Day 01: Arrive Paro
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 transfer to the hotel.
Situated in north-western part of the country, as spectacular as its natural beauty is Paro’s cultural and spiritual heritage. With its large, fertile and well-watered fields, this has historically been the richest area in the country and also houses country’s National Museum and the only international airport.
Afternoon visit to 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 another cosmic Mandala. Part of Bernardo Bertolucci's movie, ‘Little Buddha,’ was filmed inside this dzong.
Then drive to visit 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang. It is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Buddhist King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, to subdue a demoness who sprawled across the entire Himalayan region and prevented the spread of Buddhism. The temples were built to pin down different part of her body, and Kyichu Lhakhang was built over her left foot (Jambay Lhakhang, in Bumthang is said to pin down her left knee). In the eight century this temple achieved even greater sanctity when Guru Rimpoche came to meditate here.Prayer wheels are set all along Kyichu Lhakhang’s outer walls, with lines of devotees turning them as they cimcumbulate the temple.
Evening an exploratory walk around main street and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)
Day 02: Paro
After breakfast, embark on a walking excursion to Taktshang Monastery (approx. 5 hours, round trip walk), a cluster of temples clinging to the edge of an impossibly steep and rocky cliff, seeming to hang in space some 900 metres above the valley. The sites owes its sanctity to the belief that Guru Padmasambhava came here in the eight century flying on a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is also called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
Later in the afternoon, visit Ta Dzong, a 17th century watchtower above the Paro Dzong that now houses the National Museum. It features an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities and treasures (including the King's famous 'dragon hat), an interesting assortment of costumes from the different regions of Bhutan, and a wonderful collection of painted and embroidered Thangkhas (religious pictures).
Then visit to Dungtse Lhakhang, built–unusually for a temple-in the shape of a chorten. Inside Dungtse Lhakhang are the most remarkable collection of mural paintings, representing the deities of the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism, the official religion of Bhutan. These murals and their colours perfectly preserved because the interior is always dark, are believed to be the finest in Bhutan.
Then drive towards north-western end of the Paro valley which is dominated by views of Mt. Chomolhari (7314m) and picturesque ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, destroyed in devastating fire of 1951. Built to commemorate a famous victory over the Tibetans in 1644, the ruins are now an idyllic spot, shaded by ancient cypress trees. Besides it is a giant water-driven prayer wheel, making the route of the old mule track to Tibet.
Nearby we will also see the beautiful typical farm house. Bhutanese farmhouses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)
Day 03: Paro - Haa valley (70km, approx 3 hours drive)
After breakfast, drive to Haa valley, one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan. This area only opened to tourism in 2002 and has one of the strongest auras of stepping into the past, in a country that already feels lost in time. The surroundings mountains push up against the northern Indian state of Sikkim and the south of Tibet, and they are as wild, uninhabited, and unexplored as anywhere in the world.
En route take a short stop at Chelela pass. Locatedat an elevation of 3,988 meters, Chelela is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. This pass through dense spruce and larch forests has incredible mountain views as it zigzags down into the valley. Look out for the surrounding peaks and views of the Haa and Paro valleys.
From Chelela, embark on a fascinating walking excursion to Kila Gompa, a nunnery perched on a steep cliff face at 3500m. This staggering site manages to house 7 small temples and about 70 nuns. From Chelela pass, the Gompa is about an hour walk amidst magnificent wooded area.
After picnic lunch, continue down into the attractive little town of Haa, with traditional two storey wooden shops and a sprawling collection of buildings around a central dzong used by the Indian army. When you arrive, relax and take a walk around the town to meet the friendly local people.
Overnight at the hotel in Haa valley. (Altitude 2,670m)
Day 04: Haa valley - Thimphu (115km, approx 4 hours drive)
After breakfast visit, Lhakhang Karpo (White temple), established in the 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo. According to legends, a black and white pigeon were released to select the site for temples and the white pigeon landed on the foothills of the three towering mountains worshipped as ‘Rigsum gonpo’ and is where this temple stands today.
Then visit, Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple), also built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gempo and situated towards the north of Lhakhang Karpo. Lhakhang Nagpo serves as the seat for the guardian deity ‘Da Do Chen’. The principal relic of the monastery is the Choe-Lung-Truel Sum. Both these temples stand as the guardian sentinels keeping watch at the south entrance of Haa valley.
There after hike the lower road along first the Haa Chhu and after the confluence with the Wang Chhu, along the latter towards the capital at Thimphu. En route stop at Dogar Dobji Dzong, a 16th century structure, built by the brother of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley. This dzong became Bhutan’s first jail in 1976 but has since returned to its monastic origins.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel. Since 1955, Thimphu has been the capital of Bhutan. Besides its position as the seat of government, religion and commerce, its many glittering monuments, temples, monasteries and dzong as well as premier museums, the National Library, Arts & Crafts School and various other key attractions make an important centre for tourists.
Afternoon visit of Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). 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 visit, King's Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (‘the father of modern Bhutan’) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Conclude the day with visit of 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 2320m)
Day 05: Thimphu
After breakfast at hotel, a pleasant excursion to Tango Monastery, built in 1688 and perched on the edge of a thickly forested hill at the northern end of Thimphu valley. It looks like a fortress of the gods, soaring towards the skies, with its great white semi circular wall gleaming amidst the lush greenery of the trees surrounding it. Enormous windows, framed in intricately carved and painted wood, break the starkness of its façade, which encloses a large stone-flagged courtyard. Covered arcades surround the courtyard, their walls painted with beautiful frescos depicting deities, great saints and lamas.
On way back, take a short hike around the small enclosure in the pine trees to spot Takin, the national animal of Bhutan – a unique goat-antelope creature. The next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba. It is home to between 40-65 nuns and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls.
Afternoon, further sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following : the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts, Textile Museum; established in 2001 and showcases range of beautiful Bhutanese textiles, Simply Bhutan; a living museum and studio encapsulating rich cultural heritage of Bhutanese people.
Later, visit to Changangkha Lhakhang. It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads. From temple courtyard, there is fascinating view of Thimphu valley.
Evening explore the Local Crafts Bazaar, to browse through example of Bhutan's fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewellery, interesting items made from local materials.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2320m)
Day 06: Thimphu - Gangtey (150km, approx. 5 hours drive)
After breakfastdrive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 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 (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty five chortens, the second has thirty six and the top layer has twenty seven, built around the main chorten. The chorten walls are covered with beautiful murals depicting scenes from Bhutanese history. Behind the chortens are beautiful forests and in front of it panoramic view of the great snow-covered Himalayan peaks.
Then explore some part of Royal Botanical Park. It is the first botanical park in Bhutan and forms the backdrop of the Dochula Pass.
Afterwards drive onto Wangdue, taking a short lunch stop in this town.
Then proceed further to Gangtey,passing through dense forests of oak and rhododendron tress.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places 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 is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lies the village of Phobjikha.
On arrival, check into the hotel.
Evening take a stroll in fascinating Phobjikha valley.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey. (Altitude 3000m)
Day 07: Gangtey
Early morning visit Monastic School to witness prayer ceremony.
Later after breakfast visit Gangtey Goempa (monastery), perched on a ridge overlooking the valley.It is directed by Gangtey Tulku, the ninth reincarnation (a “Tulku” is a reincarnate) of Pema Lingpa—a famous Buddhist saint and teacher.
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).
Post lunch explore fascinating Phobjikha valley. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
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 3000m).
Day 08 : Gangtey – Bumthang (153km, approx. 6 hours drive)
Morning after breakfast drive to Bumthang via Trongsa.
The drive to Trongsa crosses Pelela pass (3,300 m ), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large prayer flag and the ground is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo. Stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, the stupa built in 18th century by a Lama named Shida. It is Nepalese in style with eyes painted at four cardinal points.
Trongsa town, perched on steep slopes above a river gorge, forms the central hub of the nation and is the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular.
After lunch in Trongsa, proceed to visit Trongsa Dzong, one of the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official who was sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan and enlarged at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is also the ancestral home of the present Royal Family.
Then continue drive to Bumthang across Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley.
On arrival in Bumthang, check in to the hotel.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 09: Bumthang
Bumthang is the general name given to combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries.
After breakfast, visit Jambey Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Then visit to Kurje Lhakhang, consisting of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Afterwards visit to Jakar Dzong. Founded by great grand-father of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and houses the regional monk body.
Post lunch, visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the temple founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Then take a short hike to Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery. Located above the main town, the monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984 who was recognized at a very young age by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and H.H. 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama. The monastery has become part of an extensive effort to preserve and revitalize Tibetan culture. The monks regular curriculum include reading, memorizing the daily prayers, learning dharma dances, drawing mandalas, learning the melodies of sacred rituals, learning the use of ceremonial instruments and the art of making sacrificial objects, grammer, poerty, karika along with the basics of contemplation and instruction on the different stages of tantra.
Evening stroll in the village, exploring local shops and market.
Overnight at hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 10: Bumthang - Punakha & Wangdue (215km, approx. 7hours drive)
After breakfast, depart for the lengthy drive to Punakha.
While in Chumey Valley in Bumthang, visit the Yathra weaving.
Yathra is the most famous textile product of Bumthang and Chumey Valley is known for the beautiful yathra woven by the locals. Yathra is a hand woven fabric made from the wool of sheep or Yak. The wool is first spun into threads and then dyed before they are woven into Yathra with beautiful flower patterns and colours. The Yathra cloth is made into scrafs, jackets, table cloths and bags. Most of the women in this valley, especially in Zungye village, earn their lively hood by weaving yathra which is supplied to various towns in Bhutan.
Drive further and en route visit Ta Dzong, recently opened fort in Trongsa. The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five stories, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.
Lunch en route at a local restaurant.
On arrival in town, check into the hotel.
Evening at leisure in Punakha / Wangduephodrang towns.
Overnight at Hotel in Punakha & Wangdue. (Altitude 1300m)
Day 11: Punakha & Wangdue
After breakfast,visit Punakha Dzong or (Palace of Great Happiness), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative center of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Punakha Dzong is unusual in having three courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. This dzong has been ravaged by fire, earthquakes and floods many times, and then rebuilt according to the original design.
Then a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang – the Temple of Fertility. People from all across the country visit the Lhakhang to seek blessing from Drukpa Kuenley, also known as ‘Divine Madman’. On a 15-minute walk through the village of Sopsokha to the temple you will notice the phallic symbols painted on walls, a symbol of fertility and protection from evil.
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 farm houses 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 farm houses 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 / Wangdue. (Altitude 1,300m)
Day 12: Punakha - Paro (125 km, approx 5 hours drive)
Begin the day with a short about 30-minute drive to the base of a hill where a ridge-top monastery sits. In this almost sub-tropical valley, begin a hike at a suspension bridge that crosses the Mo Chu river and cross through paddy fields before starting to climb a moderately inclined trail to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Stupa. This was built by the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, and is dedicated to the well being of Bhutan. It’s a classic example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions. It takes approximately one hour from the car park to hike up to the temple, and 30 minutes to descend. From the top you can take in sweeping views across the valley.
Later drive further descending back down from Dochu La, following the way back up the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, before crossing through Paro town towards the north end of the valley.
En route visit Simtokha Dzong, the place of profound tantric teaching. This oldest dzong of the country built in 1627, now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language. This dzong is said to guard against a demon that escaped into the nearby rock.
Just before entering Paro town, on the way visit Tamchog lhakhang,
built in the 13th century by Thangthong Gyalpo,
also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple which is now owned by the descendants of Thangthong Gyalpo.
Evening at leisure in Paro city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)
Day 13: Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.