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Bhutan traditional festival costume


The Juniper Trail - 10 Days


This itinerary offers an in-depth experience of Bhutan combining a short trek with a diverse insight into the country’s culture; which makes this such a fascinating place to visit.

The proposed trek is an absolute gem as it unfolds spectacular landscapes and takes you off the beaten path.

Our guides consider this to be the best short trek in Bhutan, offering rewards normally reserved for much longer itineraries in the high Himalayas. In the lower valleys, the landscapes are dominated by striking dzongs or monasteries which are visually spectacular and truly fascinating places to visit.


Day 1 - Arrival into Paro


Flying into the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.

On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide for the trip will receive you and transfer you to the hotel.

After relaxing at the hotel, we will visit the following places in Paro:


Rinpung Dzong


Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the “fortress of the heap of jewels” stands on a hill above Paro Township.

The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge (called the Nemi Zam) and then up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. The valley’s annual springtime religious festival, the Paro Tsechu, takes place in the courtyard of the Dzong and on the dance ground on the hillside above.


Dungtse Lhakhang


Dungtse Lhakhang, the little three storied chorten-shaped temple, was built in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo to subdue the ogress on the top of whose head it is said to be built. It was restored in 1841 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen and the names of the Paro donors can still be seen written on the wooden pillars of the ground floor.

Men of great stature and strength known as the “Nya goe” were employed in the construction to lift the massive pillars used in the temple. It is said that on the day of construction, the founder himself appeared in the form of five vultures, and circled the temple showering his blessings before taking flight to Tibet.

One can also see the central tower (utse), the pinnacle of the temple, chained from four directions to the roof of the temple. It is believed that while the consecration was being performed the central tower moved, attempting to fly to Tibet. Thus to stop it from its flight the central tower was chained down.

This temple is unique in Bhutan as its paintings show the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School.


Kyichu Lhakhang


The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emporer Songtsen Gampo. It is considered to be one of the 108 border taming temples he built. In 1971 HM Kesang Choden Wangchuck, the Queen of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, built a Guru Temple next to the old Jowo Temple which was consecrated by HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Since then, the annual rites of great accomplishment for the deities Vajrasattva, Palchen Heruka, and Vajrakilava have been held in this temple for the well being of the country under the patronage of HM Kesang Choden Wangchuck. There is a belief that the two orange trees in the courtyard of Kyichu Lhakhang bear fruit throughout the year. Altitude at Paro: 2300m Overnight –Tenzinling Resort in Paro or similar


Day 2 - Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery


Today, we will hike to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. After visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hill tops above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for the rest of their lives. They say heaven is a place on earth – perhaps this is one such place. Anyway it is as close as you can get to in a day! Coming back, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.

Approximate walking time - 06 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m.

Overnight - Tenzinling Resort in Paro or similar.


Day 3 - Day at Paro Tsechu (Festival)


Today, we will spend the whole day witnessing the second day of Paro Tsechu which is taking place beside Paro Dzong (fortress).

This festival which is being held in honor of Guru Rinpoche - the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan is being held for five days annually.

The Tsechu draws hundreds of people in a spirit of reverence, blessing, festivity and celebration, and is one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan. The Tsechu comes to life with color, music, dance and drama as villagers and townspeople gather to witness the masked dances, sword dances and other sacred rituals.

These events, most of which are performed by monks in colourful and elaborate costumes bring blessings to the onlookers, as well as instructing them about the Buddhist Dharma. Altitude at Paro: 2300m.

Overnight - Tenzinling Resort in Paro or similar.


Day 4 - Chele La Ridge Hike


This morning, we will take a drive to Chele La (3750m), the highest motorable pass in the country and hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (4100m). Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley.

The short steep descent from the top will take us to the nunnery of Kila Gompa. Here the nuns, called anims, live a life of contemplation and seclusion, with daily prayer and spiritual practice. The temple itself is surrounded by numerous meditation huts, and many hidden caves lie inside the rocky cliffs.

The gompa is surrounded by a lush forest dominated by tall firs. Sparkling mountain streams wind down the slopes, which are covered with a variety of wildflowers and plants. About 30 anims, or nuns, live here, ranging in age from about 20 to 80 years.

The community is one of the oldest of seven nunneries in Bhutan, and was initially established in the early 9th century as a meditation site. After being destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt and officially established in 1986 as an anim dratshang (religious community of Buddhist nuns).

Kila Gompa is historically significant as a sacred meditation site. Many renowned Buddhist saints have come here to find peace and seclusion. The main temple houses ancient statues of Chenrezig (Avalokiteswara) and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) among others. Life here is simple. The day begins and ends with prayers. The anims arise at 3 AM and study Buddhist scripture until 8 AM when they go to the temple for prayers.

The first simple meal of the day (rice, vegetables and tea) is eaten at 10 AM, after which studies continue until 9 PM when a simple supper is served. The nuns retire after a final session of prayer. Most of the nuns have given up properties and left their families to live with the bare minimum of material things. Their studies and subsistence are supported by the government. Some of the older nuns have retired into meditation, while many of the younger ones pursue basic Buddhist studies and perform religious ceremonies. The course takes 5-6 years, after which they begin meditation, which can range from four months to three years.

One young nun, when asked why she had chosen this life, replied “There is peace in thinking about others, apart from yourself.” Another said “If I was given back my youth, I would still choose this life but I would start it earlier. I have never been more at peace with myself.”

The walk down from here to the road is lined with small white chortens and it will take us about an hour. Approximate driving time: 05 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m

Overnight - Tenzinling Resort in Paro or similar.


Day 5 - Chuzomtoe - Tsendu La (05-06 hours)


Today, we will take a drive to Chuzomtoe, the starting point of our trek - The Juniper Trail and enjoy the view of Bhutan’s Himalaya.

The trail runs gradually up along the ridge for over two hours till the base of a treeless peak, occasionally passing by beautiful meadows that are being used by the yak herders to keep their yaks in winter.

The trail then traverses for sometime before you make your way up through the thick alpine forest of firs, rhododendrons and junipers to Tsendu La, a beautiful meadow on top of the ridge with breath taking views, be it of mountains or of valleys underneath.

Overnight - Camp at Tsendu La (3775m).


Day 6 - Tsendu La - Pangka La (04-05 hours)


After the late breakfast, we will trek down the hill till we get to Dongle La pass (3565m) which is marked by an old two legged Chorten.

This pass is along the forsaken ancient mule track between Paro and Ha valleys. This route was like the present day highway not so long ago, with traffic of mules and people being the beast of burden in the same way.

From here, the trail goes gradually up through the alpine forest till you get above the tree line in the vicinity of huge meadow of Pangka La.

Overnight - Camp at Pangka La (4150m).


Day 7 - A day at Pangka La


It is worth rising up early in the morning to see the sun rise over the eastern Himalayan mountains or just to experience the solitude of this heaven like place on earth.

We will spend the day on this mountain, contemplating and enjoying the beauties of nature to the fullest.

Overnight: Camp at Pangka La (4150m).


Day 8 - Pangka La - Chele La (05-06 hours)


After breakfast, we will start the last day of our trek sliding down slowly along the wide and well used yak’s trail for a while till it gets level.

Along the ridge, we will come across some yak herder’s camps and then we have a short climb before we make our way down to yet another abandoned mule track at Dzongle La (3565m). From here, the path gets more of level traversing along one side of the rocky ridge till you get to the finishing point of your trek at the highest motorable pass in the country which is marked with grove of fluttering prayer flags known as Chele La (3750m).

After the trek, we will drive to Thimphu passing by the outskirt of Paro along the curvy Bhutanese Highway.

Thimphu is perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government, home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.

Approximate driving time: 02 hours. Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m.

Overnight - Hotel Dragon Roots in Thimphu or similar.


Day 9 - Sightseeing in Thimphu


The sightseeing in Thimphu includes visit to the following places:


Motithang Takin Preserve


A short distance up the road to the telecom tower is a trail leading to a large fenced area that was originally established as a mini-zoo. The king decided that such a facility was not in keeping with Bhutan's environmental and religious convictions, and it was disbanded some time ago. The animals were released into the wild but the takins, Bhutan's national animal, were so tame that they wandered around the streets of Thimphu looking for food, and the only solution was to put them back into captivity.

It's worthwhile taking the time to see these oddball mammals. The best time to see them is early morning when they gather near the fence to feed. It's a five-minute walk from the road to a viewing area where you can take advantage of a few holes in the fence to take photographs.


Changangkha Monastery


Built in 12th century, Changangkha Lhakhang is the oldest temple in Thimphu. It is hovering over a ridge above Thimphu, near Motithang. Lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo who came to Bhutan from Ralung in Tibet chose this site to build this lhakhang. The Lhakhang houses Chenrizig, eleven headed, thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara (God of compassion) as the central statue.

There are large prayer wheels inside the Lhakhang and many small ones on the walls outside the Lhakhang.


Tashichhodzong


The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in the 1960s. While other governments around the world ensconce themselves in fortresses of stone and steel, the seat of Bhutan's Royal Government is in a building that mirrors the country's culture and its people.

The building we see today is largely a modern affair, built in 1962 when His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk moved the government to Thimphu after a fire at its original location.

The complex's central tower is original. Tashichhodzong houses the main secretariat building, throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. During the warmer summer months the monk body headed by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, makes its home in the Dzong.

Approximate driving time: 01 hour. Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m.

Overnight - Hotel Dragon Roots in Thimphu or similar.


Day 10 - Departure from Paro


After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight.

Your escort will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.


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