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Journeys to Himalayas Travel

Destination : Haa, Paro, Bumthang, Punakha, Thimphu (5/5) | 5 Reviews
  • museum
  • temple
  • guide
  • meals
  • hotel
  • driver
  • walking
  • hikes

Description

Western and Central Bhutan tour through the Himalayan slopes for experience and understanding of Bhutan, a country rich in culture, tradition and nature. Journeys in the Himalayas is a twelve nights Bhutan tour covering the Western and Central Bhutan. The destinations covered by the itinerary are Paro, Punakha/Wangdue, Trongsa, Bumthang (the most historical place), Gangtey/Phobjikha (The untouched Glacial Valley), Thimphu and the Haa Valleys (the less traveled place).

Within these 12 nights of stay in Bhutan, you shall be able to experience and understand the destinations in the western and central Bhutan inclusive of the less travel place to the most historical place. The itinerary is named “Journeys through the Himalayas” because this is about traveling the valleys in the Himalayas and driving through the slopes of Himalayas.


Outline Itinerary

DAY 1 – Arrive Paro
DAY 2 – Paro
DAY 3 – Paro – Punakha/Wangdue
DAY 4 – Punakha/Wangdue
DAY 5 – Punakha – Trongsa – Bumthang
DAY 6 – Bumthang
DAY 7 – Bumthang – Gangtey/Phobjikha
DAY 8 – Gangtey/Phobjikha
DAY 9 – Gangtey – Thimphu
DAY 10 – Thimphu
DAY 11 – Thimphu – Haa
DAY 12 – Haa – Paro
DAY 13 – Departure


Detailed Itinerary

Altitude of Paro – 2280 m.  

On your journey to Paro, the panoramic views of the Himalayas are sensational, including the Everest and other famous Himalayan Peaks. The approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro becomes more exciting as you enter Bhutan.

On arrival, you will be received with a warm welcome by your Bhutanese tour guide from Find Bhutan with “Tashi khadar”, then Check in Hotel.

After lunch, you may relax or go around the Paro town and valley – A time for yourself. If you have enough time, you can also choose to sightseeing in discussion with your tour guide from Find Bhutan.

Dinner with your Bhutanese Host as you converse in regards to this new place and its cultures.

Overnight in Hotel.

Altitude of Paro -2280 m.

After breakfast, start your day with a hike to the abode of gods and monks, the Taktshang Monastery. It shall be taken care of that the time shall be yours for the hike, no hurries and no worries. Reaching the top shall be worth the climb; the touch of the Himalayan breeze, the views of the valley below and temple on the rocky cliff shall be fascinating and shall let you feel the real freedom of mind and happiness.

Taktshang Monastery: The primary lhakhang was built surrounding Guru Rinpoche’s Meditation cave in the 1684 by 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 flew here on the back of a tigress which gives its name “Taktshang” meaning Tiger’s nest. It is a two to three hours excursion uphill; however, one feels truly blessed reaching the monastery.

Picnic Lunch among the woods shall be another great experience. After lunch, visit the Kyichhu Lhakhang.

Kyichhu Lhakhang: This temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo miraculously built 108 temples to consecrate the entire region of Himalaya in the 7th century. Kyichhu Lhakhang is considered to be one of them.

Then we have a special program for you to feel the pure Bhutanese hospitality.  Drive to a village house. You shall be served with the local Bhutanese alcohol (Arra) and shall have the opportunity to understand and experience the life in a village in Bhutan. Right from the daily household chores to other works in the field. Also relax in traditional hot stone bath.

Hot stone bath: The traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath, known as Dotsho in local language has been practiced in Bhutan for centuries as a medicinal soak. Many Bhutanese believe that the bath helps in curing joint pains, helps in relaxing and other medical problems. River stones are heated and then put in water to heat the water; sometime medicinal herbs are added to the water before it is ready for the soak.

You may choose to have your dinner with the family. You can also have the option to spend overnight in the village house, however this will have to be confirmed during the confirmation of your tour to Bhutan.

Dinner and overnight in village house or hotel.

Driving Distance – 143 km approx. Driving time – 4 to 5 hrs. Altitude of Punakha – 1310 m.

After breakfast, drive to Punakha. Driving through the well maintained road between Paro to Thimphu shall be a great experience. The barren mountains, the Paro River (Pa Chhu) joining the Thimphu River (Wangchhu) at Chuzomsaa and the three stupas, and the Tamchog Lhakhang are some of the interesting sights as you travel from Paro. After you reach Simtokha in Thimphu, travel to Punakha/Wangdue gives you the view of Simtokha Dzong and then the winding roads leads you through blue pine forests and the villages of Hongtsho (2890m) and Yusipang. The local villages sell apples, walnuts, dried cheese in this area. The road climbs through the forest till you reach the Dochula Pass. Stop at Dochula Pass to view higher Himalayas and the visit the Druk Wangyal Chhortens.

Dochula pass: The most known pass in Bhutan, about 30 km drive from the Capital City Thimphu on the way to Wangduephodrang/Punakha. It is at around 3150 m height. On a clear day, spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas mountain ranges can be seen. The pass also has 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chhortens which is believed to bring multi fold merit to all sentient beings and which make the pass a must visit place.

After a good time in Dochula Pass, follow the road downhill, the vegetation now changes from oak, maple and blue pine to a forest of Hemlock, fir, Rhododendron, alder cypress, etc. You shall come across a chorten which was built because of frequent accidents in the area. The road leads you to the Royal Botanical Park and then slowly descends towards Thinleygang. The wind gets warmer here and you shall experience that the vegetation is mostly of cactus, oranges, bamboo, pine and paddy fields. You shall also start to see the views of the Wangdue and Punakha Valley after some time.

Lunch on the way.

After driving a short distance from Metshina, take a short and easy hike through paddy fields and villages to visit the Chhimi Lhakhang.

Chhimi Lhakhang: This temple is located on the way to Punakha. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15 century. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is also known as the Divine Madman.

Then, visit the impressive Punakha Dzong.

Punakha Dzong: This Dzong was built by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637. It is built at the junction the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu Rivers. The annual Punakha Tshechu (Festival) is held here. The monk body resides in this Dzong in winter.

In the evening, explore the Punakha and Wangdue town and valley.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Altitude – 1310 m. approx.

After a leisure breakfast, excursion to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten.  Take a short drive to the base and then walk through paddy fields before you climb a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. You shall be hiking for approximately 1 hr. to reach the temple.

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten: This Chhorten is built on a ridge above the Punakha valley. It took around nine years to build the Chhorten. It is said that the Bhutanese craftsmen consulted Holy Scriptures to construct this 4 storey temple. The temple was built by Her Majesty, the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck.

You could choose to have a picnic Lunch or at the hotel.

After Lunch, explore the remote villages in upper Punakha. Visit villages and village Houses, interact with people and experience the village life in Bhutan. Walking through the paddy fields from a village to another and re – living with nature shall be another bigger experience.

If you are interested in rafting, you could choose to do the same in Punakha at an extra cost.

In the evening return to Hotel. Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance – 212 km approx.| Driving time – 7 – 8 hr. approx. |Altitude of Gangtey – 2900 m.

After breakfast, drive to Trongsa. The road leads you through the side of bare hills following the river (Drang Chhu) until you reach Chuzomsa, the confluence of the Dang Chhu and the Pe Chhu. After crossing the bridge the road goes uphill through pine forests often encountering small villages, where women spinning yarns on their porches, older men idling their time and children frolicking around could be the most common sights. Finally you reach the Pelela Pass at 3420 meters with the customary Chorten (Stupa) and long colorful flags covering the hilltops. You shall also find stalls selling local handicraft items. The road then goes downhill giving you beautiful views of admirable landscape and villages until you reach the Chendebji Chhorten.

Chendebji Chhorten: This Chhorten was constructed by Tshering Wangchuk son of Yon-Say and the Mahasiddha Zhidag in accordance with the prophecy of the Second Gangteng Tulku Tenzin Legpai Dhundrup. It was built to subdue evil spirits and it is built in the style of the great Boudnath Chhorten of Nepal.

After driving for approximately 1 – 2 hours you shall see the view of the impressive Trongsa Dzong. Drive further to Trongsa and visit the Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong.

Trongsa Dzong; The most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung 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. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.

Ta Dzong; An ancient watch tower. The chapel inside is said to be dedicated to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal.

Lunch in Trongsa. After lunch, drive to Bumthang via Yotong La Pass at 3425 m, marked by a Chhorten and prayer flags. Drive down the Pass through Rhodendrons and different types of pine forest until you reach the plains of Chhumey Valley. You could choose to walk through the villages in Chhumey Valley (if time permits). Otherwise it could be done while coming back.

Drive to Bumthang.  Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Altitude of Bumthang: 2650 m

After breakfast, drive through Bathpalathang and Tamshing Village to visit Tamshing Lhakhang, one of the oldest Monasteries in Bhutan.

Tamshing Lhakhang: Tamshing literally means the Temple of the good message. It was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.

After the visit to Lhakhang, take a short hike through villages crossing the Chamkhar Chhu (River) to visit the Kurjey, Jambay and Chakar Lhakhang on the other side of the river.

Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple was named after body print of Guru Rimpoche and is one of the most oldest and important temples in Bhutan.

Jambay Lhakhang: This Lhakhang was built by King Srongsen Gompo of Tibet. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.

Chakar Lhakhang:  Literally meaning the Iron Castle, the original palace was made of Iron and hence the name “Chakar”.

Lunch in one of the restaurants in the town or Picnic Lunch. After lunch, visit the Jakar Dzong.

Jakar Dzong: Literally meaning the Castle of White Bird. The current structure was built in 1667.

Then drive to Membarstho, Literally meaning, The burning Lake”. After the visit to the lake drive back to Bumthang and visit the cheese and fruit processing factory in Bathpalathang, Bumthang. The factory was founded by Swiss and produces a variety of Cheese, butter, apple wine, Red panda beer, honey, etc.

In the evening, free time to explore the Bumthang valley.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance – 188 km approx.| Driving time – 5 to 6 hr. approx. |Altitude of Gangtey – 2900 m.

After breakfast, drive to Phobjikha/Gangtey. While in Chummey valley stop to visit the Yathra Factory. Interact with the weavers and you may opt to buy the most famous textile of Bumthang.

Yathra: It is the most famous textile product of Bumthang. The Chhumey Valley is known for the beautiful Yathra woven by the locals. Yathra is a hand woven fabric made from the wool of sheep or Yak. The wool is first spun into threads and then dyed before they are woven into Yathra with beautiful flower patterns and colors. The Yathra cloth is made into scarves, jackets, table cloths, bags, etc. Most of the women in this valley, especially in Zungye village earn their lively hood by weaving Yathra which is supplied to various towns in Bhutan.

Drive further to Gangtey via same road. Lunch on the way.

After reaching Pelela Pass, drive for some time and the take the turn towards Lawala Pass (3360 m), where you may encounter yaks in colder months. The slopes are covered with dwarf bamboo and looks beautiful when green. The road further descends to Gangtey village and Gangtey Goemba and towards the Phobjikha valley.

In the evening, explore the Phobjikha Valley.

The Phobjikha Valley- The Phobjikha is of immense beauty. It is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys in the Himalayas and the winter roosting place of the endangered black necked crane.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Altitude of Gangtey/Phobjikha: 2900 m

You could opt to take a private walk in the morning before breakfast. It could be beautiful to see the mists hanging low and the waking up of the valley.

After breakfast, visit the Gangtey Goemba.

Gangtey Goemba; This Monastery overlooks the large green expanse of the Phobjikha Valley. Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation.

You may choose to do any of the following for the rest of the day:

  1. Visiting villages and interacting with People
  2. Hikes in the valley
  3. Photography, etc.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance – 135 km approx. | Driving time – 5 hrs. approx. | Altitude of Thimphu – 2350 m.

After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. On the way, stop at Lamperi to visit the Royal Botanical Park.

Royal Botanical Park – Situated at an altitude range of 2100 meters – 3800 meters, the park covers an area of 47 square kilometers and is located between Thimphu and Punakha. The park contains a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and features a huge species of plants and animals including endangered species such as Himalayan yew, native Rhododendron, Royal Bengal Tiger, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Blood pheasants and Himalayan Monal. You can also find Tetracentron (an ancient relict angiosperm with no vessel in its trunk) in the park. The park has 14.5 km of trails for eco trek for cycling and walking and one of the main attractions is the rhododendron garden including a picnic spot with children’s playground.

Drive to Thimphu.  Lunch on the way.

After lunch, you may relax or go around the Thimphu town and valley – A time for yourself. If you have enough time, you can also choose to sightseeing in discussion with your tour guide from Find Bhutan. You could also choose to di cycling around Thimphu valley at an extra cost

A private traditional Cultural show over the dinner.

Overnight in hotel.

Altitude of Thimphu – 2350 m.

After a leisure breakfast, your sightseeing for the day includes;

Sangaygang view point (2685 meters): You can have a very good view of whole Thimphu valley from this place. Walking through the hundreds of colorful prayer flags that dot the hill could be another good experience.

Takin Preserve Centre: Takin, the national animal of Bhutan can be seen here. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region.

Changangkha Monastery: This monastery is built on a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. It was built in 15th Century by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo. Many parents of Thimphu take their new born babies to this monastery to be blessed by a high lama.

Folk Heritage Museum: Founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck the museum is one of a kind that portrays the lifestyle of a family in the Thimphu valley in the olden days. This is a three storied, 19th century traditional house giving an insight to the Bhutanese lifestyle, and artifacts from the rural households. The museum contains typical Bhutanese household objects, tools and equipment.

A typical Bhutanese lunch at Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant. Tasting the local “Arra” (Bhutanese Local alcohol) is a great experience.

After lunch sightseeing includes;

The Institute for Zorig Chusum: Zorig Chusum means the thirteen traditional arts and crafts. Students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan in this institute.

The Institute of Traditional medicine: Medicines are prepared according to the Tradition practices in this institute. People are also treated here in traditional ways.

Kuenselphodrang: A place for refreshing with a huge statue of Buddha. The area also gives a very good view of the Thimphu Valley from the west. The place also consists for biking trail and has a picnic spot.

National Memorial Chhorten: This Chhorten was built in the honor of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. This Chhorten was built in 1974 in a typical Tibetan style. This Chhorten is also a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu and contains many religious paintings and tantric statues. Lighting Butter lamps and circumambulating the chhorten can be a great experience and a good way to earn merits as per Buddhist beliefs.

In the evening, visit the Tashichhodzong.

Tashichhodzong: The Dzong is the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) at present. A Doom (Blue Stone) Dzong was built on the hill above Thimphu in 1216 the lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa. A few years later Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who brought the Drukpa Kagyu lineage to Bhutan, took over Dohon Dzong. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (The one who unified the country) acquired the Dzong in 1641 from the descendants of lama Phajo and renamed it as Tashichhodzong.

In the evening, you could choose to visit a local resident in Thimphu and spend time with the family.

Overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance – 115 km. | Driving time – 3 to 4 hrs. approx. |Altitude of Haa – 2670 m.

After breakfast, drive to Haa. Please ensure that you make the drive of 115 km interesting and beautiful by stopping at places, visiting villages, interacting with people and taking photographs of rural areas and nature.

The drive from Thimphu to Haa takes you through the villages of Namseling and Kasadrapchhu until you reach Chuzomsa, where the Paro River (Pa Chhu) meets the Thimphu River (Wangchhu). You shall see the three stupas built in Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese styles. They were placed here for good luck and safe passage. Then the road follows the river and passes two dzongs en route, at Betikha (34 km. from Haa) and at Dobji (65 km. from Haa. It also crosses many villages and fields until you reach the secluded Haa Valley.

Haa Valley and places to visit in Haa: Haa valley was known for its animist tradition during the pre- Buddhist era.  Inhabitants of Haa then believed offering animal blood to their local deities. However, after the visit of the tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, in the 8th century the inhabitants were transformed into peaceful Buddhist.  Guru Padmasambhava subdued the local deities such as AP Chundu and made them the guardians of the Buddhist tradition. Traces of this belief system are still noticed in the form of festivals and rituals. Opened to foreign tourist only in the year 2002, it is a culturally rich valley. A few famous places to visit are:

7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum. The grand annual Haa Tshechu is also performed here at Lhakhang Karpo on the 8th-10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month.

The Haa Wangchuklo Dzong built in 1915 after the Dumchog Dzong was razed to the ground by fire is worth visiting.

The valley is also unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The shamanistic traditions is vividly practiced in almost all the communities, most notable of which is the annual ceremony to honor Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of the valley. The valley is also a paradise for nature lovers and travelling there is a very rewarding experience.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Driving Distance – 65 km. | Driving time – 2.5 to 3 hrs. approx. | Altitude of Paro – 2280 m.

After breakfast, drive to Paro via Chelela pass. The winding roads climbs up the slopes giving you beautiful views till you reach the Chelela Pass.

Chelela Pass: It is the highest point between the Haa valley and Paro valley at an altitude of 3810 m. This place gives a very good view of the Himalayan Mountains, including the mountain Jumolhari. The place also gives good view down towards the Haa valley. A lots of prayer flags flutter in the place. The place has breathtaking photographic opportunities.

After paying your respects here (You could choose to install your own prayer flags here or burn incense), drive downhill towards Haa valley, you could also choose to do a short hike to Kila Goemba to stretch your legs.

As you drive through the narrow winding road you come across pine forest and rhododendrons. You also come across the Dzongdrakha Goemba, where four chapels and a large white Nepali-style chorten perch dramatically on a cliff ledge. Finally you shall see the beautiful Paro Valley and the Air Strip of the Paro International Airport.

After lunch, visit the following;

Drive further to Paro. Lunch at Paro. After lunch, visit;

Rinpung Dzong:  Meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. The Dzong now serves as the administrative and judicial seat of Paro district and residence for around 200 monks of Paro and was built at the same time of Drukgyel Dzong. The famous Paro Tshechu (festival) is held here in spring.

Ta Dzong: It overlooks the Rinpung Dzong and was built in 1951 as a watch tower. This Dzong is Round, more like parts of a European castle. The Dzong was established as the National Museum of Bhutan since 1967 and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangka, etc.

In the evening, witness an Archery Match (if going on) or experience a private Khuru (Traditional Bhutanese sport) or archery. And also, explore the Paro town for shopping souvenirs.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

After breakfast, a small Bhutanese ritual shall be held by a monk for a safe journey home wards.

Drive to airport and farewell.


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