Splendors of Western Bhutan (BHU-SPL-11)
Venture into a world that will touch your heart and soul – a land of myths, legends and traditions which are as vital and alive today as when they originated.
Thickly forested valleys, snow-capped mountains, colorful prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, maroon robed monks and architecture from another age. This is Bhutan, a kingdom that has long maintained its independence and isolation from the outside world and so preserved a fascinating Himalayan culture and tradition.
Where are you going?
Days 1-2 : Flying into Kathmandu is an unforgettable experience with the Himalaya spread out before you. You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. In the morning of day 2 a half-day city tour will introduce you to some of the highlights of Kathmandu .
Day 3 : The flight from Kathmandu provides a most dramatic view of the Himalaya as you fly alongside the world's highest mountain range. The tiny town of Paro is bursting with colour and tradition overlooked by a dramatic dzong. Fields, cover most of the valley floor, while hamlets and isolated farms dot the countryside - the houses here are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country. Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.
In the afternoon visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) and Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Days 4-5: Thimphu lies in a wooded valley, sprawling up a hillside on the west bank of the Thimphu River . Quiet and peaceful, w ith its streets lined with traditional shop fronts, this town seems almost too small to be a capital – it is often said to be the only one without traffic lights. Beautiful textiles in wool, silk and cotton, basketwork, silver jewelry, thangkas and other traditional crafts of the Kingdom are available in various Handicraft Emporiums.
Sights include the Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan), the Textile Museum, The Arts and Crafts School, the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved, Trashichho Dzong is the Secretariat building, which houses the Chief Abbot and central monastic body. It also houses the Throne Room. Thinphu's oldest fortress, Semtokha Dzong, still houses a few monks and is also the center for Cultural and Language Study.
Day 6: The road to Punakha and Wangdue crosses the Dochula Pass (3150m), offering a great view of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains .
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers, completely covering the spur it commands an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west roads. The main road climbs the length of the spur and on the left, across the river, comes the first glimpse of the picturesque village of Rinchengang whose inhabitants are celebrated stonemasons.
Punakha Dzong is the winter residence of Bhutan's spiritual leader, the Head Abbot, and the Central Monastic Body. The Dzong is built between two rivers known as “Phochu” (Male River) and “Mochu” (Female River).
Day 7: Retracing the route towards Trongsa and Wangdue the road diverts to Gangtey Valley. Descending through fields of bamboo a glacial valley on the western slopes of the black mountains. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders the Black Mountains National Park. Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winters here, it is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country. In addition to the cranes, there are also muntjacks (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, Himalayan black bears, leopards & black foxes in the valley and surrounding hills.
To the Bhutanese, going to Gangtey is like going back in time, an interesting perspective given that they themselves live in a country not rushing towards modernization.
Gangtey Goemba overlooks the large green expanse of the Phobjikha Valley . The extensive complex consists of the goemba and several other buildings, which include monk, quarters, meditation centers, school and small hotel. In the front of the yellow roofed goemba is a Tibetan style chorten with a wooden roof.
Day 8: Return to Thimphu with time for further shopping and sightseeing.
Day 9: Taktsang is the most famous of all Bhutanese monasteries. It is perched on the side of a cliff 900 m above the floor of the Paro valley, where the only sounds are the murmurs of the wind, and water and the chanting of the monks. The name Taktsang means ‘Tigers Nest'; the Guru is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to the site of the monastery where he meditated in a cave for three months.
The monastery itself is closed to tourists except by special permit. However the one-hour walk to the viewpoint, where there is a small wooden teahouse provides a close-up view of the monastery. It's also a good warm-up hike if you are going trekking.
Nearby Paro are the ruins of Drugyal Dzong, a site of great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means the victorious Bhutanese. It offers a magnificent vista of Mount Chomolhari, "Mountain of Goddess" (7329 m). A short distance south of the road is Kyichu Lhakhang. This temple is said to be one of the 12 great geomantric temples ordered built by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in the 7 th century. It holds down the left foot of an ogress whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of central Tibet.
Day 10: The early morning flight back to Kathmandu leaves the rest of the day free for shopping and sightseeing.
Day 11: Depart