4 Days: Intro to Bhutan

The perfect intro the Bhutan for those that have just enough time for a short layover trip.

Intro to Bhutan

This 4 day/3 night introduction to the country is centered around the Paro and Thimphu regions, where you will visit the giant Buddha Dordenma, Tashichho Dzong (fortress), Dupthop Lhakhang nunnery, cultural museums, traditional craft workshops, and more.

Day 1: Welcome to Bhutan!

Your experience of this enchanting kingdom begins with a flight over the Himalayas into the Paro Valley —truly one of life’s most spectacular sights. You'll view the world’s highest, most majestic peaks and enjoy the view of the approaching valley with its primeval alpine forests, monasteries, temples, and farmhouses nestled in splendid mountain isolation.

On arrival your Bhutan Visa will be stamped in your passport. After clearing customs & immigration your driver and/or guide from Bhutan Trips will greet you and then drive you through the valley of Paro to town for lunch. After lunch we'll depart for Thimphu, a short two hour drive from one main valley to the next, through rice paddy fields, apple orchards, and farmhouses. Thimphu, where you'll be staying for the night, is the capital city of the kingdom. One of the charms of this unique capital is Bhutan’s own version of the colonial traffic policemen—who also function as de facto stoplights—that will fascinate you with their elaborate hand gestures. We'll do some sightseeing, depending on time availability. Evening will be at your leisure, while dinner will be at your hotel.

Day 2: Explore Thimphu

After breakfast we'll visit the National Memorial Chorten (stupa). This large Tibetan-style chorten was built in 1974 to honor the memory of the third king—his Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. There are numerous religious paintings and complex tantric statues inside, reflecting both the peaceful and wrathful aspects of Buddhist Deities. The stupa is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu, and for many people it is the focus of their daily worship.

We'll then visit the National Institute for Traditional Medicine. Established in 1988, this traditional hospital prepares and dispenses herbal tonics and other medicines. Inside there is an impressively large lab, and production facility that ensures the quality of the products. We will also visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum—commonly known as the Painting School—which offers a six year course that provides instructions in many of Bhutan’s traditional arts to students from throughout the country. The students here follow a comprehensive course that starts with drawing and progresses through painting, woodcarving, embroidery, and statue making.

We also visit the Folk Heritage Museum—a preserved mud and timber building from back in the day. The house has been turned into a replica of a traditional farmhouse as it would have been equipped about a century ago. A tour of this living museum will give you a glimpse into the way most Bhutanese lived back then.

After lunch we visit the National Textile Museum. This museum, which was opened in 2001, is worth a leisurely visit to get to know the national art of weaving. From here we head to the National Library, which was established in 1967 to preserve many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. The traditional books kept on the upper floor of the building are Tibetan-style, printed or written on long strips of handmade paper stacked between pieces of wood and wrapped in silken cloth. There there are some wooden blocks on display that are used for printing books and prayer flags. There is also a collection of English-language books, modern academic texts, travel books, etc. The building also houses many holy books as well as statues of Bhutan’s most important historic figures.

We then visit the Dupthop Lhakhang, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan (the Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery). We'll also drive up to the Mini Zoo. This zoo houses the National Animal of Bhutan—the Takin. It’s worthwhile taking the time to see these strange, weird looking animals that are endemic to the area.

Later in the day we visit the Tashichho (a.k.a. Tashi Chhoe) Dzong. This dzong was built in 1216 and houses the royal throne room and offices of the king and the ministers. The northern portion is the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot) and the Central Monk Body. Tourists can visit the dzong after 5:00 p.m., and are allowed to enter up until the courtyard only.

In the evening we'll cap off the day with a visit to the Handicrafts Emporium where you can buy any type of Bhutanese souvenirs you may wish to acquire. Dinner and overnight at your hotel in the city.

Day 3: Thimphu & Paro

After breakfast we start on your return journey to Paro via the route you took on day one. On the road we visit the Ta Dzong—an unusual round building said to be in a shape of a conch shell which houses the National Museum of the Kingdom. The museum displays a spectacular collection of Thangkhas, an extensive philatelic collection, ancient bronze and stone objects, statues, ancient weapons and shields.  Also visit the Paro Dzong, also known as the Rimpung Dzong. This dzong was built in 1644 A.D. by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and houses a monastic school, the office of the local governor, and a few government offices. A short walk downhill, crossing a traditional cantilever bridge over the Pa Chu (Paro River), will take you to the base of the hill.

After lunch we will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the two oldest lhakhangs (monasteries) in the country which was built in 659 A.D. by the Tibetan King Songsten Gyampo. It's one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan king, and is said to hold down the left foot of a demoness. We also visit the Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang, built in 1433 A.D. by the iron bridge builder Thangthong Gyalpo. It has three floors representing hell, earth, and heaven, and the paintings inside are said to be some of the best in the country. We finish with a late afternoon stroll around the small town of Paro, after which we retire for dinner at your hotel.

Day 4: Farewell!

After breakfast or lunch (depending on your flight time) you will be driven to the nearby Paro Airport to board your flight out of Bhutan. Tashi Delek! (Goodbye, and best of luck!)

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