Find out what lights up the faces of the residents of Bhutan, the only country in the world that measures its well-being in GNH—Gross National Happiness. On a 10-day adventure across this bastion of Buddhist culture, explore remote mountain villages and shrines and climb magnificent heights to the cliff-side Taktsang Monastery, 900 meters (2,953 feet) above the valley floor. Amid the soaring peaks and cultural delights of this ancient place, discover your own capacity for happiness.
Arrive at any time and drive to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan and home to the royal family. Take an orientation walk, time permitting, and check in to our hotel.
Meet with a Buddhist monk and scholar to discuss Buddhist beliefs and traditions. Drive to Punakha, Bhutan’s ancient capital, crossing the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) and enjoying stunning views of the Himalaya through flickering prayer flags. Stop for a short hike to the Chime Lhakhang temple. The next day, explore the working Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and Punakha Dzong, an elaborate fortress guarding the southern end of the valley at the confluence of the Pho (male) and Mo (female) Rivers. From the town of Wangdue, hike through rice terraces and forests to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a spectacularly situated temple with sweeping views of the valley below
In the Phobjikha Valley, learn about the endangered cranes that winter here at the Black-necked Crane Information Center. The next day, visit Gangtey Goemba, one of the oldest Nyingmapa monasteries in Bhutan, perched atop a hill amid a cluster of cottages. Explore the restored temple complex and examine some of the finest craftsmanship in Bhutan. Then take a scenic walk through the valley to an age-old temple and make an offering. Travel to the village of Khewa and visit the farm of a local family for a home-cooked dinner.
Return to Thimpu and head to the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, an arts-and-crafts school where we can watch students practicing traditional arts such as woodworking, painting, and ceramics. Pay a visit to the Buddha Dordenma, an enormous golden statue perched on a mountaintop at the edge of the city. Later, gather for a talk about the country’s Gross National Happiness index.
Observe pilgrims circling the beautiful National Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed stupa topped by a golden spire. Drive to the Haa Valley, one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan, via the Cheli La pass (12,500 feet). Visit the Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple).
Hike to the Kila Goemba nunnery and take in spectacular views from the temple complex, which was built on a steep cliff face. Visit the seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest temples, and walk the archery grounds. Return to Paro and explore the ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong fortress, which once defended this valley from invasions. Embark on a vigorous hike to the famed pilgrimage site of Taktsang Lhakhang or the Tiger’s Nest Temple, which clings to a vertical granite cliff nearly 3,000 feet above the valley floor. Take in some of the best views in the region.
Depart at any time. Airport transfer is included.
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