Arrive in Paro, Drive to Thimphu
Shuttle to Hotel, hold evening meeting.
Drive to Thimphu
Guided tour of Historical sites; Tashichho Dzong, Folk Heritage Museum, National Textile Museum, Painting School, National Library, Institute of Traditional Medicine, Hand-made Paper Factory, Mini Zoo, Drubthob Nunnery, Simtokha Dzong, Changangkha Lhakhang, King’s Memorial Chorten.
Thimphu to Punakha
A short scenic drive to Punakha via high passes with amazing mountain views of 7 different peaks over 7,000 meters (22,965 ft.) including the highest mountains of Bhutan and visit cultural sites in Punakha.
Punakha to Gangtey
A memorizing drive to Gangtey and Gangtey valley guided tour. En route visit Dzong and market of Wangdue Phodrang.
Gangtey to Thimphu
We retrace our route back to Thimphu.
Thimphu to Paro
A short drive to Paro and full day guided tour of Paro valley (Visit Kichu Lhakhang, Paro Rinpung Dzong, Drukgyal Dzong, traditional Bhutanese farm house).
Hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
A short hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) and free afternoon for shopping.
Transfer to Paro International Airport and bid farewell.
Day 1: Fly to Paro
Fly onboard Druk Air to Paro, Bhutan. On a clear day the panoramic views of the Himalaya are sensational, including Everest, but particularly exciting is the approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro. On arrival, once you have cleared any airport formalities, you will be met and transferred to Thimphu, the least visited of all the Himalayan capitals. This is 1 hour 15 minutes lovely drive through spectacular mountain views and peaceful countryside and passing via Simtokha village and the Dzong.
Afternoon, at leisure or stroll around the capital city. Thimphu is a small, charming capital city sandwiched in the heart of the Himalayas. All houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style. Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu (D)
Estimated travel time: 1 hour 15 mins Approximate distance: 40 miles; 65 km
Day 2: Drive to Thimphu – Full day Exploration
The capital of Bhutan is situated on west bank of the river Thimphu, (Thimphu Chhu) in a wooded valley at an elevation of 2320 m (7,612 ft.). Prior to 1961 Thimphu was only an insignificant village, but since the country emerged from isolation, its importance has grown and it has many official buildings. The Secretariat, King’s offices and some ministries are housed in the Tashichho Dzong, next to which one of the world’s highest golf courses (9 hole) has been made. With a population of not more than 100,000; Thimphu is an easy place to wander around, and will enable the visitor to appreciate the detail of Bhutanese architecture.
Depending on the time availability and preference, following sightseeing can be done:
Places to visit: King’s Memorial Chorten – Every day many Bhutanese come to this Tibetan-style chorten to honour the memory of the third king. Inside there are numerous religious paintings and statues of different Buddhist deities.
Folk Heritage Museum – An outdoor museum which gives an insight into rural life is centered around a mud and timber farm house.
National Textile Museum – A brief introductory video explains the complexities of Bhutanese dress before entering the exhibition of dress and textiles from around the country.
Painting School – The school of fine arts where young students learn the traditional arts and crafts (Zo Rig Chusum – the thirteen crafts).
National Library – Established in 1967 the library preserves many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan books written on strips of paper and wrapped in cloth.
Institute of Traditional Medicine – Prepares and dispenses what is often called Tibetan medicine. There is a research and production center and a clinic where patients are often treated with cupping, steaming or blood-letting.
Hand-made Paper Factory – Produces traditional Bhutanese paper for local use as well as for export.
Mini zoo – This large grassy and treed enclosure holds several Takins, the unusual-looking national animal that normally migrates to high alpine valleys in summer.
Drubthob nunnery at Zilukha.
Simtokha Dzong – This is the oldest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1629 A.D. by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It also houses the largest monastic school in the country.
Changangkha Lhakhang – A fortress-like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge overlooking the Thimphu valley.
Tashichho dzong – Suffering damage from both fires and earthquakes the king ordered the restoration of the dzong in the 1960s. It is the summer residence of the central monk body and ministries and as such entrance is not always permitted.
Handicraft Emporium and the local handicraft centers to see the varieties of textiles, thangka paintings, masks, jewellery etc. on display.
Simply Bhutan at Nazhoen Pelri Youth Centre in Thimphu before driving off to Punakha. This is a living museum where visitors have the opportunity to see antiques on display, young people cooking food in traditional mud stove with firewood, pounding mud walls and singing jolly songs, girls weaving on traditional looms, pounding cereals, carving designs on wood and stones and making masts and incense etc. Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu (B, L, D)
Day 3: Thimpu to Punakha
After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,150 m; 10,335 ft.) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158 m; 23,484 ft.), Tsendagang (6,960 m; 22,834 ft.), Terigang (7,060 m; 23,163 ft.), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m; 23,484 ft.), Kangphugang (7,170 m; 23,524 ft.), Zongphugang (7, 060 m; 23,163 ft.), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana – finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497 m (24,596 ft).
On arrival in Punakha, check into your hotel. In the afternoon, you can walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Lama Drukpa Kunley, otherwise known as the divine mad monk who is one of Bhutan’s favourite saints. It is a beautiful walk across rice paddies and through a small village. The temple can be visited and there is a tree outside which is said to have sprouted up after Drukpa Kunley sent a thunderbolt from an adjoining valley to kill some evil spirits who had gathered at the site. Overnight at Hotel, Punakha. (B, L, D)
Estimated travel time: 3 hours approx. Approximate distance: 48 miles; 77 km
Day 4: Punakha to Gangtey
After an early breakfast, drive to Phobjikha. From Punakha, the road to Gangtey passes through the small town of Wangdue Phodrang (visit the dzong and the small market place) and just before the Pele La the road diverts to Gangtey valley, which is just 5 km (3.1 miles). The gravel road to Gangtey descends through the fields of bamboo, emptying into a lowland valley of grass that falls within the borders of the Black Mountain National Park. To the Bhutanese, going to Gangtey is like going back in time, an interesting perspective given that they themselves live in a country right out of the pages of King Arthur’s Court. Explore Gangtey valley, Gangtey Goemba overlooks the large green expanse of the Phobjikha valley. The extensive complex consists of Goemba and several other buildings, which include monk quarters, meditation centers, school and small hotel. In front of the yellow roofed Goemba is a Tibetan style chorten with a wooden roof. Visit the crane center. Overnight at Lodge, Gangtey.(B, L, D)
Estimated travel time: 3 hours Approximate distance: 48 miles; 78 km
Day 5: Gangtey to Thimphu
Early day begins to drive 6 hours back to Thimphu. On arrival to Thimphu, you may visit town for last minute shopping or visiting places not completed. Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu (B, L, D)
Estimated travel time: 6 hours approx. Approximate distance: 84 miles; 135 km
Day 6: Thimphu to Paro – Full Day Exploration
Paro lies in the centre of the valley on the banks of the Paro Chhu (river) at an altitude of 2,280 m (7,480 ft.). It is a small modern town with willow tree lined roads constructed only in 1985. The main street has lots of small shops and a few restaurants and at one end of the town is the National Institute of Education, one of Bhutan’s two teacher training colleges. Paro Dzong is the administrative seat of the Paro district, plus home to about 200 monks. From an architectural point of view; is probably the finest in the country. It was constructed in the 17th century on the site of a former monastery and was used on several occasions to defend the valley from Tibetan invasions. Paro is also the site of the only airstrip in the country. Landing at Paro airport is a memorable experience. As you descend into the valley, you fly close to the mountain sides and are able to see prayer flags and traditional Bhutanese houses.
Exploration of Paro valley:
Paro Rinpung Dzong – A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with single roofing anabutted by two guardhouses, to the dzong. Today, the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with the superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The Dzong was built in 1645 A.D.
Kichu Lhakhang - A monastery that was built to hold down the left foot of an ogress whose body covers Bhutan and most of Eastern Tibet. It is one of the 108 monasteries that were miraculously constructed in one night by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. This is one of two of the monasteries that lies within Bhutan, the rest being found in neighbouring countries.
Drukgyal Dzong (now in ruins) – Drukgyal Dzong is built in a location that was chosen for its control over the route to Tibet. A spectacular view of Mt. Jumolhari ( 7,314 m/23,996 ft.) can be seen from here in clear weather.
Later in the afternoon, visit a traditional Bhutanese farm house. Bhutan is not just famous for its cuisine, which is somewhat predictable. Eating at a local farmhouse at least gives a slightly different variation, and a chance to see the inside of such a home, rather than just the brightly decorated exteriors. Overnight at Hotel in Paro (B, L, D)
Day 7: Hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
After breakfast, you will drive 12km; 7.4 miles out of town towards Taktsang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The monastery is possibly the most famous in Bhutan, having been founded in the late 1600’s, and perched on a high rocky ledge 900 m (2,953 ft.) above the valley floor allegedly at a place where Guru Rinpoche rested, travelling on a flying tiger. The monastery suffered a disastrous fire in April 1998, but great efforts have been made to repair the extensive damage. From the parking area it is a two hours walk, mostly through the Coniferous forest, up a steep path to the view point from where there are spectacular views of the monastery. The walk to a viewpoint and small café takes around 2 hours each way. The route is steep in places but straightforward. Some areas of the track are exposed to the sun; so make sure to wear a hat. At the café, you can rest and a buffet lunch will be served. From this point, there is a superb view of the cliff face and monastery. For an even better view, there is a further one hour walk up a steepish track to a point closer to the monastery. After lunch, walk down to your car and drive back to Paro. Rest of the time may be spent strolling around the small township of Paro. Overnight at hotel in Paro (B, L, D)
Estimated travel time: 1 hour 15 mins Approximate distance: 40 miles; 65 km
Day 8: Farewell
After breakfast, we will transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward flight to Bangkok/ Kathmandu/ New Delhi/ Singapore and bid farewell. (B)