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11 Days Classic West and Central Bhutan Tour

11 Days Classic West and Central Bhutan Tour

(BT007) Paro - Thimphu - Punakha & Wangdue - Trongsa - Bumthang - Punakha - Paro

Overview

If you are the first time traveler in Bhutan or if you are obsessed with the Bhutan cultures and eager to have an in-depth exploration to these dense Bhutan primitive forests as well as gorgeous rhododendron ridden valleys, then the classic west and central Bhutan tour can be your ideal choice.

The tour will take you to the western cities to visit Bhutan’s iconic sites and eminent places of the cultural heritage, religious dzongs (fortress) and lhakhangs (monasteries or temples). The trip may lead you to find the answer to this question that how it could be possible for the last Himalaya kingdom to mingle so perfectly and harmoniously with the ancient living philosophy as well as the pristine forest-coved mountains and valleys.

Moreover, the trip also drives you deep into the central district of Bhutan to meet the most beautiful Bumthang region, where a number of amazing valleys are waiting to be explored and lovely animals peculiar to Bhutan can be found.

When you return to Paro from the central part, one day is arranged for you to enjoy the world famous Taktsang Ghoempa (The Tiger’s Nest Monastery) clinging to the abrupt slope after the route has ascended you to the altitude of 3,750 meters. Feel the steepness of the Monastery and enjoy the views.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Paro (2,200 m) & Paro - Thimphu (2,334 m)

Distance: 54 km
Driving Time: 1 hour

After your arrival at Paro by royal Bhutan airline, your tour guide is waiting for you and ready to drive you from Paro airport to Punakha and Wangdue. The route will first take you to Chunzom, the confluence of Pachu and Wangchu Rivers. Both of the two rivers are the cradle of Bhutan’s civilizations and flow through Paro and Thimphu valley respectively.

Then pay a visit to Tachog Lhakhang (Tachong Temple). The 14th century temple is just located on the base of the mountain across the Pachu on Paro – Thimphu highway. Built by the great master level architect Thangtong Gyalpo, the temple houses some of the unique and precious statues. To get the temple, you may actually experience a thrill but nice walk over the iron chains that span over the Pa chu River.

After crossing Chunzom, the bus is ready to take you up to Thimphu City. Check in the hotel after your arrival at Thimphu, and start your Bhutan tour by visiting the following sites after lunch.

1) Takin Preserve
Visit the Takin Preserve and get a closer look at the housed national animal Takin that is only find in Bhutan. These endangered species are found in herds at a very high altitude of approximately 4,000 m and can be weigh as much as 550 pounds.

2) Kuensel Phodrang (Commonly known as Buddha Point)
Kuensel Phodrang is widely known as the Palace ruins where the largest Buddha Dordenma in the country is sited on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu Valley. It is recommended to take a 20-30 minutes’ walk through Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park and enjoy the magnificent view of the Valley as well as the distant mountains.

3) Tashichhoe Dzong
A once glorious religious fortress built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late king and the central monk body. Tashichhoe Dzong serves also as the center of government and religion, site of the monarch’s throne room and seat of the Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot.

4) National Memorial Chorten (Stupa)
The National Memorial Chortan was constructed in memorial of the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in 1974. The King was generally regarded as the father of modern Bhutan and widely esteemed by the Bhutanese. “Chorten” in Bhutan literally refers to the “seat of faith” and Buddhists often call such monuments the “Mind of Buddha”.

Have the well-served dinner and stay overnight in Thimphu

Day 2: Thimphu Tour and Sightseeing

Embark on your one-day Thimphu City Tour after breakfast and visit the following sites:

1) Folk Heritage Museum
The Folk Heritage Museum presents you the primitive living philosophy that is well preserved by the modern Bhutanese. Meanwhile, it provides you the architectural style back in 19th century.

2) Traditional Arts and Crafts Painting School
Visiting the painting school where students receive a six-year course on the 13 different traditional arts and crafts.

3) National Institute of Traditional Medicine
See the productive process of Bhutan’s traditional medicine, herbs mostly, and watch the medical practitioner training.

4) Ntional Textile Museum
It is an amazing museum that keeps the traditional art of waving preserved and exhibits a good collection of ancient colored textile in various forms. You can find how the exquisite exhibits are waved by locals giving a spot operation with intricate tools.

After lunch you continue your Bhutan tour sightseeing:

5) Traditional Paper Making Factory
Originating from the old tradition in the 8th century, Bhutan papermaking has been well preserved and listed as the valuable national heritage of Bhutanese culture.

6) Centenary Farmer’s Market (Open from Thu. to Sun.)
Held by the side of Wangchu River, the market bustling with commerce is a trade center for city residents and valley dwellers to do their businesses. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts can be found on the market. It begins from Fri. afternoon till Sun. evening. Try bargaining with the locals and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

7) Bhutan Postal Museum
Bhutan Postal Museum presents all the periodical achievements and evolutions that Bhutan has made in communication and postal system. Moreover, you can get the postage stamps with your own photos printed on them before pasting them on the postcards and send to your families and friends.

8) Craft Bazaar
A unique shopping site to get an in-depth knowledge of Bhutan cultures and buy the handcrafts with Bhutan characteristics that you are interested in. At this Bazaar, craftsman and artists from the country display and sell their handicrafts in some handicrafts store you can choose to visit.

Day 3: Thimphu (2,334 m) - Punakha (1,242 m) and Wangdue

After breakfast, travel from Thimphu to Punakha and Wangdue through the Dochula Pass (3,140 m). At Dochula Pass, enjoy the draw-dropping panoramic view of the majestic Himalaya Range and overlook the gorgeous flower-clustered valley below.

The bus will make a temporary stop at the amazing 108 chortens built by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (The Queen mother of Bhutan) for the safety and wellbeing of His Majesty (The king of Bhutan).

After the lunch served at the Dochula Pass, the bus will drive you onto Punakha, a place regarded as one of the most beautiful and significant regions in Bhutan culture and had once been the capital of Bhutan from 1637 to 1955 during which the 1st National Assembly was held there.

The bus also takes you to Metsina Village and makes a temporary stop to have the Devine Madman’s Monastery - Chhimi Lhakhang being sighted. The monastery has always been regarded as the fertility shrine by locals for a long time and you can receive an efficacious fertility blessing there.

Then visit the Punakha Dzong on the island of Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River) and appreciate the highest state of the wood crafts.

Never miss the stunning evening views of Punakha and Wangdue valley after you have visited the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery in the evening.

Both Dinner and overnight at hotel in Punakha.

Day 4: Punakha (1,242 m) and Wangdue - Trongsa - Bumthang

Distance: 197 km
Travel Time: 7 hrs

Set out in early morning after breakfast and travel to Bumthang through Trongsa. The drive takes you through the oak and pine trees deep into the dense forest and pass the Nobding Village. Get a fantastic panoramic view from the Pele La Pass (3,300 m).

Along the route, distant view of local settlements scattering far from the road gives you fresh and deep impression on Bhutan’s rural life. Meanwhile, the open green meadows with yaks and rhododendron ridden valley are worth ceasing your moving steps to enjoy in Chendebji Chorten (Stupa).

On arrival at Trongsa after lunch, you will take a temporary stop and visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan and built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River.

Then you continue your travel to Bumthang by passing through Yotong La Pass (3,400 m). The route during this section takes you to the Yathra Waving Center at Zugney village where you can witness the locals waving Yathra, a name that refers to the colorful and woolen cloth with geometric design in Bhutanese. Then the bus takes you further to Bumthang Valley.

Check in the hotel and get ready for dinner

Stay overnight at hotel in Bumthang.

Day 5: Bumthang Tour and Sightseeing

Set out in an early morning after breakfast and visiting the following sites: Tamshing Lhakhang, also known as the temple of Good message, is famous for its collections of printings which exemplify the region’s style. It is also well known for being one of the few institutions continuing the teachings of Pema Lingpa.

Then after the suspension bridge, you meet the “Body Imprint Temple” Kurjey Lhakhang. Not far from Kurjey Lhakhang sits the Jambay Lhakhang, a temple built by the King Songtsen Goempo of Tibet in the 7th century. With his effort in the propagation of Buddhism, the Tibet king had an ambitious plan to build a total of 108 temples in Tibet and Bhutan.

Continue your Bumthang tour and arrive at Jakar Dzong after about 10 minutes’ drive. With a circumference of more than 1,500 meters, the majestic Jakar Dzong is definitely a wonderful piece of architectural art in Bhutan. The name Jakar is derived from the word “Bjakhab”, meaning “The white bird”.

According to Jakar’s foundation myth, a bird signals the proper and auspicious location to found a monastery. Now, the fortress is served as an administrative center of the valley as well as the summer residence of Trongsa monks.

After lunch, visit the Dorjibi Waving Center which is located half an hour’s drive from Bumthang town. In Dorjibi, you may have an intensive feeling of Bhutan’s environmental awareness by witnessing the utmost use of available raw materials rather the natural resources.

Experience the primitive life of Bhutan locals and enjoy the traditional dinner at one of their houses in Bumthang valley. Feel free to mingle with them.

Stay overnight at hotel in Bumthang valley.

Day 6: Bumthang Tang Valley Excursion

Travel approximately one hour to the remote but surprisingly lush Tang valley after breakfast. Tang valley is among the popular four valleys in Bumthang district. Residents in this valley prefer to raise sheep rather than other food crops for the soil here is inappropriate for cultivation. At higher elevations, locals raise yaks and lead a nomadic life.

Then visit the Ugyen Choling Heritage Museum which was built a century ago and once belonged to the Royal Family of Tang valley.

After the lunch served at a farmhouse, you enjoy the peaceful life in the Tang valley. In late afternoon, travel back to Bumthang. In the evening, stroll around the Bumthang Town and visit a few of handicraft stores.

Stay overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.

Day 7: Bumthang - Wangdue via Phobjikha Valley

Distance: 197 km
Driving Time: 6 hrs

Travel to Wangdue/Punakha by passing through the Phobjikha valley. The bus will first make a temporary stop at Gangtey Monastery, a can’t-miss monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, after a dense forest. Then drive towards the Phobjikha valley which is one part of the beautiful Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.

During the winter, a large flock of black-necked cranes, the endangered species, gather there to escape from the chilly weather. Besides, the forest covered mountains around the valley have been widely accepted as the most remote areas where only the rarely seen nomadic shepherds and yak herders can find the trails.

After lunch you have plenty of time exploring the Phobjikha valley and visiting the Black Necked Crane Center. Then continue your travel to Wangdue Phodrang, the capital of Wangdue Phodrang District.

Dinner will be served at the hotel in Wangdue/Punakha Region

Stay overnight at the hotel in Wangdue/Punakha Region.

Day 8: Punakha Short Hike; Punakha - Paro

Distance: 125 km
Travel Time: 3.5 hrs

Visit the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (Temple) after hiking to the upper Punakha valley and crossing the hanging bridge through large tracts of paddy fields. It takes you about 1 hour to reach the temple and the view sighted from the temple is also stunning.

Head for Paro and check in the hotel. After refreshment, visit the Paro Town and also the handicraft stores.

Day 9: Paro sightseeing

Drive up to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, the glorious fortress and Buddhist monastery in ancient time. Then visit Kyichu Temple, one of the 108 temples built in 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo

Then visit the majestic Rinpung Dzong (Fortress). Paro Rinpung Dzong is built to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. However, it now serves as an administration center and school for monks and the traditional Cantilever Bridge, the oldest Bhutan Bridge is just under it.

Visit the National Museum and Dzongdrakha Temple after the well-prepared lunch. The national museum in Ta Dzong (The Watch Tower) houses a large number of valuable collections which will broaden your eyes with wonderful and rich Bhutanese culture and heritages. While the Dzongdrakha temples, also known as the mini - Taktsang, are built on the cliffs above Bondey village.

The walk there is not as strenuous as to Taktsang. Legend says one of the temples is built around a levitating monument. Folks built a stronger temple around this monument with the hope that the levitating monument does not fly away into the sky.

In the evening, you can choose to stay at your hotel or have a walk around the downtown and pay a visit to some handicraft stores.

Stay overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 10: One Day Hike to Taktsang Ghoempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery)

Drive to the base of Taktsang Ghoempa in early morning after breakfast, and then embark on the hike to Taktsang Ghoempa.

Climb up to the viewpoint (1.5 hrs) to enjoy the stunning view of the monastery clinging to the side of the sheer vertical cliff.

After a temporary refreshment stop at the view point (3,140 m), you continue to ascend higher to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (1 hr) and get a closer look of this miraculous monastery. Take an overlook to find amazing sceneries underneath.

The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former glory.

After seeing the Monastery, you begin your return downward trip and drive back to Paro. On the way back, pay a special visit to Kyichu Temple, one of the beautiful 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in the 7th century.

Visit a farm house in Paro valley and experience the lifestyle of a farmer in Bhutan. Try a traditional Bhutan hot stone bathing and have dinner in Paro

Stay overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 11: Paro Departure

Depart from Paro Airport

Service Guide

Service Included:

  • A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an premium payment);
  • All meals specified in the itinerary;
  • Airport transfer, private transport for sightseeing in Bhutan;
  • Experienced driver;
  • An English-speaking and licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay;
  • Entry fee and road permits;
  • Government fee, royalty, taxes;
  • Bottled mineral water throughout the journey.

Service Excluded:

  • Bhutan Visa Fee;
  • International flight to and out of Bhutan;
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, postage, and laundry, etc.;
  • Travel insurance in Bhutan;
  • Emergency evacuation;
  • Tips and gratuities;
  • Costs arising from unforeseen events;
  • Extra activities like cultural show, kayaking, etc.

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