Bhutan Overlanding
 
Himalayan Kingdom Spiritual Adventure - 15 Days

Season: All year
Number of Days: 15 Days
Grade: Soft
Destinations: Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Bumthang and Ura

Day 1: Arrival at Paro International Airport:
Fly on Druk Air to Paro. Druk Air is a Bhutan national flag bearer, which has an exclusive right to fly to Bhutan from 6 other sectors. Limited flights allow only restricted number of flyers into this beautiful Himalayan Kingdom, thereby preserving and conserving valuable culture and environment that has remained intact for centuries. On clear days, during this flight, you will experience breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains including Mt. Everest, Jichu Drak and Jumolhari in Bhutan. You will land in the beautiful valley of Paro, located at an elevation of 7,400 ft. At Paro International Airport you will be received by representative of Druk Yul Expeditions. White Khaddar or scarf with Buddhist blessings will be presented to you to be carried along your journey. Take a short drive to your hotel and check-in for lunch. Our representative will conduct detailed briefing about the upcoming tour program. Arrival at Paro International Airport: Overnight at the hotel

Day 2: Paro (Excursion):
After breakfast visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong), earlier a watchtower for the Rinpung Paro Dzong. It was converted into the National Museum in 1968 and stands on a strategic site on the top of hill overlooking the Paro valley. 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 fortresses are equally shared, keeping in tradition from past. It was from these fortresses that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan and Mongol invasions. 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. Enjoy lunch at a cozy restaurant. In the evening take a stroll around the town. Overnight at the hotel

Day 3: Haa Valley and drive to Thimpu:
Today you start your day early. Drive to the beautiful valley of Haa which has remained secluded till lately. Today, you will also drive over highest point on your trip. Chele La Pass lies between Haa and Paro. On your way, you will drive across Bondey town. After another 30 minutes or so, on the right is yet another Monastery clinging to the cliff. This is Kelly Gompa, which houses one of the famous nunneries. There are about 50 nuns living there in seclusion, who are mostly from Paro and Haa Valleys. Then you climb gradually to about 3990 meters to Chele La Pass marked with prayers flags and small Chorten little above. If the weather is clear, you will have wonderful views of the mountains to the west which mark the border with Tibet. You may also enjoy very nice view of both Haa and Paro valley on two sides. Short walking is recommended to allow you to acclimatize better to the thin mountain air. Edelweiss flowers are seen here as in Alps during spring season. 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. Haa town lies few km further to the north-west and is really quite attractive with traditional two storey shops lined in 2 rows. Before lunch, explore the valley. Visit Lhakhang Nagpo and Karpo. They now serve as seat for monastic community in Haa. Have lunch and start the drive towards Thimpu. In about half an hour, you will come across the village of Jenkhana. You may get a chance to visit their homes and experience Bhutanese hospitality at its purest. Thimpu is the capital city of Bhutan. Thimphu is a small town with about 90,000 inhabitants. It is known for being the only capital in the world without modern traffic lights. Evening at leisure, and you can stroll around the town; again blended with modern and unique Bhutanese design and architecture.

Day 4: Thimpu (Excursion):
Today’s sightseeing in Thimpu valley includes visits to: National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is a both a memorial to the late king (‘the father of modern Bhutan’), and a monument to world peace. The painting and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy; National Library: This holds a vast collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion. Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School): where student undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. National Institute of Traditional Medicine: where the medicinal herbs, mineral, and animals organs available in abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed by traditional pharmacist and medical practitioners. This indigenous healing method is popular in entire Bhutan. Here you will have exclusive privilege of talking to a renowned traditional healer. Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums: These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insight into Bhutanese material culture and way of life. Handicrafts Emporium: This government-run enterprise displays a wide range of beautifully hand-woven textiles and craft products. It also carries a small collection of books on Bhutan, Buddhism and Himalayan culture.

Day 5: Thimpu (Excursion to Tango Gompa):
Today after breakfast we drive north from the town, where you will pass the Forestry Institute at Taba and Dechen Choling Palace before reaching the village of Karbisa. Alongside, in a cypress meadow are the picturesque five storey temples of Druk Podrangding at Pangri Zampa. A well respected astrologer lives on the upper storey. Continuing up the valley the road crosses to the east side of the Wang Chhu at Begana. A few kilometers beyond this, 12 kms from Thimphu, a road leads east and climbs a short distance to a parking lot. The trail to Tango Gompa is a climb of 280m and takes about an hour. The Gompa was founded by Lama Gaylaw Lhanampa in the 12th century. The present building was built in the 15th century by the ‘divine madman’, Lama Drukpa Kunley and also in 1616 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited Tango Gompa and meditated in a cave nearby. Overnight at the hotel

Day 6: Thimpu to Wangdue
Our journey continues to the east towards Wangdue through some of the kingdom’s richest agricultural land and dramatic river valleys. After the drive for 45 minutes we will be received by fluttering prayers flags amidst 109 stupas over the Dochu La pass standing at an altitude of 3020m from sea level. If the weather is clear we can see the panoramic view of the Northern Himalaya. After a short stop we descend gradually witnessing the change of vegetation at an elevation of about 1340m. After the short stop at Lobesa we will drive further up to visit the gigantic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, a 17th century monument overlooking the typical village of Rinchengang. After some exploration one can walk around the Wangdue Phodrang Town located at an altitude of 1350m, the district is known for its fine bamboo work and slate carving. Overnight at the hotel

Day 7: Wangdue to Trongsa:
After breakfast we will drive across Pele La pass (3300 m), the traditional boundary between the east and west. The passes are marked by a large numbers of prayer flags. Drive further and stop en route at Chendebji Chotern which was built in 18th century by a lama named Shida. This is a stupa with eyes similar to the Buddhanath stupa in Nepal. Check in at a restaurant for lunch. Drive further for an hour and you will come across the spectacular view of Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan. We can take a tour of Ta-Dzong (The Watch Tower), and Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive Dzong in the kingdom and possibly one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. You can stroll around the town after the exploring the Dzong. Overnight at the hotel

Day 8: Trongsa – Bumthang (Approx. Driving Distance / Time: 69 km / 3-3 1/2 hrs):
After breakfast, hike to Trongsa Dzong to visit monasteries, and walk up to the imposing watchtower. See some of the medieval weapons used during regional conflicts. This is a great watch tower overlooking far places, above Trongsa Dzong. After lunch we leave Trongsa and head to Jakar, in the central district of Bumthang. You might come across yak herders, and many alpine trees, bushes, and flowers. Villages on road side, further down are lovely and picturesque with lovely mountain scenery. 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. Overnight at the hotel

Day 9: Bumthang to Ura:
The distance from Jakar to Ura is 48km. Ura is the highest of Bumthang’s four valleys, and the approach to Shertang La pass (3590m), which offers a splendid view of Bhutan’s highest peak, Mount Gangkar Puensum (7541m).Ura village lies at an altitude of 3100m and consists of closely built shingled houses with cobblestone streets, where the community subsists on the basis of pastoral farming and the potato crop. As one might expect in this prime sheep-breeding region, the women of Ura wear distinctive clothing, which includes a type of sheepskin shawl. Dominating the village, the Ura Lhakhang was built in 1986.It contains a large image of Guru Padmakara in the form of Nangsi Zilnon, which fills the entire building and is flanked by beautiful murals. Overnight at a charming lodge

Day 10: Ura to Bumthang:
Today we drive back the same way we took the previous day. Overnight at the hotel

Day 11: Bumthang (Excursion):
After breakfast, hike to Ngaglakhang Temple and village. Spend some time interacting with villagers. Visit Jakar Dzong, Tamshing Monasteries, Kurjey and Jambay Lhakhang. We stop for refreshment at the Cheese and Beer Factory and village handicraft shops. Here, in Bumthang are some of the best weavers who weave their magic on ancient back strap and toe looms. A visit to a Bhutanese schoolhouse is a favorite delight for guest, teacher and children alike. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 12: Bumthang - Punakha:
After breakfast, we start our journey meandering through pine forests, crossing two high passes “Yotong La and Pele La” once again. Until 1951 Punakha served as the winter capital of State and religious affairs of Bhutan. It is still the winter seat of the Je khenpo (chief Abbot). Hike to the temple and visit a village house in Metsina and further hike up to the 15th century temple where you can seek blessings from the lord of fertility. This temple was initiated by the Divine Madman or Erotic Lama. This lama framed Bhutanese version of erotic stories or Kamasutra in 15th century. Here, a replica of Poo or Dorji, which symbolizes Knowledge, will touch your forehead to bless you with fertility. Later, visit the Punakha Dzong built during first quarter of 17th century at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Although fires and an earthquake in the past times destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Time permitting visit Khamsum Yuelay Chorten built recently. Overnight at the hotel

Day 13: Punakha - Paro:
The drive west takes us back over Dochu La. Enroute visit the Simtokha Dzong, the oldest in Bhutan, now a traditional school specializing in Dzongkha and religious studies. After lunch at Thimpu, head towards Paro which will take us one and half hour drive. Overnight at the hotel

Day 14: Taktsang Hike:
Drive to Ramthongkha and then hike to viewpoint of Taktsang, the Tiger's Nest (one and a half hours). This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 3,000 ft above the valley floor. The trail is broad and the walk uphill takes you a little more than a 1000ft above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang monastery built on the cliff is a spectacular sight. It is a great pilgrim site for the Buddhists and also it is one of the most sacred sites in the Himalayan world. Beyond the viewpoint, the path is narrow and steep as it climbs to a point above the temple, from where walkers descend to the building itself. The main deity of Taktsang is Dorje Drolo, the wrathful form of Guru Rinpoche, the precious Teacher, also known as Padmasambhava. The great tantric mystic is said to have flown here on the back of a tiger, a manifestation of his consort, Yeshi Tsogyal, when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th century. The image of Dorje Drolo inside the temple is shown standing on a tiger. There are 13 sacred sites at Taktsang, and several meditation caves in the cliffs above. Here you can meditate a while before beginning the descent. Nearby there is a teahouse, where you can stop for lunch or a snack. In the evening, visit a farmhouse in Paro. Overnight at hotel in Paro

Day 15: Departure:
Our escort will complete the departure formalities well in advance, and if need be assist you with it. Drive down to airport and check in at least 2 hours prior to flight departure schedule.
Trip ends

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