Dharma Practitioner Tours

Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks has a serious commitment to hosting dharma practitioners in Bhutan. We understand that a trip to Bhutan for a serious practitioner is a special opportunity to sit in the sacred atmosphere of ancient monasteries. There is nothing more frustrating than being rushed from temple to temple on the usual tourist schedule. Where a typical tourist tour entails a 10 to 20 minute stop at a small temple, we allow hours to sit and practice.

A routine tourist trip to Tigers Nest (or Taktsang) in Paro usually only includes a one hour visit to one or two shrine rooms. But we know that it’s impossible for practitioners to tear themselves away from the site that Guru Rinpoche meditated with Yeshe Tsogyal, so on the Practitioners Tour we leave early in the morning and commit an entire day to this most important of buddhist shrines visiting all of the shrines that are accessible on the day. Space permitting, practitioners can spend hours sitting in the shrine of their choice. Standard tours do either a morning or afternoon visit because Taktsang is closed for an hour over lunch. For practitioners who wish to make a full day visit to Taksang we provide a quick picnic lunch so they can stay at Taksang all day – during the one hour closure we will take you to some of the special sacred sites near Taksang such as Yeshe Tsogyal’s cave where she accumulated Vajrakilaya practice. It is a special experience to accumulate Vajrakilaya in this cave.

Standard tours of temples in Bhutan tend to feature the Kagyu lineage – the Bhutanese state religion. Many tour operators do not realise that western dharma practitioners are familiar with the great Tibetan masters who spent so much time in Bhutan – such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. A typical tour, not designed with Nyingma practitioners in mind, may drive right past their former houses or the current seats of their tulkus without visiting them. As well as visiting the traditional Kagyu temples (the state religion) we will also visit some of the less frequently visited Nyingma sacred sites including private Nyingma temples where photography is allowed inside the temple (photography is not allowed in the state-run Kagyu temples). At many of these temples you may be surprised to see photos of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche. Tshewang, the founder of Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks, has a special connection with the Nyingma lineage – shortly after his birth his parents heard that a great lama, making his escape over the border from Tibet, had just arrived in their small east Bhutan village. They rushed to the lama and he gave Tshewang his name. That lama was Dudjom Rinpoche!

We will organise your dharma tour to ensure that it meets your needs but we really encourage practitioners to visit the valleys of Paro and Bumthang which have the highest concentration of sacred sites – Guru Rinpoche spent so much time in these valleys and left behind many blessings. Many of our dharma practitioner tourists already have an extensive knowledge of Bhutan and its sacred sites and great masters, but we provide prereading including a very special sacred site book only published in Bhutan to help you prepare for your trip.

We also conduct a special low budget tour for practitioners whose main focus is practice and are happy to travel in the “off season” in June, early July, and December. There are far fewer travellers in these months and we will often be the only visitors to some of the smaller temples. While it is colder in December and February the skies are clear and the views of the mountains are superb. In June inclement weather is more common as the monsoon approaches but it is quite warm, however, the high mountain peaks are only rarely glimpsed early in the morning.

Dharma Practitioners Tours to Bhutan: 11 day/10 night Tours.
• High Season: $2,931 (March-May, Sep-Nov)
• Low Season: $2,264 (Dec-Feb, Jun-Aug)

Day 01: Paro-Thimphu
Welcome to Bhutan. We will visit Kyichu Lhakanhg one of the most sacred temples in the Paro Valley. It features a strikingly unusual Guru Rinpoche statue that almost smiles! There is also a full size statue of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in the temple. Dilgo Khyentse’s former house is quite close to the temple. We then drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Thimphu, with a population composed mainly of government employees, monks, the royal family, and, business people has a distinctive Bhutanese character. After checking in to the hotel, we will visit some of the tourist highlights. The School of Arts and Crafts actively promotes traditional local skills. There will also be a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum. Visit to the Takin sancturary, home to the national animal. The famous biologist George Schaller called it a “bee stung moose,” referring to its bulbous nose. Drive to Sangaygang and get a birds eye view of Thimphu city and the valley. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 02: Thimphu-Thimphu
After breakfast, visit the main shrines in the Thimphu Dzong including one of the largest Buddhas in Bhutan in the main shrine and the Guru Rinpoche shrine room, if open, which features a huge Guru Rinpoche with a flame-like swirl of copper coloured adornments around the figure. After lunch, visit the gigantic Buddha statue overlooking Thimphu and then the national memorial chorten (stupa) – if you like participate in circumambulating the chorten with other devotees. Evening take a leisurely walk in the town. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 03: Thimphu-Punakha/Wangdue
This morning, transfer to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, crossing Dochula Pass at an altitude of 10,300 feet amidst majestic Himalayan peaks. Hike up to the small but beautiful Lungchotse temple that sits at the top of the mountain. It takes about 2 hours hiking up and coming down about 1 and half hour through beautiful rhododendron forest and interesting bird life. The shrine room features an amazing Guru Rinpoche statue and it is wonderful to meditate “above the clouds” in this remote temple. Lunch at the Dochula cafeteria. This afternoon, we visit the Punakha Dzong, the winter residence of the Chief Abbot and the Central Monastic Body. The dzong, damaged by fire in 1986, was recently renovated using traditional building techniques that eschew the use of nails, written plans, or power tools. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 04: Punakha- Trongsa/Jakar
Today drive to Jakar, via Trongsa. Proceed across the Pele La Pass (11,300 feet). This afternoon, visit Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family and perhaps the most impressive dzong in the kingdom. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and the dzong can be seen for miles. Upon arrival at the hotel, relax and dine. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 05: Jakar- Jakar
Bumthang and Paro are very sacred because these are the valleys where Guru Rinpoche spent more time and blessed both the temples and entire landscape with his presence. We will visit some of the most sacred temples in Bumthang such as Kurjey Lhakhang. Guru Rinpoche meditated at this site for 3 months and left his imprint on the cave wall. The Queen Mother built a special temple to honour Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche which features are life size statue of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche – it is incredibly inspiring to sit in his presence. Jambey Lhakhang and Tamshing Goemba (one of the most important Nyingmapa temples in the country. Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava) Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 06: Ura/Jakar
Early this morning, depart on a 90-minute drive to the last of the Bumthang valleys, Ura. The day will be spent in this picturesque agrarian village, set in a high valley (10,200 ft.). This farming village is renowned for its good harvest, despite harsh climatic conditions, owing to the hard work of the locals who inhabit the area. Learn of their traditional agricultural techniques and rural customs.Visit a farm house in Ura. There will be about 1 hour hike to Ura Village. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 07: Bumthang- Wangdue/Punakha
Return to the Wangdue Punakha area today. The drive, with various stops, takes about eight hours. In late afternoon, arrive at a comfortable resort with time to relax, dine and enjoy the surroundings. Overnight in Punakha/Wangdue.

Day 08: Punakha/Wangdue/Thimphu/Paro
After breakfast drive north of Punakha. Hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal chorten. It takes about 45mins hiking up. Hike back through a farm village that will take about 1 hour and half. You will get a beautiful view of the Punakha valley. After lunch drive to Paro. It will take about 3 hours and 45mins.Check into hotel with time to relax before dinner. Overnight Paro.

Day 09: Paro
After early breakfast transfer to Satsam Chorten for the steep hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, icon of Bhutan. This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 3,000 feet above the valley floor and is built around a sacred cave that Guru Rinpoche, who first brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century, meditated in. Guru Rinpoche, in the wrathful form of Dorje Drolo flew there from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal – whom he transformed into a flying tigress. Lunch at the cliff-side café or packed lunch for those who wish to lunch nearby Taktsang and reenter when opened after lunch break. It is possible to meditate in Yeshe Tsogyal’s cave during the lunch break. Overnight in Paro.

Day 10: Paro
Drive to Chelela pass(4000mts above sea level) and hike uphill on the ridge for a few hours. Have picnic lunch on the Pass. (Alternatively, visit Dungtse Lhakhang and more sacred sites in Paro Valley). Take a leisurely drive back and stroll in the town. Tonight, enjoy a wonderful Bhutanese farewell dinner in the hotel or local restaurant. Overnight in Paro.

Day 11: Departure Paro
Depending on the time of your flight we will have a light breakfast and go direct to the airport or alternatively visit some other sacred sites in Paro Valley.

Tashi Delek(Good Luck)

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