Capture images of daily life in Bhutan on hikes to local villages and excursions to lively markets. Hike to Bhutan’s most famous pilgrimage site, Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple. Photograph the exquisite carvings and sculptures of the newly renovated Gangtey Gonpa temple.
Paro International Airport (Google Map)
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Upon arrival at Paro Airport, you will be transferred to Thimphu, the kingdom’s capital. En route, we will stopover at Tachog Lhakhang iron chain bridge. Enjoy your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine before visiting National Memorial Chorten, a stupa built-in memory of the Late Third King. Then, proceed to visit Tashichho Dzong, a fortress and Buddhist monastery with a distinctive Bhutanese architectural design, which also houses the throne of the king. Continue to the Centenary Farmers’ Market where locals come to sell their agriculture products during the weekends.
This morning we will take a scenic drive up to Buddha Point in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park to see the 169-foot- tall bronze statue of the seated Buddha Dordenma. One of the largest sitting Buddha statues in the world, it sits atop a hill where you will see sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Thereafter, visit Changangkha Monastery. Built in the 12th century, this is the oldest temple in Thimphu. It sits on a ridge overlooking scenic views of Thimphu and houses the Chenrezig: an 11- headed, a thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara as its central statue. After lunch, we will take a 3-hour drive to Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan until 1955, and will stop off at Dochula Pass along the way. This popular tourist spot provides stunning 360-degree views of the Himalayas. It is also home to the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens that was built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of those who died in battle. Next, we will proceed to Chhimi Lhakhang. A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the center of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in the 15th century after the ’divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for barren women.
After breakfast, visit Punakha Dzong, built-in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. Proceed to the 160 meters Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge, known as the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, which gives you spectacular views of Punakha Dzong and the Pho Chhu Valley. Afterward, we will visit Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which is a splendid example of Bhutanese art that meets architecture and the only one of its kind. At the direction of the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, the site took nine years to build because architects, painters, sculptors, and carpenters only used holy scriptures rather than engineering manuals to construct this four-story temple. Only reachable on foot, the hour trek includes an exhilarating walk across a colorful prayer flag adorned suspended footbridge that crosses the Mo Chhu. Thereafter, we will drive to Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, a temple and nunnery perched on a ridge and overlooking Toebesa, Punakha, and Wangduephodrang valleys. The temple is consecrated by His Holiness and was attended by His Majesty the King, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, members of the royal family along with hundreds of people from Punakha. The temple is dedicated to the bodhisattva of compassion.
In the morning, we will attend Druk Wangyel Festival at Dochula Pass. The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival will take place every year on December 13 at the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang’s Festival ground. The venue is related to important national landmarks while the date commemorates the commencement of the military expedition of 2003. The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival’s venue features two very impressive modern Bhutanese monuments. Including the works on the powerful mural paintings, the temple took almost four years to build. The temple was built under the personal supervision of Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, a year after she built the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens. Druk Wangyel Lhakhang was consecrated in June 2008. Following Bhutanese tradition, the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is named after its location. The Dochula pass is one of the most spectacular passes in Bhutan and is about 45 minutes drive (22km) from the capital city, Thimphu. The performance ground of the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival straddles the famous pass at the heart of the Royal Botanical Park, 3,116 meters above sea level. The pass marks the watershed between the districts of Thimphu on the western side and Punakha on the eastern side. It presents a panoramic view of these districts and some others beyond them. Thereafter, continue your journey to Paro for your overnight stay.
The beautiful valley of Paro 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 Jomolhari (7,300m) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pa Chhu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro. Paro Dzong also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th-century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzongkhag. A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built-in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father, and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
We’ve saved the best for last: a morning trek to the Taktsang Monastery (or Tiger’s Nest), 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 Rinpoche flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a Tigress and meditated in one of the caves. Guru Rinpoche performed meditation and emerged in eight manifestations and the place became holy. Thus gaining the name tiger’s nest. After a day of hiking, we’ll take it easy and explore the main streets of Paro Town for some street photography and souvenir shopping. To cap off our Bhutanese adventure, we’ll have our photographers’ party at a traditional drayang nightclub.
Sadly all good things must come to an end so does our expedition to this wonderful nation. We hope you had a great time and take back memories that will last you a lifetime.