Bumthang Cultural Trek
Mystically hidden in the folds of the Great Himalayas is the last Shangri-La on earth, known to most as Bhutan but these hill-people proudly call themselves Drukpa and their land Druk or Drukyul, literally translated-the Land of Thunder Dragon. What has set this little nation apart from the rest of the world is its courageous decision to adopt Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its guiding philosophy for development.Hence, here in Bhutan progress is measured in terms of the collective happiness of its citizens, a dream proclaimed in 1972 by a young Dragon king who was then barely out of his teens. His Majesty the fourth King has also envisioned creating an enlightened society through a balanced pursuit of material progress and spiritual wellbeing.
Many visitors describe Bhutan as a mystical, harmonious valley coexisting with nature. Gross National Happiness which was introduced as developmental policy is now individuals’ everyday living principles. As you walk through any valley you will hear laughter echoing through paddy fields. Bhutanese have so much time at hand contrary to people in western countries. You meet any Bhutanese especially from rural areas they will talk with you for hours. The idea of rush-hour is hardly familiar to Bhutanese. Bhutanese are mostly peaceful. Most Bhutanese aspire for enlightenment. At an individual level they practice mindfulness. At a society they render help. Most Bhutanese avoid animal cruelty. They are genuinely kind even to stray dogs. You could still walk through any village of Bhutan and feel safe. Bhutanese love their neighbours as their own family. They ensure safety, food and health of their neighbour. With Bhutanese kindness you could still survive some months without a job.
Bumthang Cultural Trek Itinerary
Arrive at Paro airport, after completion of immigration and custom formalities our representative will receive and transfer you to the hotel. Later, if time permits visit Kichu temple, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demon. In the evening relax and overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Today hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger's Nest Monastery). After breakfast, hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger's Nest Monastery). The hike up to the viewpoint will take about 1 1/2 hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. It was first built in 1962at a cave where Guru Padmasambhava mediated in the 7th Century and legend legend states that Guru Padmasambhava flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue demons residing within it. After visiting the monastery, walk back downhill to the road with lunch at the viewpoint cafeteria.
After lunch, visit the National Museum which is now being housed at a hall near the Ta Dzong (National Museum) as it is now closed to the visitors due to major cracks formed during the September 2011 earthquake that hit Bhutan quite hard. Later visit Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. It is also known as the Rinpung Dzong which means a “fortress that sits on a heap of jewels”. This imposing dzong located above the Paro River is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture with its inward sloping walls that rise to an impressive height. The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche (who is regarded as the “second Buddha”). From the Dzong, walk further down to Nyamai Zampa, an oldest traditional cantilever bridge in Bhutan.
Drive to Thimphu the modern capital of Bhutan. The drive will take around 2 hours. Check in the hotel. After lunch, visit the Memorial stupa of the Late King, built in 1974, the Indigenous Hospital, where traditional medicine is still practiced, and the Painting School, where children still learn the ancient art of painting, sculpture, woodcraft etc.
In the evening stroll around Thimphu town and you may visit local handicraft stores.
After breakfast visit the following as per your interest and time availability:
- National Textile Museumwhich is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colours and designs. You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
- The Folk Heritage Museum,an outdoor museum that gives an insight into rural life in Bhutan.
- The School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Craftswhere students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
- Centenary Farmers’ market(if tour coincides with Thu-Sun) where farmers would be selling their wide range of farm produces (vegetables from farms and wild ferns or bamboo shoots collected from forest, flour, rice, roasted rice, rice flakes, spices, yams both cultivated and wild ones collected from forests, fruits, etc) and livestock products (mainly cheese and butter). Free interaction with the people from town and from villages as well who come to this weekend market. Weekend market is from Thursday-Sunday (4 days).
- The Memorial Chortenwhich was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of the country, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan.
- Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal Takin (budorcastaxicolor white) the national animal of Bhutan
- Changankha Lhakhang(temple): This temple situated atop a small hound overlooking the Thimphu valley was built in the 13th century by the illustrious Lam Phajo Dugom Zhigpo. The temple is considered the spiritual home of children born in the Chang valley.
- Kuenselphodrangwhere largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu valley and also if interested/if time permits, take a leisure walk throughKuenselphodrang Nature park and enjoy the nice view of the entire Thimphu valley below.
After an early breakfast we will drive to Punakha District. It is 77 Kilometers. The drive will take 3 hours from the capital Thimphu and Punakha lies at the altitude of 1350 m above sea level. It is a sub- Tropical area. On the way we will cross the Dochula pass 3150 m, on a clear day we will see the whole range of the eastern Himalayas from here. We drive downhill until we reach Punakha. The here. We drive downhill until we reach Punakha. The temporal ruler of Bhutan Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built Punakha Dzong in 1637 at the confluence of two rivers called the PO-Chu and MO-CHU. (Male & Female)
After lunch, we drive to Trongsa. It is 128 kilometers and 5 hours drive from Punakha. Wangdue is another District and is only a half hours drive from Punakha. Wandgdue Dzong was Also built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel but one year later than Punakha in1638. The road will climb all the way to Pele- la pass 3300m. It is a landmark between East & west and from here we will drive all the way down to Trongsa. Other way we will come across Yak herder’s camps and encounter Yaks especially during winter. We will also see the high Himalayan villages like Rukubji and Chendebji.
In the morning after breakfast we will take an excursion to Kuenga Rabten. It was the winter Palace for our beloved 2nd King Jigme Wangchuk. It is 23 kilometers from Trongsa and it takes about 2 hours by car. Although most is empty and only one room is occupied for the library the palace is under Special Commission of cultural Affairs. We do not need any permit to get inside.This trip from Trongsa to Kuenga Rabten will give you an intimate insight into the early days of Bhutan’s Monarchy. Besides the palace you will also see the beautiful expanse of rice terraces in the lower Mangdu-Chu valley and large waterfall. Drive back to Trongsa for lunch.
Visit Trongsa Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All five kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (governor) prior In evening drive Bumthang. To ascending the throne. The dzong is massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from there. In the evening we will travel to Bumthang via Yotong la pass which is 3400m above sea level.It will be the highest pass on your trip to Bhutan. After the pass we drive down to the Chhumey valley before we reach Jakar. This valley is famous for yathra weaving in central Bhutan. Overnight Bumthang.
Bumthang is different from all the other valleys in Bhutan. It is very spacious and open ranging in altitude from 2600m to 4000m. Bumthang is a heaven for hikers and Trekkers, not to mention the numerous beautiful and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites. Take a walk up to Tamshing monastery, founded by the Terton Pema Lingpa, a Bhutanese saint of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Visit Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Lhakhang one of the oldest monastery in the Kingdom.
One could spend months exploring this fascinating valley. Almost every little valley or hill has a background of interesting myths and legends about Kings, Buddhist masters and Serpents. Bumthang is especially dominated by the religious influence of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) who is believed to be the second Buddha 7th –8th A.D. His reincarnation the Treasure reveller or Terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) who is known to have discovered many sacred Buddhist texts & treasures hidden by Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche)
The trek route follows the Chamkhar Chu River, coming across many villages and temples. This is a very easy and relaxing day. Arrive at the Nagang Lhakhang Village. ‘meaning’ (The Land of swans) Overnight Camp.
The trail ascends gradually going through the forest of junipers, until you arrive at the Phe -Phe – La pass at an altitude 3340 meters. After the pass descend to the Tang valley, finally arriving at UgyenChholing village. Overnight Camp.
Morning walk up to the Ugyenchholing Dzong. Visit the Dzong and the surrounding village and then drive to Jakar following the Tang Chu River until you arrive at the main road junction and on the way visit Tang Mebartsho (Burning lake), where the Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Padmasambhava, is supposed to have discovered religious treasure in the 12th century. This lake is very sacred and is visited by many Bhutanese during auspicious days to offer butter lamps.
Mebartsho, (Meaning Burning Lake). The important of the site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and is considered as one of the most holy places for Buddhist pilgrimage. Evening have free time in town.
Gangtey Goemba was built in small hillock surrounded by blue pine trees and was founded by the descendant of PemaLingpa. The great Bhutanese saint from Bumthang in 16th century. At the end of 17th century it was enlarged and at present it is headed by the 9th reincarnation called Gantey Trulku. At present it is under renovation and it is ringed with the family homes of Gomchens (Laymen) who work and worship at monastery. Further on you will reach to Phobjikha valley. This place is reserved for the migration of the Black Necked Crane. The people out here have become friendly with the endangered species and every consecutive year starting from late October to mid February, the fields and marshes of this undisturbed valley will be occupied with these wonderful birds. After having lunch, then drive to wangdue.
After breakfast, take a hike to the Divine Mad Man Monastery. The Buddhist community considers it the land of fertility. If a couple is trying for a baby they have to come here to pray for it to be possible. A lot people come here to get the name for their child, as it is believed that the temple will protect the chid from evil spirits and omens. Later drive to Paro which will take around 3 and half hour by road. Overnight Paro.
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