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10-Day Cultural Tour driving to Bumthang Valley and then flying back

Cultural Tour driving to Bumthang Valley and then flying back -- Trip Photo of Bhutan tour  Bhutan map

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Itinerary

Day 1 : Arrive Paro, drive to Thimphu (Simtokha Dzong, Tashichho Dzong)

Visiting: Paro, Thimphu

  • Distance: 52 Km./ 32 Miles
  • Drive Time: 1 hr approx.
  • Altitude: 2,350 m / 7,709 ft

On arrival at the Paro International Airport, our representative will help with the immigration formalities and will escort you to the hotel in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive takes you through the winding road with lots of beautiful hamlets.

En route, you will stop to visit the 17th century Simtokha Dzong standing on a lofty ridge. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1627, it is one of the first Dzongs in the country. The site is said to have been chosen to guard over a demoness that had vanished into the rock nearby, hence the name Simtokha ("sinmo" meaning demoness and "do" meaning stone. It now houses the school for Buddhist studies.

On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel.

If time permits, visit Memorial Chorten and Tashichho Dzong.

The Memorial Chorten, also known as the Thimphu Chorten is a large Tibetan-style Buddhist Monastery with golden spires and bells. It is a popular landmark and one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu.

It was built in 1974 to honor the memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The chorten is richly carved and contains statues and a shrine dedicated to the king. The king's photo in a ceremonial dress adorns a hall in the ground floor. The king when alive wanted to build "a chorten to represent the mind of the Buddha".

Tashichho Dzong is an impressive building also known as "the fortress of the Dharma Raja". It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi, the head of the Bhutan's civil government.

The original dzong was destroyed in the 1771 fire and again twice since then. Later the dzong was damaged in an earthquake in 1897 and was rebuilt in 1902. When King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck moved his capital to Thimphu in 1952, he started a five-year project that completely redesigned, enlarged and redesigned the dzong without using any nails or written plans.

  • Meals: D
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort

Day 2 : Sightseeing in Thimphu (Folk Heritage Museum, National Library, Handicrafts Emporium, Traditional Medicine)

Visiting: Thimphu

After breakfast, we will head out for sightseeing in Thimphu.

Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang), where visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley. You can pay your respect and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.

The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a 19th century three-storied traditional building and was established in 2001. The museum houses different tools, materials, objects, equipments and artifacts from rural Bhutanese households and gives a good insight of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle.

To showcase the authenticity of the country, the museum preserves a rural setting with paddy, wheat and millet fields, a traditional water-mill with mill stones more than 150 years old, traditional style kitchen gardens with vegetables that were grown over the past 100 years and the famous traditional hot stone bath. Native trees and plants that had domestic uses in Bhutanese rural household are being grown here in an effort to keep indigenous knowledge about the use of natural resources alive.

The National Library of Bhutan is a four-storied eight-cornered traditional building, which looks like the central tower temple of a Bhutanese Dzong. It was initially housed and established in 1967 within the central tower of TashichhoDzong. Later, due to its growing collection, it was moved to its current location and inaugurated in 1984.

The National Handcrafts Emporium is a state run Handicrafts showroom in 4 different cities of Bhutan. The emporium is run by the National Woman's Association of Bhutan as a Non-Government Organization that is run under the royal supervision of Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Choden Wangchuk.

National Institute of Traditional Medicine: Established in 1988, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine strives to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing. A large laboratory and a production facility inside the institute monitor and ensure the quality of the components like the plants, minerals, precious metals etc. A day-care facility and clinic opened in the institute is available for public use. The institution also produces Bhutanese medicines and they have a plot inside their premise where they grow different herbs and plants. The institution premise has a small museum, a gift shop (where the famous herbal tea -Tsheringma- is produced) and also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. After the closing of the institute, visitors can walk along the compound to view it from the outside.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort

Day 3 : Drive to Punakha, afternoon sightseeing (Dochula Pass, Divine Madman Monastery, Punakha Dzong))

Visiting: Punakha

  • Distance: 76kms/ 47 miles
  • Drive Time: 3 hours approx.
  • Altitude: 1,300 m / 4265 ft

After breakfast at the hotel drive to Punakha. En route visit Dochula Pass, that offers a 360-degree of beautiful panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range, especially on clear winter days. There are 108 chortens that adorn this beautiful chorten were built by Queen Mother to commemorate the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.

Also, visit Chimi Lhakhang flanked with hundreds of prayer flags that sits on a round hillock near Punakha. The monastery, built in 1499 is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kinley, also known as "the Divine Madman" or the "Mad Saint". An accomplished master of Mahamudra Buddhist Tradition, Lama DrukpaKinley was best known for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism which included singing, humor, outrageous behavior and strong sexual overtones and inclinations.

This monastery is the source of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. This wooden phallus is decorated with a silver handle and is used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to produce children. Traditionally, symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan is considered to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.

Upon arrival in Punakha, transfer to the hotel. Later visit Punakha Dzong.

Punakha Dzong, similarly known as "the palace of great happiness or bliss", the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Constructed on the 8th day and 8th month of the Fire ox year in 1673, the Punakha dzong was the administrative center and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Drubchhu Resort

Day 4 : Drive to Gangtey, afternoon sightseeing (Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Gompa)

Visiting: Gangtey

  • Distance: 78kms/ 48 miles
  • Drive Time: 4 – 5 hours approx.
  • Altitude: 3,000 m / 9,842 ft

After breakfast, transfer to Gangtey, a beautiful place situated at an altitude of 3000m. From Gangtey, one can closely view the picturesque black mountain ranges as well as the beautiful Phobjika valley which is one of the biggest and the most beautiful valleys in the country.

Later, we drive to the entrance of Phobjikha Valley, a glacial valley located on the western slopes of the Black Mountain at an altitude of 9840 feet above the sea level. It is the winter home to the rare black-necked crane that migrate from high plateaus of Tibet in late fall to escape harsh winters. There are also muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park.

Visit Gangtey Gompa, the largest Nyingma Monastery in Bhutan. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into the larger Gompa by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dhendup.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Dewachen Hotel

Day 5 : Drive to Trongsa, afternoon sightseeing (Chendebji Chorten)

Visiting: Trongsa

  • Distance: 120km/74miles
  • Drive Time: Approx. 4-5 hrs.
  • Altitude: 2,200 m/ 7,217 ft

After breakfast, we drive to Trongsa (5 hrs) over Pele La Pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range. Visit the beautiful Chendebji Chorten en route. It is built in a style unusual for Bhutan, with painted eyes facing the four directions. The Chorten was erected in the 18th century by a Tibetan lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan's ruling dynasty.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Yangkhil Resort

Day 6 : Drive to Bumthang, afternoon sightseeing (Jakar Dzong)

Visiting: Bumthang Valley

  • Distance: 70 kms / 3-4 hours approx.
  • Altitude: 2,800m/9,185ft

Early morning drive to Bumthang. The road winds steeply up to Yo Yutung La Pass (3,400m) before descending down through dense coniferous forest to Chummey Valley.

Bumthang is often called the cultural and religious heartland of Bhutan. As Buddhism was first introduced in Bhutan via Bumthang, this place abounds with religious as well as beautiful sites. The valley's barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills that climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. The beautiful architecture unique to Bhutan is evident in the many large farmhouses and temples. Bumthang is associated with Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and with Terton Pemalingpa.

This afternoon we'll tour the historical Jakar Dzong built by Minjur Tenpa, the third Druk Desi (Temporal ruler appointed by Shabdrung) in 1646 A.D. It is probably one of the biggest Dzongs in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about 1 km. in circumference.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Yugharling Resort

Day 7 : Sightseeing in Bumthang (Iron Castle, Monasteries)

Visiting: Bumthang

Visit Chakhar (Iron Castle) Lhakhang, the site of the palace of the Indian King Sindhu Raja who invited Guru Rimpoche to Bumthang. The original palace was made of iron and hence the name Chakhar. The saint Dorji Lingpa built the current building in 14th century. Its correct name is Dechen Phodrang.

We visit several ancient and important monasteries including Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang, and Pema Samba Lhakhangs. Kurjey Lhakhang named after a body print of Guru Rimpoche, built in 1652 by Minjur Tempa; and Jambay Lhakhang, built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in the year 659 on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro. The temple was visited by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang and was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life force. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma.

The Tamshing Lhakhang located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang and was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored in the 19th century.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Yugharling Resort

Day 8 : Fly to Paro, afternoon sightseeing (National Museum, Paro Dzong)

Visiting: Paro

  • Flight Duration (Domestic Flight): 30 minutes approx.
  • Altitude: 2,250m/7,382ft.

Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Paro. Upon arrival in Paro visit Ta Dzong and National Museum

Ta-Dzong (converted into the National Museum in 1968), is located on a hill overlooking the Paro Dzong. Dzongs are traditionally built without nails or written plans. The cylindrical building was built in 1641 AD. by Desi Tenzin Drukda, the then Governor of Paro, as a watchtower to look over the Paro Dzong in case of invasions from the north. As was the situation in those days, invasions were common and the Dzong, which was the center of administration in the state, needed to be overlooked by such watchtowers. The unique structure has six floors that go spiraling down from the top. During the olden days the building not only housed soldiers but also prisoners of war, mostly invaders. After touring the inside, enjoy the view of Paro Valley from the Ta-Dzong.

Next, visit Paro Dzong - also called Rinchen Pung Dzong / Rinpung Dzong ("fortress on a heap of jewels"). The Paro Dzong has a long and fascinating history, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture in the country. Built on a steep hillside overlooking the valley, the Dzong houses a large community of Lamas and a school for novices. The interior is richly decorated with paintings and woodcarvings, and has many shrines and prayer rooms, the most beautiful of which are located in the central tower.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Olathang Hotel

Day 9 : Sightseeing in Paro (Tiger's Nest Monastery, Kyichu Monastery)

Visiting: Paro

Today, you will hike to Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest Monastery. Perched on the side of a vertical cliff at 3000 m altitude north of Paro, the beautiful Taktsang Monastery also known the "Tiger's Nest" is the most famous and an unofficial symbol of Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) flew to this location from Khenpajong, Tibet on the back of a tigress and subdued a demon. He then meditated in a cave here for three months and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and blessed the place. Guru Padmasambhava is known for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen caves in which Guru Padmasambhava meditated.

Taktsang Monastery is a pilgrimage site for both tourists and locals. The journey up to the monastery is filled with spiritual bliss. Keeping this spiritual side aside, the journey up to Taktsang Monastery is also a hiker's delight. An hour hike up to a small wooden teahouse called Cafeteria provides close view of the monastery. A further and a rather challenging hike lead you to the glorious Taktsang Monastery.

Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang: Located close to the Paro Airport, the Kyichu Lhakhang is an important Himalayan Buddhist Temple. Built in the 7th century, this is one of Bhutan's oldest religious sites in Bhutan. The temple is one of 108 built by Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo to subdue a demoness who prevented the spread of Buddhism. Temples were built across the Himalayas to pin her body down. Kyichu Lhakhang pins down her left foot and Jamba Lhakhang in Bumthang her left knee.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Olathang Hotel

Day 10 : Depart Paro

Visiting: Paro

Transfer to airport for departure flight.

  • Meals: B

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