JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP (10 DAYS)
Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom. It was founded by, Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King in the 7th century AD. The temple is one of the two of the 108 built in Bhutan. A second is located in Paro, the Kichu lhakhang also built on the same day.
Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.
The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887.
One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, called Jambay lhakhang Drup is hosted here. The festival lasts for five days and the highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritualistic naked dance.
DAY 1 ARRIVAL IN PARO, BHUTAN
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon.Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatise to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and lets have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sight-seeing, like the weekend market, in Thimphu if possible.
National Memorial Chorten – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Thimphu Dzong – The largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang, will be open to tourists once it is completed in 2012. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma , Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
Day 2 THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA
We will head on to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan in the morning. The roads bring visitors through scented pine and cedar forests, festooned with hanging lichen. The Punakha river is one of the biggest rivers in Bhutan. During spring and winter, the color of the river turns jade and is beautiful.
Dochula Pass – at 3,050m, this beautiful pass with its 108 Bhutanese stupas is the memorial site of fallen Bhutanese soldiers in the 1990s.
Chhimi Lhakhang – A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten
Day 3 PUNAKHA TO TRONGSA
Pelela pass at 3300m is an important dividing range that separates Western Bhutan from Central and Eastern Bhutan. Crossing this important Pass, one may enjoy the pastoral feeling as you drive deeper into the valley with meadows where sheep and yaks graze. The bamboos that grow plenty on these hillsides are trimmed by yaks. Yaks love the dwarfed bamboos. If you are a bird watcher, look out for the specialty called the Wren Babbler taking refuge underneath those bamboos. In the months of April-June, the hillsides are painted with the rhododendron blooms. Trongsa, the sacred and the temporal heart of the country is the first district that you will come across.
Wangdue Phodrang – One of the major towns and district capital of Western Bhutan. We will pause to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Dramatically perched on the spur of a hill, built in 1638, this Dzong overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. The last town before central Bhutan. The district is famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate and stone carving.
Chendebji Chorten – also called Chorten Charo Kasho is a Nepalese style like stupa like Swayambhunath or Bodhnath built in the 19th century by a Tibetan Lama. It was built on the remains of an evil spirit that was tormenting the people of that region.
Day 4 BUMTHANG
Bumthang is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area with a wide variety of fauna and flora. The Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) making Bumthang his home have led to more than 40 temples being built in this peaceful valley. Today is the 3rd day of the Jambay Lhakhang Drup and the second day of the Prakhar Tshechu. You can attend both these festivals and cover the following activities if time allows.
Day 5 BUMTHANG, VISIT URA VALLEY
One of the most tranquil and beautiful valley, Ura is a must visit valley in Bumthang. While in Ura visit the Ura Monastery and simply enjoy the meadows and the beautiful landscapes, the buck wheat and barley fields.
The 48 km paved drive to Ura ascends through a beautiful conifer landscape. Farms, cows and sheep pastures line the road. When reaching the Shelthang La Pass (3600 meters / 11800 feet), on clear days, you have a magnificent view of Mount Gangkhar Puensum (7540 meters / 24700 feet), the highest unclimbed mountain in Bhutan. From here, we recommend that you descend into Ura village by foot. The path meanders slowly down through meadows with a clear view of the village the whole way. Ura has nearly forty clustered houses, typical to only a few communities in Bhutan. You will first reach the new temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche where the annual Ura festival is held in late spring. It has a huge statue of Guru Rinpoche and beautiful frescoes. From here, walk through the small village towards the local secondary school and get a feel of the village atmosphere.
30 minutes further by car from Ura, you will reach Shingkhar village. In this small traditional village at an elevation of 3400 meters (11200 feet), with a population of about 250, it is as if time has been standing still for several hundred years and it is strikingly clean and organized. The courtyard of the Dechen Chholing Goemba is a beautiful place to have lunch after a wander around.
Membartsho (The Burning Lake):
The story has it that Pema Lingpa had a dream that he would find a treasure where a wooden bridge spans across the trapped river-water pool. He later ventured into the river pool carrying a burning butter lamp in his hand saying if he were an apparition of evil the lamp would be snuffed out and if not it would continue to burn on his resurfacing from the water. He dove into the pool and returned with the treasures and the lamp still burning. Since then the lake has been known as Membartsho. It is believed that on a lucky day, if you lie down on the rock and look really closely into the water, you might still see parts of the treasure on the bottom. To this day pilgrims light lamps and release them into the pool.
Day 6 BUMTHANG TO GANGTEY
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Gonpa. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Gonpa monastery, built in the 17th century. Today we will do some short hikes around the valley of Phobjikha.
Day 7 GANGTEY TO PARO
Paro Valley, the beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag.
Built as a watchtower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Day 8 PARO TO HAA VIA CHELELA
Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988m). From the pass you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the Katso Lhakhang.
The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we return back to Paro for the night.
Day 9 PARO
A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Beyond Satsam Chorten, we hike up to the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s nest). The 1.5 hour hike to the cafeteria is also a vantage view whereby you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. Prayer flags adorn the cliffs and this is also where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
Day 10 DEPART PARO
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back to Singapore. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!
Private guided tour
Visas for Bhutan
Daily 3 meals
3 star accommodation
A qualified & licensed English-speaking guide
An experienced driver
A tour vehicle
Entry fess & road permits
Taxes & surcharges
Set of traditional costume (to be return at the end of your stay)
Flight into Bhutan via Drukair (can be arranged with us)
Flight on other airline to catch Drukair Flight
Meals at 4-5 stars restaurants
Hotel stay outside of Bhutan
Expenditure of personal nature
Travel Insurance (can be arranged with us)
Tips for the guide and driver