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9-Day Cultural Tour that extends to Gangtey and Haa Valley

Cultural Tour that extends to Gangtey and Haa Valley -- Trip Photo of Bhutan tour  Bhutan map

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Day 1 : Fly to Paro, drive to Thimphu (Tashichho Dzong)

Visiting: Paro, Thimphu

On arriving at the Paro International Airport, your tour guide will meet you and escort you to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The one-hour drive to Thimphu takes you on a winding road along the Paro and Thimphu River with views of lots of beautiful hamlets.

Just before reaching Thimphu, you will visit Tashichho Dzong (dzong means fortress). This impressive fortress/monastery houses the secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty the King, and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and the central body of monks. It was rebuilt in the early 1960's after a fire destroyed most of the building. The amazing thing about this building is that it was built without a single drawing or a single nail!

  • Meals: D
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Druk Hotel

Day 2 : Sightseeing in Thimphu (Memorial Chorten, the Folk Heritage Museum, the Institute of Traditional Medicines, and the National Library of Bhutan)

Visiting: Thimphu

First, you will visit Memorial Chorten, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, a large Tibetan-style Buddhist Monastery. The Memorial Chorten is a popular landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells. The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the late king ("the father of modern Bhutan") and a monument to world peace.

Next, you will visit the Folk Heritage Museum, which is housed in a three story 19th century traditional earthen and timber building. Established in 2001, the museum provides a glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese culture and way of life.

Later, you will visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, which was established in 1988 with the concept to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing. The Institute also has a small museum and a gift shop, and also produces the famous herbal tea, Tsheringma.

Last, you will visit the National Library of Bhutan, which collects and preserves important documents on Bhutan. The library also contains a representative collection of English and other western language books mainly related to the Himalayas, Bhutan, and Buddhism.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Peaceful Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Druk Hotel

Day 3 : Drive to Gangtey for sightseeing (Do Cholu Pass, Gangtey meadow)

Visiting: Thimphu, Gangtey

After breakfast, drive to Gangtey, which will take about 6 hours total. On the way, you will stop for tea or coffee at Do Chula Pass (3,150 meters). On a clear day, you can see the breathtaking views of the whole range of Eastern Himalayan Mountain ranges.

Gangtey is a beautiful meadow where you can experience breathtaking views of the Black Mountain range. Phobjikha, the valley stretching boundlessly from the below Gangtey, is the winter habitat of the rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Dewachen Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Gangtey Goenpa Lodge

Day 4 : Sighseeing in Gangtey (Gangtey Monastery) and drive to Punakha (Wangdi Dzong and Chimi Lhakhang)

Visiting: Gangtey, Punakha

After breakfast, you will visit Gangtey Monastery which was founded in 1613 by Pema Trinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa, the famous Nyingmapa saint of Bhutan.

Later, you will drive to Punakha, which will take about three hours. On the way there, you will visit the remarkable Wangdi Dzong, currently under reconstruction after being destroyed by fire in 2012. The Wangdi Dzong, according to legend, was built on the back of a sleeping giant elephant. After crossing the bridge, if you happen to look back, you will see the beautiful village of Rinchengang, nestled on a vertical hillside and is famous for its stonemasons.

Before reaching your hotel, you will visit Chimi Lhakhang (the fertility temple) where childless women go to the temple to receive blessing from the saint. It was built by Saint Drukpa Kunley (Divine madman) in 1499. Legend has it that he subdued the demoness of the Dochu La with his magic thunderbolt of wisdom. A wooden effigy of the Lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Punatsangchhu Cottage
  • Luxury Lodging: Dhensa Boutique

Day 5 : Sightseeing in Punakha (hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, Punakha Dzong)

Visiting: Punakha

After breakfast, you will drive 12 km north of Punakha and hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions. This is a moderately easy hike, which should take about an hour, through a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. The Chorten, which was dedicated to the well-being of the kingdom, its people and all sentient beings, dominates the upper Punakha Valley and offers commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.

Later, you will visit the Punakha Dzong built by Shabdrung in 1637. Punakha Dzong has undergone flooding from a glacial lake high above in the mountains of Lunana, which periodically has broken through its barriers, and has been ravaged by fire, but it has stood on its remarkable site since the 17th century. The flash flood of October 1994 caused a great deal of damage but miraculously spared the statue of Lord Buddha. The three-story Machhen Lhakhang is a fine example of traditional architecture, crafted from cypress with four intricately embossed entrance pillars decorated in gold and silver, the inside walls are covered with elaborate murals depicting the teaching of the Buddha. The Chorten which contains the Kudung is adorned with precious jewels and took twenty craftsmen four years to construct.

You will have the rest of the evening free to explore Punakha or just to relax.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Punatsangchhu Cottage
  • Luxury Lodging: Dhensa Boutique

Day 6 : Drive to Paro (Paro Dzong)

Visiting: Punakha, Paro

On your way to Paro (122 km / 4 hours), you will visit Paro Dzong, also known as the Ringpung Dzong, which means “fortress on a heap of jewels” and is one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. It is also the administrative seat of the district of Paro. The Paro Dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche and was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro Valley from invasions by Tibet.

You will also have the opportunity to take a stroll in downtown Paro this afternoon, before returning to the hotel.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Tenzinling Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Zhiwaling Resort

Day 7 : Sightseeing in Paro (Taktsang Monastery, Kyichu Monastery, Drugyal Dzong)

Visiting: Paro

Today, you will hike to Paro Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest. This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 3000 feet above the valley floor. The primary monastery was built around Guru Rinpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 AD by Gyaltshe Tenzin Rabgay. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tigress. The old monastery, unfortunately, was destroyed by fire in 1998, but has been completely restored. The hike takes about 4 hours round-trip. Once you reach the view point of the Monastery, you have the option to visit the Monastery, which takes about another hour to reach.

Next, you will visit the Kyichu Monastery built in the 7th century. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan built by the great Tibetan King Songsten Gyepo and the main statue is of the Future Buddha which is similar to the main Buddha statue in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Pilgrims turn the many prayer wheels along the walls as they circumnavigate the temple. The statues of the Bodhisattvas and the Buddha are national treasures. The wooden floor of the sanctum is inlaid with turquoise and coral gemstones offered by pilgrims.

Last, you will visit the ruined Drugyal Dzong, whose massive ruins offer insight into the unique construction of Bhutan's famous fortresses. From its ramparts, the Bhutanese repelled Tibetan invaders. Weather permitting, you will have great views of Mt. Chomolhari at 24,000 ft.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Tenzinling Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Zhiwaling Resort

Day 8 : Day Trip to Haa Valley

Visiting: Paro

Today, you will visit Haa Valley, which is often known as "Hidden-Land Rice Valley," one of the most picturesque places in Bhutan. According to the legend, the tantric master Padmasambhava visited the valley in the 8th century and transformed some blood sacrificing animists into peaceful Buddhists.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: Tenzinling Resort
  • Luxury Lodging: Zhiwaling Resort

Day 9 : Departure

Visiting: Paro

Transfer to airport for departure flight.

  • Meals: B

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