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Manas Wildlife Sanctuary Southern Bhutan
The Manas National Park is one of Bhutan’s Crown Jewel and represents the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan.
Like the Chitwan National Park of Nepal, the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan mirrors its grandeur and popularity. The park covers 1057 sq km in south-central Bhutan and shares the border with India’s Manas Tiger Reserve which is listed as a World Heritage Site. Manas is teeming with a wide variety of wildlife including the endangered Royal Bengal tiger, elephants, rhinoceroses, clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, civets, Gangetic dolphin, pangolin, and the extremely rare golden langur. About 200 species of birds can be spotted and more than 365 species have been officially registered, a few namely rufous-necked hornbill, blue-headed rock thrush, and emerald cuckoo. Manas is also excessively rich in botany with exotic species of flora and fauna and more than 900 types of plants found making it one of the most diverse protected areas in Bhutan.
The flight to Paro gives some of the spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. Our representative will receive you at the airport. Depending on the flight arrival time we can squeeze in a few sightseeing today. You will visit Rinpung Dzong built in the 17th century. The dzong is a majestic fortress holding treasure artworks—murals, statues, and carvings. Next visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and sacred temples in the country dating back to the 7th century. Elderly pilgrims can be seen chanting and circumambulating the temple. It has a pleasant aura. Next, drive to Thimphu, the capital. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
In the morning you can hike to Tango Monastery, which was built by the “Divine Madman” in the 15th century. It is a center of study for monks, and it affords a great view of the Thimphu Valley. On the grounds of the monastery is a “sin-testing” tunnel. It is said that if you have sinned, you will get stuck in the tunnel, and if not, you will go through with ease! Hike back to Thimphu. In the afternoon, you will catch a busy Weekend Market at the bank of the Thimphu river where people from nearby villages come to sell their farm products. You can stroll through the market to see the variety of food of the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and fruits. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It’s fun to wander the aisle, taking in the bustling atmosphere of the market. Perhaps this market scene offers wonderful opportunities for photographs and to mingle with local people. In the evening, you can stroll through Thimphu town and absorb the lifestyle of the people. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Today you will enjoy the scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at Dochu La at 3,100m which is adorned by 108 chortens (stupas). On a clear day, you can get amazing views of the Himalayas from here. From the pass, drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir, and hemlock. On the way, you will stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple dedicated to the Divine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. If you wish, receive blessings from the Lama’s wooden phallus! You will arrive at Punakha after traversing through rice fields and along the bank of the Punakha river. After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
After breakfast, you will drive to Gangtey, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes, through dense forests of fir, hemlock, oak trees, and rhododendrons. On taking the diversion from the high-way, and crossing a small pass blanketed with dwarf bamboos, you will arrive at Gangtey. From Gangtey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range. You will visit Gangtey Goenpa, the only Nyingmapa Monastery in western Bhutan; RSPN Education Center, and crane roosting places. Later in the day, you will drive back to Punakha. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
After early breakfast, you will drive to Gelephu, a border town and the gateway to south-central Bhutan. From Wangdue, drive downstream of Punatsangchhu River meandering through subtropical forests and pass the Punatsangchhu Hydro Project to the road junction which leads to Sunkosh from the right. We keep left and ascend all the way till Tsirang, your lunch stop. After lunch, drive downhill to the small town of Sarpang and 30 minutes on the foothill plains passing small villages to Gelephu. The Gelephu town is large but less hustle which makes it pleasant for a night halt. Check-in on arrival. Overnight at a hotel in Gelephu.
Today you will drive north of Zhemgang through mandarin orchards and cardamom farm in Surey village. From this village, you get views of the Dungshing peak, the highest peak in the Black Mountain range, on clear weather. After Surey village, continue on to the town of Tingtibi by the side of Mangde Chhu River and then to Gongphu, a place of flourishing sub-tropical ecosystem owing to the maximum rainfall it receives. En route, you might spot unique birds such as the Great Hornbill, yellow-throated Fulvetta, and more common species like the black eagle, blue-throated Barbet, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, golden babble, nuthatch, and rufous–bellied eagle. Gongphu is the northernmost tip of Royal Manas Park located at 1450m. The place harbors a number of wildlife such as the golden langur, tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, and sambar along with a number of bird species. Overnight in camp.
Drive to Panbang located near the confluence of Drangme Chhu and Mangde Chhu River through picturesque villages and forest of mixed broad-leaved with thick undergrowth. People here live a simple life in bamboo houses with thatched banana/grass roofs. It is perfect for a quiet time in nature and also leisure activities of bird watching and even butterfly tours. You might spot Pale-headed Woodpecker, White-hooded Babbler, White-breasted and Pale-billed parrotbills and Yellow–bellied Warbler. Overnight in camp.
Today you will finally head to the Manas National Park and spend two days engaging and exploring the park through various activities like – bird watching, river rafting, picnicking, and walking through the Park’s Eco-Trail. Take a scenic boat ride on the pristine river to Manas core area and spend some time birdwatching. You can also go on an elephant safari and even give them a bath. Other wildlife you can see are water buffalos, rhinoceroses, gorals, pygmy hog, and golden langurs. Clouded leopards and total Bengal tigers are rare to spot. Overnight in Camp.
It is time to leave the park and drive to Trongsa. The first thing to notice is the change in vegetation from sub-tropical to broad-leaved evergreen forests. In Trongsa visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture built in 1644. Situated atop a steep ridge above Mangde Chhu river, the dzong gives impressive views of the surrounding valleys. Check into your hotel on arrival. Overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
Start your drive from Trongsa where in few minutes you will cross the Mangde Chhu River. Ascend gradually to Chendebji Chorten which was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida in Nepalese style with eyes painted at four cardinal points. You will stop here for a while and then drive to Chazam where lunch will be served at a motel. Continue the drive passing the semi-nomadic villages of Sephu and Rukubji and during winter months you will spot some yaks grazing on the meadows and hillside with an abundance of dwarf bamboos. Soon you will reach Pele La pass at 3430m and from the pass, it is all downhill to Nobding where you will stop for tea and snacks. Further down you reach Tikti Zampa and Wangduephodrang, crossing the Punatsangchhu River you will reach Punakha valley where you will stop for a night stay in a hotel.
Today you will return to Thimphu via Dochula pass again. Visit the new Druk Wangyal Monastery, which is the only of its kind in the country with elaborate paintings depicting the lineage of the present monarchy and their visionary works. Continue to drive to Thimphu and Check into the hotel on arrival. Later in the afternoon, you will visit Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972, the majestic Tashichhodzong, and the giant Buddha statue on a hill overlooking Thimphu which is reputed to be the largest bronze Buddha Shakyamuni statue in the world. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Today you will drive to Paro and start your hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180m/10433ft. Guru Rinpoche, the great spiritual master is said to have miraculously flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up on the mountain. After having explored the monastery, you will hike down to Paro. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, drive to the airport for departure. Our representative will bid you farewell.
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