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adventure travel trip to Bhutan
You may see archery, which is Bhutan's national sport.
Dates
  • Oct 14-23, 2014
  • Apr 14-23, 2015
  • Oct 13-22, 2015
  • Privately on Request
  • Duration 10 days
    Group Size 4-12
    Land Cost $3,450 Details
    Single Supplement $300
    Lodging 2 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Views, Valleys, and Visions

    The nature and legends of Buddhist Bhutan

    Day 1      Arrive Paro/Drive to Thimphu

    Fly into Paro, enjoying extraordinary views of the Himalayas (arrival dates into Paro may vary according to city of origin). The landing in Paro is dramatic, on the single runway at the bottom of a long valley with snowy peaks on either side. Drive about an hour to Thimphu and savor the serenity of Bhutan and the opportunity to converse with your guide. The afternoon and evening are free to rest or walk around Thimphu (7,656’). This is the world’s only capital city without traffic lights. In sports fields, men and women love to practice archery, the national sport. Note the traditional dress: kiras, long wrap-around dresses, for women, and ghos, knee-length robes, for men. Here, the modern meets the medieval. There are automobiles and storefronts, but a few blocks from the main street, farmers are still plowing with oxen, and bright red chili peppers are drying on rooftops. Roads quickly become footpaths as they lead up steep mountainsides.

    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge. Expect modern Western style bath and toilet, hot water, electricity, and colorful tantric Buddhist-themed decor. Possible internet access in lobby. Upgrades to luxury accommodations in Bhutan are available for about $300-$1000 more per room/per night.

     

    Meals: Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Savor the imposing Himalayas on your flight to Paro
    Day 2      Thimpu

    There are many choices of activities today. Thimphu is the site of many national institutions which preserve history and perpetuate the pursuit of Gross National Happiness as a national goal. You may want to visit the Folk Heritage Museum, National Library of Ancient Texts, National Textile Museum, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Royal Academy of Performing Arts, or one of several traditional artist-training programs.

    Visit Tashichho Dzong, built in 1216 and completely renovated between 1962 and 1969 without the use of nails or written plans. Also visit Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss), an active monastery with 500 monks. Earn a fantastic view at Changangkha Lhakhang, an old fortress temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu.

    Not far from Thimphu, there are numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Depending on your fitness and ambition, you can choose some combination of auto and hiking to visit one or more of them and possibly observe some ceremonial activity.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Explore the Thimphu Valley
    Day 3      Thimphu/Punakha

    Today’s estimated three hour drive takes you to Punakha. Blessed with temperate climate and fed by the Pho-chu (male) and Mo-chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital and is even today the winter seat of Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body. The Punakha Dzong was built at the confluence of the Pho-chu and Mo-chu Rivers in 1638 by Shabdrung and renovated from 1994-2003 with detailed arts and crafts. Punakha is also home to many different types of Himalayan birds including the heron, kingfishers, lapwing, ibis, shell duck, and cormorant, which all migrate in the winter. The rest of your day is free to relax.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Punakha Monastery
    Day 4      Punakaha/Trongsa

    In the morning, visit the Punakha Dzong, followed by the Khe-mi Lhakhang, built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century. The legend says that the lama subdued an evil spirit that appeared half human and half dog. Khe means dog and Mi means human. The temple is a short hike from the road through paddy fields and villages. You also visit the newly-built temple of Khumsum Yuele Chorten, built for the crown prince by the queen mother. The temple is built on a ridge of a mountain overlooking the Punakha valley, reached on a one-hour gradual uphill hike through fields and pine forests. Afterward, drive about five and a half hours across the Pele La region. Along the way you can see many different species of rhododendrons in bloom (April and May only) and many other plants. Trongsa (7,596') forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. It is from here the first monarchy was elected and still traditionally, the crown prince has to take the position of governor before he takes the seat of the throne. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular for miles. This afternoon, visit the Kuenga Rabten village where you can visit the waterfall. Just above the king's second palace is a nunnery where hundreds of nuns practice Buddhism.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Hike through colorful rhododendron forests
    Day 5      Trongsa/Jakar (Bumthang)

    In the morning, visit the imposing Trongsa Dzong (exterior only), ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family and an impressive work of traditional Bhutanese architecture. It was built in 1648 by Chhoyje Minjur Temple, a well-trusted follower of Shabdrung. You then visit Ta Dzong from where there are wonderful views. After lunch, drive to Jakar (approx. 3 hr drive - 9,184'), the major trading center of the region. Overnight at a local lodge.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Bumthang Valley
    Day 6      Jakar (Bumthang)

    After breakfast, visit a few of the local sites such as the Jakar Dzong, said to be the largest in Bhutan overlooking the Choskhor Valley, and Lamey Goemba, a large palace and monastery built as a residence for King Ugyen Wangchuk. If you are interested, you may want to stop to see the Vegetable Dye Project, which produces traditional vegetable dyes for use in cotton thread and raw silk production. Continue on to Ura, the highest of Bumthang's valleys and considered to be one of the holiest valleys in Bhutan. Here you will enjoy seeing the closely-packed houses along cobblestone streets which give this town its medieval atmosphere. Return to Jakar for your overnight.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Day 7      Jakar/Phobjika Valley

    Today's drive is about six hours to the Phobjika Valley (9,800'), a designated conservation area and one of the most important wildlife preserves in Bhutan. Some of the wildlife you might see are barking deer, wild boars, Himalayan black bears, and even leopards if you are lucky enough to spot one. You stop at Gangtey Village and visit the Gangtey Gompa, a monastery that dates back to the 17th century. This Gompa overlooks the Phobjika Valley, and its complex includes monk quarters, medition centers, a school, and small hotel. The Phobjika Valley provides some wonderful short hiking and exploration opportunities. It is also the perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Overnight at the beautiful Dewachen Resort (pending availability).

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Dewachen Resort or similar

    Dewachen Lodge
    Day 8      Phobjika Valley/Paro

    After a leisure breakfast, make the estimated six hour drive to Paro.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge

    Explore the small town of Paro
    Day 9      Paro

    There are a variety of options for today. If you want to learn more about Buddhism, archaeology, and history consider touring Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the most impressive dzongs in all Bhutan, a large Drukpa Kagyu Buddhist Monastery and fortress housing the monastic body and government offices. From here, there are famous views of the wooden covered bridge known as Nyamai Zam. Enjoy the fantastic architecture of Ugyen Pelri Thang Palace (the residence of the Queen Mother) from the outside and fine temples including Druk Choeding, built in 1525, and Dumtse Lhakhang, built in 1433. Ta Dzong, in the shape of a conch shell, contains a superb collection of ancient and modern religious Thangka paintings. The most classic half-day hike in Bhutan is the climb to famous Tiger’s Nest (Tatksang) Monastery on the side of a cliff almost 2,500 feet above the Paro valley. You can make the estimated two to three hour hike up to the monastery, ride a pony most of the way up, or view the site from the road. From Tiger’s Nest, drive to the ruins of Drugyel Dzong for spectacular views of Mount Chomolhari. You might also stop at Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest and most beautiful temples in Bhutan, thought to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet.

    If your schedule allows you to spend another day in Bhutan, we recommend visiting the ancient Haa Valley. Occupied since before the sixth century, but first opened to foreigners in 2002, this area remains largely undeveloped and infrequently visited by tourists. Visit the Haa Dzong and the surrounding monasteries. This is an especially good option if the weather is clear; the ridge you cross between Paro and Haahas offers some of the best mountain views in this part of Bhutan.

     

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Dewachen Resort or similar

    Make the hike up to Tatksang Monastery
    Day 10      Paro/Onward

    In the morning, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None



     
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