Bhutan - Land of the peaceful dragon

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Day 1: Arrive in Calcutta, India

Upon arrival in Calcutta you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore on your own before meeting with the group for dinner and our orientation meeting.

Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 2: Calcutta - Kalighat Kali Temple

A full day exploring the ancient sights of Calcutta. We visit Kalighat Kali Temple, Victoria Memorial hall and Mother Teresa's Tomb.

Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 3: Fly to Bagdogra, India - Tea Factory

Today, we fly from Calcutta to Bagdogra in India. Our adventure to Darjeeling (West Bengal), Sikkim, and Bhutan begins with a scenic drive to Darjeeling, where we will have time to explore and relax. We will visit a tea factory and a Tibetan refugee center. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 4: Darjeeling - Mt. Kanchenjunga

This morning we take a trip to Tiger Hill for a view of the sunrise over the mountains in hopes of seeing Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. After breakfast we ride a Raj-era train where we will visit the Railway Museum and then continue on to visit the Ghoom Monastery.

Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 5: Darjeeling - Mountaineering Institute

Today we drive to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute was established in 1954 following the mountaineering success of Hilary and Tenzing. After the museum, we walk through the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park as they protect endangered species, including some of the most unusual animals in the world. Amongst these are red pandas, Siberian tigers, yaks, snow leopards and Himalayan bears.

Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 6: Gangtok, Sikkim

In the morning, we drive and cross the border into Sikkim. After lunch, we continue to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Until 1965, Sikkim was a separate state ruled by a Chogyal (a Sikkim king) whose history dates back to the 16th century. Today, the monarchy has been abolished and Sikkim is part of the Indian union.

We visit a handicraft center to see the beautiful fabrics of Sikkim.

Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 7: Gangtok Sites & Institute of Tibetology

We start off our day with a visit to the Ganesh Tok Temple, which is also a view point. We then visit the Flower Exhibition Center that was once the Loop Garden in North Sikkim during 1963 and then inaugurated by the Gyalmo Hope Namgyal. The most beautiful Himalayan flowers can be seen here, including orchids.

After lunch we will visit the Institute of Tibetology. The Institute was established in 1958 to promote research on the language, culture and religion of Tibet. It houses an impressive collection of over 3,000 books, containing some of the earliest translations of Buddha's teachings. In the evening we walk through the Lal Bazzar Market, the main attraction for the locals in Gangtok town.

Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 8: Rumtek Monastery, to Kalimpong

Today we drive to Kalimpong, first stopping to visit the Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery was the seat of the Kagypa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The first monastery was built here in 1717, but crumbled to ruins and the present monastery dates from 1960.

We return back to the Sikkim border to drive to Kalimpong.

Overnight in Kalimpong.


Day 9: Phuentsholing, Bhutan

We have an early start to the morning so we can visit Durpin Dara Monastery also known as Thongsa Monastery. We continue to Phuentsholing, just inside the Bhutan border. Today is a long day so we will have a box lunch to save time. On our first night in Bhutan, we have a short walk through the streets of Phuentsholing and savor being among the few who have traveled to this remote and exotic land.

Overnight in Phuentsholing.

Elevation of Phuentsholing: 300m /985ft.


Day 10: Spectacular Drive to Thimphu

We have a full day drive through the spectacular countryside to Thimphu, the nation's capital. The driving distance today is about 175 kms and will take about 5 - 6 hours. Enroute, we visit Rinchending Monastery, also known to some as the Kharbandi Monastery, built in 1967 by the great grandmother of the present king of Bhutan. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan with an estimated population of more than 99,000 people. Afterwards, we visit the Thimphu post office where we can make our own stamp and send a post card home with your self made stamp.

Overnight in Thimphu.

Elevation of Thimphu valley: 2, 400m / 7,875ft.


Day 11: Thimphu Festival

Today we enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the biggest festivals in the country, the Thimphu Tshechu. The Tshechu is a religious 3 day event, celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). Enjoy the many colorful mask and folk dances that are performed throughout the city. The dances (most of which are performed by monks) bring blessings to the onlookers in addition to teaching them about the Buddhist Dharma. This religious festival pays homage to Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan and other Himalayan regions. The festival draws many spectators from all over Bhutan.

The festival takes place in the premises of the Tashi Chho Dzong. The Tashi Chho Dzong was built in 1641 and serves as the summer residence of the Central Monastic Body and the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).

This evening there is time to explore the town of Thimphu on your own.

Overnight in Thimphu.

Elevation of Thimphu valley: 2,400m / 7,875ft.


Day 12: Thimphu

Bhutan is the only country whose government is officially Buddhist and as such, a walk through the streets of Thimphu is a walk unlike any other in the world. We visit the National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Bhutan. Later we visit the Mini Zoo to see a real life takin (a goat-antelope), the national animal of Bhutan.

In the afternoon, we drive to the top of the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley to visit one of the tallest Buddhas in the world. It is made of bronze, copper and brass which are believed to be plated in gold. It was built for the well-being, peace and prosperity for everyone in the world.

Later we visit the Zilukha Nunnery School, perched high on the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. This evening we have time to explore the town of Thimphu on our own.

Overnight in Thimphu.

Elevation of Thimphu valley: 2,400m / 7,875ft.


Day 13: To Wangdi via Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong

We depart Thimphu and drive over the Dochula Pass, which is approximately 3100m / 10,170ft., and walk around the 108 Chortens. On a clear day, one can view the magnificent sights of the Eastern Himalayan Ranges.

Our first stop is a visit to the Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the unifier of Bhutan. This fortress is the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body and the Je Khenpo. It is one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan. Punakha served as the ancient capital of Bhutan until 1955.

After visiting Punakha Dzong, we proceed to Wangdue Phodrang valley via the ruins of the Wangduephodrang Dzong, which was a peaceful monastery set on top of the hill overlooking the Wangdi River. The dzong, which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1638, and the third oldest dzong in Bhutan, was burned down on June 24, 2012. We will see the new dzong they created all by hand, which it is also the residence of monks.

Overnight in Wangdi.

Elevation of Punakha valley: 1,300m / 4,265ft.
Eleavtion of Wangdue Phordrang valley: 1,350m / 4,265ft.


Day 14: Wangdi to Trongsa

After breakfast we drive to Trongsa via Phobjikha valley. Phobjikha valley is the winter residence of the black necked crane. If time permits we can explore the Phobjikha valley nature trail for a one hour walk. Today the drive will take us up towards the Pele La Pass (3,300m / 10,820ft) where there is a great chance of spotting some yaks as we pass the magnificent stupa of Chendebji enroute. Upon arrival into the Trongsa valley, we see the Trongsa Dzong built in 1646. This is one of the most impressive dzongs in Bhutan and also the ancient home of the royal family, where the first and second Kings ruled, and a true masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture.

Overnight in Trongsa.

Elevation of Trongsa valley: 2,200m / 7,218ft.


Day 15: To Bumthang

This morning we visit the Ta Dzong - perched over the Trongsa Dzong. This fortress was originally built as a watchtower and later converted into a heritage museum. After visiting the Ta Dzong, we proceed towards Bumthang, crossing the Yotong La Pass (3,440m / 11,285ft) and descend into Chumey valley, the first of the four Bumthang valleys.

We continue on to Bumthang with its lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way we will stop at a yathra (textile weaving) factory, where the yathras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms.

Overnight in Bumthang.

Elevation of Bumthang valley: 2,600m / 8,530ft


Day 16: Bumthang - Jakar Dzong, Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang

Today we explore the Bumthang valley with visits to Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley, built in 1667. We will visit Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 AD. Next we stop at Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating.

After lunch we will visit the Tamshing Lhakhang Temple, built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a renowned Buddhist saint. The temple houses the religious Buddhist paintings and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in Bhutan. The original murals on the walls still survive, which are considered to be the oldest paintings in Bhutan, dating back to the 15th century.

If time permits, we visit the Wangdicholing Palace, which was built in 1857, and was the first palace in Bhutan for the Royal Family.

Overnight in Bumthang.

Elevation of Bumthang valley: 2,600m / 8,530ft


Day 17: Bumthang - Wangdi

After breakfast, we start our travel day back to Wangdi via Trongsa, passing the Kikila Pass, Yotongla Pass and Pele La Pass. Enroute, we stop for lunch after crossing Trongsa. Our journey today has us passing by beautiful rural areas and landscapes, seeing some of the most unspoiled nature Bhutan has to offer. We pass the magnificent stupa of Chendebji again, which is similar to the Boudhnath in Nepal.

Overnight in Wangdi.

Eleavtion of Wangdue Phordrang valley: 1,350m / 4,265ft


Day 18: Wangdi - Paro

Today we head to Paro via the Dochula Pass once more.

We visit the Simtokha Dzong enroute. The dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan, built in 1629. At present it is the home of the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.

This afternoon, we visit the Paro Dzong. Built in the mid 17th century, it now serves as the administrative and judicial seat of the Paro district. If time permits, we have some free time this evening to explore Paro on our own.

Overnight in Paro.

Elevation of Paro valley: 2,200m / 7,218ft.


Day 19: Hike to Taktsang Monastery

After breakfast we hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery, or Tiger's Nest, where we marvel in the history of this holy place and see the holy cave where it is said to be the origin of Bhuddism in Bhutan. This monastery is miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the Paro valley. It is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress believed to be his consort, Yeshey Tshogyel, to subdue the local demon. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave for three months.

After Taktsang we can visit Drukgyel Dzong, which was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today is under renovation due to a fire in the 1950's, which has taken a toll on the site.

The views over the Paro valley will take your breath away!

Overnight in Paro.

Elevation of Paro valley: 2,200m / 7,218ft.


Day 20: Fly to Calcutta, Farewell Dinner

Today we say goodbye to Bhutan and fly to Calcutta, where we will have a free afternoon before we have our farewell dinner.

Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 21: Depart Calcutta

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.

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