Bhutan - Land of the peaceful dragon

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Day 1: Arrive in Calcutta, India

Upon arrival in Calcutta you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore on your own before meeting with the group for dinner and our orientation meeting. Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 2: Calcutta - Kalighat Kali Temple

A full day exploring the ancient sights of Calcutta. We visit Kalighat Kali Temple, Sir Stuart Hogg Market, Victoria Memorial hall and Indian Museum one of the most significant, and the first museum to be founded in India. Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 3: Fly to Bagdogra, India - Tea Factory

Today, we fly from Calcutta to Bagdogra in India. Our adventure to Darjeeling (West Bengal), Sikkim, and Bhutan begins with a scenic drive to Darjeeling where we will have a time to explore and relax. We will visit a tea factory and a Tibetan refugee center. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 4: Darjeeling - Mt. Kanchenjunga

This morning we take a trip to Tiger Hill for a view of the sunrise over the mountains in hopes to see Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. After breakfast we ride a Raj-era train where we will visit the Railway Museum and then continue on to visit the Ghoom Monastery. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 5: Darjeeling - Mountaineering Institute

Today we drive to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute was established in 1954 following the mountaineering success of Hilary and Tenzing. After the museum, we walk through the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park as they protect endangered species, including some of the most unusual animals in the world. Amongst these are Red Pandas, Siberian Tigers, Yaks, Snow Leopards and Himalayan bears. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 6: Gangtok, Sikkim

In the morning, we drive and cross the boarder into Sikkim where we will then continue on after lunch to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Until 1965, Sikkim was a separate state ruled by a Chogyal (a Sikkim king) whose history dates back to the 16th century. Today, the monarchy has been abolished and Sikkim is part of the Indian union.

We will visit a handicraft center to see the beautiful fabrics of this land. Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 7: Gangtok - Institute of Tibetology

We start off our day with a visit to the Ganesh Tok temple which is also a view point. We then visit the Flower Exhibition Center that was once the Loop Garden in North Sikkim during 1963 and then inaugurated by the Gyalmo Hope Namgyal. The most beautiful Himalayan flowers can be seen here including Orchids.

After lunch we will visit the Institute of Tibetology. The Institute was established in 1958 to promote research on the language, culture, and religion of Tibet. It houses an impressive collection of over 3,000 books, containing some of the earliest translations of Buddha's teachings. In the evening we will walk through the Lal Bazzar Market, the main attraction for the locals in Gangtok town. Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 8: Rumtek Monastery - Kalimpong, India

Today we drive to Kalimpong first stopping to visit the Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery was the seat of the Kagypa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The first monastery was built here in 1717, but crumbled to ruins and the present monastery dates from 1960.

We return back to the Sikkim boarder to drive to Kalimpong. Overnight in Kalimpong.


Day 9: Phuntsoling, Bhutan

An early start to the morning so we can visit Durpin Dara Monastery also known as Thongsa Monastery. We continue to Phuntsoling, just inside the Bhutan border. Today is a long day so we will have a box lunch to save time. On our first night in Bhutan, we have a short walk through the streets of Phuntsoling and savour being among the few who have traveled to this remote and exotic land. Overnight in Phuntsoling.


Day 10: Spectacular drive to Thimphu

We have a full day drive through the spectacular countryside to Thimphu, the nation's capital. Enroute, we visit Rinchending Monastery also known to some as the Kharbandi Monastery built in 1967 by the great grandmother of the present king of Bhutan. We will have lunch at the Bunakha cafeteria today. Afterwards, we visit the Thimphu post office where we can make our own stamp and send a post card home with your self made stamp. Overnight in Thimphu.


Day 11: Sites of Thimphu

Sightseeing of the nation's capital. Bhutan is the only country whose government is officially Buddhist and as such, a walk through the streets of Thimphu is a walk unlike any other in the world. We visit the Chorten Memorial Temple before we see a real life Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.

We also have the opportunity to visit a painting school and several handicraft emporiums. We end a very busy day with a visit to the nunnery perched high on the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley before a relaxing evening. Overnight in Thimphu.


Day 12: To Wangdi via Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong

We depart Thimphu and drive over the Dochula Pass which is approximately 10,170 ft/3100 m and walk around the Chortens of the fallen solders and get lost in the prayer flags that cover this high pass.

Our first stop is the monastery that over looks the ruins of the Wangduephodrang Dzong which was a peaceful monastery set on top of the hill overlooking the Wangdi river. The Dzong, which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1638, the third oldest Dzong in Bhutan was burned down on June 24, 2012. We will see the new temple they created, all by hand, in a month to house the relics and learn more about the Dzong, the monastery and the monks with in it.

After lunch we will drive to Punakha and visit the Punakha Dzong, which serves as an old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress is built between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods as well as fire. Overnight in Wangdi.


Day 13: To Bumthang

After breakfast you will drive to Bumthang, the cultural heartland of the country. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300-meter-high Pele La pass, and at certain times of year it's possible to see yaks. You will stop in Trongsa for lunch. After lunch you'll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Then you'll proceed to Bumthang with lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way you will stop at a yathra (textile weaving) factory, where the yathras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Overnight in Bumthang.


Day 14: Bumthang - Jakar Dzong, Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang

Today we explore Bumthang with visits to Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley; Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan; and Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating. After lunch we will visit the Tamshing Lhakhang temple that houses the religious Buddhist paintings and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in Bhutan. Overnight in Bumthang.


Day 15: Trongsa

Today we get up early to travel back east stopping at Trongsa. We stop here as a resting point from a long day of driving. A relaxing walk around the town or free time to explore on your own. Overnight in Trongsa.


Day 16: Thimpu via Dochula Pass

An early start to the morning will take us over the Dochula Pass once again before we drive back to Thimpu. On our drive you will see the Simtokha Fort, with its impressive views of the surrounding countryside. We will have the opportunity to visit a painting school and several handicraft emporiums. We end our day with a visit to the nunnery perched high on the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley before a relaxing evening. Overnight in Thimpu.


Day 17: To Paro

A short drive will take us to Paro where we will have lunch, and stop at Kichu Lhakhang Museum to further our knowledge of Bhutan's culture and customs. We arrive in Paro and have a short walk through Paro town before enjoying an evening at the Paro Festival. Overnight in Paro.


Day 18: Paro Festival

This special departure was planned around one of Bhutan�s biggest and most popular festivals, The Paro Tsechu or Paro Festival. Every spring people from all over Bhutan come to Paro to partake in the festivities. Festival goers and monks alike dress in brilliant costumes and wear masks representing Buddhist deities. Here they dance and re-enact Bhutanese legends.

Today we will wake before sunrise, approximately 3am (optional but recommended), to see the morning rituals of the Unfurling of Thongdril (Giant Holy Thanka Of Shri Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche). We can mingle with the pilgrims from far and wide and march in the procession to witness this holy festival.

We will return back to the hotel for a breakfast and rest before we start our day with more of the closing ceremonies of the festival and participate in the mask dance ceremony. Overnight in Paro.


Day 19: Hike to Taktsang Monastery

We spend the morning sightseeing in Paro with visits to Drukgyel Dzong and Ta-Dzong. The Drukgyel Dzong was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, the elements and a fire in the 1950s having taken a toll on the site. In the afternoon for those who want to we will hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery or Tiger's Nest. Marvel in the history of this holy place and see the holy cave where it is said to be the origin of Bhuddism in Bhutan. The views over the Paro Valley will take your breath away. Overnight in Paro.


Day 20: Fly to Calcutta, Farewell Dinner

Today we say 'good-bye' to Bhutan and fly to Calcutta, where we will have a free afternoon before we have our farewell dinner.
Overnight in Calcutta.


Day 21: Depart Calcutta

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.

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