“Journey to Happy Himalayan Kingdom is an exciting overland journey through the breadth of Bhutan from the west to Bumthang in central Bhutan. Immerse yourself in the local culture as you visit a wealth of striking Dzongs, ancient Monasteries, Village homes, and experience unfolding of unique culture and rich natural biodiversity, and mountain scenery through out the journey.
This tour is designed to get you “under the surface” of Bhutanese culture. You will meet villagers and weavers in their own homes, & farms. You will be marveled by visit to magnificent and enormous fortresses/Dzongs (which has withstand earthquake and invaders), and ancient Buddhist monasteries, breathtaking mountain scenery and rich forested country side, or you can watch all important match of national game; Archery, or try out yourself. Whatever you do, or where ever you are, we make sure, we take you right inside of Bhutanese culture and tradition.
There is no trekking, but gentle walks and short excursion to villages and monasteries provide some exercise and you will stay in some of the best hotels available through out your journey. Centuries of isolation have left the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon unique. The architecture is unlike anything else seen in the Himalayas – the houses are more akin to Swiss chalets, but painted with magic symbols to keep out evil spirits – national dress has survived, as has “Druk Kagyu” sect of Buddhism in Bhutan (Only country practicing this).
Bhutan is geographically small nation with little more half a million inhabitants. Low density in population
has complemented strong Buddhist beliefs to maintain and prevent depletion of natural Flora and Fauna. Bhutan now ranks amongst the top ten “Hot Spots” in the world for bio – diversity. Bhutan hosts 620 species of wild orchids, more then 50 different types of Rhododendrons, and scores of other medicinal plants and herbs such as Blue Poppy (our national flower), Jartsa Goen Bup valued immensely in all oriental medicine markets. Bhutan is unique with language and cultural diversity with one region speaking different language from another.
Country low land start at 100 Mt., and goes through alpine to more mountainous regions in north, where alleviation could be as high as 7700 Mt.. So tropical, sub tropical, temperate & mountain vegetation thrives, with more than 70% of country still covered with forest, and natural glacial feed rivers. Bhutan’s scenic beauty and serenity is something that has passed on for ages undisturbed.
During the flight one will experience breathtaking views of some of the highest mountain peaks on earth, including Mt. Everest, Kan Cheng Junga, Mt. Jumolhari and Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Flight through mountainous region is exciting, and short, but provides an experience that will remain with your for years. Take a short drive to Hotel in a comfortable car (Usually of Toyota Make). Check – in at Hotel for Lunch. After lunch visit the National Museum (Ta – Dzong); once the earlier watch tower for the Rinpung Paro Dzong. It was converted into the National Musuem in 1968. Museum stands on a strategic site way above on the top of hill overlooking the Paro valley. This unique museum will unfold to how Bhutan’s art and culture have evolved over the centuries. Paro Rinpung Dzong On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. (A Dzong in Bhutan is a fortress). Today there are about 20 Dzongs around the country, most built during early part of 17th century. Dzongs are the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. This huge fortress are equally shared, keeping in tradition from past. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan and Mongol invasions. All Dzongs have tall central tower (Utse), with its superb woodwork, houses sacred temple inside. Walk down further through walled flat stone pavements, and in about 10 minutes, you will pass through beautiful ancient wooden bridge with shingle roofing, with two guardhouses on each entrance. This use is abandoned, since middle of last century. In the evening, we will walk through narrow and small Paro town, most built during late 70s. Enjoy evening meals at a cozy restaurant. Our representative will conduct detail briefing about the upcoming tour program.
Morning breakfast and check out of hotel to depart for Thimphu, the Capital city of Bhutan. Drive is fascinating, and will give you first hand experience of Bhutanese road conditions. Thimphu is small city with about 90,000 inhabitants (but rural – urban migration has rapidly increase it’s size by about 7% in recent years). This city; rather a town is known for being only capital of country without modern traffic light. On arrival at Thimphu, check in at Hotel. Visit couple of sightseeing places; Chorten, Zangdopelri monastery near weekend market. Watch archery match. (Final program will accompany more detail) Evening at leisure, and you can stroll around the town; again blended with unique Bhutanese and modern design and architecture. Your escort can accompany you while you walk around the city. Overnight in Hotel.
After breakfast we proceed to visit the famous weekend market in Thimphu (Fri – Sat – Sun). This is the meeting place for many farmers, who walk, take horse, and travel by buses and truck to get their wares for sale at this biggest open market place in Bhutan. This place is filled with products ranging from fresh, organic fruits, rice, chilies, vegetables to Yak butter, meat, Wonderful village textiles, handicrafts, art, jewelry. All most all that can show case Bhutanese way of life and living. In this weekend market, all Thimphu dwellers shop their week long supplies. Moments to get some of your best pictures. Market in Thimpu Take a short drive up to north of Thimphu to visit 15th century Changangkha Monastery, and further up to north to see small man made habitat of Takin. This wild animal is internationally endangered and protected in Bhutan. Drive to Thimphu View point, commonly known to younger couples as “lover’s point”. Suitable dating ground. Check back in Hotel to relax and enjoy your leisure time. Enjoy dinner at a restaurant, or in Hotel, based on preferences.
After hearty breakfast, prepare yourself for nice day out. Your day start with visit to indigenous paper making factory, traditional gold and silver smith work shop, the house of Buddhist herbal incense making unit. Then drive inside town to visit wonderful collection of Bhutanese textile at Textile Museum. One of our Queen has helped in establishing it to show case and protect our unique heritage. In the afternoon we depart for Tango Monastery. Embark on a vigorous 2 – hour hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery, one of my favorite experiences in Bhutan. Have your lunch, with some monks at the monastery kitchen, or in one of the monks residence. Tango is one of Bhutanese’ most important Buddhist Colleges. Its name, meaning ‘horse’s head’, is derived from the horse – head shaped rock at the top. It is a Beautiful dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the Eleven – year – old reincarnate of Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. Meet with monks for discussions. After hearty discussion, and exchange of views, drive back to Hotel.
After breakfast, Drive to Punakha via Dochula Pass. We cross Tango MonasteryPass right after Immigration check point, approx. 1 hour drive from Thimphu. Alevation at Pass is at about 10,500 ft. There are plenty of Prayer flags and small chorten exceeding more then 108 numbers. Fluttering flags are believed to carry prayers of peace with wind blowing down to valley inhabitants. On clear day, we can see spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains ranges. Many above 7000 Mts./23,000 ft.. After lunch we take a short hike to Chhi – Med Lhakhang in the Picturesque Lobesa valley. We visit the temple of Lama Drukpa Kunley, also Known as the “Divine Madman”. He is known to preach Buddhism and subdue evils spirits through use of erotic techniques; and obscene remarks, resembling that of Kamasutra in Bhutanese version. You may like to be blessed with replica of wooden penis to induce fertility, or protect fertility in you (Although it sounds very funny, and unrealistic. Ha! Ha!; All Bhutanese believe in it, and travel for days by bus, or on foot to seek blessing from this temple). Drive to check in at Hotel & relax rest of the day. You can enjoy wonderful views from your room over looking villages on far off valley. Over night in a Hotel
After breakfast, drive to Gangtey village located in Phobjeykha valley. It is approx. 65 Km/ 2 hours.Gangtey Gompa This is a scenic drive through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons. On entering Gangtey valley, we will be greeted by wide mountain valley. This valley is a flat valley, resembling that of Tibetan plateau on the western slopes of Black Mountain national park. This valley fall within protected area of Black Mountain Park. Gantey Gompa rises on a small spur located at the valley’s center. It is one of the oldest and largest Nyingma Bhuddist centre in Bhutan. Gantey Tulku Rimpoche is widely revered Buddhist teacher in west is head lama of Gantey Gompa. He is the ninth in incarnation of Terton Pemalingpa; 14th – century treasure reveler saint from central Bhutan, and known to be an Ancestor of present Wangchuck dynasty. Check in at Hotel for lunch. Drive to Information Centre for the Black – Necked Cranes, maintained by the Royal Society for the Protection Nature. The Black Neck Crane roost in the swampy marshland can be viewed from the Observatory overlooking the fields. View these magnificent birds in their winter nesting home. These endangered birds fly south from Siberia each fall to winter in the marshlands of Phobjikha. The calls of the Black – Necked Crane locally known as Thrung Thrung Karm have inspired folklore for generations. The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature and the Phobjikha Community are now working together to protect the habitat of endangered Black Necked Cranes. To injure one of these magnificent birds is to be imprisoned for life. During Nov – Feb, many black – necked cranes roast here. There is a festival recently introduce to celebrate and create awareness about importance of this protected bird species. There is active community participation through out festivals. Overnight at a family run hotel, and experience pure Bhutanese hospitality.
Morning arrange early morning visit to the Monastery, and if possible mingle with Monks during their prayers time. Check back to hotel for break fast, and pack up for onward journey. Depart towards Trongsa. The drive from Phobjikha to Trongsa takes about two and half hours. Our route crosses Pele La (11,155 feet), which is marked by a chorten and an array of prayer flags. If the weather is clear we should see Jhomolhari (23,684 feet) and other peaks from the pass, which marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. We’ll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. This community derive support from state funded park to fund some of their village activities, or to build infrastructure. Recently govt. provided free of cost zinc sheet roofing to replace, traditional wooden roofing, which was more burden and caused intensive forest depletion, as aforestation campaign in this mountainous region claimed little success. As we drive down through winding roads, we will come across views of rhododendrons and stunted bamboo shrubs every where. We’ll reach Chendebji village, and pass through Chorten. This is land mark of this highway. Chorten dates back to 19th century, and build to tame demons troubling the regions. This chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Nepal. This spot was used as a camping ground for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reignTrongsa Scenery of the 2nd King, Jigme Wangchuk (1920 – 1930s). The last village before we reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which affords us a full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive yellow roof. Trongsa Dzong is built in 1648 AD, and is largest and biggest Dzong in Bhutan. As always, it is also the administrative seat of the Trongsa district and seat of head abbot of Trongsa Dratsang or state monastic school. Built at split – levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. The view from here extends for many miles and in the old days, it was a vigilance point for both the eastern and western routes. It had all important strategic importance until early part of last century. Tonight we overnight at a local Lodge in Trongsa town
After breakfast, hike down to Trongsa Dzong to visit monasteries, and walk back up to imposing watchtower. Trongsa Dzong link with its historical monarchy. Past King are offered Trongsa Governor tiltle, before enthronement. This is also the investiture site for future kings ascending the Golden Throne of Bhutan. Trongsa Dzong represents true essence of Bhutanese monastic and parliamentary architecture. There are 25 lhakhangs (small temples, among which is the oldest lhakhang in Bhutan – the Chorten Lhakhang built by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk in 1543). Walk back to climb to the top of the watchtower. See some of the medieval weapons used during regional conflicts. Be careful while walking through traditional ladder on you way up into monastery. This is great watch tower over looking far places, above Trongsa Dzong. After lunchBumthang we leave Trongsa and head to Jakar, in the central district of Bumthang. 69 KM/ 3 – 3 ½ hours drive into interior Bhutan. Frequent stops are recommended for photos. You might come across Yak and yak herders, and many alpine trees, bushes, and flowers. Villages on road side, further down are lovely and picturesque, located on basement of lovely mountain scenery. An hour outside of Bumthang, just after crossing the Yotongla pass. This pass is at 11,400 ft., and is the highest pass through out our journey. This drive between Trongsa and Bumthang is the most scenic and exciting leg of the journey into the clouds, as you cross – rivers and streams and pass a chorten with water – driven prayer wheels and colorful rock carvings. You make the first sighting of the golden – roofed Jakar Dzong, the Castle of the White Bird, with the rushing Chamkarchu river in middle of valley. Check in at a hotel. There another chance to experience pure Bhutanese hospitality at a family run hotel.
Today we enjoy Bumthang sightseeing. Beauty again overwhelms our senses.Bumthang Excursion We will drive to Tang Valley and hike to visit the Ugyenchholing Dzong. The Ugyenchholing Dzong was formerly the palace of Trongsa Penlop Tsokey Dorji. You will visit the Ugyenchholing Palace, now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport you to another world and time. You will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan’s History unfolds. Continuing from Ugyenchholing, we reach the Rimochen Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Guru Rimpoche, the Patron Saint of Bhutan. We also Visit Rimochen Temple, another temple blessed by Guru Rimpoche and where imprints of the Saint’s foot and Body can be seen on the rock. In the evening we visit a farmhouse for local hospitality and conversation. Enjoy a sumptuous dinner followed by Arak, a local drink. Overnight at the Hotel.
After breakfast, oraganise yourself for short hike to Ngaglakhang temple, and village. Spent an hour interecting with villagers. On return visit Jakar Dzong, Tamshing Monasteries, Kurjey and Jambay Lkakhang. We stop for refreshment at the Cheese and Beer Factory and village handicraft shops. Here in Bumthang are some of the best weavers of the Bhutanese famous style of textile. Weavers weave their magic on ancient back strap and toe looms. Textile fabric can be purchased here at a good price; unique and wonderful gifts. A visit to a Bhutanese schoolhouse is a favorite delight for guest, teacher and children alike. Overnight at Hotel.
We depart after breakfast driving to Wangdue – Phodrang, returning o the same way. Stop at places, which you have missed on your last journey. Look for yaks along the route. We can have stop to hike up to small village home. Check in at the Hotel in Wangdue and enjoy evening tour of the Wangdue Dzong courtyard, and congested Wangdue Town. This small town supplies provision mostly for Military school located in the vicinity. Overnight in a Hotel.
After breakfast, continue on westward journey back to Paro via Thimphu. We enjoy early lunch in Thimphu and you are free to stroll around the shops. We depart Thimphu and continue onward towards Paro and check into Hotel. Visit a farm house and enjoy dinner at their place.
Drive to beautiful Valley of Haa is in itself memorable. Haa is recently open to Visitor from outside. Chelila La Pass is in between Haa and Paro. It is about 1½ hours driving distance but on the way, and if you have time, you could trek to Dzong Drakha. This is another beautiful cliff temple and well worth the one and half hour return walk. Leaving the vehicle you initially walk past some houses before a beautiful hike winds its way steeply up through forest. The path then traverses a broad ledge on which are built other temples and a house or two, plus some cells for the monks. Every year they have a festival here which precedes Paro Tsechu. Above and below this broad ledge there are vertical limestone cliffs. Dzong Drakka is a quarter way to the pass, just above Bondey village. A bit further on and up to the right is yet another cliff temple which actually is a nunnery called Kelly Goampa. There are about 50 nuns living there, who mostly originate from Paro and Ha Valleys. You gradually climb from 2250 Mt. to 4000 Mt.. You will pass through Chelela Pass; the highest mountHa Valleyain pass accessible with car. Spent tea time at this spot. Although day may turn out windy, but assuming the weather is clear, you will have wonderful views of the snow capped mountains to the west which mark the border with Tibet. You may also enjoy majestic view of both Haa and Paro valley on your left and right side. Walk through chill air, and you can also explore for romantic Edel Weis flowers, found here and similar to that of Alps. After the break, drive on the long zig – zag road down into the Ha Valley. It will take you another 1 hour to get there. As you approach Haa, you will notice three almost identical hills in a line on the other side of the valley. These are believed by the locals to be the physical manifestations of three very important Buddhist saints. The left one is Manjushri (the god who holds the flaming sword which cuts the knot of ignorance), the middle one is Chenrizig (the Buddha of compassion of which the Dalai Lama is the human incarnation) and the right hand hill is Chana Dorji (this being the protector god of Bhutan). Collectively they are known as Rigsum (three hills). As you descend further you look down on the square yellow roof of the main monastery/fortress, Namgay Dzong. The central tower of the Dzong is still used by the local people. The old town itself is just to the north – west and is really quite attractive with traditional two storey shops and a post office. You will stay tonight at a relatively newly built lodge River Haa Chujust above the town. Overnight in a hotel.
After breakfast, gear up to Explore Ha valley during morning part of the day. We can walk through village, or along river Haa Chu, or walk to village monastery and houses, and might get surprise to get invited into village home, and receive their hospitality. Return to Hotel for Lunch and in the afternoon drive back to Paro following the same road we took to travel to Haa. Overnight in a Hotel in Paro.
Today after breakfast, take short drive to a point, to start short excursion to Taktsang Monastery; 8th century wonder. Taktsang means “Tiger’s Nest” and this spectacular building is perched on a rocky ledge at 3,000 ft elevation. It’s foundation was laid in 8th century, when 2nd Buddha; Guru Padma Sambhava, meditated here, after he flew from Kurtoe valley on a back of a tigress. Opportunity for rare Bhutanese treats at beautiful cafeteria, located just across Taktsang monastTaktsang Monasteryery. Relax for about an hour at the cafeteria, or alternatively taking few hike up more closer to the Monastery. After lunch, hike down gradually on same Path. Afternoon at leisure, and stroll around Paro town. Tonight we enjoy our farewell dinner at a cozy restaurant in Paro Town.
After breakfast drive down to airport and check in at least 2 hours prior to flight departure schedule.