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THE BEST OF BHUTAN
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked nation in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalaya Mountains and is bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by Tibet. Bhutan is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim. The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul which means “Land of the Thunder Dragon”.
BHUTAN: 12 DAYS ITINERARY
Day 1: Paro
Arrive in Paro. Transfer to the hotel and take good rest.
After lunch visit Dungtse Lhakhang. This unusual building was built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Drupthop Thangtong Gyelpo. It is three storyed building representing hell, heaven and earth and the painting inside are said to be some of the best.
National museum which is under renovation and will take another one or two more year to finish. It was destroyed in an earthquake about few years ago. But you can visit another building nearby which had been turned into a museum.
After the museum visit Paro Rimpong Dzong built in 1646 by shabdrung. Many scenes from the movie Little Buddha was filmed inside this dzong. After the visit walk down to an old cantilever bridge. Free to stroll around the Paro town.
Day 2: Paro to Thimphu. 1 ½ hr
After breakfast drive to Thimphu (2310m). Enroute visit Tamchog Lakhang dated back to 16th century built by Druptho ThangThong Gyelpo famously known as Great Iron-bridge builder. It is a small hike about 15min to the monastery crossing over iron-chained bridge. Further down stop at Confluence (chu-zom) to see three different styled stupa. Nepalese style, Tibetan style and Bhutanese style.
Before check inn, visit Memoral chorten(1974) dedicate to Late third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
After lunch visit Chang gangkha Lhakhang, built during 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and proceed to takin Mini Zoo, in this zoo you can see the National animal of Bhutan called Takin. It has a body of a cow and a head of a goat. It is a unique looking animal and said to be created by Drukpa Kuenley known famously as Divine madman.
In the evening visit Trashichho Dzong: Dzong actually means fortress. It was built during 17th century by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal (person who unified Bhutan). At present it house administration and monastic school.Dive back to Hotel. Free to explore town.
Day 3: Thimphu sightseeing
After breakfast drive about 30min towards the north of Thimphu to Hike to Tango Monastery. It is about 1hr hike all together. After the hike drive back to have lunch in the town. After lunch visit School of Art and Craft: - commonly known as painting School. It offers a six years courses in painting, drawing, sculpting and 4yrs in other course. Visit various classrooms were student follow a comprehensive course.
National Library: - it was established in 1967 to preserve many ancient Buddhist texts. There you can also see the world largest book on Bhutan. There is a collection of English-language book in a new administration building.
Textile Academy: - a place to learn more about Bhutan’s living national art of weaving. You will find the small group of women folk working at their looms, introduces the weaving technique, styles of local dress both for men and women. And also visit craft market and Handicraft Emporium. Evening free.
Day 4: Thimphu to Punakha. 3 ½ hr
After early breakfast drive to Punakha with a short stop at Dochula pass(3150mts). If the weather is clear, you will have a stunning view of Himalayas. See the Druk Wangyel Chorten with 108 chorten/stupa.
Before reaching Punakha, visit….
Chhimi lakhang, also known as the temple of fertility which belongs to the Divine Madman commonly known as Drukpa Kuenley. It is about an hour round trip hike. Built by his half-brother Nawang Chhogyel during 15th century.
Check into hotel.
In the afternoon visit Punakha Dzong. It is one of the 2nd oldest dzong built in Bhutan in 1637 that sits majestically at the confluence of Mo Chhu(female river) at the left and Po Chhu(male river) at the right. It was built by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal the person who unified Bhutan in 17th century. This dzong caught fire many times and destroyed by flood. The last flood in 1994 cause damage and has been repaired. This dzong is the winter residence for the monk body including the religious head Jekhenpo and Thimphu as summer residence.
After the visit drive back to Hotel.
Day 5: Punakha to Trongsa.5-6hrs
Start early after breakfast to Trongsa. From Punakha the roads ascend till Pelela pass (3240mtr). The pass is often covered by fog. But if the weather is good you will be able to see Mt.Jhomolhari. From the pass the road gradually descend passing through some beautiful village like Rukubji, chazam and Chendipji village and Chendepji chorten located at the beautiful spot by a river confluence.From here it is about 1-2hrs drive to Trongsa. Stop at Trongsa view point for a photo and to see the whole town and the Dzong.
In the afternoon visit Trongsa Dzong. The spectacular dzong sits high above the roaring Mangde Chhu River. Trongsa is the ancestral home of bhutan’s royal family. The first two heredity kings ruled Bhutan from Trongsa and that is why the traditional still exist the king must become the Trongsa Penlop(governor) before ascending the throne.
Trongsa Dzong has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. The first construction on the site was carried out by Ngagi Wangchuck (1517–54), the great-grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He came to Trongsa in 1541 and built a tshamkhang (small meditation room) after discovering self-manifested hoof prints belonging to the horse of the protector deity Pelden Lhamo. Trongsa ('New Village' in the local dialect) gets its name from the retreats, temples and hermit residences that soon grew up around the chapel.
The rambling assemblage of buildings that comprises the dzong trails down the ridge and is connected by a succession of alley-like corridors, wide stone stairs and beautiful paved courtyards. The southernmost part of the dzong, Chorten Lhakhang, is the location of the first hermitage, built in 1543. The dzong was built in its present form in 1644 by Chhogyel Mingyur Tenpa, the official who was sent by the Zhabdrung to bring eastern Bhutan under central control. It was then enlarged at the end of the 17th century by the desi, Tenzin Rabgye. Its official name is Chhoekhor Raptentse Dzong, and it is also known by its short name of Choetse Dzong. The dzong was severely damaged in the 1897 earthquake, and repairs were carried out by the penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal, father of Bhutan's first king.
After the Dzong visit Tower of Trongsa museum. The museum originally serves as Watch tower named Taa dzong located on the hill above the Dzong. The renovation to convert into museum has been done by Austrian Finance team.
Explore Trongsa town and drive back to hotel.
Day 6: Trongsa to Bumthang. 2 ½ hrs
After breakfast drive to Bumthang. En route stop at Yotongla pass (3425 mt). From the pass descend through conifer forest till the first wide opening Chhume valley. Stop at Zungney village where there are two shops selling Yartha(fabric woven out of sheep wool/yarn). From the product one can make shawl,jacket and blankets which are very ideal to protect from the winter cold of the region. After passing Zungney village ascend till small pass Kikila(2800mt) that separates the two valley Chhume and Chogkor valley. Descend from the pass about 300mts to the valley.
The Bumthang region encompasses four major valleys: Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. Because the dzongs and the most important temples are in the large Chokhor valley, it is commonly referred to as the Bumthang valley.There are two versions of the origin of the name Bumthang. The valley is supposed to be shaped like a bumpa, the vessel of holy water that is usually found on the altar of a lhakhang. Thang means 'field' or 'flat place'. The less respectful translation relates to the particularly beautiful women who live here – bum means 'girl'.
After lunch visit Jakar Dzong:According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a monastery and for Jakar Dzong, which roughly translates as 'castle of the white bird'. The Zhabdrung's great-grandfather, Ngagi Wangchuck, founded the monastery.
Jakar Dzong is in a picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley. The current structure was built in 1667 and has a circumference of more than 1500m. Its official name is Yuelay Namgyal Dzong, in honour of the victory over the troops of Tibetan ruler Phuntsho Namgyal. The utse (central tower) is unusually situated on the outside wall, so there is no way to circumambulate it. A walled passage leads from the dzong down the hill to a nearby spring – a feature that ensured water could be obtained in the event of a long siege.
Wangduechholing Palace: The extensive palace of Wangduechholing was built in 1857 on the site of a battle camp of the Trongsa penlop, Jigme Namgyal. It was the first palace in Bhutan that was not designed primarily as a fortress. Namgyal's son, King Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan, was born here and chose it as his principal residence. Wangdichholing was also for a time the home of the third king, before he moved the royal court to Punakha in 1952. At present this palace is currently used as a lobdra (monastic school). Outside there are five giant prayer wheels inside square chortens just to the north.
Evening explore Chamkhar town which is the major trading center of the region. This will probably be your base for several days as you visit the surrounding valleys.
Jakar itself is a bustling two-street town and well worth a wander, though most of the shopfronts are new, rebuilt after three fires destroyed much of the town in 2010.
Bumthang's Bathpalathang airport on the east bank of the Chamkhar Chhu opened for regular flights in 2011 and looks set to open up the valley to increasing numbers of tourists. There is a strong up-valley wind from the south every afternoon, which makes Jakar nippy in the evenings.
Day 7: Excursion to Tang or Ura valley.
Start early from hotel for a day excursion to Tang valley: Tang is the most remote of Bumthang's valleys. As it is higher than Chokhor and the soil is not as fertile, there's not as much agriculture here, although the valley turns bright pink with buckwheat flowers in October. The people of this valley raise sheep and, at higher elevations, yaks. From Jakar it's 11km to the unpaved road that branches north up the Tang valley. This road climbs past the trail to Membartsho and the Pema Tekchok Choeling Shedra, a large nunnery where about 160 anim (nuns) complete 12 years of study. The road then climbs high above the river, crossing the bridge at Pangshing and then passing Gemshong, a particularly picturesque village and lhakhang perched on a ridge. After a short descent to the river it's 3km to a school at Mesithang and 1km further to the Tang Rimochen Lhakhang.
The road becomes rougher as it approaches the bridge at Kizum (Ki Zam), 22km from the road junction, where a dirt road branches over the river to Ogyen Chholing.
Visit Ogyen Cholling palace which was built by Deb Raja Tshokey Dorje the governor of Trongsa who is the descendant of Dorji Lingpa. Now the descendant owning this palace has converted into museum. It provides the place for religious studies, research and solitude. Outside the West of palace they have guest house called O’ling.
After the visit drive back and on the way stop to visit Membar Tso (burning lake). This beautiful spot is the combination of nature, religion and mythology. Pema Lingpa is believed to have discovered treasure from this lake.
After breakfast drive to Ura valley: The road crosses the bridge to the east of Jakar, then travels south along the east bank of the Chamkhar Chhu, winding around a ridge past the turn-off to the Tang valley. As the road climbs, look back at excellent views up the Chokhor and Chhume valleys.
The few houses and lhakhang that makes up Tangsibi village are 24km from Jakar. The road climbs to a chorten, and then finally crosses the Shertang La (3590m), also known as the Ura La. Just before the pass you'll get a view of Gangkhar Puensum (7541m) to the northwest and the yellow-roofed lhakhang of Shingkhar village below. From the pass you can make a nice hour-long walk into Ura village
It's then a long descent into the Ura valley.. A couple of kilometres before the turn-off to the village of Ura, which lies below the road, is the turn-off to Shingkhar.
Drive back the same way and visit Membar tso.
Day 8: Bumthang sightseeing.
Today visit few important monasteries around Chokor valley.
Drive to visit Jampey Lakhang: believed to be built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gembo in 659 the same day as Ktichu Lakhang in Paro in order to subdue Demoness.
Kurjee Lakhang: another revered temple in Bumthang is named after the body (Ku) print (jee) of Guru Rimpoche who meditate in a cave here.
The history of the temples at Kurjey is associated with Sindhu Raja and Guru Rimpoche. There are three main temples at Kurjey. The oldest temple was constructed on the site where Guru Rimpoche meditated by Minjur Tenpa the first Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa) in 1652.The second temple was founded by Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck in 1900 while serving as the 13th Trongsa Penlop. The third temple was built in the 1990s. It was sponsored by the Royal Grand Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. It houses the images of Guru Rimpoche, King Thrisong Detsen and Pandit Santarakshita. In front of the temples are Chortens dedicated to the first three kings of Bhutan.
After visiting Kurjee walk across to visit Tamshing moanstey which means “Temple of good message”. This monastery was built by Terton Pema Lingpa during 1501 as his residence. It is one of the most important Nyingmapa monasteries in Bhutan.
Inside you can still see old wall frescos which were painted and sculptured by Pema Lingpa himself. Don’t forget to carry torch with you.
After lunch visit Swiss cheese factory and Beer factory.
Day 9: Bumthang to Phobjikha.5-6hrs
Start your day with a drive back on the same road crossing over two passes to Gangtey Gomba.
Visit the monastery over there. Gangtey goemba is one of the oldest Nyingmapa School established in Bhutan. The present head of the monastery is the 9th body reincarnations of very famous person called Terton Pema Lingpa know famously as treasure discover. The temple was founded here in 1613 and build later by the second reincarnation. It is a private monastic school.
After the visit, walk through the small town and hike down to Phobjikha valley (2900mts) on a Nature trail. It takes about 2hrs and it is about 4km walk down hill. Phobjikha valley is also the winter roosting place for the Black Necked Crane that flies all the way from Tibet.
Check into hotel.
Day 10: Phobjikha to Paro.
Start early from Phobjikha to Paro via Dochula pass. Lunch at Dochula. Check into hotel.
Day 11: Paro. Hike to Tiger’s nest (Taktsang monastery)
Hike to Tiger’s nest, which is about 900mts from the floor of Paro valley. After breakfast, drive from your hotel to the base of the Tiger’s nest. From here, it takes you about one and a half hours to walk up the winding trail steeply through blue pine forest to a teahouse and excellent vantage point. Another half hour walk takes us almost directly opposite the cliffs where the monastery is set. The monastery is the divine resting place of the Guru Rinpoche in the form of Guru Dorji Dorlo. After visiting the monastery, return for lunch at the cafeteria. After lunch walk back to the car.
On the way back visit Kichu Lakhang, one of the oldest monastery built in 7th century by Tibetan king Songten Gembo. Kichu monastery holds down the left foot and the other monastery, Jambay lakhnag in central Bhutan is used to hold the left knee. Inside the courtyard you can see the original building and an additional building built by her royal grandmother Ashi Kelzang Chhoden. After the visit drive back to hotel.
Day 12: Return
Visas are not issued by Bhutanese embassies abroad. Visas are issued only when you arrive in the country, either at Paro airport or (if by road) at Phuentsholing. You must apply in advance. You can either fill in the visa application form using Adobe Acrobat, fill it out and fax it to us or email or fax us the following information. We will take care the rest:
Your full name as it appears in your passport
Date of issue and expiration of passport
Date and place of birth
Double check that the information is correct; if there are discrepancies in any important numbers when you arrive in Bhutan, there are delays and complications in issuing the visa.
After the visa clearance is issued by the Department of Immigration, they send a visa confirmation number to Druk Air and your tour operator.
The actual visa endorsement is stamped on your passport when you arrive at Paro International Airport. You will then receive a visa for the period you have arranged to be in Bhutan. We will process visa extensions for you if they become necessary.
Tourism Council of Bhutan regulates all tourism related activities in Bhutan. The existing travel agencies are registered with them, and they also fix the daily tariff rates. Thirty-five percent of the daily tariff goes directly to the national treasury. These funds are used by the government for the socioeconomic development of Bhutan, and hospitals, schools, and roads are built and maintained with the income. The Department of Tourism has released a travel information website at detailing their role and the regulations by which we and all other travel agencies are governed.
Tourism Council Of Bhutan and Tariffs
The normal rate for travel in Bhutan is US$250 per day. The following surcharges are applied for small groups:
Two people travelling together – US$30 per night per person
One person travelling alone – US$40 per night per person
Contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions regarding the tariff.
The daily rate may sound high at first, but remember that this includes your accommodation, all food, guide, and transportation within Bhutan.
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