Truly Bhutan

Why Travel Bhutan With Truly Bhutan

9 Days

Bhutan Bird Odysseys

For bird watchers, Bhutan is a dream, with a stunning 770 species found, including many that are globally threatened. The rich diversity of Bhutan’s bird species is mainly due to its moist climate, wide altitude ranging (from 200m in the south to over 7000m in the north), low population density, vast forest cover, and the government’s strict conservation policy.

Although the country is only about 100 miles wide by 200 miles long, it is one of the most beautiful and diverse natural regions anywhere in the world, from peaks of perpetual snow to dense tropical jungles. Above all, it is unbelievably green, and Thick forests, lending even more grandeur to the valleys and rugged hillsides, envelop some 72% of the land.

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Detailed Program

Paro Cultural Tour should always start with a casual browse through the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) of the Rinpung Dzong, where an intriguing collection of artifacts serves as a great introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short stroll below lays the dominating Paro Dzong, a premier example of Bhutanese architecture. From the Dzong, a leisurely walk back into town crosses the scenic Nyamai Zampa, a unique model of the Bhutanese traditional cantilever bridge.

Continue to the town temples, Tshongdu Lhakhang and Drukchholing Lhakhang, with their fascinating altar and paintings. The wall paintings and unique design of Dungtse Lhakhang plus a visit to the revered Kyichu Lhakhang, which pins down the left foot of a treacherous Ogress, are a great finish to this day of cultural immersion.

The National Museum boasts a rich variety of exhibits collected from all over the country and belonging to different eras, some as early as 2000 B.C. A visit through the galleries shows the country’s transition from the later Stone Age to a modern Mahayanist Buddhist kingdom.

Paro Dzong, built to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of a heap of jewels. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.

Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom, dating back to the 7th century when the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries that were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang.

Paro offers several attractive opportunities for shopping and experiencing the local fare. Among them, Cane and Jewels should be the first stop if you are interested in some genuine antiques and the Vajrayana Art Gallery offers an interesting collection of contemporary Bhutanese paintings.

Overnight at a hotel/resort in Paro.

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A 20-minute drive from Thimphu takes you to the starting point for the walk to Cheri Monastery, which is believed to have been visited by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. After crossing a bridge, the main trail to Cheri zigzags upwards to a chorten. Remember to pass the Chorten in the clockwise direction as a sign of respect. Shortly after passing a few buildings, you will see the temple on your left.

Sometimes you might spot goral (wild goat) jumping around the cliffs nearby. Cheri is considered very sacred as it contains the remains of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Zhabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built it in 1620 in memory of his father. Parts were later converted to a nunnery and still today a few nuns live here.

  • Time: Hike to Cheri – 1  – 2 hours round trip (2.7 km return, 330 m climb),
  • Difficulty level – Moderate.

Along this hike to Cheri Monastery we may spot the following birds:

  • Spotted Laughing Thrush
  • Fire Capped Tit
  • Golden Breasted Fulvetta.
  • Yellow Backed Flower Packer
  • Maroon Backed Accentor

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Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area, there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring color.

Birding on the way to PUNAKHA

En route to Punakha – Dochula and Lampari Botanical Park): The pristine forests of hemlock, fir, oak, magnolia, and rhododendrons offer a wealth of birds. Birding is along the highway and on forest trails. A full day en route to Punakha is required for birding in this area.

Along with others highlights could include:

  • Endemic Wards Trogon and Wood Snipe if lucky
  • Fire Capped Tit
  • Fire-tailed Myzornis
  • Rufous woodpecker
  • Striated laughing thrush.
  • Eurasian Jay
  • Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon.

Tashithang area

  • Yellow Vented Warbler
  • Pallas fish eagle
  • White-bellied Heron
  • Kalij pheasant
  • Crested kingfisher
  • Slaty-backed Forktail
  • Spangled Drongo
  • Spotted wren Babbler
  • Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
  • Nepal Fulvetta

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On the way to Trongsa valley, you travel through exquisite, mixed broad-leafed forests, evergreen forests of mixed conifers, rhododendrons, and magnolias, till you reach the Pelela Pass (3400m.), mak6 several stops and do birding. Descending Pelela Pass, you enter the temperate alpine forests and meadows. In this environment amongst others you can chance upon:

  • Great Parrot Bill
  • Spotted laughing thrush
  • Brown Parrot Bill
  • Common Buzzard
  • Accentors
  • Trongsa (2200M)

Bhutan Laughing Thrush (endemic to Bhutan, recently discovered)

  • SpottedForktail
  • Bush chats
  • Bush warblers
  • Crested serpent Eagle

Overnight at a hotel/resort in Trongsa.

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Yotongla Area 3520m

The scenic drive crosses over the 3520m high Yotong la and is studded with Gompas and villages. The habitat at Yotungla Pass consists of Hemlock and Blue Pines with dense impenetrable dwarf bamboo thickets. Aside from:

  • White-winged Grosbeaks
  • White-browed Rose finch
  • Fire-tailed Sunbird
  • White-browed Scimitar Babbler
  • Mrs. Gould Sunbird, Red-tailed and Chestnut-tailed Minlas
  • Ibis bill

Hot breakfast and lunch will be served by the camping crew on the way.

Overnight at a hotel/resort in Bumthang.

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Bumthang experiences.

We will then visit the auspicious Jampa Lhakhang. The monastery is believed to have been built in the year 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro, to subdue a Tibetan demoness. It was here that Guru Rinpoche conducted the first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sindhu Raja, the local ruler, and his family.

The place where Guru Rinpoche sat during the sermon can still be seen. Every year in October, the temple hosts a spectacular festival, the Jampa Lhakhang Drup. Two of the main attractions are the fire dance and the treasure dance or ‘naked dance’, and the fertility blessings for women.

And later we will visit Kurjey Lhakhang. The monastery is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche who was invited to meditate here in 746 AD to subdue evil spirits and demons. There are three temples; the oldest temple was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The body imprint of the great master can be seen distinctly in the rock cave enshrined in the temple.

The first King built the second in 1900 when he was still the Governor of Trongsa. The third temple was built in 1990 with the support of Queen Mother Ashi Kesang. A wall of 108 chortens surrounds the temple grounds and symbolizes Buddha’s victory over the evil spirits. The Cypress tree that is seen near the temple is believed to have grown from the Guru’s walking stick.

After the visit, we will take a short walk to the Kurjey Drupchhu (holy water). During the 8th century Sindhu Raja, the King of Chakhar invited Guru PadhmaSambawa from Yangleyshey in Nepal (meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche) to cure his prolonged illness. The Guru meditated at the present Guru Lhakhang and subdued the Demon of Dragmar Dorji Tsegpa, known as Shelging Karpo, responsible for the sickness of the Raja.

Drupchhu was made available at the end of Guru’s meditation with his spiritual power to celebrate the victory over the Demon and to cure the illness of the King. Therefore it is believed that this water is holy and cures all our sins and illnesses. In the afternoon, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang (temple of the good message) the monastery is located in a village across the river from Kurjey. 

It was built by Pema Lingpa in 1501 and is the most important Nyingma Lhakhang in the Kingdom. Being a skilled tantric master and an artist, Pema Lingpa sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in their original state. He also created a 25 kg suit of chain-mail armor and it is believed that you will be freed from your sins if you carry it around the Lhakhang three times.

OVERNIGHT AT a hotel/resort in Bumthang.

Places and attractions:

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Birding along the way to Paro.

Paro Dzong.

Paro Dzong, built to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of a heap of jewels. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom, dating back to the 7th century when the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries that were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang.

Paro offers several attractive opportunities for shopping and experiencing the local fare. Among them, Cane and Jewels should be the first stop if you are interested in some genuine antiques and the Vajrayana Art Gallery offers an interesting collection of contemporary Bhutanese paintings.

Overnight at the hotel/resort in Paro.

Places and attractions:

Accommodation options:

  • Inclusion
  • Exclusion
  • Insurance
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off by private vehicle.
  • 3-star accommodation (4 & 5 stars may require an additional premium update).
  • Bhutan visa fee – including all necessary processing
  • Route Permit
  • Three meals per day during your stay in Bhutan
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide
  • All land transportation by private vehicle
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Monuments entrance fees where applicable
  • Drinking water
  • All internal taxes and charges
  • A sustainable development fee of $200. (This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, and poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.)
  • Airfare & Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of personal nature, Tips to guides and drivers
  • Expenses occurred due to unavoidable events i.e. road wrecks, flight delays etc.

Package does not include insurance of any kinds, and that you are required to obtain separate coverage from your home country before your trip begins.

Our Host

Bhutan is one of the most unusual and beautiful countries in the world. You’ll find a land that is blessed with abundance, a deep connection to the past, and a unique culture. Truly Bhutan’s Host is second to none. Handpicked, highly experienced, and scrupulously trained, they bring a wealth of skill and knowledge to each trip. They are fun and friendly, whose aim is to ensure that each trip remains an unforgettable experience. Creating colorful, discovery-oriented tours in a combination of safety and comfort is the mission of our guides. All Host have earned the tour guide’s certificate from the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

host

Pelden Dorji | Culture & Trekking Expert

Damchoe Lhendrup

Damchoe Lhendrup | Culture & Trekking Expert

Trek guide

Jigme Dorji | Culture & Trekking Expert

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