Discovery of Bhutan

Nestling in the majestic Himalayas, fiercely guarding it’s ancient traditions, lies Bhutan. Discover the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ on this dramatic journey through this tiny and remote kingdom, shrouded in mystery. 

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Day 1

Upon arrival in Paro you will be met by a representative of Luxury Trips and driven to Thimphu (1.5 hours). Upon arrival in Thimphu, check in to your hotel for dinner and overnight. 

Thimphu (at 2300m) is Bhutan’s capital city and center of government, religion and commerce. It is located less than two hours from Paro and maintains a strong national character in its architectural style. It was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became Bhutan’s official national capital. The massive Tashicho Dzong, about 700 years old, was carefully revamped in the 1960’s by the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, to house the royal and main government offices. 

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Day 2

After breakfast, depart on a sightseeing tour of the Thimphu Valley. 

Visit the National Library, which houses a priceless collection of Buddhist manuscripts.  Also visit the National Memorial Chorten – Thimphu’s landmark built in 1974 in the memory of third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is a four-story tall white building, containing statues and iconography of deities from complex tantric teachings, and serves as an important place of worship for locals. After a stop at the Tashichho Dzong, the central monastic body of Bhutan, head to the craft center to see some of Bhutan’s main arts and crafts.  Finally visit the Motithang Takin Preserve, previously known as the Thimpu Zoo, where you will see the Takin, which is a goat-antelope endemic to this region, and the National Animal of Bhutan. 
 

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Day 3

After breakfast drive to Punakha, the old winter capital of Bhutan (2.5 hours).  En route, stop at Dochu La Pass (10,000 ft) to view the Eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan’s highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum (24,770 ft). The road then drops down through a varied, ever-changing forest, finally emerging into the highly cultivated Punakha Valley.   

We will also stop at the Chimi Lhakang (Chimel Lhakang), a Buddhist monastery located in the Punakha District of Bhutan. The reason this became famous is because of Druukpa Kunley, better known as the ‘Devine Madman’, who used teaching methods that were bizarre and shocking. The village and monastery has thousands of painted penises – a symbol that protects from the evil eye and malicious gossip.

Reach Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan and presently the winter residence of the central monk body. It is located on the island of Pho-chu and Mo-chu Rivers and is located at an elevation of 4,300 feet. With its temperate climate, this valley is the market garden of the country, where produce grows year-round and many Bhutanese reside during the cooler winter months. Punakha has an interesting history; it was the winter capital of Bhutan for a period of 300 years until Thimphu was made the official capital in the 1950’s.

After checking into your hotel, visit the Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu Rivers. These combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu, which in turn is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra River. It is one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the country and also one of the most important. 

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Day 4

After breakfast visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery, perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang.  The magnificent structures gleam in the sunlight. The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzigchagtongchentong). 

Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns where, apart from religious training, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting.
 

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Day 5

After breakfast drive to Gangtey (2.5 hours) and visit the Gangtey Monastery or the Gangtey Goempa – an important monastery with the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. The Monastery is located in the Wandue Phodrang Dzhongkhag in the picturesque Phobjikha Valley, which is also renowned for being the winter home of the rare Tibetan Black Necked Cranes. The monastery was established in 1613 by Peling Gyalse Rinpoche, the grandson of Trenton Pema Lingpa, the great treasurer discoverer.

This afternoon visit the Black Necked Crane Reserve, a unique habitat in the wide, glacial Probjikha Valley, at an altitude of 9,500 ft.  Check-in to your hotel for an evening at leisure. 
 

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Day 6

After breakfast at the hotel enjoy a walk in the valley starting from a small hilltop overlooking the Gangtey Goemba, through flower meadows, to Semchubara Village, through beautiful forests and into the open valley. After passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang, the trail ends at the local community school where you meet your vehicle for the drive back to the hotel.  The walk is a moderate one and takes about two hours. There are many paths that can be taken through the pine forest up to the community school. 

 

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Day 7

After breakfast depart for Bumthang with stops in Chandebji and Trongsa en route (7 hours). 

Chendebji Chorten is a large Buddhist Stupa located around a mile away from the village of Chendebji. The large white structure is built in likeness to the famous Boudhnath Stupa located in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Chorten was constructed by Lama Shinda from Tibet in the 19th century AD and is believed to have been constructed at a spot where an evil spirit was subdued by the Lama.

Next visit the Trongsa Dzong or the Cheokhor Rabdentse, which is one of the largest and most impressive Dzongs in Bhutan. The Dzong which is located on a cliff overlooking the Mangde Chu River gorge was built at the site of a temple that was constructed in 1543, by a Drukpa Lama. This huge multi-level fortress comprises of a series of courtyards and passageways that were built along the topography of the ridge. 

Arrive in Bumthang this evening, one of the most important districts of Bhutan. It has a number of ancient temples and sacred sites. It consists of the four mountain valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor (“Bumthang”), although occasionally the entire district is referred to as Bumthang Valley.
 

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Day 8

After breakfast, visit Jambay Lhakhang, which was built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in 659 AD. The temple was blessed by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche was the one who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. It was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life with his magical powers. Many believe that there is a natural lake under the temple in which Guru Rimpoche took refuge on several occasions.

After this, head to Kurjey Lhakhang, a monastery which is a 30 minute hike from the Jambay Lhakhang temple. This is where Guru Rinpoche is said to have left an imprint of his body. This large temple complex consists of three large temples surrounded by a perimeter of 108 stupas.

Then visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong (Jakar), with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor Valley. Lastly visit Bumthang’s famous Swiss cheese factory and dairy farm before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure. 
 

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Day 9

Today our full day excursion takes us to Tang valley, the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys.  The road climbs past the trail to Membar Tsho (The Burning Lake), which is one of Bhutan’s most important pilgrimage sites.  See Drangchel, Pema Lingpa’s birthplace. You will also see picturesque villages and temples, and can walk up to visit Ogyen Choling Palace, which is now a museum and gives an interesting insight into life in an aristocratic family in the last century.   

Return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. 

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Day 10

After breakfast, interact with the peoples and learn about their daily life as a farmer. If you wish you can help the villager, but it depends on the seasons, if its harvest season then you can help them with the harvest.  After lunch we will go to temples and learn about the spiritual life by observing monks and their way of living.  

Return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. 
 

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Day 11

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport to board the flight to Paro. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel to check-in. 

Paro is Bhutan’s most fertile valleys. It is also one of the largest cities in the country and has amazing architecture.

This evening, visit Ta Dzong, originally built as watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangka paintings, textiles, weapons &armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

 

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Day 12

After breakfast travel to Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque places in Bhutan. Drive up through the Chele La Pass – Bhutan’s highest motorable road, offering breathtaking views of the landscape. This steep north to south valley, which is the ancestral home of Queen Grandmother of the Dorji family, is around 19 miles from Paro Valley. 

The town is ensconced in paddy fields, surrounded by mountains and vast grasslands. People here follow the tenets stated by the 8th Guru Padmasambhava. These can also be seen in the local traditions and festivals. Visit the village and temples and learn about the different lifestyle of the people here. Quite interestingly, this alluring valley was opened for foreign tourists only in 2002.

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Day 13

After breakfast trek up to the Tigers Nest Monastery (5 hours round trip). While this is a steep climb, you can choose to take a pony up to the mid-point and walk the rest of the way up.  The hike to the monastery can be broken down into various stages:

The first stage is the trek to the cafeteria, which is situated on a rocky outcrop across a ravine from the monastery.  This leg of the trek takes approximately 45-60 minutes.

The second stage of the walk is from the cafeteria to the lookout opposite the monastery. This leg takes close to one hour.  

The third stage is the climb down the 475 steps in the cliff face to the bottom of the ravine, which crosses over a stream and waterfall before the path again ascends another 300 odd steps to the entrance of the monastery.

Once here you will visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang – one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampa. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. You should be able to enter into the monastery and view the cave where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal meditated (cameras are not allowed inside the monastery).

The visit and climb to the entrance and back to the lookout will take approximately one hour, and is entirely on foot. 
The descent will be entirely on foot. 

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Day 14

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight. 

Included

  • 13 night’s accommodation based on double / twin sharing with breakfast and dinner.
  • Lunch included at local restaurants during the day.
  • Transfers, tours and excursions by luxury vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser)
  • Accompanied English speaking Escort throughout the tour staying at different hotels.
  • Entrance charges to monuments as specified in the itinerary.
  • Bhutan VISA Fees.
  • Current applicable Taxes.

Excluded

  • Meals, drinks, laundry, entrance fees, porterage, tours/excursions and transfers not specified;
  • Any scheduled flights and related taxes not specified;
  • Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance – which is essential;
  • Staff gratuities;
  • Any new gov. taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control;
  • Any items of a personal nature or anything not specifically stated as included;
  • International airfare.