Day 1: Arrive Paro & Drive to Thimphu
Your introduction to our enchanting kingdom begins on a flight over the Himalayas into the lush green valley of Paro; truly one of the world’s most spectacular sights. Flying into Paro, Bhutan is a unique experience altogether. You will view the world’s highest, most majestic peaks and enjoy the view of the approaching valley with its primeval alpine forest, monasteries, temples and farmhouse nestled in splendid mountain isolation.
Welcome greeting by our representative at the Airport! Proceed to the capital of Bhutan which is an hour’s drive away. Take brief stop at Tamchhu Lhakhang on the way. Built by Thangtong Gyalpo or the Iron Bridge Builder as he is known, this 14th century saint introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is by one of his bridges.
Thimphu the cultural heartland of the kingdom. Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. It is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. Most of the houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.
The view over Thimpu from the big Buddha statue helps to get our bearings before we plunge into this vibrant growing town struggling to blend the shock of the new with traditional aspects of life in the shadow of the Himalaya. Depending on opening hours, guest interests and time, your guide may include some of the following in your private schedule: The Zorig chusum the school of 13 Arts & crafts, Takin preserve (Bhutan’s National animal) or followed by Memorial stupa, which was built in memory of our Late Third King. It now serves as a focal point of worship for people residing in Thimphu especially for elderly people. Evening at leisure!
Overnight Thimpu (Alt; 2320m)
Day 2: Spiritual Tango & Chari Retreat
Embark on a day’s excursion to Tango Buddhist College. Tango monastery is situated in solitary hill covered by forest and is one of the best places to study Buddhism. The monks take pride in being a part of this beautiful Dratsang and at present there are also seven reincarnation studying here.
The 12th century Chari goemba is one of the most popular meditational retreat centre for the monks. The meditational sites are glued to the rocky cliff 300m above the river valley. Once the monks graduate from Tango Monastery most of them decides to sit for meditation around the holy temple of Chari from three years to nine years. Tango Chari is located 12km away from Thimphu city.
The hike to Tango monastery takes about 1.5hrs round trip and the Chari goemba takes about 2.5hrs round trip. Picnic lunch will be arranged amidst the nature trail. After visiting the holy shrines, you can spend some time meditating in the temple and the surrounding campus. It is believed, meditation happens own at this serene site.
Visit the Folk Heritage Museum where the cultural lifestyle of the ancient Bhutan has been preserved, followed by visit the Bhutanese Paper Factory, This traditional handmade paper is still being widely used around the country.
In the evening, witness an archery match played by the locals with lots of hue & cry! Archery is the national game of Bhutan and one of the best ways of expanding your public relation is by participating in it (If it is happening while you are there).
Later visit the Tashichhoe Dzong, the main secretariat building, the office of the King and Throne room and also the house of the State Monastic Body.
Overnight Thimphu. Alt; (2,320m)
(Please note; your itinerary shall be flexible and your guide shall give you options based on your interest)
Day 3: Phobjikha Rural Expedition (130 kms/5 hrs)
On rise, after your breakfast drive to Phobjikha enrouting Wangdue valley. It’s about 5hrs drive from here. The Dochula pass is one of the most spectacular passes in Bhutan and is about 45 minutes’ drive (22km) from the capital city, Thimphu. The pass (3080) marks the watershed between the districts of Thimphu on the western side and Punakha on the eastern side. It presents a panoramic view of these districts and some others beyond them. You can also get the panoramic view of the Eastern Himalayas. It is also decorated with 108 beautifully adorned stupas for the wellbeing of Nation and pay tribute to our great fourth monarch of Bhutan.
Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the north western tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Goenpa that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjikha valley. According to legend that the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson (the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613. The Phobjikha valley is also one of the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its northern habitats in Tibet and Siberia to these grounds.
Visit Information Centre for the Blacked Necked Cranes. Evening, take a hike through the Blue Pine forest to the hotel. Overnight Phobjikha. (Alt; 2900m)
Day 4: Gangtey Landscape & Punakha (67 kms/3 hrs)
Early rise and take a walk out into the serene valley of Phobjikha to enjoy the sunrise & fresh air. Visit the Gangtey Goenpa while the monks will be sitting for their morning prayers. This is biggest Nyingma temple of the kingdom. Stop for mountain views along the road during your journey.
Punakha is the former Capital of the kingdom and at present day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female river. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
Evening, hike to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is called the Temple of Fertility as it is believed that childless couples who come here to pray for a child and is usually blessed with a child if you come with true devotion. This is the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman.” The trail takes you through the Himalayan paddy fields and a typical village called Lobesa.
Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue. (Alt; 1300m)
Day 5: Punakha sightseeing
Walk or white watering rafting adventure for a full day to cover all the highlights of the valley. We start early with a short walk up through whitewashed homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yuley Namgyle Chorten, a shrine built by the royal family. This temple is a startlingly ornate and elaborate structure boasting a rainbow of Guru Rinpoche images and superb views of the lush rice paddies and orange groves of the Punakha Valley.
Downstream the edifice of Punakha Dzong (Druk Pungthang Decchen Phodrang – the Palace of Great Happiness) awaits and we can either drive down or float to its gates on a rafting adventure. Built in 1637 by Zhabdung Nawang Namgyal in a commanding position at the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu (Father and Mother rivers).
Bhutan’s second oldest dzong served as the seat of the Kingdom’s government until the time of the second King and today is the winter home of the Je Khempo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of about 1,000 monks. Some guests are so captivated by the murals, shrines and general goings on in the courtyards that they chose to spend a few hours in the dzong.
Optional half day white water rafting adventure (at an additional charge).
Overnight Punakha. (Alt; 1,300m)
Day 6: Countryside Getaway to Haa Valley (112 kms/5 hours)
In morning, drive to the valley of Haa. It is time to retrace our steps back over the Dochu La for a second chance of that spectacular view of the Himalayan range if the weather permits. Returning to the Chunzom (or confluence) we catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese style which were built to ward off evil spirits near the checkpoint. From here we take new road to Haa valley diverting to south west from the confluence following the downstream Wangchu River.
This is a scenic drive passing through quite a number of rural villages and beautiful landscapes. The pristine Haa Valley, ancestral home of Bhutan’s Queen Mother was closed to outsiders till 2001. It is surrounded by forested hillsides full of ancient shrines, while the narrow valley floor is dotted with fields of millet, barley, and potatoes. Its farm houses are adorned with intricately painted wooden cornices and ornately carved window frames.
You will walk through the serene hamlets and remote monasteries below mountain peaks like the temple of Black & White Dove. Evening, take a leisurely drive to the beautiful valley of Damthang and on the way back stroll around the remote town of Haa.
Overnight Haa. (Alt; 2670m)
Day 7: Haa-Chele la Pass & Paro (66 kms/2 hrs 30 mins)
Chele La Pass, Alpine skyline walk to Kila goemba Nunnery.
Seemingly suspended in rock crags almost on the brink of the highest road pass in Bhutan (Chele La 3,988m), Kila Goemba has been a retreat for meditation since the 9th century. As with so many temples in the Himalaya it was destroyed by fire before being rebuilt by the 25th Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan), Sherab Gyaltsen. These days it is an Anim Dratshang or nunnery; lofty retreat, place of worship and home to about 30 hardy nuns.
The day’s adventure starts early but we soon get towards the summit of Chele La we pop out of the blue pine and rhododendron forest into windswept highlands much favored by yaks and dotted with azaleas, edelweiss and perhaps even the famous blue poppy at certain times of the year. With tantalizing glimpses of Mt Jhomalhari (7,314m) at every other hairpin bend we finally reach the summit and western Bhutan is laid before us with the Paro valley and the mountains of Sikkim to the west, Mt Jhomalhari and Tibet to the north and the patchwork fields of the Paro valley down to the east.
Leaving the prayer flag swathed col and our vehicle behind we strike off along the ridge to the summit ( almost 4200 m ) before plunging back into the primeval forest, reaching the nunnery after around three hours. Having paid our respects at the temple and maybe even received a blessing it is time to say farewell to the nuns and drop further into the valley and back to our waiting vehicle.
Guided with picnic lunch
Overnight Paro. (Alt; 2,280m)
Day 8: Paro sightseeing
Drive through Paro Town, past Ugyen Pelri Palace and the main archery ground and onto Uma Hotel from where you will start your walk.
Time for an easy but spectacular walk high above the valley to the pretty grounds of Zurig Dzong overlooking Rinpung Dzong and the festival ground before descending to our pick up point near Ta dzong(watch tower). Taking in the magnificent views, we may be fortunate to see a plane on its final approach.
Visit Bhutan’s National museum which houses some of the religious mask, Thangkhas (wall hanging/tapestry), religious artefacts, History & geological landscape of Bhutan. Proceed further down to visit Rinpung Dzong (fortress on the heap of jewel) which houses the seat of government and monastic body of Paro valley.
Take a short walk down to the traditional cantilevered bridge Nyami Zam which is built over the Pa Chhu River. From here you can get a good picture of the Ta Dzong, Dzong & the bridge. Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Later in the evening take a stroll in the Paro town.
Overnight Paro. (Alt; 2280m)
Day 9: Quest for Mystical Taktsang (3,080m)
Drive to Satsam Chorten and spend the day hiking up the forested path to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s most famous and scenic icon. The climb is steep and takes about 4 hours round trip. An important place of pilgrimage and refuge for more than 1200 years, Taktsang Monastery clings to sheer cliffs two-thousand feet above Paro Valley, and from your closest vantage point on a rocky ledge directly across from it, you will still need 200-300 mm lenses and a steady tripod to get tight photographs.
This sacred place got its name when Guru Rinpoche rode there on the back of a flying tiger and meditated in a cave behind the present-day monastery. Sadly, in 1998, the central temple was destroyed by fire, leaving the country in mourning for their holiest of spiritual places. But religious leaders and the King quickly developed a plan to rebuild Taktsang and donations started pouring in from Buddhist centres all over the world, and today, the magnificently rebuilt exterior is complete. Tiger’s Nest is once again the subject of cloud-shrouded posters that say, “Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Picnic lunch on the hillside cafeteria.
Evening, visit a typical village home for a traditional Bhutanese style dinner accompanied by the local liquor called “Ara” (tastes somewhat like the Japanese Sake) & yak meat. Then luxuriate in the Bhutanese equivalent of a Jacuzzi called a “Chu Tse.” River rocks are heated and dunked into a large wooden tub with herbs. This type of bath is considered to have medicinal properties of healing.
Day 10: Departure
Our representative will bid you farewell at the Airport. Tashi Delek!