The tour package, ‘Into the vales of Western Bhutan’ lets you traverse the four most prominentwestern districts of Bhutan. Etched by historical events, the advent of religious propagations, home to culture and tradition of Bhutan- the four districts, each one of them offers varying attractions and accounts of Bhutan transiting as a nation.
If not through written history, the myth and legends will suffice a satisfying glimpse of Bhutan. It is the unification of these districts, coming together of people and their leaders that allowed Bhutan to instate its first hereditary King. The unification of Bhutan started in 1885 after the battle of Changlimithang in Thimphu, where the only stadium of Bhutan sprawls.
Visiting numerous ancient temples and hiking up the centuries-old mule tracks, a door opens to visualize Bhutan in the past. As Bhutan is a relatively young country, it is not very difficult to connect the dots of the present to the past linked by the attractions in the four valleys of Western Bhutan.
• Simtokha Dzong:
Built in 1627, the first religious fortress constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Unifier of Bhutan, many religious fortresses were constructed that played important role in safeguarding the sovereignty of Bhutan.
Simtokha Dzong was built on a site that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel subdued a witch. The name of the fortress translates as ‘witch on a stone’ implying a witch subdued and suppressed under a stone and over it, the fortress built.
In later years, owing to the strategic location of the fortress- the Bhutanese got an upper-hand in all the invasions that came from outside.
• Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel Monastery:
Standing regally on a hilltop across the river at some 200 meters above the floor of the valley,the monastery was built in 90’s by the Queen Mother, Her Majesty Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck to ward off negative forces and propagate peace and harmony to the world over.
Engineered from the manuals of religious scriptures, the architecture of the monastery is unique as no blueprints of trendy engineering were implemented in the construction of the monastery.
The monastery is about a thirty-minute walk uphill from the footbridge at the floor of the valley.
- Day 1 Paro – Thimphu: Flying into the Kingdom of Happiness, the magnificent mountains greets as your plane descents. Reception is always kept as a brief affair, after a quick exchange, you are on your way to the capital city of Bhutan that is only an hour-long. On the way, as per itinerary, you will have two stops before reaching destination Thimphu. On reaching Thimphu, you will be escorted to your hotel.
- Day 2 Thimphu: The capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu is in a bubble of time transiting by the day. Caught in the romance of modern and medieval affairs, the population is wrought by the influx of rural-urban migration for greener pasture- Thimphu is growing uncompromisingly. Thimphu is at the cross-section of three times: past, present and the future. As Thimphu offers a peek into the future and the present connects the past, one is offered unparallel insight of Bhutan in Thimphu. As it might occur to travelers that Thimphu as it develops, it must be developing at the cost of losing the roots of the past, most will be surprised to see that the history, culture, and tradition is still intact. The many attractions such as the Simtokha Dzong, Tashichhodzong (houses seat of the central government and office of the King), folk heritage museum, and schools of arts and crafts- it showcases Bhutan at a glance. Offering a birds-eye view of the city, we will visit Buddha Dordema to get the North-East view of the city and drive to Sangaygang for the South-West view of the city. By evening, we will go pushing elbows in the busiest streets of the capital witnessing the lifestyle of Bhutanese urban populace.
- Day 3 Thimphu – Punakha/Wangdue: Bit early on the schedule, we traverse into the depths of the Western territories. The destination- Punakha, and Wangduephodrang lies in the cocoon of a medieval setting. It takes two-hours from Thimphu to the destination of the day. The western districts stood witness at scores of historical transition of the country, even to the unification of the country. Onto destination bound, the drive is one of the most scenics of the tour. Additionally, the stopover at the mountain pass- Do Chula at 3100 meters offers the panoramic vista of perennial snowcapped mountains to the North. On a clear weather, one can count 10 mountain peaks, the peaks are collectively known as ‘Jigme Singye Wangchuck Mountain Range’ after the name of Fourth King of Bhutan. It is on this journey that touts the fauna of the country. For photographers, down the mountain pass- Do Chula to the floor of the valley, it’s a photographer’s paradise. Before reaching our destination, we drive to the ‘temple of fertility’ renowned for blessing infertile couples with children.
- Day 4 Punakha-Paro: Before making our way to Paro, we will do a moderate hike to Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel monastery lavishing an entreating scenario of terraced paddy fields and the gushing of the lone river. Towards the afternoon, we head to Paro. Following a circular loop, we first visit the National Museum, and then Rinpung Dzong to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, supposedly the first Buddhist monastery in the country- a religious icon symbolizing the advent of Buddhism in Bhutan.
- Day 5 Paro: After touring valleys and vales, getting acclimatized for the switchback hike to the cultural icon of the country- Taktshang Monastery, we start early to truly experience the marvels of Nature. On a cliff 1000 meters above the floor of the valley, the popular Tiger's Nest is situated at a precarious location. Owing to the sacredness of the temple as the Second Buddha of the Vajrayana Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the caves of the temple complex after subduing a tiger flying to the location on the back of a tigress, it is a must visit for the Buddhist pilgrims once in their lifetime. The temple is thronged by thousands of devotees every year and the visit increases by the day. If possible, along the forested trail- we can wrap a picnic lunch and eat on our way down from the temple. For a relaxing evening, you can opt for a trekker's foot massage or simply stay immersed in hot stone bathing tub stirred with local medicinal herbs.
- Day 6 Paro-Departure: As you bid farewell to us, to Bhutan, let it be one that signals another visit. To your friends and families, offer our love, love from this tiny nation on the lap of the Greater Himalayas.