Witness Trongsa Festival in Trongsa which was once a seat of power in over the eastern and central part of Bhutan. First and second king of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seats and the crown prince must serve the customary Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne.
11 December 2018: PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Your first glimpse of Bhutan
On arrival at the Paro International Airport you will be welcomed by your tour guide and driver. Check into your hotel and after a brief rest, start your magical experience of Bhutan by first visiting the impressive Rinpung Dzong/Fortress of Heaped Jewels, a fine example of the ostentatious Bhutanese art and architecture. The Dzong is located in the heart of the town and a few minutes’ walk through Nyimazam, one of the few last remaining traditional cantilever bridges in Bhutan. Dzongs serve as a monastic institution and as district administrative office.
Located above the Dzong is the National Museum that houses various antiques and artifacts of Bhutan and provides a glimpse into Bhutan’s rich cultural and religious history.
Visit the 3 storied Dungtse Lhakhang/temple, built in the mid 1430’s by Thangtong Gyelpo, the iron bridge builder, to subdue a demon and the temple is believed to be firmly chained to the ground. The three floors of the temple represent hell, heaven and earth and house some of the finest murals in Bhutan.
In the evening, stroll through the paddy fields, vegetable garden and farm animals.
12 December 2018: PARO TO THIMPHU VALLEY – 1 hour drive
After a leisurely breakfast drive for an hour to Thimphu through the beautiful landscape. Thimphu is one of the few capital cities in the world not having traffic lights and the traffic is still manned by traffic policemen.
Thimphu is the most populated city with about 100,000 people and truly a combination of the ancient and the modern.
While strictly maintaining the traditional style of architecture in modern building, there are also very old temples and numerous monasteries in and around the city, and few discotheques and Karaoke.
Visit the Simply Bhutan Museum to get a glimpse of how Bhutanese people had lived through the ages. Stroll through the craft bazaar, a single line of shops selling authentic art and craft items.
Soak in the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley from the site of the gigantic Lord Buddha, a 51 meter bronze Shakyamuni Buddha statue gilded in gold.
The beautiful Memorial Chorten/stupa in town is another favorite with the tourists and a regular sight for congregation of devout Buddhists circumambulating the Chorten from dawn till dusk.
Visit the Changangkha Lhakhang one of the oldest temples in Thimphu. In the evening visit the Tashichho Dzong/fortress of the Glorious Religion and office of the Golden throne of the Dragon King of Bhutan.
Then you may visit the Takin reserve in upper Mothithang. Legend has it that the unique national animal of Bhutan has the head of a goat and the body of a cow. It is a dedicated Takin reserve which you will find only in Bhutan.
13 December 2018: THIMPHU VALLEY - TANGO & CHERI MONASTERIES EXCURSION
After breakfast, drive towards north of Thimphu till you reach the base of Tango and Cheri Monasteries. Built on adjacent hills both the monasteries are about one hour hike along well maintained pathways. You can visit the Tango Monastery which also serves as a university of Buddhist studies. If you want you can also hike up to Cheri Monastery or return back to Thimphu and continue exploring Thimphu valley.
In the evening walk through the main streets and visit the many shops selling local and imported good.
14 December 2018: THIMPHU TO WANGDUE & PUNAKHA VALLEYS – Enjoy the ride through the mountain ranges – 3 hours drive
After breakfast, drive for about three hours to Wangdue and Punakha valleys. En route stop over at the Dochulaa Pass (3,150 meters) and enjoy the spectacular views of the snow capped Himalayan Mountains. The 108 small stupas built over a small hill is another pleasing sight.
The road from the Pass winds down to the warm and fertile valleys of Punakha. After a brief rest visit the Fertility Temple / Chime Lhakhang. It is a pleasant 45 minutes walk through mustard and paddy fields. Standing on a picturesque hilltop the Lhakhang is famous for its fertility wish grants to couples. Inside the walls of the Lhakhang are beautiful frescoes depicting the colorful life of Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman regarded for his crazy methods of teachings which included blessing women in the form of copulation!
In the evening stroll through the valley and market places.
15 December 2018: EXCURSION OF GANGTEY, PHOBJIKHA & NEIGHBOURING VILLAGES
After 3 hours drive, you will reach the serene and beautiful valleys of Gangtey and Phobjikha. Gangtey, Phobjikha and the surrounding villages are located in one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of Bhutan and are a favorite among the tourists. The valleys are also home to the endangered and graceful Black Necked Cranes in the winter and you can see them in the marshes in the middle of the valley. In the spring season, the cranes fly back to Tibet.
After your visit to the Crane Observation Center where you will find more information about the cranes and other species of birds, your hike for an hour through the serene Gangtey Nature Trail will take you to Gangtey Goemba/monastery. The Gangtey Monastery is located atop a hill overlooking the valley. Gangtey Goenpa is an important Monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism.
Excursion of Gangtey, Phobjikha and neighboring villages. Stroll through the valley and visit few traditional houses.
In the evening, you will be treated to a traditional farmhouse visit followed by dinner with local family.
16 December 2018: GANGTEY – TRONGSA- The Vanguard of Warriors
After breakfast, you will drive for about 5 hours to Trongsa valley, the Vanguard of warriors. It is a scenic drive via the Pelela Pass at 3,420 meters and across quaint little highland villages of Sephu, Rukubjee, Chendebjee, Tangsibjee and many other small rural settlements along the way.
At the Trongsa viewpoint, enjoy the view of the majestic Trongsa Dzong/Fortress of the vanguard of Warriors and the neighboring valleys.
Overnight stay at your hotel in Trongsa and prepare for the Trongsa Tsechu/Festival for the next day
17 December 2018: ATTEND “TRONGSA TSECHU” FOR THE DAY
The festival will be held in the Trongsa Dzong which was once the seat from which power was exercised over central and eastern Bhutan. It is from this fortress that the 1st king and the 2nd king ruled the nation. It is a customary tradition for the new king to serve as the Trongsa Poenlop (Governor) before he is crowned as the King of Bhutan. The fortress was built in 1648 on a dominating strategic point. It was once the only trade route which connected the east from the west of Bhutan.
The Tsechu/festival is a three day event; however you will be witnessing the festival for a day which holds more significance and events. There will be the unfurling of the sacred giant painting called “Thongdrel” which is a depiction of Guru Rinpoche the patron master, and his bringing of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is believed to be an auspicious sign and just a glance will bless you. Also, it is believed that it cleanses the sins of the people present.
Enjoy the amazing mask Dances performed by the skilled Monks and mingle with the peaceful people who will be there from all corners of the country. Be dazzled by the colorful dress and jewelry of the men, women and children as they offer their loyalty and devotion to the spiritual world. It will be a day you should not miss and further more it gives you a perfect opportunity for photography of the Bhutanese culture and Tradition at its full glory.
Check into your hotel and if you wish go for a stroll through the market place.
18 December 2018: TRONGSA-BUMTHANG VALLEY EXCURSION – Spiritual Heartland of Bhutan
After your breakfast, 2 hour drive from Trongsa will take you to Bumthang. The drive will be via the Yotongla Pass at 3,400 meters. En route, you will stopover at the Yathra Weaving center in Chumey village where you can watch men and women weavers at their loom weaving yak wool products.
After half an hour, you will reach Bumthang. Bumthang is compared to Switzerland for its beautiful landscape and is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. In the ancient times, the people of Bumthang used to be frequently disturbed by demons, wandering ghosts and negative forces. After the 8th Century, Guru Padmasambhava and numerous religious saints and monks visited Bumthang, subdued the demons and converted these demons into local protecting deities. Hence there are numerous temples and monasteries each with its own legend and significance.
A leisurely walk to the three temples- Jambay Lhakhang/temple, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamzhing Lhakhang will be refreshing after 2 hour drive. All the monasteries are ancient and have their unique history and beauty.
After lunch visit the Jakar Dzong/fortress of the White Bird and the Swiss factory/farmhouse where you can taste and or buy local beer, honey wine, Swiss cheese, clover honey, apple cider, apple brandy and other products.
In the evening stroll through the town and have dinner at a local restaurant serving the unique Bumthang cuisine which cannot be found in any part of the country.
19 December 2018 : BUMTHANG - TRONGSA – PUNAKHA
You will drive back to Punakha via Yotongla Pass (3,400m), Trongsa, Pelela Pass and descend down the warmer valleys of Wangdue and into the lush and wide Punakha valley. Since the drive is about 6 hours you can relax and rest at your hotel for the night.
20 December 2018: PUNAKHA VALLEY – The old capital of Bhutan to Paro (4 hours drive)
Punakha valley was the old capital city of Bhutan. You will be able to visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong, the Fortress of Great Bliss built in 1673 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the first spiritual & political leader of Bhutan) to commemorate the final victory against numerous Tibetan invasions. Located on a piece of land between two rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu (literally meaning male and female rivers), the Dzong is massive, huge and magnificent in all its architectural grandeur. Although ravaged by flood, fire and earthquake many times, the Dzong was always rebuilt with its original pattern and design. The Dzong has hosted significant events such as the crowning of the first king of Bhutan, The Royal Wedding ceremony of the Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema on 13th October 2011 was conducted in Punakha Dzong and important religious ceremonies are still held in the Dzong.
Your hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten/ stupa is about 2 hours through the paddy fields and serene pine trees. The stupa is stunning and so is the view from there. En route you will also be walking through a suspension bridge over the Puna Tsang Chhu – Punakha River.
After your hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, you will drive to the Nunnery and enjoy the spectacular views of Punakha and Wangdue valleys.
After that, you will be driving to Paro via Thimphu valley and have a glimpse of the first Fortress known as Simtokha Dzong- Fortress A top a Demon built in 1629 by Zhabdrung.
Stroll through the valley in the evening
21 December 2018: TAKTSANG MONASTERY/TIGER’S NEST –The high light of your holiday to Bhutan
Have a sumptuous breakfast for your hike to Taktsang Monastery / Tiger’s Nest which is about 3 hours uphill and 2 hours down. Riding ponies are also available if you think the hike is a bit daunting. Located around 900 meters above the Paro valley on a precarious almost vertical mountain cliff, Taktsang Monastery is truly a wonderful and spectacular sight in terms of its location, setting and history. In the 8th Century this was one of the major sites where Guru Padmasambhava – the patron saint of Buddhism in Bhutan meditated with his consort Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche flew on a female tigress in pursuit of a demon which he subdued at the current site of the Monastery. It is one of the holiest site in the Buddhist arena and the most important cultural icon in Bhutan.
You can have your lunch and tea/snacks at the cafeteria midway.
Before you drive back to your hotel visit the Kyichu Lhakhang/temple, one of the oldest temples built in the 7th Century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gyembo.
If you wish you can go for a stroll through many souvenir shops or rest in hotel.
In the evening, enjoy a traditional hot stone bath in a wooden tub which is supposed to be very curative with numerous medicinal and healing properties and has been the practice since the ancient times in Bhutan.
22 December 2018: Departure
After breakfast drive to Paro International Airport where your guide and driver will bid you fare well and hope you had a pleasant holiday and hope to see you in Bhutan again.