Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Thimphu, o/n Amankora Thimphu
Day 2 Thimphu Valley. Farmer’s Market, Heritage Museum, o/n Amankora Thimphu
Day 3 Transfer to Punakha Valley. Hongtsho Goempa Hike, o/n Amankora Punakha
Day 4 Punakha Valley Exploration. Dzong, Royal Temple Hike o/n Amankora Punakha
Day 5 Transfer to Paro Valley, o/n Amankora Paro
Day 6 Explore Paro valley. Paro Dzong, National Museum, Kyichu, o/n Amankora Paro
Day 7 Tiger’s Nest Hike, o/n Amankora Paro
Day 8 International Departure
Day 1: Arrival in Paro. Transfer to Thimphu
Your arrival in Bhutan is an unparalleled experience as the flight circles over the dramatic valley below. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1½ hours. Upon arrival and following lunch, visit your choice of the National Memorial Chorten, the National Textile Museum, the Folk Heritage Museum and the National Library then stroll the main street browsing for interesting Himalayan artifacts and textiles.
Day 2: Thimphu valley exploration
In the morning, visit the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Royal offices, and Pangri Zampa, two 16th-century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs, a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town, visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand-rolled incense.
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
An early departure brings you on a dramatic drive over the 3,050m mountain pass of Dochu La and on to Punakha Valley. Sights on the way include one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th-century.
Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the pass offering spectacular views of towering Himalayan peaks on a clear day. The descent into Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway takes you via the town of Wangdi to visit the rustic Wangdiphodrang Dzong and perhaps the local temple next door. Explore this quaint village and its row of intimate shops before heading to the lodge.
In the afternoon, visit the village of Talo, home of the Queen’s and the valley’s protective deity, lhakhang. Later in the afternoon, enjoy a hike to an ancient monastery on the hilltop behind the lodge.
Day 4: Exploring Punakha
Begin the day with a hike from Punakha Lodge through terraces of rice, chillies and cabbage to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten – a monument recently built by the Queen of Bhutan. Afterwards, drive back up the valley towards Khuruthang, passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s leadership and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region.
A picnic lunch is served on the banks of the Punak Chu, prior to visiting the village of Lobesa. From there, enjoy a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built in 1499.
Day 5: Punakha to Paro
After descending from Dochu La Pass, the road will lead back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys before crossing through Paro towards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, is the Amankora Paro lodge and spa. In the afternoon, stroll to the nearby ruins, visit some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or amble down Paro’s main street. Evenings at Amankora Paro may include informative lectures on the history, religion, flora and fauna of the region, or a film on the Himalayas.
Day 6: Exploring Paro Valley
The day starts with a visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here, a collection of artifacts provides a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lies the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. From the Dzong, cross Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilevered bridge, to reach the town temple built in 1525. Enjoy a picturesque picnic or a visit to a traditional farmhouse for lunch with a local family.
The afternoon brings a choice of excursions; visitors interested in further immersion in Bhutan’s culture and religion must experience the Kyichu Lhakhang, Dumtse Lhakhang and the Drukgyel Dzong altar room. Hikers can follow a beautiful trail behind the lodge which passes Drukgyel Dzong and winds along the Paro Chhu, crossing a suspension bridge and ambling through terraced farmland and forests before looping back down the river to a second bridge and returning to the lodge.
Day 7: Tiger’s Nest Hike
Spend the morning hiking to one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goempa, more commonly known as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four- to five-hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face almost 1,000m above the valley floor. The rest of the day can be spent browsing through shops in town, enjoying the spa or exploring the rich forests that rise behind the lodge.
Day 8: Departure
Transfer to Paro Airport for International departure