Discover the Kingdom above the Clouds
Places: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang
“Discover the Kingdom above the clouds” is an ideal way to experience the glory and the myth of this Himalayan Kingdom at its most magnificent – a perfect blend of culture and nature exploration. It gives you a chance to meet people, enjoy the pristine forest with rare glimpse of wildlife and observe the ancient old traditions of arts and crafts while traveling through the less frequented areas of Bhutan.
Outline of the itinerary
Sample itinerary that can be customized:
After clearing customs and visa control then you will meet our guide at the exit gate. Then you will drive about 1 hour to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital (population 100,000): still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
The sightseeing in Thimphu includes; Our tour start with the visit to the National Post Office, along the Chang lam, is an institute itself where the most famous Bhutanese export is exhibited and sold: the various stamps. Stamp collectors all over the world know that Bhutan is the first country to diversify and export quality stamps. Interesting thing is that you can make your own personal stamp with your photo and then can sent to your friends and family.
Afternoon drive to Kuensel Phodrang also knows as Buddha point. It is a place where many Bhutanese frequent, especially on Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Seated Buddha(169 feet). The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
You will also visit the Gagyel Lhendrup Weaving centre, Bhutanese arts and crafts portray the "spirit and identity of the Himalayan kingdom" which is clearly seen in their textiles, paintings, sculptures etc. Whilst you are here do not forget to see the weavers exhibit their wonderful artistry in weaving masterpieces all day long.
Then visit the Takin Preserve; is located in Motithang area in Thimphu, and houses the very unusual national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, which, according to legend, was fashioned from the carcass of a cow and the head of a goat by the great saint Drukpa Kuenley.
The Trashichodzon: the fortress of the glorious religion, is the seat of government and the headquarters of the clergy in the capital Thimphu. The original dzong was built in 1216. It suffered three major fires over the centuries and was rebuilt three times. It was enlarged in the 1960s to become the symbol of the new capital after Punakha. This dzong housed the original National Assembly of Bhutan in one of its temples. It still houses the secretariat and throne room of the King of Bhutan and the headquarters of the Royal Government’s Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs. The Dzong is the summer residence of the clergy.
Day 02: Tango Day Hike
we will drive 12km north of Thimphu to hike to Tango and Cheri monasteries. It will take about 45 minutes to hike to the monastery. Tango Monastery is a Buddhist college, and it's the residence of the Desi Tenzin Rabgye, a young boy who is the reincarnation of the 16th-century monk who built Tango. We will then hike to Cheri monastery, which is also about a 45-minute hike. Return back to Thimphu and visit following places:-
Pangri Zampa Lhakhang – Visit to the Astrology School
Pangri Zampa Lhakhang is idyllically located in the middle of a meadow, not far from the river, a 20-minute drive from the lodge on the way to Tango and Cheri monasteries. The temple appeared in Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s vision, which directed him from Tibet to Bhutan. The temple was built by Ngawang Choegyel, the great-grandfather of the Zhabdrung, and was the Zhabdrung’s residence when he arrived in Bhutan in 1616. Today, the temple is used as an astrologer’s centre of the state clergy, and is the home to around 100 monks studying astrology. During a visit Pangri Zampa you can learn more about astrology, and also have your personal reading done.
Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakhang: Overlooking the Pangrizampa monastery, the one-storied lhakhang with 21 Tara images was constructed under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck with an aspiration and motivation to foster greater peace and prosperity of all sentient beings, avert national disasters and propagate the welfare of all Bhutanese. This is the first monastery in Bhutan dedicated exclusively to the 21 Taras.
Drolma or Tara is a female bodhisattva, personifying the transcendental wisdom and active compassion of all the Buddhas. Tara remains among the most beloved icons from the vast pantheon of Mahayanan Buddhism deities, inspiring countless Buddhist saints and lay practioners on their path to enlightenment. Drolma has 21 primary emanations and each of these is represented by a different colour and different form. It is believe that each Tara performs a different activity, such as pacification, increase, overpower and wrathful. For instance, White Tara represents the enlightened activity of pacifying, such as overcoming sickness, causes of untimely death and obstacles to success in one’s life.
Paper Factory: Jungshi handmade paper factory; The Paper Factory is situated on the other side of the river, about a 20-minute drive from the lodge. The art of handmade paper in Bhutan dates back to the 8th century, although usage was limited mainly to religious purposes. Today it is considered an important element in the preservation of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. The factory allows guests to view the papermaking process and purchase samples and gift items from their shop.
Weekend Market - Every Friday evening, Saturday & Sunday, people from Thimphu valley & other parts of country congregate to sell and buy products. It is an opportunity to mix with local people and the products they sell.
Day 03: Thimphu to Punakha
This morning depart Thimphu, pass the Semtokha Dzong built in 1629 and once the oldest fortress of its kind that guarded the Thimphu valley. Today it is a Theological university. Stop at Dochu La to view 108 Stupas and on a clear day you will witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalaya.
Punakha Sightseeing: Punakha Dzong (Fortress) situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (Male and Female Rivers). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). This Dzong had served as the capital seat of the Kingdom for more than three hundred years.
Hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal: A 30 minute drive from the Punakha Dzong will bring you to the base of the hill on which this temple is built. From the car park, you have to cross a suspension bridge and walk through rice fields before you start climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees.l It takes about 1 hour from the car park to hike up to the temple, and 30 minutes to hike down. During the summer, the walk could be a bit muddy, so be prepared. A hiking pole is recommended. You can see Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten high up on the hillock ahead of you, but had to concentrate on the trail leading through the rice fields. The climb up is easy and fast; nevertheless, you will sweat under the warm sun as you reach the top. As you reach the entrance, you can see the row of white chortens on one side of the platform, a statue on the valley side, with a goddess subduing a demon by putting her feet on his body, and above all, enjoy the view around: the mountains, the trees everywhere, the rice terraces you had walked through. The best view of Punakha is enjoyed from the top of this temple. If the caretaker is convinced that you will not take pictures inside the temple, and only shoot out of the temple, you will be allowed to take your cameras. On the top floor, you can step outside and enjoy the view.
Day 04: Punakha – Paro
After breakfast, we will hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.
The journey west takes us back to Paro valley following through Wang Chhu and Pa Chhu Rivers.
Paro Experiences: Paro Cultural Tour should always start with the visit to the Paro Dzong and take in the amazing architecture of this 17th century monument, a premier example of Bhutan"s architecture. Paro Dzong, built in 17th century to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means the 'fortress on a heap of jewels’. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district. From the Dzong, a leisurely walk back into Paro town crosses the scenic Nyamai zampa, a unique model of Bhutan"s traditional cantilever bridge.
Farm House Visit - A cluster of quaint farmhouses embroiders the beauty of Paro valley. A visit to farmhouse is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the life style of the farmer.
Day 05: Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery) 4-5 hrs Hike.
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! It takes about two hours to reach the cafeteria, which gives a breathtaking view of the Tiger’s Nest. From Cafeteria it takes 1 hour to reach the main temple. This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
Special horse riding to Tiger Nest.
Day 06: Departure