Our effort to introduce you to the rich cultural heritage of this tiny Himalayan kingdom also known as the last Shangri-La. Our week-long tour in Bhutan begins with sightseeing in the country’s capital, Thimphu, where we visit the Memorial Chhorten, mini- zoo, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, folk heritage museum and the majestic Tashichho Dzong (fortress). Next, we travel to Punakha via Dochu La pass (3,100m) and tour the Chimi Lhakhang temple on the way. We also visit the Punakha Dzong and explore the amazing Gangtey village before heading to Paro. In the beautiful Paro valley, we visit Rinpung Dzong and Kichu Lhakhang temple. Our tour ends with a hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery which is a perfect way to end one’s journey in the last Shangri-La.
After immigration formalities, you will be received by our representative who will be your tour guide throughout your tour.
On the way, enjoy walking over a suspension bridge to view the 15th-century iron chain bridge suspended over the Pa chu and also walk for about 10 minutes to visit Tachog Lhakhang (temple), this 15th-century temple located on the base of a mountain across the Pa chu on the Paro-Thimphu highway.
Before proceeding to Thimphu, visit Ta-Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the RinpungDzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the center of civil and religious authority in this valley, built-in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
After lunch drive through to Thimphu. The drive is along a winding road by the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then it turns upstream along with the Wang Chu to Thimphu, Bhutan’s scenically located capital city.
On arrival at Thimphu, visit the following:
Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the center of government and religion, the site of the monarch’s throne room, and the seat of the Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built-in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in a traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans. Yet another place for the photographer’s delight.
Overnight in Thimphu
We will be moving further away from Thimphu to Punakha, which is a three-hour drive.
45 minutes from Thimphu is the Dochula pass (3,100m), offering you the first glimpse of the eastern Himalayan Ranges, consisting of snow-capped mountain peaks with heights ranging from 6000m to 7554m. During the stopover there, you can also see the 108 stupas (chortens) built around a mound.
The drive then descends and passes through beautiful forests, comprising rhododendron, fields of dwarf bamboo green meadows, beautiful wildflowers, gushing waterfalls and constantly changing vegetation. Before reaching Punakha, we will visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple where the Phallus is worshipped and associated with Lam Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madmonk.” It is about 1-hour hike (to and fro) from the road point. We will have our lunch here.
As we near our next destination, Punakha, we will witness an awe-inspiring image of the Punakha Fortress, which looks like a giant ship rocked on a still mass of water from far. Built on the confluence of two rivers, the Pho (male) and Mo (female) rivers, the Dzong served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is still home to the Chief Abbot in the winter months. It was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and has played a prominent role in the civil and religious history of the Kingdom. Destroyed four times by fire and an earthquake in 1897, the Dzong has been now fully restored in its original splendor.
Rivers in Bhutan also offer great potential for rafting and Kayaking. If you are looking for more adventure, we will be happy to customize a suitable Kayaking adventure in Bhutan.No special experience is required as long as you do not mind doing a bit of paddling and getting a bit wet – or quite possibly very wet! – then you will have an exciting time riding the white waters of the Himalayan rivers.
Overnight in Punakha
After breakfast, we begin the 105 km drive to Gangtey via Wangduephodrang. It will take us about 4 hours with the road gradually ascending till Lawala pass (1100 feet). Passing through Nobding village, the vegetation consists of high altitudeS dwarf bamboo, rhododendrons flowers, Magnolia, fir, and pine trees. We will reach Phobjikha valley at 3,000m, in the Black Mountain Ranges. Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan and home to the very rare black-necked crane. The birds migrate from Tibet to Bhutan in winter (from October -March). We will be visiting Gangtey Gompa, one of the oldest Nyingmapa monasteries that look like a small Dzong.
A Nature trail walk (around 2 hours) that gives a nice feeling to Phobjikha valley. It is the most beautiful and shortest of the existing nature trails in Bhutan. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. After passing a Chorten and Khewa Lhakhang, the trail ends at the local community school.
Visit the Black-necked crane center (cranes will start immigrating to this area by November).
From the Black-necked center take a short walk through fields and farmhouses where you can have free interaction with local people and visit their houses.
Overnight in hotel/ Homestay
After breakfast drive to Thimphu city and visit the following:
Buddha Point /Kuenselphodrang: This massive Buddha statue is 51.5 meters in height and it is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ‘ seat of faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments the ‘Mind of Buddha’. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
Craft Bazaar -A one-stop place to witness Bhutanese culture and buy Bhutan-made art and craft product.
Overnight in Thimphu
After breakfast will following places:
Bhutan Postal Museum (recently launched)- The museum tells the story of Bhutan’s progress and development through the evolution of communications and postal systems in the country. And also you can get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends.
Changzamtok Weaving Center to observe women weaving intricate patterns of colorful silk and cotton textiles into shawls, scarves, and traditional Bhutanese dresses.
The School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
After lunch drive to Paro then visit a Farmhouse in Paro Valley and a visit to a farmhouse offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
In the evening relax in the Traditional Bhutanese Hot stone bath at a farmhouse in Paro valley. Traditional Hotstone bath: A traditional Bhutan hot stone bath uses river rocks that therapists place in the water where they crack and steam, releasing key minerals and relieving deep-set aches.
You will also see around inside of the traditional Bhutanese house.
Overnight in homestay or hotel
Hike to Taktsang monastery
After breakfast, we drive for half an hour and start the hike, which is about 5 hours (round trip.) The trail is along an ancient path marked by river-powered prayer wheels.
Mediating in Taktshang Monastery can be a very good experience of mediating in a most important and revered Buddhist Monastery in Bhutan.
As you reach Taktshang you will be struck by the architectural wonder of this most pious Buddhist shrine in Bhutan. Perched some 1000m, 3000ft on a cliff overlooking the valley, it would justifiably qualify as one of Bhutan’s wonders. Tragically wrecked in a fire early in 1998, it has been rebuilt to its original glory. It is said that the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tigress to tame five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 A.D. Hence the name, Taktshang, or the “Tiger’s Lair.”
The next stop will be at Kyichu Monastery, one of Bhutan’s oldest, built-in 659 A.D. by the Tibetan King Songsten Gombo.
Overnight in Paro
After breakfast, you will be driven to Paro international Airport for your journey out of Bhutan.