punakha

Into the Hidden Paradise of Bhutan

Trip duration – 11days and 10nights

Places Covered – Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Trongsa, Bumthang, Gangtay/Phobjikha

Detailed Itinerary

Activities-

Day 1 – Paro to Thimphu

After you arrive in Paro international airport, you will be received by our representative from Colorful Bhutan Travels.

The flight into Paro on Druk Air/Bhutan airlines (only international flight) is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of Bhutan. If the weather is clear you can see magnificent views of the peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land on arrival at Paro international airport.

Drive to Thimphu, which would take about an hour. Make a stop on the way at the confluence of the two rivers. There are three different Buddhist stupas down below at the confluence of the two rivers. The Tibetan styled stupa, the Nepali styled and the Bhutanese styled stupa. Check in at hotel at Thimphu. Have your lunch after a brief rest at the hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Memorial Chorten(temple) which was built in 1974 in memory of the Late Third King of Bhutan.  On any given day, you shall find people circumambulating this temple in order to gain merits for all sentient beings. Visit Kuenselphodrang, popularly known as the “Buddha Point” where a statue of the Buddha measuring 54 meters tall sits above the Thimphu valley.

Evening at leisure in Thimphu town and overnight at Thimphu

 Day 2Thimphu- Thimphu

After breakfast, we will take a short drive to Takin Preserve. It is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Originally a mini-zoo, it was converted into preserve when it was discovered that the animals refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest even when set free. The reason for declaring Takin as a national animal of Bhutan is attributed to a legend of the animal’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th century by Lam Drukpa Kinley, famously known as Divine Mad Man. Then we drive to Kuensel Phodrang, popularly known as the “Buddha Point” where a statue of the Buddha measuring 54 meters tall sits above the Thimphu valley. Then we will Visit Folk Heritage Museum: it is a restored three-story traditional rammed mud and timber that resembles the rural household in the Thimphu area during the mid-19th century, domestic tools equipment’s that were used by rural families of that period and also provides you a glimpse of lifestyle, items and artifacts of Bhutanese villages and rural households.  Then we will stop for lunch.

After lunch, we will visit Royal Textile Academy, which was instituted in 2005 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuk as a non-profit organization. You will learn about the Bhutan’s living national art of Thagzo (weaving). After that we will also visit the folk heritage Museum which was opened in 2001 from the initiative of founder Her Majesty the Queen mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. After that we will visit The National Institute of Zorig Chusum: is the center for Bhutanese Art education. It was set up by the Government of Bhutan with the sole objective of preserving the rich culture and tradition of Bhutan and training students in all the traditional arts forms. The curricula cover a comprehensive course of drawing, painting, wood and slate craving, embroidery, sculptures, weaving and paper making. Then we will again visit Jungshi Home Made Paper factory (jungshi meaning natural) which was established in 1990. It was established to expand the old domestic skill for commercial purposes. One can get a closer look at all the steps involved in the manufacturing process, from raw material to finished product.

Later in the evening we will be visiting Tashichhoe Dzong the “Fortress of Auspicious Religion” where today like most of the other fortresses in Bhutan serves as the Administrative and Religious Center.

Evening at leisure in Thimphu town and overnight at Thimphu

Day 3Thimphu – Punakha

After breakfast, drive to Punakha, a place with subtropical vegetation and about 3 hours’ drive from Thimphu. On your way stop at the mountain pass called Dochula where a 108 stupas were built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan,  and enjoy the breathtaking view of the chain of some of the tallest mountains in Bhutan on a day with clear skies. Have your lunch on your way and then visit Chimi Lhakhang(temple) also known popularly as the “fertility temple”. This temple is reputed for granting children to couples who come to seek blessings for a child. People who come to this temple are blessed with a wooden phallus with a silver handle and the bow and arrows of the famous 15thcentury Buddhist saint called “Drukpa Kuenley” to whom this temple is dedicated. After checking in the hotel then rest for some time. Later in the evening we will visit Punakha Fortress also known as Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong (meaning the palace of great happiness or bliss) which was built in 1637-1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structure. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

Dinner and overnight shall be at the hotel in Punakha

Day 4 Punakha – Trongsa

After early breakfast we will be heading towards Trongsa. On the way we will visit Chendebji Stupa. The stupa is patterned on kathmandu’s Swayambhunath stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. Then we will stop for a lunch. Once we reach Trongsa, we will directly check into hotel to take some rest. Then if time permits we will visit Trongsa Dzong. This dzong is the largest dzong in Bhutan. Built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangdi River, a temple was first established at the location in 1543 by the drukpa Lam, Ngagi Wangchuk. In 1647, his great grandson Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal constructed the first dzong to replace it, called Chokhor Rabtentse Dzong. It is an important administrative building and for centuries it was the seat of the Wangchuck Dynasty who effectively ruled over much of eastern and central Bhutan.

Overnight at Trongsa

Day 5Trongsa – Bumthang

After early breakfast we will be driving towards Bumthang. It will take us about 3 to 4 hours. Once we reach Bumthang we will directly check into hotel to take some rest. Then later we will visit Jambay Lhakhang. The Lhakhang is revered as one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Like Kychu in Paro, it is said to date back to the 7th century. To overcome the demon that was encompassing Tibet and threatening Buddhism, King Songtsen Gampo built this temple on her knee.

After that we will be visiting Kurji (meaning Body imprint) Lhakhang. Kurji is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left the imprint of his body on a rock. In 8th century, Bumthang was under the rule of a king named Sendhaka (alias Sintu Raja) whose home was the “iron Castle”, Chakhar. Guru Rinpoche was invited by the king to cure his son, who was believed to be ill due to the local deity named Shilging Karpo. The monastery has got three complex. The first complex was rebuilt by Minjur Tempa in 1652 while he was Trongsa Penlop. The second complex was built in 1900 by Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king while he was still the Penlop of Trongsa. The third complex was consecrated in June 1990 by the great master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Then we will walk again until we reach Khenchosum Lhakhang. The Lhakhang was founded, according to the saint Pema Lingpa as far as the 8th century. In February 2010 Konchosum Lhakhang was severely damaged by fire and has since been rebuilt. The new temple and monastery was consecrated in November 2014.

Later after visiting all the sites then we will go and visit the Red Panda Brewery. The brewery was established in 1996 by Fritz Maurer, born in Switzerland and came to Bhutan in the mid 1960’s to help develop farming in the Bumthang region of Bhutan as part of the Pro Bhutan foundation. The tiny brewery, handled by just two brewers, produces about 700 bottles of beer in a week.

Overnight at Bumthang

 Day 6Bumthang- Bumthang

(Ura)After early breakfast we will be driving towards Ura valley.  It will take about 48 km, about one and a half hour drive. To reach here, the road climbs to Jakar valley Bhutan amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into forest. Large sheep pastures line the road up to 20km behind the southern tip of the Tang valley. The route crosses Ura la Pass (3,600m) with a magnificent view of mount Gangkhar Phuensum. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. There is also a new temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the master and remarkable paintings of the cycle of his teachings.

We will also be taking a hot lunch and we will be enjoying our picnic with scenic beauty.

(Tang) – terton (treasure discover ) Pema Lingpa, the famous saint, was born in the Tang valley of Bumthang. The people of this valley raise sheep and at higher elevation, yaks as the soil in this region is not so rich for agricultural activities. From Bumthang central, it is a short drive past the Dechenpelrithang sheep farm to an unpaved road that leads to the north.

We will then visit Ugyen Choling Palace, restored in 19th century, it is now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport visitors to another world and time. The visitors will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of Trongsa Penlop (Governer). It also serves as retreat for those engaged in religious history.

Then while returning back we will then stop at Membertsho (The Burning Lake). History says that Pema Lingpa (treasure discoverer) found several hidden treasures here. It is considered to be one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of Bhutan.

Later in the evening we will then visit Bumthang cheese factory. The production of two kinds of European style cheese, Emmenthal and Gouda, was started in Bumthang in the 1970’s by Fritz Maurer, a Swiss man who settled in Bumthang. They have become known as “Bumthang Cheese”.

Overnight at Bumthang

Day 7Bumthang – Gangtay

After early breakfast we will be heading toward Gangtay Valley. It will be a long drive from Bumthang. We will be taking Pit-stop on the way to take picture and also to stretch our selves

Overnight at Gangtay.

Day 8Gangtay – Paro

Early morning after breakfast we will visit Gangtay monastery. It is an important monastery of Nyingmapa School of Buddhism. The monastery’s history traces to the early 17th century and back to the prophecies made by the well-known Terton (treasure finder) Pema Lingpa in the late 15th Century.

Then we will drive towards to Paro. We will be stopping for our lunch on the way. Once we reach Dochula Pass, we will stop for some time for Pit stop or for a cup of tea/coffee.

Overnight at Paro

Day 9Paro – Paro

After breakfast we will be visiting Paro National Museum. It was established in 1968, in the renovated ancient Ta-dzong building under the command of His Majesty, the king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. It houses for some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and painting. Suitable galleries were constructed to house the extensive collections. The works of art is elegantly displayed on scientific lines. After the museum we will visit Paro Rinpung Dzong. Under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal the dzong was built in 1646 and it was established as administrative and monastic center of the western region and it became known as Rinpung Dzong (meaning Heap of Jewels). The dzong is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

Later we will also go and witness Archery Match. Archery was declared as Bhutan’s National game in 1972. The distance to the target is about 145 meters. The target usually measures about 3feet (91 cm) tall and 11 inches (28cm) wide.

Then we will drive all the way towards Drugyel Dzong. The dzong was built in 1649 under the behest of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate victory of an invasion from Tibet. In early 1950s, the dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

In 2016, to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyelsay, as well as to commemorate two other significant events, namely, the arrival (400 years) of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche.

Overnight at Paro

Day 10 – Paro – Paro

After breakfast, the day starts by driving to the base of Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest). From here on, the walk uphill begins. Taktshang is a highly recommended place to visit for guests. The walk uphill offers clean and pristine air for breathing while you enjoy the occasional view of the valley below.  Almost halfway through your way up, have some tea and snacks at the restaurant with the stunning view of the temple suspended on a cliff.  Proceed to the temple, visit the many shrines in the temple and on your way back, have your lunch at the restaurant.  Get back to the base where your car will be waiting for you. Then visit Kychu Monastery which is considered as one of the oldest monastery built by the Tibetan king in 7th century.

The rest of the day is leisure where you can relax and take a walk in the Paro town.

Dinner and overnight will be at the hotel at Paro.

Day 11– After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll drive to the nearby Paro airport and on board to your onward destination.

Cost Inclusion

  1. All meals – American Plan include
  2. English Speaking Guide for the tour
  3. All Entrance Fess of all Places of interest
  4. Internal Transport within Tour Activity: Cultural/Hiking
  5. Accommodations – minimum of 3* hotels or resorts
  6. All Government Taxes of USD $ 65 per person per night

Cost Exclusion

  1. Airfare
  2. Alcohol and Beverages
  3. Travel Insurance
  4. Laundry Services
  5. Shopping and Telephone services
  6. Tipping for service providers

Tour cancellation & refund policy

Tour Programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:

  • 45 days or more prior to arrival date in Bhutan– no charges
  • 45-30 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan – 20% of rate
  • 22– 29 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan – 30% of rate
  • 15-21 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan – 50% of rate
  • Less than 15 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan – No Refund
  • An Administration fee of USD75 will be applicable for all cancelled tours

In the event of cancelled or shortened trips due to unforeseen reasons after arrival in Bhutan, no refund will be made due to the company already having paid for hotels and other logistics.

No refund will be made for missed connections or no show at the airports.

Tashi Delek!