30 September 2016
Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is a Himalayan kingdom with a reputation for mystery and magic, with a traditional Buddhist culture. It is one of the most beautiful and unique countries on the planet where the over used term Shangri-La really does apply. The size of Switzerland and with a population of only 700,000 people, Bhutan sits below the huge mountains of the Great Himalayan Range, nestled between Tibet and India and most of the land is still covered by dense and diverse forests. And on this superb nine day tour, which begins and ends in Calcutta, you will get to see all the highlights.
Your adventure begins when you arrive at Kolkata and are met by one of our tour representatives who will help with your check-in at the hotel. Then spend the rest of the day at leisure. The city of Calcutta, now called Kolkata, was established by the British in 1690 and was the capital until 1911. Today it is the proud intellectual capital of India, with a rich contemporary cultural life. The city retains some of India’s most striking colonial buildings, and is also home to the country’s first underground railway.
After breakfast take a tour of the city visiting the Jain temple richly decorated with mirrors and Venetian glass mosaics, the Kali temple, and the white marble Victoria Memorial designed in Italian Renaissance-Mughal style. Planned by Viceroy Curzon and referred to both as Curzon’s Folly and the British Taj Mahal it is a museum housing Imperial memorabilia. Drive past the Howrah Bridge, one of the largest cantilever bridges in the world, the Dalhousie Square, Fort Williams, and the Old Court House Street. Also visit the 16 hectare Zoological gardens. Evening is at leisure.
This morning you will be met and taken to Kolkata airport for your flight to Paro. On a clear day the flight is breathtaking, with views of major Himalayan peaks including Everest, and on the final approach Bhutan’s own snowy peaks. On arrival at Paro airport you will be met by your guide and driven to Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan and an exciting blend of the traditional and modern. After checking in to your hotel the afternoon is free or you could take an organised tour. In the evening drive to Kuensel Phodrang, (Buddha Point) for a great view of the town.
Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects. Your full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley includes visits to the National Memorial Chorten, Folk Heritage Museums, Handicrafts Emporium, National Library, Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the Painting School and Tashichho Dzong. In the evening take a stroll along the town’s main street.
After an early breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass stopping to take in the view and admire the chortens, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. Here the high Himalayan peaks will be revealed in all their glory. Then travel to the low-lying sub tropical valley at Punakha, still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). In the afternoon, hike to the nearby Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the Divine Madman, an eccentric monk from the 16th century famous for many his many amusing folklore stories. In the evening stroll through the town.
This morning, set off for Paro stopping on the way to visit Semtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”, which stands on a hill a few miles out of town. Then drive towards the north end of the valley to see the Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum with a collection that includes ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins and stamps. Then walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. Tonight visit a traditional farmhouse for the chanhce to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle.
Today there's an excursion to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but has now been fully restored to its former glory. After lunch visit Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where warriors fought off Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari, “mountain goddess” can be seen from the approach road. Later visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. In the evening, walk along the main street and shop for handicrafts.
Get up early today and take in the wonderful views before you are picked up at your hotel and driven to the airport to catch your short flight back to Kolkata. On arrival at Kolkata airport you will be met by a tour representative and taken to your hotel in the city for check-in. Spend the rest of the day at leisure and see more of the sights in this great Indian city which is steeped in history.
Today your wonderful tour of beautiful Bhutan comes to an end. Possibly time for some more sightseeing or last minute souvenir shopping before you are picked up from your hotel and taken to the airport to catch an onward flight or begin your journey home. This tour makes a great add on to any longer holiday in India and is a great opportunity to explore one of the world's truly remote and mystical countries.
Standard fr £1986pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated