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Bhutan Experience (14 days)

Western/Central Bhutan: Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Gangtey & Bumthang.

Day 1: Arrival at Paro and Transfer to Thimphu.
Start the journey with a breathtaking flight over the great peaks of the high Himalayas right into the Dragon Kingdom's airport among the clouds at Paro (2,134m). On arrival, your guide will meet you at Paro airport and then set off by road through the picturesque Paro valley with its quaint clusters of hamlets amid terraced paddy fields.
Driving through spectacular mountain views and peaceful countryside we arrive at Thimphu (2,286m), Bhutan’s capital. Thimphu is a small, charming capital city sandwiched in the heart of the Himalayas.
After lunch, we visit the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the heart of the Bhutanese government. Nearby can be seen the King's palace and the assembly building across the river. Afterwards we visit the weekend market and Changangkha Lhakhang, an ancient temple and monastic school high on a ridge above the city.

Day 2: Thimpu.
Today we drive up to the viewpoint- BBS Tower in Sangaygang and take a hike beyond to enjoy a stunning view of the valley. Visit the mini zoo where you can see the Takin, the National animal of Bhutan, the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, the School of Thangkha paintings (The Arts and Crafts School) where you can see young children learning and practicing the ancient craft of painting. Afterwards, we visit the General Post Office, the Handicraft Emporium and the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in loving memory of Late His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, where a multi-storied Stupa and numerous paintings are exhibited providing an insight into Buddhist philosophy. If time permits, we will also visit Zangto Pelri Lhakhang or hike to Cheri Goemba, an ancient monastery perched high on the hillside. (About one hour each way.)

Day 3: Thimpu - Punakha.
The first stop after leaving Thimphu is the Dochula Pass at 10,500 ft. site of one of Bhutan's most enchanting views. If weather permits the breathtaking peaks of Bhutan's Northern border can be viewed. In season it is a magnificent canvas of color- a profusion of red, pink, white, yellow and purple rhododendron blossoms splashed among the soft green of wild herbs and forest trees. At the top of the pass is the newly built “Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens”, a unique cluster of 108 Namgyel Khangzang Chortens that spiral up to the main monument Chorten. This is a tribute and monument to the selfless service and visionary leadership of His Majesty the King.
After stopping for lunch in the village of Sopsokha, we can walk across the rice fields up to the important Chimi Lakhang temple, where childless women go to receive blessing from the Lama Drukpa Kunley, in whose honour the temple was built by his cousin in 1499.
Blessed with a temperate climate and drained by the Phochu and Mochu rivers, is the fertile valley of Punakha. After checking in at the hotel, you can relax or take an optional hike to enjoy the country.

Day 4: Punakha - Wangdue - Punakha
Today we visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong. Before Thimphu was made the capital of Bhutan, Punakha was the winter capital because of its milder climate. Today it is the winter seat of Je-Khenpo (the Chief Abbott) and the Central Monk Body. The stunning Dzong (fort) built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu Rivers in 1637 by the first Zhabdrung of Bhutan, Ngawang Namgyel, served as both the religious and the administrative center of Bhutan until the mid-1950s.
After the visit to the Dzong, we will drive to Wangdue. Wangdue is a small town located on a ridge that plunges into the Puna Tsang River flowing below. Sitting atop the ridge with a commanding view of the valleys below is the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong which you will visit after taking lunch in a local restaurant. The town market square in Wangdue is a lively and colorful place to stroll before returning to Punakha.

Day 5: Punakha - Gangtey - Bumthang
This morning we drive to Bumthang. On route we visit Gangtey valley.
Gangtey in the Phobjikha valley, is considered one of the most beautiful open valleys in Bhutan. It is the winter home of the rare black-necked cranes, migrating down from the Tibetan Plateau. We visit the Crane Information Center, the carpet factory and the sacred Gangtey Monastery (under renovation), the only Nyingmapa Temple in the country.
Upon arriving Bumthang transfer to hotel.

Day 6: Bumthang
Start the tour of the valley with a visit to the Jambey Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits n the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Visit Kurje Lhakhang, Situated before Jambey Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three Temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Tamshing Lhakhang, Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Visit Jakar Dzong. According to the legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a monastery and for Jakar Dzong which roughly translates as ‘castle of the white bird’.

Day 7: Bumthang
Spend the whole day at Jambay Lhakhang to witness the second day of the festival.

Day 8: Bumthang
Today we take a day trip to visit Ura. The Ura valley falls within the Bumthang district and is about 50kms away from the town. Wide open spaces characterise the valley that sits in the shadow of the Thrumsingla Pass, separating the East from the West of the Kingdom. Ura village and its monastery are a charming stop before the climb to the east. Cobbled streets and a medieval feel give Ura an unusual yet very attractive atmosphere. The old women of Ura still wear sheepskin shawls on their backs which double as both a blanket and cushion.
Visit Ura lhakhang which will give you a notion of the lifestyle of central Bhutanese people. Stop at some local houses in the Ura village to see the daily ways of the villagers. This is the highest of Bumthang’s valleys and is believed by some to have been the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan.

Day 9: Bumthang
Tang is the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys. We take a day trip to Tang today. From Jakar it is a 10km drive past the Dechenpelrithang sheep farm to an unpaved road that leads to the north. The road passes Chel, Pema Lingpa’s birth place, where there is a small chorten, but no longer a village. The road continues past the school at Rimochen to Mishitang, 15km from the paved road. The Bumthang Cultural Trek ends nearby; depending on the arrangements, trekkers either walk or drive back down the valley. The ground continues further, Gamling and on to a sheep breeding project at wobtang, but it gets rougher the further it goes.
On the hillside above the west side of the valley is Kunzandrak goemba which was founded by Pema Lingpa. The monastery can be viewed from the road.
Upon reaching Tang, take an hour's hike up to the old Ugyenchholing Palace which has now been converted to a museum.
After visiting the museum, drive back the same way and enroute, visit Merbartsho (Burning Lake), which is actually a wide spot in the Tang Chhu (river)
Pema Lingpa found several of Guru Rimpoche’s hidden terma here. A wooden bridge crosses the river and is a good vantage point to look down into the lake. Perhaps you can spot the temple that is said to exist in the depths. The importance of the site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called tse tsa in rock niches.

Day 10: Bumthang
Today we start back towards Punakha and enroute, stop at Zungney (2,750m) to see the traditional weavings of Yathra, the woolen fabric in numerous colors and patterns.
Continue drive and upon reaching Trongsa, visit the ancient watchtower which has now been converted to a museum recently.
Then visit Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1647 by Shabdrung, this Dzong itself is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices holding court over the local community. An architectural masterpiece, it is built on many levels into the sides of the hill, and can be seen from every approach to Trongsa, declaring its strength and majesty.
Reach hotel in Punakha and check in.

Day 11: Punakha - Paro.
After breakfast, we drive across the pass back to Paro. Visit Ta Dzong, the National Museum housed in an ancient watchtower, which has a fine collection of ancient Thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons and other artifacts; then visit one of the most celebrated Dzongs in Bhutan, the Rinpung Dzong, or 'the Fortress of the Heap of Jewels'.

Day 12: Paro.
Today we take a day hike to Taktsang "Tiger's Nest" monastery, the most iconic building in Bhutan, clinging almost impossibly to a sheer cliff of rock 914m above the valley floor.
For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a visitor, the hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. The legend has it that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress from Tibet and meditated in the cave there for three months. Although the main building of the temple was destroyed by fire in April 1998 (it was reconstructed from the year 2000 and finally consecrated in March 2005) the hike up to the viewpoint is worthwhile and fulfilling.
The first part of the hike up to Taktsang through beautiful forests with fabulous views of the Paro valley takes about 75 minutes, where a coffee house allows rest and refreshment with views up to the monastery. The second part, another 50 minutes or so, takes you to a rest and viewpoint from where stunning views of the monastery can be enjoyed. For the really fit, the last part of the journey takes you down into the ravine and back up to the monastery itself (not recommended for sufferers from vertigo!).
After the climb back down and lunch, drive to the end of the valley to see the old ruined fortress of Drukgyel Dzong (Fort of Drukpa Victory) the historical site from the ramparts of which the Bhutanese repelled Tibetan invaders time and again. On a clear day, you will be overawed by the sight of the 7,315m white-domed peak of the sacred Mount Jhomolhari (Mountain of the Goddess Jhomo) that looms overhead. Enroute visit Kyichu Lhakhang and Satsam Chorten: Kyichu Lhakhang is said to have been built by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in 659.It's believed that it holds down the left foot of an ogress, so large that it covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet.

Day 13: Paro
Drive to Chelela Pass for a picnic lunch. Chelela pass is about an hour and half drive from Paro town situated at an altitude of 12000 ft . Weather permitting, one can have a magnificent view of the snow capped mountains. Take a ridge walk in Chelela Pass.
Enroute to Chelela Pass, visit Kila Goemba, one of the oldest nunneries in Bhutan, located on the mountainside. Walk for an hour uphill from the road to reach the monastery.
After picnic lunch, drive back to Paro and at leisure in town.

Day 14: Departure
Transfer to airport for your departure flight to UK via Bangkok.

Please note that, whilst every effort will be made to carry out the programme shown above, small changes may sometimes be necessary.

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Trashi Chhoe Dzong
Trashi Chhoe Dzong
Dochula Pass Chortens
Dochula Pass Chortens
Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong
Wangdue Shop
Wangdue Shops
Little Monks
Jambay Lhakhang
Jambay Lhakhang
Festival Dancer
Festival Dancer
Prayer Flags
Prayer Flags
Paro Dzong
Paro Dzong
Taktshang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery
Taktshang (Tiger's Nest)
Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong
Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong
Price includes:
International flights to/from UK
Accommodation with full board.
Transfers, tours with English speaking guide.
All entrance fees.
Service charges, rooms tax and handling fee.
Departure taxes
Visa fee
Price does not include:
Drinks with provided meals
Tips, personal expenses and other services which are not mentioned in the program.