Bhutan East-West Tour

 Day 1: Arrive Paro International Airport, and travel to Thimphu

 Day 2: Thimphu Tour and travel to Punakha

 Day 3: Punakha tour and travel to Trongsa

 Day 4: Trongsa tour and travel back to Phobjikha

 Day 5: Phobjikha hike/tour. (experience home stay)

 Day 6: Travel back to Paro

 Day 7: Taktshang hike

 Day 8: Depart from Paro International Airport

This concludes your short trip to Bhutan

Day 01: Arrive at Paro International airport and Paro tour

The only two international flight (Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines) to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Soon after you leave the Indian low lying plains and the great view of The Mount Everest from your window, you will be flying over densely forested areas and will see the far-flung Bhutanese Temples and Monasteries built on the steep terrain-mountains and cliffs. Before you cease your imagination and wondering how people are going to get there on foot, you will be informed by flight attendant to fasten your seat belt to prepare for landing at Paro International Airport, the airport which has only one strip runway lying between a local community of Traditional Bhutanese Houses on one side and a high way motor road on the other side. Then as you descend towards the Paro Valley, you will be flying very close overhead the Paro Villages. The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions, with cover of green paddy fields, crystal clear Pa Chu river, the Paro Dzong (Fortress) and then slowly but spine chillingly (for the First timer into Bhutan), you will land at the airstrip and on landing, you are sure to wonder, “wow!!! The Pilot is really good”.     And usually, the First Timers flying into Bhutan, clap in unison and then there is a guffaw of laughter and giggles. Truly an instant awakening of happiness from the moment you land.

On arrival at Paro international airport, you will be then ushered to immigration counter and baggage claim areas by very astonishing and helpful airport staffs. After then, your tour guide will be waiting for you at the exit door with full of excitement expression on his/her face with Khadhar (a white scarf on his/her hand to offer you as tradition culture for welcoming you). The reason for offering a white Khadar is; traditionally we believe white colour symbolising a purity, hence to show you, you are now encircled by pure-hearted people, you are welcome and be loved as our guest (not as tourist) and you will be taken full care from this day until the trip concludes.

Now, depending upon the local time of your arrival at Paro international Airport and your depending to your mood, you will be then taken to the sightseeing areas as per the above tour outline.

The good-humoured/helpful driver and your cheerful local tour guide will be happy to gently pack your luggage in the SUV car and head to Thimphu (54 km, 1- 2hrs) and do Thimphu sightseeing.

The distance of about 54km from Paro town to Thimphu takes around one hour excluding the sightseeing stops. Drive south following Pachu River to the river confluence at Chuzom. Just 5km before Chuzom is Tamchog Lhakhang, a private temple owned by the descendants of famous Tibetan bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo.

Visit Tamchog Lhakhang: On en-route to Thimphu, we will take an opportunity to visit Tamchog Lhakhang. One has to cross an ancient bridge and this bridge is the main attraction as the iron on this bridge are an ancient and the legend has this that the treasure hunter of Bhutan pounded these, irons into Chain links in the 16th Century. Beating the iron on his thighs did the pounding.

After then we will continue our journey towards Thimphu, the next remarkable spot comes is Chhuzom (Confluence), is the juncture of Thimphu river (Wang Chu) and Paro river (Pa Chhu). Chuzom is also a major road junction, with southwest road leading to Haa (79km), south road to Phuntsholing (141km) and northeast to Thimphu (30km)

Visit Tashichho Dzong: Now after arriving in Thimphu, depending upon the time, we will visit Tashichho Dzong (office for the Great Present His Majesty the Fifth King of Bhutan); the Dzong has been the seat for Bhutan’s government since 1968. It presently houses the throne room and offices for the king, the cabinet secretariat and the Ministry for home & cultural affairs. It also houses the Central Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks. If you are lucky enough you will get chance to see the His Majesty the King coming out of his office and walking towards his palace just below the Dzong.

Visit National Memorial Chorten (Stupa): This stupa one of the most visible religious structures in heart of Thimphu city, The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by 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. Visitors will find elderly Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’.

Stroll through Thimphu town and this concludes your first day in Thimphu

Day 02: After a pleasant break fast at hotel, we will complete the following sight seeing in Thimphu before mid-afternoon, and then we will travel to Punakha.

Visit Buddha Dordenma Statue: This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures at a height of 51.5m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas has also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.

Visit The National Library; was established in 1967 for the purpose of preservation and promotion of the rich cultural and religious heritage of Bhutan. It holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and contains arguably the best collection of religious and historical literature in the Himalayas.

Visit Folk Heritage Museum: This museum lets you experience the traditional way of lifestyle at Bhutanese home. The museum also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three-storied, 19th-century traditional house. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs as well as hosting educational programs for children.

Visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum: Zorig Chusum refers to the thirteen traditional visual arts and crafts that Bhutanese have practised for generations. The thirteen arts and crafts include; painting, carving, sculpture, calligraphy, carpentry, gold- silversmithing, bamboo work, wood turning, weaving and embroidery, pottery, blacksmithing, masonry and incense-stick making. You can have an interview or conversations with the students and instructors to know more. The showroom sells good-value pieces made by students.

Travel to Punakha: By mid-afternoon we will have start travelling to Punakha.   On en route to Punakha, we’ll stop at Dochula pass for coffee or lunch break depending of time. The Dochu la pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists, this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days.

Visit Punakha Dzong: Upon arrival at Punakha, we’ll visit Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers with their local names as the Phochu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River). Presently, this Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the District Administration. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Rimpoche. Zhabdrung Rimpoche went into meditation in 1651 at the age of 58, for 12 long years in the Punakha Dzong, after he had established the DUAL system of Governance in Bhutan. Zhabdrung Rimpoche’s death was announced only 25 years after his death, as it was believed that even after his physical death, he remained in a meditational form. The Dzong houses many sacred, holy ancient relics, the most sacred being the RANGJUNG KHARSAPANI. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated. The first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.

Visit Chazam (Suspension bridge): Behind Punakha Dzong stretches the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest of its kind in Bhutan. The bridge connects the dzong with the villages on other bank of the Pho-chhu River. In order to access the suspension bridge from the Dzong, one must walk past the King’s palace and the cremation ground

Day 03: Punakha tour and travel to Trongsa.

After having early break fast we’ll do following sightseeing in Punakha and travel to Trongsa.

Visit Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten: The magnificent chorine sits high above Punakha Valley, affording panoramic views of the verdant hillsides below. The four-storey temple remains a worthy example of the country’s traditional architecture and artistic techniques. This chorten, however, is unique. It is not designed for community worship or for a monastic retreat or education like other Buddhist Institute and Colleges. It is designed as a magical tool. This is a temple situated on a hilltop and built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan for the fifth and reigning King of Bhutan. The temple is a mark of Bhutanese architecture and paintings. Its a half day hike round trip.

Experience River rafting in Phochu and Mochu: This river facing experience will surely offer you the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. The Pho-Chu, with its approximate 16 km course with about 15 rapids of class 2-4 is the most popular for rafting in Bhutan followed by Mo-Chu river with 10 Km course comprising around 10 rapids with 2 – 2+ rapids. You are not only enjoying the rafting but can also watch world’s rarest bird, the white belled Heron in its natural habitat and Kingfishers frolicking on the riverbank – all these topped off with the spectacular sight of serene lush green alpine valleys, are the most amazing experience you would love to treasure. Rafting in Bhutan is a superb experience in its own right. No special experience is required as long as you do not mind doing a bit of paddling and getting a bit wet – or quite possibly very wet! – Then you will have an exciting time riding the white waters of the Himalayan Rivers. Rivers in Bhutan also offer great potential for Kayaking. If you are looking for more adventure, we will be happy to customize a suitable Kayaking adventure in Bhutan.

Visit Chime Lhakhang, On the en-route to Paro, we’ll visit Chime Lhakhang located on a hillock among the green and lush paddy field stands a pilgrimage site for a childless couple. Chimi Lhakhang is known as the “Temple Of Fertility”. Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarch, built the temple over half a millennium ago. The monastery is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility-inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find guidance at the temple. Thousands of pilgrimage within and across the country visit the Fertility Temple in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a wang, blessing, from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom. Couples with new-borns often visit the temple so that a local lama, Buddhist teacher, can bestow a resounding forename on the child, whilst eager travellers can approach lamas for their unique Bhutanese name and special meaning. Myth and folklore cloak Chimi Lhakhang and its maverick saint, Drukpa Kunley. He preached Buddhism is an unconventional manner, by way of song, comedy, and shocking sensual connotations. Legend has it that the Yogi buried a dog-like demoness under the rotund earth, shaped in the female form, that now stands under the Stupa floor.  He actively encouraged phallus symbols to be used throughout the design of the temple in paintings and carvings. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, embedded with a silver handle, from Tibet, that is used to bless visitors and pilgrims. You will be also given a wooden phallus symbol locket or wristband.

Stroll through Bajo town town and continue travelling to Trongsa. Proceed to Tongsa across Pelela pass (3,300 m ), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by an array of prayer flag and the ground is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo. Stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, which was built in the 18th century by a Lama named Shida, from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. The Chorten is patterned on Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is common to see Bhutanese travellers in families and group stop by the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea, while kids are seen playing on freshly pure green grass. By the time we reach Trongsa, it will be already late evening, so we will directly take you to the Hotel, serve you dinner and usher you to the room for complete rest.

Day 4: Trongsa tour and travel back to Phobjikha

After breakfast, sightseeing of Trongsa includes the following;

Visit Trongsa Dzong: The Dzong is easily visible from anywhere in town and is always an impressive sight as it is situated atop a steep ridge that drops off into the clouds on its south side. The dzong is one of the largest and longest Dzong in the country. The Dzong was built in 1644 and used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuk dynasty of our hereditary kings before it became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. The Royal Family of Bhutan has strong links with Trongsa. Both the first and the second king ruled the kingdom from Trongsa’s ancient Dzong. Traditionally all the Kings of Bhutan has to serve as Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan passed through the courtyard of the dzong.

Visit Taa Dzong: This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong against internal rebellion, stands on a promontory above the town. Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the 1st Governor of Trongsa in 1652 to guard the dzong against enemies, built it. It has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda, and Dragon. Climb up the path to visit Ta Dzong, which now houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. As of the date, the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum of the nation. It is a short, steep walk from the main Trongsa town. The building is a massive circular five-storey tower flanked by two lower towers. Two smaller, freestanding towers are below the main building. From 2005 to 2008 the watchtower underwent extensive structural and interior designing work in order to become a museum. The Austrian Government granted the funds and the Royal Government of Bhutan did work. The museum was opened in 2008, in celebration of three auspicious occasions: enthronement of the fifth King, recognition of 100 years of Monarchy and introduction of democracy in the country. The museum showcases some of the rare and priceless artefacts belonging to the monarchy.

Visit Kuenga Rabten Palace: During the first half of the 20th century, the palace served as a winter residence for the second King, Jigme Wangchuck and his senior Queen, Ashi Phuntsho Choden. Due to this heritage, the Kuenga Rabten Palace is surrounded by stone walls that have spy-holes, which were used by the royal guards. A gallery runs around the courtyard on three sides, and the tall main building is located on the fourth side as two protruding aisles. The ground and first floors were used as a granary and a military garrison, respectively, when His Majesty and the Queen were staying at the palace. However, the ground floor is now empty and the first floor has classrooms for the monks. On the second floor, there are three adjacent rooms. The main entrance leads into the central room, known as the Sangye Lhakhang, which is the main temple. Next to the chapel was the private residence of King Jigme Wangchuck and Ashi Phuntsho Choden. At present, the King’s room is well preserved, with everything un touched as though the second King still resides at this palace. During the second King’s time in Kuenga Rabten, other rooms on the floor were used as guest rooms and to grant audiences. It takes about an hour from Trongsa to reach Kuenga Rabten, it passes through open countryside high above a river gorge. The land slopes quite gently in this region, and farming is well developed, so there is much of interest to observe in the fields and in the villages.

By mid afternoon we’ll travel back to Phobjikha.

Phobjikha which is another top highest priority sight reserved for tourist is situated at an average altitude of 3,000m is a wide and beautiful valley, designated as conservation zone within the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park (formerly known as Black Mountains National Park) is a natural habitat for wildlife, including nesting grounds for endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from Central Asia in the winter (late October and stay till March). The general vegetation is composed of mainly blue pine, birch, maple and several species of rhododendrons. The Central Valley inhabited by the Cranes in winter has mostly dwarf bamboo. The repeated grazing of the bamboos by the local cattle and horses in summer prepares the ground for the wintering Cranes. The magnificent Black-necked Cranes heighten the breathtaking scenery of Phobjikha in winter respiratory.

Experience Phobjikha home stay: While it is possible to stay in hotel as usual, we highly recommend you to experience Homestay in Phobjikha village. Some of you might be hearing this term ‘Homestay’ for the first time; this homestay culture is very common in Bhutanese society. This literally means you are spending night in the traditional home of Bhutanese family, where you get to experience an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family. You’ll enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and the unparalleled hospitality of a Bhutanese host. All officially sanctioned and listed home-stays are located in the gorgeous Bhutanese countryside, far from the noise and crowds of population centres. Our tour guide will have to arrange a home-stay with one of the local families. The farmers will happily welcome you into their homes and regale you with local legends of mermaids and ancient kings.

Day 5: Phobjikha tour: Exploring wildlife sanctuary and small hiking over spectacular Phobjikha valley.

After break fast: Todays program in the wild life areas includes;

Hike: Aside from enjoying the tranquillity of the valley, you can engage in day hikes. There are multiple trails with easy to moderate difficulty, leading through the pine forest.        Hikers will come across community school, temples and small village where they can engage with the locals if they choose to. We can arrange mountain-bike hire, if you prefer to do so instead of hike. One can spot different birds making it ideal for photography.
We will then visit the information centre of the Royal So¬ciety for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN), which has various informative displays about the black-necked cranes and the valley environment. You can use the centre’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet Field Guide to Crane Behaviour. If the weather’s iffy, you can browse the library and handicraft shop and watch a 15-minute video. Ornithologists or anyone with a keen interest in birds might find this place most suitable. This place is run by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and has an observation room with high-power telescopes and good scope for spotting the famous Black Necked Crane, which migrates to the region during winter. It also displays information about the history of the region.

This pavilion lookout on the Gangte Nature Trail offers fine valley views and is just above a hide used by birders spotting black-necked cranes.

Visit to Gangte Goemba temple:
The Temple stands on valley’s prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. The extensive complex consists of the central goemba, monks’ quarters, a small guesthouse and outlying meditation centres. Much of the interior and exterior woodwork of the 450-year-old goemba was replaced between 2001 and 2008 due to a beetle-larvae infestation.

Visit to Wangmo’s Hand-Woven Carpet Factory: The factory contains beautiful handwoven carpets with intricate patterns and designs.

Experience Hot stone bath: By the time we concludes todays program your landlord will have organised Bhutanese traditional Hot Stone Bath. Taking a hot stone bath is the perfect way to unwind any hardship traveller’s day, and you will feel complete relaxed in the middle of nature reserved forested areas. In a traditional set up, cold water is poured into a wooden tub. The enclosed small room would also have a fireplace where the stones are heated and the fire also to keeps the room warm. Once heated, the hot stones are put into the tub in a segregated compartment releasing high concentration of minerals while also heating the water. Stones are periodically changed to maintain the water temperature. Herbs are also added to make it more therapeutic.

Day 6: Travel back to Paro:

Activities
Travel to Paro; We’ll stop for coffee break or photo shoot at Dochula pass
Stroll through Paro town

Day 7. Hike to Paro Taktshang:

Taktshang means tiger nest, the Monastery’ is one of the Himalaya’s most incredible sites, miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. The Monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff drop of nearly 4000 ft and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It’s the goal of every visitor to Bhutan and while getting there involves a bit of uphill legwork, it’s well worth the effort. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan meditated on this spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress and now this site is a sacred shrine for Bhutanese pilgrims.

Visit Kichu Lhakhang: depending of your mood and tiredness, we’ll visit Kichu Lhakhang on the way back to Paro town. Kichu Lhakhang (Lhakhang means temple), is the oldest temple in the country, built in the 659 AD, by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It is believed that the king had built 108 temples in the various place he visited on earth to spread Buddhism and Kyichu Lhakhang is included as one. The Lhakhang is located in between Paro Town and Drugyal Dzong. In Bhutan, people believe that the place where Lhakhang is built is considered one of the holiest places in the country, as it marks the advent of Buddhism in the country.

Stroll through Paro town; depending upon of your mood and tiredness, This will be your last chance to stroll through paro town.

And this swiftly brings to conclude your short trip to Bhutan. We hope to see you again in the future exploring whole western and eastern Bhutan.

If you don’t mind, we have homework for you tonight. Your tour guide will give you a feed back form, which we humbly request you to kindly fill it and hand over to your guide on the next morning. We take serious note on the feed backs you provide us to further improve our services in the upcoming endeavour chore.

Day 8: Depart from Paro International Airport

After early breakfast, drive back to Paro International airport for flight to onward destination. Our sincere service doesn’t end here. While you and tour guide exchange thanksgiving and bids farewell, your helpful driver will gently stack your valuable luggage on the trolley, and your tour guide will help you to push till check-in counter and waits until you get through to board gate.

Abstract/abbreviate
Dzong: Fortress
Lhakhang: Temple
Tak Tshang: Tiget Nest
Chazam: Suspension bridge
Chorten: Stupa
Chhu: River
Goemba: Buddhist sacred places

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