Cultural Tour

Land of the Thunder Dragon, one of the most mysterious and unknown of all Himalayan kingdoms, hidden in isolation behind the high peaks of the Himalayas. A trip to Bhutan is like having a magic wand transporting one back to the 15th century. For centuries forbidden to foreigners, this timeless Buddhist Kingdom has succeeded in preserving its enchanting traditions and ancestral way of life. This is further epitomized by the state’s mandate of “Gross National Happiness”, whereby economic development, a goal for much of its humanity, is only a means to the real goal of happiness.

This trip combines the best of what Bhutan offers with a good mix of both cultural and active pursuits! Begin our tour in Thimphu, the only capital in the world without any traffic light! Catch the weekend market, Textile Museum and more before taking a three-hour winding scenic mountain to Punakha. Tour the impressive Punakha Dzong, enjoy day hikes in the cultivated valley of Punakha or take excursion to Phobjikha Valley. We then re-cross Dochu La to Paro and explore the beautiful valley of Paro and ends our visit to the dramatic Taktshang Monastery, built on a sheer cliff face at a height of 2950m.

For trip details, Please contact us at: info@bhutanwilderness.com

Discover Bhutan and experience its extraordinary landscape and cultural heritage. Our experienced guides take you on day hikes through the Valley of Bhutan, incorporating Taktshang ‘Tiger Nest’ Monastery, the National Museum, the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, and the ancient temple of Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro. You will tour in and around the capital Thimphu, including Cheri and Tango Monasteries. On clear days, you will experience breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayas from the mountain pass Dochu La, as you journey to Punakha, the former nation’s capital and site of the magnificent Punakha Dzong. Accommodation is included on full-board basis.

For further detail itinerary and trip cost, please contact us at. info@bhutanwilderness.com

As one of the rarest and most unique of travel destinations, Bhutan offers the experience of the Buddhist tradition in a setting of unique architecture, and breathtaking Himalayan landscape. The friendly people of Bhutan with their traditional lifestyle and an opportunity to experience Himalayan Buddhist culture uninfluenced by the outside world with the tour of Indian Neighbouring Counties.

DAY 01: ARRIVE -PARO
On a clear day, the flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, the journey offers you wonderful views of the Himalayas and an exciting descent into the kingdom.

Your Bhutan Wilderness Travel representative will greet you at Paro airport. After completion of arrival formalities, you will be transferred to your hotel.

Afternoon free or program may be arranged, according to choice. In the evening, take a stroll along the town’s main street.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

DAY 02: PARO
In the morning, take an excursion to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory.

After lunch, visit Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum. The museum collection includes ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. Then walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. Built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, this Dzong now houses Paro’s monk body and the offices of the civil administration and is symbolic as the religious and secular center of all affairs of the valley.

In the evening, visit a traditional farm house to get an idea of the lifestyle of local people.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

DAY 03: PARO – PUNAKHA
After breakfast drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, about 18 km. up the valley. From this fortress, built in 1647 by the Shabdrung, Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Then visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred temples of the kingdom, reflecting the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

After that drive to Punakha across Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft), from which there is a breathtaking view of the high peaks on a clear day.

Until 1955 Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). Visit Punakha Dzong built in the 17th century at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Damaged by fires, floods and earthquakes over the centuries, the Dzong has recently been fully restored to its original glory. Evening visit to local market.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

DAY 04: PUNAKHA – THIMPHU
After breakfast, drive to Wangduephodrang about 45 minutes from Punakha and the last town on the highway before entering central Bhutan. Wangdue is a typical small Bhutanese town, and its formidable Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country.

After lunch, drive to the nation’s capital, Thimphu, a small, bustling city in the heart of the Himalayas. Thimphu’s charm comes not only from its wealth of museums or places of historic interest, but also from the strong national character of its architectural style. A stroll through this lively town reveals an interesting combination of tradition and modernity.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 05: THIMPHU
In the morning, visit Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion” situated on the banks of the Wang Chu. Initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck during the 1960s, it now houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. We will also visit the following, as time permits:

Bhutan’s National Library houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, mostly in block-printed format, with some works several hundred years old. The country has its own brands of Himalayan medicines, compounded and dispensed at the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, which also trains traditional medicine practitioners. The National Memorial Chorten, completed in 1974, contains finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues which provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

We will also browse in the Handicrafts Emporium, which displays a wide assortment of colorful hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, and other craft products, and smaller handicrafts shops along the main street if time permits.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 06: THIMPHU – PHUENTSHOLING
After breakfast, drive down to Phuentsholing, en route visiting Semtokha Dzong, built in 1627 and the oldest fortress of the kingdom, which now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies. The Thimphu–Phuentsholing road was built in 1962 by Dantak, the Indian Border Roads organization. The drive on this route is very pleasant with numerous scenic spots en route. Just before arriving in Phuentsholing, we will stop to visit Kharbandi Gonpa, a temple built in 1967. It houses large statues of Sakyamuni, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche.
Overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing.

Your tour with Bhutan Wilderness Travel ends this evening. You will be handed over to our Indian counterpart tomorrow morning for exit from Bhutan and onward travel to the Indian hill stations and Sikkim.

DAY 07: PHUENTSHOLING – SILIGURI / DARJEELING
After breakfast drive to Siliguri, passing through lush green tea gardens en route. Siliguri is the gateway to north-eastern India, and the main transit point for visits to Darjeeling, Sikkim, Bhutan, Eastern Nepal and Assam. After lunch in Siliguri, drive to Darjeeling via the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.
Overnight at the hotel in Darjeeling.

DAY 08: DARJEELING
In the early morning, enjoy the sunrise from Tiger Hill. The early start to the day is worth it, as the view from this place is indeed unforgettable, as the first rays of the sun touch the mountain peaks, and colors change from grey to pink to a luminous gold. Everest, the world’s highest peak is visible from Tiger Hill, but being 170 km. away does not stand out as strikingly as the much closer Kanchenjunga.

Then visit Ghoom monastery, built in 1850 by Lama Sherub Gyatsho, a monk from Mongolia. It is a Tibetan monastery where ancient birch bark manuscripts are carefully preserved. Later visit the Himalayan Mountain Institute, the house of the late Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who with Edmund Hillary made the first ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953.

In the evening, visit the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, which produces and sells a wide range of Tibetan artifacts and curios. Here you can see Tibetan craftsman making traditional items such as carpets, woolen and leather boots, and woodcarvings. The Centre was established in 1954 to rehabilitate refugees who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama in the wake of the Chinese invasion.
Overnight at the hotel in Darjeeling.

DAY 09: DARJEELING – GANGTOK
After breakfast drive to Gangtok. Later sightseeing in Gangtok includes a visit to the beautiful Enchey Monastery, approached from an avenue lined by hundreds of multi-colored prayer flags. Then visit the Institute of Cottage Industries where you can watch young students being taught the traditional art of thangkha painting, and also weaving, wood carving and carpet making.

Also visit the Institute of Tibetology, which is housed in a beautiful building, constructed in traditional Tibetan style, with murals and decorated pillars.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtok.

DAY 10: GANGTOK – KALIMPONG
Morning excursion to the famous Rumtek Monastery, which was rebuilt in the 1960s as the headquarters of the Karma Kagyupa School of Buddhism, then drive to Kalimpong. In the evening, visit a Gelugpa monastery, and also visit the Bhutanese monastery and one of the flower nurseries for which Kalimpong is famous.
Overnight at the hotel in Kalimpong.

DAY 11: KALIMPONG- BAGDOGRA AIRPORT
After breakfast drive to Bagdogra airport for flight to onward destination.

As one of the rarest and most unique of travel destinations, Bhutan offers the experience of the Buddhist tradition in a setting of unique architecture, and breathtaking Himalayan landscape. The friendly people of Bhutan share with you their traditional lifestyle and an opportunity to experience Himalayan Buddhist culture uninfluenced by the outside world. Leave the multitudes behind and enter the Land of the Thunder Dragon. This trip can be your post or pre trip extension for those who are traveling in India, Nepal, and South East Asia.

DAY 01: BAGDOGRA-SILIGURI– PHUENTSHOLING
Our Bhutan Wilderness Travel representative will meet you on arrival at either Siliguri or Bagdogra airport in the Indian state of West Bengal. After a drive of about three hours along a road lined with lush green tea gardens you will reach Phuentsholing, the gateway to Bhutan, which lies directly at the base of the Himalayan foothills. This rapidly growing town is Bhutan’s commercial center, with most commercial organizations headquartered here.
Overnight – hotel in Phuentsholing.

DAY 02: PHUENTSHOLING –THIMPHU
Today, we will proceed to Thimphu along the National Highway taking about 8 hours with some stops en route. Our first stop will be after a short drive up the road to visit Kharbandi Gonpa. This beautiful monastery situated in a garden of tropical plants and flowers at an altitude of 400m above the town was founded in 1967 by the Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choden. The monastery has paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha, and the statues of Guru Rinpoche and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. From here, there is a superb view of the Indian plains with their tea gardens beyond. En route we will stop to see the water falls and other scenery.

Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan and the center of government, religion and commerce, it’s a lively place, an interesting combination of tradition and modernity. Home to civil servants, expatriates and the monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 03: THIMPHU
Once a rustic village sitting in a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu is today the nation’s bustling capital. Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu includes visits to:
Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”: Initially erected in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body;
National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”) and a monument to world peace;
Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan;
National Library, which holds an extensive collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books, mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.
Other places of interest which may be visited if time permits include: the National Institute of Traditional Medicine where medicinal herbs are compounded and dispensed, and traditional medical practitioners trained; the Handicrafts Emporium, which displays a wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven textiles and craft products, and also a small collection of books on Bhutan, Buddhism and Himalayan culture; the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums.

In the evening take a stroll through Thimphu’s market area, visiting local shops and mingling with the people.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
After breakfast, proceed to Punakha, stopping briefly about 45 minutes’ drive from Thimphu at Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft), which offers visitors their first glimpse of the eastern Himalayan ranges.
A low-lying subtropical valley, Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body. Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, has played prominent role in civil and religious life of the kingdom. Damaged by fire, flood and earthquake over the centuries, it has now been fully restored in its original splendor.
Also visit the valley of Wangduephodrang situated at the junction of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha

DAY 05: PUNAKHA – PARO
Morning sightseeing in Wangduephodrang, a typical small Bhutanese town, with bustling market and well-stocked shops. This area is also known for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, locally mined slate, and a yak dairy research station. Wangduephodrang Dzong is the town’s most visible feature, situated majestically on a spur above the junction of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers.
After lunch, we drive to Paro, visiting a village house en route to get an idea of the lifestyle of the local people.
Overnight – hotel in Paro.

DAY 06: PARO
This beautiful valley is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum and the country’s only airport. Situated strategically and commanding a spectacular view of the valley, Rinpung Dzong (“the fortress of the heap of jewels”) was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, and now houses Paro’s monk body and the offices of the civil administration. It is also the venue for the annual springtime Paro Tsechu (festival). Above Rinpung Dzong (commonly referred to as Paro Dzong) is Ta Dzong, housing the National Museum, which holds unique and varied collections ranging from ancient armor, to textiles, thangkha paintings, stamps, coins and natural history.
A short drive north and overlooking the Paro river is Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of Bhutan, dating back to the 7th century, when Buddhism was first introduced into Bhutan. Further ahead, at the end of valley lies Drukgyel Dzong, or “the Fort of Drukpa Victory”, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Evening at leisure to walk around Paro downtown.
Overnight – hotel in Paro.

DAY 07: DEPART
After early breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.

If you do not have much time, go for Taste of Bhutan. It’s an ideal and quick way to experience the glory and the myth of Bhutan. This trip can be your post or pre trip extension for those who are traveling in India, Nepal, and South East Asia.

DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO & DRIVE TO THIMPHU
In clear weather, Druk Air’s flight to Bhutan provides a wonderful view of Himalayan scenery. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Katmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, it is a breathtaking journey, culminating in an exciting descent past forested hills into the kingdom.

On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by Bhutan Wilderness Travel representative. On completion of airport formalities, there will be an interesting drive along the windy highway for about 2 hours to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 02: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.

Morning visit to the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, with some works dating back several hundred years. Visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six-year training course is given in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Also visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed.

After lunch, visit the National Memorial Chorten. The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous. Also visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums, opened in 2001.

Late afternoon drive to Punakha, the road from Thimphu to Punakha goes northeast and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La Pass, the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha at 10,000 feet. It provides a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear. On top of the pass are 108 chortens (Tibetan and Bhutanese name for Stupa), honoring those who were recently killed by insurgents. Chortens are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha.

DAY 03: PUNAKHA – PARRO
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, when the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Originally situated on the riverbank and dominated by the towering walls of Punakha Dzong, the township was relocated to a safer site a few kilometers down the valley, consequent upon extensive flooding in the early 1990s. At the same time, extensive renovation work was undertaken on Punakha Dzong itself, which is now a breathtaking and glorious sight as you first glimpse it from the road. Although four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in past times destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Later drive to Wangduephodrang, the last town on the highway before entering central Bhutan. Situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction, the formidable Wangduephodrang Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century, Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country. Also visit the local market.
After lunch drive back to Paro. En route make a brief stop at the Royal Botanical Garden.
Overnight – hotel in Paro.

DAY 04: PARO
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong; once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968. Next in line is Rinpung Dzong; It was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan; the Dzong continues its age-old function as the seat of the district administration, district court and the monastic body. The southern approach to the Dzong has a traditional roofed cantilever bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk across the bridge offers a wide view of splendor of the Dzong’s architecture and an opportunity to tread the same path as the ancient warriors.

After lunch, drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 18 km. from Paro town on the north side of the valley. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the kingdom.
In the evening, visit a traditional farm house for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle. Later on, take an evening stroll along the main street, and perhaps visit a few handicrafts shops, or take refreshments at a local café or bar.
Overnight -hotel in Paro.

DAY 05: DEPART PARO
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort from Bhutan wilderness Travel will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.

DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO
Flying into the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.
On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide from Bhutan Wilderness Travel will welcome you at the air port and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight- hotel in Paro

DAY 02: HiIKE TO TIGER NEST MONASTERY
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
Usually, we just hike up till the Tiger’s Nest and turn back but as you prefer hiking, we will climb further to the temples that are on top of the ridges way up from the Tiger’s Nest. This place is so peaceful! You can experience peace and serenity of this place like heaven on earth in solitude and enjoy the stunning view of the valleys and the mountains. Here you will come across some monks who have not gone down to town for ages – knowing the real nature of this world. There is one elderly monk in particular who had been living here for 25 years in solitude. On my last visit to this place, I asked him if he ever wish to go down, and the answer was a Big No!.
To come back, we follow a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.
Overnight – hotel in Paro

DAY 03: CHELE LA RIDGE HIKE
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong; once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968. Next in line is Rinpung Dzong; It was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan; the Dzong continues its age-old function as the seat of the district administration, district court and the monastic body. The southern approach to the Dzong has a traditional roofed cantilever bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk across the bridge offers a wide view of splendor of the Dzong’s architecture and an opportunity to tread the same path as the ancient warriors.
Later, take a drive up to Chele La (3822m), the highest motor able pass in the country. The pass is marked with grove of prayer flags fluttering high in the sky. You can hike through alpine meadows along the ridge and enjoy the breathtaking view of the snowcapped mountains.
Overnight – hotel in Paro

DAY 04: PARO-THIMPHU (02hours)
This morning, take a drive to Thimphu following Pa Chhu downstream till Chuzom where the two rivers meet, and here you can see the three different styles of stupas or chortens commonly found in Bhutan: Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese. The chortens are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings. From here, the road follows Thim Chhu and slowly the valley begins to widen as you get nearer to Bhutan’s capital city. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit and watch a gathering of local people in the town square, wearing their traditional dress and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way.
You can have free afternoon on your own to walk along the street to see the people and the local stores.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu

DAY 05: THIMPHU
We will take a drive up the valley towards north along Thim Chhu (river) for a short hike to Cheri Monastery. The short drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu brings us to the Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the country. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park and it’s so rich in plants.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena as we go across the covered bridge over the Thim Chhu to climb up steadily to Cheri, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Shabdrung also spent three years in retreat here and it’s a renowned meditation place even today. After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs.
Back at the village of Dodena, we will have a picnic lunch along the clean and unpolluted Thimphu River.
Later, back in Thimphu, we will visit Tashichho Dzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery. The massive fortress, whose name translates as the fortress of glorious religion, was initially a smaller structure but took the present form after expansion/reconstruction commissioned by Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1965. Besides being the summer seat of Je Khenpo, Head Abbot, and the central monastic body, it houses some ministries, the secretariat, the Golden Throne of the King of Bhutan and His Majesty’s office. The National Assembly Hall initially in the Dzong has since 1993 moved to a new location directly across the river.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu

DAY 06: THIMPHU-PUNAKHA (03hours)
We visit Thimphu’s weekend market which takes place from Friday till Sunday evening. This certainly offers the best opportunity to see people from remote places come to sell their agricultural products.
Later, drive to Punakha and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La (3050m), the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha. It provides a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear, and it is marked with numerous chortens. In Punakha, we will visit the Dzong that was built by Shabdrung, in 1637, on a strategic place at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. The Dzong has played a hallowed role in the history of Bhutan. It served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government, several foreign delegations were received here in 18th and 19th century, the election and coronation of the first King was observed in 1907 and the Third King convened the first National Assembly in the Dzong. The central monastic body continues to reside here in winter. The embalm bodies of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa are housed on the top floor of the main tower. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King from the latest fire in 1987.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha

DAY 07: PUNAKHA
Today, we will take a drive for about an hour to Talo, the native home town of the queens for our short downhill hike following the beautiful track that links the village of Talo and Nobgang.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha

DAY 08: PUNAKHA-PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (03hours)
After breakfast, drive to Wangduephodrang and visit the Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley. Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and the slate which is mined up the valley a few kilometers from the town.
Then drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down into the Phobjikha valley, surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Explore Phobjikha valley and also visit Gangtey Gonpa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
Overnight- hotel in Gangtey

DAY 09: HIKE OVER KHECHE LA
We take a drive till Longtey Village after the Pele La to go for yet another hike of about 04 hours across Kayche La (3700m) and back to Gangtey. We climb up gradually through the thickets of dwarf bamboos, birch, rhododendron, hemlock and fir to Kayche La, marked with some prayer flags. The other side of the pass is mostly meadows, and it’s all downhill walk to Gangtey through the long and beautiful stretch of meadows and farms. This place holds a special interest to tourist as you can experience the Black Mountain Range and the Phobjika Valley which is famous for the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes.
Overnight – hotel in Gangtey

DAY 10: GANGTEY-TRONGSA (02hours)
To Tongsa across Pele-la (3,300m), the traditional boundary between western and eastern Bhutan right on the western edge of Black Mountain National Park. Further down the road, stop to visit Chendebji Chorten erected in the 18th century by a Tibetan lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. It is built in the Nepalese style, with painted eyes at the four cardinal points.
The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and its impressive Dzong, stretched along a ridge above a ravine, first comes into view about an hour before the winding road suddenly leads you into the town. We will visit the massive Tongsa Dzong. It was Shabdrung’s great – grandfather who founded the first temple at Tongsa in 1543. In 1647 the Shabdrung had begun his great work of expansion and unification, realizing all the advantages that could be gained from Tongsa’s position; he constructed the first Dzong at the place where his ancestors had erected the temple. The Dzong was called Choekor Rabtentse. In 1652, Minjur Tenpa, the Penlop of Tongsa, had the Dzong enlarged. The Dzong is built in such a way that in the old days, no matter what direction a traveler comes from, he was obliged to pass through the courtyard of the Dzong. This helped to make the Penlop of this Dzong as powerful as it had a complete control over the east – west traffic. The watch tower above the Dzong further strengthened its defense. The father of the first king known as the black regent and the first king served as the Governor of Tongsa before the emergence of the Bhutanese Monarchy, since then it has become a tradition for the young crown prince to serve as the Governor of this place before he is crowned.
Overnight – hotel in Trongsa

DAY 11: TRONGSA
We take a drive towards south along the road that goes down to the Indian border town.. We can see the winter palace of the second king, Jigme Wangchuk. It’s an interesting drive, passing Takse Goemba and a large expanse of rice terraces in the lower Mangde chhu valley. It’s a good side trip from Trongsa and it gives an intimate insight into life in the early days of Bhutan’s monarchy. If we are lucky, we may see the endangered golden langurs on the bank of Mangde Chhu.
Overnight – hotel in Trongsa

DAY12: TRONGSA-JAKAR (03hours)
We drive to Yotung La (3425m) this morning, and hike downhill along the historical route which had been abandoned ever since the accessibility of road to this part of the country which is about thirty years ago, and the path is back into its complete wilderness form as nobody uses it now. We will take about 03 hours to get to the roadside at Chumi, the first of the four valleys in Bumthang, and find out a nice spot to have picnic lunch. On our further drive to Bumthang, we will make a brief stop at Zugney Village, where we will see the weavers weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra.
Overnight – hotel in Bumthang

DAY 13: JAKAR
Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura, with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000m. In the morning we will visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint”, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro).
After lunch, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later, we will visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the lodge.
Overnight – hotel in Jakar

DAY 14: JAKAR
Today, we will hike up to Tharpaling Monastery perched way up on the ridge above Jakar. The path goes up through beautiful and virgin conifer forest with occasional view of snowcapped mountains in the north. It’s a treat, to be on top of the ridge after the long climb. A perfect place of contemplation!
Overnight – hotel in Jakar

DAY 15: JAKAR-MONGAR (08hours)
The drive from Bumthang to Mongar will surely enchant you as it offers one of the most spectacular views of the country. Evergreen junipers and colorful rhododendrons cover the hillsides, as fresh new scenery unfolds with every twist and turn of the winding road. Sound of the rushing streams and cascading waterfalls greets you as you look down at the valley looming in the distance below the precipitous rock face. You will be so captivated by its beauty that the eight hours journey will hardly be noticed.
Overnight – hotel in Mongar

DAY 16: DAY EXCURSION TO LHUNTSE
Lhuntse is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the monarchy. Lhuntse Dzong is one of the most picturesque in Bhutan as it sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley.
Overnight – hotel in Mongar

DAY 17: MONGAR/TASHIGANG (04hours)
We will make a visit to Mongar Dzong in the morning and then proceed to Trashigang. The road crosses one low pass known as Kori La (2400m), before the long windy descent to a river valley to make a final climb to Trashigang. In the afternoon, we will visit the Dzong and the rest of the day at leisure to stroll around the downtown.
Overnight – hotel in Tashigang

DAY 18: TASHIGANG/SAMDRUPJONGKHAR (08hours)
Today, we will proceed down towards south to Samdrup Jongkhar the border town between Bhutan and India. En route we will visit the Zangdo Pelri temple at Kanglung, a town with clock tower and the college campus; this is the only degree college in Bhutan. In Khaling, we will visit National Handloom Development project, operated by the National Women’s Association. The hand woven products manufactured from this institute are sold in Thimphu market. You can purchase any hand woven products that you may like.
Overnight – hotel in Samdrupjomgkhar

DAY 19: SAMDRUPJONGKHAR/GAUHATI (02hours)
We will start our drive to Gauhati in time to catch your onward flight to Delhi.

DAY 01: ARRIVE-PARO
Flying in to the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.
On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide from Bhutan Wilderness Travel will welcome you and transfer you to the hotel. In the evening, you can stroll along Paro downtown to see the people and the local stores.
Overnight- hotel in Paro

DAY 02: HIKE TO TIGER NEST MONASTERY
Today we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
As you know, normally we go up to the Tiger’s Nest and then turn back but if you like I don’t mind walking extra miles with you. After Tiger’s Nest, we can climb to the temples that are on top of the ridges further up. It’s so peaceful on top and the views are stunning. A perfect place of contemplation! Here you will come across some monks who have not gone down to town for ages – knowing the real nature of this world. There is one elderly monk in particular who had been living here for 25 years in solitude. Perhaps! Depending on if he is not under meditation, we can take some prayer flags and request him to perform a consecration ceremony. To come back, we follow a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.
Overnight – hotel in Paro

DAY 03: CHELE LA RIDGE HIKE
Today, we will take a drive to Chele La (3750m), the highest motor able pass in the country and hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (4100m). Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley. The short steep descent from the top will take us to the nunnery of Kila Gompa. Here the nuns, called anims, live a life of contemplation and seclusion, with daily prayer and spiritual practice. The temple itself is surrounded by numerous meditation huts, and many hidden caves lie inside the rocky cliffs. The gompa is surrounded by a lush forest dominated by tall firs. Sparkling mountain streams wind down the slopes, which are covered with a variety of wildflowers and plants.
About 30 anims, or nuns, live here, ranging in age from about 20 to 80 years. The community is one of the oldest of seven nunneries in Bhutan, and was initially established in the early 9th c. as a meditation site. After being destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt and officially established in 1986 as an anim dratshang (religious community of Buddhist nuns).
Kila Gompa is historically significant as a sacred meditation site. Many renowned Buddhist saints have come here to find peace and seclusion. The main temple houses ancient statues of Chenrezig (Avalokiteswara) and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) among others.
Life here is simple. The day begins and ends with prayers. The anims arise at 3 AM and study Buddhist scripture until 8 AM when they go to the temple for prayers. The first simple meal of the day (rice, vegetables and tea) is eaten at 10 AM, after which studies continue until 9 PM when a simple supper is served. The nuns retire after a final session of prayer. Most of the nuns have given up properties and left their families to live with the bare minimum of material things. Their studies and subsistence are supported by the government.
Some of the older nuns have retired into meditation, while many of the younger ones pursue basic Buddhist studies and perform religious ceremonies. The course takes 5-6 years, after which they begin meditation, which can range from four months to three years. One young nun, when asked why she had chosen this life, replied “There is peace in thinking about others, apart from yourself.” Another said “If I was given back my youth, I would still choose this life but I would start it earlier. I have never been more at peace with myself.”
The walk down from here to the road is lined with small white chortens and it will take us about an hour.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu

DAY 04: HIKE TO CHERI MONASTERY
We will take a drive up the valley towards north along Thim Chhu (river) for a short hike to Cheri Monastery. The short drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu brings us to the Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the country. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park and it’s so rich in plants.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena as we go across the covered bridge over the Thim Chhu to climb up steadily to Cheri, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Shabdrung also spent three years in retreat here and it’s a renowned meditation place even today. After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. We will have picnic lunch along the clean and unpolluted Thim Chhu.
In the afternoon, you can have free time on your own to walk along the street to see the people and the local stores. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit and watch a gathering of local people in the town square, wearing the traditional dress and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu

DAY 05: THIMPHU-PUNAKHA (03 hours)
We take a drive for about an hour along the east-west highway till Dochu La (3050m) to begin yet another hike. The view of the Himalayas from Dochu La is spectacular to the north when the sky is clear. The pass is marked by 108 chortens (Stupa) which are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.
We will hike up to the isolated temple called Lungchuzay which dates back to 14th century. The trail gradually goes up through the forest of rhododendrons, magnolias, birches, firs, hemlocks and bamboos, occasionally passing by meadows that are being used as the yak pastures.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha

DAY06: PUNAKHA
In Punakha, we will visit the Dzong that was built by Shabdrung, in 1637, on a strategic place at the confluence of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. The Dzong has played a hallowed role in the history of Bhutan. It served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government, several foreign delegations were received here in 18th and 19th century, the election and coronation of the first King was observed in 1907 and the Third King convened the first National Assembly in the Dzong. The central monastic body continues to reside here in winter. The embalmed bodies of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa are housed on the top floor of the main tower. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King from the latest fire in 1987.
Next in line, we will take a drive to Talo, the native home town of the queens for our short downhill walk following the beautiful track that links the village of Talo and Nobgang.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha

DAY 07: PUNAKHA-GANGTEY (03 hours)
Drive to Wangduephodrang and visit the Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley. Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and the slate which is mined up the valley a few kilometers from the town. Then drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down into the Phobjikha valley, surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Explore Phobjikha valley and also visit Gangtey Gonpa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
Overnight – hotel in Gangtey

DAY 08: HIKE OVER KHECHE LA
We take a drive till Longtey Village after the Pele La along the east-west highway to start another hike of about 06 hours across Kayche La (3700m) and back to Gangtey. We climb up gradually through the thickets of dwarf bamboos, birch, rhododendron, hemlock and fir to Kayche La, marked with some prayer flags. The other side of the pass is mostly meadows, and it’s all downhill walk to Gangtey through the long and beautiful stretch of meadows and farms. This place holds a special interest as you can experience the Black Mountain Range and the Phobjika Valley which is famous for the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes.
Overnight – hotel in Gangtey

DAY 09: GADGETY-THIMPHU (05 hours)
Today, we will hike along the path that is being used by the people of this valley to move down to their winter homes in the warmer region of Wangdue called Chitokha. We begin our hike gradually up through farms, thicket of dwarf bamboos, and meadows to Shasi La (3300m) which is marked by a chorten (stupa). On the other side of the pass, the path gets into thick forests of birch, rhododendron, hemlock, fir and then down into sub tropical deciduous forest of oaks and rhododendrons with lots of orchids.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu

DAY 10: DEPARTURE
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to Paro in time to catch up your onward flight to Kolkotta. Your escort from Bhutan wilderness Travel will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.

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