RASK Undiscovered

BHUTAN – A Kingdom in Clouds

AN ADVENTURE LIKE NO OTHER THROUGH UNSPOILT NATURE AND ANCIENT WISDOM

For many years utterly remote, mysterious  and lost in the clouds, Bhutan has opened up just a little to the world. One of the worlds last remaining Buddhist kingdoms, it is also one of the last truly magical, unspoilt places with an ancient living wisdom.

After all, how many countries measure their prosperity in Gross National Happiness?

Bhutan exists today as it would have done centuries ago, offering a truly authentic experience in a land of monasteries tucked away in mountains, unfrequented trekking trails and wonderful, hospitable people. Follow us through this sample itinerary, and contact us to craft a tailor-made, unique experience for you!

DAY 1  – Paro – Thimpu

Arrive today at Paro international airport (Druk Air flight).

On arrival in Paro you will be met and driven to Thimphu which is 1 hour 30 mins away.  In the first phase we drive from Paro to Simtokha.  En route we pass the Tamchog Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo (iron bridge builder-a saint from the 14th /15th century who introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains). There’s an orange tree which fruits in the courtyard due to the blessings of the saint and monastery (oranges are not native to that region). We pass Chuzom (Meeting of the rivers or confluence). Bhutanese believe that evil influences gather at such places and hence three shrines have been built on this spot. The shrines have been built in three different styles- Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese. Vehicles need to register with check post at point. The next part of the drive which is only 15 minutes is from Simtokha to the capital town of Thimphu where we will be staying for the next three nights.

Thimphu: Lying at an elevation of 2320m above sea level the capital of Bhutan is a blend of the traditional and the modern. It is the only capital in the world without streetlights relying instead on the elegant gestures of the traffic policemen. The population of Thimphu stands at around 40,000. Geographically speaking the capital lies in a valley with the Thimphu River running through the valley.

The evening is at leisure.

 

DAY 2 – Thimpu

You will explore Thimpu with your private guide today.

Visit the Tashichodzong, Dzongs are traditionally built without nails or written plans. The dzong houses the monk body in summer and is the seat of government; the king’s offices are in this dzong. There is a picturesque cantilever bridge below the dzong. You guide will take you to the National Library which houses ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts in a huge traditional building. Each floor has an altar with statue of Bhutan’s most important historical/religious figures. People sometimes go around the building in prayer because the building houses many holy books.

If time permits you can also visit the School of Arts and Crafts, traditionally there are 13 arts and crafts in Bhutan. The students sell the works in a shop nearby to supplement their income. The 13 arts and crafts are Painting, carpentry, carving, sculpture, casting, blacksmith, bamboo works, gold smithing & silver smithing, weaving, embroidery, masonry, leather works and paper works. This school offers live practice lessons to students to master the crafts.

Lunch will be at a local restaurant.

The bustling weekend market where all Bhutanese buy their groceries etc. also houses a handicraft section. Other sites time permitting should School of Arts and Crafts. Traditionally there are 13 arts and crafts in Bhutan. The students sell the works in a shop nearby to supplement their income. The 13 arts and crafts are Painting, Carpentry, Carving, Sculpture, Casting, Blacksmith, Bamboo works, Gold Smithing & Silver Smithing, Weaving, Embroidery, Masonry, Leather works and paper works. Guests can visit the school to see the students master the crafts. Visit local emporium and handicrafts shops in the town.

DAY 3 – Thimpu ‑ Punakha

Today for our drive to Punakha, approximately 3 hours away. The drive is in three phases. After reaching Simtokha we climb from Simtokha to Dochula pass. En route we pass the Simtokha Dzong which is the oldest dzong in Bhutan and which now houses the Institute for language and Culture. At Hongtso there is an immigration checkpoint where we need to register. We also cross Dochula pass (3150m) where on a clear day we can see views of the Himalayas. Lunch can be packed from the hotel in Paro or can be eaten at the Dochula cafeteria.

The last phase of the journey is downhill to Punakha valley. En route we pass prayer wheels which are run by flowing water.

Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan and the magnificent dzong is situated on an island in the middle of the river. It is also the winter residence of the Central monastic body. It is a climatically a warmer valley than Paro and Thimphu. We can visit the Punakha dzong and Short hike to Chimi Lhakhang where many go to pray for progeny. A visit to a traditional Bhutanese village can be arranged so that guests can view life in rural Bhutan. For those desiring more energetic pursuits – hiking to nearby villages can be arranged.

DAY 4 – Punakha

 This morning you will visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup nunnery – The nunnery is perched on a ridge amid pine trees overlooking Punakha and Wangduephodrang. The temple complex houses a permanent learning and meditation centre for nuns where apart from religious training, it provides skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting. Continue your drive to Talo Monastery: The site was founded by Chogtrul Jigme Singye (1742-89), the 4th reincarnation of Lama Thripa (Galsey Tenzin Rabgye), which literally means the holder of the throne, a title given to Gyalsay Tenzin Rabgye (1638-96) as the Gyaltsap (regent) appointed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. This took place in 1767 corresponding to the 13th Rabjung (name of the cycle of 60 years starting with rabbit year) of the Fire Pig Year of the Bhutanese calendar.

After lunch visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, the seat of the local governance lies in a island in the middle of the river. The two sides of the river are identified as the male and female rivers which meet to form the main river. The Dzong has built rebuilt several times due to floods and fire.

Later in the afternoon, if interested and time permits, you could also take a short drive down to Kabisa valley after which can trek up to Chorten (meaning Stupa). This walk will take you through beautiful rice fields and villages or you can simply choose to drive back the hotel and have relax evening.

DAY 5 – Punakha – Paro

Drive from Punakha to Paro after breakfast or you can even start later, the drive will take approx 4hours. You may like to stop for a lunch at Thimphu and perhaps do some last minute souvenir shopping on the way.

PARO lies at an altitude of 2280m above sea level. Before the construction of roads most of Bhutan’s trade came through Paro either from Tibet via Tremo la or from the south via Haa. Paro valley extends from Jumolhari on the Tibetan border to Chuzom which is the confluence of the Thimphu and Punakha rivers.

On arrival check-in at the hotel and relax.

DAY 6  – Paro

Today you will be taken for the excursion/hike to Tiger’s Nest.

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is built on the where guru Padmasambhava is reputed to have flown to on the back of a Tiger. The monastery is a revered site for the Bhutanese. The walk up to the viewpoint takes roughly two hours and is an uphill climb through alpine forests. LUNCH on the trail or can be eaten at the cafeteria, which provides a good view of the monastery. The monastery was partially destroyed in a forest though restoration works are almost complete. The local people have provided the labour for restoration. Bhutanese believe that participating in the restoration of holy places helps in the accumulation of good merit.

Drive back to the hotel after the hike and relax for rest of the day as you will be tired after the hike to the Tiger’s nest or make a Spa appointment.

Dinner will be at the hotel

DAY 7  – Paro

Today you will be taken for the sightseeing tour of Paro. Start the tour with a visit the Paro Dzong: The correct name of the Dzong is Rinchen Pung Dzong which means fortress on a heap of jewels. The Dzong was built in 1646 by Shabdung Ngawang Namgyel. The Dzong was formerly the meeting hall for the National Assembly. The Dzong is located on a vantagepoint on the hillside and has two Lhakhangs (monasteries) and a Central Utse (Central tower). As with all Dzongs the local administrative and monk body are housed on the premises.

The National museum, is located above the Paro Dzong in the ancient circular watchtower. The museum consists of six floors dealing with different aspects of Bhutanese culture. The museum also houses a great collection of Thangkhas (embroidered or painted religious hangings). The Tshogshing Lhakhang (the temple of the tree of wisdom) is also located in the museum. You can then walk down to the Paro Dzong for a visit, the correct name of the Dzong is Rinchen Pung Dzong which means fortress on a heap of jewels. The Dzong was built in 1646 by Shabdung Ngawang Namgyel. The Dzong was formerly the meeting hall for the National Assembly. The Dzong is located on a vantage point on the hillside and has two Lhakhangs (monasteries) and a Central Utse (Central tower). As with all Dzongs the local administrative and monk body are housed on the premises.

Lunch will be at a local guest house in the Paro town market.

In the afternoon you will visit the Chorten Lhakhang, a monastery situated in the centre of the town and is built in the traditional Bhutanese style. Dumtse Lhakhang is a temple believed to have flown from Tibet and is hence held by chains to the ground.

Your guide will also take you to the lesser know sites – Dumtse Lhakhang; this unusual building was built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo. It has three floors representing hell, earth, heaven and the paintings inside are said to be some of the best in Bhutan. Kyichu Lhakhang: It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country 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.

In the early evening you can take a stroll with your guide around Paro town to see the local life in Bhutan. The town is situated right below the Dzong. Near the bridge are chortens (or prayer shrines) situated alongside the Ugyen Pelri palace. You can either have dinner at a local restaurant or drive back to the hotel for the dinner.

DAY 8  – Paro – Fly out

After a leisurely breakfast check out and transfer to the Airport for your departure to onward destination.

 

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