Bumthang Cultural Trek
Day 1 - Arrive Paro and Transfer to Thimphu
On arrival at Paro airport our representative will meet you outside the customs area. He/she will then accompany you on the 65 km drive to Thimphu and assist you with the hotel check in. You may spend the rest of the day exploring the town and taking in the atmosphere and culture of this unique and enchanting country.
Day 2 - Thimphu Sightseeing
National Memorial Chorten – This iconic chorten (stupa) was built in 1974 in memory of Bhutan’s Third King who is popularly regarded as the father of modern Bhutan as it was he who ushered in the era of modern development. The paintings and statues inside the stupa provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Folk Heritage Museum - This is an old three storied traditional Bhutanese house which has been preserved to provide a glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle. The artifacts in the house reflect the lifestyle of people in rural Bhutan even today.
National Textile Museum - Here you can discover the beauty and diversity of the living textile arts for which Bhutan is well known. The finest examples of woven, embroidered and appliqued textiles are on display alongside relevant production techniques in the Textile Museum. You can also observe weavers and embroiderers at work at the Weaving Center on the premises of the Royal Textile Academy.
National Zorig Chusum Institute – The National Institute for Zorig Chusum, or the school of the 13 Traditional Crafts of Bhutan is a college where students come to train in the various Bhutanese crafts such as painting, wood carving, clay sculpting, metal work and needle work. The institute was set up by the government as a means to preserve the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The institute provides four to six year courses to young men and women who want to learn any of the thirteen traditional arts and crafts. You are permitted to go into the classrooms and see the students as they work at wood carving, painting, clay statue making, embroidery etc.
Tashichho Dzong - "The Fortress of Glorious Religion" originally built in 1641 by Bhutan’s founding father Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, and rebuilt in 1969 by the Third King, this magnificent structure serves as the Government’s Central Secretariat building and also houses the Throne Room of the King.
Day 3 - Thimphu-Trongsa
After an early breakfast embark on the drive to Trongsa. (Distance 200 km/ Appx. driving time 7 hrs.) The road passes through spectacular mountain scenery and you will have plenty of photo opportunities. Points of interest along the way include:
Dochula Pass (3150m), Located 30 km from Thimphu this is a favorite spot for travellers on the main highway to central and eastern Bhutan. On a clear day you can get a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan range. There are 108 chortens or stupas built by the Queen Mother in memory of all those who lost their lives during Bhutan’s conflict with Indian separatist guerillas in 1990s.
Chendebji Chorten – Located about 41 km before reaching Trongsa this stupa was built in the 18th century to suppress a demon that was terrorizing the local area. It stands out as a unique chorten as it was built in the Nepalese style with eyes painted in all four directions.
Trongsa Dzong - After your arrival in Trongsa you will visit the Trongsa Dzong. Constructed in 1644 this is perhaps the largest and most impressive of all the Dzongs in the entire country. It is also one of the most historically significant as it is the traditional seat of power of the present monarchy. Just as the heir to the British Throne first assumes the title of the Prince of Wales, the heir to Bhutan’s throne first assumes the office of Trongsa Penlop, or Governor of Trongsa.
Day 04 - Trongsa - Jakar
After breakfast visit the Tower of Trongsa museum which is reached by a flight of steps from the main road. This museum which is housed in a former watch tower is dedicated to the monarchy and is considered to be the best in the country. You will then embark on the 68 km drive to Jakar crossing over the 3,354m Yotongla pass before descending down into the broad valley of Bumthang.
Day 05 - Jakar: Sightseeing in Bumthang
Considered to be the religious and spiritual heartland of Bhutan, Bumthang has the longest history and some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. Places of interest in Bumthang include:
Jambay Lhakhang - According to legend this ancient temple was built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in 659 A.D. as part of a chain of 108 simultaneously constructed temples in order to subdue an evil demoness that lay over the Himalayan region.
Kurjey lhakhang – Kurjey temple was built in the 17th century. The temple is built at the site where the saint Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and much of the Himalayas left his body imprint on the wall of a cave where he meditated to subdue a local deity.
Tamshing Lhakhang - located opposite to Kurjey on the other side of the river, Tamshing Lhakhang was founded 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava and a renowned Bhutanese religious master. The temple has very interesting religious paintings such as those of 1000 Buddhas, and the 21 Taras (female form of Bodhisatvas).
Jakar Dzong - Founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal, the founder of the Bhutanese state. The dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549 but was reconstructed in 1646 after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. The Dzong is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.
Day 06 - Jakar -Ngang Lhakhang
The trek begins from Toktu Zampa which is about half an hour’s drive from Jakar. The trek covers about12 km and takes about 5-6 hours. The trail follows the Chamkhar Chu river and passes through a number of villages. Lunch will be at Thangbi Lhakhang from where the trail leads to Ngang Lhakhang (Temple of Swans).
Day 07 - Nang Lhakhang - Ogyen Choling (Distance 16 km, 6-7hrs.)
The trek starts out across meadows with a view of the valley below. Then the trail gradually ascends to Phe phela Pass (3,360m) the highest point of the trek. The trail takes you through beautiful forested areas and once over the pass it gradually descends to Tahung village where your vehicles will be waiting to take you to Ogyen Choling.
Day 08 - Ogyen Choling
After breakfast take a tour of the Ogyen Choling museum and complex. Ogyenchholing is a well preserved example of a traditional Bhutanese manorial house part of which has now been converted into a private museum. Originally constructed in 14th century it was damaged by the great earthquake of 1897. The present structures were completed in 1903. The museum and has interesting displays of traditional items of household use and provides an intimate peek into the daily lives of a traditional landed family until the middle of the last century.
Day 9 - Ogyen Choling - Phobjikha (214km/ 9 hrs.)
Today we drive back to Phobjikha passing through Jakar and Trongsa and once over the Pelela Pass which separates central and western Bhutan we divert to Phobjikha valley. The road climbs through conifer and rhododendron forests for 3 km before descending a few kilometers into the wide valley which is famous for being the habitat of the endangered Black Necked Cranes which migrate here from Tibet each winter.
Day 10 - Phobjikha -Punakha (78 km./3hrs.)
The glacial valley of Phobjikha is considered to be among the most beautiful in Bhutan. Enjoy the beauty and serenity of this magical place by taking a stroll through the valley. Visit to the highly revered Gangtey Goemba (monastery) which stands on a hillock overlooking the entire valley. Next visit the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature’s (RSPN) Balck Necked Crane Information Center which has informative displays about the birds and the valley environment.
Day 11 - Punakha - Thimphu (77 km/ 3hrs)
After breakfast visit the Punakha Dzong which is situated at the confluence of two rivers and is one of the most beautiful dzongs in the country. It was here that the first king of Bhutan was crowned and it served as the winter capital until the middle of the last century.
Next we will visit the Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Chorten which was built by the mother of the present King on a beautiful ridge above Punakha valley. It is a fine example of Bhutanese architectural traditions. It is reached by a 15-20 minute walk from a suspension bridge.
In the afternoon we set out for Thimphu. En-route we will visit Chhimmi Lhakhang, a famous fertility temple. The temple is dedicated to Bhutan’s favorite saint Drukpa Kuenlay, often referred to as the “Divine Madman”. It is this saint who is credited with the popularity of the phallus which is still very much in evidence throughout Bhutan.
Day 12 Thimphu- Paro (65km/ 1hour)
After breakfast you can spend a few hours looking around town for any souvenirs or things which we may have missed earlier. After lunch we will drive to Paro. After checking into the hotel will visit some of the local places of interest in Paro.
Kyichu Lhakhang - One of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan dating back to the 7th century. It was built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo along with 108 other temples throughout Tibet and the neighboring regions in order to subdue an ogress.
Drukgyal Dzong - This Dzong located to the north of Paro valley was built to guard against invading Tibetan forces. It was destroyed by a major fire in 1951 and has since remained in ruins. Nonetheless, its strategic location and the still robust mud walls and charred remains of gigantic wooden posts a provide an interesting insight into Bhutan’s history.
Dungtse Lhakhang - Built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder saint ThangThong Gyalpo. The temple is unusual in that it is built in the shape of a stupa. The temple has three floors said to represent heaven, earth and hell and the mural paintings are considered to among the best in Bhutan.
Paro Rinpung Dzong - Paro Dzong is one of Bhutan's most impressive and well-known dzongs, and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture you'll see. The massive buttressed walls that tower over the town are visible throughout the valley.
National Museum - Established in 1968 and located in the Ta Dzong or watchtower above the Paro Rinpung Dzong, the museum houses some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings. Today the National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage. Its rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines, represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and is a major attraction for local and foreign visitors.
Day 13 - Excursion to Tiger’s Nest Temple
On your last day in Bhutan embark on an excursion to the iconic Taktshang or the Tiger’s Nest Temple. A short drive will take you to the base of the mountain on which the monastery stands balanced precariously in the middle of a cliff. The trek which takes about 3-4 hours is quite steep and those who do not feel up to it can hire ponies or mules to ride up to the viewpoint of the monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forests with many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss and occasional groves of fluttering prayer flags. Stop for a short rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Cafeteria from where you can get a spectacular bird’s eye view of the monastery. From here it is another hour’s hike up to the temple complex.
The main temple was built around a cave in Guru PadmaSambhava or Guru Rimpoche as he is known today was said to have meditated when he brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. The temple is considered to among the most sacred sites in the Himalayas.
Day 14 - Departure
After breakfast we drive to the Paro airport and bid you “Bon Voyage” for your flight to your next destination.