Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalaya
Marvel at the Ugyen Pelri Palace, an exquisite example of Bhutanese architecture
Traverse beautiful landscapes from lush valleys to dense forests
Explore the galleries of one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia
View ancient Bhutanese written and printed scripts at the National Library of Bhutan
This cultural tour explores the wonderfully diverse environment and cultural heritage of Bhutan’s western valleys. Drive through high mountain passes and over hills covered in rhododendrons, magnolias and dwarf bamboo, all abundant with birds and wildlife. Immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture with trips to the National Library, National Museum and Textile Museum as well as dzongs, monasteries and farmhouses.
After arriving at the Paro International Airport, your guide will be waiting outside the arrival terminal and welcome you in a traditional manner by offering a 'khadar' or greeting scarf.
Before heading to Thimphu, drive to see Rinpung Dzong, which was built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. Today, this dzong is used as an administration centre and school for monks. Next, continue to the magnificent Ugyen Pelri Palace, which is situated in a secluded wooden compound south of the river and one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. Afterwards, tour the National Museum and its collection of precious works of art and cultural artefacts. Its thangkas depicting Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first Je Khempo and first Druk desi, are particularly significant.
Then drive towards Thimphu, the only capital in the world with no 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 the way see the 15th-century Tachogang Temple, also known as the ‘Temple of the Hill of Excellent Horse’. The temple is built with a traditional bridge with iron chains on the left bank of the river, a few kilometres before Chuzom at the confluence of the Paro and Thimphu Rivers.
Check into your hotel and then begin your sightseeing tour with a walk around Memorial Chorten, one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu. Afterwards, visit the Takin Preserve to see Bhutan's national animal, a rare bovid mammal that only lives in Bhutan. Then drive up to the BBS Tower for a magnificent aerial view of Thimphu Valley and continue to the 15th-century Changangkha Temple, which contains ancient scriptures and thankas. 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.
After breakfast, begin the day's local sightseeing at Bhutan Post. Located at the heart of Thimphu, it is renowned for its extensive varieties of exotic stamps made out of metal, silk and three-dimensional images. Next, walk to the Textile Museum and browse through an invaluable collection of antique textile artefacts and beautiful handwoven Bhutanese textiles. These items are an integral part of its cultural heritage and are unique for their diversity and sophistication. The museum is also home to the pearl robe from Tsamdrak Goenpa, crowns of Bhutan’s Kings, dresses and other accessories worn by the Royal Family, personal bedding of His Holiness Zhabdrung Jigme Dorji and the first version of the Raven Crown.
Afterwards, visit the National Library, which has an extensive collection of ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan scripts. Apart from the silk cloth printing and wrappings kept on the second floor, the library also has traditional wood blocks used for printing books and prayer flags. Next, gain insight into the way of Bhutanese culture at the National Folk Heritage Museum and the artistic skills of students enrolled in the Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the 'Painting School'. Lastly, visit the Traditional Medicine Centre, which produces and dispenses herbal medicines locally grown from medicinal plants.
After breakfast, take a morning drive to Paro to the entrance of the trail leading to one of the holiest sites in the country, the Taktsang Monastery. Also known as 'Tiger's Nest', this monastery clings precariously to a cliff 900 metres (2,600 feet) above the Paro Valley. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around three hours and then you'll enjoy lunch during the return hike back to the road point.
The afternoon will continue with a visit to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders, it prevented numerous invasions throughout Bhutanese history. From there, visit a local farmhouse and see firsthand how rural locals live. The farmhouses are very decorative and built and painted in a classical three-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.
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