Nestled in the folds of the Eastern Himalayas, remaining in self-imposed isolation for centuries, Bhutan opened up to the world in a glacial pace. The population lived in close harmony with nature, evolving a unique identity, derived largely from a rich religious and cultural heritage. This country of 700,000 people, roughly the size of Switzerland, is the world’s only Mahayana Buddhist country. The Buddhist respect for all sentient beings helped Bhutan protect its pristine ecology and wildlife.
This self-sufficient population was never colonized and had limited contact to the outside world. Buddhism was established in the 8th century by the Indian saint Padmasambhava, popularly known in the Tantric tradition as Guru Rinpoche. Perhaps the most dynamic era in Bhutanese history came in the 17th century with the arrival, in 1616, of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the great leader of the Drukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism. He unified the country and established the foundations for national governance and the Bhutanese identity.
In 1907, a historic Assembly of the clergy, the official administration, and the people unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan thus beginning the glorious era of the Wangchuck dynasty. In 2006, the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced that he would abdicate in favor of a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. In 2008, the year that marked 100 years of the monarchy saw two important events; the first democratic elections and the coronation of the fifth king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Forest area : 72.5 %
Altitude : between 240metres and 7541metres above sea level
Inhabitants : 700,000
Language : official language “Dzongkha”, English widely spoken
Religion : Vajrayana stream of Mahayana Buddhism (Also known as Tantric Buddhism)
Currency : Ngultrum (equal to Indian Rupee)
Capital : Thimphu
National Tree : Cypress
National Bird : Raven
National Flower : Blue Poppy
National Sport : Archery
National Animal : Takin
Local time : Six hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift, as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be met by our representative, and afterwards drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan with enroute stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different style of stupas; Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese adorn this confluence. Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see on your left TschogangLhakhang, “the temple of the excellent horse”. It is a private temple, built in 15th century, as the result of visitation from Balaha, the excellent horse, a manifestation of Chenrezig, the compassionate Buddha.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel. The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of Government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. With the population of about 90,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.
Evening an exploratory walk around Thimphu Main Street and market area. Also visit the Local Crafts Bazaar, to browse through example of Bhutan's fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, Thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewellery, interesting items made from local materials.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2400m).
After breakfast, sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following: The National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts. Later visit Textile Museum, which provides insight into Bhutan’s one of the most distinct art form. Also visit Simply Bhutan, a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
After lunch take a short drive (15 km) to Pangri Zampa, 16th century one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan located just north of Thimphu. Here is a monastic school where Buddhist student’s monks learn Lamaism and astrology based on Buddhist philosophy.
Afterwards visit to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (KuenselPhodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
King's Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Later visit to Trashichhoedzong: This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, check-out from the hotel & drive Gangtey (Phobjikha) enroute visiting Dochula Pass (Altitude 3080m). In Bhutan, the passes are marked by a large Bhutanese Chorten and prayer flag. Dochula pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas on a clear day. And also via Wangdue Phodrang, where you can visit the local market and explore newly developed town. The district of Wangdue Phodrang is also famous for its bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Further ahead pass through dense forests and oak, rhododendron tress, reaching at Gangtey (Phobjikha).
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
After lunch, take a walk around Gangtey village and visit Gangtey Goempa. Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’s Gangtey valley, Bhutan and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey
After early breakfast, enjoy the Gangtey Nature Trail (Distance: 5.5 km, Time: approx. 2 hours, Difficulty level: Easy).
This pleasurable walk provides opportunity to get nice feel of Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into open valley. The trail ends at the local community school after passing a chorten and Khewal Lhakhang.
Later proceed for the day excursion to Tangjey Lhakhang (3050 mtr) (Distance: 10-12 km approx, Time: 4-5 hrs & Difficulty level: moderate).
We set out on a day hike toward the southeast direction through the vegetation of dwarf bamboos that adorns the Phobjikha valley, where the rare species of Black Necked Cranes resides during winter (beginning of November till mid-March). After an hour of easy hike, we reach small settlement of Kilkhorthang village. After a short rest to enjoy the dramatic landscape of the valley, we continue towards Tanjey thru vegetable fields & orchards. Tangey Lakhang (temple) is dedicated to Lord Buddha and its local protective deity Yeshi Gempo. The original foundation of the temple dates back to 1517 – 1554. After a thorough scanning of the temple, we head back to hotel crossing a wooden bride over the crystal-clear river. A day can be ended with a little celebration of locally distilled traditional drink.
Overnight at hotel in Gangtey (Phobjikha)
After breakfast, continue drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, enroute take a short walking excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, from hotel it is about 15 mins’ drive till motor able road and then walk starts through paddy fields and villages. This is total about 1½ hrs walk, including both way). The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Upon arrival; check into the hotel. Later visit Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and still serves as the winter residence of the monk body.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha
After breakfast, drive to Paro along scenic highway, enroute visit SimtokhaDzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
On arrival in Paro, check into the hotel. After lunch, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique Thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons &armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Ta Dzong visit immediately followed by a short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (ParoDzong), meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
After breakfast excursion to Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest (approx. 5 hours walk): It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and visited by ShabdrungNgawangNamgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.
Afternoon drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Jhomolhari, "mountain of goddess'' can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong.
Evening, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
DEPART PARO BY AIR
After early breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.
• Ta Dzong – Paro (National Museum): closed on Government Holidays
• National Library – Thimphu: Closed on Saturday, Sunday & on Government holidays
• Textile Museum – Thimphu: Closed on Government Holidays & on Sunday. On Saturday, it open from 9.00 AM to 4 PM
• Institute of Zorig Chusum (Arts & Crafts School) - Thimphu: Closed on Sunday & Government holidays. On Saturday, it open from 10 AM to 12 o’clock. Also closed in winter (from December – early March).
• Folk Heritage Museum: Closed on all Sunday & on government holidays