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 acclimatise to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine.
National Memorial Chorten – 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.
Centenary Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their wide range of agriculture products. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy souvenirs.
Tashichhodzong (ThimphuDzong) – The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially constructed in 1641 and restored by the Third King JigmeDorjiWangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichhodzong 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)
Visit the Archery Ground – The national sport of Bhutan. Archery in Bhutan is culturally distinctive people from different social strata find archery one of the most enjoyable sports, being both fun and physical exercise. Archery in Bhutan is a way of socialization, communication, and development of relations between people. Emotions run high during competitions, and support for archers and ridicule or distraction of opponents can become as violent as in other countries’ sporting events.
Around Thimphu Town – Shop and walk around Thimphu town.
Day 2: Thimphu
Situated at an altitude of 2400m, Thimphu is the centre of government, religion and commerce. The capital has an interesting 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.
Buddha Point – Located at KuenselPhodrang, 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.
Folk Heritage Museum – 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 – 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
Weaving Centre – Learn about Bhutan’s living national art of weaving.
Takin Enclosure – 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.
Sangaygang (BBS Tower) – 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.
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 to Punakha, 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 – at 3,050m, this beautiful pass with its 108 Bhutanese stupas was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother AshiDorjiWangmoWangchuck to commemorate victory over the Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the lives lost.
Chhimi Lhakhang– 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 ChhimiLhakhang. 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?
Punakha Dzong – Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal 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 GongsarUgyenWangchuck. 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 JigmeSingyeWangchuck.
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 Gangtey/Wangdue
Elevation 2,900m | Drive time 2.5 hours
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 the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Gangtey Goempa– Situated south of the road and east of WangduePhodrang, is GangteyGompa, 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.
Nature Hike along the valley of Phobjikha– A short trek of about 90 minutes known as the ‘Gangte Nature Trail’ starts from the Mani stone wall to the north of the GangtengGonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang and Visit Beta Community School
Day 5: Gangteyto Paro
Paro Valley – The beautiful valley 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 Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the 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 RingpungDzong) – Explore the RinpungDzong which the locals call the ‘fortress of a heap of jewels’. Built in 1646 by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal, the dzong stands on a hill above Paro Township. It is linked by the traditional cantilever bridge (called the NemiZam) over the Pa chu where one may pose a photograph. Experience a walk up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. Once inside the Dzong, you will be welcomed by the monks, architecture and the ancient frescoes.
National Museum (Paro Ta Dzong) – On a ridge immediately above RinpungDzong is Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower. 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 natural History collection. Start or end your trip with a visit to this marvelous museum.
Day 6: Paro (Haa Valley Excursion)
Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988m). From the pass you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the KatsoLhakhang.
The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we return back to Paro for the night.
Haa Valley [7 hrs] – Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988m). From the pass you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the KatsoLhakhang. The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we return back to Paro for the night.
Day 7: Paro (Tiger Nest Excursion)
Clinging precariously to a granite cliff 800 metres above the Paro Valley is Taktsang Monastery “Tiger’s Nest”. The breath-taking scenery is definitely worth the challenging climb up to the viewpoint. Evening, enjoy dinner with Bhutan performance.
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) [6 hrs] – Often called the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the cliffs, has awestruck many a visitor. “Trip to Bhutan is never complete without climbing to Taktsang”, says one tourist. Indeed it’s true as the journey there fills you with spiritual bliss. For those not choosing the spiritual side it is the dramatic, artistically built monument that becomes a hiker’s delight. Take a trip to this dramatically set Buddhist relic hanging from a cliff. Experience the uphill climb as 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 to legends, it is believed that Guru Rinpochhe flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a Tigress (his consort YesheyTshogyal) and meditated in one of the caves. Guru Rinpochhe performed meditation and emerged in eight manifestations and the place became holy. Thus gaining the name Tiger’s Nest.
Kyichu Lhakhang – Also known as Kyerchu Temple or LhoKyerchu, is the oldest temple in Bhutan. Just like JambhayLhakhang in Bumthang, it is one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King SongtsenGampo to subdue and pin down an ogress that was obstructing the spread of Buddhism.
According to legend, all 108 temples were built in a single night. Go back in time and history and visit the 7th century Kyichhu temple. As the name suggests, the temple is a reservoir of peace, 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 DilgoKhyentse Rinpoche. One can come across photographs and other artifacts belonging to Rinpoche.
Drukgyal Dzong – Let the ruins of this fortress tell you a tale of how medieval warriors defended Bhutan from the invaders from the north. Built in 1647 by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders.
Though largely destroyed by fire in 1951, it’s been left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Her towering outer walls and central keep still remains an imposing sight. If you want to know how this ruin looked like in those glorious days then flip through the photos of the coffee-table book, the Raven Crown or visit the archives of National Geographic Magazine of 1914 issue. On a clear day, treat yourself with the splendour of Mt. Jumolhari from the approach road to DrukgyelDzong.
Remarks: DrugyalDzong is currently under renovation and remains closed on some occasions.
Day 8: Departure
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! TashiDelek!