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Essence Of Bhutan


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A delightful journey taking in the highlights of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and the Gangtey Valley


Join Paro

After clearing customs and immigration in Paro, you'll be met by our group leader. There will be a pre-trip briefing on arrival at the hotel, followed by an afternoon/evening at leisure in Paro, to allow some acclimatisation; Paro is 2280m above sea level. Overnight at Dewachen Resort or similar

Cross Dochu La to Punakha (1,300m/4,500ft)

In the morning we will be following the course of the Pachhu River and then reach Chuzom from where you take a left, following the Wangchu River upstream as you pass through villages and Simtokha suburbs on the outskirt Thimphu. Gradually winding up across 10,223-foot Dochu La, which in good weather offers 360-degree vistas across 200 miles of Himalayan peaks including Bhutan’s tallest peak and some of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world! There are 108 stupas adorning the pass and the scenic spot here offers plenty of opportunities for photography and walks around. We then drive down through forests of rhododendrons and magnolias, before the road descends into the warmer lowland of Sopsokha village around Punakha just in time for lunch. In the afternoon enjoy an easy hike to Chimi Lhakhang, or also referred to as the Temple of Fertility. The temple is dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, affectionately called the Divine Madman. He is one of Bhutan’s favorite holy men and the valley is peppered with traces of his influence. Villagers still enthusiastically recount the legends of his exploits. Women who are having trouble conceiving come here to pray and receive the resident lama’s blessings with a wooden phallus. There are about 25 young monks undergoing monastic education. They will be happy to come out and play soccer with you if they are free! Later we drive up to Wolakha Nunnery, mounted over a hilltop with a good view of the surrounding valleys below. The nuns, apart from their daily Buddhist studies and meditation also work on appliqué and thangka painting. The shrine inside is dedicated mainly to the God of Compassion, Chenrizig or in Sanskrit known as Avolokiteshvara. Meet some of the nuns and interact with them.Chimi Lhakhang Hike;Hike Length: 2Kms/1.2Miles Hike Time: 1.5 Hours return easyElevation gain: 20m/66ft Elevation Loss: 20m/66f

Explore Punakha Valley

Today we drive up to Hebisa village for an hour hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Chorten. This jewel-like structure can be seen poking through the trees beyond the river. It is dedicated to the current king and was built by his mother. There are several levels, each of which is densely packed with protector deities. There is a roof deck on the top floor which offers spectacular views of the valley. The trail is gradual and takes you through fields of paddies and chilies. During wet months, you will see farmers engaged in their fields plowing with their oxen. We may take chance to render our hands and experience the rural farmer’s living in this part of the remote Himalayan kingdom. We then drive to an exclusive campsite at Lakhu by the Mochu riverside for picnic lunch. Here you can try your hands at darts and archery before driving down to visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, which once served as the old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress was built in 1637 between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods and fire. Every February there is a procession known as the Punakha Serda to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans. Bhutan’s dzongs originally served three purposes: they were fortresses, administrative to the most obvious centers for local government, and a residence for the monks and place for their religious activities. In days of yore—during Tibetan invasion or wars between the valleys— dzongs also acted as strongholds, protecting their vale’s inhabitants. You can spend some time exploring inside and marveling at the architecture in all directions with aplenty photography time. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten Hike;Hike length: 3Kms/1.8Miles return Hike Time: 2 hours return Elevation Gain: 241m/795ft Elevation Loss: 241m/795ft

To Gangtey Valley (2,900m/9,570ft) and embark of day walks

It’s about 3 hours driving from Punakha to Gangtey Valley, the largest wetland in the country. The valley is a designated conservation area falling within the Black mountain ranges and is home to the rare Black Necked Cranes which migrate from the Tibetan plateau every winter. About 500 cranes flock in this valley and their numbers, to the joys of the community, have been increasing yearly. As soon as we land in the valley from Lawala Pass, the dominant presence of Gangtey Gompa can’t be overlooked. It is one of the most isolated gompas in Bhutan; its head lama is an incarnation of the legendary Pema Lingpa (Treasure revealer) whose legacies have been the discovery of termas (sacred relics) in the 14th century. Within the complex you’ll find a central monastery, meditation hall, school, monks’ quarters, and a courtyard. The surrounding villages, forests, and farmlands, are home to monks from Gangteng Gompa. Light butter lamps and if you have a chance, meet a senior monk and interact with him and learn from his pursuit of Buddhahood. This will be followed by water purification and lighting of butter lamps for longevity and happiness for your loved ones back at home. After lunch, embark on an easy Nature Trail hike which starts from a long mani-walls on the entrance to Gangtey monastery. The trail leads you down to a village with clustered of Bhutanese houses and their fields of potatoes and turnips. We will then meet a road point and follow it’s course for about twenty minutes and then get inside the forests of pinewoods and dying dwarf bamboos. The trail is gentle and the air is clean and the tranquility of the place offers one a chance to submerge in one’s own solitude. You will then be keeping yourself along the ridge of the valley until the endpoint at Khewang Lhakhang where about 30 young monks are freshly ordained as monks and have just begun their elementary Buddhist studies. If time permits, we will visit a local farmhouse to get a glimpse of the rural farmer’s lifestyles. This is a perfect opportunity to interact with the host and her families and get an insight into their way of living and coping up with changing times elsewhere. Nature Trail Hike;Hike Length: 2.99Kms/1.8Miles Hike Time: 1.5 Hours easyElevation Loss: 140m/462ft

To Thimphu (2,400m/8,000ft)

In the morning we will check into the Crane Information Centre to learn more about the black necked cranes and how people in the valley are living in harmony with them. About 10 few minutes down towards Beta, there is a community school, which we may drop by to visit (with prior permission) and meet the students who have enrolled from far flung places around the valley to learn the abc’s of modern education. The children are curious about visitors and once you open up, they will be happy to interact with you and try their newly learnt English diction's or even better, sing nursery rhymes for you. You are welcome to entertain them at your will. Then we drive back the same route following the highway towards Punakha and climbing back to Dochula again where we will halt again for lunch and stroll around. From here it’s about 45 minutes’ drive to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. Home to the government, royal family, and the head offices of international organizations in the country, Thimphu is a mix of Himalayan and Western sensibilities. Late in the afternoon we will visit the National Textile Museum, established in 2001, home to a substantial collection of antique textiles and other works including the royal robes on display. There is also a weaving center attached below the museum where women from all over the country has been employed to weave textiles and earn their livelihood. In the evening, we will take a stroll and explore the city on foot. Thimphu is one of the few capitals in the world without any traffic lights and you will observe the dancing policemen controlling traffics. There is free time in town for exploration.

Return to Paro (2,300m/7,600ft)

In the morning we drive up to see the tallest seated Buddha statue in the world at 51m/169ft height, initiated and built on a prophecy made, facing towards the East, bestowing infinite love and compassion to all sentient beings in the spheres. The statue houses enormous meditational house in the base and two storied chapels on the top floors. You will be fascinated at fine art works crafted by the local artisans. Discover the marvelous shrine inside and the site also offers nice views of the valley below. And then we continue onward towards Paro, about 1.5 hours driving distance from Thimphu. This afternoon we ascend a short hill up to the most obvious landmarks in the valley, the Ta Dzong, a circular fortress that once protected this valley from Tibetan invasion. The impressive watchtower commands sweeping views of the valley below. It also houses Bhutan’s National Museum, which, since 1968, has been the home of the country’s most cherished relics. Then we drive down to visit Paro Rinpung Dzong overlooking the vast expanse of the valley below. We will explore inside the Dzong and walk down towards the cantilevered bridge spanning over the Pachhu River where our car will pick us up and head straight to our lodge.

Visit renowned Taktsang Monastery

In the morning, we drive up to the base of Taktsang, famously known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched on a vertical granite cliff 2000 feet above the valley floor of pine, oak and rhododendrons forests. The legend of Taktsang dates from 747 CE, when Guru Rinpoche, in the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Droloe, arrived here on the back of a tiger and subdued the evil spirits of the region. After about one hour of rather steep hiking, you can rest for a while at a small teahouse with wonderful views of the monastery. If you choose to walk another hour, you can get an even closer look from the small chorten directly opposite. The final stretch climbs down—and then back up—700 steps, crossing a gorge over-laced with prayer flags to arrive at the incredible destination. Enjoy the walk and the experience. You will walk back the same route you followed this morning. Later in the evening if time permits, we visit one of the oldest Kyichu temple built in 7th century. This is one temple that truly feels ancient in the Himalayas. Later in the evening, stroll around in main town for last minute souvenir shopping for your families and friends from Bhutan.Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike;Hike Length: 13.2Km/8.2Miles Hike Time: 5-6 Hours ReturnHike Elevation Gain: 1,200m/3,960ft Hike Elevation Loss: 1,200m/3,960ft

Trip concludes in Paro

This morning we drive to Paro and exit through Bhutan Immigration office and bid you farewell today. We hope you had a wonderful time in Bhutan. Tashi Delek & Bon Voyage!

Additional Information

On this short but comprehensive journey through Bhutan we experience the highlights of this remote and culturally rich kingdom. With time spent in Paro we visit the famous museum and Taktsang Monastery, discover the sights and sounds of the capital of Thimphu and drive across the Dochu La to explore the beautiful Punakha Dzong and visit the isolated Gangtey Valley - well known as one of the last wintering grounds of the endangered and graceful black-necked cranes.

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