Bhutan Tour with Sikkim and Darjeeling

In this tour our guests will be able to appreciate the way of life of at least 3 groups of people, the Bhutanese, the Nepalese in Darjeeling and the Bhutias of Sikkim. Within this trip our guests will also be able to understand how these different groups of peoples’ lives are interwoven with their culture and tradition as influenced by their religion. It is indeed intriguing to notice how our survival depended on how we conduct ourselves to connecting with the feeling, experiencing and knowing the essence of our spirituality. Within this tour we try to showcase to our guests the key features that impinges on the life and living of an individual, family, a community and a society. This tour provides an opportunity to view the splendours of “nature and man“, that make life as wonderful as it can  be, even against the rigors of life.

At Bhutan Travel Designers we are here to ensure that that extra ounce of adrenalin is pumped into your system so that we are prepared to let things happen as they happen and be its wonderful guest – so be our guest to be your own guests! Not clear to Americans?

Day 01: Arrive Paro

On a clear day, the flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, the journey offers you wonderful views of the Himalayas and an exciting descent into the kingdom.

Your Bhutan Wilderness Travels representative will greet you at Paro airport. After completion of arrival formalities, you will be transferred to your hotel.

Afternoon free or program may be arranged, according to choice. In the evening, take a stroll along the town’s main street. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 02: Paro

In the morning, take an excursion to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory.

After lunch, visit Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum. The museum collection includes ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. Then walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. Built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, this Dzong now houses Paro’s monk body and the offices of the civil administration and is symbolic as the religious and secular center of all affairs of the valley.

In the evening, visit a traditional farm house to get an idea of the lifestyle of local people. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 03: Paro – Punakha

After breakfast drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, about 18 km. up the valley. From this fortress, built in 1647 by the Shabdrung, Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Then visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred temples of the kingdom, reflecting the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

After that drive to Punakha across Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft), from which there is a breathtaking view of the high peaks on a clear day.

Until 1955 Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). Visit Punakha Dzong built in the 17th century at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Damaged by fires, floods and earthquakes over the centuries, the Dzong has recently been fully restored to its original glory. Evening visit to local market.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 04: Punakha – Wangduephodrang – Thimphu

After breakfast, drive to Wangduephodrang about 45 minutes from Punakha and the last town on the highway before entering central Bhutan. Wangdue is a typical small Bhutanese town, and its formidable Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country.

After lunch, drive to the nation’s capital, Thimphu, a small, bustling city in the heart of the Himalayas. Thimphu’s charm comes not only from its wealth of museums or places of historic interest, but also from the strong national character of its architectural style. A stroll through this lively town reveals an interesting combination of tradition and modernity.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 05: Thimphu

In the morning, visit Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion” situated on the banks of the Wang Chu. Initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck during the 1960s, it now houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. We will also visit the following, as time permits:

Bhutan’s National Library houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, mostly in block-printed format, with some works several hundred years old. The country has its own brands of Himalayan medicines, compounded and dispensed at the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, which also trains traditional medicine practitioners. The National Memorial Chorten, completed in 1974, contains finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues which provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

We will also browse in the Handicrafts Emporium, which displays a wide assortment of colorful hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, and other craft products, and smaller handicrafts shops along the main street if time permits. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 06: Thimphu – Phuentsholing

After breakfast, drive down to Phuentsholing, en route visiting Semtokha Dzong, built in 1627 and the oldest fortress of the kingdom, which now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies. The Thimphu-Phuentsholing road was built in 1962 by Dantak, the Indian Border Roads organization. The drive on this route is very pleasant with numerous scenic spots en route. Just before arriving in Phuentsholing, we will stop to visit Kharbandi Gonpa, a temple built in 1967. It houses large statues of Sakyamuni, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche.

Overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing.

*Your tour with Bhutan Wilderness Travels ends this evening. You will be handed over to our Indian counterpart tomorrow morning for exit from Bhutan and onward travel to the Indian hill stations and Sikkim.

Day 07: Phuentsholing – Siliguri / Darjeeling

After breakfast drive to Siliguri, passing through lush green tea gardens en route. Siliguri is the gateway to north-eastern India, and the main transit point for visits to Darjeeling, Sikkim, Bhutan, Eastern Nepal and Assam. After lunch in Siliguri, drive to Darjeeling via the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.

Overnight at the hotel in Darjeeling.

Day 08: Darjeeling

In the early morning, enjoy the sunrise from Tiger Hill. The early start to the day is worth it, as the view from this place is indeed unforgettable, as the first rays of the sun touch the mountain peaks, and colors change from grey to pink to a luminous gold. Everest, the world’s highest peak is visible from Tiger Hill, but being 170 km. away does not stand out as strikingly as the much closer Kanchenjunga.

Then visit Ghoom monastery, built in 1850 by Lama Sherub Gyatsho, a monk from Mongolia. It is a Tibetan monastery where ancient birch bark manuscripts are carefully preserved. Later visit the Himalayan Mountain Institute, the house of the late Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who with Edmund Hillary made the first ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953.

In the evening, visit the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, which produces and sells a wide range of Tibetan artifacts and curios. Here you can see Tibetan craftsman making traditional items such as carpets, woolen and leather boots, and woodcarvings. The Centre was established in 1954 to rehabilitate refugees who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama in the wake of the Chinese invasion.

Overnight at the hotel in Darjeeling.

Day 09: Darjeeling – Gangtok

After breakfast drive to Gangtok. Later sightseeing in Gangtok includes a visit to the beautiful Enchey Monastery, approached from an avenue lined by hundreds of multi-colored prayer flags. Then visit the Institute of Cottage Industries where you can watch young students being taught the traditional art of thangkha painting, and also weaving, wood carving and carpet making.

Also visit the Institute of Tibetology, which is housed in a beautiful building, constructed in traditional Tibetan style, with murals and decorated pillars.

Overnight at the hotel in Gangtok.

Day 10: Gangtok – Kalimpong

Morning excursion to the famous Rumtek Monastery, which was rebuilt in the 1960s as the headquarters of the Karma Kagyupa School of Buddhism, then drive to Kalimpong. In the evening, visit a Gelugpa monastery, and also visit the Bhutanese monastery and one of the flower nurseries for which Kalimpong is famous.

Overnight at the hotel in Kalimpong.

Day 11: Kalimpong / Bagdogra airport

After breakfast drive to Bagdogra airport for flight to onward destination.