The country’s landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The highest mountain in Bhutan is the Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. There is also diverse wildlife in Bhutan.
October to December is the ideal time to visit Bhutan as the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. January and February are colder, but from then until April the climate remains dry and pleasant and in late spring the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly, flooding the valleys with colour…
DAY 01 : RECIEVING FROM NJP STATION & TRANSFER TO PHUENTSHOLING
Phuentsholing (alt. 300m / 985 ft) – The frontier town, it is a thriving commercial centre, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills. It is a fascinating place where different ethnic groups mingle prominently Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese. Being the border town, Phuentsholing serves as the convenient entry/exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.OVER NIGHT STAY AT JAIGAON.
DAY 02 : AFTER BREAKFAST , COMPLETE IMMIGRATION FORMALITIES & TRANSFER TO THIMPHU
Thimphu (alt. 2400m/7875ft) – The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place. Home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.OVER NIGHT STAY AT THIMPHU. DAY 03 : THIMPHU CITY FULL DAY SIGHT SEEING , NIGHT STAY AT THIMPHU.Places of interest in and around Thimphu
Memorial Chorten This stupa 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 paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Simtokha Dzong This dzong, built in 1627 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, stands on a low ridge 8 km down the valley from Thimphu. The Institute for Language and Cultural Studies is located here. The most noteworthy artistic feature of this dzong is the series of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
National Library The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
Institute for Zorig Chusum Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
Traditional Medicine Institute In Bhutan, equal emphasis is given to both allopathic and traditional medicines. The rich herbal medicines made up from medicinal plants abundant in the Kingdom are prepared and dispensed here. The Institute is also a training school for traditional medicine practitioners. The complex is closed to visitors due to considerations of hygiene, but one can still walk around and view it from outside.
The Folk Heritage Museum (Phelchey Toenkhyim) It is dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life. The principal exhibit in the museum is a restored three storey traditional rammed mud and timber house, which dates back to the mid 19th century. The design and form of house is that of an average household in the Wang area during that era. The age of structure demonstrates the durability and performance of the building materials. From ground to top floor, household objects, typical domestic tools and equipments that would have been used by a family during that period are put on display. The museum is also developing some of the native trees and plants that were used for various domestic purposes in the rural households.
National Textile Museum With the opening of Textile Museum, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden, Bhutanese textile have reached new heights as one of the most visible distinct art form. The textile museum has opened its exhibition on six major themes – warp pattern weaves, weft pattern weaves, role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile arts, textiles from indigenous fibers and the royal collection. The crowns of Bhutan’s Kings, namzas (dresses), the first version of Royal Crown and other accessories used by members of Royal family can be found in the museum. The goal of the museum is to gradually become a center for textile studies that will carry out documentation, research and studies on Bhutanese textiles.
Trashichhoedzong Also know as “fortress of the glorious religion”, it was initially built in 1641 and later rebuilt in its present form by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. The Dzong houses, main secretariat building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. The National Assembly Hall is housed in a modern building on the other side of the river from the Dzong. During the warmer summer months, the monk body headed by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, makes its home in the Dzong.
Handicrafts Shops A wide assortment of colorful, hand woven textiles and other craft products is available for purchase at the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and many smaller crafts shops around the town.
Weekend Market Every Saturday and Sunday most of Thimphu’s scant population and many valley dwellers congregate on the banks of the river where weekend market is held. It is an interesting place to visit and provides opportunity to mingle with the local people.
Changangkha Lhakhang It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads. From temple courtyard, there is fascinating view of Thimphu valley.
Craft Bazaar Organised on Tuesday and Wednesday in Centenary Farmer’s market, under patronage of Department of cottage & small industry and in collaboration with the department of culture, tourism council and the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives, this market offers genuine Bhutanese arts & crafts thus contributing in promotion, protection and preservation of traditional arts.
Junghi Handmade Paper Factory Junghi Paper factory comprises of two enterprises ; the unit in Thimphu produces traditional handmade paper from natural plants mainly from ‘Daphne’ plant species which is insect-resistant. The other unit in Jimina, 22 km from the centre Thimphu town, recycles waster papers. The traditional handmade papers are widely used for religious scripts, packing materials, hand-carry bags, lampshades, envelopes, calendars . The paper looks a lot like Japanese washi, and in fact a lot of Bhutanese paper is exported to Japan also.
Zangthopelri Lhakhang The present structure was built in 1960s and although lacking the charm of many of the older temples, Zangthoo pelri still possesses some impressive murals and art treasures and is worthy of a visit. The site of the temple was a former battle ground, and the temple was constructed there in order to pacify energies.
Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang) Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Simply Bhutan Museum Simply Bhutan is an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF), built to offer a unique experience to its visitors. It is a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. A distinctive feature of Simply Bhutan is that it fully operated by young people and job seekers, who receive here on the job training in basic business & management skills, customer care and other spheres of life. The fund generated through Simply Bhutan is utilized to run many of the youth development programmes for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth under YDF. Hence as a visitor, while you get to experience and enjoy this special place, you are also helping to ‘make a better today’, ‘a brighter tomorrow’, for the youth of Bhutan.
Drubthob Goema / Zilukha Nunnery Perched on a promontory, overlooking picturesque Trashichhoedzong and Golf course, it is the only nunnery in capital known as Zilukha Anim Dratsang, once belonged to the Drubthob (Realized one) Thang Thong Gyalpo often referred to as The King of the open field (In the early 15th century with his multiple talents he popularly became the Leonardo da Vinci of the Great Himalayas). You may interact here with some of the nuns who have devoted their life to spirituality and Buddhism. OVER NIGHT STAY AT THIMPHU.
DAY 04 : THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA VIA DOCHULA PASS SIGHT SEEING , EVENING TRANSFER TO PARO. NIGHT SATY AT PARO.
Punakha (alt. 1300m/4265ft) – Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pas (alt. 3,050m) on Thimphu – Punakha road.
Places of interest in and around Punakha
Punakha Dzong Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637, by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
Excursions around Punakha
Chimi Lhakhang The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as “Divine Madman”. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning “field”. It then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten A beautiful hike takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang, gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang(Temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where, apart from religious trainings, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting.
Limbukha Drive towards Punakha Dzong and later walk across the suspension bridge (about 200m long) through absolutely fresh breeze and fascinating view of Dzong. Follow the farm houses gradually climbing towards Dompala hills. The view of Dzong, Pho Chhu, Mo Chhu rivers and surrounding village is superb amidst chirpine forests. The climb is another two and a half hours to Limbukha. Limbukha farmers grow Bhutan’s famous red rice which is supposed to have medicinal values. This particular rice needs clean mountain spring so that the taste is good and nutritional value maintained. Limbukha is also known for its love of peace and tranquility. Legends says that during medieval wars the “limpus” or the people of Limbukha always volunteered as peace negotiators. This is also depicted during yearly festival called ‘Serda’ when the men are found carrying peace flags instead of swords and fireworks.
Talo The village of Talo (alt. 2,800m) which is scattered along the hill slopes, known for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha villages. Talo Sangnacholing is built on a plateau and has majestic view of surrounding villages. The beautiful farm houses of the village have its own flower gardens and on the hill slope corns and sweet peas are grown in abundance. The women of Talo are particular known for their beauty.
Punakha Ritsha Village Bhutan’s Punakha valley is famous for rice farming where both red and white rice are grown along the river valleys of Pho and Mo Chhu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. ‘Ritsha’ meaning ‘at the base of a hill’ is a typical village in Punakha. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone foundations. Each house is only two storey high surrounded with gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In the recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous. This is a model rice growing village in western Bhutan.
Nalanda Buddhist College Locals call this place ‘Dalayna’ while the monks refer it as ‘Nalanda Buddhist College’.Drive here in the afternoon and enjoy your evening tea supplemented by the ravishing view in front, along with interaction with local monks OVER NIGHT STAY AT PARO.
DAY 05 : PARO FULL DAY SIGHT SEEINGPlaces of interest in and around Paro
Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal , the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also the venue of Paro Tshechu, held once a year in the spring.
Ta Dzong One time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dozng during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, since 1967 Ta Dzong is serving as the National Museum of the country. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum circular shape augments its varied collection displayed over several floors.
This Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and was featured in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when its was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount. Chomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.
Kyichu Lhakhang It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom dating back to 7th century (the other is Jambey Lhakahng in Bumthang). The lhakhang complex is composed of two temples. The first temple was built by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and in 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, built the second temple in original pattern.
Farm House (traditional village house) The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of quaint farm houses. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to Farm House is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
Druk Choeding Built in 1525, this town temple was formed by Ngawang Chhogyel, one of the prince-abbots of Ralung in Tibet and an ancestor of the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Dungtse Lhakhang To the west of the road is Dungtse Lhakhang, a chorten-like temple. This unusual building was built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo. It has three floors representing hell, earth and heaven and the paintings inside are said to be some of the best in Bhutan.
Beyond Dungtse Lhakhang, to the east of the road, the tiny Pana Lhakhang is quite old and is believed to have been built in the seventh century.
Ugyen Pelri Palace Ugyen Pelri Palace is in a secluded wooded compound on the south side of the river just west of the Dzong. This Palace was built by the Paro Penlop, Tsering Penjor, in the early 1900s. It is designed after Guru Rinpoche’s celestial paradise, Zangto Pelri, and is one of the most beautiful examples of Bhutanese architecture.
Jangsarbu Lhakhang Located behind Paro Dzong, this small temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa and also houses the protector deity of Paro. Legend has it that the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong and merely placed in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift. As a result, it became a permanent feature of the lhakhang.
Taktshang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest) It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries,
perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called “Tiger’s Nest”. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour. OVER NIGHT STAY AT PARO.
DAY 06 : DEPART PARO TO JAIGAON
After breakfast , drive to Jaigaon to onwards yor destination.