(Thimphu, Punakha, Paro)
Let the stresses of the modern world fall away as you meditate in centuries-old Cheri Monastery in Bhutan’s timeless Thimphu Valley.
It will take you an hour to hike to this secluded spiritual mecca, and the rewards are well worth the effort. Remote Bhutan has been preserved from western influence for centuries and experiencing its rich spiritual life, cultural traditions and pristine Himalayan environment is like stepping into a time machine to the old world. Thimphu is also home to the 12th-century Changangkha Lhakhang temple and the stunning Motithang Takin wildlife reserve, but the views of the Himalayan peaks from nearby Dochu-la pass steal the show. You’ll also hike through rice fields to explore the rural villages on the banks of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers; visit the 7th-century Kyichy Lhakhang in Paro which marks the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan; and climb to the spectacular Takstang monastery perched on the edge of sheer cliff face.
Incredible luxury hotels characterize your Bhutan experience in this exclusive trip. Traditional architecture meets modern design and amenities in a collection of premium valley, river and mountain hotels. But you’ll also experience real Bhutanese life as your experienced local guides take you to meet local school children, a Bhutanese family in their traditional farmhouse, and a range of talented artisans.
Enjoy a personalized vacation that best suits your needs, developed by one of our experienced destination experts. Relax during your trip with our 24/7 support and expert local guidance.
Upon arrival in Paro, you will be required to present two passport photos to the immigration official for your Bhutan visa (included), which will be stamped into your passport. Once you pass through customs your guide and driver will be waiting for you.
You will be met on arrival at Paro airport by our local guide. Once you have completed all airport formalities, you will begin your drive toward Thimphu. This is a scenic journey and takes roughly 1.5 hours. On arrival in Bhutan's modern capital, you will check in at your hotel.
Visit the Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 12th century, this is the oldest temple in Thimphu. It is hovering over a ridge above Thimphu, near Motithang. Lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo who hailed from Tibet chose this site to build this Lhakhang. The Lhakhang houses Chenrizig, an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara. The prayer books in this Lhakhang are larger than the usual Buddhist texts. You can purchase some of the world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from the general post office, and you will also see the Bhutan National Bank. Next head to a local arts and crafts school, to visit with some local children, and then carry on to the Traditional Medicine Institute where ancient healing arts are still practiced. Finally, visit the Motithang Takin Preserve, which is a local wildlife reserve. Later, if time permits, take a stroll through the main streets to see the interesting Himalayan artifacts and textiles that make Bhutan famous.
Enjoy your Dinner at Taj Tashi Hotel
After breakfast begin your day of sightseeing with a visit to the weekend market to see local people selling and purchasing their staples. The market also has a few souvenir shops for visitors. Then embark on a drive 12 km north of Thimphu where you will participate in an hour long hike to Cheri Monastery. There will be enough time for individual contemplation, journaling, meditating, etc while visiting the monastery. Later, drive back to the hotel or to a local restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub, and have a chance to purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Next, visit the Handicraft Bazaar, a new project initiated by the Government that promotes locally produced handicrafts. Buy stunning kiras which can be used as bed covers or wall decoration, jewelry and much more. Finally, visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honor the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied Stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism. Finish up back at your hotel.
Sit in today on a lecture on Buddhism. Learn about contemporary Buddhism in Bhutan, and have a chance to participate in a Q&A session with various expert lecturers. Such lectures are not spiritual lectures but with philosophic content.
After an early breakfast in Thimphu, you will drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft) stopping briefly to take in the view and admire the chortens, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all of their glory. On a clear day, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendegang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158m), Kangphugang (7,170m), Zongaphugang (7,060m) a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally, Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
On arrival in Punakha, check-in at your hotel. After lunch, hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang (temple) which is on a small hilltop. It is a pleasant 30 minute hike through rice paddies and a small village. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi from the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the ‘Divine madman’ in the west. He preached in an unusual way for the time and dramatized the teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. Bold Phallus symbols and paintings on the houses or temples are as a result of his influence. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children from all over the world.
Enjoy your Dinner at Uma Hotel
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter the seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. Today, you will begin with a hike up through the fields of rice along the banks of the Mo Chu to the upper end of the valley to see the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Following the hike you will drive towards Khuruthang, passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong. The Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch. It is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monks body has returned to Thimphu. The Dzong is placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s head and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. A picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chu. In the evening, take a relaxing stroll around town.
This morning, set off for Paro after an early breakfast and en route visit Semtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”, which stands on a hill a few kilometers out of town. On arrival in Paro, check in at your hotel.
After lunch today, you will visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses Bhutan’s National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. Walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore, such as the legend of the four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount Sumeru and other cosmic mandalas. Along the way you will also see the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the evening visit a traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and gain insight into the local lifestyle and cultures.
Today you will embark on an excursion to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest with many trees festooned with Spanish moss and the occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. The hike will take you past a small cafeteria if a break is needed. Built in 1600’s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here for three months and this place is considered as a ‘Mecca’ for Buddhists. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria. After the hike, we will pay visit to the ancient ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. The Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. There were several unsuccessful attempts to invade Paro by the Tibetans from the north. The fortress was featured on the cover of the US National Geographic magazine in year 1914. The fortress served as an administrative center until year 1951 when a fire brought it down. From here, on a clear day, you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Jumolhari. Drive south to Satsham Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rimpoche, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in seventh century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gonpo. This evening, once back to your hotel, you can take a leisurely guided walk of the town of Paro.
Enjoy a 45 minute cultural show performed by a private traditional dance troupe. The troupe portrays both modern and traditional forms of dance. During the performance, you can learn a few steps of traditional Bhutanese dancing, take photos with the performers, and learn about traditional musical instruments.
Your guide will escort you to the airport for departure from Paro.
Set in the heart of the Thimphu Valley, the Taj Tashi is a gateway to a land steeped in mythology and magic. The mountain kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the old world’s last remaining strongholds, as yet unspoilt by civilization. In the charmed isolation of the Himalayan heights, Bhutan’s ancient and alluring ways of Mahayana Buddhism continue on richly intact to this day, and permeate every aspect of Bhutanese life and art. In keeping with the enchanting surrounds, the hotel is a blend of Bhutan’s Dzong architecture and modern design. Adorned with classical hand-drawn Buddhist murals, its 66 elegant guestrooms afford guests striking highlights of the region’s art and colour, along with breathtaking views of the mountains that rise above the Thimphu valley.
Uma By Como is situated on a bend in the Mo Chu river, shrouded in the alpine stillness of the Punakha Valley. Providing luxury accommodation in this less-visited area of Bhutan, a five-hour drive from Paro, Uma by COMO, Punakha offers guests exceptional access to some of Bhutan’s most celebrated landscapes and historic sites, including the famous Temple of the Divine Madman and the imposing Punakha Dzong. This spirit of adventure is the hallmark of all COMO’s Uma hotels.
Uma Paro offers exceptional style in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Reflecting an understated philosophy of quiet comfort in a unique, culture-rich location, this inland retreat is also dedicated to activity and adventure. The landscape is dramatic with pine-clad valleys and snow-tipped ranges. Bhutan is Buddhist, retaining respect for religious tradition. Access this world with the inland treks, comprehensive tours and excursions led by Uma guides.
Olive Ramchand ,
June 03, 2014
"I have to admit, this was the BEST vacation I ever had. The tour was nothing less than Fantastic! The hotels were great, the guides were great, the transportation was great, the places were great, the people were great, the food was great and last but not least China, itself was out of this world. I'm so glad I booked this tour and would recommend this to anyone. Thanks so much for all your help, your interest and your recommendations. Steve in China was so attentive, he called constantly to make sure everything was fine. We really had a fabulous time and even my jaded husband who normally only seems to care about where the nearest golf course is, was impressed and had a wonderful time.
Thanks again, and unto the next vacation (although I don't know how we would top this one!!)
Jeanne Tarvin ,
April 21, 2014
"The tour was absolutely fabulous. It all started with the planning. Kathryn graciously accommodated our tight schedule and multiple needs, including a mid-trip change in plans. The tour guides and drivers were all great and extremely knowledgeable. The accommodations and meals were fantastic. I was apprehensive about going to China not knowing the language but it worked out great!"
January 15, 2014
"We just returned on Monday from our wonderful trip to South Korea, Bangkok and Phuket. I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work in planning our tours and adventures. Everything was spot on, from our arrivals at the airports, to the guides and the tours. I would not hesitate to recommend you and your company. It was truly a wonderful vacation. Thank you again.
Bob Feldman ,
November 19, 2013
"I wanted to let you know that our trip to China was great! Everybody enjoyed themselves. When planning a trip I am always concerned about the itinerary, the vehicles and the guides. All 3 of these were great. The guides were particularly good and in this case really made the trip a pleasure. Overall a great trip. Thanks for all you did."
Gloria DeWeese ,
October 10, 2013
"A wonderful trip and everything went like clockwork. Thank you so very much for all your assistance. I hope I will have a chance to work with you again."
Wayne Gavioli ,
September 04, 2013
"We just returned from our thailand/cambodia trip. It was fantastic. You did a great job. The guides were excellent as was the drivers. We loved the Victoria Hotel you selected in Siem. Wish we had more time. Thailand met our expectations but our expectations for Cambodia were low and they exceeded them. Loved the places selected for the included lunches. Certainly would use Kensington again"
Santo Filice ,
August 30, 2013
"Thank you for arranging our guided trip to Thailand - Vietnam. It was a memorable, and pleasant trip - a 1st for us with Kensington tours and a most enjoyable one. We found that we were able to maximize our visit of the the area without the concern of booking hotels, airline, finding parking and understanding the local language. "
Tim Mesarch ,
August 02, 2013
"Alexis helped us fit in all of the sites we wanted to see on our trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and suggested some more. It was valuable talking with someone who had been there and done that. The planning went pretty smoothly, and so did the trip. The local guides were all top-notch! "
July 25, 2013
"I highly recommend Kesington Tours. The planning of our trip to Cambodia was outstanding. Our advisor Alexis Mayer was unbelievably patient, knowledgeable and responsive. We planned the trip in every possible detail and Alexis was extraordinary during the whole process. Once we were in Cambodia, we had a tiny issue with the car. I was able to get in contact with Alexis right away and the problem was instantly solved. The trip itself was fantastic. Everything was very well planned and perfectly organized. The local guides and drivers were great. The hotels were very well chosen.
Great trip. I would definitely travel again with Kensington Tours."
Pennie Quintana ,
August 07, 2013
"Thank you so much for the amazing trip we enjoyed!! All our guides were fantasy. Joseph in Jakarta, July in Jojakarta and Deon in Borneo!! Wow!! Bless you for all your attention to detail and the outstanding communication to all my questions. You made me feel so taken care of and tended too!! "
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