The two-week tour which covers must-see places of Bhutan, and Darjeeling, a city and Sikkim, a state of India is remarkably stupendous. The beautiful small kingdom of Bhutan, surrounded by India and Tibet, China, will reveal to you its wonders of Paro, Thimpu, and Punakha.
These three cities can vehemently display its arts and architecture, and culture and history. Paro is one of the most beautiful valleys with terraced fields, farmhouses, and willow trees along roadsides. As Paro has the only International Airport in the country, it is the gateway to Bhutan, and gateway obviously has to have something extraordinary. In fact, Bhutan is well-known for the Taktshang Pelphung Monastery which is in Paro. It, located at a cliff 900 meters above the valley ground, is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites. It is also known as the Tiger’s Nest. However, Thimpu easily stands out in terms of its size, grandeur, and how much it has to offer you.
Tashichho Dzong, Heritage museum, Takin Sanctuary, Painting School, Paper Factory, National Library, and Changangkha Lhakhang are some of the top attractions of Thimpu that you will visit. Punakha won’t fall short to astound you. Chimi Lhakhang built-in 1499 is unmissable.
Visit Darjeeling Tea Garden will be a pleasant and refreshing start to further explore the marvels of Darjeeling and Sikkim. And hence you will get atop the Tiger Hill at 2,573 meters. The panoramic view of Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga together will be amazing.
Moreover, the view of the peaks at the sunrise will be immensely captivating. Yoga Choeling, popularly known as the Ghoom Monastery, architecturally is majestic and is known for its 4.6-meter high statue of the Maitreya Buddha.
Touring the Sikkimese village will be quite a cheerful experience. Your experience will get further intensified with a visit to the Rumtek Monastery, also called the Dharmachakra Centre. It is a gompa located near the capital Gangtok. Some of the other important sites you will be visiting are Enchey Monastery, Flower Exhibition center, Hanuman Temple, Dro-Dul Chorten, and Tibetan Museum.
Day 01: Arrive in Paro and drive to Thimphu
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
Day 03: Drive Thimpu to Punakha
Day 04: Drive Punakha to Paro: visit Paro
Day 05: Excusion to Chelela Pass & Local Sightseeing
Day 06: Visit Taktsang Monastery (Hike to Taktsang)
Day 07: Flight Paro to Bagdogra & drive to Darjeeling.
Day 08: Visit Darjeeling
Day 09: Drive Darjeeling to Sikkim
Day 10: Visit Sikkimese village & Rumtek Monastery
Day 11: Visit Enchey Monastery / Flower exhibition centre, Hanuman Temple, Dro-Dul Chorten, Tebetan museum etc
Day 12: Drive Sikkim to Badrapur & flight to Kathmandu
Day 13: Departure
Day 01: Arrive in Paro by flight and drive to Thimphu:
Arrive in Paro by flight. On a clear day the panoramic views of the Himalaya are sensational, including Everest, but particularly exciting is the approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro. In Paro you will be received by your Bhutanese guide and transferred to the capital town of Thimphu. Time permitting visit king's administrative office.
Road from Paro to Thimphu
The distance of about 54 kms from Paro town takes little less than 1 hr. 15 mins with recently broadended road. Drive south following Pachu river to the river confluence at Chuzom, which is also the hub of road network going to Paro, Haa, Thimphu and Phuntsholing. From Chuzom, the road follows Wangchu River upstream as you pass through villages and suburbs to the capital, Thimphu. En-route, you can stop to view Tachogang temple and the nunnery at Sitsina. Thimphu (at 2300m) is Bhutan's capital city and center of government, religion and commerce. About two hours drive east from Paro is this a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style. It was a wooded farming valley until 1961, when it became Bhutan's official national capital. The massive Tashicho Dzong, about 700 years old, was carefully revamped in the 1960s by the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk to house the royal and main government offices. Even today, it still only has a few streets and no traffic lights with estimated population of 110,000 people. Thimphu has many places and sights to visit, in addition to several day excursion possibilities. It has relatively more choice in terms of the accommodations.
Tashichho Dzong. This fortress serves as the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations. It also is the headquarters for central monastic body of Bhutan. Bhutan's spiritual leader Je-Khenpo and the monks of both Thimphu and Punakha reside here during summer. It is also the venue for Thimphu Festival in the fall season.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing:
There are a good many things to see in the capital which has a very relaxed, laid-back feel about it. Thimphu is relatively small having a population of approximately 85,000 people and the streets are wide and tree lined. You will almost certainly visit the Late King's Memorial Chorten, the National Library, Drubthob Nunnery, Folk Heritage Museum, Textile Museum, Mini zoo, the handmade paper factory, the school of arts and crafts where young students learn the traditional arts and crafts (Zo Rig Chusum – the thirteen crafts), Gold and the Silver Smiths workshop, Changangkha Lhakhang, and the Handicraft Emporium and the local handicraft centres to see the weavers at work and also varieties of textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, jewellery etc.
Folk Heritage Mueusm or Phelchey Toenkhyim Museum is housed in a 19th century three-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house in Kawangjangsa, Thimphu. It aims to exhibit the life and living styles of upper middle class Bhutanese family of that time. There are households equipments, tools on display. Seasonal vegetable garden, a hot stone bath, a watermill etc can be seen in the premise.
Memorial Chorten This white and tall 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 and serves as an important place of worship for Thimphu residents, as well as from other parts of the country.
Zilukha Nunnery is housed in Drubthob Goemba (monastery). There are about 70 nuns who live and pray everyday in the monastery. There are good views of Tashicho Dzong, Golf course and upper Thimphu.
A short distance of the road to the telecom tower is a tail leading to a large fenced area that was originally established as a mini-zoo. The king decided that such a facility was not in keeping with Bhutan environmental and religious convictions, and it was disbanded sometime ago. The animals were released into the wild but the takins were so tame (some people say they are simply stupid) that they wandered around the streets of Thimphu looking for food, and the only solution was to put them back into captivity. It is worthwhile taking the time to see these strange, quite ugly animals. The best time to see them is early morning when they gather near the fence to feed. It is a five-minute walk from the road to a viewing area where you can take advantage of a dew holes in the fence to take photographs.
Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) has been chosen as the national animal of Bhutan is based both on its uniqueness and its association with country's history and mythology. It is said that Devine Madman, a popular saint is said to have created it with his magical power at a large congregation of devotees. It resembles a cow from back, a goat from the front, and it continues to befuddle taxonomists, who cannot quite relate to other animal.
The National Institute for Zorig Chusum Pedzoe (School of Arts and Crafts) is commonly known as "the painting school". It operates under the National Technical Training Institute and offers a six-year course that provides instruction in Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts called Zorig Chuksum - meaning 13 crafts. It follows the regular school schedule (9am-5pm Mon-Fri and 9-1pm on Sat) with exceptions of holidays and breaks.Tourists are allowed to visit the school and take a peek at the classes the boys attend. There is also a small shop at the school that sells the students' work.
Traditional papers were made from the daphne plant, using simple methods. Like rice papers, these papers are said to last longer.
The National Library (1967) built in the style of a traditional temple contains a large collection of religious books and manuscripts in Dzongkha and Classical Tibetan and a collection of English-language books. It also contains a copy of the largest published book in the world. There is a section of the library in which books and prayer flags are printed using wooden blocks. In another section there is collection of these wooden blocks that are used for printing books and prayer flags. An altar on the ground floor, with statues of Bhutan’s most important historic figures, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Pema Lingpa and Guru Rinpoche, also contributes to the building’s sacred importance.
Sangaygang View Point (Telecom Tower)
There's a wonderful view of Thimphu valley from the hillside below the telecommunications tower (elevation 2685m), high above the town at the end of a road that branches off from the approach to the youth centre. The complex also houses the broadcasting studios of Bhutan television. Don't photograph the telecommunications installation, but the valley is worth a few snaps. The area is known as Sangaygang and it becomes a lover's lane late at night.
Changangkha Lhakhang is an old fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south-east of Motithang. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who came from Ralung in Tibet. The central statue is Chenresig in a 11-headed manifestations, and the books in the temple are larger in size than usual Tibetan texts. There is an excellent view of Thimphu from the courtyard.
Weekend Market of Thimphu: starts around noon on Friday and ends on Sunday afternoon. It resembles the farmers market in the west. However since there are no big super markets, Thimphu's weekend market is the main source of fresh produce. It is an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well heeled Thimphu residents for best and cheapest vegetables and other food products.
Day 03: Drive Thimpu to Punakha:
Punakha is at lower elevation of approximately 1400m and therefore it is warmer and has semi-tropical vegetation with cactuses, bananas and orange groves. Punakha Dzong used to be the winter capital of Bhutan until 1958 and even today the head Abbot and central monastic body move here from Thimphu Tashicho Dzong, during the winter months.
After breakfast in hotel drive to Punkha takes approx 3 hours en route stop at Dochula pass 3080 m above sea level for stunning view of the Bhutanese Himalayas.
Later in the afternoon take a pleasant gentle hike to the temple of ‘divine madman’ – the Chimi Lhakhang. Chimi Lhakhang was built by lama Drukpa Kunley in 1499. He subdued the demons of the Dochu la with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.’ A wooden effigy of the Lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint.
It’s a 20-minute walk across the rice fields from the road at Sopsokha to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana. There are very few monks at the temple, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some very beautiful slate carvings.
Day 04: Drive Punakha to Paro and Sightseeing:
After breakfast in the hotel drive to Paro via Dochula pass 3100 meters. Stop briefly for photography and enjoy the stunning part of Himalayan ranges. Drive to Paro Take approximately 4 hours.
Paro: originally Paro is one of the most beautiful valleys in the country with Bhutan's only airport located here, among the terraced fields, and elegant farm houses. Willow trees line many of the roads, contrasting with bright colors of the fields and the most popular and important sites are also found within Paro district. Paro town (2,280m), locally called 'Tshongdu' is still a small with just two main street and less than two hundred small family-run shops. The weekend market in Paro is held on Sundays in a small area near the town.
Day 05: Chelela Pass Excursion and Local Sightseeing:
This morning a scenic drive of 1 & ½ hr will bring us to Chele La pass at an altitude of aprrox. 3900m/1300ft. On one side is the Paro and on the other side is Haa valley . Just below the pass if you feel energitic take a down hill walk for an hour or little more across the dense forest and alongside the rock walls brings you to a clusters of shelters built on sheer cliffs, under the rock/cave and a temple that houses some 70 or so nuns.
On your way back to Paro, we will stop at a place for the hike to a monastery called Dzondrakha which looks similar to famous Tiger’s Nest monastery but located at shorter hiking distance. Half the walk will be along the agricultural field and very easy, another half will be an uphill climb and when both versions of hikes are summed up it will take less than 1 hour to reach at the top where the monastery stands. On reaching the site of the monastery, one would enjoy the view of the fertile Paro valley below. Your guide will take you inside the main temple of the monastery.
Also visit Paro Rinpung Dzong: Rinphung Dzong was consecrated in 1645 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal on the site of smaller fort. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries it served as a bastion against invasion from the north. It is regarded as one of the finest Bhutanese architecture - with intricate wood work, large beams slotted into each other and held together without nails. In it houses the giant 30m X 45m Thangka (Thongdrol), commissioned in mid 18th century, displayed on the last day of Paro Tsechu festival. Rinphung Dzong is the district headquarter of Paro and residence of state monks under Paro rabdey.
Dungtse Lhakhang: was constructed by the great bridge-builder Thangtong Gyelpo in 1433. It is said to have been built on the head of demoness, who was causing illness to the inhabitants. The building was restored in 1841 and is a unique repository of Kagyu lineage arts. You may or may not be permitted inside but can walk around this three-storey Chorten-type building.
National Museum of Bhutan: Established in 1967, the museum is housed inside a circular Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower. It has fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangkha paintings, households stuffs, arms, handicrafts, stuffed animals and Bhutan's famous Stamps among others (open 10-4pm - closed on Monday).
Day 06: Paro (Hike to Taktsang):
Spend the day hiking to the famous Taktsang monastery. Lunch at the tea house near Taktsang. Depending on your interest and abilities, you may explore other sites around Taktsang, which includes Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tshemo.
Trek to Taktsang is a steep uphill and takes from 2 hours to 4 hours depending how high you want to get and want to see. The return trek is downhill and takes about half the time. Return to Paro in the evening.
Ugyen Tsemo: From the view point overlooking Taktsang, another trail lead upwards to the summit. Here, there are three other temples highly venerated as well but not on the usual tourist route.
Zangdopelri (named after Guru Rinpoche's heavenly abode), built in 1853 sits of the summit of opposite ridge - across the deep chasm from Takstang Pelphung. The small shrine and it's balcony overlooks and provide view of Takstang. Ozegang is nearby hermitage constructed in 1646. Higher still and on the summit of ridge directly above Takstang Pelphung, sits Ugyen Tsemo. Ugyen refers to Takstang and Tsemo means 'the top' or 'the head'. The temple was originally built in 1508 and restored recently in 1958. It contains some beautiful frescoes of Guru Padmakara and his followers. The view Ugyen Tsemo is astoundingly beautiful. A day excursion to higher ridge of Bumdra can be done from here. In Bumdra there are several retreat families.
Taktshang - Tiger's Nest: Tiger's Lair or Tiger's Nest as it often referred to for Taktshang Pelphung monastery, is one of the most venerated and famous of Bhutan's monasteries. It is located on the face of a sheer 900m cliff above the floor of Paro valley. It is an impressive and un-miss-able sight but accessible only by walk or to ride mules/pony. If you need the riding horse, you must ask your local guide to arrange it on the previous day. From the trail head (2600m), the walk till the Cafeteria is a steep one hour uphill (about 350m ascent). From the Cafeteria (2940m) and areas around it, one can get a good close-up view of Taktshang. Savor views of the monastery over a well-deserved cup of tea and biscuits at the cafeteria.
For those who wish to proceed further from here, one must be able to walk. Usually Ponies/horses will not take people beyond this point and neither will they take you downhill. From the cafeteria, trail continues uphill for another 45 minutes to a high observation point (3140m) where there is a Chorten (stupa). From this vantage point, the lookout to the monastery is a very spectacular and seems almost close enough to touch. It is now on the other side of a deep chasm, only around 150m away as bird flies, but takes half hour or even more to reach. Continue down the flight of cliff-hanging steps on the narrow trail to a beautiful waterfall that plunges down the deep chasm and alongside is a retreat hermitage, jammed dramatically into a rock crevice. Then climb up the flight of steep steps to the monastery. At any point on this walk, you can always return if you find it too difficult. Once inside the monastery, there are several shrines or temples to see with few monks in residence. After visiting Taktshang monasteryâ€™s many shrines, most tours schedule lunch at the Cafeteria upon return. After lunch, retrace back to the road-head where you started in the morning. The retrace back is all downhill and always on foot as it is not suitable for riding pony/horse. Please note that proper walking boots is recommended for this hike. Further, if you have more time and ready for more challenging day, there are several monasteries, temples, retreat houses in the surrounding area of Taktshang. The most notable among them are Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tsemo as described seperately.
According to the legend, Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, who spread the Buddhism across the entire Himalayas is said to have flown here in the 8th century on the back of a Tigress, in order to subdue negative spiritual forces that were hostile to spread of Buddhism. In 853, one of his students, Pelgyi Senge mediated here in the main cave. A Stupa inside one of the temples contains his mortal remains and therefore the cave is known as 'Pelphung 'or 'Pelgi's cave'. Subsequently many great spiritual masters such as Milarepa, Thangthong Gyalpo, Phajo Dugom Zhigpo, Shadrung and many others passed periods here in profound meditation. In 1692, Tenzin Rabgye built a two storey temple around what little may have existed previously. This was expanded and refurbished many times over the period of time. Taktshang and several temples in the area were burnt down in 1951 by fire accident but much of them remained intact and most of the relics were saved. Soon after, it was rebuilt by entire population of Tsento village. Again in April of 1998, a major fire destroyed the main structure of the building and its contents. Reconstruction began in 2000 and was completed and consecrated after extensive efforts and financial support of Governments as well as donors.
Day 07: Flight Paro to Bagdogra and drive to Darjeeling:
We will have scenic flight to Bagdogra, India early in the morning. At Bagdogra airport, you will be met by our local Guide transfer to Darjeeling. Drive over the Friendship Bridge, complete Indian visa formalities and continue driving to Darjeeling. About in an hour, you will reach siliguri-the last trading post in the plains and then the road goes through the foothills of tea gardens and the forest of the terai, feeling the growing nip in the air, till you suddenly realize you are looking down the hillside .The saal and the semul gave way to fig, cedar, brich and pine trees. During the monsoon, several waterfalls on highway 55 makes the journey more exciting and scenic. At the altitude of 4860 feet, you will drive through a small town called Kurseong, the place of the white orchids. Kurseong offers the first view of the mountain ranges.
Overnight: Home stay (makaibari)
Day 08: Visit Darjeeling:
In the morning, we will visit Tea garden and try tea leaf plucking with the garden worker then will visit tea processing centre. Then we will drive to Darjeeling main town
Day 09: Visit Tiger Hill and Ghoom monastery then drive Darjeeling to Sikkim:
Early in the morning, we will go to Tiger hill to see the sunrise over the mountain ranges. On our way back to hotel, we will visit Ghoom monastery. After breakfast, we will drive to Gangtok.
Day 10: Visit Sikkimese village and Rumtek monastery:
After breakfast, we will visit local village to observe the local life of sikkimese. On our way back to Gangtok, we will visit a buddhist monastery called Rumtek monastery.
Day 11: Gangtok sightseeing:
After breakfast, we will resume our sightseeing in and around Gangotk including Enchey monastery, Flower exhibition centre, Hanuman Temple, Dro-Dul chorten, Tibetan museum and Handloom and Handicraft centre. We will have evening free to explore the local market.
Day 12: Drive Sikkim to Bhadrapur and flight to Kathmandu:
After breakfast drive to Bhadrapur airport in Nepal. (6hrs/168 kms). Then we will have scenic flight to Kathmandu.
Day 13: Transfer to the airport and Departure.
Sikkim / Darjeeling
Sikkim / Darjeeling
Average Temperature of Bhutan in different cities
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