Bhutanese Architectural Tour
The distinctive architectural tradition of Bhutan blending in complete harmony with the natural surroundings and expressive of the kingdom's unique cultural identity is evident in the structures of the village houses, the temples, the stupas, bridges and dzongs. Timber, stone, clay and bricks are the main construction materials of traditional buildings.
A typical Bhutanese village house is usually a 3-storyed structure with space for livestock on the ground floor; grain store in the middle floor, as well as living quarters and altar room (Choesham) on the top floor. Another storage space is normally kept between the top floor and the roof for drying meat and vegetables. The cornices, windows and doors of the house are painted with motifs of flowers and animals as decorations.
The dzongs, the fortress castles dominating the landscape in every valley, are truly resplendent examples of Bhutanese native architectural genius. The dzongs are built in similar architectural pattern faithfully adhered to through the centuries. No formal drawings are made and it is an amazing fact that no nails are used in constructing these gigantic buildings. The sheer size of the towering buildings sitting atop commanding hilltops with their massive tapering walls enclosing flag stone courtyards with flowering gardens and ornate galleries can overwhelm event the most jaded sensibilities. In the midst of such magnificent surroundings rise the central tower called the "Utse" housing the temples. Besides, the dzongs also contain large monasteries and are the administrative centers of their regions. Standing sentinel over the dzong buildings, smaller fortresses called "Ta Dzongs", meaning WatchTowers are built on a higher promontory, meant to guard against invading forces.
Day 1: Arrive Paro Airport and be received by your tour representative. Transfer to Hotel. Lunch at hotel and after some relaxing time, you will visit the beautiful Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and is abutted by two guardhouses, to the dzong. Today, the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, offers superb woodwork and is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The Dzong was built in 1645 A .D. Visit a few village construction sites and talk to the local builders. Enjoy hearty Bhutanese dinner at a local restaurant in quaint Paro town. Overnight at your hotel, a wonderful cluster of individual Bhutanese cottages.
Day 2: Breakfast at the Hotel and a drive to Taktsang Monastery to view an architectural wonder Taktsang means "Tiger's Nest" and this spectacular building is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of 3,000 ft. It is said that in the second half of the 8ty century, Guru Padma Sambhava, the second Buddha, alighted here upon the back of a tigress. Enjoy picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. Round trip is about 4 hours. After departing Tiger's Nest we drive to Drugyal Dzong, a fortress in ruins. The Dzong although in ruins, holds great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means the victorious Bhutanese. This spot offers a magnificent vista of Mount Chomolhari, "Mountain of Goddess". In the evening we depart Paro and drive to Thimphu, capitol of Bhutan. Overnight and dinner at a unique and intriguing hotel, with wonderful wall frescoes.
Day 3: Explore Thimphu through a presentation and excursion to remote and ancient monasteries. First we will enjoy a talk on Bhutanese architecture followed by a hike to Tango and Cheri monasteries built in 1620 A. D. by the first ruler of Bhutan who unified the country. These monasteries are architecturally beautiful and works of ancient art preserved. Medieval and extremely impressive. Enjoy a picnic lunch and in the afternoon visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. The Textile Museum opened in 2001 under the patronage of the Queen and well worth the visit, hosting beautiful, exotic and rare Bhutanese textiles and weavings. A trip to the bank and post office as well is added, not to miss out on the Bhutanese stamps; some rare, and all exquisitely beautiful. In the evening, after dinner we visit Tashichhodzong, Secretariate building which is another architectural wonder as it was built without using any nails. Overnight Thimphu Hotel.
Day 4: From Thimphu to Wangduephodrang is a three - hour drive. En route you will cross Dochula Pass at 10, 500ft altitude. Here, on a clear day, you will enjoy a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan mountain range. Visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong, the former winter capital and present administrative seat of the district. It is also the winter residence of the central monastic body. The Dzong (fortress) lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, uncaring male and female rivers. It was built in 1637 A. D. Punakha is a true work of Bhutanese art. It stands proud, preserved by the ages. A short drive and we check into the hotel in Wangduephodrang, Lunch is served in your restaurant at Dragons Nest Hotel. We then will drive to Wangduephodrang Dzong, which is perched on a promontory a few miles from the hotel. Strategic location makes this Dzong the perfect watchtower for invaders. It was built in 1638 A. D. Views from your balcony room at Dragons Nest Resort offer excellent photo opportunity of the Dzong overlooking the village and river. Wonderful.
Day 5: Leaving Wangduephodrang we embark on a long drive on a scenic and breathtaking highway rewarded by a stop at the Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Winding down the steep mountain road you begin to glimpse Trongsa Dzong from afar, and you wonder at this architectural wonder from afar. Built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, in 1648 it is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. Views from here are extensive creating strategic location of this Dzong. After lunch in quaint Trongsa town we return to tour the medieval Watchtower, located over the Trongsa Dzong. This ancient structure gives unobstructed views of the valley, and it's winding river and roads. The WatchTower is located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong. Climb the ancient ladders to the top, as you view warrior armor and aging altars, immersing yourself in the presence unchanged within its walls. Overnight in Hotel.
Day 6: Today we continue on our scenic and breathtaking drive to central Bhutan, Bumthang. The Bumthang area of Bhutan hosts four of the most beautiful valleys anywhere, Ura, Tang, Choskhor and Chhume Nature at it's finest! Today we stroll through the medieval village of Bumthang, (Choskhor Valley) and are transported back through time. Stop along the way to watch textile weavers weave their magic, and shop for Bhutanese handicrafts at local shopkeepers. Overnight at River Lodge, Bumthang.
Day 7: After famous buckwheat pancake breakfast, we depart Lodge for our day tour. We visit Jakar Dzong, built in 1646 A.D. and Jambay Khakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang; sacred and ancient monasteries where you will observe unique architecture. A visit to some local farmhouses to see local textile weaving and enjoy local hospitality. Sample some Ara, distilled from the ages of time. We also include a visit to the Swiss Farm along with beer and cheese factory for more local flavor. Overnight River Lodge for more Bhutanese hospitality at its finest.
Day 8: Early breakfast and departure for our return toward the west. Along the way, we stop in Phobjikha Valley, home of the Black Neck Cranes. These large beautiful and graceful birds migrate each year from Tibet and Siberia to Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan. Phobjikha Valley is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. No electricity or telephones are here so to keep the valley pristine for these rare birds. Punishment imposed on anyone injuring a Black Neck Crane is lifetime imprisonment. We will visit the Khebethang Nature Study Center to observe and learn more about the cranes. Picnic lunch in the Valley. Continue our drive to Wangduephodrang for dinner, relax and overnight at hotel.
Day 9: Today we continue on our drive toward Paro in the west. Arriving in Paro, we check in our hotel, enjoy a leisure lunch and drive to a farmhouse to enjoy a traditional hot stone bath with local wine or tea. Relax and revel in your Bhutan holiday; truly an architectural medieval wonder. Farewell dinner at your overnight hotel.
Day 10: Prepare to depart Bhutan. Tashi Delek..