Spirit and Soul of Bhutan

11 days

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If happiness can be embodied by a place, it may be Bhutan, where joy rules above all else. The kingdom is home to soaring Himalayan peaks, deep sapphire alpine lakes, breathtaking mountain passes and ancient monasteries decorated by a thousand prayer flags fluttering in the wind. This journey invokes a sense of true adventure. Delve into the Buddhist way of life with personal interactions with monks and nuns, shop owners and farmers, discovering the unique culture and tradition of these beautiful people. The ancient empire of Bhutan and its infectious happiness transform you, capturing your heart and your soul.

Highlights

  • Hike to the legendary Tiger’s Nest Monastery
  • Gain insight into the Buddhist way of life through historic temple explorations
  • Try your hand at Bhutanese cooking in a class by a scenic river
  • Relax with meditation, holistic therapies, spiritual exploration and yoga
  • Participate in a Buddhist prayer ceremony and a blessing from a respected monk
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Itinerary

DAY 1

Arrive Paro – Traditional lunch and Takins in Thimpu

Welcome to Bhutan, a land of mysterious wonders. After clearing customs at Paro, your guide will transfer you to the capital city of Thimpu, nestled amongst rice paddies and rolling hills. Indulge in a traditional Bhutanese lunch. In the afternoon visit Thimpu’s Motithang Takin Preserve, home to Bhutan’s national animal, the takin, a strange wooly creature resembling a moose. Rest your head this evening at the Taj Tashi in Thimpu, with oriental-inspired design and incredible views across the Wang Chu River.

DAY 2

Thimpu – City Explorations

Today begins your cultural exploration of Thimpu, and Bhutan as a whole. Accompanied by your guide, stretch your legs on a gentle hike to the Cheri Goemba monastery, built to house the body of Bhutan’s first monk. Explore the Folk Heritage Museum for a glimpse into rural life through art, culture and relics. At a paper factory, witness the art of Deh-Sho papermaking using local tree bark. Buddhist monks use Dhe-Sho to write prayers and for woodblock printing. Your day culminates at Buddha Point; where an enormous Buddha statue houses 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha inside. This lovely sight is illuminated at nightfall.

DAY 3

Punakha – Scenic Dochula Pass and a Pilgrimage Site with Prayer Flags

Camera at the ready today, as you embark on the most beautiful drive in Bhutan across the Dochula Pass with stunning 360-degree views of the Himalayas. Visit the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens, built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and liberate the souls of those who died. Continue to the Chimi Lhakhang, a pilgrimage site flanked by hundreds of prayer flags overlooking a picturesque plateau. Your professional guide provides insight into legends and tales throughout the day. The next two nights will be spent at the Six Senses Hotel Punakha featuring meditation huts, yoga, and stunning views.

DAY 4

Punakha – Hiking, Buddhist Temples and a Nunnery

As a new day dawns, have your hiking shoes at the ready for a guided 1-hour stroll to the Khamsum Yuelle Namgyel Chorten, dedicated to the prosperity of the Kingdom of Bhutan, its people and wildlife. For the remainder of your day, take in magnificent architecture and temples and visit a nunnery. Connect with the women as they explain meditation, Buddhist teachings, tailoring, statue making and thangka painting.

DAY 5

Bumthang – Breathtaking Drives and Cultural Monuments

Your day begins with a drive across picturesque alpine forests and mountain ranges, village hamlets and two breathtakingly high passes. Visit the Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive fortress in Bhutan situated on a cliff and then Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of the country. Hear the folkloric origins of Jambay Lhakhang, involving demons and spirituality. Arrive for a delicious dinner at your accommodation for the next two nights, the Aman Kora. Surrounded by forests and orchids, enjoy the sublime remote stillness and immerse yourself in herbal healings, hot stone baths, yoga and guided meditations.

DAY 6

Bumthang – A Holistic Morning, An Afternoon Hike and Cooking Class

A traditional Bhutanese ritual is to wake to a cup of hot ngaja, a sweet Bhutanese milk tea, best enjoyed in bed. Savor a morning at leisure to relish in yoga, meditation or holistic treatments at the lodge. After lunch, explore Mebartsho on foot, a river and lake surrounded by greenery. Continue to Janzhong Village, and onto the Tang Rimochen Lhakhhang a sacred temple, backed by cliffs. Cross the footbridge and climb uphill to the Ugencholing Manor, dating to the 16th century. This evening, take part in a hands-on Bhutanese cooking lesson by the Mo Chhu River, learning of traditional ingredients and preparing an amazing meal for dinner.

DAY 7

Gangtey – Nature Hike and Black Necked Crane Sightings

Savor breakfast, then depart on a scenic drive to Gangtey, dotted with temples and farmers wearing traditional woven bamboo hats. Stride through flower meadows, forests and open valley, on a hike which ends at a local community temple. Grab a telescope at the Black-necked crane information center to spot these treasured birds in their natural habitat. Spend two nights at the Gangtey Lodge; a remote oasis of cozy fireplaces, bathtubs overlooking the valley, and delicious traditional meals.

DAY 8

Gangtey – Monk Blessing, Monastery Breakfast and Evening Prayer Ceremony

This morning, visit the Gangtey Goempa (monastery) for a prayer ceremony to light butter candles and receive a personal blessing from a respected monk. Breakfast will be enjoyed within the monastery, followed by an exploration of the complex. This afternoon choose from a range of activities at the lodge from archery to meditation, mountain biking and holistic spa treatments. This evening, walk to a Buddhist school for students 12-40 years old. Participate in an optional meditation class before the evening prayer known as the Tara Ceremony. After the ceremony, sit with a monk to discuss any topics you desire. After an evening of reflection, enjoy a well-deserved rest back at your lodge.

DAY 9

Paro – Scenic Drive, Ta Dzong Museum, Rinpung Dzong Fortress

Today is packed with gorgeous scenic roads and passes, fortresses and historic artifacts. First, stop at Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower and now the national museum. Peruse an extensive collection for antique Thangkha paintings, traditional textiles, weapons, and household objects. Next, investigate the Rinpung Dzong (Fortress of Heaped Jewels) and its fascinating history. Fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore adorn the wooden galleries of the inner courtyard. Enjoy two nights at the Como Uma Paro, a haven of organic food, holistic wellness and fresh mountain air.

DAY 10

Paro – The Tiger’s Nest Hike

Today is the day you’ve been anticipating and the iconic Taktshang Pelphung Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) awaits. Located on the face of a sheer cliff, this is Bhutan’s most famous and most venerated monastery. A steep one-hour hike uphill brings you to a scenic lookout point to enjoy a cup of tea. A further 45- minutes brings you to the viewpoint where you’ll take that incredible photograph of the monastery. A trail leads you beside the mountain face an up a flight of steps to the monastery itself. As you explore the shrines and temples, witness monks in residence. Enjoy lunch at the café here, before you descend. Revel in your final evening in Bhutan over a decadent meal from the organic kitchen followed by a visit to the onsite hot stone bathhouse to soak away any sore muscles from today’s hike.

DAY 11

Departure Day

Today you’ll transfer to the airport for your international flight home. Bhutan’s infectious happiness will capture your heart, and a true sense of spirituality intertwined with stunning scenery will forever remain a part of your soul.