This is a complete western Bhutan tour, covering all five western districts of Bhutan including Paro, Thimphu (capital), Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Haa. Highlight of the tour includes visit to Chelela Pass, Dochula pass, Gangtey valley and hike to Taktsang monastery.
Duration: 9 days and 8 nights
Nature of tour: Cultural sightseeing tour
Departure date: Everyday
Places covered: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Haa.
Welcome to the land of Thunder Dragon. Representative from See Bhutan Travels will welcome you at Paro international airport. Get transferred to your hotel and enjoy your lunch.
After lunch we will visit to following sites:
Paro Ta Dzong (national museum): Located on a spur above Rinpung Dzong, five and a half kilometres’ drive from Tshongdu town, the dzong was built in the mid-17th century as a watchtower overlooking Rinpung Dzong by Lanyongpa Tenzin Drukdra and Chogyal Migyur Tenpa. The circular dzong houses the National Museum of Bhutan
Paro Rinpung Dzong: Located on the bank of Pachu River, Paro Dzong, formally known as Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong), was built in 1644 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is one of the most beautiful and historically important dzongs in the country. Today, it houses both district administration and monastic body.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro.
Today our journey begins eastward towards Capital city of Bhutan; Thimphu. On the way before reaching Chuzom Bridge, stop shortly to view Tachok Lhakhang (monastery) located at the bank of Paa Chhu River, built in late 1300s by great Tibetan saint Drupthob Thangthong Gyalpo.
At Thimphu we will visit to following places:
1. Memorial Chorten: Located in the heart of Thimphu city, it was built in 1974 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden in memory of her son, Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The three-storey choeten houses several relics such as Phurba Lhatshog, Kagay, Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa, Guru Tshengye, and Khenlop Chesum. The choeten is today the spiritual nerve centre of the city.
2. Buddha Statue: Located at Kuenselphodrang, facing Thimphu valley down bellow is the worlds’ largest and tallest Buddha statue standing at the height of 169 feet (52m). The statue houses one hundred thousand of smaller Buddha statues, the exact replica of the outer Buddha statue. From here one can have a 360 degree view of Thimphu valley.
3. Textile museum: Located near National library at Chubachu, it was established in the year 2001. The museum contains Bhutanese textiles, arts, crafts and more importantly the royal collections which includes first version of the Raven crown worn by first and second King of Bhutan, dresses and accessories worn by royal family and the bedding of his holiness Zhabdrung Jigme Dorji.
4. Tashichho Dzong: Located on the bank of the Wangchu River in the Hejo village, Tashicho Dzong was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and enlarged in 1694 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. It was entirely rebuilt under the command of Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1962. Today, the dzong is the seat of the central government, His Majesty the King’s office, and the summer residence of the Central Monastic Body.
Overnight: At hotel in Thimphu
Today we will spend our day exploring around Thimphu valley and taking a short hike to Tango Monastery.
Tango Monastery: Located north of Thimphu opposite Cheri Monastery, approximately 14 km drive from Thimphu and 40 minutes’ walk from the road point.
The monastery’s name honours Phajo Drugom Zhigpo’s meeting with the horse-headed deity Tandin (Hayagriva) who prophesied that Phajo would help the teachings of Drukpa Kagyu flourish in Bhutan. The monastery was visited by many great masters and it contains many sacred relics. The monastery today houses the College of Buddhist Studies.
If time permits, towards evening we will visit to Simtokha Dzong (fortress).
Overnight: At hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, head out towards Punakha, located 77 km east of Thimphu via Dochula pass.
On the way we will visit Temple of Fertility; Khemae Lhakhang.
After arriving at Punakha pay visit to Punakha Dzong and hike to Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Choeten.
Punakha Dzong: The dzong is situated on a stretch of a land where two rivers – Phochu and Mochu – meet. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1937 and named it Pungthang Dewa Chenpai Phodrang, the palace of great bliss. Later it became the final retreat palace for him. The first monarch, King Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned there and it served as the capital of the country until 1955. Today it serves as the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body. The sacred relic Rangjung Kharsapani is also kept in the Machen Temple inside the dzong.
Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Choeten: Located in Kabesa Gewog, about 7 km drive from Punakha town, the choeten was built with the sponsorship of her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck between 1992 and 1999 under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Lam Sonam Zangpo. The three-storey choeten contains the images of Dorji Phurba on the ground floor, Khrowo Khamsum Namgyal on the first floor, and Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa on the second floor.
Overnight: At hotel in Punakha
Gangtey valley, located 78 km east of Punakha is a beautiful and one of most scenic glacial valley of Bhutan. This valley serves as roosting spot for Black necked crane, one of the rarest and endangered species of bird which migrates during winter months (November, December, January, February) from Tibetan plateaus and northern region of India.
After arriving at Gangtey, we will go around for a short hike enjoying the scenic view of the valley and towards evening pay visit to Gangtey monastery. We will also visit to nearby villages and mingle with local people.
Overnight: At hotel in Gangtey
Begin your journey back towards Paro valley. On the way spend some time at Dochula Pass before descending down towards Paro.
At Paro pay visit to following places:
1. Paro Rinpung Dzong: Located on the bank of Pachu River, Paro Dzong, formally known as Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong), was built in 1644 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is one of the most beautiful and historically important dzongs in the country. Today, it houses both district administration and monastic body.
2. Paro Kichu Lhakhang: Located about 10 minutes’ drive from Paro town, the temple is one of the two among 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to subdue a demon that lay supine across Tibet and Bhutan. The temple contains sacred relics dating back to the 7th century like a statue of Lord Buddha and four statues of Chagtong Chentong. It also contains the statues of Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Dolma Kukuli (a manifestation of Tara), Zhabdrung, the bone relic of his Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro
After breakfast, drive towards Taktsang base from where the hike begins.
Taktsang monastery: Depending on your pace and the time you spent in Monastery, hiking to this monastery will take around 5 to 6 hours (roundtrip).
The monastery is located 900 m above Paro valley on the face of a rocky cliff. Taktshang is perhaps the most famous monastery in the country. The monastery was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew there from Kurtoe Singay Dzong (Eastern Bhutan) riding on a tigress to subdue a demon. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the secular head of the country (1680-1694) has begun the construction of the monastery at this site in 1692 and completed in the year 1694. The monastery houses many temples that contain sacred statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Tshepame Yabyum and Bone relic of Pelgi Singay.
After coming back from Taktsang monastery, we will visit to Drugyal Dzong and Kichu Lhakhang.
Drugyal Dzong: Located in Phongdey village in Paro, the Dzong was built as one of the principal Dra Dzong (defence dzongs). While some attribute the building of the Dzong to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate a victory over Tibetan invasion, some attribute it to the second Druk Desi Tenzin Drukdra. But as its name suggests (Druk – Drukpa; gyal – victory), the Dzong was built to celebrate the victory over Tibetans. The Dzong was used as the summer residence of Rinpung Rabdey until 1951 when it was completely burnt down. The Dzong is currently being rebuilt to its former glory to celebrate the birth of crown prince Jigme Namgyel.>
Paro Kichu Lhakhang: : Located about 10 minutes’ drive from Paro town, the temple is one of the two among 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to subdue a demon that lay supine across Tibet and Bhutan. The temple contains sacred relics dating back to the 7th century like a statue of Lord Buddha and four statues of Chagtong Chentong. It also contains the statues of Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Dolma Kukuli (a manifestation of Tara), Zhabdrung, the bone relic of his Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro
Today we will travel to Haa, the extreme western district of Bhutan via Chelela Pass. Located at 3988 m above sea level, Chelela pass is the highest motor able pass in Bhutan from where one can enjoy a spectacular view of Himalayan ranges. After arriving at Haa, we will enjoy driving around witnessing the local farmers farming around. Towards evening drive back to Paro.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro
After breakfast, your guide and driver will see you off at Paro International airport for your onward destinations.
Some may find food in Bhutan monotonous with the same menu being offered in every restaurants and hotels but these foods are true to Bhutan, unique in its own way, different from anywhere else in the world.
Bhutanese people are very fond of spicy foods and chili lies in the center of every cuisine as its main ingredient. A proper meal from the Bhutanese point of view is a plate full of rice with curry prepared either of vegetable or meat items.
Bhutan being cultural destination rather than a culinary, there are not much to choose from but whatever that are offered are authentic and native.
Other than rice and curry, Momo is a popular snack that one will enjoy in Bhutan. Momo is a Tibetan originated dumpling stuffed with cabbages and onions along with beef, pork or cheese.
Other than Bhutanese cuisine, restaurants in Bhutan also serves Chinese and Indian dish such as noodles and Roti. Popular drink one must try while at Bhutan are Suja, the salted butter tea, Ara the locally brewed wine from rice, maize or millet and Bangchang the rice, millet or maize beer. It will be quite a task to get Ara and Bangchang at western parts of Bhutan but are easily available if you are visiting some of the far away villages in eastern parts of Bhutan; they will even offer to you for free as a gesture of hospitability.
Refrain from drinking water directly from tap or streams. Bottled water will be provided everyday by the tour operators.Tour Vehicle
Tour vehicles are prearranged by your respective tour operators and its costs are covered by the minimum daily packages that are paid prior to your arrival in Bhutan. Depending on the size of travelers tour vehicles are arranged as follows:
Tourists to Bhutan are not allowed to travel on their own and it is mandatory to use the service of a professional guide trained and certified by Tourism council of Bhutan. Guides in general speak English but language speaking guides are also available for few languages such as French, German, Chinese and Japanese. Your guide and driver along with tour vehicle will be waiting for you at the port of entry.
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