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6-Day Cultural Tour to Paro, Thimphu, Punakha

Cultural Tour to Paro, Thimphu, Punakha -- Trip Photo of Bhutan tour  Bhutan map

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Itinerary

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

Visiting: Paro, Thimphu

Arriving at the Paro International Airport, your Bhutanese guide will meet you and escort you to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The 1 hour drive takes you through the winding road with lots of beautiful hamlets. After checking into your hotel, you will visit the Tashichho Dzong.

Tashichho Dzong: Located on the northern edge of the city of Thimphu, on the western bank of the Wang Chu. Tashichho Dzong is Bhutan's most stately and arguably the most impressive building. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk desi or ‘Dharma Raja’, the head of Bhutan's civil government, an office which has been combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907, and summer capital of the country. It houses the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and is the summer residence of the venerated monastic community. The current dzong is the impressive result of a redesign of the original medieval structure sanctioned by the Third King, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, when he moved the capital to Thimphu from Punakha.

The Fortress of the glorious religion houses the throne room of His Majesty the King, the main secretariat building and the central monk body. Its courtyard is open to visitors during the Thimphu Tshechu and when the monk moves to its winter residence in Punakha.

  • Meals: D
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Druk Hotel

Day 2 : Sightseeing in Thimphu (Memorial Chorten, Folk Heritage Museum, Institute of Traditional Medicine, and National Library)

Visiting: Thimphu

Visit Memorial Chorten, Folk Heritage Museum, Institute of Traditional Medicine, and National Library of Bhutan.

The Memorial Chorten, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is a large Tobetan-style Buddhist Monastery is a popular landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells. It was built in 1974 to honor the memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The architecture of the chorten has been designed to present it as ‘one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu’.

The whitewashed chorten is decorated with richly carved annexes facing the cardinal directions, and features elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the popular third king. There are numerous religious paintings and complex tantric statues housed inside reflecting both peaceful and wrathful aspects of Buddhist deities.This chorten is unlike other chortens as it does not enshrine the mortal remains of the King. Only the King’s photo in a ceremonial dress adorns a hall in the ground floor. The King when he was alive wanted to build ‘a chorten to represent the mind of the Buddha’.

Folk Heritage Museum: A three storied traditional building houses the Folk Heritage Museum. The earthen and timber building was renovated and restored few years ago to appear as it was century ago. Established in 2001 in Thimphu, the museum provides glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese material culture and way of life. The artifacts, which are kept inside the house, remind the visitors about how the rural Bhutanese live today. This 19th century traditional house provides you a glimpse of the Bhutanese lifestyle, and artifacts from the rural households. One can come across typical household objects, tools and equipment.

Besides, the museum also organizes demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs and educational programs for children. The activities of the museum follow a seasonal rhythm, just like the activities of a true rural household, offering you something new to see, every time you visit it. The rural setting and flavor has been well-preserved and you can see paddy, wheat and millet fields here, 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 and have a patch of greenery, right in the heart of the capital city of Thimphu.

The National Institute of Traditional Medicine was established in 1988 with the concept to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing. It contains an impressive, large laboratory and production facilities that ensures quality of the products, the components of which includes plants, minerals, animal parts, precious metals and gems. The Institution produces traditional Bhutanese medicine towards the needs of the public. There is a day-care facility and clinic where doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The institute also researches the use of herbs and plants and has a plot on the premises. A small museum and a gift shop (where the famous herbal tea -Tsheringma- is produced) are also present in its compounds. There is also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. After the closing of the Institute the visitors can walk along the compound to view it from the outside.

The National Library of Bhutan was first established in 1967 under the patronage of HM Queen Ashi Phuntso Choden (1911–2003), with a small collection of precious texts. The library was initially housed within the central tower (utse) of Tashichodzong. Later, due to its growing collection, it had to move to a building in the Changgangkha area of Thimphu.

To provide a permanent home for the sacred religious books and manuscripts in the growing collection, construction of the present four-storeyed eight-cornered traditional building, which looks like the central tower temple of a Bhutanese Dzong, in the Kawajangtsa area of Thimphu was initiated. The cost of the construction of this building was borne entirely by the Royal Government of Bhutan without any foreign aid. It was inaugurated on November 23, 1984.

The National Archives is responsible for collecting and preserving important past, present and future documents on Bhutan for future generations. The library also holds a representative collection of English and western language books mainly related to the Himalayas, Bhutan and Buddhism.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Druk Hotel

Day 3 : Drive to Punakha (Dochula Pass, Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha Dzong)

Visiting: Thimphu, Punakha Valley

After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha en-route visit Do Chula Pass, Chimi Lhakhang. Later visit the glorious Punakha Dzong, also known as the "the Palace of Great Bliss."

Dochula Pass, located 30 km away from the capital, on the way to Punakha from Thimphu offers a 360-degree of beautiful panoramic view of Himalaya mountain range, especially on clear winter days. The 108 chortens that adorn the beauty of this place were built by Queen Mother to commemorate the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003. The pass is also popular spiritual place for both locals and tourists because of an important temple that is located on the crest of Dochula pass.

Besides the spirituality of the place many Bhutanese families visit the pass during holidays and weekends to simply enjoy the scenery of the place with their pack lunch and hot tea. For tourists, the place is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of Himalaya mountain range provided the weather permits.

Chimi Lhakhang located near Lobesa; Punakha stands on a round hillock and is flanked by hundreds of prayer flags. Built in 1499, this monastery is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kinley or ‘the Divine Madman’. An accomplished master of Mahamudra Buddhist Tradition, he is also known as the ‘Mad Saint’ for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humor and outrageous behavior, which amounted to being bizarre and strong sexual overtones and inclinations.

Drukpa Kinley is also a cultural icon in Bhutan around whom countless yarns, fictions, stories and legends have been spun. In founding the site it is said that Lama Kinley subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the chorten now stands. He is also the saint who advocated the use of phallus symbols as paintings on walls and as flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eves. The monastery is the repository of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kinley 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 beget children. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 10 inch (25 cm) wooden phallus (erect penis). Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan have been intended to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.

Punakha Dzong was built by Shabdrung in 1637. Punakha Dzong has undergone flooding from a glacial lake high above in the mountains of Lunana, which periodically has broken through its barriers; and has been ravaged by fire, but has stood on its remarkable site since the 17th C. The flash flood of October 1994 caused a great deal of damage, but miraculous spared the statue of Lord Buddha. The three-story Machhen Lhakhang is a fine example of traditional architecture, crafted from cypress with four intricately embossed entrance pillars decorated in gold and silver, the inside walls are covered with elaborate murals depicting the teaching of the Buddha. The Chorten which contains the Kudung is adorned with precious jewels and took twenty craftsmen four years to construct.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Punatsangchhu Cottage
  • Luxury Lodging: Dhensa Boutique

Day 4 : Drive to Paro (Simtokha Dzong, National Museum, and Paro Dzong)

Visiting: Punakha, Paro

Located 5 km south of Thimphu on the road to Paro, Simtokha Dzong is officially known as ‘Sangkak Zabdhon Phodrang’ or the Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras. Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it is often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan and is a gateway to Thimphu Valley. The name Simtokha is derived from the name sinmo (demoness) and do (stone), the site is said to have been chosen to guard over a demon that had vanished into the rock nearby.

It is the first structure that incorporated both monastic and administrative facilities. Since 1961 it has been the home of the Rigney School for Dzongkha and monastic studies. Its students are both monks and ordinary people. The Dzong’s antique murals are renowned for their historic and artistic value and the frescoes and images are among the finest in the country.

The National Museum of Bhutan is housed inside the revamped circular Ta-dzong building, an ancient watchtower above the Paro Dzong. This unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell. The original building was constructed in 1656 but the building was converted into a museum in 1968. The necessary infrastructure was created to house some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings gathered from different parts of the country. Suitable galleries were constructed to house the extensive collections. Works of art were elegantly displayed on scientific lines.

Some of the handicrafts items cover the history and cultural heritage of more than 1500 years. The National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines that represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and is a major attraction for local and foreign visitors.

Paro Dzong is one of the most impressive and well-known dzongs in Bhutan. One of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture, it is also known as the Ringpung Dzong, which means ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’. It is the administrative seat of the district of Paro. The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. It was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro Valley from invasions by Tibet.

Unlike most of the other dzongs in Bhutan, it survived the massive 1897 earthquake mostly unscathed, though it was almost burnt to the ground by a fire in 1907. All-important relics were lost to the fire and nothing could be salvaged except for the Thongdrol, a 20x20 meter-wide Thangka. The Thangka is displayed annually during a ceremony called Paro Tshechu. The Dzong was however rebuilt the following year.

You will also have the opportunity to take stroll in downtown Paro this afternoon, before returning to the hotel.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Tenzinling Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Zhiwaling Resort

Day 5 : Sightseeing in Paro (Tiger's Nest Monastery, Drukgyel Dzong, and Kyichu Lhakhang)

Visiting: Paro

Hike to Taktsang Monastery then visit Drukgyel Dzong and Kyichu Lhakhang.

Drive to Satsam chorten and hike to Taktsang Monastery (10 Km) from Paro Town. The name Taktsang means "Tiger’s Nest." The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 800m.And overlooks the Paro Valley and the river. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan, meditated at the spot where the monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress.

The hike takes about 4 hours back and forth depending on the level of the hikers. Once you reach the view point of the monastery you have the option to visit the monastery which takes another hour hike. The monastery is built on a granite cliff and in this cave Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava the great Tantric Buddha did his meditation for a month on this power place. It was Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to the Himalayas. This place is a powerful pilgrimage site for Buddhists all over the world.

Located close to the Paro Airport, the Kyichu Lhakhang is an important Himalayan Buddhist Temple. It is one of Bhutan’s oldest religious sites built in the seventh century. This 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.

Guru Rimpoche visited this temple in the eight century and concealed many spiritual treasures here. Pilgrims turn the many prayer wheels along the walls as they circumambulate the temple. The fine statues of the Bodhisattvas and the Buddha are national treasures. The wooden floor of the sanctum is inlaid with turquoise and coral gemstones offered by pilgrims.

The Drukgyel Dzong in Paro was built as one of the four principal Dra Dzongs (defense fortress). It was built in 1649 to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the allied Tibet-Mongol forces. Drukgyel means ‘the fortress of victory’. The Dzong sits on a trail that leads to the Paro Valley from Tibet. It was once a major trade route between Bhutan and the Tibetan town of Phari.

The Dzong was used as an administrative centre till 1951 when a fire caused by a butter lamp engulfed the Dzong and completely destroyed it. All that remains of the Dzong now are tokens of a haunted house, still robust walls and charred remains of gigantic wooden posts and beams.

As a defense fortress, Drukgyel Dzong is said to have housed the finest armory in the country, which was located in a room overlooking the southern valley. While most were burnt in the fire some that were saved from the fire are now kept in Rinpung Dzong.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Tenzinling Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Zhiwaling Resort

Day 6 : Depart Paro

Visiting: Paro

Transfer to airport for departure flight

  • Meals: B

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