Thimphu, Bhutan

Thimphu, Bhutan

National Library of Bhutan

National Library of Bhutan,
Pedzoe Lam,

Punakha Dzong Buddhist Temple, Bhutan

Punakha Dzong Buddhist Temple, Bhutan

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten,
Thimphu-Punakha Hwy,

COMO Uma Paro, Paro, Bhutan

COMO Uma Paro, Paro, Bhutan

Chele La, Bhutan

Chele La, Bhutan

Taktsang Monastery

Taktsang Monastery,
Taktsang Trail,

Paro International Airport

Paro International Airport,

Escape to the Land of the Dragon, Bhutan

Bhutan, or the “Land of the Peaceful Dragon”, is a country of sprawling forests, venerated monasteries and overpowering fortresses.

The lush green valley in the Eastern Himalayas is fed by bountiful rivers and age-old practices. Cultivated fields surrounded by pitched roof houses with their typical trefoil-shape windows and Dzongs (fortresses) dominate the scenery with their sheer size.

The people of Bhutan are vibrantly attired and deeply religious while the land is wondrous. Bhutan’s alpine pastures, peaks, forests, lakes and flowers make it a paradise. Maybe that’s why the rare black-necked crane makes its way across the Himalayas to Bhutan every year.

Best time to visit: Between October and December. January and February are colder, but Bhutan is pleasant and dry until April.

Guideline Price: £7,500 per person (excluding international flights)

Day 1: To Thimphu

Flags outside Thimphu Lodge Amankora view_onto_thimphu_city_office
Photo courtesy of Aman Kora, Thimphu Lodge
  • Distance: 53kms/ 32 miles
  • Drive Time: 1 hour
  • Altitude: 2,350 m / 7,709 ft

On arrival at the Paro International Airport, our representative will receive you and escort you to the hotel in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive takes you through the winding road with lots of beautiful hamlets.

Later visit Memorial Chorten is a four-storey tall white building, containing statues and iconography of deities from complex tantric teachings and serves as an important place of worship for Thimphu residents, as well as devotees from other parts of the country.

Tashichho Dzong, Chhagchhen Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
Tashichho Dzong, Chhagchhen Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan

Tashichho Dzong is an impressive building also known as ‘the fortress of the Dharma Raja’. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi, the head of Bhutan’s civil government.

The dzong has suffered several damages in the past. The original dzong was destroyed in the 1771 fire and again twice since then. Later the dzong was damaged in an earthquake in 1897 and was rebuilt in 1902. When King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck moved his capital to Thimphu in 1952, he started a five-year project that completely redesigned, enlarged and redesigned the dzong without using any nails or written plans.

*Tashichho Dzong is open during weekdays after office hours (5 pm onwards) and from 9am to 5pm on Weekends.

Stay for 2 nights at Aman Kora, Thimphu Lodge

Aman Kora, Thimphu Lodge office overlooking courtyard
Photo courtesy of Aman Kora, Thimphu Lodge

Aman Kora, Thimphu Lodge is set in the upper reaches of the Motithang area. The 16-suite lodge of Amankora Thimphu is close to the capital’s sights and shopping yet remains a secluded retreat.

Guest Suites, combining a bedroom and lounge, feature a bukhari wood-burning stove and views either across a landscaped courtyard or of a stream and pine forest.

Day 2: Exploring Thimphu culture

The Tango Monastery building surrounded by greenery on the mountainside in Bhutan.
Tango Monastery, photo by Jean-Marie Hullot

After breakfast, begin the day with a short bicycle ride to our starting point of the day’s hike. After reaching  this point, hike uphill for one and a half hours to Tango Monastery, the premier Buddhist academic institution in Bhutan. The word Tango in Bhutanese language means “horse head”. We then retreat back downhill to our starting point.

After the hike, continue cycling downhill towards Thimphu to enjoy scenic sights of the valley.

Later, visit the National Library of Bhutan, first established in 1967 under the patronage of HM Queen Ashi Phuntso Choden (1911–2003), with a small collection of precious texts. The library was initially housed within the central tower (utse) of Tashichodzong. Later, due to its growing collection, it had to move to a building in the Changgangkha area of Thimphu.

Continue visit to the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums. These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life. The Handicrafts Emporium is a government-run enterprise and displays a wide range of beautifully hand-woven textiles and craft products. It also carries a small collection of books on Bhutan, Buddhism and Himalayan culture.

Wooden takin animal shrine at the Takin Sanctuary in Bhutan
Photo of the Takin Sanctuary in Bhutan by Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA

You must also visit the Takin Sanctuary. The ‘Takin’ (Budorcas taxicolor) is the national animal of Bhutan based on both of its uniqueness and its association with the country’s history and mythology. It is said that Drukpa Kunley a popular 15th-century saint is said to have created it with his magical power at a large congregation of devotees. (It resembles a cow from the back and a goat from the front.)

Then visit Kunsel Phodrang, also known as Buddha point is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.

In the evening, meet with an astrologer who will do a reading of an astrological chart based on your birth date and place of birth.  The astrologer will be at the hotel to do the readings. The readings will last about 10 to 12 minutes for each guest.

Day 3: Visit the Punakha Dzong

  • Distance: 76kms/ 47 miles
  • Drive Time: 3 hours
  • Altitude: 1,300 m / 4,265 ft

After breakfast, drive to Punakha which takes approximately 3.5 hours’ drive. En-route visit the Dochula Pass which offers a beautiful 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range, especially on clear winter days. There are 108 chortens that were built to commemorate the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.

Hang a prayer flag at the pass. Then continue your drive to Punakha. On the way, stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, where many locals go to pray for progeny with great success.

Lama Drukpa Kinley was a highly unorthodox Buddhist saint whose deeds form the basis of many local legends blesses the monastery. The temple is fondly regarded as a potent fertility shrine.

Punakha, Bhutan Suspension bridge
Punakha suspension bridge, Bhutan

Later, visit the Punakha Dzong that was 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 has stood on its remarkable site since the 17th Century.

Stay for 2 nights at Aman Kora, Punakha Lodge

Reach Aman Kora, Punakha Lodge via a suspension bridge over the elegant Mo Chhu River.

The Amankora Punakha Lodge incorporates a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse built by a former Je Khenpo (chief abbot of Bhutan). The eight suites are identical in design to those of Amankora Paro, with views across an orange orchard and rice terraces

Day 4: Explore Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Take a short-day hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten; a fine example of Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions. Built out on a beautiful ridge above the Punakha valley, this four-storey temple has been dedicated for the wellbeing of the kingdom, its people and all sentient beings. The Chorten was built to remove the negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the ever-changing world.

An hour hike to the Chorten, through a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees, this site offers a beautiful view of the Punakha Valley. Once on top, the place offers commanding views of the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.

Later, if you want some adventure you have the option to go white water rafting on the Pho-chu if you prefer the exhilaration of the rapids.

(Please note: in December the water level is low. Usually the minimum temperature is -1 degree Celsius)

Total Rafting Hours: Approx. 1.5 – 2 hrs (depending upon water level)

Day 5: To Paro

traditional dancers outside Paro Dzong temple Bhutan
Paro Dzong temple
  • Distance: 143kms/ 88 miles
  • Drive Time: 4 hours approx.
  • Altitude: 2,250 m / 7,382 ft

After breakfast, transfer back to Paro, but not before visiting Simtokha Dzong on the way.

According to a legend, this dzong was constructed to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing the people in the region and guard the place. Hence, Simtokha translates as ‘Atop a Demon’. Simtokha is believed to be the first dzong built in Bhutan and is the gateway to Thimphu Valley.

In Paro, visit Paro Dzong and National Museum.

Paro Dzong, also known as Ringpung Dzong means ‘fortess on a heap of jewels’. This impressive dzong is the finest example of Bhutanese architecture and is one of the most popular and well-known dzongs in Bhutan. It is the administrative seat of the district of Paro. The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. In the past, this dzong was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro Valley from invasions by Tibet.

Unlike most of the other dzongs in Bhutan that suffered severe damage, the Paro Dzong survived the massive earthquake of 1897. However, it was almost burnt to the ground by a fire in 1907. Iconic relics were lost to the fire and nothing could be salvaged except for the Thongdrol, a 20 by 20 meter-wide Thangka. The Thangka is displayed annually during a ceremony called Paro Tshechu. The Dzong was however rebuilt the following year.

Later, a must-visit is The National Museum of Bhutan. A a unique, circular building also known as Ta-dzong, which is an ancient watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines that represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present.

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. In the evening, indulge in an archery session at the hotel. This is particularly a fun activity with the family.

Stay for three nights at Uma Paro

Dining at Uma Paro

Uma Paro is an intimate, 29-room resort featuring the most exclusive private villas in Bhutan with an enviable location in the Paro Valley.

This puts you within a stone’s throw of the country’s greatest cultural landmarks. The style combines local artisanship with COMO’s contemporary style, while activities range from yoga to Himalayan camping adventures. Our Bukhari restaurant is a royal favourite.

Day 6: Exploring Paro's Chele La pass and the Kila Goempa Nunnery

Chele La, at an elevation 3,988 meters is one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour’s drive along a thickly-forested road, this pass is a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake.

It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Here, visitors can see cascades of wild roses; purple and yellow primulas; and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor. The top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colours; pale pink, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.

Hike to Kila Goemba. It is the serene home of Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their life for spiritual fulfilment and leading undisturbed life of religious studies, prayers and meditation.

The Goemba is nestled in a craggy patch on a mountainside below the Chele La pass and perched precariously along the rock face. From Chele La pass, the Goemba is about an hour’s walk amidst magnificent wooded area.

Day 7: Hike to Taktsang Monastery

Taktsang Monastery on the side of the mountain Bhutan

After breakfast, embark on an incredible hike to Taktsang Monastery.

Hike Duration: 4.5 hours

Perched on the side of a vertical cliff at 3000m altitude north of Paro, the beautiful Taktsang Monastery also known the ‘Tiger’s Nest’ is the most famous and an unofficial symbol of Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) flew to this location from Khenpajong, Tibet on the back of a tigress and subdued a demon.

He then meditated in a cave here for three months and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and blessed the place. Guru Padmasambhava is known for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen caves in which Guru Padmasambhava meditated.

Taktsang Monastery is a pilgrimage site for both tourists and locals. The journey up to the monastery is filled with spiritual bliss. Keeping this spiritual side aside, the journey up to Taktsang Monastery is also a hiker’s delight. An hour hike up to a small wooden teahouse called Cafeteria provides close view of the monastery. A further and a rather challenging hike lead you to the glorious Taktsang Monastery.

If you have difficulty walking, a pony ride can be arranged which will take you to the second viewpoint only. The pony ride is a one-way trip (this is recommended if you are not in great physical shape or have issues with altitude) and you have to make your way down the mountain by foot.

After the hike, enjoy an outdoor catered lunch with traditional Bhutanese live folk music in a tranquil setting. The outdoor lunch is set up with tables, Bhutanese design table cloth, chairs, crockery and cutlery. A Bhutanese mess tent for sun shade. Water, soap, towels for hand wash & a toilet tent.

Photo courtesy of COMO Uma Paro

Make the most of the spa in the afternoon, with a hot-stone massage at the resort to relax your muscles after the hike.

Later, visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, an important Himalayan Buddhist Temple. Built in the 7th century, this is one of Bhutan’s oldest religious sites in Bhutan. The temple is one of 108 built by Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo to subdue a demoness who prevented the spread of Buddhism. Temples were built across the Himalayas to pin her body down. Kyichu Lhakhang pins down her left foot and Jamba Lhakhang in Bumthang her left knee.

Guru Rimpoche visited this temple in the 8th century and concealed many spiritual treasures here. The fine statues of the Bodhisattvas and the Buddha in this temple are national treasures. The wooden floor of the sanctum is inlaid with turquoise and coral gemstones offered by pilgrims.

Day 8: Departure home

Transfer to the airport.

If you would like to find out more about this package and for prices, get in touch with a friendly Camel Collection rep today.

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