4 Days - Bhutan Cultural tour
Places covered: Paro, Punakha, Thimphu
Day 1: Paro
Paro is home to the only international airport in Bhutan. It has both ancient and modern outlooks. It is blessed with some of the scared temples in the country. Sometimes Paro is also referred to as ‘rice bowl of Bhutan’ as it has abundant paddy field.
During the flight to Paro, you will experience breathtaking views of some of the highest mountains in the world including Mt. Everest and Mt. Jomolhari
After lunch, visit Paro Dzong, Kichu Lhakhang, National Museum and Dumtse Lhakhang
Paro Dzong (fortress) was built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It stands on a hill above Paro Township. It is linked by the traditional cantilever bridge (called the Nemi Zam) over the Pa chu where one may pose a photograph. We will experience a walk up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls to get into the Dzong.
The temple is undoubtedly one of the oldest temples to have been built in Bhutan. It is one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.
On a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong is the Ta Dzong (watch tower), built in 1641 AD, by Desi Tenzin Drukda. It boasts a rich variety of artifacts from all over the country representing different eras, as early at 4000 B.C E. to the present day. A visit through the galleries shows the country’s transition from the Stone Age to a modern Mahayanist Buddhist and multicultural kingdom with its cultural heritage intact. The Museum is designed with connoisseurs, students, scholars and tourists in mind, and seeks to provide each visitor with a rich and colourful experience.
The circular lhakhang, reminiscent of the black hat worn by the Bhutanese Black Hat dancers was, built by Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo popularly known as the “Builder of iron chain bridges”.
Day 2: Thimphu
After early breakfast, drive to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan. The travel time will be about one hour. Thimphu, with a population of just over 100,000 people is the largest city in Bhutan. It has a combination of tradition and modernity. Thimphu city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chuu river valley, with several government offices located around Tashichhi Dzong. Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. It is located at an altitude of 2,300 m. The capital does not have a traffic light.
A massive statue of lord Buddha is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley Located at a short drive from Thimphu city, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay offer prayers to the Buddha Dordenma, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Memorial Chorten (Stupa)
Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’. It was built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan‘s third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The feature that is distinct here is the outward flaring of the rounded part to give the shape of a vase (a pyramidal shape), unlike a dome shape.
The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. This fortress is the administrative and religious centre of Bhutan. It houses the Royal Throne, some ministries and the seat of the Chief Abbot of the central monastic body. At night, the Dzong lights up in beautiful colors.
Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It is closely associated to religious history and mythology of the country. The takin preserve is located at a short distance up the road to the telecommunications tower viewpoint (Sangay Gang) is a trail leading to a large fenced enclosure that was originally established as a zoo.
Perhaps the best place for photographers is to visit Sangay Gang. A short drive from the Takin preserve, the hill provides a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley.
Day 3: Punakha
After breakfast drive to Punakha (which will take about 3 hours). On the way to Punakha, some after 45 minutes drive from Thimphu, you will briefly stop at Dsochula pass to a spectacular view of the snow capped mountains and the 108 Druk Wangyel stupas and view of the snow capped mountains
Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. However, it still serves as the winter ‘capital’ of the central monk body. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level and rice is grown as the main crop. Punakha has been associated with lot of momentous occasions in the history of Bhutan including the Royal Wedding in 2011.
This majestic Dzong stands at the confluence of two rivers (Phochu and Mo Chhu). It built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal 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 Gongsr 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.
Chimi Lhakhang which also known as the temple of fertility is situated on a hillock. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley (‘Divine Madman”) who used humor, songs and outrageous behavior in his teachings.
Day 4: Paro
After breakfast drive to the base of Paro Taktshang (Tiger’s nest). The travel time will be just over one hour. The hike to Tiger Nest will certainly bring back unforgettable memories.. The hike provides breathtaking views and excitement of the holy place. For locals, it takes less than two hours to reach the monastery. There may be a need for few stops/rest due to higher altitudes unless you are fully acclimatized.
Taktshang monastery is located atop an 800 meter cliff in Paro. The monastery is widely regarded is one of the most important in Bhutan. Its history is associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the Indian saint who came to Bhutan in the 8th century AD. The cave was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew into the cave from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan riding on a tigress. In 1692 the fourth Druck Desi Tenzin Rabgye started to construct monastery and finally completed after three years.