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Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sightseeing in Thimphu if possible.
Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang, will be open to tourists once it is completed in 2012. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma , Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
National Memorial Chorten – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Thimphu Dzong – The largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
We will head on to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan in the morning. The roads bring visitors through scented pine and cedar forests, festooned with hanging lichen. The Punakha River is one of the biggest rivers in Bhutan. During spring and winter, the color of the river turns jade and is beautiful.
Dochula Pass – The 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over indian militants and to liberate the souls of the souls lost.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
We would start our 7 hour drive to Central Bhutan. Before we start we will pay a visit to Chhimi Lhakhang (left) – A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for barren women.
This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area with a wide variety of fauna and flora. The Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) making Bumthang his home have led to more than 40 temples being built in this peaceful valley. Witness the tsechu today, a rich form of the oral history tradition where the Bhutanese pass on values, mythology and spiritual beliefs through the dance dramas.
The Nimalung Tshechu will culminate with a rare display of a giant silk applique thangkha (painting) depicting Guru Padmasambava or some other important Buddhist deity this morning.
In the morning, we will hike to the Tamshing Goemba, built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa. We will also visit Kurjey Lhakhang (left-bottom), one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses a rock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who had taken the form of a white lion.
We will also visit Jambay Lhakhang, built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. Come October, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan.
In the afternoon, we will hike up to Thangbi Valley, crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century via an unpaved road.
On route to Gangtey is Trongsa, the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty.
Trongsa, literally “New Town” in the Dzongkha language, is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. Each King in the line of succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before donning the Raven Crown. The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by. Its foundation was laid by Pema Lingpa and flourished during the 17th century under Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal. The impressive fortress is a massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde Chu Valley,commanding the east-west road.
The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Gompa monastery. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Today we will do some short hikes around the valley of Phobjikha.
Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan. Made up of just three main streets, it is only one of 2 capitals in the world without traffic lights. As the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu offers a rich cultural heritage with places of interest as listed below.
Heritage Museum – Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artefacts used in rural households.
Textile Museum – witnesses the art of traditional weaving.
Paper making factory – witnesses the art of paper making
Simtokha Dzong – Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge, stands Semtokha Dzong the oldest fortress in the Kingdom.
Paro Valley – The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong – also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag.
Ta Dzong – Built as a watch tower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Drukgyal Dzong – A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate.Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Taktsang Monastery – A one hour hike to the cafeteria is also a vantage view whereby you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. Prayer flags adorn the clifts and this is also where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century.
Kyichu Lhakhang – After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
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