Bhutan Cultural Tour for 9 Days 8 Nights
Centenary Farmer Market
Flying into the country’s only international airport, in the beautiful valley of Paro (2200m/7218ft) the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression, encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends.
Mount. Jhomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River).
Paro is also considered as the ‘Rice bowl’ of the country as it is one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
The flight to and from Paro is considered one of the most spectacular flight experiences in the world offering fascinating views of the eastern Himalayan range, including Mt. Everest.
On arrival at airport, after immigration and custom formalities, you will be welcomed by our tour representative from Best Bhutan Travel at Airport who will be accompanying you during your stay in Bhutan.
Day 1: Arrival: Paro – Thimphu
Drive to the capital, Thimphu at an elevation of 2340meter (7675ft) which takes about 1.5hours
Thimphu at an elevation of 2320m is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas with a population of about 100,000 people. It is the capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce. It is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions maintaining a strong national character in its architectural style, although not what one expects from a capital city is still a fitting and lively place and home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body (central clergy).
Check into hotel and visit following places:
- Memorial Chorten: This stupa was built in 1974 to honor and in memory of the late 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. To fulfill one of his three wishes. In fact, he wanted to put into tangible form the three traditional pillars of Buddhism, the Body, mind & Speech. (he had one hundred statues of Buddha made which represents the body, religious scriptures transcribed in the letters of gold which represents the speech, but before completing his third wish that is to built a stupa as it represents the mind, he passed away. So in order to fulfill his third wish his mother HRH Queen Phuntsho Chhoden Wangchuck erected this Magnificent beautiful structure.
- Buddha Point: Visit the world’s largest sitting Buddha, a recently built immense statue housing a temple at the dome. Enjoy a stunning Bird’s eye view of the city.
- Tashichho Dzong: ‘Fortress of the auspicious and glorious religion’ which was built in the mid 1600’s by the unifier of the country Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room of the King and offices of the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.
Later in the evening explore the Town/Handicrafts stall/ Centenary Farmer Market and even spot the dancing policeman irecting the traffic.
Overnight in Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu (Full day excursion)
Cheri Goempa – Early in the morning take a 20 minutes drive up the north of Valley. From a point you need to hike uphill of nearly 30-45 minutes. You will cross as old traditional bridge made of wood and stones. The monastery was established in 1620 bythe unifier of the country Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is now a major teaching and retreat center of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu sect and serves as the monastic school for study of Buddhist Philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, poems and many other Buddhist studies. According to legend or history of Bhutan the place was first visited by Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. In the 13th century it was visited by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo the Tibetan Lama who first established the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Bhutan. Zhabdrung spent three years in strict retreat at the monastery and stayed for many years.
Picnic lunch at river side and in the afternoon make visits to the following sights.
- School of Thirteen Arts & Crafts: It is the primary center of learning for Bhutanese artists. Depending upon the student’s interest, one can specialize in any of the thirteen arts and crafts including painting, weaving, sculptures, blacksmithing, embroidery, wood carving, silver smith, etc. It is the best place for visitors to learn about traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
- Jungzhi Handmade Paper Factory: The first of cottage industries established in the country. Although the process of making traditional paper may be simple, a considerable amount of time is required to collect the raw materials, such as the bark of the Daphne plant and certain plant roots for glue. Apart from a small heater to dry the sheets of paper, everything is manually done. Daphne paper is one of the finest papers in the world and is highly recommended for artists.
- Takin Preserve: A large enclosure for the national animal Takin (Bordocas Taxicolor). Legend has it that the Takin is a cross between a goat and a buffalo, but biologists agree that its nearest relative is the arctic musk ox. This bizarre beast looks as if it was assembled from parts of several animals and vaguely resembles an American bison tinged in golden fur. Male Takins have been known to hide by lying spread-eagle on the ground.
In the Evening witness an Archery game at Changlimithang Stadium. Archery is the National Sport which is widely played around the country. If for some reason, there is no archery match on this day, we can arrange one at Naksel resort in Paro.
Overnight in Thimphu
Day 3: Thimphu – Punnakha
After breakfast drive to Punakha situated at an elevation of 1300m/4265ft.. The district served as the capital of Bhutan during the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namkgyal, the founder of Bhutan. Today it is the administrative and religious center of the district and the winter home of Bhutan’s Central Monk Body. It is blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers the valley produces abundant crops and fruits.
While driving to Punakha you will come across a pass Dochula (3150m/10,000ft) with its panoramic views of the Himalayas (only if the weather permits). The pass is decorated with 108 Druk Wangyel Chorten, which were built to celebrate the stability and progress, brought to Bhutan by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King.
Later after about one hour descend from the pass you will start to feel the warmth and reach the first villages marked by cluster of traditional houses surrounded by the rice fields. Make visits to the following places
- Chimmi Lhakhang: Take a 45 min hike round trip through the rice field. It is situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, famously known as the ‘Divine Madman’ a saint in the late 15th century who used humor, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings. 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.
- Punakha’s Dzong: The name means Palace of Great Bliss. This fortress stands magnificently on the spit of land where two rivers (Pho chu and Mo chu) meet. It has special significance in Bhutanese history as the place where Bhutan’s first King, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned in 1907.
- Punakha suspension bridge – One of the longest foot bridges in the country.
Overnight in Punakha
Day 4: Punakha – Bumthang
Morning, after breakfast drive to Bumthang situated at an elevation of 2600m / 8655ft) which falls in the central part of the country. It is comprised of four valleys namely Chummey, Chamkhar, Tang & Ura. It is also said to be the first valleys in the country to have received the influence of Buddhism.The main staple food in this region was buck wheat but in the later years people have started to cultivate rice.
- Drive pass by the ruins of Wangdue Dzong (Fortress), unfortunately destroyed by fire in the year 2012 but now under construction. Continue to Trongsa over Pelela (Pass) at 3300m/10989ft which forms the part of Black mountain range that divides the country into east and west. The drive is long but the landscape is pleasing and worthy.
- Trongsa Dzong: Make a visit to the country’s largest and majestic fortress of the mid 1600’s built by the founder of Bhutan which holds various historical significance in the history of the country. According to the jurisdiction, before the coronation of any Kings, they have to get appointed as the governor of this district. And in the ancient times no matter from which direction a traveler came from he was obliged to pass by this dzong.
- Ta Dzong: Drive pass by the ‘watch tower’ which used to act as one during the former times, as according to legends no one could have escaped the vigilance of the tower. Now it houses a newly converted museum. Drive pass by Yotong La (pass) at 3425meter. On the journey stop over the weaving place, beside the road where “Yatha” (wool weaving) is done which the Valley of Bumthang is also famous for and continue your drive for Bumthang.
Overnight in Bumthang
Day 5: Bumthang – 2600m
Explore the valley making visits to these place
- Jakar dzong (fortress of the White-bird): Built in 17th century, Jakar dzong and its forces for centuries defended against a host of enemies from both outside and within the country. The name “Jakar” originates from this place. It was said that lama Nagi Wangchuck, great grandfather of Shabdrung, came to this place and was looking for a site to build his hermitage. He saw a white bird flying from the place where the dzong stands today.
- Jampay Lakhang: one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country that dates back to the 7th century. As it bears the witness to the valley to have received the first influences of Buddhism. According to the legends the temple was among the 108 temples which the first Tibetan Buddhist king vowed to build around the body of a huge ogress/demoness that was of great hinderanceand pin her down. The demoness was so huge that it’s left leg lay in Bhutan, so this temple was specifically built on the knee of it.
- Kurjey Lakhang: The literal translation of the name of this monastery like temple is ‘body imprint’, as the one who brought Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava left his body imprint after meditating in the cave subjugating the evil forces hindering the people living aroung the valley. Now this particular cave is inside the first building of the complex, the site is also where the royals are cremated
- Farm House: visit a local farm house for an experience of an authentic traditional Bhutanese lifestyle and the local hospitality.
Evening: Explore Jakar town
Overnight in Bumthang
Day 6: Bumthang - Phobjikha
Retrace and enjoy the drive back to the glacial valley through the dense forests of the Phobjikha Valley situated at an elevation 2900m/9655ft. where potato fields occupies most of the land with more or less five thousand inhabitants.
The valley is home for the endangered Black Necked Crane, one of the rare specials of the birds in the world, which migrates from Tibetan plateau to Bhutan in winters (Early Nov to end of Feb) to avoid the harsh climatic conditions in Tibet. Phobjikha valley at 2900meter is also paradise for nature lovers and hikers so one can enjoy the hike around the remote valley of Phobjikha. You arrive at Gangtey village. Make visits to the places aroung this valley.
Gangtey Monastery: The icon and the heart of the valley. A castle like monastery built in 1613 by the great grandson of the Pema Lingpa (treasure revealer). As the founder of the traditional arts and crafts which is existent in the counter prophesized that one day my descendents will erect a structure of religious significance at a summit of a mountain. True to the prophesy the current monastery was built. It is home for the few hundred monks who study ‘Nyingmapa’ (sect/school of Buddhism) looked after by the 9th reincarnated priest. The monastery is considered to be the largest and the only Nyingma(Buddhist institution in this part(west) of the country.
Evening: Explore Phobjikha valley
Overnight in Phobjikha
Day 7: Phobjikha - Paro
Retrace your journey and the drive back to the enchanting valley of Paro. If time permits, visit
- National Musuem: which is also known as Ta Dzong (watch tower) is first of its kind and has a collection from natural history to religious paintings of the country.
- Rimpung Dzong: ‘Fortress’ built in the mid 1600’s by the founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, which I the former times the dzongs used to act as a protective Srructure to safeguard the people and the valley from foreign invasion and internal conflict as well. Now it houses the central administrative centre of the district and the monastic body. You could walk down to one of the oldest wooden bridge (cantilever Bridge). Continue further to stroll around the old Paro town and sneak a look into some local handicrafts stores. In the evening drive back to the hotel.
Overnight in Paro
Day 8: Paro – Hike to Tiger Nest
A visit to Bhutan is incomplete without going to Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s lair), one of the most sanctified and sacred temples in Bhutan.
Transfer to trail-head (30 minutes’ drive from the hotel), It is 5 hour round trip along an old trail. Begin your trek to Takstang monastery (3150m), Bhutan’s most famous sight. It is located on the face of a 900m sheer cliff, but accessible only by walk or to ride mule/pony.Your guide can arrange pony/horse for ride uphill till the Cafeteria (half way point), but one must be able to walk after that. A proper trekking boot or good walking shoes is necessary. For this hike those who choose not to can stay back with the driver and tour around Paro. This hike is absolutely unforgettable and promises every visitor an enthralling experience.
Evening: relax at your hotel and enjoy Menchu Spa at Naksel.
Overnight in Paro
Day 9: Paro – Departure
After breakfast, transfer to Paro Airport for departure. Our guide will escort you to the airport before time and bid you farewell.
- Airport transfers
- 3* – 5* accommodation.
- Visas for Bhutan
- Daily 3 meals (B, L, D)
- Mineral bottled water
- Private car
- Entrance tickets to all attractions
- Road permits
- Professional English-speaking guide
- Private driver
- Government fee, royalty, taxes & surcharges
- Wearing traditional Bhutan Gho and Kira on the second last day of the trip
Next departure date
Departure every Tuesday and Sunday
For March, April, May, Sep, Oct, Nov:
- Solo traveler: USD2.360/traveler
- Group of 2: USD2.280/traveler
- Group of 3 or more: USD2.040/traveler
For Dec, Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug:
- Solo traveler: USD1.960/traveler
- Group of 2: USD1.880/traveler
- Group of 3 or more: USD1.640/traveler
Round air ticket Singapore – Bhutan might vary from USD1.000 to USD1.040
Two-way air tickets between Singapore and Bhutan
Tips for the guide (USD7/traveler/day)
Tips for driver (USD5/traveler/day)