|Arrival, drive to Thimphu
|Arrival by plane to Paro airport and drive to Thimphu or in case of arrival by land, crossing border from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and full day drive to Thimphu. ➜ Upon meeting with our guide, you will be given Buddhist rosary with 108 beads, which will help you in your Buddhist practice. 108 is holy number in Buddhism. ➜ Stop at Tachog lhakhang to see traditional bridge made using ancient iron chains and visit temple of “Iron Bridge Builder” Thangton Gyalpo. ➜ Depending on arrival time, also visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. If time permits, visit of the other sights.
|Thimphu, overnight in Dodedra monastery
|Early morning drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley. ➜ See Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. You can make mingle with local elders who spends their day here, praying, learning, prostrating and circumbulating the temple. ➜ Then visit Changankha Lhakhang, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Thimphu valley, where parents bring their offsprings for blessing. Here we will acquire prayer flags called lungta to be hoisted next day, and we will require lama to bless them. ➜ After lunch you will start journey to Dodedra Shedra, the secluded monastery school above Thimphu. ➜ It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours uphill hiking to reach to the monastery, and you can take only basic needs for overnight with you. ➜ Here you will get lesson on Buddhism by accomplished monk teacher. Explore the monastery and see how the monks here live. ➜ This night will be spent in monastery guest house, and you will have opportunity to see monks' daily chores. You can also meditate in some of numerous monastery chapels or beautiful open spaces. ➜ Keep in mind that monastery guesthouse offer only very basic accommodation standard with shared toilet and no provision for shower. If this is not suitable for you, hotel back in town has to be used instead.
|Thimphu – Gangtey
|In the morning you will say goodbye to your monk hosts and descend back from the celestial heights of the monastery back to the vehicle. ➜ First we will drive through the Thimphu town and then start ascending to cross 3100 m high Dochu-la pass. In clear weather the magnificent panorama of the snowy peaks towards border with Tibet is visible here. Pass itself is marked by the large Buddhist stupa consisting of 108 smaller stupas. We will stop to enjoy the magnificent view (weather permitting) and also to hoist prayer flags which we acquired day before. This is traditional ritual performed for good luck and well-being of all sentient being, and it is often done by travelers and pilgrims in potentially dangerous places (mountain passes, bridges, etc.) to appease local deities. By wavering in wind, the prayers printed on the fabric are blessing all the surroundings. ➜ From the pass, we will start long descent to subtropical Wangdue in around 1400 m and again start ascending to the Phobjikha valley. Long drive on winding road will take us to 3350 m high Lawa-la pass, from which we will reach Gangtey shortly. ➜ We will go directly to the Shedra (monastery school) where in 6.30pm evening prayer and puja (ceremony) starts. Local monk will be there to give you thorough explanation about the meanings of the whole ritual, which will take 45 minutes. Then drive to hotel and rest.
|Gangtey – Punakha / Wangdue
|In the morning drive to Gangtey gompa located at the top of the hill with commanding view of the valley. The historically important monastery belongs to Niyngma school of Buddhism. Walk through village with lots of interesting handicraft shop. ➜ From here you will start 2.5-hour walk, one of the most beautiful and easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go around the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed pine forest with trees decorated with old men's beard lichen, and finally you will reach to a view of marshland. Here, in the late autumn and winter, rare Black Neck Cranes can be seen. On the way we will stop on some nice and scenic place for meditation and relax to enjoy the valley's rich spiritual energy and calmness. ➜ Descend to valley bottom and visit Kewa lhakhang, the newly established monastery on the place where the demoness was subdued in the past. ➜ Drive to local farmhouse to taste local kitchen and other delicacies like the salty suja tea and ara spirit. Also, you will visit the family prayer room, which is actually small temple itself, and you will get explanation about spiritual practice of lay Bhutanese. ➜ After that drive back to Punakha or Wangdue through where you did travel day before. Reach to hotel in the evening.
|Punakha / Wangdue – Paro
|Morning drive to Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery to receive blessing for the long life. Ceremony specially conducted by nuns for our group will last about one hour. After that we will do Question & Answer session with nuns, who will try to satisfy your curiosity about women role in Buddhist practice and other topics. Nunnery itself has scenic location and nuns speak good English. ➜ After saying goodbye to nuns, we will drive to Lobesa village and will walk through the paddy fields and rustic village to the Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to unorthodox 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. ➜ Drive back to Paro over the Dochu-la pass again. ➜ Walk in the busy streets of lively Paro town.
|Hike to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), is the highlight of the tour. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can climb just halfway to cafeteria with nice view of the place. You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness and preferences. ➜ After hike, visit to the pristine Kyichu lhakhang, one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. If time permits visit to Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. ➜ Goodbye dinner in traditional Bhutanese farmhouse with mask dance performance. Mask dances called Chham are religious sacred performances depicting deeds of Buddhist saints or illustrating essence of the Buddhist teaching.
|If time permits, you can make visit to Drukyel dzong, the castle ruins (currently under reconstruction) from where you can see the summit of the holy Jomolhari mountain in clear weather. ➜ After that, you depart from Paro by flight or take 6 hours drive to land border in Phuntsholing.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations:
- Tshechu festival (+1 night): With proper planning, we can arrange that you will experience annual tshechu festival in some castle or monastery. There are many festivals in Bhutan, so we can definitely fix your travel dates to match. We just need to start planning well ahead (optimally more than 6 months before) in order to secure flight tickets and hotel reservations.