Tour of Bhutan - Thimphu, Punakha and Paro
Bhutan is a small Himalayan Kingdom with a population of just over 790,000. An extended period of isolation from the global community has contributed in the emergence of a unique culture and tradition. The country’s nascent economy is offset by its rich cultural heritage in strengthening its sovereignty. Its proximity to India and Tibet and consequent use of Bhutan as a route by merchants and Buddhist practitioners from Tibet influenced the spread of Buddhism and inception of early trade with Tibet and India.
Bhutan is a small Himalayan Kingdom with a population of just over 790,000. An extended period of isolation from the global community has contributed in the emergence of a unique culture and tradition. The country’s nascent economy is offset by its rich cultural heritage in strengthening its sovereignty. Its proximity to India and Tibet and consequent use of Bhutan as a route by merchants and Buddhist practitioners from Tibet influenced the spread of Buddhism and inception of early trade with Tibet and India. The subsequent rise in the significance of Buddhism in the society shaped its culture to a great extent.
Bhutan experiences 4 different Seasons in a year; spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The months of March, April and May are considered spring and during this period, the entire country is in full riot of the beautiful spring blossoms. The months of June, July and August are considered as summer and the monsoon season also falls during the summer. The months September, October, and November are considered as autumn and also the fall season. That is when the entire landscape turns golden and trees lose leaves. And lastly the months of December, January and February are considered winter. The central and the northern part of Bhutan experience snowfall.
- Guide – English-speaking guide throughout the tour from arrival to departure Sightseeing - all sightseeing and entrance fees including any festival visits
- Transport - meet on arrival, airport transfers on arrival and departure and all overland transport within Bhutan
- 2 pax – small car (4 seats with guide and driver) Accommodation - accommodation in standard hotels (see below)
- Food - full board throughout the trip based on below Hotels,
- Paro: Olathang, Mandala, Tenzinling, Rema Hotel or similar
- Thimphu: Galingkha, Phuntsho Pelri, Hotel Kisa Hotel or similar
- Punakha: Meri Puensum, Hotel Vara Hotel or similar
- Bhutan Visa Fee
- Return Air ticket
- Personal Expenses eg. Minibar, Telephone, Laundry, Porter, etc. Are not mentioned above
- Early check-in & late check-out
Arrive at Paro International Airport. Paro is situated in a beautiful valley at 2280 metres and is a fitting introduction to this charming kingdom. Your guide will meet you and take you on a short one-hour drive along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, at 2320 metres. You can stop on the way to take in the magnificent Tamchhog Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s iron bridge builder. Take a late afternoon walk around town and soak in the atmosphere of this magical capital with its busy shops and bazaars and photogenic citizens in national dress. Overnight in Thimphu
Thimphu sightseeing. We will visit the weekly market, the revered Memorial Chorten, the National Library and the School of Traditional Arts. You could visit Changangkha temple, perched on the hilltop overlooking the town. Devotees flock throughout the day to circumambulate and turn the prayer wheels. The temple also contains beautiful wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold. In the afternoon you can take in more of the sights and culture of the capital, with the option of a trip to Simtokha Dzong (one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, dating from 1629 AD). If you prefer to stay closer to town you could visit the huge statue of Buddha Dordenma, which commands a tremendous view of Thimphu valley.
The huge 3-storey throne holds several chapels and the body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. You can also visit the Takin Reserve showcasing the unique national animal, the Takin, browse the striking collection of intricate textiles at the National Textile Museum or visit the Folk Heritage Museum. You may also like to visit the newly opened postal museum, detailing the history of Bhutan’s postal system and showcasing Bhutan’s rich assortment of interesting stamps. If you would like to view or buy Bhutanese handicrafts you may like to visit the new market opposite Taj Tashi hotel which has an array of stalls run by local handicraft shops selling purely homemade articles with no imports. Tell your guide what takes your interest. Overnight in Thimphu.
Thimphu to Punakha
Thimphu to Punakha. In the morning drive approximately 3 hours to the old capital, Punakha, via Dochu La pass at 3050 metres, where we will stop for a hot drink and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. You will notice the change of climate and vegetation as we approach low-lying Punakha at 1250 metres. Take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across the terraced fields of Sopsokha village to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’ (Lama Drukpa Kuenley). Then we will visit the imposing Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. Built in 1637, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. Overnight in Punakha.
Punakha to Paro
Today we return to Paro, a drive of approximately 4 hours. In the afternoon you can start your culture tour of Paro valley by visiting the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. You can also visit the National Museum. This was previously housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower) built on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong to defend Rinpung Dzong and the Paro valley during times of war, in an unusual circular construction resembling a conch shell. Unfortunately, an earthquake in September 2011 damaged the Ta Dzong and the contents of the museum were moved to a neighbouring building. You can still see a magnificent collection of Bhutanese artefacts – costumes, religious paintings, arms, textiles and a fascinating collection of Bhutan stamps. The National Museum is due to reopen in the Ta Dzong in 2020. Near to the museum you may also be able to see a demonstration of traditional wood turning skills by local artisans who make traditional wooden bowls and cups – and you can try your hand as well if you wish. Nearby you can also visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.
Take a day walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktshang monastery which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress. He subsequently meditated here for three months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. You can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria from where you get a spectacular view of the monastery. Later you may be interested to visit a manor house turned museum in a local village. The house dates from the 17th Century and the museum is designed to showcase the culture of medieval rural Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.
Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off onto your flight and wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck).