About Bhutan & Itineries
From the middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century, Bhutan witnessed serious political instability resulting in frequent internal disputes which ended in incessant civil wars. It was against this background that attributed to the need of strong leadership in the country to restore the peace and political stability. In the beginning of the 20th century, Trongsa Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck who then controlled the eastern and central region, overcame a decisive victory over his fiercest opponents and united the nation once again. In 1907, a historic assembly of representatives of the monastic body, civil servants and the people unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary king of Bhutan. Thus ended the theocratic dual system of government established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The First King Ugyen Wangchuck reigned until his death in 1926, and was succeeded by his son, King Jigme Wangchuck, who ruled the kingdom until his death in 1952. The reign of the first two kings were marked by political stability and economic prosperity. The third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1925-1972) is considered the father of modern Bhutan. He introduced the process of modernization and opened the country to the outside world by launching the planned development program in 1961 and brought dramatic changes to the quality of life of the people. He also enhanced the kingdom’s global role, making Bhutan a member of the United Nations and several other international organizations. After the sovereign’s death in 1972, his son, the present King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ascended the throne in 1974 at the age of 17 and became the youngest monarch in the world. With strong emphasis on the well being of the people, the dynamic young monarch has dedicated himself to a policy of socio-economic development for the country without losing its ancestral traditions and cultural heritage.
Bhutan is well known for its unique Democracy in the world. Till 2006 the Country was absolute monarchy but the 4th king voluntarily abdicated the thron and passed to his succesor. Now the Country is Constitutional Monarchy. As on the left hand side, the picture shows the crowning of 5th king by the 4th King. It is also famous for the smallest democracy in the world. The first ever election was held on 24th March, 2008. The head of the government is Prime Minister.
Strong adoptions of policies such as, choosing to remain in seclusion from the outside world for centuries have not only protected the sovereignty of the country but have also strongly influenced the lives of the Bhutanese people that helped to evolve and shape its own cultural legacy, unique national identity and history. Perhaps the most dynamic era in Bhutanese history begins with the advent of Buddhism in 7th century and since then it became the predominant religion and played a vital part in the lives of the Bhutanese people. The Buddhist faith has inculcated deeply in the people, the value that all forms of sentient life, not just human life, are precious and sacred. Having given such a value and ethos to natural environment, it is not surprising to learn that Bhutanese people have lived in close harmony with nature and are able to keep the environment in its pristine form and richly intact
The country has been declared as one of the ten bio-diversity ‘hotspots’ in the world for its huge bio diversity. With 72.5 percent of the country under forest cover, Bhutan is home to many rare and endangered species of wildlife like the blue sheep, takin, snow leopard, tiger, Himalayan black bear, water buffalo, elephant and golden langur. The wealth of floral variety includes numerous species of rhododendron and orchids, blue poppy (the national flower), junipers, magnolias and an astonishing variety of rare medicinal plants.
Today, the world is increasingly seeing more exotic aspects of this kingdom for its rich culture, unique identity derived largely from its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism, unparalleled scenic beauty of snow peaked mountains and lush green valleys, majestic landscapes covered with fluttering prayer flags, pristine environment rich in flora and fauna, historical monuments, and celibate monks and nuns in maroon red- robe praying in the monasteries that are perched precariously on cliffs. Bhutan is still, in many ways, a mystical kingdom, rightly described as the last Shangri-la.
Bhutan is a landlocked country nestled in the eastern Himalayas between India and the autonomous region of Tibet, China. The country is about 300km long and 150km wide encompassing an area of 38,394 square kilometers. Bhutan can be compared to Switzerland both in its size and topography with a population of about 700,000. Virtually the entire country is mountainous, with an elevation ranging from 300 metres in the south to over 7,000 metres on the high Himalayan peaks in the north. About 70 percent of the population lives on subsistence farming across the rugged terrain of the Himalayas. Bhutan is widely known for its pure practice of Mahayana Buddhism of the Drukpa Kagyupa sect, its unique and rich culture and traditions, its pristine ecology and environment, its unspoiled landscape and the unsurpassed scenic beauty of snow peaked mountains and lush green valleys.
The Bhutanese people are a homogeneous group linguistically divided into three main ethnic groups; the Sharchops who live in the east of the country and are recognized as the original inhabitants, the Ngalongs whose descendants are from the Tibetan immigrants and settled in the west and the Lhotshampas, of Nepalese origin who settled in the south in the late 19th century. Bhutanese speak as many as nineteen dialects besides Dzongkha, the national language and lingua franca. English is the official language.
Bhutanese men wear “gho” that are longish robes tied around the waist by a “kera” (cloth belt). Women wear an ankle length dress, which is known as “kira” The Bhutanese people are, by nature, gentle, open minded, humorous and known for their hospitality.
Bhutan Rich Culture
Bhutan has a rich tradition and culture, which is well preserved and practiced in the same way as they were done for thousands of years. Bhutanese language and literature, the arts and crafts, dance, music, drama, ceremonies and festivals, architecture and the basic social and cultural values have its significant roots in the Buddhist religion. Dance, music, song and drama are an integral part of religious ceremonies and festivals. They play a significant role in the lives of the people as it offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of the religion and to accumulate much merit. The festivals celebrate the faith, legends, myths and history of Bhutan and are important religious and social gatherings..
Bhutan Arts and Architecture
The arts and architectures reveal pure essence of beauty and hold a symbolic meaning and interpretation. The paintings are the most visible manifestation amongst the varied Bhutanese arts today. The exquisite traditional painting depicts the spiritual depth and important aspects of Bhutanese culture. Bhutanese art does not exist for its own sake. More important than their esthetic quality, which is valued though antithetical to Buddhist values of non-attachment, paintings of Bodhisattvas and the like exist for instructional purposes. Art is mostly a religious obligation, the anonymous creators of such works blend indigenous and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. These highly decorative and ornamental paintings are most often seen in dzongs, monasteries, lhakhangs, and household shrines.
The Dzongs (Fortresses) have the striking architectural features reflecting artistic beauty and unmatched engineering skills. The solidity and elegance of the sloping walls, detailed woodwork and the pattern of rich color adorned on the windows, doors, beams and walls in traditional splendor are the most visible exotic aspects of the Dzongs in the Kingdom.
Bhutan Ecology and Environment
The country has diverse ecological zones; sub-tropical, temperate and alpine. About 72.5 percent of the total land is under forest cover and it is home to about 7,000 species of plants, 165 species of mammals and 700 species of birds. About 26.23 percent of the country lies under protected areas, excluding 9 percent biological corridors created to connect different protected parks. Around 35 percent of the country’s total area is under some form of conservation. Bhutan falls under the top ten countries with the highest species density in the world, and has the highest percent of land area under protected areas and forest cover in Asia. Bhutan has been declared as one of the ten global biodiversity ‘hotspots’ for its huge bio diversity. Unlike other Himalayan regions, Bhutan is successfully conserving and preserving its rich bio diversity. Bhutanese people have preserved their natural environment for centuries; they have always lived in harmony with nature and this relationship has been forced within moral, cultural and ecological borders. Buddhism plays a central role in people’s lives and culture. The basic principle is to give back to nature what has been taken away, and accord respect to all forms of life. Buddhism teaches interdependence among all life forms. This has established a close and harmonious relationship with the surrounding environment
Although rugged terrain across the Kingdom had made developmental activities difficult, Bhutan has achieved dramatic socio-economic progress within the short span of time, since the inception of planned development in 1960. Each program of economic development has been closely monitored and studied, so that the country’s environment and cultural heritage are safely protected. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy which contributes about 33% of the GDP and about 70% of the population depends on it for livelihood
Jhomolhari Trek 14night 15days
This is a strenuous 10 days trek, starting from Drukgyel Dzong, Paro and ending at Dodina, Thimphu. This trek is one of the most popular treks in Bhutan, passing through scattered hamlets and farm land into densely forested valleys. It takes us to high alpine pasture land, where yak herders gaze their animals. The trek offers a great variety of landscape and stunning views of the Himalayan peaks. Along the trek route you will see the Blue sheep and many other examples of our wild life.
The trek takes up the Paro Chu (valley) to Jhomolhari base camp over the first three days. The views at the camp are amongst the best in the Himalayas. For those that are carrying on over the 2 high passes we spend a day at base camp to acclimatize and tour the region. Then it is over the first of the high passes – Nyilela pass 4870m (15680ft) an exciting adventure as we continue along a mountain ridge getting fabulous views of the Himalayas up close. We spend the night near a military camp and next day can either be at rest for exploration of the Linjshi valley and Dzong. Its then over the highest pass of the trek at 4930m (16270ft) Yelila pass frequently snow covered. From there it is a 3 day trek down the valley to Thimphu – climbing up to highs as we go. The scenery is sometimes ragged as we cut through deep gorges and always green.
Time: 10 days
Distance 82.5 miles / 133km
Altitude Gain 11, 608ft / 3539m
Altitude Loss 7987ft / 2435m
Day Date Day to Day trip schedule Hotel / Camp
Arrive Paro & Sightseeing Hotel /
Paro Sightseeing Hotel
Trek day 1- Start of Trek Paro / Shana Camp
Trek Day 2- Shana – Thangthangkha Camp
Trek Day 3- Thangthangkha- Jangothang Camp
Trek Day 4 -Jangothang – Halt Camp
Trek Day 5- Jangothang – Lingshi Camp
Trek Day 6- Lingshi – Halt Camp
Trek Day 7 – Lingshi – Shodu Camp
Trek Day 8 – Shodu – Barshong Camp
Trek Day 9 – Barshong – Dolam Khencho Camp
Trek Day 10 – Dolam Khencho – Dodina – Thimphu Hotel
Thimphu Halt Hotel
Thimphu – Paro Hotel
Paro – Departure
Detailed Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive / Paro
Fly into Bhutan on Druk Airways. If you are lucky, you will have glorious view of the snowcapped Himalayas. The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to an adventure of a lifetime. After visa formalities and collection of baggage, you will meet the Bhutanese representative from Bhutan Journeys, who will receive you and drive through Paro valley to your hotel. After settling down at the hotel, you will have your lunch. Afternoon visit the National Museum (Tak Dzong) (one of the fine museums in Asia that would shed further light to your adventurous trip to Bhutan and Paro Rimpong Dzong, administration center and religious institute of the valley. This Dzong may be familiar to people who watched Burtolucci’s film “The Little Buddha, followed by walk through Paro town.
Dinner and Overnight: Hotel
Day 2: Paro – Taktsang (Tiger Nest Excursion)
After breakfast we drive to the north of Paro valley to Ramthangkha, from where we start our hike to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). Visitors are permitted to hike up to the viewpoint from where they can see the monastery hanging on a cliff. I will obtain the special permit to visit the monastery. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche flew from Eastern Bhutan on a tigress, bringing Buddhist teachings and meditated here in this cliff. This is one of the most venerated and sacred of all Buddhist sights around the world. Lunch will be served at Taktsang cafeteria. Walk downhill to the road and enroute visit Drukgyel Dzong (now in ruins), which reveals the reminiscence of ancient architecture and followed by visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by Songtsen Gompo, which denotes the spread and emergence of Buddhism in the country.
Evening at leisure: Dinner and Overnight: Hotel
Trek Day 1: By car toDrugyel Dzong (8460ft/2580m), trek to Shana (9480ft/2890m)
Distance 9.3 miles/15 Km
Altitude gain 1020ft/310m
Altitude loss 260ft/80m
At the end of the road north from Paro lie the ruins of Drugyel Dzong with Mount Jhomolhari (23,995ft/7315m) behind – a wonderful vista for the start of this trek. Bhutanese trekking staff and the first group of pack animals are met here. Walk along a dirt road for 1 hr through a wide, rich, cultivated valley, beneath forest-covered mountains, following the Paro Chhu. Beware of the sun, which can be very fierce at this altitude.
At Tshento (Chang Zampa)- the first small settlement encountered – there is a small shop and a Basic Health Unit (BHU), which cares for people who live far away from hospitals. High up to the right on cliffs is a hermit building, the Chona Gompa (11,430ft/3485m). Throughout the valley there are big, magnificent, traditional Bhutanese farmhouses with bright red chilies drying on their roofs in season. Farmers in the upper Paro Valley grow red rice, potatoes and wheat. They measure their land in langdo, a section of land that can be ploughed by a pair of bulls in one day. At the end of the dirt road a new Swiss-built suspension bridge (8150ft/2485m) is crossed.
The trek continues on the east side of the river. The trail climbs gently and will probably be muddy. Not far from the suspension bridge you pass a traditional stone bath, then a chorten; walk around its left side. After 2-2.5hr, just before entering a forest below a farmhouse, there is a spring with holy water that originates from Hedi Gompa further up the valley. In the forest there is another chorten (8,450ft/2577m), normally the lunch spot. There are two streams round the chorten: the smaller one, on the left, is holy water. The larger one, which has to be crossed by the bridges next to the chorten, starts from one of the glaciers on Chatarake. This mountain can be seen from tonight’s camp.
Cross the main bridge and continue on a pleasant trail with no steep climbs through forest next to the Paro Chhu; look for the famous Hedi Gompa, located 200m higher. This is a very important monastery with some large old statues. At the hamlet of Chobiso (9120ft/2780m) there is a walk-through chorten with prayer wheels; you gain merit if you walk through, the valley widens, and after 2-2.5hrs the big military camp is reached, with ‘Welcome to Gunitsawa – the Phurba Battalion’ painted on a boulder. The camp has a big school and some shops, and your trekking permit will be checked at camp entrance. Next to the entrance there is a house with a tall, water-powered prayer wheel and a Bhutanese-style house/chapel with Buddha statues and an enormous phallus fixed to its outside wall.
From the military camp you can see a ridge coming down from the northeast. This is the old route (2004) for descending from the Jhomolhari circuit trek, which starts and finishes in Drukgyel Dzong/Paro (see Trek 4, day 8). The trail bypasses the camp and crosses Paro Chhu on a new footbridge. After the bridge, turn straight to the north-northwest following a trail next to the river, which climbs for 10min. After another 10min through forest, you suddenly see the camp in a big open field at Shana (Sharna Sampa; 9480ft/2890m. be aware of burglary at this camp! Looking back from camp you can see a big snowy peak, Chatarake (Djo Drake, Jo Darkey: 18,270ft/5570m or 21,320ft/6500m), was first climbed in 1993 by two Dutch climbers.
Trek Day 2 Shana (9480ft/2890m) to Soi Thangthanka (11,730ft/3575m)
Time 6-7hr (add 1hr if trail is muddy)
Distance 13.6 miles/22Km
Altitude gain 2250ft/685m
Altitude loss 0ft/0m
Sun reaches camp at about 0700hr. This is a hard day, with a lot of distance to cover. The altitude gain is above the limit, and after lunch the trail is rough and stony with many rises and drops. Count on a late arrival at camp and carry an extra sweater.
Follow the river upstream on its right side on a muddy trail. After 10min an old ruined bridge (Penji Zam or Shana Zampa, 9440ft/2878m) is reached, destroyed by major floods caused by glacial lake outbursts in 1950 and 1960. The bridge, named for a Bhutanese official called Sharna Dungpa, was used in the old days by travelers coming from or going to the north, to Phari in Tibet. It was the first administered by the Shana Dungpa (Dungpa = a chief of a sub-district). Traders returning from Tibet paid tax here in the form of salt; traders from Bhutan had to pay in different goods. There is also Lhakhang on the other side of the old bridge.
On the other side of the river, to the right of a house, is a signboard for the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), which can only be read using binoculars. It is placed out of range to prevent it being demolished! The Trail climbs steadily through a beautiful thick forest of Oak, rhododendrons, bamboo and ferns. Look out for birds: there are many species here. After crossing a couple of small streams and trekking for 2-2.5hr, a clearing with two houses, Shing Karap (10,170ft/3100m), is reached. Home-brewed beer is sold, and the house is plastered with empty bottles. Not far after Shing Karap, the trail forks, marked by a big cairn heavily decorated with flowers and prayer flags. Turn right- ‘Way to Soe’ is written on a stone, with an arrow pointing right.
THE WAY TO TIBET
The left, which is clearer and has a stone-paved surface, leads up the easy, forbidden pass Tremo La (15,090ft/4600m or 16,200ft/4940m) and onwards to the city of Phari Dzong (14,130ft/4308m) in Tibet (8.5 miles/14 Km). Within 1hr the trail splits into three possible passes, all crossing into Tibet. From the top of Tremo La you can see Phari town. This used to be the old trading route, and traders still ‘illegally’ cross this and other passes further on in the valleys by night. Let’s hope one day cross-border trekking will be permitted again.
In 1774, when George Bogle had been in the capital of Bhutan (then called Tassisudon) for three months, his party crossed from Bhutan to Tibet over a high pass, most probably Tremo La. The surrounding peaks were covered with snow, and Bogle’s Bengali servants, unfamiliar with snow, asked the local porters for an explanation: ‘God in his mercy had dropped white cloths on the mountains to keep them warm!’
Follow the main upstream (named Seyende, Sey, Soe, Pa or Jangkhochang Chhu according to various sources). The trail makers a short steep climb and descent, followed by a big bridge at 3250m, crossing to the east side of the main river. Five minutes later comes a big clearing in the forest, Thongo Samba, a possible lunch spot or campsite.
FLORA EN ROUTE
Watch out for the beautiful little medicinal plant Arisaema. It looks like the head of a small, standing cobra and can grow about 30cm tall. There is also plenty of daphne to be spotted, as well as the red flowers of euphorbia (‘gopher bane’). In spring look out for Piptanthus nepalensis, a shrub growing up to 4m tall with bright yellow flowers. Climbing higher and higher, different coloured rhododendrons engulf the trail in spring. The trees are festooned with lichen (old man’s beard), which the Bhutanese use for filling pillows and mattresses.
The trek to Soi Thangthanka continues for 3-4hr through beautiful forest consisting mainly of birch, fir, larch, maple, blue pine and rhododendron. This 300m+ clim could easily amount to 500m or more due to all small rises and drops.
After some hours of walk you will cross a big bridge (11,675ft/3560m). Be careful: yaks may be encoutered from now on – always give way for yaks, and make sure you move onto the upper side of the track, not the lower, as they pass. A short climb follows and a big chorten and second bridge appear ahead, at the confluence of the two rivers Paro Chhu (Sey Chhu) from the north and Ronse Ghon from the west. This is Seyende Zumb or Seyende Zam. From the bridge leading to the chorten you might see Jhomolhari to the north. A big valley, called Soi Yakse, opens up to the west with several big snowy peaks between 5000m and 5650m at its end. Further up the Soi Yakse valley is the camp that is used on day six or seven of the Jhomolhari Trek, which starts and ends at Drugyel Dzong/Paro
To reach Soi Thangthanka camp you don’t cross the second bridge but continue for 20-30min on a good trail along the west side of the river. Soi Thangthanka or Tshajeu Din Kha camp is in a big meadow. The Department of Tourism once built a tourist bungalow here, but it has collapsed and is beyond use.
Trek Day 3: Soi Thangthanka (11,730ft/3575m) to Jangothang (Jhomolhari camp) (13,260ft/4044m)
Distance 10.5 miles/17Km
Altitude gain 1530ft/469m
Altitude loss 0ft/0m
After enjoying the view to Jhomolhari and a good breakfast, walk for 1 hr through forest. Gradually the view is lost, but the mountain will be seen again in its full glory from Jangothang (Jhomolhari camp). Somewhere between Soi Thangthanka camp and the military camp the border between the Paro Dzongkhag and Thimphu Dzongkhag is crossed. A Dzongkha (district) is divided into smaller gewogs. We now enter the Soe (Soe Yutey) gewog. Today’s trail again follows the river and changes direction several times. Late in spring, towards the treeline, the blue poppy (Bhutan’s national flower) has been spotted. At (12,235ft/3730m a military camp with Bhutanese and Indian army personnel is reached. The camp (Soe Makhang, Heansho Jhangkha) has a helipad, and guards another pass into Tibet, 11Km away from Phari.
About 1 hr beyond the camp, the trail turns right at a mani wall. Climbing a ridge, we reach a big open meadow with a chorten in the middle, a beautiful campsite: Geza (or Genza or Heysi Thangka). Yaks are kept here in winter. In the bushes near the river is a ruin, supposedly a small dzong built to ‘stop’ invasions from Tibet. Take it easy now since the altitude is approaching 4000m.
The Lhakhang is located on the west side of the valley 2-3 hr north from the village Jomphu. The small Jhomolhari Lhakhang is located at the base of the huge glacier, partly hidden in the rocks, and is worth a visit. Lam Gyalwa Lorapa established the monastery in the 18th century. The temple is covered with the warm colours of thankas and frescoes. Three beautiful golden Buddha statues are placed on the altar. In the centre is the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of infinite life with the blue begging bowl, with a statue of the founder of the monastery on one side. Other statues are of Avalokiteshvara, Guru Padmasamhava and Vajradhara. There are three permanent monks and a couple more who often meditate for a period of three years, three months, three weeks and three days. The monastery is totally silent except for the sound of the wind and avalanches, and the caretaker who prays and meditates. In 1996 some treasure were stolen, and since then people stopped performing their annual choku here.
There are a few small villages ahead. Soe Yutey has six villages: (From south to north) Jomphu, Dozuden, Tikithang, Dotabithang, Dangojang and Jangothang. The population of the area is about 220, down from about 460 in 1966. Soe Yutey has suffered various problems over the years: a glacial lake burst from one of the Jhomolhari slopes; Tibetan refugees in the fifties; the impact of tourism; heavy snowfall; floods; erosion; strong winds that destroyed houses, trees and cattle. Fast population growth may soon put pressure on the limited resources. Development in the area has included a mule track along the Paro Chhy; vaccination programmes for children and cattle; the supplying of yaks for breeding; breeding sheep; supplying vegetable seeds; cultivation of medicinal plants; an Out Reach Clinic; and a school at Lingshi.
The first village, Jomphu, is above the actual trail. There is a split here and the higher track leads through the village, which has five households. (Watch out for dogs!) You might be invited into one of the houses for a cup of the famous butter tea. It is considered impolite to refuse. Don’t drink the tea in one gulp because it is customary to refill the cup as soon as even a little has been taken. Think of butter tea as soup, which might make it easier to accept the taste (or call it ‘gorgonzola tea’ – butter tea is sometimes rancid due to the oxidisation of the fatty acids; rancid butter doesn’t get contaminated with bacteria).
At Dangojang, 30min before Jhomolhari camp, two new buildings (2002) have been erected for JDNP next to the BHU building. Nearby a trail nursery was established in 2002 to grow trees like juniper and willow to (possibly) satisfy demand for firewood. There are also plans for a school (2003).
By now there should be a view towards the summit of the spiky peak Jitchu Drake (about 22,470ft/6850m). Slowly the ruin of a dzong, located on a rock near camp and decorated with prayer flags, appears to get closer. Cross a bridge and suddenly the overwhelming snow- and ice-covered east face of Jhomolhari (23,995ft/7315m) appears, with its massive 3200m-high wall of granite, marble, and quartzite. We have reached Jhomolhari camp!
Strangely this place was not used as base camp for the two expeditions that climbed Jhomolhari, but is probably called so because it is located at the base of the mountain. Jangothang, located 15min further on, means ‘the land of deserters’ because the local yak herders, aggravated with heavy taxes levied by the local authorities (dzongpons), decided to run away and leave their stone houses.
A small stream runs through the camp, and there is a smoky tourist bungalow. A caretaker comes around and sells firewood, and collects payment for using the campsite from your guide. Sun leaves camp around 15.30 – 16.00hr.
Jhomolhari camp is where mules and horses are changed for yaks, the first of several pack animal ‘swaps’ on the Lunana trek. The trek is divided into stages, and for each stretch a village that owns pack animals is responsible for transporting luggage, not only for tourists, but also for officials traveling through the area.
KING OF JANGOTHANG
There is a story about a king who took care of Jangothang at one time. This king lived in the dzong, the ruins of which still remain near the tourist camp at Jhomolhari camp. He did not like the location of the dzong and decided to pick a different sit, further to the south, where there should be more sunshine. However, this site wasn’t any better since a huge mountain (Bolula) blocked the sun’s rays. So he ordered the people to cut down the mountain peak before building the new dzong.
The people were unwilling because their task was impossible, and they met to try and find a solution. During the meeting an old woman stood up and suggested that they kill the king rather than obey his command. The people agreed; the king was killed, but the people feared that they might be in danger, and fled to Tibet. This is Soe Yutey’s population dropped. Tibetans eventually destroyed the dzong near Jhomolhari camp.
Day 6: Trek Day 4: Rest day at Jhomolhari Camp (13,260ft/4044m)
Sun reaches camp at 0800hr in fall. Most people will feel the effects of ascending 1800m in three days, so a rest day at Jhomolhari camp will help with acclimatization. There are some good day hikes from Jhomolhari camp, and it is important to hike today so that you will acclimatize. Follow the standard rule: trek high, sleep low.
The area is rich in livestock, which has always been very valuable at these high valuable at these high altitude since cultivation is so difficult. Yaks are by far the most important animals here. Horses are kept for carrying loads and sometimes for riding. Only a few people try to keep sheep. Cattle have suffered from diseases such as gout, and in a couple of hard winters (1985 and 1995) some households lost half their yaks. Dogs and snow leopards kill baby yaks and sheep, and occasionally sheep die from eating poisonous plants.
Some agricultural development has taken place recently, mainly because of encouragement from Thimphu in the form of education and supply of suitable seed. Cabbage, potato, radish, carrot, onion, and green sage are grown. Mustard plants, wheat for animal feed, and medicinal plants are also new products. The latter have always been collected in the area, but now cultivated to generate extra income. In summer, Tibetan poachers try to steal these plants. Park guards attempt to catch them, confiscate what they have collected, and send them back to Tibet. Incense collection – four different species grow here – is also important. Incense and chilies had equal barter value in the old days: one drey of incense equaled one drey of green chili.
Side trips for the rest day
1. An easy day hike up the valley towards the foot of Jhomolhari; there are several yak trails. After nearly 1hr there is an open sandy space, once probably a big lake. Follow a trail that climbs the moraine on the right and go as far as possible on this towards Jhomolhari. The moraine – ridge walk gives a good view down to the glacier. Ahead, the east face of Jhomolhari gets closer and closer. Watch out for a head of Himalayan blue sheep in this valley.
2. One of the more beautiful hikes goes eastward up to the twin lakes Tsho Phu (14,270ft/4350m), which are full of trout (2hr to the lakes; 1.5hr back to camp). From the lakes there is a spectacular view back to Jhomolhari and jitchu Drake. Watch out for the yak herders’ dogs: they are sometimes kept half-starved and are trained to drive unwelcome visitors away. Start by going up the valley from camp. At Jangothang, just at the first house, a bridge crosses the river at the start of an obvious steep trail. For more information about the area and a note on fishing, see Trek 4, day 5.
3. The most challenging day hike is up the steep, grassy ridge located next to camp to the north. It takes 3-4hr to reach the final rocky summit (15,610ft/4760m). The views get better and better, first of Jitchu Drake (about 22,470ft/6850m) and, at one point, when crossing over a ridge, Jhomolhari (23,995ft/7315m) is just opposite. The last part of the rocky summit can be tricky due to loose rocks and wind; bring a windproof jacket, gloves and hat.
4. A very pleasant hike (2-2.5hr up, 1-1.5hr down) goes in the direction of Jitchu Drake. Walk northeast from camp, following the same trail used to cross Nyile La to Lingshi (see day 5). Pass the last house in Jangothang and find a bridge to cross the river (the second bridge at Jangothang). Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn left and follow a less steep trail into the valley that leads to the foot of Jitchu Drake. You could turn around once you reach a major side valley. A little bit higher up there is a big, flat meadow that used to have a memorial plaque for two Italians who were killed on Jitchu Drake in 1948; unfortunately, the plaque was
Jhomolhari (Jomolhari, Chhomolhari, Lho Cho Lari) (23,995ft/7315m) means ‘Goddess of the Holy Mountain’ or ‘Goddess of the Mountain Pass’. On a map produced in England in 1773 it has the name Chimalari, and on the list of peaks by the survey of India produced in 1861 it is called Peak 1. There is a great variation between official and actual heights of peaks in Bhutan; however, there is apparently little confusion surrounding the name or the height of Jhomolhari.
The summit of Jhomolhari is considered to be the abode of the goddess Jomo Lhari (Jhomo). It is the perfect mountain – more or less symmetrical – a real throne for a goddess.
Jhomolhari was climbed first by Frank Spencer Chapman (UK) and Sherpa Pasang on 21 May 1937. At that time the mountain was one of the highest climbed peaks in the world. Kamet (25,447ft/7761m) had been climbed in 1931 and Nanda Devi (25,645ft/7822m) in 1936. Although many Everest climbers had considered an ascent of Jhomolhari, Chapman, Charles Crawford and three Sherpas were the first to take up the challenge. Mr Odell, from the 1924 Everest expedition, had made a reconnaissance of the mountain.
On the western border of Bhutan with Tibet, the west side of Jhomolhari drops down dramatically to the Chumbi Valley. Until the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese in the 1950s, this was the traditional route from India to Lhasa. Many travellers, missionaries, traders, surveyors, military personnel, climbing expeditions and finally the Dalai Lama on his escape from Lhasa have passed through the valley, beneath the spectacular 3000m snow, ice and rock cliffs of Jhomolhari, rising from the dusty Tibetan plateau. According to Chapman it was thought by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the whole length to the Himalaya.
In the eyes of Tibetans and Bhutanese Jhomolhari is a very sacred mountain; more sacred than Everest to the Tibetans, according to Chapman. Several religious processions make their way up to its foothills every year to win the favour of the goddess, and there are some important monasteries on its lower slopes on the Tibetan side. In 1950 a glacial lake dam burst, causing havoc lower down; locals believed this was due to the 1937 climb. After the 1970 climbing tragedy (when two Indian mountaineers died on descent) – and because of pressure from the local villagers, concerned that their cattle were suffering as a result of the climb, and the local deity being displeased – a complete ban was imposed on climbing the mountain.
However, in 1996 a joint Chinese-Japanese expedition climbed Jhomolhari from Tibet. In spring 2004 two British climbers made the fourth ascent of Jhomolhari (putting it at a height of 24,037ft/7326m).
So Jhomolhari is open again from the Tibetan side. Whether the Tibetan and Bhutanese – Buddhist are happy with the situation is not Known.
Remove in autamn 2003. This hike gives you a nice view towards Jitchu Drake, Jhomolhari an the glaciers. Above the big meadow a trail starts leading to a pass, Bake La, and onwards to Lingshi valley.
5.) Another viewing point is the steep, grassy hill (16,334ft/4980m) that starts from the second bridge at Jangothang. There is no real trail, just endless switch-backs uphill. It’s about a 3hr climb to reach a prayer flag (clearly visible from camp) from where you get a superb view back to the Jhomolhari/Jitchu Drake group and camp. If it is wet, be careful on the descent.
6.) Try to climb up the rock on which the ruined dzong is situated. Be prepared to climb Grade V Difficult and higher.
Having visited the area more then 15 times, I prefer no 3 for hard trip and no 4 for an easy hike. Both have nice views. Numbers 5 is a good middle choice. You can also put your rest day to good use and enjoy have a decent foot massage!
CLIMBING JITCHU DRAKE
The estimated height of Jitchu Drake varies from 22,020ft/6714m – 22,925ft/6989m, and it has a variety of names: Kungphu, Ts(h)erim Kang (Khang=house), Shumkang, Jichi Dak Keth (‘Sparrow rock sound’), Tsheringegang, Tsheringme Gang (‘snows of the goddess of long life’). Some other interepretations are ‘angry bird’ or ‘angry swallow’.
The final summit is a double peak, which has its origin – according a local story – when a young girl, Tshering Kang, was weaving and Jitchu Drake teased her. She got upset and hit Jitchu Drake on the head with the ‘sword’ (tham = the hard piece of wood used to beat new line of weft) resulting in the double peak of Jitchu Drake (not visible from Jhomolhari camp).
In 1983 the Bhutanese decided to systematically open up their mountains for climbing, and Jitchu Drake was the first peak out for tender. Before the summit was finally reached there were two Japanese, an Austrian and two Italian expeditions. The first Italian group lost two of their climbers when a crest of the ridge broke away as they were breaking camp. They fell down the east face 750m and their bodies were never found.
In May 1988 Jitchu Drake was finally climbed by Sharu Prabhu, Doug Scott and Victor Saunders, via a new route on the south face. During the last part of the climb their ice axes occasionally poked through the cornice and they could look right down the east face for 1200m toward Chung Kang and the Tibetan plateau. The summit is inside Bhutan.
Jangothang (13,260ft/4044m) to Lingshi (13,150ft/4010m) via Nyile La (16,040ft/4890m)
Distance 13 miles/21 Km
Altitude gain 2780ft/845m
Altitude loss 2890ft/880m
Mount Jitchu Drake
Leave camp and walk north to the houses of Jangothang. At the first house there is a good view of Jitchu Drake (22,925ft/6989m). Continue hiking to the last of the three houses and find a log bridge crossing the river. (This is the second log bridge; the first leads to Tsho Phu lakes.) A steep switchback trail starts climbing out of the valley into another that leads to the final climb and pass.
One year a dead yak-slaughtered or accidentally killed – lay in the river, near the first house. The people of this area only cut meat from a carcass on a date advised by the astrologer, which can be up to a week after death. They believe that cutting fresh meat may lead to more cattle dying. The corpse is kept in the stream to keep the meat from rotting. One man from Jangothang is known to be a good astrologer, the only one in the area and well respected by the people. People seek his advice about illness in both humans and livestock.
It is a long climb – 3-3.5hr – to reach the first high and very windy pass of this trek, the Nyile La (16,040ft/4890m; Nglele La, Ngile La; ‘sleepy pass’). A yak ride up to the pass is an option (although you need luck to find one calm enough to ride!). Today’s trek will test your level of acclimatisation. If you’re having problems this is the time to turn back; once you’ve crossed over to Lingshi you can only get out by crossing high passes.
From Nyile La you can see far towards the east-northeast into the trekking area covered over the next couple of days. The mountain Takaphu (21,405ft/6526m) dominates the view towards the north. Tiger Mountain is the main mountain to be seen looking east.
From the pass, descend a short, steep section with some loose stones. Be careful if the yaks are on their way down at the same time; if they start running they are difficult to stop. Less than 30min down is a flat, more sheltered area-a good lunch spot.
Continuing to descend and passing a narrow gorge with a small river crossing, you can spot Masa Gang peak in the far distance. The trail in now easy, flat and good, leading to a viewing point from which Lingshi Dzong can be seen in its full glory; a powerful, solitary structure in the middle of an enormous wilderness.
Lingshi Dzong gets closer during the steep 900m drop, and camp is located next to a tourist bungalow.
Rest day at Lingshi for exploring Wild Yaks carrying Trek Goods
You will spend an extra day here to explore the Lingshi surroundings. Looking towards the east from camp are views of Takaphu (21,405ft/6526m) and its glacier. At the end of this valley (1hr walk) are two big old yak herder houses at Guilpho (Jukhuje) and a little gompa called Gyo Gompa. Gyo Gompa was built on a rockface at the beginning of the last century, and can be reached by climbing some stairs. Its setting is dramatic with Jitchu Drake in the background. Another day hike could be to visit the lake Chhokam Tso (14,225ft/4337m) near the base of Jitchu Drake. From here a pass, called Bake La – as difficult as Nyile La-leads to Jitchu Drake base camp on the Jangothang side.
The Lingshi tourist bungalow (now totally out of order – 2004) is another big shelter with a shingled roof, built by the former government -run tourism company, BTCL. There are only three tourist bungalows in Bhutan (2002), but there are plans to build new ones and to renovate the three existing ones. There is a separate room for cooking, and a big room where the group can sit, trying to survive the smoke of a welcome fire. The bungalows normally have a caretaker who keeps the campsite in shape, sells firewood, some vegetables and other products. One night in 2001 the bungalow at Lingshi was attacked twice by a Himalayan bear. The bear tried to get in through the roof, but the caretaker scared him away. His wife had died the previous year, and he believed she had taken all the good luck with her!
LINGSHI DZONG (YUGYEL DZONG, JAGOE DZONG)
Cross the Jaje Chhu next to the campsite and make the steep climb to the dzong. Take a torch with you.
In 1668, the third Deb Raja Minjur Tenpa (or third Druk Desi) started some work on the dzong. It used to be an important lookout for checking people crossing the Lingshi (Phyen) La (16,540ft/5043m), which can be reached without too much difficulty from Chebisa village, our next campsite. This was one of the three trading routes used by the Indians/Bhutanese and Chinese/Tibetans. Enroute from Tibet to Bhutan, Shabdrung Namgyel is said to have mediated in a cave near the dzong.
The earthquake of 1897 destroyed part of the interior, which now has been renovated. On the second floor of the central building, the Utse, there is a temple, to which entry is forbidden; according to some Bhutanese, you will die if you do so. The temple has some fine statues of Buddha Sakiamunis, the local god Pajo, another local god She Kinga Tong, Guru Rinpoche, and Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal. The Kajur Tanjur books are stored on some shelves. The Utse has an entrance hall on the ground floor and a storeroom on the left.
Being on one of the main trading routes, Lingshi Dzong has undergone many sieges. After many attempts to take Dzong, the Tibetans used to bypass it. The thick circular walls have many small holes through which the defenders used to shoot at their assailants. Water was collected from the river at its foot by means of a secret passage. There are some dark cells deep underground, which were used as to imprison murderers and temple robbers.
In the 1950s the building was reconstructed and since then has been used as an administration residence for the Drungkhag of Lingshi. However, the administration rooms are used irregularly. The monastic community did not return to the Dzong; a caretaker and a monk live there now, and religious ceremonies are held a few times a year. Since 2003 the Je Khenpo (the spiritual leader in Bhutan) has planned to have all remote dzongs/lhakangs populated by monks (a head lama, a consoler, and a couple of students) to benefit the locals. In autumn 2003 Lingshi Dzong already had a couple of novices. When leaving the Dzong, please donate some money, which will be used for necessary renovation.
Below the Dzong is a village with a boarding school, and a BHU. The school has seven teachers and more than 50 students. The Lingshi area has 118 households and about 300-400 people, some of whom live a great distance from Lingshi. There also used to be some Tibetan refugees. The language of the people of Lingshi is a slight variation of the national language Dzongkhag. Some Lingshi people tend herds belonging to people in the central valleys of Bhutan. Below the village there is a military camp and a small hydro power plant. The Hospital for Traditional Medicine in Thimphu has a plant nursery here, and several kinds of medicinal plants have been grown successfully.
Lingshi has a nine-month winter and a brief summer. There has been a telephone connection since 1999, installed on the occasion of the Royal Coronation Jubilee. It operates by solar power, so the best chance of being able to use it is in the morning when the sun is out and the panels may have recharged. Even international calls are possible. Sun leaves the camp at 1600hr in autumn.
Lingshi (13, 150ft /4010m) to Shodu (13,380ft/4080m) via Yale La ( 16, 235ft 4950m)
Distance 13.6 miles / 22 km
Altitude gain 3085ft / 940m)
Altitude Loss 2855ft /870m)
Today it is a long, hard day. We start early taking a trail through the rhododendron forest on the ridge above the camp in an easterly direction towards a small chorten. Turn a corner and go south into a valley with few trees. Below flows the No chu or Chabeyt Chang Chu (Blue River).
The climb rises steadily to reach an altitude of about 4450m, 2.5 – 3 hrs after leaving the camp. Cross the main river to its right side and climb out to the main valley into side valley. The last part of climb is through area called Jimenameshing with large boulders and several switch backs. Finally you will reach to the big cairn on top of the Yale La, with the views towards the snowy mountains around Lingshi and Basingthang Peaks to the south. Most people travel between Lingshi and Thimphu use the Yale la, so the trail is well marked. The decent joins the Jaradingthang Chhu, which becomes the Thimphu Chhu. At around 4150m, you will come across a small chorten from where the trail takes an easterly direction following the river. The campsite is at shoudu ( 13, 380ft/ 4080ft) just after crossing a sandy slope.
Trek Day 8:
Shodu 13,380ft/4080m) to Barshong (12, 200ft / 3720m)
Today pass the deserted military camp ad follow the trail to the river through the lime stone valley. Monks use this caves in the rocks for mediation and Shabdrung is said to have mediated there. Cross the Main River, which offer good views of giant rock faces and waterfalls? Towards the end of the today’s trek the trail gradually ascends 130m to Barshong Dzong ruins (12, 200ft/3720m). There is a muddy campsite below the Dzong or you can carry on for 1- 1.5hr to a better campsite. Barshong Village is a very small, consisting less the half a dozen of houses.
Trek Day 9:
Barshong (12, 220ft /3720m) to Dolam Khencho (10,790ft / 3290m)
Time 4 hr
Distance 9.3 miles /15km
Altitude gain 0ft 0m)
Altitude loss 1410ft / 430m
After crossing a side stream, Tshongjug Chhu, makes a steep descent on a rocky trail ending at the Wong Chhu or Thimphu Chhu. There are several ups and downs and crossing of smaller side stream; the main river follows a very obvious, nearly perfect 90 degree corner, changing from west – east to the south. Reach a split in the trail, the one on the right descends to the camp site for tonight.
Trek Day 10:
Dolam Kencho (10,790ft / 3290m) to Dodena (8577ft / 2615m) and Thimphu (45 minutes drive)
Time 3 hr
Distance 4.3 miles /7km
Altitude Gain 525ft / 160m
Altitude Loss 2214ft/675m)
Climb back from the campsite up to the main trail to the cairn at 11, 315ft / 3450m, from where the route descends to a side stream (10, 070ft/3070m). There are small ups and downs followed by a couple of short steep switchbacks to descend a vertical cliff before finally reaching the last stretch to Dodena. The Trail descends through bamboo forest, following the mule trail high above the river until finally meets it again at Dodena. A large sign marks the one of the entry and exit point of Jigme Dorji National Park, and a beautiful styled covered wooden bridge marks the path to Cheri Gompa. Drive to Thimphu for a nice hot shower at your hotel.
After breakfast, you will be taken to the following places of cultural interest. The folk Heritage Museum: This museum lets you experience the Bhutanese way of life. Art and Craft Institute: This is a vocational training Institute where the art of painting, woodcraft and sculpturing are taught to students with the objective of preserving the rich and pristine heritage. The National Library: This repository houses ancient religious and historical manuscripts. Those of you interested in whetting your intellectual appetite may do so here. Lunch will be served at your Hotel. Afternoon you will visit the Drubthob Gompa Nunnnery: Nuns with sport short hair, who play a vital role in the religious affairs of the local community, are enrolled here. Thereafter you will be taken to have a “Birds Eye view of Thimphu valley. Enroute, you shall visit the mini zoo to see the National Animal ” Takin. After seeing this place you will have a free time to explore the Handicraft Emporium and other local Handicrafts shops to experience the beauty of Bhutanese Textiles. Dinner and Overnight: Hotel
Thimphu – Paro
This morning visits The Textile Museum: This museum displays the finest art of weaving from various regions of Bhutan. You will also be able to see the different fabrics and the intricacies of weaving. There will be a brief audiovisual program on textiles of Bhutan. Bhutan Post (Post Office): As the sole postal organization of Bhutan, Bhutan Post offers you the finest collections of stamps and post cards. You can purchase the finest stamps and cards as a souvenir. The Memorial Chorten built in the honor of the late King of Bhutan; this Chorten is centrally located for young and old people to pray. Afternoon you will depart to Paro for your overnight hotel. We will take 2 hours leisurely drive following the Thimphu River till the confluence of Thimphu and Paro River, Chunzom. At the confluences, here your will see three forms of Chorten in different styles i.e. Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese. The drive then follows the Paro River upwards passing through several villages. Enroute you will view Tachogang Monastery, (the monastery of the Excellent horse) built by Thangthong Gyalpo (Iron chain builder in Bhutan) and his Iron chain bridge can be still seen. Drive though village of Shaba and then to you hotel at Paro. Evening at leisure. Farewell Dinner and Overnight: Hotel
Paro – Airport
Depart for Paro airport for your onward flight having experienced the best of Bhutan.
Note: This itinerary is a sample, intended to give you a general idea of the likely trip schedule and everything that you will be able to see during your trip. Numerous factors such as weather, the physical ability of the participants, may dictate itinerary changes either before or while on the trip. We reserve the right to change this schedule in the interest of trip participant’s safety, comfort and general well being. I have included everything that is feasible for you all to see during the trip.
Central Bhutan Bicycle Tour:
Arrive Paro International Airport
If flying in from Delhi-Kathmandu, one will experience from the left hand side of the plane breath taking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan peaks including Bhutan’s sacred Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. On arrival at the Airport, representatives of Bhutan Majestic Travel will receive and escort to Hotel. Lunch at the Hotel. Discuss the Tour Programme with the Tour Guide and rest leave for acclimatization. Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Paro – Paro
The entire Paro valley is relatively flat and is a great start to your first day of bicycling. Bicycle to Drukgyal Dzong (a ruined fortress 16 Kms away from Paro town). Although in ruins, this Dzong is of great historical importance. It was here that the Bhutanese finally defeated the invading Tibetans and drove them back. One a clear day one can see Mount Jumolhari, Abode of the Goddess Jumo, rising 7,314 meters. Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon: Visit Ta Dzong, the National Museum of Bhutan. This was the watch tower of the Paro Rinchen Pong Dzong. It was converted to the National Museum in 1968, and is located on a hill above the Paro Dzong overlooking the Paro valley. Visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. This massive fortress is located in Paro valley and is approached by a gently sloping flagstone road and a beautiful covered wooden bridge. Today the Dzong is the administrative seat of the district of Paro, and it also contains a state monastic community of approximately 200 monks. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb wood work, is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. This Dzong was built in 1646 AD. Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Paro – Thimphu
After breakfast, either drive or ride bicycles to Thimphu, the capital city. The drive meanders along the Paro and Thimphu River and takes approximately 2 hours (65 kilometers) by car and by Bike it depends on ones’ riding speed. The gradient of the road is excellent for bicycling as there are no steep climbs or descents. Check into Hotel Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon, visit the Memorial Chorten (huge stupa) built in the memory of the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who reigned from 1952-1972. Visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Thimphu – Thimphu
Morning: Bicycle to the Simtokha Dzong, the oldest Dzong in the country (built in 1629 AD). Opportunity to visit with some of the monks and observe life within the monastery. In the old days, the oldest son of every family was offered to a monastery where the child grew up as a monk. Even now, it is not uncommon for some families to continue the practice. Visit the Handicrafts Emporium where Bhutanese textiles and other handicrafts are displayed and can be purchased. Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon, visit Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses part of the Ministries, the offices of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the State Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot. Visit the Painting School where traditional art is still practiced through the instructions in the art of painting Thankas (sacred Buddhist scrolls).
Bicycle to Pangri Zampa Monastery which is just beyond Dechencholing (5 Kms from Thimphu). This monastery was the residence of the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel when he arrived in Bhutan in 1616 AD. Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Thimphu – Punakha/Wangdue
After an early breakfast, set out for Punakha and Wangdi. On the way, stop at Dochula Pass 3150mts. (10,00 ft) for a hot cup of tea/coffee and to enjoy a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan mountain ranges (on a clear day). From Dochula, bicycle down into Wangdi which is located 51 Kms down. It is an exhilarating ride. After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong which houses the district administration offices. It is also the winter residence of the State Monastic Body and its Chief Abbot, the Je Khenpo. Punakha was the former capital of Bhutan. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pho Chu (Male River) and the Mo Chu (Female River). This Dzong was built in 1637 AD. Visit Wangdiphodrang Dzong which is 13 Kms from Punakha. This Dzong and the town is perched on a hill, between two rivers and has a spectacular view. The Dzong was built in 1638 AD; a year after the Punakha Dzong was built. A tour vehicle will follow the bicycle group at all times in case of emergency or general weariness. Overnight: Hotel in Wangdue or Punakha
Punakha/Wangdue – Trongsa
Drive to Trongsa, and on the way guests can bicycle certain stretches of the road. The terrain has steep ascents and descents and has some spectacular scenery. Overnight: Hotel in Trongsa.
Trongsa – Bumthang
After breakfast visit the ancient Watch Tower in Trongsa. This structure sits atop a hillock overlooking the Trongsa Dzong and town. Ancient armors are displayed in the Watch Tower. Visit the Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the present Royal family of Bhutan. It was built in 1648 AD and is one of the most beautiful Dzongs in Bhutan. It is presently the administrative seat of the Trongsa district and the home of the monastic school. Built split levels on a narrow spur, this Dzong is an architectural marvel. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see for many miles. In the old days, it was the vigilance point for both the eastern and western trade routes, thus a strategically important Dzong. After a light refreshment at the hotel, drive to Bumthang. After crossing a high pass, guests can bicycle all the way to Bumthang. The road is broad and all downhill after the pass. Overnight: Hotel in Bumthang.
Bumthang – Bumthang
After breakfast, bicycle around the most beautiful valley in Bhutan. It is possible to bicycle a radius of 60 Kms around the valley. Overnight: Hotel in Bumthang
Bumthang – Ura –Bumthang
After breakfast bicycle to Ura valley some 69 Kms from Bumthang. Ura is another beautiful valley over 9,500 ft high. Sightsee in Ura valley and drive back to Bumthang. Overnight: Hotel in Bumthang
Day 10 Bumthang to Wangdue
(197 Kms). On the way as and when possible, guests can bicycle certain stretches of the road. Overnight: Hotel in Wangdue
Wangdue – Thimphu
Drive to Thimphu. After crossing Dochula Pass guests can bicycle all the way to Thimphu (26 Kms downhill). Sight seeing in Thimphu and if the day falls on the weekend visit the famous week end market in Thimphu where the local populace gathers for weekly shopping for produce. Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Thimphu – Paro
Guests can either drive to Paro or bicycle. Check into hotel and have lunch. After lunch hike to the view point of the famous Taktsang Monastery. The hike takes about 4 hours round trip. Evening: Stroll around Paro town and overnight hotel in Paro
Drive to airport for departure, where your Guide and Driver would bid you farewell.
Flowers & Monasteries of Central & West Bhutan GROUP 10 Nights
One of the ancient names given to Bhutan was ‘Southern Valleys of Medicinal Herbs’ and thanks to the enlightened
leadership of Bhutan’s kings and the strong conservation ethic of the Bhutanese people an estimated 770 species of
birds and more than 50 species of rhododendron alone, besides a large variety of medicinal plants and orchids, are
found in the country. Soon after Losar, the Bhutanese New Year, the glories of the Kingdom’s flora slowly begin to
unfold, the landscape sheds its winter coat taking on every shade of green, up at the Dochula Pass two varieties of
Primula Denticulata emerge through the frost covered ground, the Chele La is carpeted in Edelweiss and in early June rhododendrons are in full bloom. Encompassing seven valleys, of differing altitudes, and three high passes at this time of the year makes for the perfect experience for culture and nature lovers alike.
Traveling through Bhutan’s ethereal landscape on the way to the wild centre, we pass countless golden roofed
monasteries and prayer flag covered hilltops, navigate endless emerald valleys and ancient forests with snow-capped
Himalayan peaks in the background throughout. This ten-night package promises an easy yet comprehensive experience of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, with accommodation split between the luxury resort of Uma Paro,
and carefully-sourced, traditional hotels in the less developed regions. The adventure starts with an exploration of the bustling markets and colorful museums of the capital Thimpu, before heading over the spectacular Dochu La (pass) and following the Mo Chhu (Mother River) to Punakha and the Divine Madman’s temple Chimmi Lhakhang. Sampling this Himalayan kingdom’s inimitable Buddhist culture along the way, our journey continues on through the Black Mountains past yaks grazing on dwarf bamboo, reaching the sacred heart of Bhutan, the four valleys of Bumthang – beautifully rustic and deeply spiritual at the same time. On the return journey we stopover in Phobjikha an unusually wide, beautiful alpine wetland valley where the rare Black Necked Cranes fly down from Tibet to spend the winter.
Once settled into the comfortable Uma Paro, the main temples, monasteries and dzongs of the Paro Valley are on our Flowers & Monasteries Central & West Bhutan GROUP 10 Nights doorstep with the awe inspiring walk up to the Tiger’s Nest monastery as a fitting highlight to end this exploration of the Land of the Thunderdragon.
Arrival at Paro International Airport, Thimpu Sightseeing your Uma Paro guide will welcome you at the airport
for the one hour scenic drive to Thimpu, winding alongside two snaking rivers and passing countless fine examples of the quaint, traditional farmhouse architecture of Bhutan. The capital itself sprawls up the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chhu and is the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimpu is a bustling town where traditional ways mingle with modern introductions. After check in to our hotel in the heart of the capital, the sightseeing begins.
Duration of drive: 1 – 1.5 hours (50km)
Overnight: Jhomalhari Hotel, Thimpu
Thimpu Sightseeing, Punakha Valley via Dochu La, Chimmi Lhakhang after breakfast, the sightseeing begins in
earnest and depending on opening hours, guests’ interests and time, your guide may include some of the following in your private schedule:
The National Memorial Chorten, Trashi Chhoe Dzong: the “fortress of the glorious religion”, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, the National Textile Museum, the Weekend Market, the Folk Heritage Museum, or you may wish to just go window shopping or perhaps try the one hour walk up to Tango Monastery at the head of the valley. It is then time to head off on a truly awe inspiring road as it zigzags up to the 3,140m-high mountain pass of Dochu La with its forests of fluttering prayer flags, maze of memorial chortens and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the main Himalayan range. As one arrives at the pass the air is heady with the scent of Daphne, a small shrub with fragrant white flowers, covering the slopes where a myriad of colorful prayer flags stand. The Daphne bark is used to make traditional Bhutanese paper, which has the rare characteristic of being termite proof and thus highly valued for writing religious scriptures. Etched against the brilliant blue winter sky are the magnificent white blossoms of the Magnolia Campbelli adorning the tall, leafless trees. The magnolias and the rhododendrons (etho methos) will continue to flower for the next two months. The scarlet rhododendrons being succeeded by other varieties: deep and pale pink, lavender, white, yellow, and orange. Some 54 varieties of this magnificent species are found in Bhutan.
Time to stretch the legs with the short walk across rice paddies to Chimmi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to
Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint known popularly as “Divine Madman.” infamous for his colourful and
sometimes outrageous adherence to the Buddhist faith. The temple sits atop a picturesque hill surrounded by rice fields. Drukpa Kuenley built a chorten on the site in the 14th century, and it has long been a pilgrimage site for
Duration of drive: 3 – 4 hours (76km)
Overnight: Meri Puensum Hotel, Punakha
Punakha Dzong, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong and Bazaar, Pele La, Chendebji Chorten, Trongsa An early morning start for further exploration of the Punakha valley, low enough (1200m) to allow bananas and oranges to grow. The destination for an optional early morning walk or by car – the massive architectural edifice of the 17th century Punakha Dzong (fortress/monastery) soon looms into view. Built in 1637 by Shabdung Nawang Namgyal in a commanding position at the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu (Father and Mother rivers).
Bhutan’s second oldest dzong goes by the full name of Druk Pungthang Decchen Phodrang (the Palace of Great
Happiness) and is arguably the country’s most attractive. It served as the seat of the Kingdom’s government until the
time of the second King and today serves as the winter home of Je Khempo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a
retinue of 1,000 monks.
After a stroll through the quaint bazaar at Wangdue Phodrang to visit its dzong it is time to leave for Trongsa. The
pass to cross today is the Pele La (3420m) in the Black Mountains with countless yaks grazing on the dwarf bamboo
found here. The village of Sephu provides a shopping opportunity in the form of woven bamboo mats and baskets and soon after guests can stretch their legs with a visit to Chendebji Chorten, a stupa built in the style of Swayambhunath (the monkey temple) in Kathmandu, which covers an evil spirit which was killed at this spot. Winding again through forest there is a good chance to see monkeys before reaching a spectacular viewpoint across a gorge to Trongsa Dzong. Our hotel for the night can be seen to the left of the town and though you can almost touch it the road teases you and takes another detour (14km) before reaching Trongsa.
Duration of drive: 5 – 6 hours (135km)
Overnight: Yangkhil Hotel, Trongsa
Trongsa Dzong, Ta Dzong, Weaving Villages, Bumthang Built in 1648, Trongsa Dzong was the ancestral home of
the ruling dynasty and the district administration office of the Trongsa district. Backing on to the mountain and built on
several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the
routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many kilometres and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Furthermore, the Dzong is built in such a way that in the old days, no matter what direction a traveler came from, he was obliged to pass by the Dzong. The Ta-Dzong, an ancient Watch Tower of the Trongsa Dzong is located on top of a steep hill overlooking the town and is worth the climb. The Journey to Bumthang is along one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan, passing pretty villages and monasteries dotted across wide open farm and wood land and several weaving concerns before entering Jakar, the market town serving the four valleys that encompass Bumthang. Home for the next 3 nights is the River Lodge Guesthouse, full of rustic but simple charm with most of what appears on the dining table actually produced on the farm.
Duration of drive: 2.5 – 3 hours 68km
Overnight: River Lodge, Bumthang
Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Palace, Lamey Goemba, Kurjey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang Bumthang is the name for a region of four valleys in the East of Bhutan centred on the town of Jakar, which is the largest between Thimpu and Tashigang in the East. The area is of great spiritual significance in Bhutan, being strongly associated with myth and legend as well as more corporeal manifestations, such as the great Buddhist preacher, Pema Lingpa, to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its ancestry. The area is truly unspoilt and is famous for the production of honey, as well as cheese, apples, apricots and Red Panda beer.
There is plenty to see and do during our time in Central Bhutan and your guide can help you plan a suitable itinerary. There are numerous day walks and places to visit including Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Palace, Lamey Goemba and the impressive Kurjey Lhakhang (temple) on the western side of Bumthang Chhu (river). Crossing the river, on the eastern bank visit Tamshing temple – the most important Nyingma Buddhist temple in Bhutan. Jakar Dzong (‘Castle of the White Bird’) was built by Minjur Tenpa, the third Druk Desi (Temporal ruler) in 1646 A.D. It is probably one of the biggest Dzongs in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about 1 km in circumference. There is also great scope for local village walks, along with a visit to the homeopathic hospital, the cheese factory and a stroll around Jakar town itself.
Overnight: River Lodge, Bumthang
Ura Valley and Village Explore the Choskhor Valley and drive out to the easternmost valley in Bumthang to Ura
Village (1.5 hours) which is said to be home to some of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. This traditional, picturesque medieval village and its temple sound and echo from Bhutan’s past especially when one walks the cobbled walkways and meets the villagers who still wear sheepskins on their backs (used to sleep on at night). Depending on the time spent in the Ura valley there may still be time to visit Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and/or take a short hike to Thangbi Monastery in the afternoon.
Overnight: River Lodge, Bumthang.
Bumthang, Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Goemba, Carpet Weaving, Nature Study Centre– After three nights in the idyllic apple orchard setting of the Swiss Guesthouse overlooking the Bhutan’s spiritual heartland it is finally time
to start back west to explore the exquisite sweeping, glacial Phobjikha Valley. With its alpine setting on the western
slope of the Black Mountains, the valley is famous as the seasonal home of the rare black-necked cranes, who spend
the winter months here (the cranes can be observed from the last week in October through to mid-February). This is a designated conservation area and has a nature study centre for conservation studies and education of local farmers
and students funded by the Bhutanese government, with assistance from the World Wildlife Fund. The sweeping views from the restaurant and rooms of the newly opened Dewachen Hotel take the eye across the wetlands sprinkled with tiny goembas and lhakhangs (monasteries and temples) which guests may wish to walk to… the lack of powerlines here will please any keen photographers and birders should not miss a visit to the wildlife viewing hides. This valley also boasts a carpet weaving concern and the 16th century Gangtey Goemba in a commanding position at the head of the valley. This monastery includes a school, meditation facilities and quarters for monks, and is home to the mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, one of the region’s historically important Buddhist treasure discoverers.
Duration of drive: 5 – 6 hours (130km)
Overnight: Hotel Dewachen, Phobjikha
Phobjikha, Uma Paro Today’s drive is the longest of the tour but with the comforts of a massage, swim and great food to look forward to at day’s end back at Uma Paro. Time to retrace our steps back over the Dochu La for a second chance of that wonderful view of the Himalayan range. Returning to the Chuzum or confluence we catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese style which were built to ward of evil spirits near the checkpoint.
Time permitting the journey can be broken with a visit to Tamchog Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo or the Iron
Bridge Builder as he is known. This former saint from the 14th century introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is by one of these bridges. On the final leg the road
snakes alongside the Pa Chhu, through apple orchards and rice paddies, past quaint homesteads to our home in the Himalaya, Uma Paro. After check-in and a show round, we invite you to spend the rest of the day relaxing around the property, enjoying the facilities or perhaps trying some other activity like the Bhutanese national sport of archery or maybe a therapy such as the traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath.
Duration of Drive: 5.5 – 6 hours (150km)
Overnight: Uma Paro
Daywalk Zurig Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, Ta Dzong, Paro Town & Kyichu Lhakhang Wind through pine forests high above Uma Paro to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zuri Dzong. Traverse across to Ta Dzong, housing Bhutan’s National Museum (open Tuesday-Saturday) with magnificent views over Paro, and on down to visit Rinpung Dzong – ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. The trail then leads across Paro Chhu (river) via a traditional covered bridge (Nyamai Zam) and then past the main archery ground, Ugyen Pelri Palace and into Paro town. A few kilometers north of Paro, we pay our respects at Kyichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magic orange tree which bears fruit all year round.
Duration: 5 – 7 hours (depending on time spent in National Museum and Paro)
Flowers & Monasteries Central & West Bhutan GROUP 10 Nights June 2009 PB
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Guided with picnic
Overnight: Uma Paro
Highlights of the Paro Valley – Taktsang Walk & Drukgyel Dzong One of the most amazing and important pieces of architecture in Bhutan, Taktsang Goemba defies logic, gravity, and reason. Legend has it that this cliffside was where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet. To avoid the hot sun an early start is advisable for the two-hour climb, via the cafeteria, to the Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. Descend steeply, then climb up to the monastery, passing a waterfall (visit monastery if it is open – with sufficient notice Uma Paro can arrange a permit). We retrace our steps or alternatively (time permitting) head further up to several remote temples and monasteries. Drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control northern route to Tibet. The route is picturesque, and the site of dzong magnificent (from here, only two-day hike to the border with Tibet, dominated by Mt Jhomalhari). In the evening your group is invited for a firelit farewell dinner either in the courtyard at Uma Paro or at our Bukhari restaurant.
Duration: 7 – 8 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard (ascent should not be attempted until at least third day in Bhutan, after acclimatization
has occurred, riding ponies are available at an additional charge)
Guided with picnic
Overnight: Uma Paro
Transfer to Paro airport and fly back to your home.
Spititual Tour to the Land of Thunder Dragon (07 nights/08 days)
On your spiritual journey, you discover Fortress, monasteries and temples; learn about Bhutan’s lovely people and their ways of life; and encounter the country’s historical past and present; meet inspiring hermits, be immersed in the murmuring sounds of monks and in the flow of the energy of meditation. Tours are designed to give you a firsthand experience on many aspects of Bhutanese life and culture. On a fascinating journey into dense endless jungles, vibrant landscapes and rough rushing rivers, you may see some of the world’s highest snow peaked mountains, and meet golden langur and others wild animals in their natural habitat. This is an exceptionally breathtaking journey that each faithful person must experience once in a lifetime.
Arrive in Paro international Drive to Hotel for checkin. Vist to Kyichu temple to receive blessing and good luck for the pilgrimage ahead. The Kyichu Temple is one of the 108 temple built in 7 century A.D by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet as a missionary project to pin down the left foot of ogress.After lunch visit a tiny Paro town for orientation with the place and people and than walk up to the Paro Dzong from the Traditional wooden Bridge called Nyame Zam, literally means bridge with no fish. Towards late afternoon you will be walking together with students to their village home. Welcome dinner in the evening.
This morning a scenic drive to Chelela pass at an altitude of 3900m, if weather permits you will be seeing an elelgant Jhomolhari, the Kingdom’s sacred peak and some other snow mountains. In the Afternoon visit to Ta Dzong, literally means watchtower to safeguard the main structure of the dzong below from the Tibetan invaders. It has been converted to house the National Museum in 1968. It has 6 galleries and a visit to the museum gives us an idea of cultural and ecological richness of Bhutan in a very short time. Dungtse Lhakhang, only temple in the form of a chorten ‘stupa’ built by the famous Iron brigde builder in 15th century and the ruin Drukgyel Dzong ‘fortress of the victorious drukpas’ was built in 1649 to celebrate a decisive victory over Tibetan forces and to curtail further invasion.
Day 03: Paro –
Thimphu (58 km 2:15 hours)
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan which takes about 2 hours. Visit colorful weekend market, if it is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and familiarization tour of the capital.
After lunch visit to Folk Heritage Museum, it was established to preserve the remains of yesterday and ensure the survival of the culture of today so that the future generation can know and appreciate their past, which after all has shaped their present. The National Library, The national Institute for Thirteen Arts, Dechenphodrang monastic school and BBS Tower (Sangay Gang) view point and Mini Zoo.
Thimphu – Gangtey (Phobjikha valley 133 Kms 5:30hrs)
Today, we drive to Gangte (Phoblikha-glacial valley) via Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang valley for five hours. En-route stop at Dochula pass at 3140m, on clear day can view the eastern Himalayas snow peak and also stop just before reaching Wangdue Phodrang Dzong to walk through one of the oldest clustered Rinchengang village
Day 05: Gangte – Trongsa (68 kms 3hrs)
This morning we will visit to 453 year old Gangte Gonpa, the most important monastery of the Pedling tradition of Buddhism in western Bhutan. From monastery we will do the nature trail walk through the pine forest and crane roosting place. The valley is one of the most beautiful spots in the country and home to endanger Black Necked Cranes that migrate from northern Tibet to escape its harsh winter. En-route stop at a Centre for Crane Observation and Education in the valley.After lunch drive toward east through Pelela pass 3300m to Trongsa Dzong one of the largest and the most impressive dzong in Bhutan, signifying the magnificent work of Buddhist architecture. It has been described as being perched so high on a mountain that the clouds float below it. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The first two hereditary kings ruled from this dzong, and it is still a tradition that the crown prince first serves as Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. The 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk was born here in Trongsa.
Day 06 :
Trongsa – Bumthang (68 km 3 hours)
Today’s onward journey begins with a visit to Kunga Rabten Palace the winter residence of the 2nd King. This palace is 23Kms south of Trongsa. Back to Trongsa and drive upward across the Yotongla pass 3425m as the road opens into Chhume Valley dotted with number of villages and temples. In the evening visit Bumthang town and pay homage to Jarkar Lhakhang, the statue of the Guru Pema Jungney in the Lhakhang was believed to be an artwork of thousands of dakinis (female celestial divine beings) and not one of human. Bumthang is the most historical valley visited by the great Buddhist saint from India, Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century A.D. Bumthang also served as the home of famous saints of Nyingma School, such as Longchen Rabjampa (1308-1521) of Tibet who was exiled to Bhutan for more than 10 years and Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Longchen Rabjampa, to whose descendants the present dynastry traces its ancestry.
Bumthang holy pilgrimage
Next morning visit to Jakar Dzong, the ‘dzong of the white bird’ it has a picturesque location overlooking the spectacular Chhoekhor valley. Jampa Lhakhang, among the 108 lhakahng built by Songtsen Gampo, King of Tibet in 7th century A.D. to pin down demon’s left knee. Each November, one of the most spectacular festivals in Bhutan, jampa Lhakahng Drup is held and on one evening of the festival, the lhakhang is lit by fire dance to bless the infertile women. Kurjey Lhakhang, the actual Kurjey complex consists of the three temples against the hillside facing south. The first temple on the right was built on the rock with the imprint of the body of Guru Padmasambhava. King Ugyen Wangchuk built the second temple to house a monumental statue of Guru Rinpoche. The third temple is a 3-storied lhakahng houses statues of wrathful deities and life size statue of Zhabdrung and the four temporal rulers. It was built by the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Chhoden Wangchuk. Tamshing Lhakahng, the most important Nyingma temples was built by Pema Lingpa in 1501 with the help of dakinis (female celestial beings). The inner walls contain the original unrestored images that were painted by Pema Lingpa himself.
After lunch visit to Membar Tsho (the Burning lake), which is actually a narrow gorge of river from where Terton Pema Lingpa revealed the treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche. If you are fortunate, perhaps you may be able to spot or see a temple of Guru Rinpoche in the lake. In the evening visit to Namkhai Nyingpo Monastery to see monks chanting ritual for world peace.
Bumthang – Punakha (218kms 8hrs)
After breakfast we drive back to Punakha and in the evening visit to Chimi Lhakhang, the famous fertility monastery built in 1456. A pleasant short walk through the paddy fields and farm houses ends at Chimi Lhakahng, a temple dedicated to yogi saint Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as ‘the divine madman’ (1455-1529).
Punakha – Thimphu (77kms 3:15hrs)
Today morning you will visit Punakha Dzong, the second of Bhutan’s dzongs built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Rinpoche. Punakha was the country’s winter capital for more than 300 years. It is still the winter residence of the Central monk Body. The coronation of the 1st King Ugyen Wangchuk was held here at Punakha dzong on 17 December, 1907. The very secret relic called Rangjung Kharsapani, a statue of Avalokitesvara, which appeared miraculously from the vertebra of Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of the Drukpa School in Tibet, at the time of his cremation was placed in this dzong. Hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, perched high on the strategic ridge above Punakha valley in Yebesa, 7 kms from Punakha. The chorten contains the images of all the manifestation of the wrathful Dorji Phurpa (vajra kila). It was built to help remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world, and the well-being and long life of our beloved monarch. After lunch drive to Thimphu and evening shop
Thimphu – Paro (58 kms 2:15hrs)
In the morning drive to Paro and after early lunch hike to the Taktshang (Tiger’s lair) the most famous and sacred hanging cliff monastery in Bhutan. This place is especially venerated because of its association with Guru Rinpoche, who is said to have flown to Paro Takshang in the form of Guru Dorji Drolo, mounted on a flaming dakini-tigress in the 747 A.D. This is perfect opportunity for those who wish to connect with guru Rinpoche on the final day in Bhutan
West to East Bhutan Tour
ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU:
On arrival at Paro International Airport you will be received by our representative Bhutan Himalayan Holidays. Overnight: Hotel in Paro
DAY 02 PARO :
After breakfast visit Drugyal Fortress (a ruined fortress),Visit Kyichu Monastery. Built in 659 AD by the King Songtsen Gompo of Tibet as one of the 108 such monasteries he built in various places to spread Buddhism.After Lunch visit National Museum which used to be a watch tower for Paro Rimpong Dzong (Fortress). It was converted into Museum in 1968. Visit Paro Rimpong Dzong, the Dzong was built in 1646 AD, and walk down to town one the way you can see the traditional wood bridge of ancient style. Visit a typical Bhutanese farmhouse and sightseeing trip to the Paro town.Overnight: Hotel in Paro
DAY 03 PARO –
A DAY EXCURSION TO TAKTSHANG MONASTERY:
Drive up to Satsam Chorten (10 km from Paro town) and from there walk up to Taktsang Monastery. The name Taktsang means “Tiger’s Nest “. The Monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff drop of nearly 4000 ft. and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan meditated on this spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress.Picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. The round hike takes about 4 Hr.Overnight: Hotel in Paro.
Drive to Haa valley, Visit the small town in Haa which was recently open for tourism. It is located to the extreme western part of the kingdom and drive back from Chellela Pass where you can see beautiful snow capped mountains ranges and rhododendron flowers in bloom.A picnic lunch at Chellela passes. On the way back walk to Chellela Nunnery. Overnight: Hotel in Paro.DAY 05 PARO – THIMPHU: Visit Simtokha Dzong on the way. This is one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan. It was built in 1629 AD. It houses the largest monastic schools in the country. Visit Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses part of the government Ministries, the office of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the Central Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks. Lunch hotel in Thimphu.Afternoon: Visit the Memorial Chorten (a great stupa) built in memory of the Third King of Bhutan who reigned the Kingdom from 1952-1972. Visit the mini Zoo where the national animals were kept and drive to Sangeygang where you can have a spectacular view of Thimphu valley. Visit nunnery in Zulikha. Visit the Wood Craft and Painting school where traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive through the instructions of painting and curving. Visit the Handicrafts Emporium where Bhutanese textiles and other arts and crafts are displayed and can be purchased. Visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved.Overnight in Hotel in Thimphu
THIMPHU – TRONGSA:
Drive to Trongsa (200km) the journey takes about 6 hours through Dochula Pass (3150m). On the way stop for a photo stop at Dochula Pass which is 26km away from Thimphu valley, and for Tea and snacks and to enjoy the most spectacular view of eastern Himalayan snow capped Mountains and also the great view of Gasa Dzong at a distance (If weather is clear) and descends down to subtropical area Wangdue Phodrang and again it ascends up to the Pelela Pass which is 3340m where you can see wonderful view of Himalayan Mountains and this Pass separates the western from the other regions of the country. Lunch in Chendebji. Overnight: Hotel in Trongsa.
TRONGSA – BUMTHANG:
Visit the Trongsa Dzong, one of the largest Dzongs in the country, the ancestral home of our Royal family. It was built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the third Desi, in 1648. The Dzong now is the office of the district Administration and central monastic body. Visit also the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) and stroll through the small Trongsa town. Lunch in Trongsa. Afternoon. Drive to Bumthang Valley across the Yutola Pass. The journey takes about 3 hrs and is one of the most scenically beautiful journeys to Bhutan, Enjoy the hospitality of Bhutanese family in farm house or guest house in Bumthang.Over night: Guest house in Bumthang
BUMTHANG – SIGHT SEEING:
Visit the village and explore the beautiful valley of Bumthang. Drive through the picturesque valley of Bumthang and visit Jambay Lhakhang Kurje Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, and Kuenshusum Lhakhang. Lunch in Guest house.
Afternoon, Visit Jakar Dzong, built by Minjur Tempa, the 3rd Desi in 1646 AD (Desi means temporary ruler appointed by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal) and drive to Member (Tsho) the burningOver night: Hotel in Bumthang.
BUMTHANG – MONGAR:
After breakfast, drive to Mongar. Packed Lunch will be served on the way. You can pass through the Bumthang and enroute explore Ura valley, one of the most beautiful valley of Bhutan. There you can see the typical Bhutanese farm houses. Over night: Hotel in Mongar.
MONGAR – TRASHIGANG:
After breakfast, visit Mongar Dzong. This Dzong was rebuilt in 1953 and is quite small. There are around 50 to 60 monks in the Dzong, many of them young boys eight to ten years old. The image of in the Dzong are Buddha of long live as well as Guru Rimpoche ( One who brought Buddhism in Bhutan) and drive further to Trashigang. On the way to Trashigang, we have to cross over Korila Pass. Visit Trashigang Dzong which is on the high promontory that over looks the confluence of the Drangme Chu (River) and Gamri Chu. It was built in 1667 by Mingyur Tenpa, Bhutan’s third Desi(Govener). Here you can see many Nomadic herdsmen (Brokpas) of Higher Himalayas. This day is perfect for Photography with these Nomadic Herdsmen. In the evening, visit to a near by village. Over night: Camp or farm houses.
TRASHIGANG – A DAY EXCURSION TO KHALING:
Drive early morning to Khaling, visit Khaling women weaving centre. Over night: Camp or farm houses.
TRASHIGANG – MONGAR:
Early morning drive to Gom Kora. It is the small temple in the east and its correct name is Gomphu Kora. Gomphu means the sacred meditation site of Guru Padmasamva and Kora means circumambulation. The Guru meditated here and left a body impression on the rock, similar to that in Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang. Visit the Chorten and drive to Mongar.Over night: Hotel in Mongar.
MONGAR – BUMTHANG:
After breakfast, drive to Bumthang. Packed lunch will be served on the way. If you have time in the evening visit the Wangdicholing Palace (the old ruins Palace), where the residence for the 1st and 2nd Kings. In the evening, stroll in the town. Dinner and over night in a Bhutanese Farm House to see the Bhutanese way of Life.
Over night: Guest house in Bumthang.
BUMTHANG – GANGTEY VALLEY:
Drive to Gangtey valley which takes about 5 hours journey and it is a beautiful valley situated at an altitude of 3000m, this valley was open its route very recently. During winter one can see the endangered species of bird (Black Naked Crane). Lunch in Phubjikha.Over night: Hotel in Gangtey valley.
GANGTEY VALLEY –PARO:
Drive to Paro via Punakha and Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers with the wonderful view of Punakha Dzong. The names of the rivers are Phochu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River). This Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the district Administration. Lunch in Dochula Pass. Afternoon drive to Paro. Over night: Hotel in Paro.
DAY 16 PARO:
Early morning drive to Paro International Airport with our representative for departure & farewell.
Bhutan- The Last Shangrila (07 nights/08 days)
Day 01 :
Arrival Arrive Paro international airport by Druk Air. You will be received by our representative from Bhutan Himalayan Holidays, Drive to Thimphu. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02 :
After Breakfast we will take to Thimphu valley for sightseeing. Visit to National Library,Painting School,Traditional Medicine Institute -the traditional Himalayan herbal medicines abundant in Kingdom is manufactured here.Textile and Folk Heritage Museum.Memorial Chorten-built in the memory of Bhutan’s third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Father of Modern Bhutan.Trashichhodzong; the beautiful fortress/monastery which houses Secretariat building, King’s Throne room and other government’s offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot of Monastic Body. Next to Handicrafts Emporium; it displays wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products. Leisure in the Capital. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03 :
Thimphu / Trongsa ( 200 Km, 6 Hours )
After breakfast, drive to Dochula pass (3,050m). If the weather permits, you can see a range of high Himalayan ranges. You can see 108 stupas at Dochula pass. After arriving Wangdue, lunch in the town. Proceed to Tongsa across Pelela pass (3,300 m ), the traditional boundary between east and west. We will stop for a while at Chendbji Chorten on the way to Trongsa, which was built in 18th century by a Lama named Shida, it is Nepalese in style with eyes painted at four cardinal points. Arrive Trongsa and check into the lodge. Dinner in the Hotel.
Day 04 :
Trongsa / Bumthang ( 68 Km, 3 Hours )
After breakfast drive to Trongsa Fortress built by Shabdrung in 1647. Visit to the Ta Fortress (watch tower).Then drive to Bumthang which is about 3 hours. 29 km from Trongsa road reaches the Yutong La pass (3,400m). Further 13 km ahead, the road enters into a wide open cultivated valley known as Chumey valley.On arrival in Bumthang, check into the Hotel. After lunch, visit to Kurje Lhakhang where the saint Padmasambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock., the Jambey Lhakhang (7th century temple), Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic school), the Jakar Fortress (administrative centre of the region) and Swiss Farm House. Overnight stay in Hotel in Bumthang.
Day 05 :
Bumthang / Punakha ( 205 Km, 6 Hours )
After breakfast we will see beautiful valley of Bumthang. Then proceed to Trongsa where lunch would be served in local restaurant.Before arriving Punakha visit Wangduephodrang Dzong. Leisure in the town.Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 06 :
Punakha / Paro ( 125 Km, 4.1/2 Hours )
After breakfast drive to Punakha Fortress, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers Male and Female. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and now it serves as the winter residence of the monastic body. The first King, Sir Ugyen Wangchuck was crowned here in 1907. After lunch, drive to Paro. On arrival in Paro, check into the hotel for overnight stay.
Day 07 :
After breakfast sightseeing in Paro valley. Visit to Ta Fortress, the National Museum of Bhutan,the Paro Fortress (Rinpung Fortress) built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After lunch drive to Drukgyel Fortress, built in 1647 by the Shabdrung to commemorate Bhutanese victory over the Tibetans in war of 1644. After that visit to Kyichu Monastery , one the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom.Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 08 :
After breakfast drive to the airport with our representative and farewell.