PEACE AND HARMONY IN BHUTAN
THIMPU I PUNAKA I PARO
WHEN TO GO
OCTOBER – DECEMBER
22 HOURS 17 MINUTES FROM AUCKLAND
Experience Bhutan’s west side on this exclusive 6-night trip. Enjoy a plethora of pleasant hikes and a completely different way of experiencing this wonderful Himalayan kingdom, exploring the two very different valleys of Paro and Punakha; one alpine, one tropical. Your guide will take you on hikes to see an amazing selection of historic and stunning monasteries and dzongs, as well as famous sites such as the Dochula Pass which offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range. This trip culminates in the picturesque town of Paro, where you can visit the National Museum and even more striking dzongs. And of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to one of Bhutan’s most valued attractions, the spectacular Tiger’s Nest monastery.
MAKE THIS ITINERARY YOURS
Inspired by what you see? Remember we design each itinerary around you, so this suggested itinerary is a starting point that we can tweak or transform into something that is entirely you. If we need to start from scratch, lets start with a conversation.
Starting in the capital, Thimphu, you will visit ancient dzongs, temples, museums and experience authentic Bhutanese life on your privately guided tour. Spend your time exploring handcrafted markets and small buzzing shops. A wander around this relaxed and friendly showcases a more urban side of Bhutan which accompanies a wide display of traditional art, architecture and Buddhist sights steeped in ritual.
Taking a drive to the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, you will be greeted by one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world – made of bronze glided in gold and sitting on top of the world overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. It is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. Next, you can go by car or on an easy hike to the oldest temple in Thimphu Valley, constructed in the 15th century.
Stop en-route for a glimpse into traditional Bhutanese life, a visit to the Textile and Folk Heritage Museum. This restored three-storey building has been constructed using rammed-earth and timber to replicate a traditional farmhouse and inside its furnished as it would have been 100 years ago. After the tour you will stop for a refreshing lunch.
After lunch, visit Tashichhou Dzong and Memorial Chorten, two places not to be missed. This is a true feast for the senses. Enjoy the evening strolling Thimphu, a bustling city without any traffic lights.
FOLLOW THE ROAD TO PUNAKHA
An early start with a drive to Punakha via the Dochula Pass, offering spectacular 360-degree views of the Himalayan mountain range, especially on a clear winter day. There are 108 chortens that adorn this area, some of which were commissioned by the Queen Mother to commemorate the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed while fighting the Indian rebels in 2003. You might like to hang a prayer flay at the monastery. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, rather it is believed that the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion.
Arriving for two nights in Punakha, one of our favourite spots in this magical kingdom. A stay in this little town can be as adventurous or as laid back as you’d like. Think rafting adventures down the Mo Chhu River, picture-perfect moments at Punakha Dzong fortress or a behind -the-scenes visit to the fertility temple. At Chimi Lhakhang Monastery you’ll gather ingredients with a local incense maker for a one to one lesson in aromatherapy. Then step into the area’s history with a visit to the town’s show-stopping Punakha Dzong.
Begin today with a hike up through fields along the banks of the Mo Chhu River to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the one of the Fourth Kings’ Queens with spectacular views down the valley. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa master, the functions of which are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and to spread peace and harmony. Hiking through rice fields before you start climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees, enjoy the magnificent view of the Mo-Chhu valley below.
TIME OUT AT TIGERS NEST
Starting the day bright and early en-route to Paro, with a stop if possible, to attend the Rhododendron Festival. The three-day festival at the Royal Botanical Park is truly an experience for nature lovers to engage in the beauty of wild rhododendron that grows in abundance.
The pretty valley of Paro is one of the kingdom’s widest and is covered in fertile rice fields crisscrossed by a beautiful meandering river. The main street of Paro was only built in 1985 but it is lined with cheerfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants in a classic Bhutanese style. Facing up the mountain, you’ll be awed by the sight of the 8th century Taktsang or “Tiger’s Nest “Monastery, perched high on the sheer cliff face. Just outside of the town, lie both the dominating Paro Dzong – a prime example of Bhutanese architecture, and the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang which was one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country.
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
And finally, but not least your final day exploring. Visit Bhutan’s most valued attraction and one of the main reasons people come to Bhutan, the famous Taktshang monastery or to most of us “Tiger’s Nest”. This spectacular temple clings to a 1000-foot-high cliff and was built in 1692 by a prominent historical figure named Gyaltse Tenzing Rabgye. We will hike for about three hours to reach the Tiger’s Nest, climbing steeply uphill from the valley floor with a break at a tea house along the way. The Tiger’s Nest is one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists. It’s said that in the 8th century, Guru Padma meditated here for three months. Guru Padma, also known as the 2nd Buddha, first initiated Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong and built this temple as a result. For Buddhists, the story of the temple is an important lesson about taming the inherent forces of Anger, Ignorance and Greed.