Exotic Bhutan Trip
To the outside world the small Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is regarded as a modern-day Shangri-La. Nestled along the eastern side of the Himalayas, wedged between Tibet and India, Bhutan sees few outsiders. And the country likes it that way as it attempts to preserve its fragile culture and ecology. That has prompted Bhutan to strictly regulate tourism. But as VOA’s Steve Herman reports from Thimpu, it is possible for anyone with enough money and determination to visit. Here people call their nation Druk Yul – land of the thunder dragon. The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled in the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, and landlocked between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. It lies between latitudes 26° and 29°N, and longitudes 88° and93°E. The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow, in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot shumid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters. It is estimated that between two thirds and three quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also the state religion. About one quarter to one third are followers of Hinduism. Muslim and non-religious communities account for less than 1% of the population. The current legal framework, in principle guarantees freedom of religion; proselytism, however, is forbidden by a royal government decision .
The land consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers, which form deep valleys before draining into the Indian plains. Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems The sights and sounds of its deep connection to Tibetan Buddhism are evident just about anywhere a visitor goes. A religious musician, playing the jaling oboe, dressed in the traditional knee-length gown and huge white cuffs worn by most Bhutanese men is just one example of why this country the size of Switzerland is so appealing to travelers. The country is permeated with fortresses, known as dzongs, and monasteries. The air is crisp and clean, the views of mountains breathtaking. What Bhutan lacks in high-end tourist infrastructure it makes up in courtesy, safety and cleanliness, especially compared to other major regional destinations. Yet, Bhutan remains one of international tourism’s best-kept secrets. It attracts less than 20,000 tourists a year, not including thousands more Indians, here on business or holiday, who do not need a visa to visit.
Day 1, Arrival / Paro / Thimphu
After breakfast, proceed to airport for flight to Bhutan – Paro. During the journey offers fascinating views of the eastern Himalayan range, including Mt. Everest. Arrival Paro, enjoy the Bhutan local lunch. After lunch, visit one of the oldest landmarks in Bhutan. The 7th century KyichuLhakhang was one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, SongtsenGembo. It is revered as one of the most holy shrines in Bhutan and embodies the arrival of Buddhism here. Visit to RimpungDzong or the ‘fortress of the heap of jewels’ which is the seat of the district administration and the residence of the monastic school. The dzong is famous for its wall murals depicting Buddhist parables, symbols and the lives of prominent saints. After finish, drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The road meanders alongside the Paro Chu (river) and terraced fields until the confluence of two rivers at Chuzom. Here, one can see three stupas, representing the different styles of the different sects. After dinner, transfer back to the hotel in Thimphu. (Overnight in the hotels in Thimphu) (-/L/D)
Day 2, THIMPU/WANGDUEPHODRANG
After breakfast, we will drive towards Punakha and on the way with a short stop at Dochula pass (3,050m) where if the weather is good, enjoy spectacular view of mountains. After dinner, transfer back to the hotel in Paro. visit the PunakhaDzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and still serves as the winter residence of the monk body. The first King, UgyenWangchuck was crowned here in 1907. Drive to Wangdue, visit Chimilhakhang, a temple built by Lam DrukpaKuenley, the Divine Madman and renowned for blessing barren women with fertility. (Over Night in the hotel of Punakha)(B/L/D)
Day 3, PARO
After breakfast, drive to the foot of the Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest cliff before walking uphill for 2 hours to reach this monastery, giddily perched on a sheer 800m rock face. Taktshang means ‘Tiger’s Nest’ as legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew to this spot on the back of a tigress in the eight century. He meditated here making this temple a sacred pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. The trip to and fro takes 4 hours for which riding ponies can After dinner, if you have special needs, we can arrange for you to experience the Bhutanese Traditional Hot Stone Bath (USD25 /per pax), booking must be made 6hours in advance), to eased past few days journey fatigue. Transfer back to hotel in Paro. (Over night in the hotel of Paro)(B/L/D)
Day 4, FINAL DEPARTURE
After breakfast drive to airport for your onward destination.(B/-/-)