Bhutan Winter Trek 9 Days
Bhutan Adventure Tours – Bhutan Adventure Travel – This trek is designed for the winter season, December to February. Although the weather is cold at this time of the year, there are plenty of good sunny days with clear light. This trek can also be enjoyed during October and March in Bhutan.
Day 1: Paro arrival/Thimphu (GP)
Upon disembarkation from your flight and dealing with the formalities, you’ll meet your chauffeur and guide who will whisk you to Paro, a few kilometres from the airport. There you’ll visit your first Dzong, once a fortress and monastery combined, but now housing the country’s National Museum.
Your visit begins via a cantilever bridge below the Dzong. The building is semi-cylindrical, consisting of six storeys, four of which are cut into rock. Originally, as a watchtower, it was used to house soldiers and prisoners of war.
Today, the highest room contains a three-dimensional Mandala (Tree of Life) depicting the four major schools of Buddhism in Bhutan and its national religion. The various galleries may seem at times quirky, with prehistoric and religious items side by side with numismatics and jewellery filling the forth floor, for example. Nevertheless, it’s well worth a visit, particularly for its remarkable interior architecture.
By then, you’ll probably be tired after your flight, so our driver will head for Thimphu, about an hour away. Soon, Bhutan’s capital will appear and, a few minutes later you’ll stepping into your hotel followed by a well-deserved rest.
Day 2: Thimphu/Punakha (B, L, G)
The day begins with two fascinating visits: the first is to Thimphu’s Arts and Crafts School. The scholars enter without cost, apart from providing his or her tools in their chosen discipline. There are thirteen ancient arts and crafts, each different, but all require the students to follow a rigid course of study all based upon traditional practice. The apprentices must imitate each item: those that achieve the highest levels of skill become master crafts-women and men.
Most of the first-class work adorns Dzongs, Chortens, monasteries and other sacred work, but high-quality souvenirs are becoming popular.
Nearby is the Folk Heritage Museum. It’s a ‘living house’ but not in the Western version. A guide escorts you into a large garden with a stream and a prayer wheel (a whirling wheel: all believers spin it as a part of their path to enlightenment). The house is a large mud and wood three-story building belonging to a wealthy merchant from the last century. The artefacts are fascinating: there’s even a toilet for dignitaries. Well worth the visit!
By now it’s time for a meal, followed by the 72 km two and a half hour drive to Punakha. Fortunately, the route includes the 3100 metres Dochul Pass, a tantalizing Stupa consisting of one large building and one hundred and seven identical smaller structures.
The views are excellent if the weather is clear, but still interesting if it’s cloudy, misty or snowing (good for photos), and only a disappointment if pouring with rain. There’s also a toilet tucked away from the road: there’s a finger post about 60 metres heading towards Punakha. It’s an attractive amenity at first, a slate chalet for bother gender. Sadly, it’s filthy inside: don’t forget to take toilet paper and wash your hands in the fresh water sink outside.
The rest of drive is through winding trees, mostly tall pines, until the streets of Punakha, once the winter capital of the country, appear. Soon, you’ll be entering your hotel anticipating a comfortable room and a tasty meal.
Day 3: Punakha sightseeing (B, L, G)
Today, you will enjoy a sightseeing of Punakha. You will visit Punakha Dzong which was built in 1637, a masterpiece of architecture and artistry. It’s situated on the confluence of two rivers, the Pho (male) and Mo (female) for strategic purposes. Entry is by a cantilever bridge over the Mo River. Built in the 17th century, the original bridge was washed away by a flash flood in the 1950’s and replaced in 2008.
The Dzong sits on prodigious exterior walls. The interior construction is elongated and surrounded by enclosed courtyards, the largest being the central. The working rooms and offices are separated: administrative responsibilities and religious offices, including temples and monks accommodation. The main temple is designed as an unassailable citadel and the tower is several storeys high, eventually culminating in an elegant copper cupola.
Later, you’ll hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel stupa (Chorten), about two hours trek there and back. The 30 metre stupa has a unique design and was completed in the year 2000. The interior is populated with protective deities, including a female yeti. From the roof, you can enjoy the stunning view of Punakha valley with its beautiful rice terraces. Have lunch in the town or a picnic lunch by the river side.
In the afternoon, a visit to the home of the local farming family will acquaint you with their daily life. Traditions, conversation, local wine (Ara: good stuff!), snacks and tea is a good way to gain an insight into Bhutan’s rural reality.
Day 4: Punakha/Limukha (treking) (B, L, D, G)
After breakfast, you will trek to Limukha. Limukha is pleasant farming area growing red rice and medicinal herbs. It takes about two and a half hours to hike following which the village is reached by crossing a 200m long suspension bridge.
From there, you’ll begin a gradual climb through Chir Pine forests for 12 km, (about four to five hours) to Limukha camp. On the way, you’ll stop for a packed lunch and the trek also passes through Dompo-la village allowing a short break. The last leg of the trek will bring you to an altitude of 7280ft/2220m and the luxury of the camp site.
Day 5: Limukha/Chungsakha (trekking) (B, L, D, G)
Today’s trek is about 14 km, this time walking downward approximately five or six hours walk to Chungsakha at an altitude 6070ft/1850m.Today’s trail takes you through rhododendron and oak forested areas with a lunch stop en-route. On the way you’ll pass the temple of the famous the Drukpa Kunley Lhakhang, regarded as one of Bhutan’s favourite saints.
Better known as the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kunley Lhakhang is partly myth, legend, hero and, most of all, the creator of the multitude of erect penises painted or carved on walls, doors and other aspects of buildings. They are remarkably realistic: many are works of art. Surprisingly however, they are neither erotic nor fertility symbols.
Born between 1450 and 1530, Drukpa Kunley was known for his prodigious libido, so much so that his many names spread far across the land. A small monastery was dedicated to him near Punakha, a little village. Infertile women, both Bhutanese and travellers, often pray in Chimi Lhakhang, the shrine and its three effigies. Supplicants must first caress a small stone resembling a phallus. Next is a bone in the shape of the male reproductive organ and the third is a piece of bamboo, also in the shape of the genital organ.
After visiting Chimi Lhakhang and discovering the reason for Bhutan’s plethora of what originally seem to be rude pictures, you’ll soon be heading to the camp site and dinner.
Day 6: Chungsakha/Samtengang/Wangdi (B, L, G)
The day begins with a 20km target for the day, a six-and-a-half hour walk at an approximate altitude of 1350m.
First, the trail meanders towards Sha Samtengang, a village on the side of a lake. After a rest, the route drops downward through forests of rhododendron and oak trees to the main road until you reach Wangdi where your hotel will be waiting for you.
Day 7: Wangdi/Paro (B, L, G)
Today you’ll have time to ease your exertions, but not for long! Your driver will be waiting for an early start to reach Paro, about four hours drive. Upon arrival, you’ll have lunch and check in to your hotel, with the rest of the day to spend at leisure in your own style.
Day 8: Paro Tiger’s Nest hike (B, L, G)
This hike will take about five hours for the round trip with a lunch stop, and it’s reward is truly memorable. It’s a stiff hike to reach the amazing Taktsang monastery, perched on the granite cliff walls like a huge limpet 800 metres above the Paro valley.
To reach the pinnacle is a challenge in its own right: even competent hikers often trip or slip on the roots and mud depending on the weather. Fortunately, there are horses to assist those who find the going too much.
For those who aspire to climb the summit, the whispering of nature soon seems to take their earthly concerns away. It was here that the great Tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, is said to have flown in from Tibet on the back of a flying tigress to propagate his teachings in Bhutan. Fairy story perhaps, but committed devotees of religions or atheists alike seem to find themselves inwardly enriched as they walk back to the restaurant and lunch.
The rest of the day will be your own: useful for last minute shopping, packing or simply to flop out in your hotel.
Day 9: Paro departure (B, GP)
Your time will be your own until the car and driver arrive to take you to the Airport for your departure flight. Bhutan Adventure Tours – Bhutan Adventure Travel
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