Explorations

Bhutan

The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordered by China (Tibet) to the north and northwest, and by the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Sikkim on the east, south and west respectively.

The kingdom is peopled sparsely, with a population approaching 700,000. The written history of the kingdom dates back to the 8th century, with Guru Padmasambhavas legendary flight from Tibet to Bhutan in 747 AD on the back of a tigress. The Guru, also considered as the second Buddha, arrived in Taktsang (Tigers Nest), on the cliffs above the valley of Paro, and from there began propagation of the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism. In the ensuing centuries many great masters preached the faith, resulting in the full bloom of Buddhism in the country by the middle ages.

Bhutan is the only extant Mahayana Buddhist kingdom in the world of today, and the teachings of this school of Buddhism are a living faith among its people. The air of spirituality is pervasive even in urban centers where the spinning of prayer wheels, the murmur of mantras and the glow of butter lamps are still commonplace features of everyday life. Bhutan’s religious sites and institutions are not museums, but the daily refuge of the people. Because of the deep traditional reverence, which the Bhutanese have for nature, the kingdom is one of the leading countries in environmental conservation. Over 70% of Bhutan’s land area is still under forest cover. Many parts of the country have been declared wildlife reserves, and are the natural habitats of rare species of both flora and fauna.

Opened for tourism in 1974, after the coronation of, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan is perhaps the world’s most exclusive tourist destination. The country still retains all the charm of the old world, and travelers experience the full glory of this ancient land as embodied in the monastic fortresses, ancient temples, monasteries and stupas which dot the countryside, prayer flags fluttering above farmhouses and on the hillsides, lush forests, rushing glacial rivers, and perhaps most important of all the warm smiles and genuine friendliness of the people. Each moment is special as one discovers a country, which its people have chosen to preserve in all its magical purity.

We offer treks, jeep safari’s, cultural & festival tours in Bhutan. Do write to us with your plan and we will customize an itinerary for you.

Adventure

Trekking

With its splendid scenic beauty, lofty mountains and deep valleys far away from the touch of modern civilization, Bhutan offers great opportunities for trekking. The picturesque views offered on the trek gradually unfold in all their glory and charm. Lifestyle changes are evident from the lively towns and cities to the quiet remote mountain villages traveled to only by foot.

Trekking in Bhutan can be one of the most rewarding and wonderful experiences. The topography ranges from dense subtropical forests to alpine meadows endowed with a wide spectrum of Himalayan Flora and Fauna. The land is thinly populated with scattered settlements. It may take a several days walk at a time before stumbling upon the next village. The beautiful landscape, unique architecture, colorful Dzongs, Buddhist traditions, and friendly people leave an everlasting impression on the minds of visitors. Some of the prominent treks are listed below –

  1. The Jhomolhari Trek – April to May & September to November
  2. Gangtey Trek in Phobjika Valley – March to May & September to November
  3. Dagala, The thousand lakes trek – April & October
  4. Wild Lunana (Snowman Trek) – Mid October
  5. Laya Gasa Trek – April to May and Mid-September to Mid-November
Rafting

Whatever you are looking for, either short and easy rafting experiences for beginners or challenging expeditions for serious white water enthusiasts, you will find the right river for your desire in Bhutan. Best times for River Rafting and Kayaking in Bhutan is March to April and November to December. River water levels in the months May to October will be high. Water levels in the winter months, January to February, will be low. This means that some of the rivers will no longer be feasible to run again.
Some of the noticeable rivers to run in Bhutan are listed below –

  1. Paro Chhu
  2. Wang Chhu
  3. Pho Chhu
  4. Mo Chhu
  5. Dang Chhu
  6. Puna Tsang Chhu
  7. Mangde Chhu
  8. Chamkar Chhu
  9. Tang Chhu
  10. Kuru Chhu

Hot Spots

Paro (2,280 m / 7,218 ft)

The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only airport. Mount. Jhomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.

Thimphu (7,400m / 7,875 ft)

The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Although not what one expects from a capital city, Thimphu is still a fitting and lively place. Home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.

Punakha (1,300m / 4,265 ft)

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until and still it is the winter seat of Je Khnep (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. There are splendid views of the distant Himalayas at Dochula pas (alt. 3,050m) on Thimphu – Punakha road.

Wangduephodrang (1,300m / 4,265 ft)

Wangduephodrang is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. The town is not more than an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.

Trongsa (2,300m / 7,545 ft)

Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. Both His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuck, the Penlop of Trongsa, who was elected the country’s first hereditary monarch and his successor, King Jigme Wangchuck, ruled the country from Trongsa ancient seat. The Crown Prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of the Trongsa Penlop prior to ascending the throne including the present King who was appointed Penlop in 1972, shortly before his succession to the throne. The entire landscape around Trongsa is spectacular.

Bumthang (2,600 – 4,500m / 8,530 – 14,765 ft)

Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.

Phuentsholing (300 m / 985 ft)

The frontier town, it is a thriving commercial centre, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills. It is a fascinating place where different ethnic groups mingle, prominently Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese. Being the border town, Phunetsholing serves as the convenient entry/exit point for Bhutan and also the important link to visit the Indian state of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam.

Cultural Delights

Drukgyel Dzong

This Dzong in the Paro Valley, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and was featured in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when its was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount. Chomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.

Taktshang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest)

It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.

Trashichhodzong

Also know as ‘fortress of the glorious religion’, it was initially built in 1641 and later rebuilt in its present form by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. The Dzong in Thimpu houses, main secretariat building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. The National Assembly Hall is housed in a modern building on the other side of the river from the Dzong. During the warmer summer months, the monk body headed by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, makes its home in the Dzong.

Punakha Dzong

Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region. The Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. Located in Punakha, the Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.

Wangduephodrang Dzong

In the Wangduephodrang district, sitting on top of the hill at the confluence of Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers, is the Wangduephodrang Dzong, the town’s most visible features. The Dzong is open for visitors during Wangduephodrang festival celebrated in autumn.

Trongsa Dzong

Like almost all towns in the Kingdom, this Dzong architecture dominates the entire Trongsa horizon dwarfing the surrounding buildings. Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second King ruled the country from this ancient seat. Protected from invaders by an impenetrable valley, Trongsa Dzong is an impregnable fortress. The Dzong itself is a labyrinth of temples, corridors and offices holding court over the local community. It is built on many levels into the side of the hill and can be seen from every approach to Trongsa heralding its strength as a defensive stronghold.

Jambey Lhakhang

This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in Bumthang. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits n the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.

Kurje Lhakhang

Situated before Jambey Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples, in Bumthang. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother.

Tamshing Lhakhang

Located opposite Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the river in Bumthang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.

Jakar Dzong

Built in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as monastery in Bumthang. It was upgraded in 1646, after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative centre for Bumthang valley and also houses the regional monk body.

Zangtho Pelri

Situated in city centre, this small temple represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. At ground level there are statues of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. The floor above contains wall paintings of the eight Bodhisattvas and statues of Avalokiteshvara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On the top floor, the main statues is of Amotabha.

Kharbandi Goemba

Founded in 1967 by Royal Grand Mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron and situated at the altitude of 400m, this beautiful monastery contains paintings on the life of Buddha, statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche. From the monastery garden there is a fascinating view of Phuentsholing town and surrounding plains.