Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trip Itineraries: Bumthang Cultural Trek

Bumthang Cultural Trek

The charming and peaceful Bumthang valley is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan and is home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. The three day trek is one of the country's less strenuous itineraties. It passes through remote villages and along glacial streams on its meandering route through gentle countryside, and provides an exceptional opportunity for contact with Bhutanese rural life.

faded by bright sun

10 day/11 night tour: Paro-Thimphu-Trongsa-Bumthang-Ngang Lhakhang-Ugyenchholing-Bumthang-Punakha-Paro
Seasons: March-May and September-November
Maximum Elevation: 3,360 m
Total Distance: about 48 km

Day 1 : Arrive Paro

The Druk Airways flight to Bhutan is one of the most spectacular in the world. You will experience breathtaking views of Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Jomolhari and other Himalayan peaks. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from the southeast, each flight is a mesmerizing aeronautical feat and offers an exciting descent into the Kingdom.

On arrival at Paro airport: immigration and custom formalities and then received by your guide and transfer to your hotel.

Take a stroll around town’s main street. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 2 : Paro
Full day of sightseeing in Paro. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong, built in 1651 as a watchtower for Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) and in 1968 inaugurated as the National Museum. The museum collection includes ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. Also visit Rinpung Dzong, built in 1646 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. It now houses the district administration offices and Paro’s monastic community. 

After lunch, drive up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over Tibetan invaders. We may also have time to visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries of the kingdom. 

Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 3 : Paro – Thimphu
Drive to Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan. About 7 km. before Thimphu, pause briefly to admire Bhutan’s most ancient fortress Simtokha Dzong (built in 1627), rising up from a small hilltop on the right side of the road. 

After lunch, visit as time permits: the National Memorial Chorten (built as a memorial to Bhutan’s third king and as a monument to world peace); the National Institute of Traditional Medicine (outside only) where herbal medicines are made up and dispensed and traditional medicine practitioners are trained; the Institute for Zorig Chusum, where students learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan; the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature including many ancient Buddhist texts in block-printed format; Tashichhodzong, (‘the fortress of the glorious religion’), which houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. 

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4 : Thimphu – Trongsa
Drive to Tongsa via Dochu-la pass (3,088m). On a clear day there is a superb view from here of
Bhutanis highest peaks. 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.Continue on to Wangduephodrang town, which is also our lunch stop. Then proceed to Tongsa over Pele-la pass (3,300m), the traditional boundary between east and west. Overnight at the lodge in Trongsa.

Day 5 : Trongsa – Bumthang

Morning visit to striking Tongsa Dzong, ancestral abode of Bhutan’s royal family. Then visit the Ta Dzong, built as a watchtower to guard Tongsa Dzong. Proceed to Bumthang and in the afternoon visit the 17th century Jakar Dzong and then Kurje monastery, built in the 17th century to mark the place where Guru Padmasambhava had meditated in the 8th century, leaving his body imprint on the rock. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.

Day 6 : Bumthang – Ngang Lhakhang

14km, 6 hours
The trek begins today. The trek route follows the Chamkhar Chu (river), taking us through meadows, forests of blue pine and scrub bamboo. We will pass by many villages and temples, on this very relaxing and easy day. Camp overnight at village (2,900m).

Day 7 : Ngang Lhakhang – Ugyenchholing

23 km, 8 hours
The trail ascends gradually through juniper forest towards Phephe-la pass (3,340m). From there, the path descends to Tang valley, finally arriving at Ugyenchholing village (2,850m). Camp overnight by the side of the river near the village.

Day 8: Ugyenchholing-Bumthang
11km, 4 hours
In the morning, walk up to Ugyenchholing Palace, a beautiful private mansion which also houses a small eco-museum, then drive to Jakar (Bumthang) following the Tang Chu until arriving at the main road. On the way visit the Mebar Tso Lake, where Terton Pema Lingpa is said to have discovered religious treasures in the 15th century. This lake is very sacred, and on auspicious days many Bhutanese people go there to offer butter lamps. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang

Day 9 : Bumthang - Punakha
Morning visit to Jambey Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, who is believed to be the incarnation of Jambey (Avalokitesvara), the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Tamshing Lhakhang, across the river, is also an important place to visit, as it houses old and interesting religious paintings. Drive to Punakha with lunch en route. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 10: Punakha-Paro
Today we drive to Paro. It will be a relaxing day, as we reach Paro by lunch time. Free time for leisure or last minute shopping in the afternoon. Take a stroll around Paro market in the evening.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 11 : Paro Depart
Early breakfast in the hotel and drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.

chorten and mountain view

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