Jacada – Trip to cultural Bhutan

  • Thimphu city
  • Punakha
  • Paro Main Street
  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
  • Flags at Tigers Nest
  • Festival at Shelmaka Village
  • Drukgyel Dzong fortress
  • Buddha Hill
  • Tigers Nest at Paro

Experience the local, authentic culture of Bhutan on this fascinating 9-day trip of hidden villages, festivals, temples and scenery. Jacada Travel create fully personalized trips from start to finish. From locations to accommodation and guides, everything is selected to suit you.

Thimphu city

From expert private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your time off. We give back to two regional charities in Indian subcontinent from the profits of each one of our trips. Use our trip ideas to inspire your bespoke experience

Discover authentic Bhutan with our expert guides on this exclusive eight night trip. Enjoy colourful festivals, meet locals and visit hushed-up villages far removed from western life.

Beginning in the capital, Thimphu, you’ll have plenty of cultural encounters on our privately guided tours. Visit ancient dzongs, temples and museums and take part in a local village festival to experience the alluring way of Bhutanese life.

Then, venture further into the country with a stay in Punakha and stunning hikes to find hidden villages, farmhouses and monasteries set in pastoral scenes. The idyllic walks continue into Paro Valley where you’ll spend your last three days. Meet a Bhutanese author and marvel at striking temples, before ending on a high with a hike up to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest.

TRIP ITINERARY

DAYS 1-4: THIMPHU – Three days enjoying Thimphu

Spend your time in Bhutan‘s capital exploring the market, Taschichho Dzong and small, chock-a-block shops. A wander around this relaxed and friendly city gives a look at a more urban side of Bhutan which accompanies a wide display of traditional art, architecture and Buddhist sights steeped in ritual. A visit to the Arts and Crafts School, the Textile Museum and the Traditional Medicine Hospital are recommended. Your Travel Designer can help you to plan your stay here according to your interests.

Half Day Tour of National Museum and Rinpung Dzong

On your way to Thimphu from Paro, you’ll visit the National Museum. The museum houses over 3000 pieces of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. It has a formidable collection of antiques from Buddhist temples, and artefacts once used by both the nobility and common folk. Highlights include masks, armour, paintings, prehistoric items and natural history exhibits. A short drive from the museum takes you to the Rinpung Dzong, a large Buddhist monastery and fortress that’s regarded as one of Bhutan‘s most impressive and well-known dzongs – and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. From the 17th to the late 19th century, dzongs served as defending fortresses and were built with strong walls, false doors, reservoirs for water and food and hidden armouries. Dzongs were also headquarters for the religious and the political administrations. Once you’ve seen inside the Rinpung Dzong, enjoy the short walk across a wooden cantilever bridge on the dzong grounds.

Full Day Tour of Buddha Hill, Textile and Folk Heritage Museum and Cheri Temple

Buddha Hill

You’ll begin the day with a sightseeing tour of Buddha Hill. Your driver will collect you from your hotel and drive you to the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park where you’ll be greeted by the massive statue of the Buddha Dordenma – one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world – sitting atop a hill overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. Measuring 51.5 meters, the statue takes the form of Shakyamuni and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold with 125,000 smaller Buddha statues placed inside it. The statue is a recent construction that was built to commemorate the centennial of the Bhutanese monarchy and to fulfil two Buddhist prophecies, one ancient and one modern.

Next, you’ll be brought to the Textile and Folk Heritage Museum for a glimpse into traditional Bhutanese life. This restored three-storey building has been constructed using rammed-earth and timber to replicate a traditional farmhouse and inside it’s furnished as it would have been 100 years ago. Both the house design and its furnishings reflect many aspects of both past and present rural Bhutanese life today. After a guided museum tour you’ll stop for a refreshing lunch.

After lunch, you’ll be brought on a guided hike to the Chagri Dorjeden Monastery, also known as the Cheri Temple. The temple is found at the northern end of the Thimphu Valley, roughly an hour’s walk up a steep hill. This Buddhist monastery was established in 1620 A.D. by the founder of the Butanese state Ngawang Namgyal and is now a major teaching and retreat center.

Festival at Shelmaka Village

Festival at Shelmaka Village

Today you will enjoy the merriment of the festival at Shelmaka Village. As we reach Shelmakha, the village headman will welcome you as one of the village’s chief guests. You’ll be entertained with a series of masked dances and folk performances enacted by the village youth. The festival of Shelmakha is an important event for the local people where they can meet one another and introduce newer members of the family. For younger people, it’s an opportunity for romance and to plan marriages. After a picnic lunch, we will visit some farm houses to discover the local life of the hamlet. We then drive back to Thimphu where the rest of the evening will be spent exploring the Capital City.

DAYS 4-6: PUNAKHA – Two days exploring Punakha

Punakha

Capital of Bhutan and seat of the government until 1955, the little town of Punakha still enjoys a serene and regal ambience left over from its stately days. Found in a fertile valley at a relatively low 12,000 metres above sea level, visitors come here for warm, sultry days filled with plenty of activities such as mountain biking, trekking and river rafting. Then step into the area’s history with a visit to the town’s show-stopping Punakha Dzong. Hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and Talo village and Nalanda Monastery.

Hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and Talo village and Nalanda Monastery visit

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Today, you will begin with a hike up through fields along the banks of the Mo Chhu River to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the one of the Fourth King’s Queens with spectacular views down the valley. Following the hike you will drive back up the valley towards Khuruthang passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the Royal family. After lunch, continue towards Talo village to experience the beautiful hamlet there. Finally, visit Nalanda Temple for a chat with the monks there.

DAYS 6-9: PARO – Three days exploring Paro

Tigers Nest at Paro

The pretty valley of Paro is one of the kingdom’s widest and is covered in fertile rice fields crisscrossed by a beautiful meandering river. While Bhutan is famous for its splendid monuments and monasteries, perhaps the most impressive can be found here. You’ll encounter the “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery, medieval style-bridges, imposing dzongs and a town filled with traditional architecture.

The main street of the town was only built in 1985 but it’s lined with cheerfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants in a classic Bhutanese style. Facing up the mountain, you’ll be awed by the 8th-century Taktsang or “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery, perched high on the sheer cliff face. Just outside of the town, lie both the dominating Paro Dzong – a prime example of Bhutanese architecture, and the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang which was one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country.

Upper Tsento Hike with Kyichu Temples Visit

Drukgyel Dzong fortress

Today, you’ll be brought on a lively hike to the Upper Tsento region, lasting for approximately 2 to 3 hours before being driven back to your hotel in a private vehicle via the ruins of the Drugyal Dzong fortress and monastery.

After lunch, you’ll be brought to visit the Kyichu Temples. This two-temple complex consists of the Jowo Temple and the Guru Temple. The Jowo Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsan Gampo. The Guru Temple was built in 1971 by Kesang Choden Wangchuck, the queen of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

After your visit to the Kyichu temples, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a Bhutanese author before returning to your hotel for dinner.

Full day tour with hike to Tiger’s Nest and a hot stone bath

Flags at Tigers Nest

Today you’ll experience Bhutan’s most valued attractions and one of the main reasons people come to Bhutan, the famous Taktshang monastery or “Tiger’s Nest”. This spectacular temple clings to a 1,000 foot high cliff and was built in 1692 by a prominent historical figure named Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. We hike for about three hours to reach the Tiger’s Nest, climbing steeply uphill from the valley floor with a break at a tea house along the way. The Tiger’s Nest is one of the most sacred sites for the Buddhists. It’s said that in the 8th century, Guru Padma meditated here for three months. Guru Padma, also known as the 2nd Buddha, first initiated Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong and built this temple as a result. For Buddhists, the story of the temple is an important lesson about taming the inherent forces of Anger, Ignorance and Greed.

We then hike for approximately two hours back downhill. On your return, treat your weary limbs to an indulgent soak in a hot stone bath.

Traditional Hot Stone Bath

Paro Main Street

In the evening, explore Paro town on foot. Visit a farmhouse to soak in a herbal hot-stone bath which is known to be therapeutic and helps ailments related to joints and muscle aches, besides simply soothing your mind and body and going perfectly with the locally brewed Red Panda Beer.

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This trip is just an example of the amazing vacations our experts could plan for you. Speak to one of the team today to start creating your private, bespoke trip. Start planning your tailored trip today by checking www.jacadatravel.com and enquiring online at enquiries@jacadatravel.com

Remember, this trip is just an example of what we can organize for you. Call our experts to start planning your fully-tailored trip.

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more then fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on www.asianitinerary.com

View all articles by Thomas Gennaro