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Deep Dive into Bhutanese Culture

 

The seemingly untouched, tiny landlocked ‘Land of Happiness,’ Bhutan, is sleepily nestled between India and China. A kingdom soaked in mythology with heroic stories of battle where deities win over demons and good triumphs over evil. A country closely tied to its religious past which has been a sovereign territory throughout its recorded history.

It is a land where the clear blues of the skies and rivers are a mirror of each other, and the dew in emerald-forested valleys smells of freshly cut grass. Snow-capped mountain peaks and passes overlook dzongs or fortresses and settlements. Numerous monasteries perched on hillsides dot the landscape like bejewelled treasures, with the prayer flags fluttering, prayer wheels spinning, and echoing chants of Om Mani Padme Hum hanging in the air.


Deep Dive into Bhutanese Culture

10 nights/ 11 days Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and Transfer to Haa Valley

Experience the majestic Himalayas on a flight to Bhutan, with stunning views of towering peaks like Everest and Kanchenjunga. Upon landing at Paro International Airport, be greeted by your guide and head to Haa, stopping at Chele-La for panoramic vistas.

Join a traditional cry of ‘lha-geh lu!’ and receive Buddhist Prayer Flags to send wishes for loved ones. Check into your hotel and unwind with Himalayan Herbal Tea. Visit Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo, ancient temples in Haa Valley. Enjoy a serene evening stroll in Haa Town followed by dinner at your hotel.

Overnight stay amidst tranquillity in Haa Valley.

Day 2: Hike at Paronama Hiking Trail, Haa Valley

Embark on an immersive exploration of Haa Valley today. Begin with a short drive to Yangthang Goemba, the starting point for your scenic hike or bike ride along the Haa Panorama Trail, spanning 6.84 miles or 11 km over 5 leisurely hours. The trail, also suitable for mountain biking, offers panoramic views of Upper Haa's major monasteries and the valley below.

Indulge in a hot, authentic lunch at Haa Eco Camp before returning to Haa.

In the evening, experience local hospitality at a farmhouse, savouring Bhutanese Butter Tea "Suja" and participating in archery with your hosts. Taste the renowned "Haap Hoentey" dumplings, offering a glimpse into local life.

Overnight stay at Haa Valley.

Day 3: Immersive day at Thimphu

Head towards Thimphu, the capital city, after a scenic 2-hour drive from Haa, stopping at Bitekha village. Explore Bitekha Primary School, funded by the government, gaining insights into Bhutan's education system and engaging in a private conversation with the school headmaster.

You can bike downhill to Dobji Dzong, making the journey more enjoyable. Continue to Thimphu, crossing the river confluence "Chuzom" and arriving in the smart capital city. Check into your hotel and relax before heading out for a delicious lunch.

In the afternoon, embark on a Thimphu City Orientation Tour. Visit the well-maintained farmers' market, gifted by the government, to understand local food habits and ingredients. Explore Changlingmithang Stadium for archery matches and observe Thimphu's unique manual traffic control by the Royal Bhutan Police. Visit the Bhutan Postal Museum to admire Bhutanese stamps and explore the Authentic Bhutanese Craft Market for insights into the country's arts, crafts, and textiles.

Overnight stay at Thimphu.

Day 4: Explore more of Thimphu

Embark on another day of discovery with a hike or bike ride from Changangkha Lhakhang to Kuenselphodrang Nature Park Trail, winding through pine and birch forests for breathtaking views of Thimphu below, culminating at the towering Buddha Dordenma statue.

Visit the National Memorial Chorten, a tribute to Bhutan's beloved Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Continue to the National Painting School, known for teaching traditional arts and crafts. Enjoy an Authentic Bhutanese lunch at Simply Bhutan, the living museum. In the afternoon, drive to Dodena, crossing the historic wooden bridge to hike to the tranquil Chagri Monastery. Visit the Buddhist College of Astrology and the serene 21 Tara Devi temple.

Conclude with a leisurely stroll through Thimphu's bustling shops and bazaars, soaking in the enchanting atmosphere of this magical capital.

Overnight stay at Thimphu.

Day 5: Transfer to the Valley of the Black Necked Cranes

Enjoy a captivating journey to Phobjikha, pausing at the majestic Dochu La Pass at 3,100 meters above sea level. Savour a steaming cup of coffee at the pass's cafeteria, gazing upon the awe-inspiring panorama of the Himalayan ranges, with clear skies revealing the lofty peaks to the northeast. Marvel at the 108 stupas gracing the pass against the backdrop of the azure sky.

Upon arrival in Phobjikha Valley, seek blessings at Gangtey Monastery, the sole Nyingma monastery in the western region, admiring its unique craftsmanship. Engage in prayers with monks or delve into Buddhist teachings with knowledgeable instructors.

Embark on the enchanting Gangtey Nature Trail Hike, a scenic trek through pine forests and bamboo groves, lasting about 2 hours and offering glimpses of the endangered Black Neck Cranes during winter. Conclude the day with a visit to the Black-Necked Crane Information Center, delving deeper into the mystique of these majestic birds.

Finally, unwind in the tranquil ambience of Phobjikha Valley with a traditional hot stone bath, immersing yourself in its serene beauty.

Overnight stay at Phobjhika.

Day 6: Road Trip to Bumthang Valley

Embark on an exhilarating journey to the heart of Bhutan, Bumthang Valley. Enjoy a scenic 4-hour drive across Pele-la Pass, catching glimpses of remote yak herder camps and grazing yaks as you descend to Chendebji village. Pause to admire the Chendebji Chorten, believed to mark the meeting point of three ridges and the sky's edges.

Trongsa, Bhutan's geographical center and royal nexus, beckons with a full tour of its historic Dzong, home to 450 district monks. Explore the Royal Heritage Museum housed in the former watchtower. Journey onward through picturesque landscapes, stopping at Zhungney to visit the Yathra Weaving Center, where Bhutan's famous Yatra garments are crafted.

Upon arrival in Bumthang Valley, check into your hotel before indulging in local delights. Explore the Bumthang Cheese Factory, renowned for its Swiss-inspired techniques, and visit the nearby farm. Discover the Red Panda Brewery, producing acclaimed Red Panda Beer using indigenous ingredients. Experience the valley's unique charm and culinary delights.

Overnight stay at Bumthang.

Day 7: Discover the Heart of Bhutan, Bumthang Valley and Excursion to Ura Valley

Begin your odyssey by traversing the enchanting landscapes of Chumey, Choekhor, Tang, and Ura valleys, each adorned with ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries dating back centuries. Delve into the spiritual tapestry of Tamshing Lhakhang Temple, a UNESCO Heritage Site, resonating with the sacred legacy of Pema Lingpa, adorned with mesmerizing Buddhist murals.

Continue your sojourn to Wangdichhoeling Palace, steeped in regal history as the abode of Bhutan's 2nd King, and behold the auspicious prayer wheels nearby. Ascend the valley to Kurje Lhakhang, a sanctum revered as the meditation site of Guru Rinpoche, exuding tranquility and spiritual resonance.

Head out for an expedition to Ura Valley, a picturesque haven cocooned amidst emerald meadows and lush foliage, offering breathtaking vistas of Mt. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan's majestic pinnacle. Immerse yourself in the pastoral rhythms of sheep-raising, yak herding, and potato farming, embracing the rustic charm of village life.

As the sun sets, traverse the hallowed grounds of "Mebar Tsho," the fabled Burning Lake, where Terton Pema Lingpa unearthed ancient treasures concealed by Padmasambhava, weaving a tapestry of myth and mystique that echoes through the ages.

Overnight stay at Bumthang.

Day 8: Discover the best of Punakha

Set course to a leisurely journey back to Punakha, pausing for a delightful lunch amidst the serene vistas of Tshangkha. Traverse winding mountain roads until you reach your hotel, where you can unwind and rejuvenate from the day's travels.

Later, immerse yourself in the timeless allure of Punakha Dzong, a marvel of Bhutanese architecture nestled between the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Explore its intricate carvings and storied halls, steeped in history and resilience against Tibetan invasions. Discover the sacred relic, "Rangjung Karsa-pani," housed within its walls. Pay homage at the Khuruthang Stupa, a local hub of devotion, and engage with a Tshampa, a devoted practitioner of tantric spirituality, to glean insights into compassion and mindfulness through shared meditation.

Overnight stay at Punakha.

Day 9: Explore the picturesque Paro 

Set out for a scenic journey to Paro, pausing at the quaint Tachog Lhakhang Temple to traverse its traditional Bhutanese cantilever bridge over the Paro River, a charming glimpse into local craftsmanship.

Upon reaching Paro, savor a delightful lunch in town before immersing yourself in the cultural tapestry of Bhutan at the National Museum, perched atop a hill, showcasing the country's artistic heritage. Below lies the majestic Paro Rinpung Dzong, a fortress steeped in history, offering refuge during turbulent times.

Check into your hotel and unwind before indulging in an evening stroll through Paro's enchanting streets. For a taste of local flavors, explore Namgay Artisanal Brewery, renowned for crafting premium beers using indigenous ingredients, adding a flavorful touch to your Paro experience.

Overnight stay at Paro.

Day 10:  Hike to the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable climax to your Bhutanese adventure with a hearty breakfast, gearing up for the exhilarating hike to the legendary Tiger's Nest Monastery. Traverse through pristine landscapes, ascending to this sacred sanctuary perched dramatically on a cliff, offering panoramic vistas of Paro valley from 3,120 meters above sea level.

Marvel at the awe-inspiring architecture and soak in the spiritual ambiance of this revered pilgrimage site. Recharge at the Taktshang Cafeteria during your descent, refueling amidst breathtaking surroundings.

Continue your exploration with a visit to the ancient Kichu Temple, a testament to Bhutan's rich cultural heritage dating back to the 7th century. Navigate diverse forest trails on your journey, culminating in a rewarding glimpse of this historic sanctuary.

After the demanding hike, indulge in the therapeutic relaxation of a hot stone bath at Paro Eco Farm House, a rejuvenating experience to soothe tired muscles (advance booking required). For a touch of Bhutanese tradition, partake in archery, immersing yourself in the country's vibrant sporting culture.

Overnight stay at Paro.

Day 11: Departure

Start your day with a nourishing breakfast at your hotel, preparing you for the journey ahead. As the sun rises, our team will accompany you to Paro International Airport, marking the end of your Bhutanese sojourn.

With gratitude in your heart, bid farewell to the guardian mountains of the Dragon Kingdom, carrying with you cherished memories of this enchanting land.

What Travellers say

OFBT Team Pic (1)
OFBT Team Pic (1)
Mark Hueg

I did a 6-day/5 nights-tour to Bhutan with Offbeat Tracks and I must admit, I could not have been a happier customer.I ended up deciding for the trip quite late, but Offbeat Tracks helped me arrange everything tailored to my liking. Even managing the Visa and SDF fee process for me with short notice.Sudha drafted an itinerary with a few options and called me shortly thereafter to discuss and make sure everything was to my liking, and we amended a few items in the plan.My tour was absolutely amazing, Bhutan is a wonderful wonderful country that I would recommend anyone and everyone to go to 😊🙏Also a big big thanks to my excellent tourguide Mr. Kencho and driver Mr. Chundu for the entire trip, making my experience truly unforgettable and showing me a lot of the local life and the authentic Bhutan.

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Bandana M

This is a thank you note for our travel Organiser Ms Vandana Owner of The Off beat Track and Green Travel, we (my-self and my group of friends) was literally after Vandana to arrange our trip to visit BHUTAN, and it was organized in a very detailed and was tailored for us.The Itinerary was perfect but the people who implemented it were even better. The manager, the representatives, the drivers and the guides were all professionals and worthy of saying thanks for a well done job.

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