Tour Bhutan - Journey to Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon
Preliminary Tour Itinerary
Itinerary: Paro, Thimphu, Wangdue, Trongsa, Jakar (Bumthang) & Masked Dance Festival at Jampa Lhakhang, Phobjika (Gantey), Punakha, Paro
Duration: 13 days
Day 1: Travel to Bhutan
Very early morning departure from Bangkok for the flight up into Bhutan with late-morning arrival at the Kingdom’s only airport in the beautiful Paro Valley. After a welcoming lunch, an introductory visit to Bhutan’s National Museum at the Ta Dzong with a commanding view of the valley. Evening at the Gantey Palace (historic 19th-century compound that was once the residence of the Governor (or ‘Penlop’) of Paro).
Day 2: Tour Thimphu
Morning departure for Thimphu -- with stop en route to visit Simtokha Dzong (oldest in Bhutan built by the Shambdrung in 1629 and containing the finest collection of slate carvings in Bhutan). After lunch, a visit to the new Textile Museum and Bhutan’s National Library (housing one of the greatest collections of ancient Buddhist texts). Lodging in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu
Morning visits to the Institute for Zorig Chuzom (Bhutan’s Thirteen Traditional Arts) and the Institute for Traditional Medicine. Lunch at the Royal Golf Club just outside the main dzong with views of the mountains surrounding Thimphu. Afternoon visit (to be confirmed) inside the massive Tashichoedzong (housing the King’s offices and summer residence of the Je Khenpo). Lodging in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimphu
Flex day in Thimphu and environs for supplementary visits to historic sites, hikes in the surrounding countryside, or shopping as desired. Lodging in Thimphu.
Day 5: Travel to Wangdi Valley
Mid-morning departure for points east, with stops en route at Dochu La providing, weather-permitting, some of they best views of the high Himalayas towards Tibet. After lunch, a leisurely walk through rice fields and a small Bhutanese village to Chimme Lhakhang, a temple built by Lama Drukpa Kunley affectionately known as the ‘Divine Madman’ because of his unorthodox ways of sharing Buddhist teachings. Overnight in the Wangdue valley.
Day 6: Travel to Trongsa
Morning departure for Trongsa, the ancestral home of the Wangchucks. After crossing Pele La, one of the highest mountain passes in the Kingdom, travel on towards Trongsa Dzong, which is considered the most impressive in all of Bhutan, built in 1644 and described as being perched so high in the mountains that the clouds float below. Overnight in Trongsa.
Day 7: Visit Bumthang (Jakar)
After breakfast, continue on to Bumthang -- the cultural and environmental heart of the Kingdom. Periodic stops at points of interest along the way. Jampa Lhakhang is one of the most historic temples in Bhutan -- consisting of a complex of richly decorated sanctuaries surrounding a central courtyard. The masked-dances -- which are a defining aspect of Bhutan’s remarkable cultural heritage -- make up part of the annual festival cycle at the temple and vary daily. Lodging in Jakar.
Day 8: Attend the Masked-Dance Festival at Jampa Lhakhang
Special opportunity to experience the ceremonies and dances of the annual masked - dance festival at historic Jampa Lhakhang in Jakar - one of the most traditional of all of Bhutan’s historic sacred masked-dance festivals. Lodging in Jakar.
Day 9: Travel to Phobjika (Valley of the Cranes)
Morning departure for the start of the return to the West. After lunch en route, continue west towards Phobjika, the legendary wintering valley of the black-necked cranes. The landscape changes dramatically as the road rises to the higher elevations around Phobjika, where yaks can sometimes be seen as the road enters the high-elevation short-bamboo pastures of the upper valley.
Deeper into the valley, which has no electricity in order to protect the migrating cranes from the hazards of power-lines, opportunities to see the black-necked cranes, provided there are some early arrivals from Tibet. Overnight on the edge of the forest with views of the pristine valley.
Day 10: Visit Gantey and Punakha
A morning visit to historic Gangtey Gompa (monastery) in the heart of the Phobjika Valley, where ongoing reconstruction according to traditional methods can be witnessed. After lunch, an afternoon visit to Punakha Dzong -- one of Bhutan’s most beautiful situated on an island on the river. Evening at a hilltop inn near Punakha with views overlooking the river valley.
Day 11: Tour Paro
Morning departure for Paro allowing time for stops en route and arrival in time for visits into Paro village (or elsewhere) as desired. Overnight in Paro.
Day 12: Visit Taktshang
Travel up the Paro Valley towards Taktshang -- most sacred monastery in Bhutan hugging the cliffs 2,000-feet above Paro Valley. The upward path towards Taktshang passes through forests of fir and rhododendron before reaching the higher elevation forests of live oak and hanging mosses. Every effort will be made to accomplish the climb to enter the monastery, which was rededicated in early summer 2005 with completely restored paintings and sculpture. Lodging at the Gantey Palace.
Day 13: Departure from Bhutan
Morning departure flight returning to Bangkok (afternoon arrival in Bangkok – transfer to the Oriental).