Western Bhutan Tour
The heartland of the Drukpa people is comprised of the Haa Valley, Paro Valley, Thimphu, Punakha Valley, Wangdue Phodrang and Phobjika Valley. This part of Bhutanis known for its stunning scenery with rice paddies and orchards, magnificent mountains, pristine rivers that flow through the main towns of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha, and unique two-story houses with brightly painted window designs. We will cross the high passes such as Cheli La (3988m, 13,084ft.), Dochu La (3050m, 10,007ft.), Pele La (3300m, 10,825ft), from where we will enjoy the superb views of the mountains and the valleys.
In Central Bhutan Tour
We will visit Trongsa, and the rich broad valleys of Bumthang. We will drive over the passes of Yotang La (3400m, 11,155ft.) Shertang La (3573m, 11,723ft) and Thrumshing La (3800m, 12,465ft.). Central Bhutan is known for its buckwheat and apple production, its sturdy stone houses, and its plethora of monasteries. It’s the ideal place for walking due to its broad valleys and sloping mountains. We will visit the Trongsa Dzong one of the most picturesque examples of Bhutanese architectureand explore Bumthang, the cultural heartland of Bhutan and home to the some of the kingdom’s most precious and ancient Buddhist sites.
You can choose to fly from Bangkok or Delhi or Kolkatta or Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan. Upon arrival at Paro airport immigration, produce your visa approval letter provided by us and get your passport stamped with actual visa. Claim your baggage and walk through the customs and meet our guide with your name card outside the airport and transfer to your hotel.
This afternoon visit the national museum, which is housed in an ancient watch tower. The museum’s collection range from books, paintings, textiles, crafts, arms, utensils, stuffed animals, insects, gallery of philatelic collection and a shrine with the tree that has four sides with statues representing the four school of Lamaism; Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma and Kagyu with emphasis on Drukpa Kagyu sub sect. Overnight hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, we explore the highlights of Paro that includes the Paro Rinpung Dzong, Kichu Temple, ruins of Drugyel Dzong and visit a typical farm house. In the afternoon, we hike the legendary Taktstang Monatery, famed as Tiger’s Nest.
Monastery is perched some 2,000ft/600m up on a sheer cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padmasambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. The hike is about 2 hrs to the teahouse, which can also be done on the Pony. After tea and snacks you may either opt to hike further uphill for about 45mins to get a closer look at Taktsang and the surrounding temples or just remain at the Tea house and enjoy the views.
The return trek to the road head is all downhill and takes about half the time. Depending on the available time, you may visit festival or other sites in Paro.
Today, we drive to Thimphu (2hrs) the capital city of Bhutan. After some rest, take self guided tour to King’s Memorial Chorten and visit other sights as time permits.
After breakfast, begin our sightseeing with a visit to the colorful weekend market, where people from near and far come to sell or buy the fresh produce. It is where the village folks jostle with the well heeled resident of Thimphu for the best and cheapest vegetables and other food stuffs. Weekend also provides opportunity to see the traditional game of archery played in the nearby grounds.
During these two days in the capital, you will also visit the school of traditional arts and painting, the indigenous hospital, the heritage museum, textile museum, Tashicho Dzong, the nunnery at Zilukha, handicrafts workshops and shops, handmade paper factory, gold and silver smiths, memorial chorten, Zangdopelri temple, the mini zoo to see Takin and other sights as per available time and interest. Evening can spent taking self guided walks and shopping.
Continue drive towards Wangdiphodrang and Punakha, which takes about 3 hours. As you leave Thimphu, the road climbs up to Dochula pass (Alt. 3010m), where we will stop to get a spectacular panoramic views of the snow capped mountain range of Bhutan (weather permitting!). Near the pass there are many ‘chortens’ (pagoda or stupas) and hundreds of prayers flags fluttering about in the wind. After the pass the road drops through changing vegetation into semitropical lowland Punakha – Wangdi valley at around 1400m.
Punakha and Wangdue valleys are at lower elevation of approx. 1400m, and it is therefore warmer with semi-tropical climate or vegetation such as cactuses, bananas and orange groves. Check in hotel and after lunch, visit Punakha Dzong –the former winter capital of Bhutan. The head Abbot and monks of central monastic body reside in Punakha Dzong during the winter months and in Thimphu during the summer. Time permitting, drive to the village near the junction road between Punakha and Wangdi and make a 20 minutes pleasant hike to Chimi Lhakhang temple, dedicated to the Saint Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529), also known a the “divine madman”. He is very popular, as he taught Buddhist teachings in the way that is unlike the stiffness of clergy and society of the time; he dramatized the teachings using songs and sexual humor.
After early breakfast, set off on the road to Jakar. The road from Punakha passes through the town of Wangdiphodrang and starts the climb from Chuzomsa steadily for about 2 hours and crosses the black mountains at Pele la pass (3420m). From here, on a clear day, you can see the Mt. Jumolhari, and other mountains across the valley. After the pass, you are now in Mangde region and people speak different dialect here. Continue drive to Trongsa, en-route stopping at Chendebji chorten and other places along the way to stretch your legs, to admire the landscape or to take pictures. Lunch at Trongsa and take a peek at the Dzong, which is considered one of the largest and certainly the most impressive of all Dzongs in Bhutan. Trongsa Dzong is a rambling collection of buildings that trail down the ridge, with remarkable street like corridors and wide stone stairs running down. It was from here that the present royal family emerged as the most powerful force at the beginning of this century. The first two hereditary kings ruled the country from here and it is still a tradition that the crown prince first serves as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. From Trongsa, it is another 68km/ 2 ½ hours drive Jakar across Youtongla pass (3425m). After the pass, descend into Chume, the first of the four Bumthang valleys. Stop at the roadside village of Zugney to see the weaving of Yathra (deep colored wool textile, a pattern typical to these parts of the country).
After breakfast start the sightseeing tour with the drive to Jambay Ihakang, visit Chakar temple (iron castle), and continue to Kurjey monastery complex. After visiting Kurjey, we start a gentle leveled walk across the suspension bridge over the Chamkhar Chu river to Tamshing Lhakang. Walk through the village to a smaller Kunchok sum temple and then continue the walk through the farmland to swiss farm area. At this point, your vehicle will meet you and transfer to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, visit the new monastery of Namhai Nyingpo, the traditional hospital, Jakar Dzong, Lamay Gompa and other sights as per available time.
From Tang it is 50 kms (32 miles) across a pass to the Ura valley, the last and highest of the Bumthang valleys. The road descends into Ura by long loops across fields and pastures. Villages in the region of Ura characteristically have very closely clustered houses, which is unusual in Bhutan.
Drive back to Bumthang late afternoon
Retrace your drive back across Yotongla pass and descend into Trongsa, which takes about 3 hours. In the afternoon visit huge and historical Trongsa Dzong (fortress), site of emergence of present Royal family of Bhutan. Also visit Ta Dzong (watch tower) which now houses the temple dedicated to Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan.
Leaving Trongsa, we return west, stopping to visit the Chendebji Chorten, a large white monument said to conceal the remnants of an evil spirit vanquished here. Continuing across the spectacular Pelela pass (3,300m), we descend into the valleys of Punakha and Wangdi. Further drive through blossoming hills and pine forests, we arrive at Dochula pass (3,100m) for another opportunity to get the panoramic views of the eastern Himalayan range, including Bhutan’s highest peak Gangkar Phuensum. Further continue drive towards Paro via Thimphu.
Transfer to the airport in time for flight to your next destination.
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