This is a short tour program designed for a week in Bhutan. It is designed for those of our guests who would like to visit Bhutan, feel and know her beauty in a brief visit. So, if you do not have much time, go for the “Explore Bhutan”. It’s an ideal and quick way to experience the glory and the myth of Bhutan. This trip can also be your post or pre-trip extension for those who are traveling in India, Nepal, and South East Asia. This brief visit is designed to capture your heart and mind so that you will not miss out Bhutan as your next destination while you plan for your next holiday.
Things to notice – of past, present and the transition phase.
In clear weather, Druk Air/Bhutan Airline’s flight to Bhutan provides a wonderful view of Himalayan scenery. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Katmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, it is a breathtaking journey, culminating in an exciting descent into the unexploited forested hills of the kingdom. It is indeed akin to an air show. Our pilots could be seen demonstrating their maneuvering ability as they land, if you like.
As our pilots hover above Paro in preparation for descent, at a glance you will be impressed by the unique art and architecture (the houses and monasteries) on the mountain tops and in the valley beneath. At once you will also be aware of kind of farming that our farmers carry out unlike in the west. It is all manual and you will see for yourself.
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DAY 01: ARRIVE PRO, PARO – THIMPHU
On arrival at Paro airport, you will be received by our representative. On completion of airport formalities, as you come out of the airport you will suddenly see for the first time, people dressed in their national dresses, both men and women. We are definite that seeing this live is an impression that you will stay with you for a long time. That’s where our Cultural touch and introduction to Bhutan begins from the very first day of the meeting. Then, as we cruise along the Paro River heading to Thimphu, there will be an interesting drive along the windy highway for about an hour and half to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The stop after about half an hour at the check post, at the confluence of Paro and Thimphu rivers, is yet another remarkable experience. The chorten (stupa) at the confluence of the two rivers and the purpose that it is there will interest you and give you the mystic feel of why you are in Bhutan and what could be expected. The night halt in Thimphu and feel of the city might give you an impression that you would like to note in your diary, so you have a chance to evaluate yourself and you would like to promise us for another visit.
Overnight – hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: TIHIMPHU – PUNAKHA
The visits in Thimphu are carefully designed to provide our guest with the best introduction of the country, the people, the culture and tradition, and let our guest get a feel of our socio-cultural integrity as we launch ourselves into modernization, in the best way we know how. We are always delighted to get your feedback during and after the trip.
Thimphu, may be perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world. Unusual, because it is a city where everyone knows everyone, almost! You will know what we mean when you visit. In other cities around the world, the chances of meeting an acquaintance once in a month might be as rare as winning the jack pot in a lottery draw. In Thimphu, one will be lucky if one could pass unnoticed for once, if you tried to. It is a city with qualities and potentials that need to be appreciated, preserved and promoted for the good of population.
This bustling city is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
In the morning after breakfast, we visit to the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, with some works dating back several hundred years. Followed by visit to the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum (the institute for learning 13 different skills of art and craft), where a trainee takes six years to learn the 13 different traditional arts and crafts. Then we take our guests to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs are compounded and dispensed for healing different diseases. The mode of action of Herbal medicines are such that they are suppose to target the cause of the disease and root it out and give complete cure.
After lunch, we visit the National Memorial Chorten. The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. Then, we visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid Thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous. We also visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums, opened in 2001 to showcase the Bhutanese way of life in the past.
Late afternoon we prepare to leave for Punakha. The road from Thimphu to Punakha goes east and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La Pass, the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha at 10,000 feet. It provides a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear. Another addition to the beauty and sanctity of the place is the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang and Chortens on top of the pass The 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens and the Lhakang was constructed as a tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for his selfless service and visionary leadership. It is indeed an expression of gratitude to His Majesty for safeguarding the sovereignty and security of the kingdom.
After experiencing the great view and the presence of these Chortens and the Lhakhang, we descend down and drive into the Punakha valley.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha.
DAY 03: PUNAKHA – WANGDI PHODRANG – PARO
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, when the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Originally situated on the riverbank and dominated by the towering walls of Punakha Dzong, the township was relocated to a safer site a few kilometers down the valley, as a consequence of extensive flooding in the early 1990s caused by an outburst of glacier lakes. At the same time, extensive renovation work was undertaken on Punakha Dzong itself, which is now a breathtaking and glorious sight to behold as you take the first glimpse from the road. Although four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in past times destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is in this sacred chamber, the 5th King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck receive the sacred scarves, 5 colors, of Kingship from the fourth King in a sacred ritual performed by the Je Khenpo at a specific time chosen as auspicious for offering and receiving the scarves.
Punakha is important for two reasons: a) it is the place where past, present and future kings will be enthroned in a scared chamber in the Dzong; and b) it is the winter place for the Je Khenpo and the monk body. Punakha represents the unity and harmony of the monastic and civil system (the unity of Temporal and Spiritual beings) – the ultimate in Buddhism. It is a must visit place for a person who would like to feel the connection the Dzong represents between the two aspects of every being – the Spiritual and Temporal rule.
It is tough to leave the place, but time bound, we head towards south to reach Wangduephodrang, the last town on the highway before entering central Bhutan. Situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction, the formidable Wangduephodrang Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century, Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country. It is the third Dzong built by Shabdrung Rinpoche in Bhutan after Semtokha and Punakha.
After lunch we drive back to Paro. En route make a brief stop at the Royal Botanical Garden.
Overnight – hotel in Paro.
DAY 04: PARO
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong – the Museum in Paro; once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968. Next in line is Rinpung Dzong; it was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. The Dzong continues its age-old function as the seat of the district administration, district court and the monastic body. The southern approach to the Dzong has a traditional roofed cantilever bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk across the bridge offers a wide view of splendor of the Dzong’s architecture and an opportunity to tread the same path as the ancient warriors.
After lunch, drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong (meaning Victory Fort built in memory of the war that was won), 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. On the way back we visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the kingdom.
In the evening, visit a traditional farm house for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle. Later on, take an evening stroll along the main street, and perhaps visit a few handicrafts shops, or take refreshments at a local café or bar.
Overnight -hotel in Paro.
DAY 05: DEPART PARO
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort will bid you farewell at the airport after safely seeing you through the security checks. Soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains for you until you call us again to design another memorable trip for you.