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This itinerary is a fitting introduction to the beautiful kingdom which is also known as the last Shangri La (paradise) on earth. It takes you through the lanes of the Capital – Thimphu where you can witness an amazing fusion of modernity and traditional culture to the Old Capital – Punakha via the Dochula Pass (3,140m). The trip ends with a hike to one of Bhutan’s most sacred sites: Taktshang Monastery (also known as the “Tiger’s Nest”) in Paro.
Arrive at Paro, one of the most peaceful valleys in Bhutan, through the flight. Flight to Paro offers you thrilling views of Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, and other peaks in Bhutan such as the Jomolhari, Jitchu Drake, and Tsrim Gang. You will also experience the bird-eye views of Paro valley. Upon arrival at the Paro airport, our guide will meet you. Before proceeding to Thimphu, visit Ta-Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the center of civil and religious authority in this valley, built-in 1646 by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal.
After lunch drive through to Thimphu. The drive is along a winding road by the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then it turns upstream along with the Wang Chu to Thimphu, Bhutan’s scenically located capital city.
In the evening, we will be visiting Thimphu’s most important landmark, the Tashichho Dzong (Fortress), the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses the office of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the State Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks, apart from other Ministerial offices.
Overnight in Thimphu
After breakfast drive to Thimphu city and visit the following:
Buddha Point /Kuenselphodrang: This massive Buddha statue is 51.5 meters in height and it is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ‘ seat of faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments the ‘Mind of Buddha’. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
The School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
After lunch, we will drive to Punakha (75 km from Thimphu) across the Dochula pass (3,050m) which heralds the most enchanting views of Bhutan. Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and still, it holds the winter seat of Chief Abbot.
Overnight in Punakha
In the morning, we will visit Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten followed by a visit to 17th-century PunakhaDzong, which looks like a giant ship rocked on a still mass of water from far. Built on the confluence of two rivers, the Pho (male) and Mo (female) rivers, the Dzong served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is still home to the Chief Abbot in the winter months. It was built in 1637 by ShabdrungNgawangNamgyal and has played a prominent role in the civil and religious history of the Kingdom. Destroyed four times by fire and an earthquake in 1897, the Dzong has been now fully restored in its original splendor and visit suspension bridge.
On the way back to Paro, we will visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple where the Phallus is worshipped and associated with Lam DrukpaKuenley, the “Divine Madmonk.”
Overnight in Paro
After breakfast, we drive for half an hour and start the hike, which is about 5 hours (round trip.) The trail is along an ancient path marked by river-powered prayer wheels.
Mediating in Taktshang Monastery can be a very good experience of mediating in a most important and revered Buddhist Monastery in Bhutan.
As you reach Taktshang you will be struck by the architectural wonder of this most pious Buddhist shrine in Bhutan. Perched some 1000m, 3000ft on a cliff overlooking the valley, it would justifiably qualify as one of Bhutan’s wonders. Tragically wrecked in a fire early in 1998, it has been rebuilt to its original glory. It is said that the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tigress to tame five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 A.D. Hence the name, Taktshang, or the “Tiger’s Lair.”
The next stop will be at Kyichu Monastery, one of Bhutan’s oldest, built-in 659 A.D. by the Tibetan King Songsten Goembo.
Overnight in Paro
After breakfast, you will be driven to Paro international Airport for your onward destination.