DAY 1 - PARO
Arrive Paro by Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines) or Bhutan Airlines (Private Airlines).You will be received at the Paro International Airport by the representative of Kuentshok Bhutan Tours (local Bhutan tour operator)who will be your guide throughout your tour. You directly travel to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan. The road runs down through the Paro valley, to Chuzom (Confluence) at the entrance to the valley, where the Paro and Thimphu rivers meet. The road passes along a narrow valley with high, rocky cliffs on the left, and then the valley opens out into farmland on the approach to Thimphu. On arrival at Thimphu, check into your hotel and after a refreshment or lunch visit the following:
Centenary Farmers’ Market (open from Thu-Sun only): Most of the Thimphu’s population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held by the side of Wangchu River. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday afternoon till Sunday evening. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people.
Archery Match (National Game of Bhutan) at Changlimithang National Stadium
Kuenselphodrang (commonly known as Buddha Point) where the largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu Valley. You may take a nature hike through Kuenselphodran Nature Park for about 20-30 minutes.
Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
The National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ' seat of faith' and Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of Buddha'. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
Craft Bazaar – A one stop place to witness Bhutanese culture and buy Bhutan made art and craft product. The Bazaar in its 80 stalls covers all aspects of the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.At this Bazaar craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts. And also visit other handicraft stores.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 2 - THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING
After breakfast visit the following:
School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory. The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age-old tradition originated in the 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in the home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs.You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
Bhutan Post Office Headquarters to get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends.
After lunch visit the following:
Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
Simply Bhutan - a living museum: Simply Bhutan is a unique project that aims to conserve our culture and tradition while generating employment opportunities for young job seekers. The infrastructure portrays ancient Bhutanese architecture which is being lost to modernization. The project is one of its kind in the country. The uniqueness of the structure is in its composition of the materials used. The structure is built reusing old timber, window and door frames and other items from traditional and old demolished houses. The best part is the portrayal of the age-old life styles of the Bhutanese people.
The project is targeted for youth with the following objectives;
At least 70 % of the youth trained in the photography can be employed to run the project
Youth find job opportunities
part-time jobs for youth who otherwise are idle
Encourage trainees to look at entrepreneurship positively
To preserve and promote the Bhutanese culture and tradition
To provide a unique experience to visitors /tourists in an innovative way
To raise fund to support other youth programme and activities of Youth Development Fund
Dechenphodrang (meaning ‘Palace of great bliss’) Monastery located at the north of Thimphu valley. It is a monastic school for about 500 young monks enrolled for 8 years courses. You will visit the monastery and have free interaction with young monks who are mostly from the poor family ground and some even orphan. The ‘Palace of Great Bliss’ serves as a home and learning center for these young monks. You will spend some time interacting with young monks.
In the evening stroll through Thimphu downtown.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 3 - HIKE TO TANGO/CHERI MONASTERIES
After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Tango Monastery which lies north of Thimphu city with packed picnic lunch. From the base camp which is the end of motor road you hike up to the Monastery is through the forest filled with oak and pine trees as well as Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during spring season. The Tango Monastery site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the highly revered Buddhist monks who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tango Monastery was built in 1689 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyal. The three-storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months. At present Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You will experience complete peace and serenity in this area. After visiting the monastery, walk back to the road and drive to the base of Cheri Monastery where you will eat your packed picnic lunch by the side of the river.
After lunch hike to Cheri Monastery through the forest filled with oak and Rhododendron flower trees. This is the place where monks undergo meditation/retreat with a duration ranging from 4 months to 3 years. Therefore, this place is so peaceful and you will experience complete serenity at this place. The hike up will take approximately 50 minutes. The view from Cheri Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You can sit in one of the temples of this monastery complex and meditate for some time if you would like to do so. Then walk back to the base where your car will wait for you and then travel back to Thimphu.
After breakfast, hike to Phajoding Monastery
Phajoding Monastery, which is a 3 hours hike from the nearest road, is located above Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. It was once one of the richest and most decorated monasteries in the country however due to years of neglect and the encroachment of development, it was watch listed in 2010 by the World Monuments Fund as one of five endangered cultural monuments that need the most help in the world. It is home to many very sacred Buddhist artifacts.
Phajoding takes its name from the saint Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who meditated there in the 13th century and is considered to be one of the most sacred meditational sites in Bhutan. The monastery itself is an open complex that comprises many holy buildings and relics and a State monastic school that currently houses just over 80 monks. The monk body (Dratshang) is almost totally financed by the Government and given the numerous Buddhist institutes and monasteries across Bhutan, resources are limited. Less than a half of the monks at Phajoding receive a minimal Government stipend, which subsequently has to be shared across all the monks. As a result, these monks live in the most basic of conditions and since they all come from impoverished backgrounds, their families often do not have the financial means to provide for their basic needs. Many sent to this Monastery have been orphaned.
Things to do:
special english classes at the monastery
community services to construct toilets/playground
In the evening relax and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 4 - THIMPHU PUNAKHA WANGDUEPHODRANG
After breakfast, travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass (3140 m). In the clear sky; enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and wellbeing of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan.
Also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple). The temple was built to honor His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appear to merge in the details of the lhakhang that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
Then drive into Punakha. Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history. Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held there.
On the way, stop at Metsina village and take a 20-minute walk through the paddy fields to visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
After lunch visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho - Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the person who unified Bhutan) to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork.
In the evening, visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Punakha and Wangdue valleys from there.
DAY 5 - WANGDUEPHODRANG / TRONGSA
After breakfast, drive to Trongsa through Wangdue Phondrang and lunch will be served enroute. Trongsa is the ancestral home of the royal family.
The drive will take you through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and through the tropical vegetation through the village of Nobding and Pele la pass (11,000ft). Throughout your trip you will come across the beautiful sceneries of rural Bhutan, with scattered settlements far from the road which makes for good photographing.You will also pass through open meadows, and valley of yak herders and several other villages via Chendebji Chorten (Stupa) and drive for another 2 hours to Trongsa.
On arrival at Trongsa and after the refreshment visit the National Museum which is housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower). A museum in which aspects of Bhutanese culture and history are explained by beautifully objects. Documentary will be shown too which explains a great deal about Bhutanese history and history of monarchy. You will also visit Trongsa Dzong, which is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1644 by the Shabdrung, the dzong is an architectural masterpiece.
In the evening visit Trongsa town.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
DAY 6 - TRONGSA / BUMTHANG
After breakfast drive to Bumthang, this is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers meditated and left in their wake many sacred grounds. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons, treasure finders, have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley.
On the way, visit the “Yathra” Weaving Centre at Zugney. Yathra is the name for the colorful, hand-woven woolen cloth (often with geometric designs) that is produced in this region and wool used for this type of textile is sheep wool as the sheep is reared in the Bumthang district. Yatra is made into jackets or bags, etc.
Then drive onto Bumthang. On arrival at Bumthang Check into your hotel and after lunch visit the following:
Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Goempo of Tibet. In his effort to propagate Buddhism he had a plan to build a total of 108 temples in Tibet and neighboring kingdoms.
Kujey Lhakhang (Kujey means, "Body imprint"). The temple to the right is the oldest and was built by Minjur Tempa in 1652. It was built around the cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated and left his body imprint.
Jakar Dzong, "castle of the white bird". 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. The fortress is now used as an administrative center of the valley and summer residence of Trongsa monks.
In the evening visit one of the farmhouses in Bumthang valley to get an insight into the village life in Bumthang Valley. You may enjoy typical Bhutanese dinner at the farmhouse.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.