The Last Shangri-la

12 DAYS
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Description

There is a place where nature and religion have combined to turn a tiny Buddhist kingdom into the world’s last Shangri-La. Locked between Tibet and India, Bhutan is the jewel of the Himalayas. To the north, towering peaks rise to 25,000 feet. Alpine highlands fall to misty forests and mountain streams cut through gorges to warmer valleys and wide marshes. Landscapes finally descend to the jungles and grasslands of the southern plains. In Bhutan, respect for life endures, like the land itself.

Itinerary

1

Arrive Paro

You will be received by the Guide from Bhutan Corinthian at the airport and drive to the Hotel. After Lunch, visit Ta Dzong (built in 1656 and renovated in 1968) by Tenzin Drugda, first Penlop of Paro. Ta dzong is an ancient watchtower which protected the Ringpung dzong from all the invasions. The dzong is now the National Museum which promotes and preserves Bhutanese culture.

Dinner and overnight in Tashi Namgay Resort & Spa or similar. www.tashinamgayresort.com

2

Paro - Thimphu: Excursion to Taktsang Monastery

After breakfast, visit Kyichu Lhakhang(5 kilometers from Paro town) –The sacred jewel of Bhutan that marked the introduction of Buddhism in the 8th century. It is believed to be built by a Tibetan emperor called Songtsan Gampo in 659. It was built on the different points of the giant ogress body that troubled Tibet and Himalayas by lying across the land. Then drive to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644. The Dzong was used as an important watchtower for defense until 1951 when a fire destroyed it. Explore the ramparts of the dzong and on a clear day, experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m).

We drive back the same way to Satsam Chorten and start our hike towards Taktsang(Tiger’s Nest). Taktsang(Tiger’s Nest) is the most sacred monastery of Bhutan and a place you must visit when you visit Bhutan. We can reach the Tiger’s Nest either by walking or by horseback. The path climbs through beautiful pine forest and many of the trees are ornamented with Spanish moss, and fluttering prayer flags. About half way up the climb, we stop for a rest and refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria). We can get a tea and food there. Then after the short distance from cafeteria, we will reach to the viewpoint that overlooks Taktsang. We can take the best photos of Taktsang from the viewpoint. The main Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 by the Penlop of Paro, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay. Located at an elevation of over 900 meters into the valley below, Taktsang is the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo- said to be his favourite consort.
In the evening, drive to Thimphu. On the way, we can view Tamchog Monastery-a private monastery built by Thangthong Gyalpo (Popularly known as Lama Chazampa, which literally means, the Iron Bridge builder) in the 15th century. It is situated along the Paro Chhu river.

- Thang Thong Gyalpo (1385 – 1464) was a Tibetan lama who built 108 bridges across Tibet and Bhutan, out of which 8 were built in Bhutan. His only surviving bridge is in Duksum (Tashi Yangtse in Eastern Bhutan).
Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar. www.htelmigmar.com

3

Thimphu Sightseeing

After breakfast, visit the National Memorial Chorten, a monument dedicated to the Third King of Bhutan His Late Majesty King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Then visit to Dupthop Lhakhang one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. Then visit the National Library, which gives the permanent home for sacred religious books and collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and then to Painting School where Painting School, National Institute of Zorig Chusum that includes carving and free hand art.

After lunch we drive to the Traditional Medicine Institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices, and to Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal silver smiths and Bhutanese paper factory at work. Other places of interest include a visit to the Tashichho Dzong- “The fortress of the glorious religion.” We finally visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the markets of Thimphu. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar

4

Thimphu – Punakha

After breakfast, drive to Punakha via Dochula pass (3140m). If the weather is clear, we stop for a while at Dochula pass to view Higher Himalayas. The 108 Chortens at Dochula pass gives the passer the beauty of the fresh and high altitude vegetation. On the way, stop a while to view Chimi Lhakhang also called the “Temple of Fertility” built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley who is popularly known as “The Divine Mad Man” in 15th century. The Lhakhang is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some beautiful slate carvings. In addition to, there is a Bodhi tree which is believed to be brought from Bodhgaya. The childless women pray to a fertility goddess here.

Lunch at Punakha. After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Situated between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River), Punakha dzong is one of the Bhutan’s most beautiful dzongs. For many years it served as the center of Government until the 1950s when it was relocated to Thimphu. The dzong was built when the Zhabdrung took the architect, Zowe Palep in his dreams to Zangtopelri (Paradise) and showed him the palace of Guru Rimpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design. The Dzong was originally named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang which means the Palace of Great Bliss. The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo. The best time to visit is on May when Jacaranda flowers will be blooming in the courtyard of the palace. Dinner and overnight in Punatshangchhu Cottages or similar. www.punatshangchhucottages.bt

5

Punakha – Gangtey

After early breakfast, drive to Trongsa via. Gangtey. On the way, the sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang includes: visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong (reconstructed) originally built in 1638. The significance of the Dzong is it depicts the flourish of Buddhism in four directions. The Dzong is situated at the union of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Drive further to Gangtey. Visit Gangtey monastery also known as Gangtey Goempa, “The epitome of architectural heritage. It is located in the beautiful destination, Phobjikha valley of Bhutan. You can explore the globally endangered black necked cranes that make home in this valley.Gangtey Goempa is the largest Nyingma monastery in western Bhutan founded by Gyalse Pema Thinley, the grandson and reincarnation of Terton Pema Lingpa in 1613. Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation built the temple. At present the Gangtey Trulku Kunzang Pema Namgyal, the ninth reincarnation looks after the monastery. The packed lunch will be served at Gangtey.

Dinner and overnight at the Theckchen Phodrang Guest House or similar.

6

Gangtey - Trongsa – Bumthang

After breakfast, drive to Trongsa. Visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress in Bhutan built in its present form in 1647 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify eastern Bhutan. The dzong was further expanded by Desi Tenzin Rabgay in 1652. Trongsa serves both as the administrative and monastic centre for the district. Moreover, the Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. Then Visit Trongsa Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower. Ta dzong is located above the Trongsa dzong on the left bank of the Mangde River. It was built by Choeje Minjur Tenpa, the first governor of Trongsa in 1652. The watch tower now houses a museum. The Gesar Lhakhang inside Ta dzong is said to be the dedication to Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal.

After Lunch, drive to Bumthang. Dinner and overnight in Swiss Guest House or similar. www.swissguesthouse.bt

7

Bumthang Sightseeing

After breakfast, drive to Bumthang. Lunch will be served at Bumthang. After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong, “The Castle of White Bird”. The current structure was rebuilt in 1667. The dzong acted as the fortress of defense of the central and easten Bhutan. Then visit Jambay Lhakhang which is said to be one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in the year 659 on the same day with Kichu Lhakhang in Paro to pin down an ogress to . The Lhakhang was visited by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang and restored by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche returned his life force. One of the most spectacular festivals, Jambay Lhakhang Drup is hosted here for five days. The festival highlights the fire ritual in the evening where the crowds gather to watch the naked dance.
After lunch, visit Kurjey Lhakhang that is named after body print of Guru Rimpoche (Kur=body; Jey=Print). It was built in 1652 by Minjur Tempa. Kurjey is a very important place of pilgrimage for the Bhutanese and the Bhuddhist from all over the world. Then visit Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the good message), built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It is the important Nyingmapa temple in the country. It is famous for its collection of religious paintings. Its mother monastery is Lhalung in Tibet. Presently, the core missions of Tamshing are teaching the Dharma and providing religious services to the community.

Then visit Membartsho ( “The Burning Lake”), in the Tang Valley near Bumthang. It is associated with Guru Rinpoche and the Terton Pema Lingpa who discovered several of Guru Rimpoche’s hidden Terma / relics here.

Dinner and overnight in Swiss Guest House or similar.

8

Excursion to Ura valley & back to Bumthang

): After breakfast, tour to the beautiful valley of Ura and visit Ura Temple built in 1982. The most important relic of the temple is copper made human size Guru Statue.
Dinner and overnight in Swiss Guest House or similar.

9

Bumthang – Thimphu

After early breakfast, drive to Thimphu. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.

10

Thimphu

After breakfast, excursion to Cheri Monastery. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620 and establishe the first monk body here. A silver chorten inside the goemba holds the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father.
After lunch, visit Takin Preserve Centre, Sangay Gang view point and to the Buddha Point. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.

11

Thimphu – Paro

After breakfast, drive to Paro and hike to Drakarpo. Picnic lunch will be served. In the evening, visit a Farm house. Dinner and overnight in Tashi Namgay Resort or similar. www.tashinamgayresort.com

11

Departure

Early morning, drive to Airport and Farewell.

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