Kingdom in the Sky – 8 days

Day 01:  Arrival in Phuentsholing

bhutanOn arrival at Bhutan border Phuentsholing, met by our representative and after clearing immigration formalities, check in at the Hotel.

Phuentsholing is a thriving commercial centre, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills. It is a fascinating place where different ethnic groups mingle prominently Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese. Being the border town, Phuentsholing serves as the convenient entry/exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.

Later in the day if time permits visit Zangtho Pelri: Situated in city centre, this small temple represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche.

Overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing. (Altitude 300m)

Day 02 : Phuentsholing – Thimphu (180 km, approx 6 hours drive)

After breakfast, drive to Bhutan’s capital town, Thimphu.

En route  stop at Kharbandi Gompa, the beautiful monastery situated in garden of tropical plants and flowers. The monastery contains paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha and statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rimpoche. From the monastery garden there is a splendid view of Phuentsholing and plains of West Bengal and their tea gardens beyond.

Proceed further to Thimphu. This entire drive is very pleasant with numerous scenic spots en route.

Stop five miles before Thimphu to visit Simtokha Dzong, the place of profound tantric teaching, this dzong now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language.

On arrival, in Thimphu check-into the hotel. The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions.

Evening an exploratory walk around Thimphu main street and market area..

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320m)

Day 03 : Thimphu

bhutanAfter breakfast, drive to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around, enjoying the view of the valley.

Then, visit King's Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.

Afterwards visit  to Textile Museum which has given a new platform to the nation’s textiles and boasts of an invaluable collection of antique textile artifacts of Bhutan. Then drive to visit Folk Heritage Museum, dedicated to connect people with the rich Bhutanese Folk heritage and rural history through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs and documentation of Bhutanese rural life.

Post lunch, visit the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts and the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts.

Then, drive to Takin Preserve. The Takin is national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and goat.

Later in the afternoon visit Trashichhoedzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”. This is  the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.

Evening time can be spent strolling through the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts bazaar, to browse through example of Bhutan's fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, interesting items made from local materials.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320 m)

Day 04 : Thimphu – Punakha & Wangduephodrang (75 km, approx. 3 hours drive)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha / Wangduephodrang across Dochu La. Located at a height of 3,088m/ 10,130 ft, Dochula is a scenic location with chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate this highest point on the road. If skies are clear, you can see the following peaks from this pass in the order left to right: Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.bhutan

Afternoon visit Punakha Dzong or (Palace of Great Happiness), built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative center of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.

Later in the day excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.

The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha / Wangduephodrang . (Altitude 1,300m)

Day 05 : Punakha & Wangduephodrang – Paro (125 kms, approx. 4.1/2hours drive)

After breakfast drive back to Paro descending back down from Dochu La, follow the way back up the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, before crossing through Paro town towards the north end of the valley.

En route visit Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortress of the country and known as the place of profound tantric teaching. This dzong now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language.

Later in the day after checking into hotel, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

Then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.

Evening explore Paro local market.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 06 : Paro

Bhutan tiger's nestAfter breakfast embark on an interesting excursion to Taktshang Monastery (approx 5 hours round trip walk).  It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. Legends say that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.

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After breakfast, driving excursion to Chelela pass.

Chele la (pass), at an elevation 3,988 meters is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour's drive along a thickly-forested road, is this Pass-a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Here, visitors can see cascades of wild roses, purple and yellow primulas, and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor. In season,  the top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colours-pale pink, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.

Later en route, walking excursion to Dzongdrakha Goempa. Often called as mini Takshang, Dzongdrakha is a cliff-side temple complex on the western side of the Paro Valley.  Four shrines make up the complex, dedicated to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity), Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya. Local oral tradition states that when Guru Rinpoche first visited Bhutan, he came from Nepal, first landing at Drakarpo, and then Dzongdrakha before arriving at Taktshang (Tiger's Nest) farther north up the valley. Located approx 20 minute drive from Paro, these temples are built on a cliff above Bondey village but the walk is not as strenuous as Taktshang.

Afternoon drive to the base of Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari, "mountain of goddess'' can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong.

Along the way, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Evening enjoy Paro city centre.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 07: Paro – Phuentsholing (175 km, approx 6 hours drive)

After leisurely breakfast, drive back to Phuentsholing.  At Chuzom, the confluence of Paro & Thimphu rivers take a short stopover for photos. Three different style of stupas; Bhutanese, Tibetan and Nepalese adorn this confluence.

Drive further and pass through Chapcha village, crossing 2900m Chapcha La ridge. Then resume your journey to Chimakothi  township. The subsequent journey is through spectacular landscape, waterfalls and distant villages. En route stop by view point of Chukha Hydroelectric Power Project. The town of Gedu located in Chukha district is your next stopover which is home to one of the colleges of Royal University of Bhutan & College of Business studies. Before arrival to Phuentsholing, explore Kamji village and its temple.

Arrive Pheuntsholing by late afternoon and check into the hotel.

Evening explore Phunetsholing market and city centre.

Overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing. (Altitude 300m)

Day 08: Exit to India

After breakfast, depart Phuentsholing for onward journey.

Tashi Delek!