Bhutan is renowned for the enduring strength and vitality of its traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture and the dominance and purity of its natural environment. This journey through the country’s west encapsulates both these elements. Touring the major historical centers and day hiking to other important sites are combined with stepping off the beaten track, into a world that not long ago existed throughout the country and for many still represents the norm. There is a particular emphasis on traditional arts and crafts, observing the perpetuation of skills that have been carefully maintained through the generations.
Your trip starts in the fertile tranquility of Paro valley, moving onward through the carefully modernizing capital of Thimphu, before crossing over to the Dochula Pass 10,000feet. A clear day will reveal folds of hills rising towards distant snow-capped Himalayan peaks.
Day One: Arrive Paro (2,300m)
Today is your magnificent flight to Paro by Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines. As we near Bhutan (and if the weather is clear), we can see the massive peaks of the eastern Himalayas, including Kanchenchunga (third highest mountain in the world) and Bhutan’s holy mountain, Chomolhari. Upon arrival in Paro, the immigration official will stamp your Bhutan visa into your passport. Our Yangphel Adventure Travel guide and driver outside the customs exit area will receive you.
Drive to the hotel for check in & to refresh from the stress of your flight. You will received to the hotel with a grand Chipdrel ceremony which is a traditional welcome procession conducted by dancers from all walks of life.
After checking in and refreshments – we will embark on a short hike in the vicinity to acclimatize and familiarize yourself with the premises of the big compound of the hotel and then gather in the evening for a briefing of the trip followed by an hour long cultural program that is a shorter version of a Bhutanese festival. (Mask dances & folk dances).
Dinner will be served after the program.
Day Two: Thimphu & Dochula Pass
Today, we drive to a wonderful destination – the Dochula pass via the capital of Bhutan - Thimphu. The winding road follows the Pa Chu river as it winds downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu, then up-valley to Thimphu, The capital. As we enter the Thimphu Valley we will pass by Simtokha, the dzong built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the man who unified Bhutan). Simtokha is the oldest of the Dzongs, originally used to serve as a fortress to protect the region, an administrative center, and the center for the monks’ religious activity.
We continue our journey eastwards crossing over to the Dochu La (la means pass) at an altitude of 3,300m where in good weather 300 kms of the Bhutanese Eastern Himalayan summits are in view. Our activity will be on this magnificent pass. Each individual will participate in a prayer flag hoisting ceremony that will be for good luck, prosperity & long life. We will have lunch at the mountain top restaurant that will be exclusively arranged for us. The area is great for group photo as it is very scenic with the panorama of snow peaks in view.
After a sumptuous lunch, drive back to Thimphu for a series of sightseeing. We drive to the view Point of Thimphu & visit the tallest sitting Buddha statue in the world. This Buddha is considered a wish fulfilling Buddha for those that pray there. We will have an opportunity to go inside & quietly pray. On your way back check at the small zoo in the pine trees to spot some Takins, the national animal of Bhutan. Then visit the Zilukha nunnery that comprises of about 65 nuns. The temple which houses the nuns is dedicated to the famous saint Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo, the man who first introduced and built the chain of iron bridges in Bhutan. We then pass the Tashichhodzong, which was expanded in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the temporal ruler in Bhutan during the 16th century. To this day the dzong serves as the seat of the government and the home of about 300 monks during summer. The monks move towards Punakha for three months during winters. Don’t miss out on the institute of 13 arts & crafts where students of all age groups are trained to upkeep the traditional arts of Bhutan.
In the evening, we will drive back to Paro for the night.
Day Three: Excursion in Paro
Today, we will spend time exploring the Paro valley. We will first visit the National Museum of Bhutan that houses so many ancient artifacts & religious items. Next visit the Paro Dzong (16th century fort) that is home to about 500 monks and also offices of the governor and the district judge. Next we will walk a gradual downhill for about 30 minutes to the cantilevered bridge where the vehicle awaits you. Drive to our lunch spot by the riverside where we will have a demonstration of traditional archery & dart games. Those interested can participate & try the games. We will wind up the day with a visit to the most auspicious 7th century Kyichu temple near your hotel. Here you will be treated to a ritual ceremony that is to instill peace in ones disturbed mind & ward off evil from harming you. Back to the hotel for dinner.
Day Four: Tigers Nest Excursion "Taktsang"
Hiking to Wonderland After an early breakfast today, we drive for 15 minutes and prepare for our hike to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’ or the Taktsang Monastery. This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 701m above the valley floor. The legend of Taktsang (Tiger’s lair) dates back to 747 AD when Guru Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava), is believed to have arrived at this site on the back of a tiger and subdued the evil spirits in the region. The Guru then meditated in the holy cave that is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the dharma and one of them, Singye Samdrup, is recognized today as the guardian deity of Taktsang. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma.
In approximately one hour, we will reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple. For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Anyone not interested in hiking further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view OR venture inside the temple as Yangphel Adventure Travel has secured special permission for you.
Return to the comforts of our hotel and enjoy a sumptuous farewell dinner with your guide & driver. We will arrange a cultural program tonight.
Day Five: Depart Paro
Leave Bhutan aboard Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines. The guide and driver will accompany you to the airport and bid their farewells there. Your journey to Bhutan ends today.
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