With its natural landscape and beautiful scenery, awe-inspiring monasteries and stupas, spectacular mountain ranges and innocent happy people, Bhutan awaits to charm you in more ways than one! Welcome to explorations in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Haa regions which are Bhutan’s best destinations.
This will be a 10 day marathon & trekking tour of Bhutan. The marathon is June 2, 2018 and is optional for any wanderer. The days involves seeing lots of local sights of Bhutan, monasteries, temples, statues as well as day hikes throughout the region. There will be no overnight hikes, only several hour day hikes. We will be staying in
5% of tour proceeds will go towards a local Charlotte charity dedicated to supporting the running community.
Upon arriving at Paro International Airport and after customs formalities, we will receive you and take you to the hotel.
Your flight to Paro will be a mesmerizing one with the views of the Himalayas including Mt. Everest and Bhutan‟s highest and sacred mountain Mt. Jomolhari.
After you are settled in, we will visit the Paro Ta Dzong built in 1951. Unlike the rectangular shape of the Dzongs, it is round that of a European castle. From 1967 the Dzong was re-established as the National Museum and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangkha, and many others. Due to renovation work at the site, the artifacts are presently housed in a separate building.
Next, we go to visit Rinpung Dzong serves as a civil administrative center and a monastic home for the monks. Most dzongs were built in the mid- 1600s to protect the inhabited valleys from invasion by Tibet. The Paro dzong was started in 1644 on the order of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of modern day Bhutan.
Today we will take a hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) to acclimatize ourselves with the altitude of Paro. This will be our preparation for the Coronation marathon the next day. We drive for 25 minutes to Ramthangka base for a hike to view one of Bhutan’s most revered pilgrimage sites of the Buddhist world, the Taktshang Lhakhang, popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery. The trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched precariously on a sheer rock face 3000 ft above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, father of Bhutan‟s stream of Mahayana Buddhism arrived in the Paro valley more than a millennium ago on the back of a tigress. He meditated for 3 months in a cave which was converted into the monastery. The only sounds heard here are the murmurs of wind, water and the chanting of monks. We begin our hike from the base to the cafeteria which will take us at least an hour and a half. From here, it‟s about an hour’s trek through some stunning landscape to reach the monastery. On our return, we will stop for lunch. Later, we begin our descent to Ramthangka base.
En route, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s two oldest monasteries built by the Buddhist Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century to subdue a demoness lying across the Himalayas.
Today we will take part in the Coronation Marathon in the beautiful Paro valley. It is an annual mega event held to commemorate the coronation of the fourth king of Bhutan. There are several length options to choose and those who opt not to participate in the marathon have the entire day to explore Paro.
Today after our breakfast, we will travel to Thimphu, the new capital of Bhutan. Bhutanese calls it as the big apple of Bhutan. The drive will take us along the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu. Next we turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu. On arrival, visit the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of Bhutan’s third king. With its golden spires shining in the sun, its tinkling bells, a fine collection of Buddhist statues, and an endless procession of elderly people circling around it, it serves as a centre of tantric Buddhist centre. Folk Heritage Museum, founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through an exhibition of items and artifacts used in rural households and demonstrates customs, traditions, habits and skills. The principal exhibit is the museum building itself which is a restored three-story traditional rammed mud and timber house. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. The National Assembly hall is located in a new building across the river.
In the evening, take a walk up and down the high street lined with little shops and see a colorful gathering of monks, businessmen and nomadic farmers who come to trade supplies in the city.
After breakfast, drive to the base camp of Cheri Monastery and then take a 45 mintue hike to the monastery. Cheri Monastery was founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th century unifier of the Bhutanese nation state. He moved to Bhutan and from Tibet, and promoted a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity from the dominant Tibetan culture. He established Cheri Monastery at the end of Thimpu Valley in 1620 and used it as a residence as well as retreat centre. Cheri, also known as Chagry Dorjeden, has been a sacred place ever since Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Bhutan visited it in the 8th century. Today it is a prominent teaching centre for Drukpa Kagyu order.
Later, visit the Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who came from Tibet and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The central statue here is Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) in a manifestation with 11 heads. From the courtyard of the temple, there is fascinating view of the Thimphu valley.
Then we travel to the weekend market where the locals come to do their weekly shopping. It will be interesting to observe the Bhutanese people’s culture and life styles. Our next stop will be the Centenary Park where the 45 ft tall walking Buddha resides.
Textile Museum serves as the living art of Bhutanese weaving culture at display. Textile products mostly come from Lhuentse, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family.
After breakfast, we will travel to Punakha valley- the old capital of Bhutan. The drive ascends gradually to the Dochula pass over 10300 ft, with magnificent vistas of the Himalayan range. The Dochula Monastery also known as the Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens is a tribute to the service and leadership of the fourth king. The design inspired by the Queen is a unique cluster of 108 Chortens seen from all directions. The descent to Punakha is vibrant and colorful, with the fluttering prayer flags adding to a rich topography dotted by terrace farming and rivers flowing through. On arrival, we will visit the historic Punakha Dzong sprawled at the confluence of the Phochu (male) and Mochu (female) rivers. Built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang, in terms of architecture, it is believed to be a master piece. First king of Bhutan was crowned here in 1907 and the royal weddings of the fourth and fifth kings of Bhutan also were held at the fortress. A glacial lake outburst in the north of Punakha in 1994 heavily destroyed some parts of the structure, but it is being rebuilt to its original shape.
We will have early breakfast today. Drive for 15 minutes to the road point to Khamsum Yuellay Namgyal Chorten (Stupa) for a 35-45 minutes hike. The stupa was built by the Queen Mother of the Fifth King to bring peace and harmony for Bhutan and the world at large. Next en route, enjoy river rafting on Mochu, the female river of Punakha for 1.5 hours. You can see the alpine scenery, rare birds, and amazing rapids on the backdrop of striking 17th Century Punakha Dzong. Afternoon, take an hour hike from the road point to Chimi Lhakhang (“Temple of Fertility”). The temple was built by a cousin of Lama Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine Madman who was generally known for his eccentric behavior.
After breakfast, we will travel to Paro. En route take a diversion towards south to visit the Wangue dzong under reconstruction. The fortress played a prominent and strategic role in controlling the south central parts of Bhutan in the 17th century. The fire gutted the fortress in 2012. Next, we will continue our journey to Paro crossing the Dochula Pass once again. En route in Thimphu, we will stop by to visit Simtokha dzong, the oldest fortress built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is located towards south of Thimphu upon a hillock overlooking the Olarongchu stream.
After early breakfast drive to Haa Valley, located at 9000 ft. Haa was used as the trade route between western Bhutan and Chumbi Valley, Tibet in the past. The area was opened for tourist only in 2001. On the way, we will be crossing through the Chelela Pass (11000 ft). If the weather is clear, we can see the Mt. Jumolhari, (23,989ft), the Bhutan‟s highest mountain to the north. The road will pass through pine forests and pasture land mainly used for grazing yaks and cattle. On arriving Haa, we will visit Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) that are located close to each other.
After early breakfast, we say goodbye to our temporary Bhutanese home and depart to the airport for our flights back to the United States.
Price of this trip is $2850 for each wanderer sharing a room. There are no private rooms available for this trip.
This Bhutan Trip is designed for active runners/wanderers. There will be lots of walking/trekking. If you have questions about physical specifics of this trip, please contact me. Trip prices are based on accommodation (3-4 star hotels/guest houses) and a personal American tour guide for duration of the trip. All trips will have an orientation (in person if geography suffices) or Skype if it doesn’t, for all guests approximately 4 weeks before departure. Emails and phone numbers of other trip group members will be exchanged with consent.
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Subject to Change. Please note, that some parts of the trip may be altered to account for holidays, closed venues and weather related events.
Deposit Requirement: 10% deposit is required immediately with each booking request. A booking cannot be guaranteed without a deposit.
Deposits must be paid by credit card or venmo.
Trip Costs: This trip must be paid in full prior to 4 months start of trip. If trip fees are not paid within this time frame, trip deposits will be forfeited.
Refund Policy: There is a 10% non-refundable fee per person on all received cancellation requests, regardless of the period when the cancellation is submitted. This trip is only 50% refundable if the request is made before February 1, 2018. If cancellation request is made after, no refund will be issued. This is due to the strict booking policies for desired hotels in Bhutan.
We apologize for any inconvenience of this policy. You can however, transfer your reservation to another willing participant in the event you need to cancel. Just notify us if this is the case.
Tour Cancellations: Big Fat World Tours reserves the right to cancel any trip for any reason and will notify each guest as soon as possible. All deposits and monies paid will be refunded 100% in such an event.
These policies are strictly enforced due to logistical partners in country and reservations made with local hotels and providers.
Megan has spent a lot of time in this part of the world and made her 1st trip to Bhutan in 2017. She enjoyed the hospitality so much, she decided to bring a group to run the annual Coronation marathon in 2018.
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