Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in1970s. This concept promotes sustainable development taking holistic approach towards the notions of progress with equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars:
Sustainable Socio-Economic Development,
Cultural Preservation, and
Lately these four pillars have been further classified into nine domains to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. These nine domains are:
Cultural diversity and resilience,
Ecological diversity and resilience,
The domains represent each components of wellbeing for the Bhutanese people. The term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.
Gross National Happiness survey was carried out in 2010 with representative samples taken at the districts and regional level. This survey was administered using GNH questionnaire which gathered data on a comprehensive picture of the wellbeing of Bhutanese. The survey gathered data from 7142 respondents; 6476or 90.7% of the respondents had sufficient data to be included in the GNH Index.
Day by Day Itinerary
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THEN DRIVE TO THIMPHU
After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hours) drive from Paro.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, completed by the Royal Queen Mother as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and Zilukha Nunnery. If there is time, you may visit Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’ housing ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body and Buddha Dordenma Statue at Kuensel Phodrang. Return to hotel in Thimphu for dinner and overnight.
DAY 03: THIMPHU – PHOBJIKHA VALLEY
Transfer to Phobjikha Valley (5.5-6 hrs). Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters) which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdom.
Continue on through the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang, and up winding mountain roads through mixed forests and over high passes before descending down into the wide and picturesque Phobjikha Valley. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau.
DAY 04: PHOBJIKHA VALLEY – BUMTHANG
Following breakfast visit the Phobjikha Sanctuary to view the majestic black necked cranes (Nov-Mar only) and Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), dating back to the 16th century. Afterwards drive over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa (4.5 hrs). Enroute visit the beautiful 18th century Chendebji Chorten. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. Visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan and the Ta Dzong museum housing a collection of historical artifacts of the Royal Family.
Continue driving towards Bumthang (2.5 hrs), the spiritual of the kingdom. Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries.
Overnight at hotel in Bumthang
DAY 05: BUMTHANG
In the morning visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and 7th century Jambay Lhakhang. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples. Return to hotel for lunch before continuing sightseeing including Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pemalingpa and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings.
Overnight at hotel in Bumthang.
DAY 06: BUMTHANG – PUNAKHA
Depart for Punakha stopping along the way at Trongsa for lunch.
Overnight and dinner at your hotel in punakha.
DAY 07: PUNAKHA
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. Visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). It is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en mass from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
Afterwards return to hotel for lunch, followed by an excursion on foot to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions. In the afternoon you have an option of returning to Punakha hotel for time at leisure, or a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of Drukpa Kuenly. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time.
Overnight and dinner at your hotel in Punakha.
DAY 08: PUNAKHA – THIMPHU – PARO
Drive back to Thimphu where you will have an opportunity to visit some of the handicraft shops and souvenir stores. Afterwards proceed to Paro. Enjoy your evening at leisure.
Overnight and dinner at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 09: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Refreshments and lunch will be arranged in the tent specifically pitched on the path to Taktsang Monastery.
On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Afternoon is at leisure.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 10: DEPART PARO
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before driving to the airport for flight to your onward destination.
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