Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Thimphu, Town Stroll, o/n Thimphu
Day 2 Thimphu exploration. Farmer’s Market, o/n Thimphu
Day 3 Transfer to Punakha. Dochula, Punakha Dzong, o/n Punakha
Day 4 Transfer to Bumthang. Fertility Temple, o/n Bumthang
Day 5 Bumthang Exploration, Farmhouse lunch, o/n Bumthang
Day 6 Bumthang. Tang valley excursion. Hike to Ugyen Choling Palace, o/n Bumthang
Day 7 Transfer to Gangtey, Trongsa Dzong en route, o/n Gangtey
Day 8 Transfer to Paro. Paro Dzong, National Museum, o/n Paro
Day 9 Haa valley excursion, o/n Paro
Day 10 Tiger’s Nest Hike, Kyichu Lhakhang and Town Stroll, o/n Paro
Day 11 International Departure
Day 1: Arrival in Paro, Transfer to Thimphu
On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine.
Sangaygang Drive about 15 minutes from the main city to a hillock where the Bhutan Broadcasting Tower is stationed. From there you can relish the beautiful scene of the whole of Thimphu City. On the way up or down from the hillock, you can also see Takin the national animal of Bhutan. It is a place where many Bhutanese frequent, especially on
Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang, will be open to tourists once it is completed in 2012. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha symbolizing indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha.
The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
Takin enclosure- See the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin.
Drive time one hour
Day 2: Thimphu exploration
Attractions around Thimphu
Folk Heritage Museum- Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artifacts used in rural households.
Textile Museum – Witness the art of traditional weaving.
National Memorial Chorten- – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Papermaking Factory – Witnesses the art of papermaking.
Centenary Farmers’ Market- Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products
Thimphu Dzong – The largest Dzong, also houses the throne room of the King of Bhutan.
Day Trek to Tango Goempa This is another option for more active people. Picnic lunch by river in the afternoon. The Tango Goempa site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the Lama who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. The monastery was built there in the 15th century by Drukpa Kunley (“The Divine Madman”). Tango is the highest center of Buddhist learning in the country; almost every Je Khenpo (religious head of Bhutan) completed the 9-year program there. After completing that program, monks traditionally spend 3 years, 3 months and 3 days in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat, built in 1619 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder or first unifier of Bhutan. It is currently the home of an 11-year-old boy believed to be the seventh reincarnation of the fourth Desi, or ruler, of Bhutan.
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
Dochula Pass – The 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate of the souls lost.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the 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. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Drive time two hours
Day 4: Punakha to Bumthang
In the morning, we would start our drive to Central Bhutan. Before we start we will pay a visit 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 centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for barren women.
Passing Wangdue (left), one of the major towns and district capital 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.
We will pause to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Built in 1638, Wangdue Dzong is dramatically perched on the spur of a hill and overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
Drive time 7 hours
Day 5: Bumthang valley exploration
This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area with a wide variety of fauna and flora. The Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) making Bumthang his home have led to more than 40 temples being built in this peaceful valley.
In the morning, we will 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 had taken the form of a white lion.
We will also visit Jambay Lhakhang, built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. Come October, the Jambay Lhakhang Drub is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan.
Jakar Dzong- pitched on a high ground overlooking the town junction, it was built as monastery in 1549 by the great grandfather of the Zhabdrung. It is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang district
Farmhouse Lunch – authentic Bhutanese cuisine in a traditional farmhouse with very friendly and welcoming family.
In the afternoon, we will hike up to Thangbi Valley, crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century via an unpaved road.
Visit Cheese Factory and Beer Factory
Day 6: Bumthang – Tang valley excursion
Tang valley excursion and hike to Ugyen Choling Palace
Lunch at Ugyen Choling Palace
Me-Bar Tsho (Burning Lake) one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, the holylake is said to be one of the holiest lakes in Bhutan. Long time ago, Terton Pema Lingpa (Buddhist saint and treasure discoverer) dived into the lake while holding a burning butter lamp on one hand. Several hours later when he came out of the lake, he was holding some relics one one hand and the butter lamp on his other hand was still burning. Thus the lake was called Me-Bar Tsho (Me-bar=Burning Tsho=Lake)
Ugyen Choling Palace Our journey about 2hours drive, we stop at a roadside temple and a nunnery, ending in the Tang valley and the village of Kesum. From the road head we have a one-hour hike over a suspension footbridge, through farm fields and cluster villages, up a “hill” to the mystical Ugyen Choling Palace where we will spend nights in the owner’s guesthouse or in the Dzong.
Ugyen Choling Palace built 17th century by Deb Tsokey Dorji, a descendant of Buddhist Saint Dorje Lingpa. Ugyen Choling is a national treasure, privately owned by the same family for hundreds of years. Its remote location makes it one of the less frequently visited historical sites in Bhutan, hosting fewer than two hundred guests per year. One of the owners wrote a book on Bhutanese folk tales of the Yeti and her brother is the property’s caretaker.
The best part of the Palace is the quaint museum housing permanent exhibits on three floors in the main building and the Utse, the central tower. Traditional living quarters are recreated to capture the realistic ambiance of the ancient lifestyles and conditions of the households. Everyday kitchen and weaving utensils, war weapons–including petrified yak dung to make gunpowder–tools and farming implements are the main part of the exhibits In the evening, villagers (mostly single ladies looking to meet our guides and drivers) will come to the Palace for an evening of cultural entertainment. You’re invited to join in the singing and dancing.
Drive time one and half hours
Day 7: Bumthang to Gangtey
En route to Gangtey is Trongsa, the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty.
Trongsa, literally “New Town” in the Dzongkha language, is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. Each King in the line of succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before donning the Raven Crown.
Trongsa Dzong – The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by by Pema Lingpa. The Dzong flourished during the 17th century under Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. With its massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde Chu Valley, the Dzong commands the east-west road.
Taa Dzong – Built as a watchtower 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.
Drive time 5 hours
Day 8: Gangtey to Paro
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to 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. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Goempa monastery. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Paro Valley- The beautiful valley 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 (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu 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.
Ta Dzong – Built as a watchtower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Drive time 4 hours
Day 9: Paro: Haa valley excursion
Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988m). From the pass you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the Katso Lhakhang.
The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we return back to Paro for the night.
Drive time 2 hours
Day 10: Paro valley excursion
Taktshang Monastery- This morning will begin with a hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. Kyichu Lhakhang- After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
The balance of the day can be spend browsing shops in town
Day 11: International Departure
After breakfast, transfer to Paro airport for international departure.