Day 01: Arrive Paro by flight
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift, as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be met by our representative, and afterwards drive to the hotel.
Afternoon explore Paro town and valley at your own pace on bicycle (Altitude: 2280 meter, Slopes: Gentle, Roads/slopes: Gentle slopes, winding roads, black topped and smooth). Also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the country.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m).
Day 02: Paro
After breakfast, ride on bicycle to the base of Taktshang Monastery.
Distance: 8 Km ride
Approximate Time: 20 Minutes
Riding elevation: 2280 Meters
Road: Through the villages among blue pine trees and a slight uphill after the diversion of 3 km.
Later excursion to Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest (approx. 5 hours round trip walk): It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. Legends say that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
Afternoon, ride to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong.
Distance from the base: 10 km
Time: 30 Minutes approx.
Riding elevation: 2280 Meters
Road: Among the villages and blue pine forest through winding road with gentle up hills and downhill.
Ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong: It was here that the Bhutanese finally defeated the invading Tibetans and drove them back. Peak of Jumolhari ‘Mountain of the Goddess’ (Alt. 7,329 m /24,029 ft.) can be seen on a clear day from here.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 03: Paro / Thimphu (55km, approx. 1.1/2-hour drive)
After breakfast, visit Ta Dzong, the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Ta Dzong visit immediately followed by short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
After lunch, drive to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan and visiting en route Tamchog lhakhang: built in the 13th century by Thangthong Gyalpo, also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hilltop, we need to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple.
Further ahead take a short stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Paro and Thimphu rivers. Three different style of stupas adorn the confluence.
Drive further and five miles before Thimphu, visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country which now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Home to civil servants, expatriates and monk body, Thimphu maintains a strong national character in its architectural style.
Evening explore Thimphu valley and town.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m)
Day 04: Thimphu
Altitude: 2,320 meters
Slopes: Gentle and uphill
Roads/slopes: Gentle slopes, uphill and downhill, winding roads, black topped and smooth, good number of vehicles on the road.
After breakfast, ride to the Kuenselphodrang.
Distance: 6 km from town
Time: Uphill 30 minutes approx.
Elevation: 2320 m to 2500 m at Kuenselphodrang
Road: Smooth and good, uphill
Kuenselphodrang: You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Then ride to National Memorial Chorten
Distance (Kuensel Phodrang to Memorial Chorten): 4.8 km
Time: approx 15 minutes
Road: Smooth and good, downhill.
National Memorial Chorten: This Chorten was built in 1974, in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. It is also a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu and contains many religious paintings and tantric statues.
Back to hotel. After lunch, cycle to Sangaygang viewpoint.
Distance from town: 7 km
Time: approx 30 minutes
Elevation: 2685 metes
Road: Smooth and good, uphill.
On the way, visit:
The Takin Preserve Centre: The takin, is the national animal of Bhutan and found only in this region.
Sangaygang viewpoint: (2685 meters) to have view of whole Thimphu valley and walk through hundreds of colorful prayer flags that dot the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley.
Ride back to Changangkha Lhakhang downhill.
Changangkha Monastery: This monastery was built in 15th Century by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo, overlooking the Thimphu valley. Many parents of Thimphu take their new born babies to this monastery to be blessed by a high lama.
From there cycle towards the Drupthob Lhakhang, visit Drupthob Lhakhang.
Drupthob Lhakhang: This Lhakhang is one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan.
After the visiting Drupthob lhakhang, ride back downhill to hotel from Zilukha stoping on the way for a view of the Trashichhoedzong. This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).
Day 05: Thimphu / Gangtey (150km, approx. 5 hours’ drive)
After breakfast, Thimphu city tour, with visit of:
National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.
Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
Textile Museum: Opened in 2001, it is fascinating testimony of Bhutan ’s living traditions and provides deep insight into one of Bhutan’s most distinct art form.
Simply Bhutan: Simply Bhutan is an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF), built to offer a unique experience to its visitors. It is a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. A distinctive feature of Simply Bhutan is that it fully operated by young people and job seekers, who receive here on the job training in basic business & management skills, customer care and other spheres of life. The fund generated through Simply Bhutan is utilized to run many of the youth development programmes for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth under YDF. Hence as a visitor, while you get to experience and enjoy this special place, you are also helping to ‘make a better today’, ‘a brighter tomorrow’, for the youth of Bhutan.
Later enjoy a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Dochu La (3, O8Om) and on to the Phobjikha Valley passing through dense forests of oak and rhododendron tress. The highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak. Take a short stroll around the mountain pass enjoying impressive glistening peaks in the eastern Himalaya range. On a clear day the views of the Himalaya to the north are tremendous including Gangkar Punsum, the highest unclimbed peak (over 24,000 feet) in the world.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey (Altitude 3,000m).
Day 06: Gangtey
Morning visit, Gangtey Goenpa: Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’s and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.
Then a walking excursion to Gangtey Nature Trail. This pleasurable walk will give you a nice feel of Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. The trail ends at local community school after passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang. (approx. 5.5km, 2 hours walk).
Afternoon explore the Phobjikha Valley and villages around. Phobjikha is also the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2,900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park.
Also visit Black Neck Crane Information Centre. Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The centre also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area. There is a small gift shop, which sells handicrafts produced by the local people.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey (Altitude 3,000m).
Day 07: Gangtey - Punakha
After breakfast, transfer to Punakha.
Punakha at an altitude of 1300m/4265ft, is blessed with a temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Until 1955 Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan, and still today serves as the winter residence of the monk body.
Afternoon proceed to visit Punakha Dzong: Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the Fourth King.
Later a beautiful hike (total about 2 hours round trip walk) takes you to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu river and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha (Altitude 1,300m)
Day 08: Punakha
After breakfast, embark on an interesting excursion to Chimi Lhakhang. Situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, this temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as ‘Divine Madman’. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30-minute walk across field from the road to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. It then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang.
Afterwards proceed on a rafting expedition to Pho Chu river. Pho Chu, with its approx 16 km course with about 15 rapids of class 2- 4 is the most popular for rafting in Bhutan. During this meticulously organized river rafting trip, you journey through the most scenic and secluded miles featuring incredibly blue water, breath-taking alpine scenery, sighting world’s rarest birds and amazing rapids on the backdrop of striking 17th century Punakha Dzong (Monastery cum fort).
Post lunch, excursion to Talo village, which is scattered along the hill slopes and known for its cleanliness and hygiene among Punakha villages. Talo is the seat of the mind incarnations of the Zhabdrung. Talo Sangnacholing Dzong is built on a plateau and has majestic view of surrounding villages. The beautiful farmhouses of the village have its own flower gardens and on the hill slope corns and sweet peas are grown in abundance. Spend time at Nobgang and Talo villages visiting farmhouses and meeting families, experiencing Bhutanese rural life.
Also visit Nalanda Buddhist Institute. Locals call this place ‘Dalayna’ and the monks call it Nalanda Buddhist College. The Nalanda Buddhist Institute is a monastic school near the village of Talo, above the Punatsangchu river. Here you’ve opportunity to interact with monks, for knowledge on Buddhism, process of meditation.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1,300m)
Day 09: Punakha – Paro (125km, approx. 4-hour drive)
After breakfast, drive back to Paro.
On the way, from Dochula pass, embark on a fascinating walking excursion to Lungchuzekha Goemba. It is an interesting three hours round trip walk, offering fascinating view of Bhutan Himalayas. From 108 chortens and mani wall at Dochula pass, the road ascends gradually into white, red and pink rhododendron forests for about one and a half hour with some steep sections before branching left to Lungchuzekha Goemba. The highlight of this excursion is beautiful forest, spectacular mountain views and monastery.
Later, drive onward to Paro. Evening at leisure in Paro city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 10: Depart Paro
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to onward destination. Our guide will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.