Shangri-La Highlight Tour (8 days)
If you do not have enough time to travel the length and breadth of the country, what would you want to see and experience? Of course, the most important highlights. This tour gives you exactly that.
- Arrive in Paro, travel to Thimphu
As you alight from the plane in Paro, you will feel Bhutan in the air. After completing visa formalities, you will be met by BCD-Bhutan Tours & Travels’ representatives. The team will take you on one and a half hour drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The drive along the double-lane road with gentle twists and turns will take you across paddy fields, villages, and rugged terrain, at once breathtaking and intimidating.
On the way to Thimphu, we briefly visit Tamchog Lhakhang built by Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo in the 15th century. Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo was a Tibetan spiritual adept who is said to have spent 60 years in mother’s womb. He is a non-institutional practitioner devoted to building bridges. He built several bridges in Bhutan one of which is the approach bridge to the temple. Our guide will explain to you more about the temple and its great founder.
- Thimphu sightseeing
After breakfast, visit the National Memorial Choeten. It was built by in 1974 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden in memory of her son, Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The three-storeychoeten houses several relics such as Phurba Lhatshog, Kagay, Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa, Guru Tshengye, and Khenlop Chesum. The choeten is today the spiritual nerve centre of the city.
Then visit the National Library which gives a permanent home to sacred religious books and collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts. Then we visit Painting School. After lunch, we drive to the Traditional Medicine Institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices, and to Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal silver smiths and Bhutanese paper factory. Other places of interest include Tashichho Dzong. We finally visit the Handicrafts Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the markets of Thimphu.
Dinner and overnight stay in Thimphu
- Thimphu to Punakha
After breakfast, drive to Punakha via Dochula Pass (3140m). Dochula Pass offers a spectacular view of mountains on all sides. The 108 Choetens at Dochula Pass gives the passer the beauty of the fresh and high altitude vegetation. On the way, stop a while to view Chime Lhakhang, also called the Temple of Fertility built by Lam Ngawang Choje on the spot where Lam Drukpa Kunley subdued the demoness of Dochula. The Lhakhang is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some beautiful slate carvings. Childless women pray to a fertility goddess here.
We have lunch in Punakha. After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal 1937 and named it Pungthang Dewa Chenpai Phodrang, the Palace of Great Bliss. Later it became the final retreat palace for him. The first monarch, King Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned there and it served as the capital of the country until 1955. Today it serves as the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body. The sacred relic Rangjung Kharsapani is also kept in the Machen Temple inside the dzong.
In the evening, take an excursion to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Monastery.
Dinner and overnight stay in Punakha
- Punakha to Gangtey
After early breakfast, drive to Trongsa via Gangtey. On the way, sightseeing in the valley of Wangdiphodrang includes a visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong (reconstructed) originally built in 1638. Located between Punatsangchu and Dangchu, Wangdiphodrang Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on a mountain ridge that resembles a sleeping elephant. Zhabdrung is believed to have received the prophecy to build the dzong from guardian deity Mahakala while meditating at Chime Lhakhang. He sent his attendant to check out the place after a dark figure instructed him to meditate on the ridge. On approaching the ridge, the attendant saw four ravens fly towards four directions. Taking it as a good omen, Zhabdrung built the dzong. Years later, it was enlarged by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgay. The dzong was completely burnt down in June 2012 it is being rebuilt to its former glory.
Drive further to Gangtey. Visit Gangtey monastery also known as Gangtey Gompa. The temple was founded in 1613 by Pema Thinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa and the first Gangtey Trulku. The name of the monastery was derived from its location atop (teng) and hill (gang). The monastery is today among the biggest in the country and houses a shedra (Monastic college).At present, the ninth Gangtey Trulku Kunzang Pema Namgyal looks after the monastery. The packed lunch will be served at Gangtey.
Dinner and overnight stay at Thekchen Phodrang Guest House
- Gangtey to Thimphu
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu. Lunch will be served on the way. In the evening, we take time off for shopping and photography in the town.
Dinner and overnight stay in Thimphu
- Thimphu to Paro
After breakfast, drive to Paro followed by a hike to Taktshang Monastery. Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) is the most sacred monastery of Bhutan and is a place you must visit when you are in Bhutan. A short drive takes us to Satsham Choeten. We can reach Tiger’s Nest either on foot or horseback. The path climbs through beautiful pine forests whose trees are ornamented with Spanish moss. About halfway up the climb, we stop for a rest and refreshments at the Taktshang Jakhang (cafeteria). We can get tea and food there. After a short distance from the cafeteria, we will reach the viewpoint that overlooks Taktshang. We can take the best photos of Taktshang from the viewpoint.
Dinner and overnight stay in Paro
- Paro sightseeing
After breakfast, visit Ta Dzong. The dzong was built in the mid-17th century as a watchtower overlooking Rinpung Dzong by Lanyongpa Tenzin Drukdra and Chogyal Mingyur Tenpa. The circular dzong houses the National Museum of Bhutan. Below the museum is Rinpung Dzong. Rinpung Dzong, formally known as Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong), was built in 1644 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is one of the most beautiful and historically important dzongs in the country. Today, it houses both district administration and monastic body.
After lunch, drive to Drukgyal Dzong 16 km north of the valley. The dzong was built as one of the principal Dra Dzongs (defence dzongs). While some attribute the building of the dzong to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate a victory over Tibetan invasion, some attribute it to the second Druk Desi Tenzin Drukdra. But as its name suggests (Druk – Drukpa; gyal – victory), the dzong was built to celebrate the victory over Tibetans. The dzong was used as the summer residence of Rinpung Rabdey until 1951 when it was completely burnt down. The dzong is currently being rebuilt to its former glory to celebrate the birth of Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel.
On the way back, visit Kyichu Lhakhang. The temple is one of the two among 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to subdue a demon that lay supine across Tibet and Bhutan. The temple contains sacred relics dating back to the 7th century like a statue of Lord Buddha and four statues of Chagtong Chentong. It also contains the statues of Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Dolma Kukuli (a manifestation of Tara), Zhabdrung, the bone relic of his Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Dinner and overnight stay in Paro
Drive to airport and bid farewell.