This little Himalayan kingdom jealously guards its lifestyle and ancient traditions. The beauty of the unspoilt landscape seems unreal to travelers from the industrialized world: houses with brightly decorated window frames and shingled roofs, patchworks of green paddy fields, plots of tawny buckwheat, oak forests, covered bridges bedecked in colorful prayer flags, fences of intricately woven bamboo, a man leaning on a wooden rail trampling his harvest, a woman weaving in the open air, a baby tied into a horse’s saddle bag, yaks browsing in groves of giant rhododendrons.
Such scenes remain in the memory forever. The symbols of Bhutan’s religion leave the deepest impression: chortens (commemorative monuments) dot the landscape, fluttering prayer flags, prayer wheels turned by the water of swift mountain streams and impressive monasteries. Buddhism is everywhere, determining attitudes, and molding thoughts.
Impenetrable jungles to the south and daunting ranges of snow-capped mountains to the north have always barred access to the remote valleys of the kingdom. In spite of many incursions by both Tibeto-Mongol troops and the armies of the British Empire stationed in India, the country has not been colonized since the 8th century. Bhutan has therefore kept alive its extremely rich heritage, stubbornly maintaining its distance from the modern world, proud of its own values and traditions.
Inspired to visit Bhutan? Have a look at similar trips Royal Mountain Travel can offer in this tiny Himalayan kingdom:
|Day 1||Paro – Transfer to Thimphu|
|Day 2||Thimphu sightseeing and Hike to Tango Monastery|
|Day 3||Thimphu–Lungchutse hike-Punakha|
|Day 4||Punakha – Paro Sightseeing|
|Day 5||Paro - Hike to Drakarpo|
|Day 6||Paro – Hike to Taktsang|
|Day 7||Paro – Departure|
Paro – Transfer to Thimphu
Welcome to Bhutan. Upon arrival be greeted by your local guide and escorted to the capital Thimphu. En route pass by Tamchog Lhakang Iron Bridge. Afternoon starts with National Memorial Chorten, built in honor of the 3rd king and people’s favorite spot to circumambulate and pray. Then visit the gigantic Buddha Dordenma Statue and Takin Sanctuary which shows you Bhutan’s unique national animal Tarkin. Next have a close encounter with the nuns at Zilukha Nunnery and ends at Thimphu Dzong (TrashichhoDzong), the largest religious building in Thimphu and the seat of the central administrative center (open after 5 pm, Monday to Friday).
Thimphu sightseeing and Hike to Tango Monastery
After breakfast we drive towards the north of Thimphu valley to hike to Tango Monastery. The drive takes around 45 minutes to cover the 25kms paved road. Once at the end of the motor able road hike for an hour to Tango Monastery situated on a spur overlooking the valley below. Tango monastery dates back to 16th century and it houses more than 150 monks who are pursuing in higher studies such as meditation and Buddhist Philosophy. After the visit the trail descends gradually until the motor-able road and then drive to Thimphu for lunch. After lunch, visit Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts School (Painting School) and the Textile Museum, where the art of traditional weaving is still kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in its color and design, then visit the Simply Bhutan where visitors learn about Bhutanese traditions, get to dress up in traditional clothes and be photographed in front of painted backdrops. There are also craft displays and a souvenir shop.
After breakfast start your drive to Punakha (approximately 3 hours’ drive), on your way stop at Dochula Pass to have a coffee break and admire the solemn 108 stupas. Take in the enchanting views of Mt. Himalaya if in good weather. You will start your hike from the large chorten in the middle of Dochula, the pass between Thimphu and Punakha at 3140 meters (10300 feet) above sea level. From here the trail slowly climbs a ridge through a forest of hemlock, birch and rhododendrons until reaching an open meadow. Again, you will enter into forest of moss-covered rhododendrons, gigantic hemlocks, junipers, and bamboo undergrowth. A small trail leads you the last 50 meters past a row of fluttering prayer flags up to Lungchutse temple. On clear days, the view from the temple is fantastic! You will have a 360° view of the Himalayas including views of Jumolhari (7314 m / 24000 f), Masang Gang in the region of Laya (7158 m / 23500 f), Zongophu Gang – a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana (7060 m / 23160 f) and Gangkhar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan and the highest unclimbed peak in the world (7497 m / 24600 f). You can also see GasaDzong, as a tiny white speck in a sea of green almost 50 kilometers to the north. After visiting the temple walk back to the road point and continue drive to Punakha. If time permits hike for few minutes to visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the Devine Madman and where people pray for children.
Punakha – Paro Sightseeing
After breakfast we start up with sightseeing in and around Punakha town and also visit to Punakha Dzong (Fortress). Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter residence of Central Monastic Body. Punakha Dzong is the most Magnificent and Largest Dzong in Bhutan located beautifully in between the two largest rivers of Bhutan. After the visit, we drive to beautiful KhamsumChorten, which takes 30-minute drive from the Punakha Dzong will bring you to the base of the hill on which this temple is built. From the car park, you have to cross a suspension bridge and walk through rice fields before you start climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. It takes about 1 hour from the car park to hike up to the temple, during the summer, the walk could be a bit muddy, so be prepared. A hiking pole is recommended. After visit hike down to the road point which takes around 30 min approx and continue drive back to Paro via Dochula pass. On the way pay a visit to SemtokhaDzong, Strategically built on a projecting ridge with deep gullies, the SimtokhaDzong overlooks and commands the entire Thimphu Valley. After arrived Paro visit Ta Dzong, (National Museum) built in the 17th century as a watch tower for the Paro Dzong. Just below the museum is the Paro RinpungDzong, built in 17th century to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now used as an administration center and school for monks. A short walk below the Dzong takes you across a traditional cantilevered to one of the innumerable archery grounds (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). Evening stroll down the Paro’s main shopping district to buy souvenirs’ for your friends and family back at home
Paro - Hike to Drakarpo
After breakfast drive to Shaba and from here you can hike about one hour to Drakarpo monastery located on a high cliff. Just before reaching the monastery walk clockwise around the cliff. On the top of the cliff you will see a cave, which is believed to have been used for meditation by a previous incarnation of NamkhaiNingpo. From this side you can see almost the whole of Paro valley. Continue round towards the other side of the cliff and descend about 10 minutes to the entrance. Visit the main altar room in the monastery which has a great story about how the Guru Rinpoche broke the rock and made a cave for his meditation in the mid-8th century. When you have finished your visit to the monastery we will return to the car which takes around 1 hour and drive back to Paro. After lunch drive to SangchenChokhor monastery, which was built by TrulkuChoglayShacha Tenzin in 1765, SangchenChokhorDensa (residence) means offerings of the relics to three realms. It was built in the place which is well known in china, Tibet and Hor (Mongolia), it was from three that the incarnation performed their act of Boddhichita. After your visit drive back to Paro.
Paro – Hike to Taktsang
Today we drive early to Ramthangkha to hike up to Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest). The hike up to the cafeteria will take around one and half hour approximately. At the viewpoint enjoy the stunning view of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. After lunch at the cafe walk back to the road point where your car will pick you up and then drive back to Paro. On your way back visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temple in Bhutan built in 7th century.
Paro – Departure
After early breakfast drive a short distance to Paro airport where your representative will help you with the exit formalities and bid you farewell and wish you a happy journey back home