BUDDHIST CIRCUIT -Bhutan Nepal India
Places covered: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Kathmandu, Lumbini, Sravasti, Kushinagar, Keshariya, Vaishali, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Sankisa & Varanasi
Day1. Arrive Bhutan from Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi . (Thimphu/Paro elevation 2300m/10496feet.)
Bhutan is a rich mosaic of different cultures, traditions, life styles, ethnic groups, languages and belief systems. It is astounding that a country with a population of just over half a million speaks as many as nineteen different dialects and a few major languages. Diverse as it may seem, yet the Bhutanese socio-culture fabric is well interlaced and harmonized mainly due to the common thread of simple Buddhist values that the people share.
Our cultural tours are the easiest way to get a taste of Bhutan. With comfortable nights in hotels and luxury buses or cars during the day, we will give you a tour of all the major towns. Each town has a Dzong/Monastic Fort dating back from the 1600s, and many old temples and monasteries, architectural marvels in their own rights. We will also organize a cultural show for you to heighten your experience.
The flight into Paro is a mountain flight and as you approach Paro, you have great views of all the mighty Himalayan peaks including Everest weather permitting. Upon arrival our crew will receive you to the airport and drive you to Thimphu appx 1hr drive. Depending on your flight arrival timing sightseeing will be arranged accordingly.
Drive to the viewpoint of Thimphu and visit the Takin sanctuary, Takin is the national animal of Bhutan with the head of a goat and body of a bull. Legend has it that Lama Drukpa Kuenley the Devine Mad Monk Saint, created this animal. Visit the Memorial Stupa in the evening where you will see many people circumvallating the stupa for merit, the stupa was built on advise by His Holiness Dundjom Rimpoche for the peace and prosperity of Bhutan.
Later view Cultural show with mask dancing, folk singing and dancing followed by dinner.
Day2. Thimphu sightseeing.
Visit Changangkha Monastery: Built in 12th century, Changangkha Lhakhang is one of 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/monastery. The Lhakhang houses Chenrizig: an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara as the central statue.
The prayer books in this Lhakhang are larger than the usual Buddhist texts.
Zilukha nunnery in Drubthob Goemba: This nunnery is one of the largest nunneries in Bhutan just above the Dzong that overlooks the Thimphu valley. It belongs to Drupthop (The Realised one) Thang Thong Gyalpo from the 15th century. The saint had multiple talents including building bridges and metal works. Here nuns chant prayers and also dwell here. In Bhutan girls and women are admitted to nunneries for short to long period of time .From the nunnery they get an education. Finally they dedicate their lives to serve the society. These nuns are very much involved in local communities in Bhutan and helping needy families.
Pangri Zampa Lhakhang is idyllically located in the middle of a meadow, not far from the river, a 20-minute drive from the lodge on the way to Tango and Cheri monasteries. The temple appeared in Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s vision which directed him from Tibet to Bhutan. The temple was built by Ngawang Choegyel, the great-grandfather of the Zhabdrung, and was the Zhabdrung’s residence when he arrived in Bhutan in 1616. Today, the temple is used as an astrologer’ss centre of the state clergy, and is the home to around 100 monks studying astrology. During a visit Pangri Zampa you can learn more about astrology, and also have your personal reading done.
Day3. Thimphu to Punakha 2 hrs drive.
Travel to the lush green valley of Punakha. 1 hr drive will take you to the Dochula pass at 3200m/10496ft. There are 108 stupas built by the Queen mother for the wellbeing of the Bhutanese people and the King. Weather permitting you will have great views of the eastern Himalayan range including the highest unclimbed mountain at 7500m/24600ft.
When you are about to reach Punakha valley, visit the Chimi Lhakhang/Monastery, it stands on a hillock and was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, after the site was blessed by the "Divine Madman" the maverick saint Drukpa Kinley (1455–1529) who built a chorten/stupa on the site.
In founding the site it is said that Lama Kunley subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the chorten now stands. He was known as the "Mad Saint" or “Divine Madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humour and outrageous behaviour, which amounted to being bizarre, shocking and with sexual overtones. He is also the saint who advocated the use of phallus symbols as paintings on walls and as flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eves. The monastery is the repository of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. This wooden phallus is decorated with a silver handle and is used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 10 inch (25 cm) wooden phallus (erect penis).Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan have been intended to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.
Visit the Punakha Dzong, which displays Bhutanese art and architecture, with many monasteries inside the Dzong/Fortress.
Day4. Punakha-Wangdue sightseeing
Visit Nalanda Buddhist Institute and interact with monks.
Nalanda Buddhist Institute is a small Drukpa Kagyu monastic school (100 students) in Punakha district, Bhutan. All monks in Bhutan receive a small stipend from the government, but the school is not state funded. Principal Sonam Tshewang is responsible for all resource mobilization associated with running the school. On completion of their studies the monks go onto further monastic studies at higher learning institutions. The students often, but not always, come from rural backgrounds and the choice of becoming a monk is framed by economic hardships at home. At this early stage in their education, they have no ability to earn a living through praying for others (holding puja) and the school is responsible for provision of all their needs-food, healthcare, accommodation, clothing and education.
Visit a farm house to witness the daily chores of Bhutanese farm life.
Day5. Punakha to Thimphu. 2hrs drive.
Drive to Thimphu for lunch, complete some last minute shopping, sightseeing of interest that have not been covered earlier. Visit the Druk wangyal stupas at Dochula pass. Visit a monastery at Thimphu like the Semtokha Dzong/Fort which is the oldest Dzong in Bhutan.
Day6. Thimphu to Paro 65km appx 1hr.
Enroute to Paro visit Tachog Lhakhang Dzong is located on the way to Paro valley, and one must actually cross one of Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo bridges to get to the Dzong. Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo was the man who built the iron chain bridges in Bhutan in the late 1300s, and is said to have built 108 of these bridges around Tibet and Bhutan. Many of them are still in use today, showing how strong and durable the bridges are.
The Dzong itself is private, but can still be entered by tourists if permission is given. The Dzong is relatively small and has many fruit trees, orange and apple, around and inside of it. The people who take care of the Dzong also herd cattle, and can be seen caring for them as you continue your tour around the area.
The iron chain bridge might look frightening at first, but once you start crossing it, it becomes very fun. While crossing you will notice that it acts a lot like a trampoline, and while jumping is fun, be sure to be careful! When standing on the bridge and looking forward against the current of the river, it feels and looks as if you are flying on the bridge! There is a separate bridge next to this one that is specifically for cattle to use, as crossing over an iron chain bridge is very difficult and dangerous for them.
On reaching Paro, visit the Paro Dzong (time permitting) before heading back to your hotel.
Day7. Taktsang Monastery Hike or options for other monastery visits .
Taktsang Monastery Hike: Take a hike to the Taktsang Monastery, Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche did his meditation here for 3 months. The hike takes about 3 – 4 hrs depending on the capability of the hikers. This is also a photographer’s delight; the monastery is adorned with prayer flags and stands in the cave of granite rocks 300m above the valley floor. Lunch will be served in the viewpoint cafeteria.
Since the hike is going to be quite an arduous one there is the option to visit the Dzongdrakha Monastery and the Kichu monastery which is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan built in the 7th century by the Tibetain King Songsten Genpo who built 108 monasteries around the region with the heart being Lhasa in Tibet.
Day8. Fly Paro to Kathmandu. Arrival in Kathmandu.
Altitude: 1,400 m / 4600 ft
Upon arrive at airport our representative will meet and assist you then transfer to the hotel. Then visit Patan Doubar Square and Swayambhunath Stupa.
Patan also known as Lalitpur, the city of artisans is a paradise of fine arts and one of the three cities in the Kathmandu Valley. Located 5 miles southeast from the Kathmandu City, Patan is best known for its rich cultural heritage. It is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who have preserved such ancient techniques as the repoussé and lost wax process used to produce exquisite sculptures. The city retains much of its old charm with its narrow streets, brick houses and multitude of well-preserved Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries (vihars) and monuments. The predominant sound in Patan is that of the tinkering of craftsmen bent over the statuettes they are shaping. As in Kathmandu, Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed here for ages, influencing each other, and the religious harmony is exemplary.
Patan Durbar Square is one of seven monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley that together have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also located in the square is the Patan Museum, formerly a Malla palace, which houses bronze statues and religious objects, some dating back to the 11th century.
Finally, visit Swayambhunath Stupa, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient stupa is the most sacred Buddhist shrines of Nepal. The area surrounding the stupa is filled with smaller chaityas, temples, painted images of deities and numerous other religious objects.
The April 2015 earthquake caused major damage to this Heritage Site and reconstruction is currently taking place.
Day 9. Fly to Bhairawa, Drive to Lumbini.
Flight Duration (Domestic Flight): 30 minutes approx.
Altitude: 150 m / 490ft
After breakfast visit Boudhanath stupa and transfer to domestic airport for your flight to Bhairahawa.
Boudhanath Stupa, one of the most imposing landmarks of Kathmandu and a center of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stupa is built on a massive three level mandala style platform and is 36 meters in height. The Stupa is said to entomb the remains of Buddhist sage, perhaps parts of the Buddha’s body, or sacred text and other ceremonial objects.
The top portion of the Stupa was slightly damaged by the April 2015 earthquake. Currently renovation is under process.
Lumbini in the Terai planes of Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha and one of the greatest pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture) and holds immense archeological and religious importance.
Upon reaching Lumbini, you will be transferred to the hotel. You can relax in the evening.
Day 10. In Lumbini.
After breakfast, visit the archaeological sites scattered around Lumbini, all bearing significance to the life and enlightenment of the Buddha. The Myanmar Temple (LokamaniCula Pagoda), The China Temple, built by the Buddhist Association of China, is a complex of pagodas, prayer rooms and meditation cells. Across the road is the Dae Sung Suk GaSa Korean Temple and The Japan Peace Stupa, built by Nippon Jon Kyohoji of Japan.
There are other beautiful monuments and temples that have been built by Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, France, Germany and Sri Lanka.
Day 11. Transfer to Sunauli Border
Transfer to the Sunauli boarder for your onward journey.
Day12 Lumbini – Sravasti (348 kms, 8-9 hrs.)
Lumbini, the world heritage site is renowned for its intrinsic connection with the birth of Buddha. In the morning we will do sightseeing of Lumbini and visit Maya Devi Temple, dedicated to the mother of Buddha. Will pay respect to Pushakarini Pond and other unique ruins of Lumbini. Later drive to Sravasti. Overnight in Sravasti.
Day13 Sravasti – Kushinagar (240 kms, 5-6hrs.)
After breakfast, continue sightseeing of Sravasti, known for its Jetavana rain shelters that served as a monastic complex of Buddha for 24 years. Presently, this sacred site is characterized with the presence of Sahet-Mahet ruins, Anand Bodhi tree, age-old stupas, majestic monasteries and several temples. Later proceed for Kushinagar. Overnight in Kushinagar.
Day14 Kushinagar – Vaishali (218 kms, 5-6 hrs.)
Kushinagar is the place chosen by Lord Buddha for his Mahaparinirvana, or final exit from this earth. Visit the Rambhar Stupa enshrining the cremation ground of Lord Buddha. Later drive to Vaishali, where Lord Bhuddh announced his Mahaparinirvana. Overnight in Vaishali.
Day15 Vaishali – Rajgir (158 kms, 3-4 hrs.)
After breakfast, we drive to Rajgir and en route to visit Nalanda, a 5th century ancient Buddhist university. Reach Rajgir, the ancient Magadha Kingdom capital dotted with many Buddhist attractions including Griddhakuta where Lord preached his followers, Venuvana Vihara, the monastery built by King Bimbisara for Lord Buddha to reside.
Day16. Rajgir to Bodhgaya via Nalanda (75km 2hrs.)
Continue your drive and arrive at Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres in the Buddhist world. In the next three days visit marvellous & legendry spots like Mahabodhi Temple, where one can easily spot out the Sacred Bodhi tree. Under this tree Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Also visit Great Buddha Statue, Thai Monastery, Royal Bhutan Monastery, Cankamana, Muchalinda Lake, Chinese Temple, Sujatha Temple & Archaeological Society of India Museum. Overnight in Bodhgaya.
Day17. Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya to ‘Garupa’ Day Excursion.
While at Bodhgaya we can do a day trip to Kukkuta – Pada – Giri also called ‘Gurupa’ locally. It is about 1.5 to 2 hrs drive from Bodh Gaya.
Regarding Gurupa tour please note that one will have to travel for about 1.5 hrs to 2hrs from Gaya to Gurpa railway station and from there it is an hour long climb/walk to the top of the mountain to reach the site. Big buses don't run on this route so we will need to arrange for smaller vehicles like Innovas and Tempo Travellers. Since it a thickly forested area and also a tribal area for security it will be required that we arrange for a few policeman to accompany us on this trip. This can be arranged. Another thing to be kept in mind is that we start very early around 5 a.m so that we are back by early evening to the hotel. This part of the tour perhaps should be decided while at Bodh gaya. Should we do this tour then supplement cost of USD 15 per person will be applicable to arrange 9-10 smaller jeeps/suvs as the roads are narrow and big buses do not ply there.
Day18 At Bodh Gaya.
Local sightseeing at Bodhgaya.
Day 19. Bodhgaya to Varanasi 250km 5-6hrs.
After witnessing some of the most popular and sacred spots of Bodhgaya, continue your drive and arrive at Varanasi. In the next two days visit peaceful and mythological Banaras Ghats, Manikarnika Ghat, Golden Temple(Kashi Vishwanath), Dhamek Stupa and Archaeological Museum. Overnight in Varanasi.
Day20. At Varanasi. Sightseeing.
Do an early morning boat ride at the river Ganga. Visit Sarnath Temple and various other temples.
Day21. Varanasi to Sankisa.
Drive about 9-10 hrs to Sankisa.
Day 22. Sankisa to Delhi. (7-8hrs).
After an early breakfast sightsee Sankisa and by about 12.pm drive to Delhi. Enroute stop over at Agra and visit the Taj Mahal monument the icon of India. Stay a night near the airport in the aerocity premises. There are many hotels there and we can arrange the holiday Inn, with dinner in the hotel.
Day 23. Departure.
In the morning transfer to the airport for onward flight.
PLEASE INQUIRE FOR PRICE AND CUSTOMIZATION. THE TOUR CAN ALSO BE DONE IN INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES.