12 days A Special Tour of Bhutan’s Cultural Heartland

A Special Tour of Bhutan’s Cultural Heartland
This special tour is designed for those people who are not only keen to experience Bhutan’s unique culture and the magnificent Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival but who are also passionate about trekking through the beautiful forests in the foothills of the great Himalayas.

Day 1: 30 October 2017 - PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – THIMPHU (L/D)

Upon arrival at Paro International airport, you will be met by your guide.

Before transferring to your hotel in Thimphu, you will visit the Ta Dzong (built in 1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley, built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. You will then, visit the 7th century old Kyichu Lhakhang (a ten-minute drive from Paro town). The Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest lhakhangs to have been built in Bhutan. It is one of the 108 lhakhangs built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century AD. The king is said to have built 108 lhakhangs in a day throughout the Himalayan regions, of which Kyichu lhakhang in Paro and Jampa lhakhang in Bumthang are two. Most of the remaining lhakhangs can be seen in Tibet.

After lunch, drive to Thimphu. A drive along the winding road by the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then turn upstream along the Wang Chu to Thimphu, Bhutan’s scenically located capital city, takes about an hour.

In the afternoon, you will visit the Memorial Chorten, dedicated to the late Third King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and then drive to Kuenselphodrang where the Giant Buddha believed to be the world’s tallest Buddha statue, is being built.

In the evening, visit the Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body which includes the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).

Traditional style Welcome Dinner at the Folk Heritage Restaurant and overnight at the deluxe Taj Tashi Hotel in Thimphu

Day 2 : 31 October 2017 - THIMPHU – GANGTEY (B/L/D)

Today, we will drive you to Gangtey via the Dochula Pass (3140m). On the way stop to see the spectacular array of chortens, to enjoy the superb view over the snow capped Himalayan Mountains and also to see the Gasa Dzong at a distance if the weather is clear.

Your journey then continues through varying scenes of greenery all the way to Gangtey.

After lunch, visit the Gangtey monastery. It is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Dewachen (Standard) in Gangtey.

Day 3 : 1 November 2017 - GANGTEY – BUMTHANG (B/L/D)

After breakfast, drive to Trongsa via the Pelela pass (3300m), the traditional boundary between east and west.

After lunch visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1644, an ancestral residence of Bhutan’s royal family. Then visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower built to guard the Trongsa.

Later drive to Bumthang. Bumthang is one of the most historic districts and has a large number of ancient temples and sacred sites.

Dinner and overnight at Yugharling Hotel (3.5 star) in Bumthang.

Day 4 : 2 November 2017 - TOKTU ZAMPA – NGANG LHAKHANG (B/L/D)
(Trek distance: 12km, 4-5hrs, 170m ascent, camp altitude 2800m)

Today commence a fairly easy three-day trek that takes you through beautiful valleys and along clear, trout-filled rivers in the Bumthang region. Bumthang is often known as the ‘cultural heartland’ of Bhutan and there are plenty of ancient temples to visit during the hike.

In addition to the numerous lhakhangs there are also a number of small villages where you can stop and rest. The only segment of the trek that may prove challenging is a 500m ascent to Pephe La pass.    

The route follows the Chamkhar Chhu, a river known for trout before we stop for lunch at Thangbi Lhakhang. From here the trek enters the Ngang yul (Land of the Swan) at the centre of which lies the Ngang Lhakhang (Swan Temple). The valley was once populated by swans and hence the name Ngang Yul.

Dinner and overnight luxury camping at Ngang Lhakhang.

Day 5 : 3 November 2017 - NGANG LHAKHANG – TAHUNG (B/L/D)
(Trek distance: 16km, 6hrs, 750m ascent, 670m descent, camp altitude 2720m)

You will begin the day by crossing verdant meadows with beautiful views of the valley below. Then you climb gradually to Phephe La (3360m), the highest point of the trek route. The trail passes through beautiful forested areas where many stops can be made to enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings. The path leads you downhill into a broad valley. Amongst several possible camping sites the most likely is uphill behind the village of Tahung.

Dinner and overnight luxury camping at Tahung.

Day 6 : 4 November 2017 - TAHUNG – MESITHANG (B/L/D)
(Trek distance: 16km, 4-5hrs, 230m descent)

The trail follows the Tang Chhu, another trout-filled river. On the banks of the river is the Tang Rinpoche’s Lhakhang. The trek will pass the Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and lead you to Tang Ogyenchholing. Ogyechholing Palace houses the only privately owned museum in Bhutan and has all manner of traditional artifacts on display. From here you will soon reach the road-head.

Dinner and overnight at Yugharling Hotel (3.5 star) in Bumthang.

Day 7 : 5 November 2017 - ATTEND THE SACRED JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP FESTIVAL (B/L/D)

Jambay Lhakhang is located in the Bumthang valley on the way to the Kurje Lhakhang. It’s a ten minutes drive to the temple from Chamkhar town. Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was founded by Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King in the 7th century A.D. The king was reputed to have built 108 temples known as Thadhul – Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness who was residing in the Himalayas.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyalpo, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.

The first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra – Wheel of Time) inside the temple to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlingmithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Chorten lhakhang.

The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887.

One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup is hosted here. The festival lasts for five days. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritualistic naked dance.

Dinner and overnight at Yugharling Hotel (3.5*) in Bumthang.

Day 8 : 6 November 2017 - BUMTHANG – PUNAKHA (B/L/D)

After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha.

Dinner and enjoy a relaxing overnight at the deluxe Dhensa Resort in Punakha after a long but picturesque drive from Bumthang.      

Day 9 : 7 November 2017 -  PUNAKHA – THIMPHU (B/L/D)

After an early breakfast, drive about 7 km from Punakha and cross the suspension bridge over the Mochu River before walking approximately 30-45 minutes to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten (Stupa) which is perched on a strategic ridge overlooking the nearby villages under Kabisa geog. It was built under the sponsorship of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangden Wangchuck to remove evil forces and promote peace, stability and harmony throughout the world. As the first of its kind in the world to have been constructed, the details and the architectural designs were drawn from scriptures as visualized by Dudjom Lingpa.

Later visit the impressive Punakha Dzong which lies between two great rivers the Pho Chu (Male River) and the Mo Chu (Female River). The Punakhas Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the district administration.

Take a walk about 25 minutes along the terraced farmlands and farmhouses to visit the Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (the Devine Madman) in the 15th century. He subdued the demoness with his “magical thunder bolt”. The temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”.

After lunch at Chimi Lhakhang cafeteria, drive to Thimphu with the journey taking about 3.5 hours via the Dochula Pass (3,140 m).
In the afternoon enjoy walking along the beautiful Sangaygang – Wangtse trail. On the way, you will visit the mini zoo at Motithang to see the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal at close hand.
You will have free time to explore Thimphu in the evening.

Dinner with cultural show and overnight at the deluxe Terma Linca Resort in Thimphu.

Day 10 : 8 November 2017 – TANGO MONASTERY – PARO (B/L/D)

After breakfast, we will drive to Dodeyna to climb through a beautiful forest track to the Tango Monastery which overlooks a forested valley and other Buddhist retreats high in the mountains. If you wish we can then visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs and other items in the shops of Thimphu. In the evening, we will drive through to Paro.

Dinner and enjoy a relaxing overnight at the deluxe Uma Resort.

Day 11 : 9 November 2017 - TAKTSANG MONASTERY OR TIGER’S NEST (B/L/D)

After lunch, you will visit Drugyal Dzong (a ruined fortress), 16 km away from Paro. Although it is now in ruins, this dzong has great historical importance for the people of Bhutan. It was a place where the Bhutanese finally defeated the Tibetan invasion. On a clear day one can view sacred Mt. Jomolhari (Mountain of Goddess). We will also visit Ta Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley, built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

We will then drive you to the trail head to take a breathtaking and memorable hike through beautiful pine forest. You will stop for light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria before walking on to the famous, Taktsang monastery or Tiger’s Nest. The primary Lhakhang or main temple was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 by the Penlop of Paro, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in the east.
In the afternoon, you will have an opportunity to explore the beautiful town of Paro.

Dinner and enjoy a soothing overnight at the deluxe Uma Resort in Paro.

Day 12 : 10 November 2017 - PARO - PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (B)

In the morning drive to Paro International Airport where your guide will accompany you tol bid you farewell.

Cost Information

Numtber of days: 12 days, 11 nights (3 days trekking, 1 day festival and 8 days cultural sightseeing with hiking and short walking tour)
Price:
US$ 12,580 single per person
US$ 7,815 twin/double per person
US$ 7,470 triple per person