This adventurous journey takes us through the Himalayan cultures of Sikkim India, Bhutan and Tibet. After a relaxing adjustment in beautiful Darjeeling, we will experience the colorful and sacred tsechus (festivals) of Bhutan.
Day 1 Hindu Temple Calcutta
Arrival in Calcutta. Tranfer to hotel.
Day 2 Hindu Temple Gangtok
Transfer to airport for flt to Bagdogra. On arrival drive to Gangtok (4hrs) packed lunch for picnic enroute. An interesting drive where you can stop for momos (steamed dumplings) and beer at almost every shack along the wild and turbulent Teesta. There are rafting camps at Chitrey; beer factory at Malli. On a clear day one can see the Kanchandzonga and the rest of the eastern Himalayan range.
Day 3 Hindu Temple Gangtok
Morning sight seeing includes: Enchey Monastery, Government Institute of Cottage Industries, Research Institute of Tibetology, Do-drul Chorten and the Rumtke Monastery. Afternoon drive to Rumtek – About 45 minutes drive from Gangtok, 24 kms. away, is the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center, the seat of the Kagyu order, one of the 4 major Tibetan Buddhist sects. Since the late 1960’s, after the arrival of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, the center houses some of the world’s most unique religious scriptures and religious art objects. Traditional in design, it is almost a replica of the original Kagyu headquarters in Tibet. Rumtek monastery, a must for every visitor, where one can find some of the worlds most unique art objects , this place is the seat of the Kagyu order — a close replica of the original Kagyu in Tibet.. About 2 kms. away from Dharma Chakra Center is the rebuilt 300 year old Rumtek monastery which was originally built by the fourth Chogyal. His Holiness late Gyalwa Karmapa lived in this monastery till the completion of the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center.
Day 4 Hindu Temple Gangtok
Early morning drive to Pemayangtse ( 6-7 hrs). Pemayangtse is situated in West Sikkim at Gyalshing (140 Kms. from Gangtok) and commands an impressive view of Mt. Kanchendzonga. It was originally a small Lhekhang build by Lhatsun Chenpo in the 17th century. Later during the rule of the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal, Lhatsun Chenpo’s third reincarnate jigme Pawo extended it and rebuild the structure. This monastery belongs to the Nyigma order and all other Nyigma order monasteries in Sikkim are subordinate to it. The monks of Pemayangtse are usually from the leading Bhutia families in Sikkim. There are 108 monks in this monastery. The monastery houses numerous religious idols and other objects of worship, most of which are precious because of their antiquity. On the top floor of the monastery there is a wooden sculpture depicting the Maha Gurus Heavenly Palace “Sanghthokpalri”. This master piece was completed by the late Dungzin Rimpoche, who took five years to craft it single handed.
Day 5 Hindu Temple Darjeeling
Morning visit the Pemayangtse Momastery. Afterwards, drive to Darjeeling. It is a stunning drive through forests of oak, pine and orchids with the rapturous beauty of the Kangchendzonga range in the background, this queen of the hills, ‘Dorje Ling’-Place of the thunderbolt- now called ‘Darjeeling’ still rules with its little villages, tiny waterfalls and even tinier toy train track. The tranquil environs of the surrounding hills is a perfect setting for the tea estates and monasteries. Afternoon visit the monastery at Ghoom, Aloobari Monastery (30 mins walk from town). Stroll the town or hike to nearby peaks.
Day 6 Hindu Temple Hindu Temple Darjeeling-Phuntsholing (Bhutanese border)
Sunrise visit to Tiger Hill; afterwards drive to Phuntsholing. Overnight in Phuntsholing.
Day 7 Hindu Temple Paro
Our Bhutanese driver will bring us to Paro (4-5 hrs). It is an interesting drive through forests of blue pine, oak, cypress and rhododendron. The mountain slopes offer stunning views of plains, jungles and tea plantations. The deeper recesses of the forest are dotted with cascading waterfalls and along the river there are terraced fields with beautifully designed Bhutanese farm houses. Arrive in Paro (7478′) afternoon.
Day 8 Hindu Temple Paro
Attend the festival* (9:30 am-2pm). After lunch, we visit the museum which is housed in an ancient watch -tower overlooking Paro Valley. The museum displays an excellent collection of Thangkhas. Evening free to explore town.
Day 9 Hindu Temple Paro-Punaka
Very early morning rise to view the unfurling of the throngdrel ( 3-6:30am). [A thongdrel is like a giant thangkha.] Most dzongs have one of their own which they exhibit only once a year or once in three years. Viewing it i ssupposed to help accumulate great merit as well as liberate the viewer from the world of samsara – which is what Thondrel means. The thongdrel is unfurled before dawn and at the first rays of sun shine it is packed away. Afterwards, some dances and prayers. Return to hotel for breakfast.
Afterwards, drive to Punakha , (4100′, (4.5 hrs). En route we cross Dochula Pass where on a clear day we can see magnificent views of the Himalayas. Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and is also presently the winter residence for the Central Monastic Body. Punakha Dzong is located in the middle of the river. Afternoon sightseeingin Punakha includes a visit the Chimi Lhakhang where many women go to pray for progeny and also visit a small nearby village. May also visit Wangdiphodrang village which is close by. Hotel Meri Phuensum or Dragon Nest Resort by the Puna Tsangchu River.
Day 10 Hindu Temple Punaka-Bumthang
Morning, a pleasant though long 8 hour drive takes us to Bumthang, often referred to as the cultural heartland of Bhutan. We pass Chume village which is known for its yathra weaving and is delightfully woven embroidered cloth.
Day 11 Hindu Temple Bumthang
Places to visit in Bumthang include Mebartso (the burning lake where the treasure revealer Pema Lingpa discovered Buddhist treasures), Tamshing Monastery – one of the most sacred Nyingmapa monasteries, Kurjey Lhakhang – built on the site of Guru Rimpoche? meditation site, Jambay Lhakhang, etc. Optional short day hike can also be scheduled. Late afternoon drive to Trongsa (2 hrs) En route a picnic of snacks and tea at the site of Chendibji Stupa built in the Nepalese style. Trongsa is the ancestral home of the Bhutanese Royal Family and the dzong is a magnificent example of Bhutanese architecture.
Day 12 Hindu Temple Bumthang-Thimphu
Morning drive to Thimpu.
Day 13 Hindu Temple Thimphu
Thimphu is an enchanting blend of the old and new. Full day tour. Evening free to explore the town, which boasts of many handicrafts shops. Also stroll the bbustling weekend market.
The following places will be visited during our time in Thimphu:
Tashicho Dzong Dzongs are traditionally built without nails or written plans. The dzong houses the monk body in summer and is the seat of government, the king’s offices are in this dzong. There is a picturesque cantilever bridge below the dzong.
Memorial Chorten Tibetan style Chorten built in memory of the third king -father of modern Bhutan. Throughout the day people come to walk around the Chorten in prayer and worship.
National Library Houses ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts in a huge traditional building. Each floor has an altar with statue of Bhutan’s most important historical /religious figures. People sometimes go around the building in prayer because the building houses many holy books.
School of Arts and Crafts Traditionally there are 13 arts and crafts in Bhutan. The students sell the works in a shop nearby to supplement their income. The 13 arts and crafts are painting, carpentry, carving, sculpture, casting, blacksmith, bamboo works, gold smithing & silver smithing, weaving, embroidery, masonry, leather works and paper works. Guests can visit the school to see the students master the crafts.
National Institute of Traditional Medicine Diagnosis of diseases is done mainly by feeling the pulse. Bhutan has a rich array of herbs which are used for the treatment of diseases. The traditional system of medicine is incorporated into the National Health System.
Weekend Market The bustling week end market where all Bhutanese buy their groceries etc. also houses a handicraft section–opens on Friday evening and is in full swing on Saturday.
Day 14 Hindu Temple Drive to Paro
Hike to Taktsang Monastery, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the Himalayan kingdom. Also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, it is perched on a rock face and is revered by Bhutanese as Guru Padmasambhava (who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan) is said to have flown on the back of a tiger to the site to meditate. The climb to Taktsang takes about two hours. Every Bhutanese inspires to make at least one pilgrimage here in his life time. The well-maintained path passes through blue pines, oaks and rhododendrons. From a number of places during the climb you can get glimpses of the monastery clinging to the cliff with no visable approach. Near a cluster of prayer flags, to the right of the path, is Taktsang Cafe which offers a magnificent view of the 3000 feet high cliff supporting the monastery. Before the final approach, a bend in the road goes down to a small bridge. A few paces ahead is a hermit’s hut carved inside a rock. From here, a short but steep climb takes us to the door of Taktsang. Near the entrance is the cave in which the well-known Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three months in the 18th centuy and converted the people to Buddhism.
Day 15 Gompa Paro-Kathmandu
Morning flight to Kathmandu. Remain at airport for flt home.