Essence of Bhutan

Duration: 14 nights / 15 days

Day 1: Arrive in Paro

Arrive paro by Druk Air, the only national carrier. The flight offers you view of mountains and landscapes. Upon arriving the Paro Valley and after completing visa formalities, you will be met by Gawaling Tours & Treks’ representative at the airport.

We drive towards the north to see the Drukgyel Dzong, in ruins. The dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1649 to commemorate a victory over the Tibetan forces. Unfortunately the fortress was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. On clear weather, we will be able to see Mt. Jomolhari from the Drukgyal Dzong and the Tiger’s Nest on our way back to Paro.

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Day 2: Paro

Morning visit to Ta Dzong, built in 17th century, as watchtower to defend Paro Dzong and the Paro valley. The fortress was later converted into the National Museum in 1968 by the Third King. It has a rich collections of antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons and Bhutan’s renowned postage stamps. Below the Ta Dzong, is the fascinating Rinpung Dzong meaning ‘fortress of the heap of jewels’, which is the seat of the Paro district built in 1645 by Shadrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Afternoon visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred monasteries of Bhutan. Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro.

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Day 3: Paro to Thimphu

Drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan located an hour and half from Paro towards east. Thimphu, has a blend of modern and farming communities and has a population of over 90,000 and is the seat of the government and the center for international offices. En-route, we stop at Chuzomsa (confluence) where the Paro River and Thimphu River meet. This river serves as the headwater for the hydropower plant below which generates 336 mega watts of electricity, Bhutan’s main export. En-route visit the oldest fortress of the Kingdom built in 1629 by Shadrung Ngawang Namgyal. It now houses the School for Buddhist studies.

Afternoon visit the National Memorial Chorten, built in memory of Third King and Trashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress which is the seat of the government. Next visit Handicrafts Emporium, Textile Museum, Hand made paper factory and the Folk Heritage Museum. Overnight at a hotel.

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Day 4: Thimphu to Punakha

Distance: 75 km
Time: 2 1/2 hours

We drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan over the Dochu La in the morning. If the weather is clear, we will be able to see around 200 miles of Himalayan summits bordering northern Bhutan. As we descend from the pass, we will notice that the vegetation changes from sub-alpine to sub-tropical. At the lower elevation, we will see banana plants, cactus and other semi-tropical plants and the green terraced rice fields of Punakha.

We begin our explorations of Punakha valley with a visit to Punakha Dzong, located between two rivers. It serves as the winter residence for the central monastic body. Night halt at hotel.

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Day 5: Punakha to Wangdiphodrang to Gangtey

Early morning breakfast and drive to Wangdiphodrang. Visit the Wangdiphodrang dzong en-route and then proceed to Gangtey Gonpa, the seat of the Ngyingmapa Buddhism, one of the religious sects in Bhutan. The present reincarnate is the 9th descendant of Terton Pemalingpa. We will visit Gangtey Gonpa monastery and take a stroll around the place. This place serves as the wintering place for endangered black-necked cranes migrating from Tibet from November to February to escape harsh winter there. The road to Gangtey passes through dense forests and oak, rhododendron tress and is beautiful. Overnight at a Guest House.

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Day 6: Gangtey to Trongsa

After breakfast, we drive to Trongsa crossing 3,300m high Pele la pass; then we descent towards Chendebji Chorten, built in the 18th century and has a shape of that of Boudanath temple in Nepal. Evening take a stroll around Trongsa market. Overnight at a lodge in Trongsa.

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Day 7: Trongsa to Bumthang

Distance: 68 km
Time: 3 hours

After breakfast, we will visit the Trongsa Dzong- the biggest fortresses in Bhutan and the watchtower located above the Trongsa market. Then, we start our journey to Bumthang, located two and half hours towards east. We cross over the Yotongla Pass(3400m) and then descend to Chumi Valley where we can see a weaving center- where professional weavers weave well-patterned fabrics out of wool known as “yathra”.

After our lunch, we will visit Jambay lhakhang- one of the two oldest monasteries built in Bhutan in the 7th century. Then we move on to visit Kurji Lhakhang. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

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Day 8: Bumthang

Bumthang is the general name given to combination of four valleys: Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries and was the seat of the government until the reign of second king. Next visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings and Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley.

Afternoon we will make an excursion to see Mebar Tsho – burning lake. It is believed that Terton Pemalingpa had taken out a hidden treasure from the lake.

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Day 9: Bumthang to Mongar

The journey continues eastwards winding through rugged terrain. This spectacular drive will take us seven hours to reach Mongar. We pass over Shaithang La /pass in the morning and descent to Ura village before climbing towards the highest motorable pass in the Kingdom, called the Thrumshingla pass (4,000 m). We will then gradually drop down to Sengor village, where we will stop for lunch. On our way, we can see cascading waterfalls. The road is narrow and overlooks deep valleys, but the scenic beauty will be breathtaking.

The descent stops at 700m, on a bridge over the Kurichu. We again ascent again through pine forest, maize fields and eastern hamlets to Mongar town. Visit Mongar Dzong, built albeit quite recently; however, we can notice that the dzong still maintains the architectural traditions of old dzongs. Overnight at the lodge in Mongar.

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Day 10: Mongar to Trashigang

Our journey will take us about three hours passing through Kori La pass (2,450m), marked by a pretty chorten and a stone wall. The first part of the journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. Later road descends rapidly through cornfields and banana groves and passes through the famous turns of Yadi. We then follow Gamri river until the road bifurcates to Dametsi village, where famous Naga Chham, mask dance with drums originated.

Trashigang located about 30 km away at an elevation of 1,000m. Trashigang is the center of the biggest and most populated district in the country. We will visit the Trashigang Dzong, which stands at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Dangmechhu river, the biggest river in Bhutan. The fortress serves as the seat of the administration and the monk body. Overnight at a hotel.

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Day 11: Trashigang (Excursion to Trashiyangtse)

Trashiyangtse is located around 76 km from Trashigang. About 24 km from Trashigang, is located the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place where Guru Rinpoche is believed to have subdued a demon. Further north at Doksum village we can see women busy in weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric.
Trashiyangtse Dzong, is situated at an altitude of 1,850m. In the past, Trashiyangtse was an important caravan route between the western and the central Bhutan. The Dzong was newly built. The Art School and Chorten Kora are located just a few minutes drive by car. Late afternoon we travel back to Trashigang. Overnight in a lodge.

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Day 12: Trashigang to Bumthang

We will have early breakfast and then drive to Bumthang. Our lunch will be served en-route. Overnight at a lodge in Bumthang.

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Day 13: Bumthang to Punakha
We drive early morning and drive to Punakha . Lunch would be served en-route at one of the hotels in Trongsa. En-route at Wangdiphodrang take a short break for tea or coffee and then proceed to Punakha. We will stay in a hotel.

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Day 14: Punakha to Paro

Morning free time in Punakha. After lunch drive to Paro for overnight stay.

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Day 15 : Paro

After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport for departure.

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These Minimum Daily rates are inclusive of the following services :

. All private transfer & transportation during the tour in 4×4 deluxe vehicle.
. Proficient English speaking guide.
. Tours & excursions as mentioned in the program.
. All entrance fees for museums & monuments.
. Twin sharing accommodations with full board.
. Government Royalty, which is US$ 65 per night/person.
. All our government taxes.

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