5 days Bhutan Tour
Feel the pulse of this tiny Himalayan Kingdom, its vibrant culture, lifestyle and age-old values, and what makes it pursue happiness over wanton materialistic development. Discover its history, its avowed pursuit to preserve natural environment at all costs, and remain a Kingdom steeped in ancient ethos embracing change only with a cautious approach
Places to visit: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdue
Altitude variation: 1,000-3,100 mabsl
Arrival at Paro International Airport, Bhutan’s window to the outside world. Visitors are
transported into another-worldly realm of quaint traditional houses, farms, ancient
monasteries and monuments which hearken back to days of yore. This is a Himalayan
civilization at its best, preserved amid hauntingly rugged mountains often dubbed as the
Abode of the Gods.
Visit the National Museum, Bhutan’s repository of history, arts and crafts, and other expressions of culture which have shaped the country’s identity for eons. Enroute to the capital city, Thimphu, travel via passages hewn from sturdy mountains and along banks of pristine rivers fed by glaciers. Enroute, see Tachhogang, temple and homestead of the 15 th century “Da Vinci of the Himalayas”, Thangtong Gyalpo, who built iron-chain bridges all over the region.
Discover Bhutan’s capital city and what makes it the heart of the Kingdom’s art, culture,
lifestyle, governance, and commerce. About one-fifth of Bhutanese live in the city,
making it a crucible of the country’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural tapestry. Thimphu is
not just where the King resides or the central government functions; it is also the bastion
of spirituality with temples, monasteries and other vestiges of Buddhism.
Visit the world’s largest statue of Shakyamuni Buddha at Kuensel Phodrang. With its serene poise, the statue overlooks the capital city, gently reminding its residents of the merit of cultivating compassion, and pursuing peace and happiness in their daily lives. Drive to the Takin’s Preserve located at the northern flank of the city and find out why this almost mythical animal has assumed a great importance in Bhutanese folk life. Visit the premises of the Institute of Zorig Chusum, the 13 Traditional Arts and Crafts of Bhutan, and discover the ancient techniques of Bhutanese textiles, sculpting, carving, painting, carpentry, etc.
Enroute, see Tashi Chhodzong, the 17 th century temple-fortress straddling the left flank of Wangchhu (river) while on the right bank sits the Parliament Building. The former is replete with history, of both glory and intrigues, and now houses the office of Bhutan’s King and several government ministries besides the residential quarters of the Chief Abbot and clergy. The more modem & sprightly Parliament Building houses the nation’s highest legislative bodies and the office of the Prime Minister.
Visit the Centenary Farmers’ Market for an insight into the lives of Bhutanese farmers who comprise nearly 60% of the total population. The visit is also an opportunity to see first-hand the life-style of rural Bhutanese. Wind up the day with a stroll along Norzin Lam, the throbbing centre of the capital city with its sundry shops, hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, and discotheques. This is an opportunity to meet Bhutanese from all walks of life: youths, monks, businesspeople, and various ethnic groups.
Head into the interior to feel the pulse of the rugged, the adventurous and the less
explored façade of Bhutan. The route is historically significant: it was along this
footpath, row replaced by paved road, that Bhutanese moved between their summer
capital in Thimphu and the winter capital in Punakha. The 75-km stretch is remarkable
for its numerous sights and sounds of Himalayan wildlife, alpine flowers, terraced rice
fields and villages, and temples and stupas lodged amid mediaeval-like settings. The
drop and gain in altitude is pretty significant as one traverses between 1,000 and 3,100
meters above the sea level in just one day.
See Semtokha Dzong, Bhutan’s oldest monastery-fortress built in 1627, and then enjoy the breathtaking views at Dochula Pass, 3,100 meters above the sea level. From this historical pass, one gets a 360° panoramic view of the mighty Himalayan mountains, including five peaks above 7,000 meters. This awe-inspiring sight, combined with 108 Buddhist stupas built on a mound nearby, make the Dochula sojourn one of the highlights of any visit to Bhutan.
Descending into the warmer Punakha-Wangdi valley, take a short hike from the highway to Chimi Lhakhang, the vaunted temple of fertility, blessed by the 16 th century “Divine Madman” Drukpa Kuenley. The temple is worshipped for its power to grant the boon of children to barren couples, supposedly bequeathed through the 500-year-old wooden phallus hung in the temple’s inner sanctum.
Wind up the day by stepping into the corridors of the magnificent Punakha Dzong. This palace-fortress, set like a ship sailing on a vast ocean, is flanked by two rivers (male and female) and houses Bhutan’s most prized spiritual treasures. A marvelous sight to behold, Punakha Dzong is a perfect specimen of Bhutanese architecture.
Bhutan is not defined by its modern towns or recent developments. Its history originated
from villages, valleys and mountains as did its culture, traditions and identity. Therefore,
a peek into rural life is truly a measure of what Bhutan was, is and will be.
The village of Changyul sits a few blocks away from the historic Punakha Dzong. Its antecedents are as compelling as the Dzong’s itself. It is said that some 500-700 years ago, a young woman and a man fell in love, simple and pure like a flower blossom, only for their romance to end in a soul-wrenching tragedy.
Faced with the cruel social convention of the time, the lovers took their own lives and what endures to this day is a timeless song describing the episode and the original house in which the girl lived. Visit the remnant of this roadside house and, one may, as a token of prayer and faith in the eternity of love, lay a floral wreath there.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyel stupa: Buddhists believe in Karma, the phenomenon of cause and effect, which defines the destiny of every animate being. To attain spiritual merit and good Karma, we visualize and meditate. The visualization takes the form of a Buddhafield, comprised of a pantheon of deities. One such physical manifestation of visualization is the stupa of Khamsum Yulley in upper Punakha valley which, upon a mere glance, is said to confer boundless merit and pave our passage to Nirvana. The visit takes us via Jigme Dorji National Park renowned for the highlanders’ communities of Laya & Lunana, Snow Leopard, glaciers and bountiful wild flowers.
Wangdue Dzong: As we retrace our journey to Paro, take a glimpse of Wangdue Dzong, built about 500 years ago, standing on a hillock as a testimony of Bhutan’s medieval power and glory. The Dzong is the stronghold of Sha valley which is famous for its ornamental speech (traditional ballads), indigenous foods, and oral folk traditions.
Drive higher up into the Paro valley and embark on an uphill hike of approximately two
hours to Taktsang monastery, an icon of the Himalayan Buddhist world. The monastery
hangs precariously on a vast granite cliff with spectacular views of the surrounding Paro
valley. Padmasambhava, the founder of Vajrayana Buddhism, meditated at the site of
this temple in the 8 th century, followed by numerous Buddhist masters who discovered
spiritual treasures and attained enlightenment. It is said that celestial beings (Dakinis)
descended from the heavens to donate their hair to be used as the foundation support
during the construction of the temple.
Upon return from Taktsang, visit the 15 th century “fortress of victory” at Drukgyal and then Bhutan’s oldest temple at Kyichu built in 639 AD. The temple houses Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Thereafter, visit a farmhouse, and enjoy a traditional Bhutanese meal with the host family.
Departure from Paro International Airport.