Bhutan Overlanding
 
Bhutan Oddyssey - 14 Days

Number of Days: 14 Days
Grade: Soft
Destinations: Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Wangdue, Gangtey, Trongsa and Bumthang

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. After lunch 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. In the evening, we will walk through the small and picturesque Paro town.
Our representative will conduct detailed briefing about the upcoming tour program.
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 2: Paro – Thimpu:
After breakfast depart for Thimpu, the Capital city of Bhutan. Thimpu is small city with about 90,000 inhabitants. This city; rather a town is known for being only capital of country without modern traffic lights. On arrival at Thimpu, check in at the hotel. Visit a couple of places; Chorten, Zangdopelri Monastery near weekend market. Watch archery match. In the evening you can stroll around the town; again blended with unique Bhutanese and modern design and architecture. Our escort can accompany you while you walk around the city.
Overnight at the hotel

Day 3: 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 4: Thimpu - Punakha Chi - Med Monastery Excursion:
Today after breakfast drive to Punakha across Dochu La pass (3,088m / 10,130ft). En route visit Simtokha Dzong, built in 1627 and the oldest fortress of the kingdom. It now houses the institute for language and cultural studies. Drive across Dochu La pass (3050 m), which provides a superb view of the highest peaks of Bhutan, such as Gangkar Puensum, Table Mountain, and Masakhang etc.
After lunch we take a short hike to Chi - 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 evil 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 further to check in at hotel & relax for rest of the day. You can enjoy wonderful views from your room overlooking villages in far off valley.
Overnight at the hotel

Day 5: Punakha – Phubjikha Valley (Approx. Driving Distance / Time: 65 km / 2 hrs):
After breakfast, drive to Gangtey village located in Phubjikha Valley. This is a scenic drive through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons. This valley falls within protected area of Black Mountain Park. Gangtey Gompa rises on a small spur located at the valley’s center. It is one of the oldest and largest Nyingma Buddhist centre in Bhutan. Check in at hotel for lunch. Drive to Information Centre for the Black-Necked Cranes, maintained by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature. The Black Necked Cranes roost in the swampy marshland and can be viewed from the observatory overlooking the fields. These endangered birds fly south from Siberia each fall to winter in the marshlands of Phubjikha. 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 Phubjikha Community are now working together to protect the habitat of endangered Black Necked Cranes.
Overnight at a family run hotel.

Day 6: Gangtey Valley – Trongsa:
Early morning visit to the Monastery, and mingle with Monks. The drive from Phubjikha to Trongsa takes about two and half hours. Our route crosses Pele La (11,155 ft), which is marked by a Chorten and an array of prayer flags. If the weather is clear we should see Jumolhari (23,684 ft). The last village before we reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which affords a full view of Trongsa Dzong which was built in 1648 AD, and is largest and biggest Dzong in Bhutan. It is also the administrative seat of the Trongsa district and of head abbot of Trongsa Dratsang or state monastic school. 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.
Overnight at a charming local lodge.

Day 7: 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 8: Bumthang Excursion I:
After breakfast 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. 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 a sumptuous dinner followed by Arak, a local drink.
Overnight at the hotel

Day 9: Bumthang Excursion II:
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 10: Bumthang – Wangdue:
After breakfast we start driving to Wangdue Phodrang. We can stop to hike up to a small village home. Check in at the hotel in Wangdue and enjoy evening tour of the Wangdue Dzong courtyard, and the charming and small Wangdue Town.
Overnight at the hotel

Day 11: Wangdue - Paro via Thimpu:
After breakfast, continue the westward journey back to Paro via Thimpu. We enjoy early lunch in Thimpu and you are free to stroll around the shops. We depart Thimpu and continue towards Paro and check into the hotel. Visit a farm house and enjoy dinner at their place.

Day 12: Paro Excursion:
Visit some of the left attractions in Paro or walk to villages, monasteries close to Paro. You might be surprised to get invited into village homes and receive their hospitality. Evening take a stroll around the town and indulge in some last minute shopping.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 13: 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 awhile 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.

Day14: 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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