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Explore and experience ancient Buddhist monasteries, temples and forts of Bhutan!

Bhutan Monastery Tour - 9 days

'Tour of Buddhist monasteries & temples of Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa, Punakha & Bumthang


Day 01: Arrive Paro by Flight
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift, as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be met by our representative, and afterwards transfer to the hotel.

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Situated in north-western part of the country, the enchanting valley of Paro is rich in culture, scenic beauty and abounds in myths & legends. The valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the country’s international airport and the national museum.

Afternoon visit to Rinpung Dzong, meaning (‘fortress of the heap of jewels’), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala. Part of Bernardo Bertolucci's movie, ‘Little Buddha,’ was filmed inside this dzong.

Then drive to 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Evening an exploratory walk around Main Street and market area.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)

Day 02: Paro
After breakfast, embark on a walking excursion to Taktshang Monastery (approx. 5 hours, round trip walk). Taktshang is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is also called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.

Later in the afternoon, drive end of the Valley to the base of Drukgyel Dzong, a 17th century fortress burned down in the early 1950s. Here we will also see the beautiful typical farm house. Bhutanese farmhouses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat.

Also visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)

Bhutan monastery tour Day 03: Paro - Haa valley (70km, approx 3 hours drive) After breakfast, drive to Haa valley, en route taking a short stop at Chelela pass. Located at an elevation of 3,988 meters, Chelela is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour's drive along a thickly-forested road, this Pass is a botanical paradise, providing stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
From Chelela, embark on an enchanting walking excursion to Kila Gompa, a nunnery perched on a steep cliff face at 3500m. This staggering site manages to house 7 small temples and about 70 nuns. From Chelela pass, the Gompa is about an hour walk amidst magnificent wooded area.
After picnic lunch, drive onwards to Haa valley. The Haa valley was opened to the first time to foreign tourists in 2002. Also known as the ‘Hidden-Land Rice Valley’, Haa is culturally rich valley lying on the western most edge of Bhutan Its northern boundaries with the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, dividing it from the Indian province of Sikkim. Haa is one of the 20 districts or dzongkhags of Bhutan and one of the least populated. Its most of its landmass is covered by dense forest and the remainder under fields of wheat and barley, with a little rice towards its lower reaches and the accessible side valleys. Meadows support the raising of yak, cattle, chicken, pigs and horses.
Evening explore exotic Haa valley and its town.
Overnight at the hotel in Haa valley. (Altitude 2,670m)

Day 04: Haa valley - Punakha & Wangduephodrang (180km, approx 6 hours drive)
After breakfast visit, Lhakhang Karpo (White temple), established in the 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo. According to legends, a black and white pigeon were released to select the site for temples and the white pigeon landed on the foothills of the three towering mountains worshipped as ‘Rigsum gonpo’ and is where this temple stands today.
Then visit, Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple), also built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo and situated towards the north of Lhakhang Karpo. Lhakhang Nagpo serves as the seat for the guardian deity ‘Da Do Chen’. The principal relic of the monastery is the Choe-Lung-Truel Sum. Both these temples stand as the guardian sentinels keeping watch at the south entrance of Haa valley.

Thereafter hike the lower road along first the Haa Chhu and after the confluence with the Wang Chhu, along the latter towards the old capital at Punakha. En route stop at Dogar Dobji Dzong, a 16th century structure, built by the brother of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley. This dzong became Bhutan’s first jail in 1976 but has since returned to its monastic origins.

bhutan tour image Then drive further across Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 ft), stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.

At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty five chortens, the second has thirty six and the top layer has twenty seven, built around the main chorten.

Also explore some part of Royal Botanical Park. It is the first botanical park in Bhutan and forms the backdrop of the Dochula Pass.

Afterwards, drive onward to Punakha. Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and even today, it continues to be the winter residence of the central monk body. Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, Punakha is fertile valley with abundant crops from terraced rice fields, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Adjoining to Punakha, Wangduephodrang known as Sha or ‘east’ to the Bhutanese is an important gateway to the far-flung corners of Bhutan. Wangduephodrang played a crucial role in unifying the western, central and southern districts.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha / Wangduephodrang. (Altitude 1300m)

Day 05: Punakha & Wangduephodrang
After breakfast, visit Punakha Dzong or (‘Palace of Great Happiness’), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative centre of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.

Then a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.
This Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.

Post lunch visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang. Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang, gleams this impressive structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where, apart from religious trainings, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangkha painting.
Thereafter a beautiful hike (total about 2 hours round trip walk) takes you to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu river and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond. 
Evening explore Wangduephodrang valley and the town.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha / Wangduephodrang. (Altitude 1300m)

Day 06: Punakha & Wangduephodrang - Gangtey (85km, approx 3 hours drive)
Morning after breakfast, drive onto Gangtey, passing through dense forests of oak and rhododendron tress.

The valley of Gangtey, is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lies the fascinating valley of Phobjikha.

Afternoon visit Gangtey Goempa (monastery), perched on a ridge overlooking the valley. It is directed by Gangtey Tulku, the ninth reincarnation (a ‘Tulku’ is a reincarnate) of Pema Lingpa — a famous Buddhist saint and teacher.
Then a walking excursion to Gangtey Nature Trail. This pleasurable walk provides you a nice feel of Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goempa, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. The trail ends at local community school after passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang (approx. 5.5km, 2 hours walk).
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey (Altitude 3000m).

Day 07: Gangtey - Thimphu (150km, approx 5 hours & 30 minutes drive)
Morning explore fascinating Phobjikha valley. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
Also visit Black Neck Crane Information Centre. Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The centre also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area. There is a small gift shop, which sells handicrafts produced by the local people.
Then drive to Thimphu via Dochula pass. After a short tea / coffee break at Dochula, drive onwards, en route visiting Simtokha Dzong which stands on a lofty ridge five miles before capital city, Thimphu. Built in 1627 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it is one of the oldest dzong of the country and now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural studies.
Since 1955, Thimphu has been the capital of Bhutan. Besides its position as the seat of government, religion and commerce, its many glittering monuments, temples, monasteries and dzong as well as premier museums, the National Library, Arts & Crafts School and various other key attractions make an important centre for tourists.
Evening an exploratory walk around Thimphu city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2320m)

Day 08: Thimphu
Bhutan monastery tour After breakfast, sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following : the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts, Textile Museum; established in 2001 and showcases range of beautiful Bhutanese textiles, Folk Heritage Museum; providing a fascinating insight into the traditional Bhutanese farmhouse and rural past through its exhibits.
After lunch, visit to Changangkha Lhakhang. It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads. From temple courtyard, there is fascinating view of Thimphu valley.
Afterwards drive to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.

Then visit, King's Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (‘the father of modern Bhutan’) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Conclude the day with visit of Trashichhoedzong. This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2320m)

Day 09: Thimphu - Paro airport (50km, approx 1 hours & 15 minutes drive) & departure for onward destination
After early breakfast at the hotel, drive to Paro airport for flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.





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