Tashi Delek and welcome to Bhutan. Our local representative will greet you at the only international airport in Bhutan that is located in Paro(2262m), Western Bhutan. Later we will head to Thimphu (50km, about 1.5h) via the sightseeing to Tamchog Lhakhang Iron Bridge, Buddha Dordenma Statue, National Memorial Chorten, or Bhutan Post Office Headquarters if time permit. Then check in at your sweet hotel in the capital city for a good rest while getting used to the time difference.
Tamchog Lhakhang (Tachog Lhakhang, Tamchog Lhakhang Iron Bridge) is located by the Paro river on the way to Thimphu from Paro. To get to the temple we must walk across a unique iron chain bridge with colorful fluttering prayer flags. Both the Lhakhang and the iron bridge are built by the saint Thangthong Gyalpo (1385-1464, Tibetan polymath). As the "King of the Empty Plain", Thangthong Gyalpo is now commonly known as the "Iron Bridge Maker". Enjoy his pioneering old-aged buildings left till today.
Buddha Dordenma Statue (Kuenselphodrang, Buddha Point) is a landmark of Thimphu city and you can have a great view of the Thimphu Valley there. With 51.5m in height, built of bronze and gilded in gold, the statue is famed as the largest sitting Shakyamuni statue in the world and there are 125,000 smaller Buddha statues placed within it. The statue was finished in 2015(built for 9years) to fulfill an ancient prophecy to emanate an aura of happiness and peace all over the world.
National Memorial Chorten is the most visited landmark of Thimphu which was built in 1974 in memory of the Third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk(the Father of Modern Bhutan) by his mother. Due to the idea of Jigme Dorji, this stupa is dedicated to world peace and prosperity. It is a Tibetan-style chorten with amazing paintings and brilliant sculptures, you can see the classical stupa pattern like the pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. It is also a good place to meet local Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day in a clockwise direction for praying.
Bhutan Post Office Headquarters (the General Post Office) is located near Changlam Square in Thimphu. It is home to the world's largest photo book and the most interesting collection of Bhutanese stamps. Only in this post office, you can get your personalized stamps (the stamp of your face). Great surprise to send your family and friends a postcard with your face on the stamp! (Open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 17:00 during Summer and 9:00 to 16:00 during Winter. Do note that it is closed for lunch from 13:00 to 14:00).
Today, we will explore Bhutan’s capital city Thimphu through Takin Sanctuary, Folk Heritage Museum, School of Arts and Crafts, Trashichho Dzong, Zilukha Nunnery, and Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory. Then have a good rest in your hotel.
Motithang Takin Preserve (Takin Sanctuary, Takin Zoo) is a wildlife reserve area for Takin (Budorcas taxicolor), the national animal of Bhutan. Drukpa Kunley (Divine Madman), the famous Tibetan saint, is said to be responsible for the creation of this unique creature called Takin which has the head of a goat and the body of a cow.
Folk Heritage Museum (Phelchey Toenkhyim) was established on July 28th, 2001 with the initiative of Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan). It is set inside a three-storied, 19th-century traditional house and provides visitors with a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle, artifacts from rural households, collection of typical household objects, tools, and equipment. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits, and customs as well as hosts educational programs for children.
School of Arts and Crafts (Thimphu National Institute for Zorig Chusum), established by the Government of Bhutan in 1971, is an institute that nurtures exemplary craftsmanship in Zorig Chusum (13 Arts and Crafts). In the Institute, thirteen skills are taught to students. These thirteen art forms are Traditional Painting (Lhazo), Sculpturing (Jinzo), Wood Carving (Shagzo), Calligraphy (Yigzo), Papermaking (Dezo), Bronze Casting (Lugzo), Embroidery (Tshemazo), Weaving (Thagzo), Carpentry (Parzo), Masonry (Dozo), Bamboo and cane weaving (Tshazo), Gold/Silver Smithy (Trozo), Black smithy (Garzo).
Tashichho Dzong (Thimphu Dzong) is located on the right side of the Wangchu River in the northern part of Thimphu city. As the "Fortress of the glorious religion", it houses the throne room of His Majesty the King, government offices, and the central monk body. Thimphu Dzong was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. There are two main entrances in the Tashichho Dzong. One leads to the administrative section to the south and the other one (at the north) leads to the monastic quarter where festivals and dances are performed.
Zilukha Nunnery (Drubthob Goemba Monastery) lies on the slopes of Thimphu and is above the Golf Course. Founded in 1976 by Rikel Jadren, an emanation of Thangthong Gyalpo from Tibet, it was designed in traditional Bhutanese fashion. Houses with around to 70 nuns, it is the biggest nunnery in Bhutan. A visit to the site can give you good chance to know about their lifestyle and get a nice view of the Tashichho Dzong.
Meals：Breakfast Lunch Dinner
In the morning, we will visit Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakhang. After sightseeing in Thimphu (2360m), we will drive to Punakha (74km, about 2.5h) via a visit to Dochula Pass and Wangduephodrang Dzong. After check-in at the hotel in Punakha you can have a rest.
Punakha Dzong stands at the junction of two great rivers called the Pho Chu river (father river) and Mo Chu river (mother river). As the palace of great happiness or bliss, it is also known as the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan. It was first built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and was played as the administrative center and the seat of the Bhutanese official till the capital city was moved from Punakha to Thimphu in 1955. Now, this Dzong is served as the winter residence for Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body. In 2011, the Dzong witnessed the royal wedding ceremony of the 5th Bhutan's King, His Majesty Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck to Queen Jetsun Pema. If you visit Bhutan in May, you will be amazed by the breathtaking purple-blue jacaranda blooms outside the fortress.
Chimi Lhakhang (Fertility Temple, Chime Lhakhang) is located on a hillock among the rice field and is a pilgrimage for a childless couple to seek blessings. The monk there blesses the couple with a wooden phallus that is believed to have the power to help the childless couple conceive a child. This temple is associated with the famous Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529, Divine Madman, Tibetan saint), who is famed for using his phallus to guide people to enlightenment and subdue demons. That is why you can see the symbol of phalluses scattered everywhere. You can buy handicraft souvenirs here with the phallic symbol in various colors, shapes, and sizes.
Dochula Pass (108 memorial chortens) is a place in honor of 108 Bhutanese Soldiers, there are 108 stupas called the "Druk Wangyal Chortens" representing each soldier's life that was lost in the war of December 2003. The pass is decorated with colorful prayer flags which are symbols of veneration and the best wishes for peace and prosperity for Bhutan. If the weather is good, the Dochula Pass will become the best platform to get breathtaking views of the snow-covered Himalayas.
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong (Wangdi) was founded in 1638 by Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), the national unifier of Bhutan, who was later dubbed the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche. The dzong is ideally placed for defense which atop a high ridge between the Punak Tsang Chhu and the Dang Chhu, clearly chosen for its commanding view of the Punakha river valley. The prominent position of the dzong and its imposing demeanor underscored the authority of the Zhabdrung in both civil and religious affairs.
Meals：Breakfast Lunch Dinner
This morning we will visit Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten before driving to Gangtey (75km, about 2.5h). In the afternoon, explore Black Necked Crane Center.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is on the west bank of the Mo Chhu river. After across a suspension bridge, it is about 45mins' walk from the main road to the Chorten(stupa). The stupa was built in 1990 by Ashi Tsering Yangdon Wangchuck(the wife of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck) to drive off evil forces and bring peace to Bhutan and the world. This Chorten was a typical combination of the art, architecture, and traditions of Bhutan. It took Bhutanese carpenters, painters, and sculptors 9 years to finish this Bhutan-style pagoda. Also, you will get an excellent view of the Punakha Valley and Punakha Dzong there.
In Black Necked Crane Information Centre, you can enter the observation room and use the telescope and spotting scopes to watch the Black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis). Every year (Oct. to Feb.), over 300 cranes migrate from Tibet to Bhutan for their winter months in Phobjikha Valley. As an indigenous Himalayan species, the black-necked cranes are the holy bird in the eyes of local people as it is a symbol of longevity. It was helpful for the center to protect and conserve the Black-necked crane and its species since 2003. It is a nice place to know more about the cranes and study their behavior.
Meals：Breakfast Lunch Dinner
This morning, we will have a light hike on Gangtey Nature Trail (4km, 1.5-2hours) that start from Gangtey Monastery(3030m) and ends in Khewang Lhakhang(2850m). It is the most beautiful and shortest of the existing nature trails in Bhutan. You can immerse yourselves in the beauty of the Phobjikha Valley(2840m) with farmhouses, dense pine forests, rhododendron forests, and bamboo plants on foot. During the winter, it may be a bonus to see the rare and endangered Black-neck Cranes. After visiting Gangtey Goemba, we’ll drive back to Paro (170km, about 5h).
Gangtey Monastery (Gangtey Goemba, Gangtey Gonpa) was first built in 1613 by Pema Thinley, the grandson, and re-embodiment of Pema Lingpa (the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche, 1450-1521). It is a beautiful temple architecture that stands on the hilltop and is a great spot to view the picturesque Phobjikha Valley. It is said that the Black-necked cranes circle the monastery three times when they arrive and three times when they leave. Each year on Nov. 11, the Black-necked Crane Festival with local songs, dramas, and masked dances is held at the courtyard of Gangtey Goemba to celebrate the arrival of the endangered bird migrating from the Tibetan Plateau.
Meals：Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Today we will drive from Paro city to the start point of the hiking route of the Tiger's Nest Monastery. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Tiger's Nest by foot (5 hours for a round trip), and you can have a rest at the view terrace which is located at the halfway point of the hiking road. Also, you can choose to ride a horse(self-paying) from the camp base to the Taktsang Cafeteria (lunch spot). Then visit Ta Dzong after trekking. Farewell dinner with Bhutan Culture Dance Show in Paro.
Tiger's Nest Monastery (Taktsang Goemba, Takhtsang Lakhang, Paro Taktshang), first built in 1692, is the iconic landmark of Bhutan. As a world cultural heritage, it is sited on the side of a cliff at a height of 900m above the Paro valley. It is said that Guru Rinpoche (a Buddhist saint) rode a tigress to the current site of the monastery and meditated in a cave for 3 years 3 months and 3 days. Now it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bhutan and a sacred religious site for Bhutanese to pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime.
National Museum of Bhutan (Ta Dzong) is famed as Bhutan's tallest building (a cylindrical structure), which is 22 meters (72 feet) high and has 6 floors. It was completed in 1649 as a watchtower on the hill above the Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong). It was converted into the National Museum of Bhutan in 1968 with a rich collection of ancient artifacts like pottery, armor, thangkas, masks, stamps, photos, statues, costumes, relics, stone axes, and religious paintings...
Meals：Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Time to say goodbye to Bhutan, the beautiful Himalayan country. Our local representative will meet you at your hotel and send you to the international airport. Happiness is a place, wish you get happiness and great memories from the Bhutantrip with us. We look forward to seeing you again, Tashi Delek!
Note: Please note that some of the sites in the itinerary may change due to season, weather, national holidays, and special events. We maintain the right to alter the itinerary. The changes in itinerary will mainly base on improving your tour experience in Bhutan.