (we need to have made application in Thimphu to visit) From here, it is a further 80 km. to Deothang, which is the site of a famous 19th century battle in which the forces of Jigme Namgyal defeated the British. The road then descends to the plains.
Day 15, April 23 stop at Hajo Assam on way to Guwahati for overnight
Day 16, April 24 GAU to BKK 12:34-17:05 flight