The dragon kingdom

Day 01: Paro – Thimphu

The trip, like all others, starts in essence soon as you board Drukair, the national airline. The descent unto the kingdom is the lead. Getting out of the plane and taking in that fresh mountain air, there’s a silent moving sense of something special unfolding. On arrival, after clearing immigration and customs, you will be greeted by our guide. Then you will be ushered towards Thimphu, the present capital city.

After lunch, we will explore the town, visit shops and the Handicrafts Emporium, where Bhutanese textiles and other handicrafts are available. Visit the national textile museum. Visit the General Post Office and purchase the world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value.

Drive to Sangyegang viewpoint from here you could see the entire Thimphu valley. On way back, stop at the the Takin (National animal and endangered species) preserve. En route, visit the Zilukha nunnery.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 02: Thimphu

The second day starts with exploring Thimphu. We will visit the National Library which has a vast collection of ancient manuscripts and religious artifacts, and see the ancient manuscripts preserved there. Visit the Institute of Art & Painting school where traditional painting and other crafts are still practiced. Visit the Indigenous Hospital where the traditional medicine are made and ancient healing arts are still practiced.

Visit Tashichho Dzong, the main Government Secretariat building, which houses the government ministries, the Office of His Majesty the King and the Throne Room, and the offices and living quarters of the monk body. Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and maybe purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Drive to Buddha point.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha

This morning you will be transferred to Punakha by road. En route pass the Semtokha Dzong built in 1629, the oldest fortress of its kind that guarded the Thimphu valley, and which today it is a Theological university. Continue ascending to Dochu La (3150m pass) to view the 108 Stupas, commissioned by the Queen Mother as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the low intensity conflict in late 2002 when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutan – Indian border. On a clear day, you will witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalayas covered with snow.

Further drive to Punakha and visit Punakha Dzong. The Dzong is located at the convergence of two rivers, the Pho-chu (Male river) & Mo-chu (Female river). In the evening you will be taken for short hike to the famous Devine Madman’s Monastery, the Chimi Lhakhang(Temple). The temple is regarded as a sanctum of fertility and most childless couples usually make a visit to this temple to seek the fertility blessings.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 04: Punakha – Gangtey

After breakfast, you will be taken to visit to the beautiful and legendary Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Monastery built by the Queen Mother.

Afterwards, drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down to Gangtey Gompa. It is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of the Himalayas. We will visit Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.

We will then explore Phobjikha valley, chosen winter home of blacknecked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. These cranes are very rare and endangered and highly protected by the Government. The cranes circumambulate three times in a clock-wise direction around Gangtey Gompa as a reverence to the monastery before landing and before flying back to Tibet in early spring. In the evening, relax and enjoy a hot stone bath.

Overnight at the hotel, or camp under the stars.

Day 05: Gangtey – Bumthang via Trongsa

Early breakfast, drive to Bumthang, en route Trongsa across Pele-la pass. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. Further down the road, stop to visit Chendebji Chorten erected in the 18th century by a Tibetan lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. It is built in the Nepalese style, with painted eyes at the four cardinal points. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and its impressive dzong, stretched along a ridge above a ravine, first comes into view about an hour before the winding road suddenly leads you into the town. Continue your drive to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.

Day 06: Bumthang

Bumthang, a fascinating valley is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. In the morning you will visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint”, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kichu Lhakhang in Paro).

After lunch, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later on we will visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the lodge.

Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 07: Bumthang – Thimphu via Wangduephodrang

Drive back to Thimphu and en route, visit the Wangdi Dzong built in 1939, it is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley. Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slate which is mined up a valley a few kilometers from the town.

Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 08: Thimphu – Paro

In the morning, we will visit the Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honor the memory of the Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. Afterwards, shop for souvenirs and then drive to Paro.

In the afternoon, visit the ruined fortress of Drugyel Dzong. The name Drugyel means “Victorious”. The Dzong was built in 1649 AD to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders and it formed one of the chains of defensive fortresses against Tibetan invasion. On a clear day, you will have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari. In the evening, take a leisurely stroll to explore Paro town.

Overnight in Paro.

Day 09: Paro

In the morning, hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Also known as Tiger’s Nest). Built amazingly on a cliff (perched 900m above the floor of Paro Valley), it brings pride to the Bhutanese about the work of their ancestors. The most important architecture and one of the holiest place in Buddhist world which dates back to 8th century, it is said that Guru Padmasambava arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence, it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Choose between a 2 hour round trip hike to the Monastery viewpoint or a longer 3-4 hour and more strenuous hike into the Monastery itself.

After lunch, if time permits, take a quick visit to Kyichu Lhakhang – one of Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful temples boasting an orange tree that perpetually bears fruit. Kyichu Lhakhang was built in 7th century by Tibetan king to subdue giant ogress in the eastern Himalayan region in order to propagate the religion. Afterwards, simply spend the time relaxing at the hotel or enjoy a well earned massage or hot stone bath.

In the evening, visit weaving centre and souvenir shopping in Paro town.

Overnight in Paro valley.

Day 10: Departure

Representative from Vajrayana tours and travels will see you off.

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