Bhutan

10-Day Journey through the Dragon Kingdom

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Tour type

Tour Level: High Level

Tour Comfort: Standard

Tour Period: 10 Days

Tour Highlight

  • Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalayas
  • Spend a night in the beautiful Phobjikha Valley, the winter home to the rare black-necked crane
  • Traverse beautiful landscapes of forest and sheep pastures in the Tang Valley
  • Visit Punakha Dzong, home to the precious Rangjung Kharsapani relic
  • Explore the lush gardens of country's Royal Botanical Park (Rhododendron Garden at Lamperi)

tour details

Discover the highlights of Bhutan’s popular western and spiritual central valleys in this luxurious 10-day journey. Visit culturally rich dzongs, temples, monasteries and palaces that are home to incredible collections of artwork, artefacts and murals. Witness Bhutan’s everchanging scenic beauty of forests and Himalayan peaks while comfortably riding through the countryside. This is a once-in-a-lifetime journey!

Upon arriving at the Paro International Airport, your guide will be waiting for you and welcome you with a traditional greeting scarf or ‘khadar’. After that, you will be escorted to your hotel to freshen up and then taken for a short sightseeing tour around Paro.

First, visit Rinpung Dzong, an administration centre and a modern school for monks. Built in 1645, it was once used to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. Next, visit the Ugyen Pelri Palace, which is one of the most beautiful examples of Bhutanese architecture. Continue onward to one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia, the National Museum. Its collection of precious works of art and fantastic costumes, armour and other handcrafted objects provide a snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of Bhutan. There is also a gallery dedicated to exquisite pieces of thangkas. The evening has been kept free for a leisurely visit to the town of Paro.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu city, the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Urbanisation began here when Thimphu was proclaimed as a national capital in 1952 and yet it still maintains its ethnic architectural style.

On arrival, check into the hotel and begin a local sightseeing tour. First, visit the Bhutan Post, which is known for its world-famous stamps. It is home to an extensive collection of exotic stamps made from metal and silk. Next, gaze upon priceless Buddhist manuscripts at the National Library of Bhutan. The NLB also accommodates a large and steadily growing collection of manuscripts, books, scriptures and written documents as well as numerous hand-carved wooden blocks for printing traditional religious books. Afterwards, peek into the way of life of Bhutanese villages and rural households by exploring the National Folk Heritage Museum. The building is a restored 3-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house that resembles the average rural household in the Wang area during the mid-19th century. It contains typical household objects, domestic tools and equipment that were used by rural families of that period. Then, continue to the Traditional Medicine Center, which produces and dispenses herbal medicines locally grown from medicinal plants.

After lunch, continue to see the Takin Preserve, which is home to Bhutan’s national animal, the takin. Next, visit Kuensel Phodrang and its 160-foot statue of the Present Buddha, Buddha Sakya Muni (Sha cha Thupa). This is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. From this viewpoint, enjoy a beautiful view of the capital city. Next, continue on to Memorial Chorten, one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu and a centre of worship for religious people. In the evening, visit the 13th-century Tashichho Dzong, which houses His Majesty’s Throne Room and is the summer home to the Monastic Body. Then enjoy free time to visit Thimphu on your own before settling down for the rest of the night.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, travel through the spiralling mountain road via the Dochula Mountain Pass toward Punakha Valley. On a clear day, Dochula offers stunning views of the snowcapped Himalayan range. With powerful binoculars, you can view Jejekangphu Gang, Zongophu Gang (Table Mountain) and Gangkhar Puensum. Afterwards, visit Druk Wangyel Chorten, a new landmark for travellers. Then take a 20-minute walk through the village of Sopsokha to the 'Fertility Temple' known locally as Chimi Lhakhang, which is believed to bless childless couples.

After lunch, continue with a drive to the impressive Punakha Dzong, which was built in 1637 and is said to be one of the most beautiful dzongs of Bhutan. Inside, there is a set of the 108 volumes of Kanjur, a holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage written in gold. The dzong also safeguards Bhutan’s most treasured possession, the sacred Rangjung Kharsapani relic.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Punakha.
After an early breakfast, begin the journey towards Bumthang. Drive through the Pelela Mountain Pass and crossing the Black Mountains, which divide western and central Bhutan. It is a wonderful opportunity to take photographs of the beautiful scenic views. Continue driving by yak settlements and through forests of rhododendron and magnolias trees.
After crossing the Nikarchu Bridge, enter the Trongsa district and see the Chendebji Chorten and the Trongsa Dzong. Then visit the Ta Dzong, which served as the watchtower above the Trongsa Dzong but is now a state-of-the-art museum about the Bhutan monarchy. There are 11 galleries with one gallery fully dedicated to the history of the kings of the Wangchuck Dynasty. Continue your journey towards Bumthang, which is approximately two-hours from Trongsa. This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and is also the heartland of Buddhism where many great teachers have meditated.

Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
After breakfast, visit the Wangdichholing Palace, home of King Ugyen Wangchuk, son of the Penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal. Then continue to the three temples of Kurjey Lhakhang, which are built on the rock face above Jambay Lhakhang and are surrounded by a 108-chorten wall symbolising each joint of the human body. Take a short walk north from Kurjey Temple, across a footbridge and uphill to a trail to Tamshing Temple. Founded in 1501, it contains interesting religious paintings such as 11,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Bohhisatava).

In the afternoon, take a 1.5-hour drive from Bumthang through forests and large sheep pastures to Ura, which lies in the Tang Valley. Along the way, cross the Ura La Pass with a magnificent view of Mount Gangkar Puensum. Notice the tightly clustered houses, which are a characteristic of the villages in Ura and a unique feature of the country. Above the Ura village is a new temple dedicated to Guru Rimpoche that contains paintings of the cycle of his teachings. After visiting, drive back to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
The day begins with a drive to Gangtey, the wintering grounds of the rare black-necked crane (Grus Nicorocolis) that migrate from remote parts of Tibet, China and Siberia between mid-October and early December and remain until March through mid-April. The local people say that when the cranes first arrive, they circle over the Goemba (Monastery) as though they are paying homage before descending into land in the marshy area of the valley. Gangtey is declared as a conservation ground for the black-necked cranes and borders the Black Mountain National Park. It is also inhabited by muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox. Whilst there, visit the crane information and observation centre to view the exotic birds.

Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Gangtay.
After breakfast, drive back to Paro and visit the Royal Botanical Park along the way. This park is also known as the Rhododendron Garden at Lamperi thanks to its impressive garden containing 46 different species of rhododendron. The botanical garden is also a nature reserve with a rich eco-diversity and hundreds of species of animals.

After arriving in Paro, check into the hotel and in the afternoon visit Dungtse Lhakhang. This may be the only ancient temple built in the shape of a chorten. It was constructed in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo, who came to Bhutan in search of iron ore to build bridges in his homeland of Tibet. Its chimi lhakhang is chained down since local belief holds that it will otherwise fly off to heaven. Enjoy a free evening to visit the town of Paro.

Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Enjoy an early breakfast and then take a brief drive to the beginning of the trail to the Taktsang Monastery, one of the holiest sites in the country. It is also known as ‘Tiger's Nest’ and is famous for clinging precariously to a cliff 900 metres (2,600 feet) above the Paro Valley. The climb will take approximately three hours to complete. Lunch will be served during the return hike to the road point.

In the afternoon, visit Drukgyal Dzong. Now in ruins, it was once strategically built over the only passage into Paro Valley. It helped to prevent numerous invasions throughout the course of Bhutanese history, beginning in 1646. In clear weather, the towering peak of Mount Jumolhari that marks the frontier with Tibet appears as a backdrop to Drukgyal Dzong.

Later, explore the Kyichu Temple, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo. This series of temples were built to subdue the demoness residing in the Himalayas, who was believed to be preventing the spread of Buddhism. For the rest of the day, enjoy a free evening to leisurely explore the town of Paro.

Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, the tour will continue with a day trip to Haa Valley. First, visit Haa Dratshang at the southern entrance to town. An annual tshechu is held there on the eighth and ninth day of the eighth lunar month. On the tenth day, a large thangka is displayed at Wangchulo Dzong. First, visit the Lhakhang Kharpo (White Chapel) then take a 10-minute walk behind the dratshang to Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Chapel). Currently, the lhakhang is under renovation and visitors are not allowed to go inside.

Continue on a walking trail up the valley from behind the Haa Dratshang to Shek Drak, a tiny Buddhist retreat centre perched on the hillside. Then, continue halfway up the hillside for 3.5 kilometres towards Takchu Goemba. From here, a 10-minute walk climbs to the small and charming chapel attended by one lama and one monk. Stop for a packed lunch break amongst the beautiful hills of Haa and then begin the drive back to Paro.
In the evening, visit a local farmhouse and see firsthand how rural Bhutanese live. The farmhouses are very decorative and are built and painted in a classical 3-storey style. The ground floor is used for cattle and the top floor is used for drying hay whilst the family lives on the middle floor. Relax with a hot stone bath known as ‘dotsho’, which is an important part of Bhutanese family life and has been used to treat various diseases for centuries.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, your guide will accompany you to the airport and bid you 'Tashi delek!' for your onward flight.

Includes

  • All private transfers, Hotel accomodation and transportation inclusive of taxes during the entire tour
  • Meals as stated in the programme B= Breakfast, L= Lunch & D= Dinner
  • Transfers and tours with English-speaking guides in private air conditioned vehicles
  • All entrance fees as mentioned in the programme
  • Mineral water available in the vehicles
  • Visa fees at US$40 per person

Excludes

  • Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
  • International airfare to / from Lao (quoted separately, if requested)
  • Optional tours
  • Surcharges for other language guides
  • Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal expenditures, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities, etc.
  • Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
  • Drinks with meals
  • Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges which will be advised at the time of booking or when available
  • Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme
Tour code: JTDK10

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