Day 01: Arrive Paro by Flight & transfer to Thimphu (55km, approx. 1.1/2-hour drive)
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 Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan with en-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different style of stupas; Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese adorn this confluence.
On arrival, in Thimphu check-into the hotel. 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. With the population of about 1,00,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.
Evening an exploratory walk around Thimphu main street and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320 m)
Day 02: Thimphu
After breakfast, take a short drive (15 km) to Pangri Zampa, the 16th century monastery, located just north of Thimphu. It has a monastic school where students (monks) learn Lamaism and astrology based on Buddhist philosophy.
Then proceed for a tour of some of city’s highlights:
Textile Museum: is worth a visit to experience the living national art of weaving. Exhibitions introduce the major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and textiles made by women and men.
National Library: The history of Bhutan lies imprinted in archaic texts, which are preserved at the National Library. Besides thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts, the library also has modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
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.
Folk Heritage Museum: The Museum is dedicated to connecting people with the rich Bhutanese folk heritage and rural history through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs and documentation of Bhutanese rural life.
After lunch drive to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the 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, ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. This is the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320 m)
Day 03: Thimphu – Gangtey (150km, approx. 5-hour drive)
After breakfast drive 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.
Then drive onto 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.
Evening 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).
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey. (Altitude 3000m)
Day 04: Gangtey – Bumthang (153km, approx. 5-hour drive)
Morning 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 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.
Also visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648 it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat.
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.
Take a short stop at Chumey, a wide fertile valley where wheat, barley, potatoes and buckwheat are cultivated. Chumey is particularly known for its famous wool weaving called ‘Bumthang Yathra’.
On arrival in Bumthang, check in to the hotel.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 05: 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 drive 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 take a stroll around centre of Bumthang town, exploring shops and local market.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 06: Bumthang – Punakha (215km, approx. 7.1/2-hour drive)
After breakfast, depart for drive to Punakha.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at an elevation of 1300m above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is popular year-round destination.
On the way to Punakha, 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.
On arrival in Punakha, check into the hotel.
Evening at leisure in Punakha & Wangduephodrang valleys.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1300m)
Day 07: Punakha
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 majesticdzong 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. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.
Then a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, 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. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Post lunch visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery. Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangdue gleams Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup temple. It houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara and of Guru Padsambhava, Gautam Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where, apart from religious training, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangkha painting.
Then 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.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1,300m)
Day 08: Punakha - Paro (125 km, approx. 4-hour drive)
After breakfast, drive to Paro along scenic highway. En route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
On arrival in Paro, check into the hotel.
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only international airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
Post lunch, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses 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 a short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro 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 cosmic Mandala.
Evening explore Paro city centre and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 09: Paro
After breakfast excursion to Taktshang Monastery (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. It is said 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.
After breakfast, driving excursion to Chelela pass.
Chele la (pass), at an elevation 3,988 meters is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour's drive along a thickly-forested road, is this Pass-a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. During season here, visitors can see cascades of wild roses, purple and yellow primulas, and swathes of deep blue iris covering the forest floor. In season, the top of the pass bloom with rhododendrons in a variety of colours-pale pink, deep pink, burnt orange, mauve, white and scarlet.
Later on, the way to Paro town, en route excursion to Dzongdrakha Goempa. Often called as mini Takstang, Dzongdrakha is a cliff-side temple complex on the western side of the Paro Valley. Four shrines make up the complex, dedicated to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity), Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya. Local oral tradition states that when Guru Rinpoche first came to Bhutan, he came from Nepal, first landing at Drakarpo, and then Dzongdrakha before arriving at Taktshang (Tiger's Nest) farther north up the valley. Located approx. 20-minute drive from Paro, these temples are built on a cliff above Bondey village, but the walk is not as strenuous as Taktshang. From the road, it takes only about 30 minutes’ walk to reach here.
Later in the afternoon, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Evening an exploratory walk around main street and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)
Day 10: Depart Paro
After early 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.