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Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expeditions invites you to join their country tour in beautiful Bhutan. On this tour, you will discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalayas and experience Bhutan’s unique culture up-close with farmhouse visits and village excursions. You will also have the chance to hike up to the famous Paro Taktsang, which is perched on a cliff 900 meters above the valley floor!
During this tour, you will be accommodated at various three-star hotels. On the first and the sixth nights, you will stay in Paro. You will stay in Thimphu on your second and third nights. On your fourth night, you will stay in Punakha. Finally, on your fifth night, you will stay in Wangdue Phodrang.
Your guides from Mountain Sherpa Trekking & Expeditions will meet you at the airport with Tashi Khadar and drive you the short distance to the hotel. After tea, you will be driven to Ta Dzong (built in 1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. This unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell.
The centerpiece of this museum is a complex four-sided carving, depicting the history of Buddhism and its propagation. One side is Sakyamuni and the great teacher Atisha, representing the Sakya school. On the next side is Geylup, a disciple of the Dalai Lama. Another is Nyingma lineage, the head is Guru Padmasambhava, and the final is Drukpa Lineage with the figure of Vajradhara.
Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong, which literally means a heap of jewels. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it is the center of civil and religious authority in this valley. Here, you can see the finest example of Bhutanese architecture.
En-route, you will visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 anno Domini by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. This monastery is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan king to subdue the demoness that lay across the Himalayan region. The rest of the monasteries lie in other neighboring countries.
In the evening, you will be driven to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong, built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the father and the 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. You can explore the ramparts and on a clear day, you can experience an unforgettable view of mountain Jomolhari (7,314 meters).
Today is a very special day, with an excursion to view the spectacular Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery. After an early breakfast, a short drive will take you to Satsam Chorten. From there is a one-hour walk until the viewpoint of the monastery. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest; many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
You will stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria and then walk a short distance until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Paro Taktsang. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rinpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 by the Penlop of Paro Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorje Drolo, which is said to be his favorite consort.
After lunch, you will be driven to Thimphu and visit the Memorial Chorten, Thimphu (1974) which was built in honor of Bhutan's late king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the father of modern Bhutan. Built in a typical Tibetan style, there are numerous religious paintings and the complex tantric statues reflecting both the peaceful and wrathful aspects of Buddhist deities. This Chorten is also a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu.
Then, you will visit Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. Afterward, you will visit Changangkha Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 15th century by the lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. Newborn children of Thimphu valley will be taken here to receive their first blessing from a high lama.
After that, you will be driven to Motithang Takin Preserve, where takin, the national animal of Bhutan, can be seen. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region. The head of this animal looks like a goat and the body looks like a cow / yak. Finally, before sunset, you will be driven to Sangaygang View Point (2,685 meters) to see the view of the whole Thimphu valley and walk through hundreds of colorful prayer flags that dot the hill overlooking the valley.
After breakfast, you will visit the National Library of Bhutan, which is stocked with ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of thangka painting (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). You can visit different classrooms where different students follow a comprehensive course that starts with drawing and progresses through painting, wood and slate curving, and statue making.
Then, you will visit the Institute of Traditional Medicine where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. After that, you will visit the National Handicraft Emporium for shopping Bhutanese various arts and textiles. After lunch, you will hike to the Tango Monastery. The trail to Tango is a climb of 280 meters and it takes an hour to reach the monastery. Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa founded the monastery in the 12th century. The present building was built in the 15th century by the Divine Madman. This is one of the best places for meditation.
In the evening, you will visit the Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). In 1216, the Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa built Dohon (Blue Stone) Dzong on the hill above Thimphu, where Dechen Phodrang Monastery now stands. A few years later, Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who brought the Drukpa Lineage to Bhutan, took over Dohon Dzong. In 1641, Zhabdrung Rinpoche (the one who unified the country) acquired the dzong from the descendants of Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and renamed it as Tashichho Dzong. He then arranged to house both monks and civil officials in the same dzong. In the present, it is a seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).
After early breakfast, you will drive to Punakha via Dochula Pass, where you can see 108 Bhutanese stupas. If the weather is clear, you can see all of the snow-covered Himalayas. A further drive will take you to Punakha and visit Punakha Dzong. The dzong is situated between the two rivers and it is one of the biggest rivers in Bhutan. You have to walk through the suspension bridge to reach the dzong.
The Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated between Pho Chhu (Male River) and Mo Chhu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the government. The construction of the dzong was foretold by Guru Rinpoche, who predicted, “…a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”.
There was a smaller building here called Dzong Chu (Small Dzong) that houses a statue of Buddha. It is said that Shabdrung ordered the architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of the statue. While Palep was sleeping, the Shabdrung took him in his dreams to Zangtopelri and showed him the palace of Guru Rinpoche. From his vision, the architect conceived the design for the new dzong, which in keeping with the tradition, was never committed to paper. The dzong was named Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). The war materials captured during the battle with Tibetans are preserved here.
Punakha is still the winter residence of Je Khenpo and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, convened the new National Assembly here in 1952. In the evening, you will go on a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kunley in the 15th century. This monk is popularly known as the Divine Madman for his philosophy, salvation through sex. He subdued the demons with his 'magical thunderbolt'. The temple is also known as the temple of fertility. Sterile women from far and wide come to this temple to get blessed and an article about this temple also appeared in a newspaper, The Washington Post, some years back.
After breakfast, you will drive to Wangdue Phodrang and visit Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, which was built in 1638. Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered as an auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass. The dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers.
Afterward, you will be driven further to Gangtey Valley. It is one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of the Himalayas and you will visit Gangtey Monastery from outside. Gyalse Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, founded the temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second reincarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Rigdzin Pema Namgyal, is the ninth reincarnation. It is a Nyingmapa monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamzhing Monastery in Bumthang.
Next, you will explore Phobjikha Valley, famous for the black-necked-cranes during winter. These cranes are very rare and endangered and highly protected by the government. These cranes fly to Phobjikha Valley, which is their winter habitat. The cranes circle three times in a clockwise direction around the Gangtey Gompa as a reverence to the monastery before landing in the valley. They repeat the same practice before flying back to Tibet in early spring. Here, you can watch the cranes. En-route, you will stop in different places for photography and see the view of different valleys. In the evening, you will be driven back to Wangdue Phodrang.
After breakfast, you will be driven to Thimphu and visit Simthokha Dzong, the oldest dzong in Bhutan, and a Bhutanese traditional papermaking factory. After lunch, you will be driven to Paro.
After breakfast at the hotel, you will then be driven to the airport for your flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek!
If you are healthy, enjoying the outdoors, and wanting a relaxing trip, you can enjoy this tour. No experience is required.
This country tour will take place in Bhutan. Starting and ending in Paro, you will visit Thimphu, Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang. Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and has temperate climate almost all year round. Wangdue Phodrang is a large village before central Bhutan starts. This valley provides rich pasture fields for cattle and is also famous for bamboo work and slate and stone carvings.
Mystery surrounds Bhutan's distant past, as priceless irretrievable documents were lost in fires and earthquakes. It could be inhabited as early as 2000 before Christ, but with archeological proof, it is still obscure. Buddhism first was introduced in Bhutan in the seventh century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo.
In the eighth century, Padmasambhava (popularly known as Guru Rinpoche or second Buddha) - an Indian Buddhist master, made his legendary trip to Bhutan riding on the back of a flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. And after defeating them, he blessed them as guardians of the doctrine and introduced Tantric Buddhism in Bhutan. Taktsang or Tiger's Nest in the Paro valley is where he landed and remains as one of the most sacred places in Bhutan.
Guru Rinpoche (Precious Master), who established the first school of Nyingmapa sect in Bhutan is the father of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism, which is widely practiced in Bhutan. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama of the Drukpa Lineage school, arrived in Bhutan in 1616. He introduced the present dual system of religious and secular government, creating and building the system of dzongs throughout Bhutan. Shabdrung unified the country and established himself as the country's supreme leader and vested civil power in a high officer known as the Druk Desi.
Religious affairs were charged to another leader, the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan). For two centuries following Shabdrung's demise, civil wars intermittently broke out, and the regional penlops (governors) became increasingly more powerful. This ended when an assembly of representatives from the monastic community, civil servants and the people, elected the Penlop of Trongsa, Ugyen Wangchuck, as the first king of Bhutan in 1907. The monarchy has thrived ever since, and the present king, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth in line, commands an overwhelming support for his people.
During this tour, you will be served healthy full board meals.
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