Journey through the beautiful Himalayan foothills in southern Bhutan
Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalayas
Visit one of the tallest (Memorial Chorten) and largest (Centenary Market) structures in Bhutan
See Bhutan's national animal at the Takin Preserve
Gaze upon the collection of ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan scripts at the National Library
The ‘7-Day Beautiful Bhutan Exploration’ cultural tour explores all of the highlights of Bhutan’s western valleys and is ideal for those wishing to enter Bhutan from the Indian state of Western Bengal via the southern overland gateway of Phuentsholing. Throughout the eye-opening week, drive through gorgeous mountain passes and verdant forests, abundant with flora and fauna, while also gaining insight into Bhutanese culture with trips to the National Library, ‘Painting School’, the Centenary Farmer’s Market and the Traditional Medicine Centre, amongst other unique places of interest. You’ll never forget this week spent in the timeless Dragon Kingdom.
After arriving at your hotel in Phuentsholing, a representative of Diethelm Travel Bhutan will welcome you in a traditional Bhutanese manner by offering you a 'khadar' or greeting scarf.
After checking in and freshening up, join us for an evening visit to the mani dungkhor (prayer wheel) located in the heart of town. The mani dungkhor was built in memory of Gongzim Raja Sonam Tobgay Dorji and a chorten was built in memory of the Late Prime Minister of Bhutan Dasho Jigme Palden Dorji. The holy site was consecrated by the former Yanbi Lopon in Phuentsholing.
Dinner and overnight stay at a hotel in Phuentsholing.
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The road climbs steeply up into the hills, winding around numerous bends, to an altitude of approximately 2,000 metres. We'll make stops along the way so as not to miss the magnificent views of the Indian Plains and the Toorsa River below. After a 2-hour drive, we'll pass over the first ridge and begin a long and gradual descent to the river, which is the source for the massive Chukha Hydel hydroelectric power project. Lunch will be served en route, and then you'll visit Kharbandi Gompa. This beautiful monastery is situated in a garden of tropical plants and flowers at an altitude of 400 metres above the town. The monastery contains paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha and statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche. From the monastery garden, there is a splendid view of Phuentsholing and the plains of West Bengal with their tea gardens beyond. Drive to visit Semtokha Dzong, which is the oldest dzong built in Bhutan by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1629.
After breakfast in the morning, begin a local sightseeing tour with a visit to the Changangkha Temple. Built in the 15th century by Lama Phajo Drigom, this temple lies on a hilltop commanding the Thimpu Valley and contains ancient scriptures and thankas. Next, visit the Takin Preserve to see Bhutan's national animal, a rare bovid mammal that only lives in Bhutan.
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. Then, see the artistic skills of students enrolled in the Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the 'Painting School'. Continue to the Traditional Medicine Center, which produces and dispenses herbal medicines locally grown from medicinal plants.
In the evening, visit the Memorial Chorten, one the tallest structures in town and a centre of worship for religious people, and the Centenary Farmer's Market, which is one of the largest structures in Bhutan. Built in 2008, this 2-storey building has more than 450 stalls selling vegetables, fruits, meats and other farm products. Vendors from all over the country come here to sell their produce. The market is open six days a week except for Wednesday. Across the Wangchu, over a traditional ‘Bazam’ cantilever bridge, vendors also sell handicraft items. Enjoy evening free time to visit Thimphu town before settling down for the rest of the night.
Drive toward the old capital of Bhutan, Punakha, by way of the Dochula Mountain Pass. On a clear day, you’ll see a stunning view of the snowcapped Himalayas. Next, visit Druk Wangyal Chorten and drive by the 108 Khangzang Namgyal Chortens, which are a new landmark for travellers crossing Dochula. After a 20-minute walk through the village of Sopsokha, visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple and holy site where childless couples have come seeking blessings since the 15th century. Lastly, tour Punakha Dzong, which guards Bhutan’s most treasured possession, the Rangjung Kharsapani. It also contains a holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage written in gold.
After breakfast in the morning, drive back to Paro. Check into the hotel, enjoy lunch, and then in the visit Dungtse Lhakhang, which is possibly the only ancient temple built in the shape of a chorten. Its chimi lhakhang is chained down since local belief holds that it will otherwise fly off to heaven. Afterwards, visit Kyichu Temple, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo, 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.
After an early breakfast, take a short drive to the trailhead of the famous Taktsang Monastery, which clings precariously to a cliff 900 metres (2,600 feet) above the Paro Valley. Also known as Tiger's Nest, Taktsang is one of the holiest sites in the country and one of the most recognised Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas. The climb to the viewpoint will take approximately three hours. Afterwards, lunch will be served during the return hike back to the road point.
The sightseeing tour continues with a 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 fine weather, the towering peak of Mount Jumolhari, which marks the frontier with Tibet, appears as a backdrop.
In the evening, visit a local farmhouse and see firsthand how rural Bhutanese live. The farmhouses are very decorative, 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. 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.
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