The interiors of Bhutan are daringly beautiful in its own terms. The journey to central Bhutan spans deep forests, majestic mountains, and traditional agrarian settlements near and far away from the East-West lateral highway. This trip takes you to one of the most important districts of Bhutan, the erstwhile epicenter of Bhutanese history, culture, and politics. As much as you will enjoy the road trip, cutting across the Black Mountain range, the home of the mythical Yeti, you will also get a glimpse of Bhutan’s past and its rich, enduring legacy. Indeed, this trip will take you to locations that straddle the ancient and the modern, and as Bhutanese call it, the ‘middle world’ somewhere in between.
This fabulously customizedtrip ‘Jewel of Eastern Frontier’ takes you to some of the most historically and culturally prominent sites in western Bhutan. It doesn’t end there. The main draw is the journey to central Bhutan, which played a phenomenal role in shaping Bhutanese politics in the past. That’s where initially the idea and identity of Bhutanese nationhood was hatched. The splendid journey that cuts through mountains passes, deep gorges, dense forests. All we can say is, this trip will wow you!
Day 1 Arrival Paro/Thimphu
The experience of flying to Paro International Airport is in itself rare, and often both exhilarating and nerve racking one as well. During the flight, enjoy the scenic view of the Himalayas floating on a sea of thick, fluffy clouds, and mountains peaks, particularly that of Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga stand tall above all things earthly. The landing can be a little bit, just a little bit, tense, as the aircraft swings left and right, negotiating steep mountains, to finally touchdown on the single runway at Bhutan’s only International Airport. If you find yourself applauding, just remember that’s the joy of having arrived in the Land of Thunder Dragon. Welcome to Bhutan! At the airport, our local guide will receive you in a traditional way offeringTashiDelekKhadar – the scarf of good wishes! You will then be escorted to a local restaurant for refreshments in Paro town, which is a fusion of the old and the new Bhutan. The town is distinctively at the borderline of how craftily Bhutan has managed to merge (and preserve) the traditional structures of the old town with the glaring and bold buildings of the adjacent new town
You will visit the historical Paro Rinpung dzong, the seat of the powerful Paro Penlop (governor), who once governed the western part of Bhutan. You will visit the interior of the fortress and the inner sanctums. From there, you will take a short hike to Paro Ta dzong (watch fortress) whoch now houses the National Museum of Bhutan.
After a sumptuous lunch, you will travel toward the north of Paro to visit the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. The skeletal remains of the dzong, still standing tall on the ridge, celebrates Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan forces in the 17 century. While returning, you will a short detour to visit one of the most sacred and odlest temples in the country, the Kyichu Lhakhang. In the evening, we will travel to Thimphu. The journey takes about an hour. Relax and enjoy the ride.
Day 2 Thimphu sightseeing/Thimphu
Thimphu has quite the potential to shock you, particularly if you have come with certain preconceived notions about Bhutan as a remote hermit Kingdom or the last Shangri-launtopia. Here in Thimphu, you will come across modern and traditional cultures, perfectly in harmony with each other. That’s the beauty of this small city of over 120,000 people. Take a stroll along the streets of Norzin Lam and you will certainly see that this is a kingdom that has not just come out of its years of hiding but is also desperately trying to play catch-up with rest of the world.
It’s going to be a busy day. As usual. After all, there’s so much to see, experience and live out. That’s why we start early. After a quick breakfast, you will visit the Folk Heritage Museum, which has rich display of household tools and appliances typically used by Bhutanese farmers. And from there, you will walk to the adjacent Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts where Bhutan’s rich legacy of 13 arts and crafts are passed down to young students .
After a delicious traditional lunch at the Folk Heritage Museum restaurant, you will visit the 13th century ChangangkhaLhakang, perched on a ridge overlooking Thimphu. Following the visit, you willvisit the MotithangTakin Preserve to see the unique national animal of Bhutan, Takin. And from there, a short drive will take you to Sangaygang Viewpoint, from where you can enjoy the bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley.
Thereafter, you will visit the National Memorial Chhorten, built in 1974 in memory of Bhutan’s third King. Later, you will take a short drive to Kuenselphodrang, the site of the tallest bronze statue of Lord Buddha in the world. In the evening, you will visit the inner sanctum of Thimphu Tashichhodzong, the seat of the Monarchy and the central monastic body.
Day 3 Thimphu/Trongsa
Today you will embark on a daylong journey toward the central district of Trongsa. This journey spans rugged mountains and rapidly changing landscape of breathtaking flora and fauna. After around 45-minute’s drive, you will reach Dochula pass with 108 Buddhist stupas, sitting still as if watching over the mountains. We will stop here for a brief while to enjoy the panoramic view of the snow clad mountain peaks and for a cup of hot coffee at the Dochula cafeteria.
After an hour and half downhill drive through serpentine roads, green mixed forest and village settlements, you will arrive in Wangduephodrang district, the center of sha valley. You will make a quick stopover here and then continue the journey that takes you through beautiful valleys and deep forest until you reach the landmark Pelela pass that geographically divides the east from the west. Here, you will be treated to a hot outdoor lunch. The journey then descends through semi-nomadic settlements. When we reach ChendibjiChorten, a replica of the Boudhanath temple in Kathmandu, we will serve you hot cup of coffee/tea and snacks. From here Trongsa is just twi-hour’s drive away.
Day 4 Trongsa sightseeing/Punakha
Trongsa is a small roadside town that connects the east and the west. It may therefore appear a little ironic that this was the epicenter of Bhutan’s culture, history and politics. But behold the majestic Trongsa dzong, the irony no longer holds water. In ancient days and until a century ago, Trongsa dzong served as the seat of the most powerful leader in Bhutan. Today the architectural masterpiece houses the office of the district administration and the monk body.
The fortress, formidable even after many centuries, boasts over 25 different Buddhist temples and shrines, deeply revered by Bhutanese from all walks of life. After the visit to the dzong, you will take a short drive to Trongsa Ta dzong (watch tower), which has been converted into a museum with a rich collection ancient artifacts and treasures. You then head back to Punakha, Bhutan’s old capital.
Day 5 Punakha sightseeing/Paro
Punakha is another historically significant district in Bhutan. It was the erstwhile capital of the country. The grand PunaDewaiChenpoiPhodrang or the Great Palace of Happiness located on the confluence of two rivers – Phochhu (male river) and Mochhu (female river) is one of the finest products of Bhutanese architecture. This fortress houses the preserved body of Zhabdrung, the theocratic leader who unified Bhutan in the 17 century. The coronation of the first King of Bhutan was held within in the walls of this magnificent fortress. The dzong is also the winter resident of the chief abbot or je Khenpo.
After breakfast, you will visit the fortress and visit the kuenray, the main temple. This impressive temple features massive wall paintings of thousand Buddhas, life of Lord Buddha, fabulous display of past abbots and the giant statue of Guru Rinpoche, Buddha and Zhabdrung at the forefront. After that, you will be driven for a short excursion toward the north of Punakha valley. A short hike will take you to another architecturally exquisite structure called the KhamsumYuelayNamgyalChhorten at Hebesa. The hike comprises gentle walk through paddy field across rural settlement. At the temple, you will be escorted to three shrines one in each floor. From the top open floor, you can enjoy the beauty of lush valleys and eye-catching landscapes.
Following your lunch at Lobesa, you will visit the famous Temple of Fertility or Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is built in memory of the divine mad monk Lam DrukpaKuenley known for his crazy wisdom and unconventional way of teaching Buddhism, through explicit sexual innuendos.
We will then drive toward Paro.
Day 6 Tiger Nest Hike
Perched on a precarious cliff, 1000 meters above Paro valley, the iconic Tiger’s Nest or Taktshangas it is locally known, is by far one of the most spiritually significant sites in Bhutan. Legend has it that the 8th century Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to this cliff on the back of tigress, and meditated in the cave and vanquished the evil spirit, converting them into protectors of dharma.
The Tiger’s Nest is 3-hour’s hike from the base along a trail that steadily rises cutting through mixed pine forest. A little more than the halfway point, you will come across the Viewpoint cafeteria where you will be treated to refreshments. As you sip tea, coffee or other beverages, you can enjoy the Tiger’s Nest up-close. From the cafeteria, it takes another 40-minutes to reach Takstshang.
Once at the Tiger Nest, you will be escorted to various shrines within the temple. After enjoying the view of the valley, you will revert. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria. In the evening, you will stay at a farmhouse, soak in hot stone bath to relax your fatigued sinews. Dinner will be served in a traditional manner accompanied by a cultural programme of songs and dances.
Day 7 Exit
After early breakfast, your guide will see you off at the airport. Bon Voyage!
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