Bhutan is known for its unique culture and traditions. Bhutan Cultural tours offer a unique insight into the culture and tradition of the nation. It provides an opportunity to interact with the native people. Cultural tours highlights are Tshechu (annual festivals) where Buddhist teaching are dramatized and shown through mask dances. It also takes you to visit Dzongs (Fortress), Monastery and other religious monument that were built 300 years ago.
This cultural tour is ideal for those wishing to enter Bhutan from the Indian state of Western Bengal via the southern overland border gateway of Phuentsholing. Beginning with a breathtaking journey on roads surrounded by lush green tea plantations with breathtaking views of the Himalayan foothills, this tour explores the highlights of Bhutan’s western valleys. Enjoy the many cultural sites of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital including the National Memorial Chorten, the National Library, the arts and crafts school and Tashichhoedzong before crossing the 3050m Dochula Pass into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley featuring the incredible the Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakang, temple of the ‘Divine Madman’. Continue on to the bustling market town of Wangdue before returning to the beautiful Paro Valley to explore the Ta Dzong Museum, Rimpong Dzong with its wooden cantilevered bridge and the incredible Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), perched on a cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor. We highly recommend combining this tour with a visit to the renowned Indian hill station of Darjeeling and Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
Bhutan Cultural Tour Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrival at Paro International Airport
Fly from Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, Kolkata and other Druk airports to Paro Bhutan. One can have the breathtaking bird’s eye view of Himalayan Mountain and green valley of Paro. On arrival to Paro airport, you will be received by a representative of Bhutan Buddha Travellers and will be escorted to a Hotel where arrangements will be made for two night halts.
Day 2: Paro Sightseeing
Beautiful Monuments can be seen at Paro. It includes Drugyel Dzong, a ruined fortress having a great historical importance where Bhutanese finally defeated Tibetan invaders and drove them back. Other monuments include Dilgo Khyentshe’s temple, Kichu lhakhang built in 7th century, Dungtshe Lhakhang built by Lam Thongto Gyalpo who first introduced iron in Bhutan. Take a break for lunch at the finest restaurant at the town.
Visit National Museum housed in Ta Dzong which was used as watch tower during the time of Tibetan invasions and amazing Rimpung Dzong below Ta Dzong. In the evening visit to a farmhouse in a local village and take leisurely stroll around the town. Overnight halt and dinner in hotel.
Day 3: Taktshang Hike, Paro- Thimphu
Your hike will be to Taktshang Monastery literally meaning Tiger’s Nest in local Language. It is located at 2000ft/600m in a steep Rock cliff. It is believed to be a place where Guru Rinpochoe flew on the back of Tiger and meditated there. The place is about 3 hours walk from the nearest road. Lunch and tea will be served in a tea house on the way with the majestic view of the Taktshang Monastery and Paro Valley. Ponies will be arranged on request till the tea house which is about 2 hours walk from the nearest road. You may opt to further continue the trip from the tea house which is about 1 hour walk uphill. On return back to the road it would take about 1 and half hours walk downhill. At this point driver will be waiting for you to proceed to Paro town and then continue to Thimphu which is about 1 and half hours drive along the Paro River downstream to the confluence with Wang Chhu then turn upstream along the Wang chhu to Thimphu. Rest, dinner and overnight halt in a hotel.
Day 4: Thimphu, Sightseeing
Sightseeing in Thimphu includes Memorial temple built in the memory of our third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Buddha Statue at Kuensel Phodrang, Tashichho Dzong main secretariat building with Monk Bodys’ living quarters, His Majesty the king’s Throne room and Offices of Government Ministries are housed, National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved, paintings and wood crafts schools where traditional arts are kept alive, indigenous hospitals, textile museum, handmade paper factory, folk heritage museum, Simtokha Dzong the first and oldest Dzong in Bhutan and other various Monastery around Thimphu.
Day 5: Thimphu – Punakha (about 75 kms)
Drive east across the Dochula pass (10000ft/3000m) that has beautiful view with 108 temples and a Monastery. On the clear day panoramic view of Himalayas and Gasa Dzong can be seen. The road after the pass is routed down the hill through the varied and ever changing forest and vegetation finally arriving at the settlement/farmland areas, low lying- sub-tropical Punakha and Wangduephodrang valley. An easy walk across the paddy field for about 20 minutes to Chimmi Lhakhang dedicated to Saint Drukpa Kuenley known as a divine madman. After Lunch drive to Punakha Dzong which is at the edge of confluence of two rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. Overnight stay and rest in a hotel.
Day 6: Punakha – Bumthang (about 190 km)
Drive down the valley towards the Wangduephodrang town and see the Wangduephodrang Dzong located on a hillock that resembles a sleeping elephant. Continue the road to east with the changing and varying forest and vegetation as the road gradually winds upway crossing Black Mountain at pelela pass (11,152 ft). On a clear day mountain Chomolhari and valleys can be viewed from here. As we cross the pelela pass and route down the hill, we reach Trongsa to have lunch there.
Continue the journey crossing Trongsa driving up the hill to reach another pass Yotogla at 11234ft and then descend down into the valley of Chumey, first village of Bumthang. As we move further we need to cross Jakar central Bumthang to reach Chamkhar town. In the evening walk through the town of Chamkhar and Overnight stay and dinner in a Hotel.
Day 7: Bumthang Sightseeing
Bumthang considered to be one of the most sacred places in Bhutan and known as Switzerland of Bhutan. Present royal families trace their ancestry back to a famous saint called Pemalingpa, who was also a smith in Jakar. Sightseeing in Bumthang would include Jambay Lhakhang which was built in 7th century when Kichu Lhakhang at paro was built, Chakhar Temple (Iron castle), Kurjey Lhakhang, cross the suspension bridge over the Chamkhar River to visit Tamzhing Lhakhang, Kenchosum Lhakhang. Walk through the farm land to Swiss farm area where your driver will be waiting for you to pick up and take you to a hotel for lunch. After lunch visit to Jakar Dzong, Traditional Hospital, Lam Namkhai Nyingpo’s Monastery and Membartsho (the burning Lake). Dinner and Overnight stay in the Hotel.
Day 8: Begin Trek from Jakar: (Toktu Zampa- Nagang Lhakhang) approx 12km - About 4-5 hours of trek
After breakfast drive north for about 20 minutes and start trek from Toktu Zampa bridge (2540m). Cross the bridge & climb gradually as it follows the right bank of the Bumthang Choskor Chu (River). After 20 minutes of walk arrive at Thankabi village with an old monastery built in 1470. Walk further through the fields, villages, meadows, forests of blue pine trees and dwarf bamboos. The steep slope takes about half hour walk and rest of the area has gentle slope till you reach Nagang Yul (Swan Land). The place is named Nagang Yul because the place was habitat of the swans in the bygone days. Your camp site is beside the village. Overnight stay in the tent.
Day 9: Nagang Lhakhang – Thahung (about 16 km, 7 hours of Trek)
With preparation of breakfast and having it, continue the trek. After a short trek from the campsite you will see the Nagang Lhakhang which was built by Lam Namkha Samdrup, contemporary of Pema Lingpa in 15th century. Continue the trek through the meadows, vegetation of dense bamboos and little bushes crisscrossing several small streams. After half hour walk the path gradually winds up the hill through forests of birches draped by Spanish moss. Different type of Birds can be seen depending on the season and different vegetation/plants such as rhododendron and Junipers as we proceed towards Phephela Pass at an altitude of 3340m above the sea level. As you cross the pass you would descend down the forest till you come across the river after which it is delightful to walk along the broad meadows with grazing yaks, cows and sheep. You are now into the Tang valley with Tang River meandering down. Your camp site is in open meadow beside the river bank behind Thahung village.
Day 10: Thahung – Mesethang (about 16 kms, 5-6 hours of Trek.)
Cross the bridge over Tang Chhu to quaint Ghambling village and climb up the ridge to Ugyenchholing. This takes about one hour away from the main trek route and is optional. Several large chortens with prayers wheels turned by water greet as you approach the 16th century Ugen Chholing manor built by Deb Thokye Dorji. It was used by the descendent of the family till few years ago and recently it was turned into museum to preserve its legacy and provide a place for religious studies. The structures include temple for worship, servant quarters, massive residential quarters, storage for grains etc. The exhibits in the building are captioned with informative descriptions of the life style and art of a Bhutanese noble family. Descend to the valley floor and walk along the leveled path to Mesethang, stopping en-route to visit Tang Rimochen Lhakhang and probably a local school. Overnight Camp near Mesethang at 2580m.
Day 11: Drive back to Trongsa:
From the campsite, the transport will be provided and drive along the rough road out of Tang valley for about 25 kms to join the main east-west road. This takes about an hour depending on the road condition. Then it is another 3 hours to Trongsa passing Jakar, Chume valley and across Youtongla pass.
In the afternoon visit huge and historical Trongsa Dzong (fortress). Trongsa Dzong is a rambling collection of buildings that trail down the ridge with remarkable street like corridors and wide stone stairs running down. It was from here that the present royal family emerged as the most powerful force at the beginning of this century. The first two hereditary kings ruled the country from here and it is still a tradition that the crown prince first serves as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Also visit Ta Dzong (watch tower) which now houses the temple dedicated to Jigme Namgyel father of the first King of Bhutan. Your accommodations are planned in the Hotel in Trongsa.
Day 12: Trongsa – Thimphu
Today is a long drive of about 7 hours from Trongsa as you retrace back across the Mangde region with sights of terraced fields, spectacular landscapes, villages and vegetation with wild orchids and other wild flowers depending on the season. You should also be able to spot some yaks and yak herders as you cross the black mountains at Pelela pass and descend into the lush and warm Wangduephodrang. Then continue across Dochula pass to the capital Thimphu. Overnight stay and dinner in a Hotel
Day 13: Thimphu sightseeing
Part of the Thimphu sightseeing which were not covered on Day 04 will be visited today. The remaining day is free for shopping or stroll. You can opt to stay in Thimphu tonight or proceed to Paro and stay there for tomorrow’s early morning flight
Day 14: Departure
Drive from Thimphu -Paro (2 hours) in time for your departure flight
Receive and Transfer to Airport
Double/Twin in 3 Star Hotel
3 Meals every day with Evening Tea
Toyota SUV for FIT & Toyota Bus for Group with Driver
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