Amankora Journey [11 Days]
The tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan awaits, nestled high in the Himalayas its 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 rivers, sit largely undisturbed as the endeared environmental initiatives and religious beliefs leave the Kingdom pristine and a jewel of nature. The 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.
As your Drukair flight weaves through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. As you touch down, keep your camera at the ready, as we have noticed how passengers slowly disembark and then stand on the tarmac totally bewildered. Then move through to immigration where you will present your Visa Approval letter and Passport for the official stamp. As you clear the Immigration check, please make your way to the baggage delivery area and here you will meet your Guide for the first time. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 Â½ hours and upon arrival and after settling in; you will have the choice of theNational Memorial Chorten, Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, National Library to visit, and perhaps time to stroll the Main Street for some interesting Himalayan artifacts or textiles.
Wind through pine forests high above Uma Paro to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zurig Dzong. Traverse across to Ta Dzong, housing Bhutanâ€™s National Museum with magnificent views over Paro, and on down to Rinpung Dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels). The trail then leads across Paro Chhu (river) via a traditional covered bridge (Nyamai Zam) and then past the main archery ground, Ugyen Pelri Palace and into Paro town.
Drive a few kilometres north of Paro, and we pay our respects at Kyichu Lhakhang; this is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Time permitting; we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1648 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet (from here, it is only a two-day hike to the border with Tibet, dominated by Mt Jhomalhari).
Duration:Â 5-7 hours (depending on time spent in National Museum and Paro)
Difficulty:Â Easy to Moderate
An early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain passes of Dochu La and on to the Phobjika Valley. Sights on the way include one of Bhutanâ€™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 Kingdomâ€™s only east-west highway continues on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing thru 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 or hike amongst the blooming rhododendrons behind the lodge.
This morning will start with a visit to the Black Neck Crane Center and dependent on the season, time spent in the Centerâ€™s nearby hide is a must to view the breeding cranes. Various walks or a mountain bike ride thru 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 (Subject to availability) may be attractive, relaxing alternatives for the day.
Today we will hike through some of the most beautiful parts of Gangtey. It is a 30 minute drive from the lodge to the starting point in Longtey village on the East-West highway. Start by walking downwards following the path to the right of the road. The path will lead through bush bamboo towards a small cluster of village houses. There are beautifully coloured rhododendron forests on both sides of the valley, and in the winter months, yaks graze in the area.
Continue straight through the village upwards until you reach the start of mystifying old-growth rhododendron forest. For the next two hours or so, you might feel like you are in the settings of Lord of The Rings surrounded by tall old trees which appear to be living creatures around you. The last part through the forest is slightly steeper uphill until you reach the pass with impressive views of the Gangtey Goemba, the Shedra, the lodge and the rest of the valley. From here it slopes down the valley towards the idyllic Kumbu village and may continue down to the Shedra or all the way down to the lodge.
Todayâ€™s journey back to Punakha will be brief and upon arrival you will have time to take lunch at the lodge. In the afternoon you will explore the hidden village of Talo, home of the Queensâ€™ and the valleyâ€™s protective deity lhakhang. Later in the afternoon a hike to an ancient monastery on the hilltop behind the lodge can be organized or time given to enjoy the farmhouse and spa of the lodge.
Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up 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 thru the valley you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutanâ€™s first ruler, Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic orderâ€™s leader and his entourage of monks. Later a picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak 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 Kingdomâ€™s four Queens. Further hikes or valley excursions can be organized.
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramaticWang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys, before crossing thru Paro Towntowards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, you will find the Amankora lodge and its spa. In the afternoon, there is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valleyâ€™s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a ramble down Paroâ€™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.
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, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, and guests are then driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall paintings. Paro options include picturesque picnic spots or, perhaps, a visit to a traditional farmhouse to lunch with the family. After lunch you will visit the uniquely shaped Dumtse Lhakhang to view the beautiful, well preserved wall paintings there and then continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the Kingdomâ€™s oldest religious worship and most auspicious houses, that is said to pin down the left knee of an ogress that once demonized the Himalayas.
Today will be an auspicious pilgrimage up to one of Bhutanâ€™s most revered monuments, theTaktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the â€œTigerâ€™s Nestâ€. The four to five hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. Accommodating mules and donkeys will be on hand to lessen the exertion for the climb up, and along the way a rewarding picnic will be served. The afternoon will be at leisure to enjoy the spa and ease those blessed aches from the morningâ€™s pilgrimage.
Â Month:Â April-June & Sept-Nov
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Paro International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at leastÂ 2 hours before the flight.|
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September and October) are the best time for touring and trekking in Bhutan. The months of April and May offer the natural grandeur of rhododendron blooms whereas Bhutan observes its biggest festivals during spring.
We will organize this trip on the dates requested by you. Please Contact UsÂ Â for your customized departure date.
Our website contains as much information as possible about this trip. However, if you wish to discuss any aspect of this trip or your suitability for it please contact us.
Note: This itinerary is a sample itinerary to give you a general idea of the likely trip schedule. We have designed this itinerary including the best cultural and natural aspects of this country. We can further customize the itinerary to suit your specific interest and needs. Please Talk to UsÂ for more details.Â Itinerary is subject to flight and hotel availability.Â
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