Arrive in Paro and drive to your hotel. After lunch, drive to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley 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). On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Tashi Namgay Resort or similar.
An early breakfast is followed by a short drive to Satsam Chorten, whence you embark upon a short trail that climbs through a beautiful pine forests; many of the trees are festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Taktsang monastery. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in 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 in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo, said to be his favourite consort.
After lunch, 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 meaning “Heap of Jewels”, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes 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 drive to Thimphu. On the way, visit Tamchog Monastery built by Thangthong Gyalpo (Popularly known as Lama Chazampa, which literally means, the Iron Bridge builder) in the 15th century.
Thang Thong Gyalpo (1385 – 1464) was a wonder working saint from Tibet who came to Bhutan in 1433 looking for Iron Ore. He built 108 bridges across Tibet and Bhutan, out of which 8 were built in Bhutan. His only surviving bridge is in Duksum (Tashi Yangtse in Eastern Bhutan).
Dinner and overnight in Hotel Migmar or similar.
The day begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (1974) built in honor of the 3rd King, the late Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and the 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 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, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and finally visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu. Dinner and overnight stay at Hotel Migmar or similar.
After breakfast, drive to Punakha via Dochula pass (3 hours). Weather permitting; we stop for a while at Dochula pass to view Higher Himalayas. On the way, take a brief pit-stop to view Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century. He subdued the demons with his “Magical Thunder bolt”. The Temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”.
Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455 – 1529) was one of the Bhutan’s Favourite Saints who was born in Tibet, trained at Ralung Monastery and was a contemporary and a disciple of Pema Lingpa. He Travelled throughout Bhutan and Tibet as a “Neljorpa” (Yogi) using songs, humour and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings of Salvation through sex.
After a sumptuous lunch, visit Punakha Dzong 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, visit Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery.
Dinner & overnight stay at Hotel Punatsangchhu Cottages or similar.
After breakfast drive to the beautiful valley of Gangtey. Pit-stops enroute, for sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang, including a visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong (from outside) built in 1638. Legend says when people were searching for the site of the Dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered an auspicious sign, interpreted as the spread of religion to in all four directions. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Lunch awaits you at the guesthouse in Gangtey, after which you will explore Phobjikha valley, famous for the Rare Black–Necked Cranes in winter. Dinner and overnight stay at Guest House.
After breakfast, drive to Trongsa (6 hours). 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 and enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family and first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.
After Lunch, visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower. The chapel inside the Ta Dzong is dedicated to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. Drive further to Bumthang. Dinner and overnight at Swiss Guest House or similar.
The following day, visit Jakar Dzong, which literally means “The Castle of White Bird”. The current structure was built in 1667. Visit Jambay Lhakhang 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. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here. After lunch, Visit Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the good message), established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom.
After lunch, 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. Dinner and overnight at the Swiss Guest House or similar.
The next day is reserved for a day excursion to the spectacular Ura Valley. Visit the Ura Village, which is nothing more than a cluster of houses and the Ura Temple.
After an early breakfast, you will drive to Thimphu. You will have the rest of the day at your leisure to explore the town. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Migmar or similar.
The next morning, visit the Cheri Monastery, which was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620 and established the first monk body here. A silver chorten inside the goemba holds the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father.
After lunch, visit Mini Zoo and Sangay Gang View point, where you will also see the Tallest Statue of Buddha. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Migmar.
Drive to Paro in the morning and enjoy an easy hike to Drakarpo, followed by a picnic lunch. In the evening, visit a farm house, followed by dinner and overnight stay at the Tashi Namgay Resort or similar.
Early next morning, transfer to the Airport and on-ward journey.
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