Bhutan is described as the Kingdom of Happiness due to it’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. This Happiness Tour of 8 nights 9 days shall take you into all parts of life of Bhutanese and experience couple of nights of camping by river side and a night of home stay in a village home.
DAY 01: ARRIVE AT PARO (The only International Airport in the country, PARO – THIMPHU (55 km/1.5 hour)
The flight into Bhutan takes you close to the great Himalayas, offering dazzling scenic views of some of the world’s highest glacial peaks (Remember to check in early and ask for your seat on the left side of the Plane if you are flying from New Delhi, India or Kathmandu, Nepal). As you enter Paro valley, you will sweep past forested hills with the silvery Pa Chu (Paro river) meandering down the valley below. Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watchtower) on the hills above the town will be a fine sight. Our representative will receive you and will drive to Thimphu with sightseeing en route.
• Drive towards the capital city, Thimphu.
• Stop at Tachogang: Tachogang Lhakhang (Temple) was built by Thangthong Gyalpo in the fifteenth century. The temple was likely constructed in 1420. While the Tibetan master was meditating here, he had a vision of an emanation of Avalokiteshvara and decided to build a temple as well as an iron suspension bridge at this location. Tachogang lies on the way from Paro to the capital Thimphu. A new temple at Tachogang was built in the seventeenth century by the Fourth Druk Desi (local leader) Tenzin Rabgye as the original was destroyed after it served as the main seat for the Five Groups of Lamas, a coalition of local leaders who had opposed the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (a Buddhist teacher who unified Bhutan) .
• Chuzom: The confluence of Paro (Pachu) and Thimphu (Wangchu) rivers. You can see three different types of Stupas – Bhutanese, Tibetan and Nepalese.
• Visit National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (”the father of modern Bhutan “) and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
• Evening visit Tashichho Dzong the impressive fortress which houses the secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and central monk body. Witness the Flag lowering ceremony before you enter the Dzong.
• Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING
• Drive to Kuenselphodrang (Buddha Point) where world’s tallest Buddha Statue (169 feet) sits overlooking the Thimphu Valley. Enjoy the spectacular view of Thimphu city below.
• Visit the Takin (National Animal of Bhutan) enclosure at Motithang. The unique animal is only seen in Bhutan with a story of its own as to how it came into existence (your guide will narrate the story).
• Drive down to the view point of Tashichho Dzong, the impressive fortress which houses the secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices.
• Zorig chusum (meaning 13 arts and crafts) which is popularly known as the painting school. Students in this institute learn 13 different traditional arts and crafts like painting, sculpture, wood carving, weaving, embroidery, etc.
• Folk Heritage Museum.
• Visit the Royal Textile Academy and Museum: Was instituted in May 2005 under the patronage of Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck as a non-government, non-profit organization with the aim to educate, promote and preserve Bhutanese Textiles. It showcases the traditional methods of weaving and has large collection of dresses from the Royal family.
• Postal Museum – where you can also make a postage stamp with your own photo and can be posted in Bhutan.
• Centenary Farmer’s Market – popularly known as the weekend vegetable market where the local farmers sell their farm produce. Across the wooden cantilever bridge you will find handicraft shops.
• Witness an archery (National) game if one is going on during your visit.
• Traditional handmade paper factory – where age old traditional method of paper making is still followed.
• Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 03: THIMPHU-GANGTEY/PHOBJIKHA (144 KM/5-6 HOURS)
• Drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the 108 chortens, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the north east will be revealed in all their glory. On a clear day, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendegang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158m), Kangphugang (7,170m), Zongaphugang (7,060m) a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally, Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
• Drive to Phobjikha valley. This valley is famous for potatoes which is one of the cash crops of the region and an important export to India. Phobjikha is also famed for the migratory black-necked cranes that make it their winter home. This endangered species of birds arrives from Tibet towards the end of October. Known as ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’ by the Bhutanese, the locals have great affection for these beautiful birds and are featured in many folk songs. Their departure by the end of February is marked by songs of lamentation. Details of their habitat and habits are available at the Crane Observation and Education Center. If you visit the place at the time when the birds are in residence, you may be able to get a close view from the hides specially constructed for this purpose.
• Visit the Gangtey Monastery. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation. It is a Nyingmapa monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamshing in Bumthang.
• Hike Gangtey nature trail. You will also be able to see the birds closer (DURING SEASON)
• Overnight at a hotel or at a farm house. Experience milking a cow in the morning. You can also join the host family to watch cooking or even help if you like.
(Please do let us know your preference so that we can make the bookings accordingly)
DAY 04: GANGTEY/PHOBJIKHA-PUNAKHA (97 KM/3-4 HOURS DRIVE)
• Visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centre and then drive to Punakha.
• Chime Lhakhang: This Lhakhang (Temple) dates back to 1499 which was built by Lama Drukpa Kinley who is till this day known as a Divine Madman. Located beautifully on a hilltop, it is about 30 to 40 minute walk passing through a charming village set in lush terraced fields. Lama Drukpa Kinley is believed to have subdued a demoness residing in Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ and a wooden effigy of this is preserved within. Devotees receive blessings from his wooden phallus and iron Bow and arrow that lie here and childless women are said to have their wish fulfilled after visiting this Lhakhang.
• Visit Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. Punakha was Bhutan’s capital until 1955 and Punakha Dzong still serves as the winter residence of the central monk body. Bhutan’s first king, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned here in 1907. The fortress has withstood damage from fire, earthquake and flood over the centuries. The latest flood, in October, 1994, caused great damage to the fortress but miraculously spared its most holy statue.
• Overnight at Punakha: Premium Camping, Your own tent (Twin/double sharing). Your accommodation tonight is set 8 kilometers from the centre of Punakha on the banks of the Mo Chu River. We camp in tents with thick mattresses, all bedding and towels. There are toilet and shower tents with hot water available. You will also have the chance to try out a traditional hot stone bath. There is a central area with space to relax around a camp fire and the cook team will create traditional Bhutanese meals to be served in the dining tent.
DAY 05: PUNAKHA SIGHTSEEING
• Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten: Today, after early breakfast you will begin with a hike up through fields of rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. The temple is located on a hill with stunning views of the valley, paddy fields and the Mo Chu River that gently meanders through the valley floor. It is an hour walk through rice fields and forest.
• The 160 meters Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge is known for the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, which gives you spectacular views of Punakha Dzong and the Pho Chhu Valley. camps
• Drive up to explore the picturesque villages of Talo or Nobgang, the ancestral home of the Queen Mothers of Bhutan. The villages are scattered along a ridge above the Punakha valley at an altitude of around 2,800m and is known amongst Punakha villages for its neat and clean appearance. The women here are particularly known for their beauty.
• Enroute visit Sangchen Dorji Lhendrup Nunnery, perched on a ridge with spectacular views of the Punakha and Wangdue valleys. The temple houses a 14 foot bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara, one of the biggest in the country. The statue was handcrafted exclusively by local artisans. The temple houses a complex for higher studies and meditation center for nuns. Apart from religious trainings, the nuns are also provided skills such as embroidery, tailoring and statue making
• Evening at leisure. Take rest or you can walk along the riverside and enjoy the nature around. By 4pm to 6.30 pm enjoy the hot stone bath. Tea/coffee or local drinks “Ara” would be served with snacks.
• Overnight at Punakha: Camping at the same place.
DAY 06: PUNAKHA-HAA (183KM/6-7 HOURS)
• Drive towards Haa. The district of Haa was opened to tourists recently and is one of the least visited districts though it is close to Paro International Airport.
• On the way visit the Dobji Dzong. Built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Lama Drukpa Kuenley popularly known as the “Divine Madman”, the Dzong is situated at an altitude of 6,600 feet on the way to Haa in western Bhutan. It also once served as a central jail in the recent years. It now houses about 50 monks.
• Continue to Haa. Lhakhang Karpo & Nagpo: These two temples/monasteries are probably the most important site in Haa valley. Lhakhang Karpo (white Temple) is the official residence of Haa monastic body (Rabdey). Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) on the slopes nearby is a smaller chapel with a small pond (supposedly a lake) inside the shrine. Both the temples are said to have been built by Pigion emanation of Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in 7th century in a single day.
• Evening free or can visit the Paro town with a street of typical Bhutanese traditional buildings.
• Overnight at a hotel or at a farm house. Experience the life of Haa people. You can also join the host family to watch cooking or even help if you like.
(Please do let us know your preference so that we can make the bookings accordingly)
DAY 07: HAA-CHELELA-PARO (103km/3-4 hours)
• Drive to Paro via Chelela Pass the Kingdom’s highest Motor able pass (3988m). Enjoy the spectacular view of the Paro and Haa valleys on either side of the pass. En route enjoy the beauty of nature with different vegetation as you climb up the mountain.
• Continue drive to Paro.
• Ta Dzong : Built in 1656 as a watchtower for Rinpung Dzong is now used as the National Museum which is a repository of not only precious works of art but also costumes, Armour and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provide a good snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. It opens 7 days a week except on National Holidays.
• Rinpung Dzong: Built in 1646 by Lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal and strategically located to thwart Tibetan incursions into the rest of the country, this Dzong became one of Bhutan’s strongest and most important fortresses.
• Kyichu Lhakhang: It was built in 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The temple fell into disrepair but was superbly restored in 1839 by the 25th Je Khempo (Chief Abbot). He also contributed the outstanding statue of Avalokiteshwara, with eleven heads and thousand arms, which is located in the sanctuary.
• Overnight at your Hotel in Paro.
DAY 08: PARO-TAKTSHANG HIKE
• Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery: The hike to Taktshang Monastery perched on a cliff at 2950m/9700ft takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours as per your hiking ability. It is an uphill hike to the Monastery. There is a cafeteria (Taktsang Jakhang) on the half way.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (the great Buddhist master) with his magical powers came to Taktshang in the eighth century, flying from the east of the country on the back of a tigress (a form that one of his consorts is believed to have taken). He is said to have meditated for about three months in a cave on the cliff and subdued the evil spirits. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1692 by the fourth Desi Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below.
• Drukgyal Dzong: Now in ruins the Dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644; thus the name Drukgyal meaning “Victorious Drukpas”. The Dzong was used as an administrative center until 1951 when a fire caused by butter lamp destroyed it. Most of the Tibetan Invasions including the Mongolian Invaders led by the Famous Mongolian General, Gushri Khan were repelled back from this Dzong which has a strategic Defense location. The Dzong is now being rebuilt to its former glory.
If the weather is clear you can view the Majestic Mount Jhomolhari (7314m/24,000ft) which lies on the border with Tibet and the locals revere it as the abode of Goddess Jhomo. First climbed in 1937, it is believed the mountaineers stopped short of the summit in difference to local sentiment and it is now a ‘protected peak’.
• Overnight at your Hotel in Paro.
DAY 09: DEPART
• End of your travel in Bhutan. Our team will drive you to the Airport and bid farewell.