10 days, 09 nights
Difficulty Level: 1
Price (US$): From $2,995.00
Months Available: March through June and September through December
A mysterious Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan is a serene place where Buddhism is the essential foundation interwoven throughout daily life. Intense storms in these dramatic mountains gave Bhutan its name which means “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The landscape of deep valleys, lush forests and striking mountains is treasured by the Bhutanese people. Wildlife such as the golden langur, endangered snow leopard, black-necked crane, and takin, the national animal of Bhutan, call this stunning country home.
Bhutan maintained its independence for hundreds of years and remained closed to the outside world until 1974. Today, the country remains off the beaten path: full of vibrant culture and natural wonders that few people have the chance to experience. Bhutan’s constitutional monarchy aims to preserve traditional Bhutanese values and a quality of life that centers around spiritual values. This has been famously measured in terms of “Gross National Happiness.”
Fibers of Bhutan: Culture, Heritage and Art delves into the cultural and artistic heart of Bhutan. Traveling from west to east, you will see exquisitely built temples and shrines, hear the oral histories of the land and its inhabitants, and have intimate opportunities to meet the artisans and people who make Bhutan’s culture one of the most unique in the world.
In the western region of Paro, explore some of the holiest and historically significant temples and hike through breathtaking terrain. Northeast of Paro, in the capitol city of Thimphu, you will meet with a local textile designer and join her in an exclusive behind the scenes experience. You will also have time to engage in the capitol’s gallery of traditional Bhutanese culture. Explore the Thimphu weekend market to shop for handicrafts and immerse with locals in their daily routines.
Continue east across Bhutan via Dochula Pass: drinking in views of the higher Himalayas. The serene views are continuous throughout the Phobjikha Valley. Your Bhutanese experience will be crowned by hiking to the legendary Taktshang Monastery, also called Tiger’s Nest, on a trail through pine trees adorned with Spanish moss and fluttering prayer flags.
The tranquil kingdom of Bhutan is often called the “last Shangri-La.” The combination of Buddhist cultural traditions and stunning landscape make Bhutan a cherished and peaceful destination. Be one of the few travelers to experience Bhutan’s unique rural Himalayan life and arts.
Day 0 – Arrive Bangkok; overnight in Bangkok
Day 1 – Arrive Paro
Depart early from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. You will be met upon arrival at Paro (7,300 feet) and transferred to your hotel in Bhutan. After lunch, visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rimpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the center of civil and religious authority in this valley, built in 1646. Stroll the streets of Paro in the evening as you acclimate to the altitude. (Lunch and Dinner)
Day 2 – Paro to Thimpu
After breakfast, drive to the capital city of Thimphu (elevation 7,600 feet). On the way, view Tamchog Monastery built in the 15th century by Lama Chazampa: the “Iron Bridge Builder”. Lama Chazampa, who is also known as Thang Thong Gyalpo, came to Bhutan in 1433 from Tibet looking for iron ore. He built 108 bridges across Tibet and Bhutan in order to ease travel and pilgrimages in the Himalayas. Eight of his iron suspension bridges were built in Bhutan. People describe his craftsmanship as miraculous; this monastery is a rare testament to traditional Tibetan craftsmanship.
Thimphu is a quickly growing city, but small on international standards. With a growing population of youth who’ve decided to abandon their family farms for the opportunity to learn new technologies and skills, the city has grown more than 60% in the last 10 years. You will see evidence of the building boom everywhere.
While in Thimphu, visit the National Memorial Chorten and Dupthop Lhakhang one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. Later, we have the chance to meet Bhutan's national animal in person by visiting the Takin Preserve Centre, a wildlife reserve area for takin: an uncommon relative to sheep, sometimes called goat-antelope. (All meals)
Day 3 – Thimphu
Today you will have a full day exploring Thimphu and meeting some people shaping the future of Bhutan. Visit the Painting School where tradition is kept alive through instruction in the art of painting “Thangkas” - sacred Buddhist religious scrolls. The Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. We will see students learning the various skills taught at the school. Then, we will visit the National Textile Museum. The museum has six separate areas dedicated textile art specific to Bhutan, such as religious textiles, or textiles made from fibers indigenous to the country. Among the artifacts on display are exquisitely weaved textiles worn by Bhutanese royals.
After lunch, visit the Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) office whose mission is to empower and encourage Bhutanese women entrepreneurs to participate and contribute to Bhutan’s economic development. The business models implemented are innovative and Nobel-recognized: a new world of business in which profit-maximizing enterprises and social-benefit-maximizing enterprises can coexist. BAOWE's goals are to promote and facilitate businesses whose cores can encompass Bhutan's pillars of Gross National Happiness. Later we will learn more about Gross National Happiness, the primary governing policy of Bhutan. Note that it’s notjust a marketing slogan! Bhutan’s progressive government tends to the social equity, environmental impact, cultural value and governing qualities of every decision that the government makes. (All meals)
Day 4 – Thimphu to Punakha
Today we will drive to Punakha. Climbing steeply through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees to Dochula pass (10,000 feet), the road offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges on the descent to the fertile valley of Punakha (4,430 feet). Before arriving at the town of Punakha, we will visit the Royal Botanical Park in Lam Pelri. The Royal Botanical Park, is a nature reserve with 46 varieties of rhododendrons and numerous species of wildlife. The recorded species are: monal pheasants, blood pheasants, musk deer, tiger, leopard, red panda and the leopard cat.
After lunch in Punakha, visit the dramatic Punakha Dzong situated between the two rivers, Pho Chu and Mo Chu (male and female river). The fortress is used as the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the spiritual head of Bhutan). The Dzong served as the capital seat of the Kingdom for more than 300 years. The intricate Buddhist paintings inside the monastery are remarkable. (All meals)
Day 5 – Punakha
After breakfast, hike to Khamsum Yule Lhakhang. Cross a suspension bridge and walk through rice fields before you start climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. Built over a period of 9 years, Bhutanese craftsmen including carpenters, painters, and sculptors consulted Holy Scriptures rather than engineering manuals, to construct this 4-story temple. It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions and the only one of its kind in the world. Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, this temple is dedicated to the well being of the kingdom and the benefit of all sentient beings.
After lunch, visit Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the “fertility temple” on a small hilltop. The temple was dedicated to a great Yogi in the 14th century, known as Drukpa Kuenley, or “Divine Madman.” He dramatized Buddhist teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. Bold phallus symbols and paintings on the houses and temples are a result of his influence. Women seeking fertility come from all over the world to get blessed by a wooden phallus! Visit the Rinchengang Village, a small clustered village facing the Wangdue Dzong is known for its skill in traditional method of stone masonry. It is about a 20-minute walk uphill with great view of the Dzong, valley and the river. (All meals)
Day 6 – Punakha to Gangtey
After breakfast drive to the beautiful valley of Gangtey (elevation 10,236 feet). Enroute, we’ll stop to do some sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang We’ll visit the Wangduephodrang Dzong built in 1638, razed by fire in 2012, now being restored. Legend says that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions: an auspicious sign, representing the spread of Buddhism to the four points of the compass. On the way to Gangtey, you might be able to see some animals like brown capped monkeys, deer or yak. After arriving in the Phobjikha Valley we’ll visit the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre. Endangered black-necked cranes, locally known as Thrung Thrung Karm, come here to winter. The cranes are revered as a heavenly bird and a sign of good luck. Bhutanese folklore, songs, dances and historical references feature the black-necked crane. (All meals)
Day 7 – Gangtey
Today we’ll take a scenic day hike through the Phobjikha Valley. Starting from our hotel, we will head to Beta Village and visit a small school if it is in session. Then continue to Gangtey Goempa: one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries. From here, walk along the Gangtey Nature Trail, past Semchubara village, through forests of blue pine trees covered with lichen (known as old man’s beard) where birdwatchers can indulge in species-counting and bird viewing. Continue on from the end of the nature trail to Kingathang village and visit a temple built by the Queen Mother. From Kingathang, you can loop back via Yusa village to the hotel. If the cranes are nesting, this will be the perfect opportunity for viewing their unusual mating rituals. (All meals)
Day 8 – Gangtey – Thimphu
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. Lunch will be served in Thimphu. After lunch, you can visit the Weekend Market- the biggest crafts and vegetable market in Bhutan. Farmers and artists from all over Bhutan come here once a week to peddle their goods. (All meals)
Day 9 – Thimphu - Paro
Today, we’ll hike to the famous Taktshang, or Tiger’s Nest, Monastery. The trail to the monastery climbs through pine trees adorned with Spanish moss and occasional fluttering prayer flags. Hike at your own pace for about two to four hours. Note that the trail is fairly steep so decent physical conditioning is important.
Built in 1600s, the monastery clings to the edge of a sheer-rock cliff that plunges 2,952 feet into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here for three years. You can offer butter lamps inside the Monastery.
After lunch, we’ll take a short drive to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 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. Explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m)., a sacred mountain with no mountaineering allowed.
On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king, Srongsen Gampo. This Monastery is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan King to subdue the Demoness that lay across the Himalayan region. The rest of the monasteries lie in neighboring countries. (All meals)
Day 10 – Depart for homeTransfer to airport for flight home. (Breakfast)
|November 21 - 30, 2016||GUARANTEED|
AVAILABLE: Book this trip now as spaces are available.
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