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CULTURAL BHUTAN

Overview

Tour Description

Itinerary

Our travel counselors will meet and assist you at the Paro airport, the only entry point into the Kingdom of Bhutan, by air. Then, you will be driven 2 hrs to Thimphu, the capital city for overnight stay. Thimphu is like a small town that has made a recent foray into development and commercialisation. The balance between the old and the relatively new make Thimphu a charming destination. A city with no traffic signals, quaint and colourful architecture, and crimson robed monks walking the streets along with camera weilding tourists makes Thimpu feel almost like a fairytale. After breakfast the next day, we'll visit the important sights of Thimphu such as the King's Memorial Chorten, Folk Heritage Museum, the National Textile Museum, National Library and the Handicrafts Emporium. We also visitTrashi cho dzong, or the 'Fortress of the glorious religion'. It is a monastery and the seat of the government and the clergy of Bhutan. The beauty of the dzong is that it was built without any nail, with no architectural plans. You can see the Golden Buddha glistening in the sun from almost any part of Thimphu. Perched on a hill, in all serenity and opulence, the51 metre tall Buddha Dordenma statuestands as if overlooking Thimphu and blessing it. You can get traditional and witness the local song anddance of Bhutan. Settle in and get a glimpse of their masked dances (Drametse Ngacham), village dances, archery dances, dance of the pounding soil and more, watch the local Bhutanese men wearing their national dress Gho and playing their national sport Archery at the Changlimithang stadium.

Before heading to the Punakha valley, we'll visit the Institute of Traditional Medicine, established in 1978. This institute collects medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya. Located at a height of 4265 ft., Punakha valley, one ofBhutan'smost scenic destinations, is the perfect place to awaken the nature lover in you. Take in the splendid views of the Himalayas, listen to the sounds of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers that cut through the valley, or simply soak up the serene beauty of this gorgeous valley.

We'll spend the morning exploring the Punakha town and visiting the sights such as the Punakha Dzong (distinctive type of fortress architecture found mainly in Bhutan and Tibetan plateau), the administrative and religious centre of the region. Here, we'll also breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the stunning views of the valley below. Visit Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a small hill right in the centre of the valley. For centuries, this place of worship has been considered 'the temple of fertility'. It is believed that couples who don't have children are blessed with newborns after praying at this temple. We can visit the Punakha Ritsha Village too. This model rice growing village is famous for its contemporary techniques of rice farming alongside traditional architecture. Every house in the village has rice fields and gardens with fruit bearing plants like papaya and oranges. Visit this place during harvest season inBhutan, and you'll forget even the best vineyard tours of the west. Later we drive to Gangtey, the winter home to a group of globally endangered black necked cranes that arrive every year from the Tibetan plateau. Gangtey is in a remarkably attractive glacial valley called Phobjikha. The region boasts various nature trails as well as a Crane Information Centre to educate visitors.

Bumthang is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. It houses around more than 25 temples, monasteries and museums. The palace of Wangdichholing was built in 1857 and is today used as a monastic school. The following day, we'll visit Jakar Dzong or the "Castle of the White Bird" which dominates the valley and overlooks the town.A special feature of the Dzong is the approximately fifty meters high Utse or the Central tower, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. The other unique feature of the Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day. We'll also visit some of the other monasteries such as the Kurje Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, TamshingMonastry before returning to the hotel.

After breakfast we'll drive back toPunakhaen route visiting Dochula Pass. It is a beautiful journey passing through the apple orchards, pine and oak forests. On arrival check into your hotel for overnight.

After breakfast in Punakha, we'll drive 4 to 5 hrs to Paro. We are free to explore the town after checking in to our hotel, and for some last minute souvenir shopping. Paro, Bhutan's biggest city, is a mix of ancient history, scenic natural beauty and modern life. Taktsang Monastery, popularly known as Tiger's Nest, is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan and one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the country. Legends say that Guru Rinpoche, the Father of Bhutanese Buddhism, arrived heremore than a million years ago from Tibet on the back of a tigress and meditated at this place. Perched atop a hill, this Buddhist monastery clings to a granite cliff more than 3,000metresabove sea level. The journey takes around 2-3 hours to complete,with a steep uphill climb. We'll spend the following 2 days exploring Paro Tsechu, one of the biggest festivals in the country. On the first day, all mask dances are held inside the courtyard of the Dzong. In the subsequent days, the courtyard outside the dzong hosts the festival. Featuring dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes, Tsechus (festivals) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan. A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honour of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The next day we'll bid adieu to the Kingdom of happines and head to Paro airport for our onward journey.

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