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DURATION

12 DAYS

WHEN

Feb – Mar 

DESTINATION

Bhutan

TYPE

PRIVATE 

Bhutan Expedition

Bhutan is an isolated Buddhist country surrounded by the Himalayan peaks, where age-old customs still sway.

Since time immemorial, it has been one of the few countries in the world that enjoy complete independence and sovereignty. Aside from the fact that this region was occupied as early as 2000 BC, little is known about Bhutan’s history due to its isolation from the rest of the globe. However, this abode of Buddhism and spirituality has a fascinating medieval and modern history. 

Explore Bhutan’s rich culture with an NPE Senior guide amid green valleys lined with old fortresses and shrines, learning how everyday living is linked with Mahayana Buddhism. Meet monks, nuns, farmers, and craftspeople; participate in ancient rites, and witness the careful evolution of this small country firsthand.

WHAT MAKES THIS TRIP EXTRAORDINARY

  • Arrive in Paro, Bhutan’s second most important city, known for its monasteries, museums, and traditions.
  • Visit the giant Buddha statue in Thimpu and the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan.
  • Stop at Dochu La to visit the 108 stupas built on this 3,150-meter-high pass in honor of the fallen Bhutanese soldiers. 

     

  • Experience the Punakha Drobchen, a colorful and exciting ceremony in close contact with the local people.
  • Explore the majestic Phobjikha valley through forests and ancient villages.
  • Visit the picturesque valley of Bumthang and spend the night with an outstanding view.
  • Visit the Ta Dzong National Museum.

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

QUESTIONS?


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Itinerary in Brief

Day 1 
Arrive in Paro:

As you exit from the arrival hall of Paro airport, you will be met by your NPE guide and chauffeured to your hotel in Thimphu (1-hour drive). You will do an en-route stop to visit the Tamchogg Lhakhang and marvel at the iron bridge reconstructed using original chain links from the famous Tibetan bridge-builder Thangtong Gyelpo.

Afternoon, you will begin your sightseeing tour of Thimphu. You will make a visit to the National Memorial Chorten. This landmark of Thimphu was built in 1974 in the memory of third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of Modern Bhutan. It is a four-storey tall white building, containing statues and iconography of deities from complex tantric teachings.

Afterward, drive to visit the Motithang Takin Preserve on the edge of the city. The Takin, a large shaggy hoofed mammal, is closely related to the musk ox and is the national animal of Bhutan – so designated due to its prominent place in a popular Bhutanese myth from the 15th century. Drive further upwards towards Sangaygang where will have wonderful views of the Thimphu Valley from the hillside elevated 2685m, high above the town.

Overnight at Hotel Druk  (D).

Day 2
Thimpu

This morning, visit the Buddha Dordenma – a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue. The statue is filled with over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself is made of bronze and gilded in gold. 

In the afternoon, drive to visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. It is also commonly known as Arts and crafts school or painting school. 

Afterward, visit the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan. Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan.

Overnight at Hotel Druk (B, L, D)

Day 3 

Thimpu to Punakha

After an early breakfast this morning, you will be driven to Punakha. The road climbs steeply through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees, to Dochu La pass 3,150 m (10,334 ft). The pass offers fantastic panoramic views of the Himalayan Mountain ranges.

Stop on Dochu La to visit the 108 stupas built on this 3,150-metre-high pass in honor of the fallen Bhutanese soldiers.

Before reaching Punakha, stop en route and do a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang (fertility temple) and get transferred to your hotel.

Overnight at Dhensa Boutique Resort (B, L, D).

Day 4

Punakha

Early this morning, drive to visit Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, this was the second of Bhutan’s Dzong and hosted Bhutan’s government for many years. 

Here you will witness Punakha Drubchen. Crowds of people gather in their finest hand woven dress, brightly patterned cloth for which Bhutan is renowned, creating an intensely colorful and exciting atmosphere that had remained unchanged in its traditional purity for centuries. Locals believe that dressing in their finest is another form of offering that could bring them blessings and allow them to please the deities. In return, it will bring them merit, luck, and prosperity.

After this fantastic experience, hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. This three-story Lhakhang was built by Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon for the protection of the country. It has an impressive view of Punakha valley.

Overnight at Dhensa Boutique Resort (B, L, D).

Day 5
Punakha to Phobjikha

After breakfast and a three-hour drive, we will reach the majestic Phobjikha valley.

In the afternoon, you will be escorted to the Gangtey Goemba (monastery), which enjoys the valley’s prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. Pema Thinley, the grandson, and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, founded the Nyingma temple here in 1613. The Goemba is the seat of the 9th reincarnation of the body of the Terton (treasure discoverer) Pema Lingpa.

Then walk along the Gangtey Nature Trail, crossing streams and rhododendron gardens to Sumchubara village. Afterward, you enter the Pine covered forest, which opens at a canopy that affords fabulous views of the valley.

Overnight at RKPO (B, L, D).

Day 6
Phobjikha

After breakfast,  we will start by walking downwards, following the path to the right of the road. The trail will lead you through bush bamboo towards a small cluster of village houses. There are beautifully colored rhododendron forests on both sides of the valley, and in the winter months, yaks graze in the area. Continue straight through the village upwards until you reach the start of the mysterious old-growth rhododendron forest.

Overnight at RKPO (B, L, D).

Day 7
Phobjikha to Bumthang

This morning, you will be driven to Bumthang.

Bumthang is one of the most fascinating valleys in Bhutan, encompassing four major valleys. It is the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to many of the oldest and most sacred monasteries. The valley has plenty of opportunities for day hikes, many involving visit to remote Goembas.

On your way to Bumthang, you will stop at the Chendebji Chorten and visit Trongsa Dzong. Like almost all towns in the Kingdom, this Dzong architecture dominates the entire Trongsa horizon dwarfing the surrounding buildings. Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat. Protected from invaders by an impenetrable valley, Trongsa Dzong is an impregnable fortress.

Overnight at Mt. Lodge (B, L, D).

Day 8
Bumthang

After breakfast, you will do a short walk to Jambay Lhakhang. This site was built in the 7th century to subdue the giant demoness who was preventing the spread of Buddhism in Tibet and the Himalayan region. To overcome her, Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples in one day, which would be placed all over her body to pin the ogress to the earth forever and at the same time, to convert Tibetan people to Buddhism.

In the afternoon, visit the Red Panda brewery and Swiss Cheese factory was started in the 1960s by a young Swiss man called Fritz Maurer. He came to live in Bumthang and established a small cheese production, producing Gouda and Emmenthal cheese.
Right next to it is the brewery, the Red Panda, one can witness the process which results in unfiltered Weiss Beer.
Overnight at Mt. Lodge (B, L, D).
Day 9
Bumthang

After an early breakfast, drive towards Tang Valley. On your way there, stop to visit Mebar Tsho (The Burning Lake).

In this lake, the Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Padmasambhava, was supposed to have discovered a religious treasure in the 12th century. Mebartsho is not a lake but a
gorge on one of the rivers that run through the Tang valley. This lake is very sacred, and many Bhutanese visits during the auspicious days to offer butter lamps.

Tang is one of the remotest of Bumthang’s valleys and is a 10.5 km drive on an unpaved road from the main highway. The people of this valley raise sheep and, at higher elevations, yaks.

In addition to its beautiful landscapes, the valley also allows visiting 16th-century Naktshang (country manor)/Tang Ugyencholling Palace. Today, the palace functions as a museum to preserve its legacy and provide a place for religious studies, research, and solitude.

We will make a stop for lunch and, later, drive to the village of Bebzur, from where you will go on a hike known as the Bushman trail. From this picturesque village, you will start hiking up for about 30 – 45 minutes, after which is a pleasant and fairly easy hike to Kharchu Dratshang. The walk is through beautiful pine forests and gives you good views of the Pemacholling nunnery and Zangdopelri (Paradise of Ugyen Guru Rinpoche).

Your car will meet you at Kharchu Dratshang and drive you back to the lodge. The entire hike will take about 3 – 4 hours.

Overnight at Mt. Lodge, Bumthang.

Day 10
Bumthang to Paro

This morning, post breakfast, you will take a domestic flight to Paro.

Paro is a historic town with numerous religious sites, and historical structures are sprinkled throughout. Many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries and the National Museum are located here. Paro is known as one of the most fertile valleys in the kingdom, with terraced fields supplying the majority of the kingdom’s famous red rice.

After lunch, drive to visit the Ta Dzong or the National Museum, where you will find the famous watchtower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during the inter-valley wars of the 17th century. Ta Dzong holds a fascinating art collection, relics, religious paintings, and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps.

Afterward, you will visit a local farmhouse, a traditional village house. A cluster of old-fashioned farmhouses embellishes the Paro valley’s beauty. Bhutanese farmhouses are colorful, decorative, traditionally built without a single nail, and follow the same architectural pattern.

Overnight at Hotel Naksel, Paro.

Day 11
Paro

After breakfast, early this morning, you will take a short drive to the north of Paro Valley to Ramthankha. You will start a hike to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The trail climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss.

Legend says that Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Buddhism in Bhutan, flew from Eastern Bhutan on a tigress, bringing Buddhist teachings with him, and meditated on this cliff. Taktsang is one of the most revered and sacred of all Buddhist sights worldwide.

This hike takes about 5hrs with a 3,000 feet/900 meters approximate gain in altitude.

Afterward, hike down to meet your driver before returning to the hotel by lunchtime and relax the rest of the day.

Overnight at Hotel Naksel, Paro

Day 12
Fly back home

 

This morning, you will be transferred to the Paro airport to board your onward flight.

Meals: (B)

Lodgings

Hotel Druk

The Druk is centrally located in Thimphu, near the city’s busy business, recreational, and government sites. This unique four-star premium hotel offers a tranquil and stylish retreat. A team dedicated to our visitors’ comfort and satisfaction provides respectful, sincere, and attentive service. The freshly restored rooms at Hotel Druk feature design elements from the Rustic Chic decor, evoking feelings of warmth and repose while still providing guests with modern and innovative amenities.

Dhensa Boutique Resort

In March 2014, Dhensa Resorts opened its first resort in Bhutan’s Punakha valley. This pioneering hotel invites you to retreat and revive your senses in Bhutan’s peaceful and beautiful nature. Dhensa is located in the lush and scenic Punakha Valley, overlooking the Punakha river and hundreds of paddy fields that stair-step down to the valley floor, surrounded by thick pine forests. 

RKPO

RKPO Gangtey Lodge in the Phobjikha Valley offers a pleasant, homey ambiance to experience the surrounding landscape and views, with a magnificent valley overlooking Gangtey Monastery. The secluded RKPO Gangtey Lodge, reached by a long farm road, features only seven deluxe rooms and two suites. Most compact apartments have fantastic views of the Gangtey valley below and are adorned with traditional embellishments.

 Mt. Lodge, Bumthang

Mountain Lodge is located overlooking the majestic Jakar Valley. This family-run resort provides outstanding accommodation to those visiting Bhutan’s depts, and it is the perfect base camp to continue your journey in this beautiful land. Its friendly staff and rooted sense of hospitality will make this resort feel like home throughout your stay.

Hotel Naksel

Naksel Boutique Hotel & SPA is located thirty minutes from Paro’s International Airport. It is a luxurious hideaway where man’s conveniences and nature’s presence mix for a calm respite in Bhutan’s hills. Naksel draws its name from the Dzongkha translation of ‘Forest,’ which only fits this Himalayan sanctuary. It is nestled on the edge of the national forest and the tranquil Ngoba Village. Naksel’s main lodge and surrounding cottages are situated on six acres of the apple orchard at about 2700 meters above sea level. Mount Jumolhari, Taktsang Monastery, Sangachoekhor Monastery, and the Paro valley below are visible from every room, cottage, and suite. Bhutan’s character is embodied by intricate hand-carved pillars and magnificent stonework, while tapered mud-brick walls give insulation and quiet.

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