Highlights of Western Bhutan
This journey introduces you to Bhutanese religion, culture and traditions. You visit Bumthang, the religious centre of Bhutan and Phobjikha valley, the winter roosting place of the highly endangered Black Necked Cranes. In 11 days, you see the famous sights of western Bhutan, travel over the 3240 m high Dochula Pass and meet with the friendly people of Bhutan.
Day 1 - Flight from Bangkok / Delhi / Kathmandu / Dhaka / Guwahati / Singapore / Bagdogra or Kolkata to Paro International Airport and drive to Thimphu
After arrival in Paro, your guide will receive you and you will start the one-hour drive to Thimphu Town. On the way you will visit Tachogang Lhakhang. Tachogang means “temple on the hill of the excellent horse”, build by the great master architect and yogi Thangtong Gyalpo. Thimphu still has no traffic lights but is a vibrant town with many attractions.
You will start the day with a visit to the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, which means the “13 traditional arts” of Bhutan and which is commonly known as the Painting School. The National Institute of Traditional Medicine, established in 1978, has a day care facility and clinic where traditional doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The traditional herbal medicines, ointments and medicinal teas consist of plants, minerals and animal parts, are manufactured in the production facility and distributed to regional health-care units within the country. The Royal Textile Academy is worth a visit to experience Bhutan’s living national art of weaving. Techniques and styles of the local costumes and textiles made by man and women across Bhutan are on display. The National Library collection ranges from traditional books and manuscripts, modern books about any kind of topic, an old printing press and wooden blocks for printing books and prayer flags to the largest published book in the world, entitled “Bhutan”. Changangkha Lhakhang is located in Motithang above Thimphu. It was established in the 12th century and the central statue is Chenresig in an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation.[separator] Today you will have a look at Trashi Chhoe Dzong. This magnificent Dzong, located on the north of the city on the west bank of the Wang Chhu River, housed the original National Assembly and now houses the secretariat, the throne room and offices of His Majesty the King of Bhutan.[separator] For the remaining day you can explore Thimphu town, shop some souvenirs and mingle with the people. You will enjoy the evening with a visit and traditional dinner at the Folk Heritage Museum. The museum replicates a traditional farmhouse and is designed and furnished how many rural Bhutanese still live today.
Thimphu to Punakha
Today you will travel from Thimphu to Punakha via Dochula Pass. We will stop to see the 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten on the pass, which were built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Assamese militants and to liberate the souls lost during the fighting. Enjoy the superb view of the snow-capped peaks.
Arriving in Punakha Valley you will visit Chhimi Lhakhang. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the Punatsang Chhu, Chhimi Lhakhang was build in 1499 by the cousin of Lama Drukpa Kunley (The Divine Madman), in his honour, after he subdued the demoness of the nearby Dochula with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. A wooden effigy of lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless couples visit the Lhakhang to receive a Wang (blessing) from the saint to become fertile and also to seek protection for the children that they already have.
Punakha Dzong was the centre of the government until it was relocated to Thimphu Dzong. It was named Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, which means the Palace of Great Bliss. It continues to be the winter home of the central monk body. The Dzong contains the massive gold statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung, dating back to the mid-18th century. Bhutan’s most treasured possession is the Rangjung (Self-Created) Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig that is kept in the Tse Lhakhang of the Dzong.
Punakha to Trongsa
Before driving to Trongsa you will visit Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. Perched high on the hill opposite bank of the river, 30 m tall, built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. The Chorten is dedicated to the present king, serves to protect the country and contains every form of protecting deity. We will start after an early lunch and after passing Pele La Pass, on the way to Trongsa, we will have a stop to visit the Chendebji Choeten, a replica of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.
Arriving in Trongsa, we will visit Trongsa Dzong, an impregnable fortress high above the roaring Mangde Chhu River. Its official name is Chhoekhor Raptentse Dzong. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The first two hereditary kings ruled from this Dzong, and tradition still dictates that the crown prince serves as Trongsa Penlop before acceding to the throne.
Trongsa to Bumthang
Today’s scenic drive takes you over the 3425 m high Yotong La Pass into Bumthang valley. Enjoy the afternoon visiting Jakar Dzong which is pitched on a high ground overlooking the town. It was built as a monastery in 1549 by the great-grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Ngagi Wangchuck. Enjoy an afternoon visit to the Cheese and Beer Factory established by a Swiss development project and a walk through town.
You have the choice to either visit the following sites by car or through a gentle walk through the valley. Tamshing Goemba is the most important Nyingma Goemba in Bhutan, established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. Kurjey Lhakhang is a large and important temple complex and one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. It was built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652 and houses a rock with his body imprint. Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree, which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpoche.
Jambay Lhakhang built in 659 by the Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. The Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan, takes place in October.
Bumthang to Phobjikha
Drive to Phobjikha Valley situated at an altitude of 2900 m. The valley of Phobjikha on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, bordering the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, is well known as the winter home of the rare and endangered Black-Necked Crane – Grus Nigricollis. Bhutan is home to around five hundred Black-Necked Cranes, which migrate every winter to Bhutan from the Tibetan plateau.
Visit to the beautiful Gangtey Goempa situated on a hill, overlooking the entire Phobjikha valley, founded in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinley.
Phobjikha to Paro
Drive back to Paro via Simtokha Dzong. It is often said to be the first Dzong built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1629. It is the oldest Dzong that has survived as a complete structure. Today it is the home of the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies.
An early start is necessary today to climb to Taktsang Monastery, known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, which is one of the most famous and venerated places of pilgrimage in the country. It is perched on the side of a steep cliff about 900 metres above the floor of Paro valley. After Taktsang you will see Drukgyel Dzong. The Dzong was named ‘Druk’ (Bhutan) ‘Gyel’ (victory) to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over Tibetan invaders in 1644. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built Drukgyel Dzong in 1649. Kyichu Lhakhang: It is one of the oldest and most beautiful monasteries in the country built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.
Today you will visit Paro Dzong, also known as Rinchen Pung or Rinpung Dzong, which means “fortress on a heap of jewels”, is one of the most impressive and well-known Dzongs in Bhutan. Ta Dzong was built as a watchtower to Paro Dzong. It was renovated in 1968 and converted into the National Museum. The afternoon is free, ideal for a stroll through town and some souvenir shopping.
Departure from Paro to Bangkok and onward to your next destination
Departure from Paro to Bangkok or Delhi / Kathmandu / Dhaka / Guwahati / Singapore / Bagdogra or Kolkata and onwards to your next destination.
The following services are included:
- 10 nights in double room occupancy in minimum 3 star hotels in Bhutan.
- One night double room occupancy in Bangkok.
- All meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes lunch will be pack lunch or a picnic.
- Full time English speaking licensed Bhutanese guide during your travel in Bhutan.
- All internal road transport in comfortable vehicle.
- Return flight from Bangkok to Paro/Bhutan in economy class. There are also flights to Bhutan from Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati and Singapore. The trip cost will change accordingly.
- Visa fee and services for Bhutan.
- All internal taxes.
- A sustainable tourism Royalty of US$ 65 per person per night. This Royalty goes towards free education and free healthcare and poverty alleviation.
The following services are not included:
- Alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, tips, laundry
- International flights from your home destination to Bangkok and back. We are happy to assist you in arranging this flight.
- Insurances, Travel insurance, health insurance.
- Meals and drinks in Bangkok.
- Taxi from Airport to Hotel and back in Bangkok.
- Visa fee for Thailand.