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  • Bhutan Explorer

    This "Bhutan Explorer" cultural tour offers a rare opportunity to savour the different customs and cultures of the western and central valleys of Bhutan at a leisurely pace. Highlights include Ta Dzong Museum, Rimpong Dzong and the infamous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in the beautiful Paro Valley, The National Memorial Chorten, 12th century Changangkha Temple and the National Library exhibiting ancient scriptures in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, and after crossing the 3050m Dochula Pass with spectacular Himalayan views, a journey into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley featuring the incredible the Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakang, temple of the ‘Divine Madman’. Continue onto the central districts of Trongsa, the birthplace of monarchy, and the Bumthang Valley, Bhutan’s spiritual heartland featuring 7th century Jambay Lhakhang and Kurje Lhakhang with its rock imprint of Guru Rimpoche. The tour then returns westward to the glacial valley of Gangtey/Phobjika, the winter home to the rare black necked cranes.


    HIGHLIGHTS & INCLUDE

    The in-depth ‘Historic Central Bhutan’ cultural tour offers a rare opportunity to savour the different customs and cultures of the western and central valleys of Bhutan at a leisurely pace.

    • Explore Bhutan’s central valleys, rich with ancient historical and sacred Buddhist sites.
    • Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalaya.
    • Experience Bhutan’s unique culture up-close with farmhouse visits and village excursions.
    • Drive over high mountain passes affording sensational views of the Himalayan peaks.
    • Visit many cultural attractions including medieval fortresses (Dzongs), markets and museums.
    • Hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery, perched on a cliff 900m above the valley floor.
    • Marvel at the elaborate and ancient wall paintings and carvings in Dzongs and temples.
    • Traverse beautiful landscapes from lush valleys to dense forests.
    • Incorporate a Value-Added Option such as a cooking lesson or meditation session with a monk.

    DETAILED PROGRAM

    Day 1

    The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our Bhutan Senses Travel representative will meet you at Paro airport exit doors following customs formalities.

    After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rinpung Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hours) following the Pachu River. Before dinner at the hotel there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

     Bhutan National Museum, Rinpung Dzong

    Recommended Thimphu Hotels:

    - Gyelsa Boutique Inn
    Namgay Heritage Hotel


    Day 2

    Once a rustic village sitting in a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu is today the nation’s bustling capital. Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, completed by the Royal Queen Mother as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and the Zilukha Nunnery. If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market (Open only from Friday until mid Sunday). Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

     National Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Temple and the Zilukha Nunnery


    Day 3

    Continue sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the School for Arts and Crafts, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.

    If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichho Dzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’ housing some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Other options for the day include a hike to Tango and Cheri Monasteries (45 mins), two of the most ancient monasteries in the Thimphu region or a hike to Phajoding Monastery providing a splendid view of the valley. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

     Thimphu School for Arts and Crafts, Traditional Paper Factory, Tashichho Dzong


    Day 4

    Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

    Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.

    After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of Drukpa Kuenly. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

     Dochu La Pass, Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha Dzong

    Recommended Hotels in Punakha:

    - Damchen Punakha Resort
    - Lobesa Hotel Punakha


    Day 5

    Drive from Punakha to Bumthang via Trongsa (8 hrs) over the Dochu-La pass (3,100m) and Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range. Enroute visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten, erected in the 18th century. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. After lunch, visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the landscape for many miles. Also visit the Ta Dzong museum housing an incredible collection of historical artefacts of the Royal Family.

    Continue driving to Bumthang, home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces and temples. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.

     Dochu La Pass, Pele La Pass, Trongsa Dzong, Chendebji Chorten

    Recommended Hotels in Bumthang:

    - River Lodge Bumthang
    - Chumey Nature Resort


    Day 6

    In the morning visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and 7th century Jambay Lhakhang. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples. After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pemalingpa and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Afterwards enjoy exploring the village of Jakar, Bumthang’s main township. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.

     Kurjey Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, Jakar Dzong, Tamshing Lhakhang


    Day 7

    Enjoy a day exploring some of the many sites around Bumthang. The 16th century Tang Ugyen Chholing Palace stands features a museum containing an excellent overview of traditional rural life in Bhutan. Continue on to visit the pool of Mebartso (The Lake of Fire). It is here that Pemalingpa (founder of the Nyingmapa sect) is said to have found treasure hidden by Guru Rinpoche. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.

     Tang Ugyen Chholing Palace, Mebartso Pool


    Day 8

    Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan. The wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan and explore Phobjika Valley with time to view the Black-Necked Cranes. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.

     Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Monastery

    Recommended Hotels in Gangtey:

    - Kichu Resort Wangdue
    - Puna Tsangchhu Cottage


    Day 9

    Morning visit to view the Black-Necked Cranes (winter only) before departing for Paro (approx 7 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley before climbing up over Dochu La Pass. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

     Watching Black-Necked Cranes (winter only)

    Recommended Hotels in Paro:

    - Metta Resort & Spa
    - Bhutan Mandala Resort

     

    Day 10

    After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments before returning to Paro for lunch.

    In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, built to commemorate a victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.Alternatively, day 10 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterised by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

     Taktsang Lhakhang, Drukgyel Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang


    Day 11

    After an early breakfast in the hotel we drive to the Paro International Airport for departure to your onward destination.

     

     

    WHEN TO GO?

      MORE TOURS HERE


    Notes:

    • Prices are in USD, per person, based on two people traveling together and sharing a room. At Bhutan Senses Travel, we carefully select all hotels to ensure that your accommodations match our standards of trip and service excellence.
    • Prices include the following:
      . All hotel accommodation including all taxes and breakfast
      . Internal economy flights as stated with airport taxes
      . All transfers & sightseeing transportation in private vehicle
      . Private services of local guides
      . All special events & private tours, guest experts
      . All entrance fees into historical sights & museums
      . Drinking water and refreshing towels for touring
      . 24/7 support from the Bhutan Senses Travel Team

     

    Location
    Accommodation

    THIMPHU
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    Gyelsa Boutique Inn

    • Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Gyelsa boutique offers accommodation in Thimphu. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free private parking is available on site.
    • Rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Certain units include a seating area where you can relax. You will find a kettle in the room. Each room has a private bathroom fitted with a shower.
    • There is a 24-hour front desk at the property.
    • The nearest airport is Paro Airport, 23 km from Gyelsa boutique.

    PUNAKHA
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    Damchen Punakha Resort

    • A charming place, situated conveniently close to Punakha town and river, it is of special reference for smaller groups. With its fascinating garden and overall ambience, the hotel exudes an atmosphere of quiet beauty and elegance.
    • Rooms are cozy with traditional Bhutanese style. The classical d cor at restaurant and bar is also interesting.
    • The hotel is equipped with following facilities ; all rooms with attached bath, running hot & cold water, restaurant & bar, restaurant serving Indian, Chinese, Bhutanese cuisine, IDD telephone.

    BUMTHANG
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    River Lodge Bumthang

    • Set in an idyllic and strategic spot at the entrance of Bumthang’s Chamkhar town, River Lodge is justifiably the mythical district’s hospitality master.
    • Established in 1997, it has served guests from all corners of the globe. Renowned for its multi-facet services, including spa and sauna, River Lodge Bumthang is a synonym for Excellence, a haven for peace and bliss and an ideal holiday resort.
    • It is a perfect blend of the traditional and modern, with the Lodge’s stunning Bhutanese architecture moulded with the latest modern amenities.

    WANGDUE PHODRANG
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    Kichu Resort Wangdue

    • Kichu Resort is a scenic and secluded resort located on a river providing a great getaway from the crowd while in Bhutan.
    • Kichu Resort is owned by a Buddhist monk in Bhutan. As a result, it only serves vegetarian food. The secluded resort is located beside a river away from the road.

    PARO
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    Metta Resort & Spa

    • Metta Resort and Spa offers accommodation in Paro. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free private parking is available on site.
    • All rooms come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Some units include a seating area where you can relax. Every room includes a private bathroom fitted with a shower. Extras include bathrobes and slippers. Metta Resort and Spa features free WiFi .
    • There is a 24-hour front desk at the property.
    • The resort also offers car hire. The nearest airport is Paro Airport, 5 km from the property.