11 Night Amankora Journey – Bhutan
The tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan awaits, Nestled high in the Himalayas it’s isolation from the world has cultivated a culture rich in traditions, religion, and a benevolent monarchy. The dramatic landscapes, from snow capped peaks and deeply forested slopes to raging, boulder strewn ricers, sit largely undisturbed as the endeared environmental initiatives and religious beliefs leave the Kingdom pristine and a jewel of nature. The Amankora program takes you into this ancient Kingdom for an adventure into the hearts and lands of charming farmers, fascinating weavers, enchanting monks and charismatic leaders.
Tour Highlights & Inclusives:
Day 1: Arrival
From the flight in, weaving through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 1/2 hours and upon arrival and following lunch, you will have the choice of the National Memorial Chorten, National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, and National Library to visit, and perhaps time to stroll main street for some interesting Himalayan artefacts of textiles.(overnight: Amankora in Thimphu)
Day 2: Tour of Thimphu
This morning you will head to the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Royal offices, and pay a visit to pangri Zampa, two 16th century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs, a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town you should be able to visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense. (overnight: Amankora Thimphu)
Day 3: From Thimphu to Gangtey
An early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Fochu La and on to Phobjika Valley. Sights on the way include on of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down through the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway, continues on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak, and just before crossing the Pele La pass, a small side road splinters off to the hidden Phobjika valley. On arrival you will have time to visit the striking Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the head of the valley, and perhaps strolling through the quaint gangtey village. (overnight: Amankora in Gangtey)
Day 4: Exploring Phojika Valley
This morning will start with a visit to the Black Neck Crane Center and dependent on the season, time spent in the Center’s nearby hide is a must to view the breeding cranes. Various walks or a mountain bike ride through this magnificent valley can be arranged. Soaking up the beauty of the valley from the Lodge or returning to the revered Goemba for an audience with the Tulkul may be attractive, relaxing alternatives for the day. (overnight: Amankora)
Day 5: Phojika to Bumthang
Today’s journey onward to Kakar (Bumthang) is perhaps long, but certainly memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses viewed from the only east west highway that has been ingeniously carved out of the mountain faces. Following a brief stop at Chendebji chorten, which according to belief was built to cover the remains of a demon spirit, you will carry on to what was the original home of the royal family. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official business permitting, perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often Find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. (overnight: Amankora Bumthang).
Day 6: Explore Bumthang Valley
This morning you will explore our neighboring palace, Wangdichhoeling, home to the 2nd King, and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up valley, you will take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of the Bhutan’s most auspicious monuments, that was once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche, and Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings. Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, you will enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by quick visits to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facitily and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits. (overnight: Amankora Bumthang).
Day 7: Explore Tang Valley – Bumthang District
Today you will explore further in bumthang district with an excursion the stunningly beautiful Tang Valley. This seldom visited valley offers a treat in revealing some of the beaten track Ihakhangs and monasteries, and the amazing museum at Ugen Chhoeling Palace. A short hike takes you up to this well maintained Palace and it’s cultural treasures inside. Along the way you will stop for a traditional picnic with breathtaking views of the pristine surroundings. (overnight: Amankora Bumthang).
Day 8: Bumthang to Punakha
Today you will start with an early departure for the lengthy drive to Punakha. Upon entering the Punakha Valley you may stop to stretch your legs for a short walk through the valley floor to the Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built by the “Divine Madman” in 1499. (overnight Amankora Punakha).
Day 9: Explore Punakha Valley
Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up through fields of chilies, cabbages and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the queens and consecrated in 1999. Returning down through the valley you will have plenty of time to take in impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler, Shabdrung of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks. Later a picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Pinak Chhu at a vantage point of the stunning Dzong and confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. Following lunch a quick drive will take you to the village of Talo where you will stop to walk the stunning, quiet grounds of the village temple and perhaps visit the home village of the Kingdom’s four Queens. Further hikes or valley excursions can be organized. (overnight: Amankora Punakha)
Day 10: From Punakha to Paro
After Descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang chu and Paro Chu river Valleys, before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, you will find the Amankora lodge and it’s spa. In the afternoon, there is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a ramble down Paro’s main street. Evenings at Amankora may include informative lectures on the history, religion, flora and fauna of the region or a intriguing movie on the Himalayas. (overnight: Amankora Paro).
Day 11: Paro Valley Exploration
The day starts with a visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here, an intriguing collection of artefacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lies the dominating Paro Dzong, fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional farmhouse to lunch with the family. In the afternoon, hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. (overnight: Amankora Paro).
Day 12: Departure Day
Early morning transfer to airport.