Treasures of Bhutan
Bhutan, it’s pristine natural beauty, traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture, genuine love for the monarchy and environment that inspires spiritual as well as physical wellbeing. Just as the imposing fortresses and traditional farm houses stand testimony to the history of Bhutan, art and culture equally expresses everything that is significantly Bhutanese. It is about the way of life of the people and the resonance of the living religion, Mahayana Buddhism that permeates every breath of life in Bhutan, as the only Vajrayana Buddhist country in the world, Buddhism and gross national happiness is everywhere in Bhutan.
Bhutan, named as one of the World’s ten biodiversity hotspots and is a home to 200 species of mammals and 770 species of birds, rare endangered species as tiger, snow leopard, rhinoceros, red panda, Takin and the black necked crane etc have found here a protected and hospitable habitat, where they thrisv, and over 5000 species of plants flourish in the country, including 50 varieties of rhododendrons and dozens of varieties of orchids.
The Bhutanese live in full harmony with nature as it is deeply rooted in their culture as every Bhutanese knows that the four main events in the life of the Buddha took place under a Tree – his birth at Lumbini in Nepal, his englightment at Bodh Gaya in India, his first sermon at Sarnath, India and his death at Kushiganar in India. It’is a Buddhist tradition to have respect for all sentient beings and this practice is deeply rooted in Bhutanese way of life.
Treasures of Bhutan is our journey through Bhutan provides intimate insights into Bhutanese culture and way of life in its village’s, monasteries and palace’s, travelling through several beautiful valleys and mountain passes with breathtaking views of the snow clad Himalayas.
Bhutan also named as Lho Jong Men Jong “the Land of Medicinal Herbs” in fact it is the ancient name for Bhutan and it is a wonderful tradition in Bhutan to soak in stone bath with medicinal herbs with healing properties and this will also be one of our highlights in our journey through Bhutan.
Bhutan, is an exclusive and unique experience for the most worldly of travellers and is the destination for those who truly want to travel off the beaten track and gain spiritual experience, Come and experience Treasures of Bhutan with us!
You will be traditionally welcomed at the airport by our Bhutanese representative who will bring you to the hotel for refreshment and afterwards we will start our Paro sightseeing.
Paro consist of a beautiful valley surrounded of mountains with a river going through it, the valley is a patchwork of paddy fields and traditional Bhutanese farmhouses surrounded with fruit orchards, As spectacular as its natural beauty is Paro’s cultural and spiritual heritage, with its large, fertile and well watered fields, this has historically been the richest area in the country and much of the wealth have gone into the building of temples and monasteries, there are 155 of them in Paro district.
The ParoDzong (Rimpung Dzong) is probably Bhutan's best known and most iconic Dzong. This is probably the first building you will notice when you land at Paro International Airport and will probably be your first memory of Bhutan. The imposing Dzong is perhaps the finest example of Dzong architecture existing in the world today. Dzongs reflect the close enmeshing of the religious and the secular in the Bhutanese way of life, they were built as both defensive fortresses and monasteries and still continue to house government offices as well as the monk body of the district, most of the Dzongs in Bhutan were built during 17th century.
Paro Dzongs was constructed in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on the foundations of an ancient monastery. The fort played a crucial role in the history of the Paro valley as the Dzong helped keep the marauding Tibetans away from the Paro valley.
After our visit at Paro Dzong we will take a short hike to the Ta Dzhong, located nearby above Paro Dzong, it is a medial watch tower with has been converted into Bhutans National museum. The Ta Dzong was constructed in 1656 with a purpose to give advance warning to the ParoDzong in case of an approaching army, in fact the word Ta means 'to see' in Dzongkha which is Bhutans official language.
In 1968 the Ta Dzong was converted into the National Museum of Bhutan. The Museum houses a priceless collection of textile, costumes, paintings, appliqué, wooden handicrafts, weapons, armour and jewellery. There is a small section dedicated to the natural history of Bhutan. There is a small chapel on the top of the building with icons representing Himalayan Buddhist traditions.
Welcome dinner and overnight stay in Paro
Much of the history of Bhutan is lost, priceless document’s lost in series number of fires and earthquakes, that destroyed monasteries and dzongs but still the major of history events survived about Bhutan, both religious and about society. In 800 AD, Guru Padmasambhava (The Lotus born) also called Guru Rinpoche, revered in Himalayan Buddhism as the 2nd Buddha, made his legendary journey through Bhutan, riding on the back of a tigress subduing evil spirits and blessed them, made them as Protectors of Doctrine thus introducing Tantric Buddhism in Bhutan.
Guru Rinpoche blessed many places in Bhutan and left many of his foot and hand prints and other signs of his visit, in almost every valley in Bhutan one can see signs in caves and rocks signs from Guru Rinpoche maybe a visitor will have skeptical thinking about it but for Bhutanese these places are specially sacred sites.
Bumthang District, is the religious heartland of Bhutan and it includes some of the most significant historical and religious sites in the country and this is due to the sacred places, temples and Dzongs having legendary stories about treasure discovery and historical happenings.
We will visit some of the most sacred and historical places in Bumthang;
JakarDzong located in Chokor valley, built in 17th Century and it is largest Fortress in Bhutan.
JambeyLhakhang or Temple of Maitreya, the future buddha is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo in 659 CE, the temple was also visited by Guru Padmasambhava.
KurjeyLhakhang is a temple built around a cave with a body print of Guru Rinpoche imbedded in the wall and is one of the most sacred places in whole of Bhutan. Guru Rinpoche meditated here in a cave and TamshingLhakhang established by Pema Lingpa in 1501, the monastery contains with beautiful and very interesting frescos.
Nowhere else in Bhutan will you see so many temples and Monasteries as in Bumthang
After breakfast we will take an easy walk in the valley and visit some of the villages and families. Bhutan is predominately an agrarian country, about 65 per cent of population depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and only 8 percent of Bhutan is arable, 81 per cent is forest covered and rest is snow clad mountains. Majority of Bhutanese families live in very small villages, in small farmhouses made in traditional Bhutanese style of architectural and as the topography changes in Bhutan the style of houses and farming changes, and at very high altitudes, one can only see herds of yaks gracing the land.
Bhutan consist of lowland till high mountains and many valleys, which rise from the plains from 150 m above sea level to above 7000 m, almost we can say that Bhutan is like a steep staircase in its shape.
Bhumthang District consist of four main valleys – Chumney, Choekhar, Tang and Ura, spacious valleys with fertile lands, farmers cultivating wheat, barley, buckwheat and potatoe and the villages characterize medieval ambience, which gives it a very attractive charm. Here at Bumthang, wollen’s is very famous and we will have the chance to see women weaving beautiful wollen products and we will also have the chance purchase some of it.
We will spend the whole day, walking enjoying the natural ambience of the valley, chatting with people and learn more about the way of life in Bumthang.
After breakfast we will start our journey to Gangtey a famous valley for its Black necked Cranes and its beautiful landscape but before we reach there we will travel over some awesome mountain passes and also visit Trongsa Dzong in Trongsa.
Trongsa Dzong is largest Dzong in Bhutan, built 16th and 17th century, it was enlarge during several times in history and today it is an important administrative building, providing the headquarters of the government of Trongsa District and provides a strategic central location to control Bhutan and for centuries it was the seat of the Wangchuk dynasty of governors who ruled much of the eastern and central Bhutan and from 1907 have been Kings of Bhutan.
We will reach afternoon Gangtey and head for small walk were it is possible to see the endangered Black necked Crane in Phobjika. The people in Phobjika eagerly await the arrival of the cranes each year – and they are regarded sacred, the belief is that the birds circle the monastery three times when they arrive and same thing happens when they depart Phobjika.
Overnight stay in Gangtey
After breakfast we will drive to Punakha and it is a spectacular beautiful journey through Bhutans pristine environment and our journey starting at much higher altitude than Punakha so we will come to at an altitude of 1,300 m and we will start with a visit at Punakha Dzong.
Punakha has a special significance in Bhutan’s history as Bhutan’s first King Ugyen Wangchuck was crowned here in 1907 after a hereditary monarchy was proclaimed by regional governors, state officials and representatives of the people and the monk body and it was here Bhutan held its first National assembly in 1952.
Perhaps the most majestic Dzong in Bhutan is the Punakha Dzong (Punthang Dechen Phodrong Dzong meaning Palace of Great Bliss), standing between the two rivers, the Phochhu and Mochhu. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of Bhutan state and it was here Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel died 1651.
The Dzong is home to some of the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism and it is also home to the sacred mortal remains of Shabdrung Nagawang Namgyal and Trenton PemaLingpa the great treasure discoverer of Bhutan. The Punakha Dzong has also served as the capital of Bhutan till 1955 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. The Dzhong is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the central monastic body.
After our visit at Punakha Dzong we will have lunch in the country side nearby ChimmiLakhang, a Buddhist temple also called as the Fertility Temple.
The temple stands on a small hill close to the village of Lobesa and was constructed in 1499 by NgawangChoegyel, the 14thDrukpaheirarch.
The Temple is very deeply connected to the legends of Saint DrukpaKinley also known as the Divine Madman, Bhutans best loved saint. It has been said that the demon of Dochu-La with a magic thunderbolt of wisdom in imprisoned him in a rock close to the temple.
DrukpaKuenley is called the Divine Madman due to his unorthodox methods of teaching via songs, humor and sometimes bizarre and shocking behavior with deep sexual overtones. You might be shocked to see that the temple houses a number of wooden phalluses that the Lama had brought with him from Tibet. Pilgrims who visit the monastery receive the blessing by being struck on the head with a ten inch wooden Phallus (erect penis). The symbol of an erect penis is said to ward off evil.
The monastery is also known as the temple of fertility and is visited not only by the Bhutanese but women from countries as far as Japan and United States to receive a special blessing that can help these women conceive children. These women receive the blessing by getting struck on the head with a 10 inch wooden/ ivory phallus.
The Temple can be accessed by undertaking a short 20 minute walk across the rice fields from the nearest road head. The Lhakhang is a square shaped building with a golden spire on its roof. The temple has many rows of prayer wheels and the temples exterior has embedded slate carvings of various Buddhist saints.
Near the temples entrance there is a small Chorten that marks the spot where the Lama subdued the demon of Dochu La.
Overnight stay in Punakha District
After breakfast we will have a day to explore more about village life and see other interesting practices.
We will start our day with a school visit in the village and learn more about Bhutan’s education system and interact with the children and teachers, afterwards we will visit a family house for easy cooking class and prepare partly our own lunch with the help from the family. We will learn how to cook Ema-Datsi, it is Bhutans most beloved dish and also the National dish, Ema means Chilli and Datsi mean cheese. We will make sure that the chilli is less because in Bhutan, people love hot Chilli and wish to have chilli with every dish. We will also taste more of dishes of the home cooked food for our lunch. This area is famous for its beautiful textile work mostly done in the houses, here we can also do some purchasing of products.
Afternoon, we will visit the village temple and recieve blessings from a Buddhist master, he will tell us about the importance of meditation practice and teach us some simple meditation techniques.
It seems like a busy day in the village but we ensure you that it is very relaxing ambience here as we are in country side and in the end the day we will enjoy Bhutanese hot stone baths. We will visit a family house who will prepare a tradtional Bhutanese hot stone bath with medicinal herbs at their house and we will spend our evening soaking in this curative hot water, the use of natural ingredients for healing has long been a part of Bhutanese tradition and its started in the 800 Ad with the arrival of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight stay in Punakha
After breakfast we will start our journey to Thimphu, on the way we will pass by Dochu La pass and if it is a clear day, we will be able to see an awesome view of the snowclad Himalayas ( Mt Masang 7144 m and Bhutan highest peak Gangkar Puensum to mention some of them), here at Dochu La pass, we can also see the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens - Great Victory.
In Thimpu; we will have a guided tour at Tashichho Dzong which is located at the northern edge of Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan. The Dzong was built on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, and has historically served at the seat of the Druk Desi (the regent) of Bhutan’s government. After the Kings assumed power in 1907 this post was combined with that of the King and Thimphu severed as the summer capital of the kingdom before becoming the full time capital of Bhutan.
The Dzong has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room and the Kings secretariet. The Tashichhodzong is also home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country's main spiritual order with 5000 monks headed by Je Khenpo (chief abbot) is the spiritual head of Bhutan with an unbroken linage since 17th century.
We will also learn more about the Gross National Happiness which was invented by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck his philosophy for the future development of the country, declaring “ Bhutan’s growth and progress would be guided as well as measured not by its gross domestic product but by its Gross National Happiness, which is based on the conviction that material wealth alone does not bring happiness and since then the concept is flourish in Bhutan.
We will have lunch in Thimpu at a local Bhutanese restaurant and continue afterwards to visit the Folk heritage museum and the National Memorial Chorten.
Folk heritage museum was open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. It treasures troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos.
The folk heritage museum is housed in a replica traditional Bhutanese house learn first-hand about Bhutan’s rich cultural traditions, its deeply rooted heritage which spans thousands of years and the Bhutanese way of life. The tour of this almost living museum will also give you a glimpse onto how many rural folk of the country live today following the ancient Bhutanese ways.
National memorial chorten was built by Bhutan's third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who is also known as the "father of modern Bhutan." He wanted to erect a monument carrying the message of world peace and prosperity. However, he was unable to give shape to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state and other regal responsibilities. After his untimely demise in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to eternal peace, harmony and tranquility The National Memorial Chorten was gifted to the nation on 28 July, 1974. The exquisite wall paintings and the delicately carved statues reflect deep insights into Buddhist spirituality and a rich tradition of prayer and learning.
Before returning to the hotel you will have some good time to walk around in Thimpu market.
Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu
We will start our morning with a visit to Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha point) which is world largest sitting Buddha statue, the statue is 167 feet high. The statue is located on a hilltop overlooking Thimphu. The word Kuensel means “everything is clear” and from this place you will sure enjoy a great view of the Thimphu Valley on both sides.
We will continue our journey to Motithang Takin Preserve a small natural preserve for the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal. It was originally a mini zoo, but it was converted into a preserve later on, the mini zoo contained small number of Takin’s but the King of Bhutan later decreed that it was improper for a Buddhist nation to keep an animal in captivity. The animals were set free and the zoo was shut down, but for some reason the Takin refused to leave into the wild to forests area nearby. Instead the animals were frequently found roaming around in the city streets in search for food. As a result the government decided to demarcate an 8 acre fenced location as the MotithangTakin Preserve.
We will proceed into Thimpu City and visit to National Institute of Zorigchusum and Jungshi handmade paper factory
The National Insitute of Zorigchusum; is an institute established by the Royal government to protect and promote the art of Bhutan, the arts and crafts represents the exclusive spirit and identity of the Himalayan Kingdom and is defined as the art Zorig Chosum (Thirteen arts & crafts of Bhutan) a holy saint Trenton Pema Lingpa is credited to have introduced these arts to the people in Bhutan, during 15th century.
Jungshi handmade paper factory is a small paper factory located in Thimphu that produces paper using traditional Bhutanese methods. The paper products produced at the factory are made from Daphne or Mulberry plant bark. On you visit to the factory you will see the process from the beginning to the end.
We will say goodbye to Thimpu and continue our journey to Paro about one and half hours drive.
We will have dinner at the hotel in Paro and overnight stay
After early morning breakfast, we will take you for a morning hike up to Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan's most beloved monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Hanging precariously and magically from a rather steep cliff, the Taktshang monastery is a monument of genuine pride for the Bhutanese nation. It defies architectural principles to the core and amazes tourists from around the world.
It is a sight to behold. Taktsang or the Tigers lair as the monastery is called, it is widely regarded is one of the most important monuments of spiritual significance in Bhutan. Its history is deeply associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the revered Indian saint who came to Bhutan in the 8th century AD. The cave was named Taktsang after Guru Rinpoche flew into the cave from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan while riding on a tigress. When he landed in the cave, he took the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Drolo who is regarded as one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche to decimate the demons.
Several saints have chosen this sanctuary to pray and meditate in solitude. The monastery was built in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgaye who is said to be one of the reincarnations of Guru Rinpoche. The Monastery consists of four main temples along with their residences that are constructed along the rock ledge. There 8 caves in total out of which 4 are relatively easy to access.
The monastery was ravaged by fire twice in the 1900s first in 1951 and later the fire of 1998, which nearly destroyed the monastery completely. The government then undertook a comprehensive reconstruction with funding from donors. The monastery was recreated to its original splendor and re-opened to the public shortly thereafter.
From the road, the hike toward Taktsang monastery follows an uphill route and takes approximately 3-4 hours at an average walking pace on a clear, sunny day. We recommend that you carry sunscreen lotion, large quantities of drinking water and a walking stick as this is a good aid in hiking uphill and if someone wish to ride a horse and mule, then we can arrange this too.
We will have delicious lunch in natural surroundings.
In evening we will visit local market of Paro and later on have our Farewell dinner at our hotel in Paro.
After breakfast we will transfer to Paro International aiport and we will wish you a happy journey to your next destination.