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A Glimpse of Bhutan

General Overview

Bhutan is a sovereign state landlocked in the Eastern Himalayas in South Asia. Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is no ordinary place. It is a Himalayan kingdom replete with myths and legends. Bhutan borders China to the north and India to the south, east and west. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim; and further south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Thimphu is Bhutan's capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is Bhutan's financial center. Bhutan is rich of traditional culture. Bhutan compete with current global development devotedly.
The King of Bhutan is known as the Druk Gyalpo, meaning the "Thunder Dragon King". The country's landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The highest mountain in Bhutan is the Gangkhar Puensum, which is also a strong candidate for the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

SURPRISING BHUTAN

Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chillies aren't just a seasoning but the main ingredient. It's also a deeply Buddhist land, where schoolkids wear the gho and kira (traditional male and female clothing, respectively). And while it visibly maintains its Buddhist cultures, Bhutan is not a live museum nor is it a nation of wraithlike ascetics shunning the rest of the world. You will find the Bhutanese arevwell-educated, fun loving and energetic.

SHANGRI LA?

First off there is the amazing mountainous landscape, where snowcapped peaks rise out of primeval forests in every shade of green. Taking up prime positions in this landscape are the fantastic monasteries and incredible fortress like dzongs. The unique Buddhist architecture embodies the traditional Buddhist culture and sets the scene for spectacular religious dance festivals. Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, extreme archery competitions, spectacular trekking trails and stunning flora and fauna. All this sets Bhutan aside as the last remaining great Himalayan kingdom.
When you do visit Bhutan, you will become one of the few who have experienced the charm and magic of one of the world's most mysterious countries – the 'last Shangri La' – and you'll be playing your part in this medieval kingdom's efforts to join the modern world, while faithfully maintaining its diverse and significant cultural uniqueness.

LOW VOLUME, HIGH VALUE TOURISM

Tourism in Bhutan is unique and the Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable, eco-friendly approach in line with the country's popular philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Firstly, to bust a myth: there is no limit to the number of tourists. Visitors famously have to pay a minimum tariff of US$200 per day (rising to US$250 in 2012), making it appear as one of the world's most expensive countries to visit. However, this fee is all-inclusive – accommodation, food, transport and an official guide are all provided. Not only that, but your local guide will reveal the country's amazing landscape and Buddhist heritage, and will also introduce you to the everyday charms of the Bhutanese. You don't have to travel in a large group and you can arrange your own tailor made itinerary. You won't find in Bhutan is crowded backpacker or independent travelers.

Itinerary

JOURNEY TO THE DRAGON KINGDOM

Day 01 Arrival at Paro (by Druk Air) – Transfer to Thimphu
The flight into Paro on Bhutanese national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. First gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. After clearing customs and visa control you will be brief by your guide and transferred to Paro town for lunch. After lunch visit the National Museum of Paro, which dates back to the 17th century and holds the artifacts of Thangkas, stuffed animal and birds, history of Bhutan, textiles and armour, household objects. After the museum we can also visit the Rimpung Dzong built in 17th century to defend the valley against the Tibetan invaders and then depart to Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan. The drive will take around 1 hours. Thimphu has a population of about 100,000. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. In the evening, we will visit the Tashi Chhoedzong, which is also known as the “fortress of the glorious religion” which was initially built in 1702 by Sherab Wangchuck, the 13th Desi (temporal ruler) and later in 1955 after moving the capital to Thimphu from Punakha it was redesigned and added the present structure by 3rd King of Bhutan, Late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Today it houses the main secretariat building, the central monk body and it also has the office of the King. Later in the evening visit Handicrafts emporium, which has all types of Bhutanese handicrafts for sale. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 02 Thimphu sightseeing – Punakha
Morning take a drive for an hour towards the north of Thimphu valley and then hike for an hour to Tango Monastery through the dense forest of rhododendrons and pine trees. Once at Tango visit the old monastery which date backs to the 14th century and today it houses around 235 monks who are pursuing their higher studies in Buddhism like meditation and higher level of Buddhist philosophy. After the visit the trail descends gradually until the motorable road and then drive to Thimphu for lunch. After lunch depart to Punakha, an ancient capital of Bhutan. Leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass often offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping for tea and the view, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha and continue your drive to Lobeysa and a leisure hike for another 20 minutes to Chime Lhakhang, temple of the “Divine Madman” built in 1499 and today it is mostly visited by the women who couldn’t bear Children. Also it is known as temple of fertility. After the visit walk back to the road point and explore the village of Lobeysa and interact with the local people and get yourself engaged with the daily life of local community and later drive to Punakha. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 03 Punakha – Limukha (star of trek)
In the morning visit Punakha Dzong, an ancient capital of Bhutan, spanning the MoChu and Pho Chu rivers. It is also the winter capital for the monks and the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and then drive a few kilometers to the suspension bridge believed to be the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan where your trek begins. The trail leads you into the valley of Shengana and a gradual climb through the chir pine forest takes you into the valley of Limukha and enroute visit Dompala village. Camp overnight at Limukha village. Altitude: 1800 m: Distance: 12 kms: Walking time: 4-5 hours.
Day 04 Limukha – Chungseykha
Today the trail leads you downhill through the forest of Rhododendrons, Sand Oak forest into the village of Chungsakha with en route visit to an old temple used by Lama Drukpa Kuenley as his winter residence in the 14th century. If early explore the village of Chungseykha and visit the local farm houses and interact with the locals and participate in their chores of daily work in the village. Overnight at camp. Altitude: 1435 m: Distance: 11 kms: Walking time: 4-5 hours.
Day 05 Chungseykha – Samtengang (end of trek).
The trail leads you downhill and across the baychu (river), from the river the trails climbs you up hill into the Sha valley of Wangdue Phodrang district and finally reaches you into the valley of Samtengang where there is a school and BHU (Basic health Unit). On the way one can also visit Seygang Lhakhang which dates back to the 12th century old monastery. Dinner and overnight at local house. Altitude: 1350 m: Distance: 13 kms: Walking time: 5 hours.

Day 06 Wangdue – Thimphu – Paro
After breakfast drive over the Dochola pass to Thimphu for lunch. After lunch spend an hour on your own to do the shopping in Thimphu before heading to Paro. Afternoon at leisure or explore the small quaint town of Paro on your own. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 07 Paro sightseeing and hike to Taktsang Monastery
In the morning drive the winding road to the north of Paro valley to visit the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 16 km up the valley. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m) and then drive to Ramthangka to hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest). The hike up to the cafeteria will take around one and half hour. At the view point enjoy the stunning view of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigeress in the 8th century and lunch will be served at the view point cafeteria and then walk back to the road point and visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 08 Paro – Departure (by Druk Air)
Breakfast served at the hotel and then drive to the airport where your Bhutanese escort will bid you farewell at Paro airport.  Good-bye and happy journey back home.

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