Bhutanese textiles represent a rich and complex repository of a unique art form.
Day 01: Arrive Paro ,Paro-Thimphu ( Distance: 54 km,estimated driving time: 1 hour)
Arrive Paro by Drukair or Bhutan Airlines. After the immigration formalities and collection of your baggages,
you will be received by the representative of Access Bhutan Tours (Bhutan Tour Operator) who will be your Bhutan tour guide throughout your entire travel in Bhutan. Then travel to Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan.
The road runs down through the Paro valley, to Chuzom (Confluence) at the entrance to the valley, where the Paro and Thimphu rivers meet. The road passes along a narrow valley with high, rocky cliffs on the left, and then the valley opens out into farmland on the approach to Thimphu. Simtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”, stands sentinel on a hillock a few kilometers out of town.
On Arrival at Thimphu, check into hotel in Thimphu.
After a refreshment visit Tashichho Dzong, fortress of the glorious religion. Then National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ' seat of faith' and Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of Buddha'. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
Evening free after dinner. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02 : Thimphu Tour and Sightseeing
Sightseeing in Thimphu includes visit to:
- Buddha statue: This massive Buddha statue is 51.5 meters in height and it is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall. The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
- Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, enjoy 15-20 minutes nature hike through nature overlooking Thimphu valley and enjoy the magnificent few of Thimphu Valley and mountain peaks.
- National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs.You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
- Folk Heritage Museum– A living museum of rural life which provides visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
- School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
- Pivate weaving centre at Changzamtok where you will find women weaving beautiful and colorful silk and cotton textiles to be mostly worn by women- mostly as dresses or shawls or scarves or a Bhutanese traditional women's dress.
- Centenary Farmers’ market where farmers would be selling their wide range of farm produces (vegetables from farms and wild ferns or bamboo shoots collected from forest, flour, rice, roasted rice, rice flakes, spices, yams both cultivated and wild ones collected from forests, fruits, etc) and livestock products (mainly cheese and butter). Free interaction with people from town as well as from villages come to this weekend market. Weekend market is from Thursday-Sunday(4 days)
- In the evening visit craft Bazaar -A one stop place to witness Bhutanese culture and buy Bhutan made art and craft product. The Bazaar in its 80 stalls covers all aspects of the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. At this Bazaar craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts. And also visit other handicraft stores in Thimphu town.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu-Punakha-Wangduephodran
Distance: 71 km, 2½ hour driving time
After breakfast, travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass elevation (3140 m). Then drive further onto Dochula Pass. In the clear sky; enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. Also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) .The temple was built to honor His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appear to merge in the details of the lhakhang that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
After a refreshment at Dochula Pass Resort, drive onto Punakha. Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held there. The dzong is historically important and stands as the symbol for a unified Bhutan.
On the way, stop at Metsina village for lunch and after lunch take a 20 minute walk through the paddy fields to visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
Then visit Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho - Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (high Drupa Kagyu lama who unified the warring valley kingdoms under a single rule in 16th century) to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork. Also visit the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated.
In the evening you may visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Punakha and Wangdue valleys from there.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Wangdue/Punakha.
Day 04:Wangdue - Trongsa via Phobjikha Valley
After breakfast,drive to Trongsa through Phobjikha valley.The drive will take you through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and then arrive at Gangtey village, where you'll visit Gangtey Goenpa ( monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. From Gangtey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range as well as Phobjikha Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. You will visit the Black Necked Crane Center.Afternoon,drive to Trongsa, the ancestral home of the royal family. Drive through the tropical vegetation through the village of Nobding and Pele la pass (11,000ft). Throughout your trip you will come across the beautiful sceneries of rural Bhutan, with scattered settlements far from the road which makes for good photographing.You will also pass through open meadows, and valley of yak herders and several other villages via Chendebji Chorten ( Stupa) where you will stop for a tea break at a convenient spot and drive for another 2 hours to Trongsa.
Dinner and overnight at hotel in Trongsa.
After breakfast, visit National Museum which is housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower). A museum in which aspects of Bhutanese culture and history are explained beautifully by objects. Documentary will be shown too which explains a great deal about Bhutanese history and history of monarch. Also visit Trongsa Dzong, which is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1644 by the Shabdrung, the dzong is an architectural masterpiece.
Then drive to Bumthang, this is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers meditated and left in their wake many sacred grounds. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons, treasure finders, have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley. On the way, visit the “Yathra” weaving centre at Zugney and spent sometime interacting with the local weavers. Yathra is the name for the colorful, hand-woven woolen cloth (often with geometric designs) that is produced in this region and wool used for this type of textile is sheep wool as the sheep is reared in this Bumthang district.Yatra is made into jackets or bags ,etc.
Then drive onto Bumthang Jakar and Check into hotel. After lunch drive to Dorjibi weaving center which is located in Dorjibi village, half an hour drive from Bumthang town, has about 20 women engaged in making Bhutanese weaves using local dyes and improved looms. It is joint initiative by WWF Bhutan and Wangchuck Centennial Park aimed at providing additional source of income for the mostly potato growing communities, preserve the culture of weaving using locally available raw materials and reduce pressure on natural resources. In the late after stroll around the beautiful landscape of the Bumthang Jakar valley and in the evening check into a farmhouse in Bumthang Valley.
If interested you can relax in traditional Hotstone bath at the farmhouse.
Dinner at the farmhouse in Bumthang Valley and overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Day 06: Bumthang–a day excursion to Tang Valley
After breakfast travel for about an hour to the beautiful lush but remote Tang valley. Tang valley is one of the four valleys in Bumthang district. The people of this valley raise sheep and at a higher elevation yaks are raised too as the soil this valley is not so rich for cultivation. You will visit the century old Ugyencholing Heritage Museum, which once belongs to the Royal Family of Tang valley. Lunch will be served at a farmhouse.
After lunch drive back to Bumthang and visit the following:
- Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Goempo of Tibet. In his effort to propagate Buddhism he had a plan to build a total of 108 temples in Tibet and neighboring kingdoms.
- Kujey Lhakhang (Kujey means, "Body imprint"). The temple to the right is the oldest and was built by Minjur Tempa in 1652. It was built around the cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated and left his body imprint.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang - Mongar
After breakfast, travel to Mongar following the highway leading to Eastern Bhutan. The drive winding through more rugged terrain. before climbing sharply to the highest motor road pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla Pass 12,465 ft. Gradually drop down to Sengor. You will come across cascading waterfalls along the way. The descent stops at 2,130 ft on a bridge over the Kurichu. Climb again through pine forest, maize fields and eastern hamlets to Mongar town.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Mongar.
Day 08: Mongar- Lhuentse-Mongar
After early breakfast,drive about 77 km to Lhuentse with a packed lunch as there are no good restaurants and hotels in Lhuentse district. Lhuentse is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs,gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is notably famous for its special skills of weavers, and special textiles and fabrics.Textiles from Lhuentse is normally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is also the ancestral home of the Royal dynasty in Bhutan.
After lunch,walk to Khoma village which is famous for textile in Bhutan.Here you will see women folks weaving different types of textiles with intricate patterns.If you would like, you may also purchase textiles at a little cheaper rate than handicraft shops.
If time permits, Lhuentse Dzong: The approach to this Dzong (fort) is through a flag-stone-paved path over the vertical drops. The Dzong houses a body of 100 monks of the country. In the 16th century Pema Lingapa's son Kunga Wangpo set up this Dzong in the form of a small Gompa. In 1654 it was renovated by the Trongsa penlop Mingyur Tenpa.
Drive back to Mongar for overnight stay at a hotel in Mongar.
Day 09:Mongar-Trashigang Ranjung-Khaling-Trashigang
After breakfast drive to Rangjung. After lunch visit Radhi village. Radhi is famous for raw silk, which is known as bura. You can also witness women weaving raw silk. Then drive to Khaling and visit Weaving Center which is operated by the National Women's Association of Bhutan. And you can see the girls weaving different types of textiles out of back strap loom. If possible we can also visit to the house of a private weaver to see the techniques of Bhutanese dye. Then drive to Trashigang. Check into hotel in Trashigang.
Dinner and Overnight at a hotel in Trashigang.
Day 10: A day trip to Tashiyangtse
After breakfast,drive to Tashiyangtse. The people here are known for making wooden bowls and containers, which are said to be the best quality found in Bhutan. Visit the Arts School and the Chorten Kora. On the way to Tashiyangtse you will stop at the Gom Kora temple, behind which is a large black rock. It is said that Guru Rimpoche meditated in a cave in which you can see the impression of his thumb, his hat, and his body on the rock. Then visit the abandoned iron chainlink bridge behind the village of Duksum. It is said that this is the last remaining bridge of those built by a Tibetan bridge builder by the name of Thangthong Gyalpo in the 15th century.Finally drive back to Trashigang.
Dinner and overnight at hotel in Trashigang.
Day 11:Trashigang - Mongar
In the morning,visit Trashigang Dzong, which was built by Pekar Chopel in 1659, and the Dzong commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside.Then drive to Mongar, which is 3 hours journey and 90 kilometers. Check into hotel and overnight in Mongar
Day 12:Mongar - Bumthang
After breakfast,visit Mongar Dzong, built not too long ago,yet maintains the architectural traditions of the old dzongs.
Then drive back to Bumthang which will take about 7 hours, with stops for lunch and tea in nearby villages.
Dinner and overnight in Bumthang
After breakfast,drive to Trongsa then to Kuenga Rabten which is about 23 km from Trongsa but takes about 1 hour due to rough road conditions. It was the winter Palace for the 2nd King of Bhutan.Although, it is mostly empty with only one room occupied for the library. This palace is under Special Commission of cultural Affairs and we do not require any permit to visit the interior. The trip from Trongsa to Kuenga Rabten will give you an intimate insight into the early days of Bhutan's Monarchy. Beside you will see the beautiful large expanse of rice terraces in the lower Mangdu-Chu valley and as well the big waterfall. You will enjoy packed picnic lunch at a convenient spot and then drive back to Trongsa.Then drive onto Punakha.Overnight at hotel in Punakha
Day 14: Punakha-Thimphu
After breakfast drive through upper Punakha valley passing through farm houses and take a leisure walk through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
After lunch travel to Thimphu. On arrival at Thimphu check into your hotel and after a refreshment visit Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds. Dinner and overnight at the same hotel in Thimphu.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 15 : Thimphu to Haa valley to Paro
After early breakfast, drive to the beautiful Haa valley (extreme North west of Bhutan).This route will take you through villages of Doga,Susuna and Jabana villages spaced apart by forested areas, visiting typical Bhutanese farmhouses along the way and taste local wine and traditional butter tea. You will see villagers at work in their fields. Drive futher onto beautiful Haa valley (which is open to tourists only 2 years ago)and Lunch at Haa.
Afternoon,visit two famous monasteries, Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) The central shrine in Lhakhang Nagpo is said to be almost identical to that of the Jowo temple in Lhasa. Legend has it that local deities assisted in the construction of Lhakhang Karpo. As a result, the place came to be locally known as Hay (meaning surprise) which later became Haa due to varying interpretations and pronunciations over time.
The three giant hills looming over the fringes of Haa valley were called Me Rig Puen Sum especially after the event of the Lhakhang Karpo construction. Today the three hills are popularly known as RigSum Gonpa signifying three deities, Jambayang, Chana Dorji and Chenrezig (known in Sanskrit as Manjushri, Varjapani and Avalokiteshvara, respectively). These are the three principal bodhisattvas (Buddhas to be) among the thousand future Buddhas to come, and representations of them are to be found in every Lhakhang (temple) and household shrine room.
Later, other Buddhist saints like Guru Rinpoche and Machi Labdorn came to this place, Jungney Drag, in Haa and blessed the locality. After Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal unified the country under the Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism in the early 17th century, the chief guardian deity of Haa became Ap Chundu.
After that,drive to Paro through Chele-la (3,810m/12,573ft), On a clear day there is a superb view of Mts. Chomolhari and Jichu Drake from this point, so if the weather is favorable we will stop here briefly to stroll around and enjoy the lovely mountain scenery.Then drive through blue pine & rhododendron forest towards paro valley.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 16:Paro Sightseeing
After breakfast visit the following:
- Drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 18 km. from Paro town on the north side of the valley. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century.
- National Museum -The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, folk arts, relics, coins, postage stamps and a small natural history display.
- Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks. From the Dzong you will walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Cantilever Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan.
After lunch visit the following
- Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farmhouse offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
- Kyichu temple,one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body.
- Evening at leisure to visit local shops in Paro town.
Dinner and Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 17: A Day Hike to Taktsang Ghoenpa (Tiger's Nest Monastery)
After breakfast, drive to Paro which takes about an hour and hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria.Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months. The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former glory.After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point. Then drive back to hotel.
In the evening relax after a tiring day hike.
Day 18: Paro - Departure
Access Bhutan Tours & Treks will see you off at the Paro Airport for your onward destinations.
***Tashi Delek & Thank You***