Day 1: Paro – Thimphu
Elevation 2,320m | Drive time 1 hours
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine.
Buddha Point [1 hrs] – Located at Kuensel Phodrang, the 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is pectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
National Memorial Chorten[1 hrs] – Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation at the National Memorial Chorten. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’. Treat yourself with fantastic depiction of Buddhist teachings in form of paintings and sculptures at this temple. As the name denotes this National Memorial Chorten was consecrated on July 28, 1974 in memory of the Third King.
Sangaygang (BBS Tower) [2 hrs] – Drive about 15 minutes from the main city to a hillock where the Bhutan Broad Casting Tower is stationed. From there you can relish the beautiful scene of the whole of Thimphu City. On the way up or down from the hillock, you can also see Takin the national animal of Bhutan. It is also possible to request for early morning walk up to this view point.
Takin Enclosure [1 hrs] – On the way to the viewpoint over Thimphu is the home of Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin, a strange looking beast some say looks like a beestung moose.
Tashichho dzong (Thimphu Dzong) [1 hrs] – The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially constructed in 1641 and restored by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichho dzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. (5 – 6 pm Mon – Fri, 8 am – 6 pm Sat & Sun, to 5 pm in winter)
Walk around Thimphu Town [1 hrs] – Shop and walk around Thimphu town.
Day 2: Thimphu (Tango Day Trek)
Situated at an altitude of 2400m, Thimphu is the centre of government, religion and commerce. The capital has aninteresting combination of tradition and modernity, and includes some of the most advanced and remotest parts of the kingdom. It is home to the Kings and the Royal family members, civil servants, expatriates, politicians, business persons and monks. Enjoy this cultural mix based on livelihood. Of culture we will take you through temples, dzongs, chortens, museums, handicraft stores, nunneries, parks and many more. Allow yourself to meet both traditional and contemporary artist.
Tango/Cheri Monastery [4 hrs] – Trek to Tango Goemba & picnic/lunch by river The Tango Goemba site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the Lama who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. Tango, a Buddhist monastic college, is named after a vision of the horse-headed deity experienced by Drukpa master Phajo Drukom Zhigpo, while Cheri is a retreat centre for meditating lamas. Both monasteries are about an hour hike. Tango is the highest center of Buddhist learning in the country; almost every Je Khenpo (religious head of Bhutan) completed the 9-year program there. After completing that program, monks traditionally spend 3 years, 3 months and 3 days in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat, built in 1619 by ShabdrungNgawangNamgyal, the founder or first unifier of Bhutan. It is currently the home of an 19 year old boy believed to be the seventh reincarnation of the fourth desi, or ruler, of Bhutan. After your hike, you might want to enjoy a leisurely packed lunch by the river.
Folk Heritage Museum [1 hrs] – If there is still time, we may visit this replica of a traditional Bhutanese house as it would have looked 100 years ago and as many Bhutanese families still live to this day.
Please note museum, monastery, temple and dzong opening days and times can and do vary with national holidays and events such a visit by a member of the Royal Family or auspicious ceremonies.
(Weekday, 10 am – 4.30 pm, Sat 10.30 – 1 pm, Sun, 11.30 – 3.30pm)
Institute of Zorig Chusum[1 hrs] – Commonly known as the Painting School, or the School of the Thirteen Arts, the Institute offers you a glimpse of novices learning 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. It is a hands-on trip for you. Enjoy few moments with future artists of the country.
Mon – Fri, 09.00 – 15.30, Sat, 09.00 – 12.00
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
Elevation 1,300m | Drive time 3 hours
We will set off early from Thimphu after breakfast, perhaps with a visit to the weekend market first. Then proceed toPunakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan, about 2 1/2 hours drive from Thimphu across Dochu-la pass. Once you cross the pass, you wind down into a warm fertile valley and meander along a gently flowing aquamarine river that leads you to the PunakhaDzong, the second dzong to be built in Bhutan.
Dochula Pass [2 hrs] – at 3,050m, this beautiful pass with its 108 Bhutanese stupas was built by Her MajestyThe Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate victory over the Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the lives lost.
Chhimi Lhakhang[2 hrs] – The divine madman also known, as Drukpa Kinley is a famous teacher with whom the phallic symbol is associated. Tales told by your guide would have excited you to visit Chhimi Lhakhang. The Divine Madman sits there though a statue this time. Do not miss the master’s deeds painted on the walls. Japanese and several American couples visited this temple and were blessed miraculously with children. Ask yourself, do I need this Fertility Tour or not?
Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge [1 hrs] – The 160 metres Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge is known for the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, which gives you spectacular views of Punakhadzong and the Pho Chhu Valley.
Punakha Dzong[2 hrs] – Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong enrich your trip with the opportunity to see the highest standards in woodwork. Do not miss the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated.
Day 4: Punakha to Bumthang
Drive time 8 hours
Pelela pass at 3300m is an important dividing range that separates Western Bhutan from Central and Eastern Bhutan. Crossing this important Pass, one may enjoy the pastoral feeling as you drive deeper into the valley with meadows where sheep and yaks graze. The bamboos that grow plenty on these hillsides are trimmed by yaks. Yaks love the dwarfed bamboos. If you are a bird watcher, look out for the specialty called the Wren Babbler taking refuge underneath those bamboos. In the months of April-June, the hillsides are painted with the rhododendron blooms. Trongsa, the sacred and the temporal heart of the country is the first district that you will come across.
Chendebji Chorten[1 hrs] – Two kilometers beyond Chendebji village is Chendebji Chorten, at a lovel0y spot by a river confluence. The large white chorten is patterned after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu and was built in the 19th century by Lama Shida, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was killed.
Trongsa Dzong[1 hrs] – were laid in the 16th century by Pema Lingpa and flourished during the 17th century under Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The impressive fortress is a massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde Chu Valley, commanding the east-west road.
Trongsa Museum (Taa Dzong) [2 hrs] – sits high above the valley at a strategic vantage point over Trongsa Dzong. The “Tower of Trongsa” tells the stories of the dzong and the valley that it has watched over for centuries. His Majesty the King inaugurates the Taa Dzong as a museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty, land marking yet another significant event as the nation celebrates 100 years of the monarchy. It has been restored into a classy museum that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity. There are 224 items on display, include a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang (self spoken Vajradharna), a bronze statue of Pema Lingpa, made by himself and a number of centuries old treasures like dance and ritual costumes and objects, ancient prayer books, paintings and scrolls and textiles.
Day 5: Bumthang
Bumthang is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area witha wide variety of fauna and flora. The Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) making Bumthang hishome have led to more than 40 temples being built in this peaceful valley.
Jakar Dzong[1 hrs] – Pitched on a high ground overlooking the town junction, the Dzong was first constructed in 1549 by thegreat grandfather of the first Zhabdrung, the dzong was initially built as a monastery. It was upgraded in 1646, after the zhabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.
Jambay Lhakhang[1 hrs] – This 7th century monastery was one of 108 monasteries built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region and who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. Its presentarchitectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. However the inner shrine with the Future Buddha is believed tobe there some 1400 years ago. Jambay festival (Jambay Lhakhang Drup in the late autumn) is famous for the Tercham. English speaking Bhutanese referto this dance as the Naked Dance. Indeed some dancers appear naked!
Kurjey Lhakhang[1 hrs] – one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses arock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who had taken the form of a white lion.
Tamshing Goemba[2 hrs] – Built by 1501 by Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa then hike up to Thangbi Valley and cross asuspension bridge to visit Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century via unpaved road.
Hotels in Bumthang
Day 6: Bumthang, visit Ura Valley
One of the most tranquil and beautiful valley, Ura is a must visit valley in Bumthang. While in Ura visit the Ura Monastery and simply enjoy the meadows and the beautiful landscapes, the buck wheat and barley fields.
Ura Valley [6 hrs] – Enjoy an excursion to Ura valley which will be around four hours driving back and forth. The drive isexciting as it passes through some sheep rearing farms. Serthang-la pass at 3600m above sea level offers a great view of Gangkar Puensum (the highest unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas). Farmers at Ura village are enterprising and they have a community library initiated by Global READ (a NGO from the US).The highlight of Ura village is the festival that takes place in spring.One of the most tranquil and beautiful valley, Ura is a must visit valley in Bumthang. While in Ura visit the Ura Monasteryand simply enjoy the meadows and the beautiful landscapes, the buck wheat and barley fields.
Day 7: Bumthang to Gangtey
Drive time 7 hours
The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home toaround six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in thewinter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Gangtey Goempa[1 hrs] – Situated south of the road and east of Wangdue Phodrang, is Gangtey Gompa, an old monastery dating back to the 17th century. The largest Nyingma monastery in western Bhutan, it was founded in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinlay.
Black-Necked Crane Information Centre [1 hrs] – The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of thepopular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can beobserved from early November to end of March.Black-Necked Crane Information Centre, which has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. Youcan use the centre’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet ‘Field Guide to Crane Behaviour’.
If the weather’s iffy you can browse the library and handicraft shop, and watch videos at 10am and 3pm (Nu200).This is also the centre of the valley’s fledgling ecotourism initiative and they can arrange mountain-bike hire (Nu 700 perday), an overnight stay in a local farmhouse or lectures on the local ecosystem.
Nature Hike along the valley of Phobjikha[2 hrs] – A short trek of about 90 minutes known as the ‘Gangte Nature Trail’ starts from the Mani stone wall to the north of the Gangteng Gonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang.
Day 8: Gangtey to Paro
Elevation 2,280m | Drive time 5 hours
The beautiful valley of Paro is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Jomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.
Paro Valley [0 hrs] – The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. Thecountry’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Jomolhari (7,300 meters) situated atthe northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong (aka Ringpung Dzong) [2 hrs] – Explore the Rinpung Dzong which the locals call the ‘fortress of a heap ofjewels’. Built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the dzong stands on a hill above Paro Township. It is linked by thetraditional cantilever bridge (called the Nemi Zam) over the Pa chu where one may pose a photograph. Experience a walkup a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. Once inside the Dzong, you will be welcomed by themonks, architecture and the ancient frescoes.
National Museum (Paro Ta Dzong) [1 hrs] – On a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong is Ta Dzong, originally built as awatchtower. In 1968, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as the first National Museum, and now holds a fascinating collection of art,relics, religious thangkha paintings, Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, together with a small naturalhistorycollection. Start or end your trip with a visit to this marvelous museum.
Kyichu Lhakhang[1 hrs] – Also known as Kyerchu Temple or LhoKyerchu, is the oldest temple in Bhutan. Just like Jambhay Lhakhang in Bumthang, it is one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to subdue and pindown an ogress that was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. According to legend, all 108 temples were built in a singlenight.Go back in time and history and visit the 7th century Kyichhu temple. As the name suggests, the temple is a reservoir ofpeace, where you will really feel at peace here.Next to the temple is the house that is now turned into a museum dedicated to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. One cancome across photographs and other artifacts belonging to Rinpoche.
Paro Town [2 hrs] – After a day of hiking, perhaps its to explore the main street of Paro town and check out if there’s anything you will like to pick up as a souvenir!
Day 9: Paro
Are you ready? We will be making the hike up to one of the key highlights in Bhutan today! Tiger’s Nest aka Taktsang Monastery Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) [6 hrs] – Often called the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the cliffs, has awestruck many avisitor. “Trip to Bhutan is never complete without climbing to Taktsang”, says one tourist. Indeed it’s true as the journey therefills you with spiritual bliss. For those not choosing the spiritual side it is the dramatic, artistically built monument thatbecomes a hiker’s delight. Take a trip to this dramatically set Buddhist relic hanging from a cliff. Experience the uphill climbas you ascend more than two thousand feet from the valley floor.
A prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex located on the cliff side of Paro Valley. According tolegends, it is believed that Guru Rinpochhe flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a Tigress (his consort Yeshey Tshogyal) and meditated in one of the caves. Guru Rinpochhe performed meditation and emerged in eight manifestationsand the place became holy. Thus gaining the name Tiger’s Nest.
Day 10: Depart Paro
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country. We hope bynow you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forwardto seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!