Trip at Glance:
Day 1 - THIMPHU - 1 Hr Drive time Altitude 2320m
Day 2 - GANGTEY – 6 Hr Drive Time Altitude 3000m
Day 3 - BUMTHANG - 5 Hr Drive Time Altitude 3000m
Day 4 – BUMTHANG - Altitude 3000m
Day 5 – PUNAKHA – 6 Hr Drive Time Altitude 1300m
Day 6 – PUNAKHA –Altitude 1300m
Day 7 - PARO- 4 Hr Drive Time Altitude 2280m
Day 8 - PARO- Altitude 2280m
Day 9 – DEPART
Day 1 – Arrival in Bhutan, Paro International Airport
Elevation 2,280m / Drive time to Thimphu 50 Mins
Welcome to the Land of the Thunder Dragon-Bhutan! On arrival at Paro International Airport you will be greeted by your guide and head of field operations. Today, to acclimatize you to the altitude we will leisurely drive to Thimphu, check you in to your hotel where you will have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine.
Thimphu Dzong (Tashichho Dzong)– the largest Dzong in Bhutan, is also the seat of the offices of the King of Bhutan and the Monk body.
The National Memorial Chorten – a serene monument built in honour of our Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
Centenary Farmers’ Market – Fridays through Sundays most of the Capital's population congregate on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu (river) where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell a wide variety of exotic vegetables and handicrafts.
Day 2 – Gangtey
Elevation 3,000m/ Drivetime 6 hours
Phobjikha Valley-ThevalleyofPhobjikhaor Gangtey Goempa is well known as the winter abode of the endangered Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis).Bhutanis home to a dwindling number of 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. These elegant, shy birds can be seen from early November to end of March.
Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goempa. This is an old Nyingmapa monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Today we will do some short hikes around the valley of Phobjikha.
Day 3 – Bumthang
Elevation 2,700m - 3,000m / Drive time 5 hours
Passing Wangduephodrang, you will drive through one of the major towns and capitals of Western Bhutan. Located south of Punakha, Wangdue is the last town before central Bhutan. The district is famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate and stone carving.
Pause to pay homage to Wangdue Phodrang Dzong that was burnt down in a tragic fire on the 24th of June, 2012. Built in 1638, Wangdue Dzong is dramatically perched on a ridge and overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
Bumthang is one of the most spectacular valleys and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area with a wide variety of fauna and flora. Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) made Bumthang his home this has led to more than 40 temples being built in this mystical valley.
Day 4 - In and around Bumthang
Elevation 2,700m -3,000m
In the morning, we will take you on a hike to the Tamshing Goemba, built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa. We will also visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses a rock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who took on the form of a white lion.
You shall also visit Jambay Lhakhang, built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to subdue a demon who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. In October every year, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan celebrating Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
Visit Jakar Dzong - perched on a high ground overlooking the modern town junction, it was built as a monastery in 1549 by the great grandfather of the Zhabdrung. It is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang district.
In the afternoon, we will take a walk up to Thangbi Valley via an unpaved road, crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century.
Day 5 – Punakha
Elevation 1,300m / Drive time 6 and a half hours
En route is Trongsa, the ancestral home of the ruling Wangchuck dynasty. Trongsa, literally means "New Town" in the Dzongkha language. Trongsa is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. Each Heir in the line of the Wangchuck succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before wearing the Raven Crown.
Trongsa Dzong - The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by Terton Pema Lingpa. The Dzong flourished during the 17th century under Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal. With its massive structure looming high above the meandering Mangde ChuValley, the Dzong commands the east-west road.
Taa Dzong - Built as a watch tower over the Trongsa Dzong, the Taa Dzong has since been turned into a Heritage Museum. A book on this prominent Dzong is written by Christian Schicklgruber entitled The Tower of Trongsa, Religion and Power in Bhutan.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the Punakha Dzong is the winter home of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan)and the monk body of Thimphu. It is a splendid example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the confluence of the male (Pho) and female (Mho) rivers, portraying a medieval image from a distance. The dzong was partially destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Day 6 - Punakha
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten - a wonderful hour long trek up to a monastery built by the third Queen Mother Gyalyum Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck this Chorten is a slpendid example of Bhutanese architecture and its art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It took nine years to build and its details have been drawn from religious scripture.
Chhimi Lhakhang- Take a 20 minute stroll across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ‘divine Madman’ Lama Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a revered pilgrim site for women who seek blessings in order to be able to have children.
Day 7 –Paro
Elevation 2,280m / Drive time 5 hours
Dochula Pass – The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang and the 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to pay tribute to the selfless service and visionary leadership of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and to liberate the souls of the soldiers lost in the great victory over foreign militants.
Paro Valley- The beautiful valley where it all began for you is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. 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 river that flows through the valley. Some of the important places to visit in Paro are as follow;
Paro Dzong- also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century fortress is also the administrative center of the Dzonkhag (district).
Ta Dzong- Built as a watch tower; it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangkas, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Day 8 – In and around Paro
Drukgyal Dzong- A morning drive to the north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong that was built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of Bhutan. The Dzong was almost completely destroyed by an accidental fire in the early 1950s and left in ruins as an reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore its ramparts and relive the memories of its glorious past.
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) – A one hour hike to the cafeteria which is also a vantage viewpoint whereby you can capture a stunning view of the monastery. Prayer flags adorn the cliffs and this is the site where Guru Padmasambhava arrived on the back of a tigress in the 8th century.
Kyichu Lhakhang- After a scrumptious lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, built in the 7th Century.
Day 9 – Depart Paro
Depending on your flight timings, we will transfer you to Paro airport where we will bid you a fond Tashi Delek and safe journey and pray that one day you will come see us again in the Dragon Kingdom!