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The flight into the Eastern Himalayas opens up breathtaking views of the roof of the world and the earth’s highest mountains. The soothing inflight flute music and beautiful views of hills dotted with farmhouses, stupas and monasteries and prayer flags welcome you to the Land of Happiness. Your entry Visa will be stamped in your passport by immigration officials and you will then be greeted at the exit gate by our representatives. After an hour’s drive through the countryside, they will bring you to your hotel in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, where all arrangements have been made for your arrival. After checking in, there will be a brief discussion about the tour itinerary with your guide and the tour guide will give you all the details about the day before you set out for the sightseeing
NATIONAL MEMORIAL CHORTEN: This modern white stupa was built in memory of His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan who passed away in 1972. In 1974 his mother built this stupa in memory of her son and for the blessing of world peace. The stupa does not enshrine the remains of the King though his portrait adorns the hall on the first floor. A prominent landmark of the capital city with its golden spires and bells, it is a focus of daily worship. Throughout the day people circumambulate the stupa and spin the gigantic prayer wheels.
BUDDHA DORDENMA: This modern seated Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni Buddha is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world measuring 169ft tall. Gilded bronze, it is located on a hill in a plaza filled with gilded bodhisattva statues. The statue itself houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each also made of bronze and gilded in gold. There is a large prayer hall with magnificent pillars and hangings. Built to commemorate the 60th birthday of the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the statue was designed by one of Bhutan’s master sculptors who supervised its manufacture in China. On the way to the Buddha Point there are incredible views overlooking the entire Thimphu Valley.
THIMPHU Town : The capital of Bhutan with a population of approximately 150,000 people, Thimphu is perhaps the only capital city in the world without a traffic light. With the country’s rapid socioeconomic development however, Thimphu has grown from a village-like town to the buzzing cultural and financial hub of the nation. Strolling around the town, you can appreciate the toll modernization is taking on this little fairy tale country. Walking along the craft bazaar, you can admire traditional Bhutanese handicrafts.
THIMPHU DZONG: Thimphu Dzong or Fortress is a massive building constructed by Zhabdrung Rinpoche in the 17th century when the country was unified under Buddhism. Today the dzong is the center of both civil and religious administration. Half of the dzong is used for government and royal purposes and half is used by the Central Monastic Body. Most importantly, the dzong contains the Golden Throne Room of the King. Tourists may visit the dzong only after office hours on weekdays and on weekends. The massive golden image of Buddha Sakyamuni in the inner sanctum of the dzong however is only open to tourists after weekday office hours and not on weekends.
Overnight Thimphu: Select 3*/4*/5* hotels.
Elevation: 2250m ( 7382 ft )
CHERI MONASTERY : After an early breakfast, we will drive to Dodena bridge at the base of Cheri Goemba for a lovely, one and half hour hike up to the monastery. This historic monastery was established in 1620 with thirty Buddhist monk, the beginnings of today’s Central Monastic Body. The monastery is now a major retreat center of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. PANGRIZAMPA SCHOOL OF ASTROLOGY: This late 16th century temple is now a prominent educational institute of the Central Monastic Body for the teaching of the traditional astrology of Bhutan. This sacred institute also has the major responsibility of deciding the auspicious dates and days for any national and religious events. Besides the study of astrology, the monks annually perform the biggest ritual ceremony of the country to ward off evil spirits and their negativities. Two huge ancient cypress trees add to the serenity of the place.
NATIONAL TEXTILE MUSEUM: This beautiful museum, operated by the National Commission for Cultural Affair was established by the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuk in 2001. Its mission is to preserve and promote the unique traditional textile industry of Bhutan and encourage modern weavers to continue the traditional textile patterns. In Bhutan, weaving is practiced mostly by women and girls on backstrap looms and the finest weavings come from Eastern Bhutan. The Museum exhibits colorful hand-woven dress for men and women, decorative hangings ,and embroidered silk thangkas and covers for lama’s thrones. The Museum and shop are both well worth visiting.
Overnight Thimphu Select 3*/4*/5* hotels
CHANGANGKHA Temple : This popular fortress-like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu regularly hums with pilgrim activity . It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo from Druk Ralung in Tibet. All newborns in the district are brought here by their parents for blessings and the giving of its name to the baby. FOLK HERITAGE MUSEUM : This typical traditional Bhutanese house was renovated and transformed into a heritage museum in 2001. Since its establishment, it has provided visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese domestic culture and way of life. Drive to Dochu La Pass for lunch. Chimi LHAKHANG: After lunch, we will continue driving to Punakha, visiting the famous Chimi Lhakhang, the Temple of Fertility on the way . This temple, built in 1499 is associated with Drukpa Kuenley known as the Divine Madman. The legendary Yogi used his phallus to tame and pin down evil spirits, the origin of the wooden phalluses and paintings on the walls of Bhutanese houses. In modern times, it has become a pilgrimage site for infertile couples and books of photos attesting to its power are on display.
PUNAKHA DZONG : This magnificent fortress strategically located at the confluence of two major rivers was the ancient capital of Bhutan and has played a hallowed role in its history. The architecture of the dzong is ‘the’ masterpiece of Bhutanese arts and crafts and It looks especially stunning in the spring when surrounded by blooming blue Jacaranda trees. Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the Unifier of Bhutan, who initiated the dual spiritual and secular system of government conjointly housed within the walls of the Dzong. constructed the fortress in 1637 It is also known as the Palace of Great Bliss and the ‘fortress on a pile of jewels’ as It houses many sacred relics. The most venerated and sacred of these is the Rangjung Kharsapani, the self-created image of Avalokettesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. The embalmed bodies and relics of two of the most important founders of Bhutanese Buddhism, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa, are conserved in the Machen on the top floor. Punakha Dzong was the administrative center and the seat of the Government of Bhutan till 1955 and still serves as the winter residence of the Chief Abbot and Central Monastic body. The dzong has a major role in royal affairs. All the monarchs of the Wangchuk dynasty pay homage here and receive the Dar Na-Nga. five sacred shawls in auspicious colours, from the Machen as well as the Raven Crown of the Wangchuk line as part of their coronation ceremonies. On 6th November 2008, the Blessing of Coronation ceremony of the Fifth King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk was held at the Dzong and in 2011 his wedding to Jetsun Pema took place here. Damaged in the past by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the Fourth King after the latest fire in 1987.
Overnight Punakha: 3*/4*/5* hotels
Elevation:2960m ( 16000ft )
KHAMSUM YUELLY NAMGYAL CHORTEN: After breakfast, we will hike to this modern example of fine Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions standing on a beautiful ridge above Neynzegang village. It is an two hours return hike to the Chorten on a moderately inclined trail surrounded by terraced rice and vegetable fields at the lower level and pine trees at the higher level. The four storey temple was built in 1990 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck as per the advice from her spiritual master. It took nine years to complete and it is dedicated to her son, the current Fifth King of Bhutan who was then the Crown Prince and for the attainment of world peace. Although you are not allowed to take photographs inside the temple, take your cameras with you to capture the breathtakingly scenic views from the upper parapet. Drive to Nobding for lunch.
Phobjikha Valley: After lunch, we will drive to the bowl-shaped, glacial Phobjikha Valley(2960 m) located on the western slope of the famous Black Mountain. The picturesque Phobjikha Valley has a rich biodiversity of fauna now protected as part of the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park and Phobjikha Conservation Area. A quiet and remote place, it is the winter home of hundreds of rare and graceful black-necked cranes who migrate here annually in late October from the Tibetan plateau. Upon their arrival and again at departure after 5 months in the valley, the cranes are said to circle three times the 17th century Gangtey Goempa or Monastery on the rim of the valley.
GANGTEY GOEMPA MONASTERY: Upon reaching the Phobjikha Valley, we will visit this important monastery established in1613 by its first Abbot Peling Gyalsey, also known as Gangtey Trulku. He was the grandson of Terton Pema Lingpa a founder of the Nyimgma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in Bhutan and it is one of the largest private institutions of that tradition in the country. From 2002 – 2008, the monastery has been completely restored under the current Abbot.
Overnight Gangtey at Dewachen/Gakiling Farmhouse do you want to be this specific : 3*/4*/5* hotels
LONGTEY HIKE: After a short drive across the Pele La Pass to Longtey Village, we will hike three hours across Kayche La Pass (3700m) and back to Gangtey Goemba. . We climb up gradually through thickets of dwarf bamboo, birch, rhododendron, hemlock and fir to Kayche La Pass, marked with prayer flags. The other side of the pass is mostly meadows, and a downhill walk to Gangtey through the long and beautiful stretch of meadows and farms. This place holds a special interest to tourists as they can view the Black Mountain Range and the glacial Phobjikha Valley, famous as the winter habitat of migrant black-necked cranes.
Lunch at hotel.
CRANE INFORMATION CENTRE: Established by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, the
Centre has interesting presentations of information about the valley and its winter resident Black-Necked Cranes. The birds are considered blessed and auspicious guiding farmers activities and are protected by law. High tech bird scopes are available and their short documentary films “ On the Wing of a Prayer” and Heavenly Bird” are a must see.
Overnight at Gangtey Dewachen/Gakiling Farmhouse : 3*/4*/5* hotels
After breakfast we will drive back to Paro, the longest driving day of the tour covering 184km/114miles. The journey back to the far west of the country will give you an opportunity to
discuss some of the interesting stories and historical information that our guides have narrated to you. There will be stops along the way to freshen up and stretch your muscles. SEMTOKHA DZONG : South of Thimphu on the old road to Paro, this dzong was the first fortress constructed in Bhutan by Zhabdrung Rinpoche in 1629. It lies at a strategic location to protect the Thimphu Valley and the passage to eastern Bhutan. The name comes from simmo or demoness and do meaning rock and marks the spot where a demoness vanished into a rocky outcropping. We will continue driving to Paro and if time permits stroll around downtown Paro before checking in to your hotel. In the evening your guide will brief you on tomorrow’s Tiger Nest Hike
Overnight Paro at 3*/4*/5*
Elevation: 2,100m/7000ft to 3000m/10500ft
TAKTSHANG MONASTERY: Taktshang known as the Tiger’s Nest is perched precariously at
3000m/10500ft on a sheer granite rock face 900m above Paro Valley. The sacredness of the cave and the beauty of the temple make Taktshang the brightest jewel in our national crown. It has become the unofficial symbol of Bhutan appearing in various travelogues, newspapers, and websites around the world. Legend has it that in 747AD the Tibetan Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a flaming tigress, a manifestation of one of his consorts and thus the name. He is said to have meditated in a cave for several months to overcome evil spirits opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan.
The cave with the impression of his body in the rock is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. The magnificent temple was built in the 17 century by Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgay under the command of Zhabdrung Rinpoche. After Guru Rinpoche’s visit many Saints and Sages from Tibet and India also visited the place and in modern times almost all the celebrities and dignitaries of the western world including Kate and William and untold pilgrims and tourists have made the hike. The trail to the monastery winds gradually through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags the only sounds being the murmurs of wind and water and the cracking of the prayer wheels. The last stretch consists of over 700 footsteps down the side of a chasm to reach a bridge and more steps up to the hermitage on the other side. Of course those same steps have to be climbed to return. There is an option to take a pony 60% of the hike way up.
Overnight Paro at : 3*/4*/5* hotels
After breakfast, drive to the airport for the departure.