11 DAYS CENTRAL BHUTAN TOUR
Kindly be at the check-in counter at least 2 hours ahead of your flight departure time. Your check-in luggage limit is 20kg on Economy Class / 30kg on Business Class, and hand luggage must not exceed 5kg.
DAY 1: PARO ARRIVAL (-/L/D)
On arrival at Paro international airport you will be received by a representative of Bhutan Raewa Travels who will be waiting outside the arrival terminal of the Airport holding a placard with your name on it. The representative will be your guide for the duration of the tour and will welcome you in a traditional manner by offering a khadar (greeting scarf). Thereafter, you will be escorted to your hotel for check in.
After freshening up you will be taken for a short sightseeing tour around Paro town. During this tour you will visit:
- Drukgyal Dzong, now in ruins, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders, led by Mongolian Warlord, Gushri Khan. Strategically built over the only passage into Paro valley, the Dzong helped to repel numerous invasions all through the course of Bhutanese history. It so impressed the early English visitors in 1914 that the Dzong was featured on the cover of the National Geographic Magazine.
In fine weather, the towering peak of Mount Jumolhari 7314 m high appears as a backdrop. This mountain which marks the frontier with Tibet is sacred and the dwelling place of goddess Jomo.
The evening has been kept free.
Overnight at hotel-Paro
DAY 2: PARO – THIMPHU (B/L/D) (65km, about 1 hour)
Drive to Thimphu city, the capital of Bhutan which is at an elevation of 2,350 m / 7700 ft. Urbanisation began here when Thimphu was proclaimed as a national capital in 1952 and the Dechenchoeling Palace was built at this time. Even today the city retains its ethnic architectural style and is the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. Yet unlike other capital cities in the world, Thimphu remains essentially pastoral in character and changes its demeanor with the seasons.
On the way see Tachogang Temple or the “Temple of the Hill of Excellent Horse” which rises in austere surroundings on the left bank of the river, a few km before Chhuzom at the confluence of the Paro and Thimphu rivers. A Tibetan Saint had a vision of the excellent Horse Balaha – an emanation of Avalokiteshwara while he was meditating there. He decided thereupon to build a temple at this spot in addition to one of his famous iron bridges (later carried away by floods in 1969). The exact date of the temple’s construction is not certain, but it was probably around the year 1433.
Further drive to Thimphu valley.
Check into hotel.
Begin local sightseeing of the following places:
- Walk to the Textile Museum to get an understanding of the beautiful hand woven Bhutanese textiles. Bhutan’s textiles are an integral part of its cultural heritage and are unique for their diversity and sophistication. Textile Museum at Thimphu has given a new platform to Bhutanese weavers and boasts of an invaluable collection of antique textile artifacts of Bhutan. Some of the museum’s gems are the pearl robe from Tsamdrak Goenpa, crowns of Bhutan’s Kings, Namzas (dresses) and other accessories worn by the Royal Family, personal bedding of His Holiness Zhabdrung Jigme Dorji and the first version of the Raven Crown.
- The National Library built in 1967 to preserve ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. The traditional books are kept on the upper floor which is Tibetan style printed and wrapped in silken cloth. In another section you can see the wooden blocks that are used for printing books and prayer flags.
- Then move to The National Folk Heritage Museum to get an insight into the typical Bhutanese way of life. Folk Heritage Museum at Thimphu provides you a glimpse of the lifestyle, items and artifacts of Bhutanese villages and rural households. Besides the display, the museum also organizes demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs, educational programs for children and research and documentation on the rural life of Bhutan. The museum building itself is one of the star exhibits of the library. It is a restored three-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house that resembles the average rural household in the Wang area during the mid-19th century, complete with typical household objects, domestic tools and equipments that were used by rural families of that period.
- Drive to see the Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal, the Takin.
- Further, drive up to BBS tower to get a view of the Thimphu valley.
- Evening: Visit Tashichhodzong, whose history dates back to the 13th century, wherein houses His Majesty’s Throne Room and is the summer home to the Monastic Body.
Overnight at hotel – Thimphu
DAY 3: THIMPHU INSIGHT – PUNAKHA (B/L/D) (77km, about 3 hours)
Morning after breakfast visit Bhutan Post known for its world famous stamps where you can buy postcards and stamps. The Bhutan Post is definitely a place of significance where an extensive collection of exotic stamps made from metal and silk to three dimensional images and even stamps with mini-phonograph records are produced. Many major events of the world are recorded and made into stamps in Bhutan.
After that drive toward Punakha valley (the old capital of the country) via the Dochula Mountain pass (3,140 m). On a clear day Dochu La offers a stunning view of the snow capped Himalayan ranges:
- Kang Bum (6,526 m)
- Gangchhenta (6,840 m)
- Masang Gang (7,165 m)
- Tsenda Gang (7,100 m)
- Teri Gang (7,300 m)
- Jejekangphu Gang (7,100 m)
- Zongophu Gang (Table Mt) (7,100 m)
- Gangkhar Puensum (7,541 m)
Visit Druk Wangyel Chhorten, built by the Queen Mother for the peace and stability of the country. The 108 Khangzang Namgyal Chhortens are a new landmark for travellers as they cross Dochula, the first mountain pass into the interior of the country.
On the way visit Chimi Lhakhang, located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. There is a short 20 minute walk through the village of Sopsokha en-route to the temple wherein you will cross paddy fields and get a feel for rural Bhutan. The temple was built by Ngawang Chogyel in the 15th century after the ‘divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. The temple is believed to bless couples unable to have children and many people from around the world visit this holly site to seek its blessings.
Check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Punakha
DAY 4: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA (B/L/D) (142km, about 6 hours)
After an early breakfast visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, one of the most beautiful dzongs of Bhutan. For many years until the time of the second King, it served as the seat of the government. It is the winter residence of the monastic body, and was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Inside the Dzong is the set of the 108 volumes of Kanjur – holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, written in gold. The Dzong also safe guards Bhutan’s most treasured possession: the Rangjung Kharsapani, a self created image of Chenrigzig which is described by Shabdrung as a treasure as vast as the sky.
Then drive further to Trongsa via the Pele La Pass, crossing the Black Mountains, which divide western and central Bhutan. It is a wonderful opportunity to take photographs of the beautiful scenic views. Continue driving through rich rhododendron and Magnolias and yak settlements. After cross the Nikarchu Bridge, one enters the Trongsa district regions.
Along the way visit the following sites:
- Chendebji Chhorten: This large chhorten (stone Buddhist monument often containing relics) sits quietly by the side of the road, few miles from the small village of Chendebji and far from any large town. Built by a Tibetan lama in the 19th century to cover the remains of an evil spirit who was killed on the spot, the chhorten, in Nepalese style, is modeled after the Swayambhunath in Kathmandu
- The beautiful Trongsa Dzong built in 1648, the ancestral home of the Royal Family. Both the second and third King ruled the country from this ancient seat. Due to its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively.
- Ta Dzong which is situated strategically above the Trongsa Dzong served as the watch tower for centuries. It was built by Choeje Minjur Tempa in 1652. Today it is a state of the art museum dedicated to the Monarchs of Bhutan. The museum focuses on the history of the monarchy, which had its cradle in Trongsa and the history of the Trongsa Dzong. It has a total of eleven galleries styled along the National Museum in Paro with one gallery fully dedicated to the history of the Kings of the Wangchuck dynasty. The museum includes a media room where visitors can watch a documentary program on the history of the monarchy.
Check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Trongsa.
DAY 5: TRONGSA – BUMTHANG (B/L/D) (68km, about 2 hours)
After breakfast, begin the journey towards Bumthang which is approx a journey of two-hours from Trongsa. This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers mediated and left in their wake many sacred grounds.
Check into Hotel.
Today, it’s your pilgrimage tour; your first stop is the Jambay Lhakhang: built in the 17th century during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal – 1st Religious and Political King of Bhutan.
The short distance beyond Jambay Lhakhang, is Chakhar Lhakhang – Iron Castle temple is easy to be mistaken for a house which is an interesting temple and worth a short visit. It is the site of the Palace of the Indian King Sindhu Raja who first invited the Second Buddha Guru Rimpoche to Bumthang. The original Palace was made of Iron hence the name Chakhar and said to have been nice storey, holding within all the treasures of the world.
Visit Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple is located above Jambay Lhakhang and consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is considered the most holy. The present Royal Queen Mother recently built the third temple. These three temples are surrounded by 108 chhorten wall symbolic of each joint of the human body.
Tamshing Temple: The temple is a short walk north from Kurjey temple across a footbridge, then uphill to a trail on the opposite side. Downstream of the bridge you can see a natural formation named DO Zam. This is the remains of a stone bridge that was built by a goddess who was trying to meet Guru Rimpoche, but the bridge was destroyed by a demon.
The Tamshing Temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava and contains very interesting religious paintings like 11000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Bohhisatava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Overnight at hotel – Bumthang
DAY 6: BUMTHANG – URA – DAY EXCURSION (B/L/D) (45km, about 2 hours)
Today’s day excursion is to URA Valley that lies in the Tang valley. The excursion to Ura Valley will provide you a nice view of the Jakar Dzong. You’ll make a stop in Ura village for lunch and will have a chance to visit the main temple and explore the village. Ura Village has a medieval look to it because of the cobblestone streets, and the typical clothing of the women includes a sheepskin shawl. On the way back from Ura you can stop to see Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake).
After visit to Ura, drive back to Bumthang.
Overnight at Hotel – Bumthang.
DAY 7: BUMTHANG – GANGTEY (B/L/D) (188km, about 6 hours)
The day begins with a drive to Gangtey which is also the winter home to the rare black necked cranes (Grus Nicorocolis) which migrate from remote parts of Tibet, China and Siberia to winter in this valley. The Black Necked Cranes is the least known of the 15 species of cranes in the world. It was first discovered in 1876 by a Russian naturalist, Prjezhwalsky in Lake Koko-nor in the northeast corner of the Tibetan Plateau. Endemic to the Himalayan region, it has been listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as globally threatened with a total count of 5,000-6,000 numbers worldwide.
Every year the birds arrive on their wintering grounds between mid-October and early December and remain until March through mid- April. The local people say that when the cranes first arrive they circle over the Goemba (Monastery) as though they are paying homage before descending into land in the marshy area of the valley.
Then again when the cranes decide to leave, they gather together and fly towards the Goemba (Monastery), circle the building and then head out of the valley, flying north to their breeding grounds. Gangtey is declared as a conservation ground for Black necked cranes and borders the Black Mountain National Park. The valley lies at the altitude of 2,900m and is also inhabited by muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox.
On arrival visit the Crane information and observation centre to view the exotic birds.
On completion of local sightseeing, check into the hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Gangtey.
DAY 8: GANGTEY – THIMPHU (B/L/D) (155km, about 6 hours)
Morning after breakfast take a short walk down hill from Gantey Goemba and visit Khewang Lhakhang. It is believed that the location for this lhakhang was prophesied by Lam Drukpa Kuenley when he visited the valley. The temple was later built in the 15th century by Trulku Penjor Gyaltshen who was the incarnation of the great Tibetan saint Kuenkhen Logchen Rabjampa. The Trulku is said to have hired sculptor and laborers from Tibet. The temple was built to control famine and diseases, to ward off ill wishes of other people and also to help the spirits of the people who have sinned in the past to find the Path to heaven.
After that drive back to Thimphu. On arrival check into hotel.
The evening has been kept free for leisurely visit to Thimphu town.
Overnight at hotel – Thimphu.
DAY 9: THIMPHU – PARO (B/L/D) (65km, about 1 hour)
Morning after breakfast drive back to Paro and on arrival check into hotel.
Begin local sightseeing of the following places:
- Drive to see the Rinpung dzong, built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now used as an administration center and school for monks.
- Get a glimpse of the Ugyen Pelri Palace in a secluded wooden compound south of the river which was built by the Paro Penlop, Tshering Penjor, in the early 1900s. It is designed after the Second Buddha’s celestial paradise, Zangtopelri and one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.
- Visit The National Museum: rated as one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia which is a repository of not only precious work of art but also costumes, armor and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provide a good snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. Of special interest is the gallery of thangkhas which exhibits exquisite pieces of different vintages – those depicting Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first Je Khempo and first Druk desi are of particular significance.
- Visit Dungtse Lhakhang which is situated just across the river. Dungtse Lhakhang is possibly the only ancient temple built in the shape of a chhorten. The lhakhang is literally chained down since local belief holds that it will otherwise fly off to heaven! It was constructed in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo who came to Bhutan in search of iron ore to be used for constructing bridges in his homeland of Tibet.
- Visit Kyichu temple one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness.
Overnight at hotel – Paro.
DAY 10: PARO DAY HIKE (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast take a short drive to road point from where the hike begins to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) which clings precariously to a cliff 800 m / 2,600 ft above the Paro valley. The climb up to the view point will take around three hours (depending on one’s fitness). In the second half of the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, alighted here upon the back of a tigress, and upon meditating for three months in a cave, assumed the form of Dorje Droloe, the Terrifying Thunderbolt and subjugated the Eight Evil Spirits who hindered the propagation of Buddhism. Thereafter, the Buddhist Dharma was introduced to Paro valley and soon spread to the rest of Bhutan. Taktsang is one of the holiest sites in the country and one of the most venerated Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas.
Lunch will be served during the return hike back to the road point.
In the evening visit a local Farmhouse to see firsthand how rural Bhutanese live. The Farmhouses are very decorative, built and painted in a classical style. The houses are normally three stories; the ground floor is used for cattle, the top floor for drying hay, while the family live in the middle floor.
Day 11: PARO –DEPATURE (B/-/-)
After breakfast your guide will escort you to the airport for your flight onward.