The Last Shangrila..12 days

THE JOURNEY TO THE LAST SHANGRILA (11 NIGHTS 12 DAYS)

TRIP AN OVERVIEW

With so much to see and experience in Bhutan, how does one choose how long to stay and what to see? We have designed this trip to give you an extra-ordinary experience of life in Bhutan, from the cities and towns, to rural life, nature and the stunning landscape and, of course, the monastic life of this Buddhist Kingdom where Gross National Happiness is a higher priority than Gross National Product.

Bhutan is full of tourist hotspots. We will tour you around Bhutan’s best places to visit. Most of these places are of great importance to Bhutan’s culture and history.

Ta Dzong is an ancient watchtower that houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”). Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery is spectacular and also a must see. The Drukgyal Dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins but still an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Here, once can also have an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari. From Satsam Chorten, one can walk to reach the Taktsang monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The National Memorial Chorten was built in honour of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. In Sangaygang view point, the tallest statue of Buddha, the Takin Preserve center, the Dupthop Lhakhang (one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan) and the Changangkha Lhakhang can be seen. Other highlights include a visit to the Cheri monastery, Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and a visit to the Handicrafts Emporium.

On the way to Punakha is the Dochula pass where the higher Himalayas can be viewed. The Chime Lhakhang temple is also on the way. It literally means “The Temple of Fertility”.  The Punakha Dzong served as the seat of the government for many years. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that houses a statue of Buddha. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk convened the new national assembly here in 1952.

In Gangtey, the Gangtey Gompa temple is situated.  Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second reincarnation, built the temple. There is also the Phobjikha valley, famous for the Black Necked Cranes during winter.

These were just examples of the many beautiful places and landmarks in Bhutan. In every place that we will visit, our tour guides will accommodate us and will explain the details about each place. Feel free to approach them.

ITINERARY

Day 01: Arrive at Paro. (Altitude 2280 m) (By Druk Air flight):

Your Guide from us will meet you up at the airport and will drive a short distance to the hotel.

After lunch, we will drive our way to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley. It was built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan. The dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. We will explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m). On the way back, we will visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo. We will have dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 02: Paro sightseeing – Thimphu. (Altitude 2320 m. 54 kms):

This will be a very special day, with a tour to view the spectacular Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery. After breakfast, a short drive will take us to Satsam Chorten.  From there, a 2-hour walk will take us to the view point of the monastery. The trail climbs through the beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments will be served at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then we will walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the Taktsang monastery. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1684 by the Penlop of Paro Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay; this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here through riding on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo, said to be his favorite consort.

After breakfast, we will visit Ta Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong (literally means “Heap of Jewels”, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk will take you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge. A short distance further is one of the innumerable archery grounds (archery is the national sport of Bhutan). If we are lucky, we may catch a match in action. The evening ends with a walk through Paro's main shopping district. In the evening, we will drive back to Thimphu and will stay overnight at the hotel.

Day 03: Thimphu Sightseeing: (Altitude 2320 m).

The day begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (1974). It was built in honor of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. We then visit the National Library, stocked with ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and the Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through the instructions in the art of painting Thangkas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). After lunch we drive to the Traditional Medicine Institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. Other highlights include a visit to the Tashichho Dzong, a seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and finally a visit to the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. We will stay overnight at the hotel.

Day 04: Thimphu - Punakha: (Altitude 1310 m, Distance 76 kms, Drive Time 3 hours):

After breakfast, we will drive to Punakha via Dochula pass. If the weather is clear, we will stop for a while at Dochula pass to view the higher Himalayas. We will have lunch at Punakha.

After lunch, we will visit Punakha Dzong which was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated between Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the government. The construction of the Dzong was foretold by Guru Rimpoche, who predicted, “…a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that housed a statue of Buddha. It is said that Shabdrung ordered the architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of the statue, while Palep was sleeping; the Shabdrung took him in his dreams to Zangtopelri and showed him the palace of Guru Rimpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design for the new Dzong, which in keeping with the tradition, was never committed to paper. The Dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here. Punakha is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk convened the new national assembly here in 1952. In the evening, we will visit Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery and will go back to the hotel. 

Day 05: Punakha – Gangtey (Altitude 3120 m)

After breakfast, we will go to the beautiful valley of Gangtey. On the way, we will stop for a while to view Chime Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley. He subdued the demons with his “Magical Thunder bolt”. The Temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”. En route sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang includes a visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong (from outside) which was built in 1638. Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong; four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered an auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. We will go farther to reach Gangtey. After lunch, we will explore Phobjikha valley which is famous for the Rare Black – Necked Cranes in winter.  We will have dinner and overnight stay at Guest House.

Day 06: Gangtey – Trongsa - Bumthang: (Altitude 2800 m, Distance 188 kms, Drive Time 6 hour drives.)

After breakfast, we will go to Trongsa. We will visit Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive dzong in Bhutan, built in its present form in 1644 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Shabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan. It was then enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family and the first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong. After Lunch, we will visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower. The chapel inside the Ta Dzong is dedicated to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. After this, we will go to Bumthang. We will then go back to the hotel.

Day 07: Bumthang Sightseeing: (Altitude 2800 m.)

After breakfast, we will visit Jakar Dzong, which literally means “The Castle of White Bird”. The current structure was built in 1667. We will also visit Jambay Lhakhang which is said to have been built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in the year 659 on the same day as Kichu Lhakhang in Paro.  The temple was visited by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang and was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life force. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma. During October, one of the most spectacular festivals, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here. After lunch, we will go to Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the good message) which was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom.  In the evening, we will visit Membartsho, which literally means, “The Burning Lake”. It was here that the Terton Pema Lingpa discovered the treasures hidden by Guru Rimpoche in the 14th century.

Day 08: Excursion to Ura valley & back to Bumthang (Altitude 3100 m, Distance 51 kms, Drive Time 1 hour drive):

After breakfast, we will tour you to the beautiful valley of Ura. While in Ura, we will visit the Ura village which is a cluster of houses as well as the Ura Temple.  We are going to have the dinner and overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 09: Bumthang – Thimphu (212 kms):

We will have an early breakfast then we will drive to Thimphu. We will stay overnight at the hotel.

Day 10: Thimphu: (Altitude 2320 m)

After breakfast, we will take you to Cheri Monastery. After lunch, we will visit Mini Zoo, Sangay Gang view point and the tallest statue of Buddha.

Day 11: Thimphu – Paro: (Altitude 2280 m)

After breakfast, we will drive to Paro and will hike to Drakarpo. Picnic lunch will be served. In the evening, we will visit a farm house.

Day 12: Departure: (Altitude 2280 m)

Early in the morning, we will take you to the airport and will say our sincere farewell.

 

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