DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
DAY 02: THIMPHU – GANGTEY
DAY 03: GANGTEY–TRONGSA
DAY 04: TRONGSA- BUMTHANG
DAY 05: BUMTHANG
DAY 06: BUMTHANG-PUNAKHA
DAY 07: PUNAKHA
DAY 08: PUNAKHA-PARO
DAY 09: PARO
DAY 10: DEPATURE
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan awaits, nestled high in the Himalayas its isolation from the world has cultivated a culture rich in traditions, religion and a benevolent monarchy. The dramatic landscapes, from snow-capped peaks and deeply forested slopes to raging, boulder strewn rivers, sit largely undisturbed as the endeared environmental initiatives and religious beliefs leave the Kingdom pristine and a jewel of nature. The program takes you into this ancient Kingdom for an adventure into the hearts and lands of charming farmers, fascinating weavers, enchanting monks and charismatic leaders.
Day 01: Arrival and Transfer to Thimphu Valley (1.5 hour Drive)
From the flight in, weaving through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. On arrival at Paro airport and after completion of airport formalities; you will be met by your guide for the first time and then you will be transferred to Thimphu. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 ½ hours. Thimphu is the modern capital town of Bhutan and an exciting blend of tradition and modernity.
Upon arrival, settle in at the hotel for some snacks and for freshening up after the long flight. In the late afternoon, drive to Kuensel Phodrang, (Buddha Point) which is a place from where one can get a complete view of the town of Thimphu. The view point has the largest statue of the Buddha. Drive back to town and visit at National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the Father of modern Bhutan”) and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. (Overnight at Thimphu)
Day 2: From Thimphu to Gangtey (Driving time – 4.5 hours)
It’s an early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Dochu La and on to the Phobjika 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 3,050m (10,000ft) mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down thru the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway has you continuing on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing thru forests of bamboo and oak, and just before crossing the Pele La pass, a small side road splinters off to the hidden Phobjika Valley. On arrival you will have time to visit the striking Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the head of the valley, and perhaps a stroll thru the quaint Gangtey village. (Overnight at Gangtey)
Day 3: Transfer to Trongsa (4 hours drive)
Today’s journey onward to Trongsa is perhaps long, but certainly memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, crossing the Black Mountain Range that divides western and central Bhutan. However, this stretch of road is rough and can take nearly an hour to rejoin the east-west highway and ascend to Pele la pass (3420m), marked by the prayer flags. Lower down, the vegetation changes to broadleaf species, and on the opposite side, you will see a cluster of houses of Rukubji village, followed by large Chendebji Chorten, at a lovely spot. This large Chorten is patterned after the Syambunath in Kathmandu and was built in 19 century. After a while, you will see the Trongsa Dzong and the town on the opposite side of the valley. There is a nice view point to look across the valley; the road follows the side valley to cross the bridge at the upper reaches of Mangde Chhu river at Bjee Zam check-post. The road then goes through a beautiful waterfall and arrives in Trongsa. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official business permitting, perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. (Overnight at Trongsa)
Day 4: Trongsa to Bumthang (2 hours drive)
Morning visit Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this Dzong. Then proceed to Bumthang, the religious heartland of the nation. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. Heading up valley to check in the hotel and balance of the day can be spent browsing the shops or days at leisure. (Overnight at Bumthang)
Day 5: Explore Bumthang Valley
This morning you will explore our oldest palace, Wangdichhoeling Palace, home to the 2nd King, and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up valley, you will take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of Bhutan’s most auspicious monuments, that was once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche, and Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings. Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, you will enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by quick visits to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits. (Overnight at Bumthang)
Day 6: Bumthang to Punakha (6 hours drive)
Today you will start with an early departure for the lengthy drive to Punakha. Upon entering the Punakha Valley you may stop to stretch your legs for a short walk thru the valley floor to the Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built by the “Divine Madman in 1499. (Overnight at Punakha)
Day 7: Explore Punakha Valley
Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up thru fields of chilies, cabbages and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Returning down thru the valley you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler, Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks. Following lunch a quick drive will take you to the village of Talo where you will stop to walk the stunning, quiet grounds of the village temple and perhaps visit the home village of the Kingdom’s four Queens. Further hikes or valley excursions can be organized. (Overnight at Punakha)
Day 8: From Punakha to Paro (3.5 hours drive)
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys. On arrival, you could visit the National Museum, where an intriguing collection of artefacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lays the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, and guests are then driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall painting. Later in the evening, visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang, a sacred monument pinning down the left foot of a treacherous ogress. This is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan dating back to the 7th century. (Overnight at Paro)
Day 10: Hike to Tiger’s nest hike
In the morning, take an excursion to Takstang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. A pilgrimage to Takstang is the dream of a lifetime for the devout. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. The balance of the day can be spent browsing shops in town to buy some souvenir for your family back at home. (Overnight at Paro)
Day 11: Departure Day
Early morning transfer to airport.
Some of the sights/itinerary may change due to season, weather, national holidays, and special events. We maintain the rights to alter the itinerary since tours are made in advance and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve your overall travel experience in Bhutan
The driving and hiking times mentioned are approximate times and do not include breaks in the journey for sightseeing, photo/tea/meal/rest stops. There may be delays in transfer time due road conditions, road repair/widening works, inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. During the treks/hikes, there may be delays or diversion of hiking trails due to trail conditions, inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Please note that at the moment there are numerous areas where road conditions are not very good due to road widening/repair works and you may experience rough and bumpy drives.
WHAT WE INCLUDE IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TOURS:
• Passport (with at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your exit from Bhutan)
• Print out copy of the visa & International air tickets.
• Temperatures will fluctuate greatly depending on elevation and time of day. You should be prepared for a minimum temperature of 04 degrees and a maximum of 30 degrees. You have to plan for layered clothing to be prepared for such a wide-ranging temperature fluctuations.
• Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, etc.
• Stay away from any cold salad! These are normally rinsed in tap water before or after being sliced and are a major cause of traveler’s gastro-intestinal distress.
• All tipping is optional and by no means mandatory, however if you feel that your staff and drivers have performed at a good or excellent level, it is a great way to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
A few reminders:
• Accept or offer items with the right hand or, more politely, with both hands. Using both hands to give or receive signifies that you honor the offering and the recipient or giver.
• When you visit Buddhist shrines or temples, it is appropriate and a sign of respect to walk around the building in a clockwise direction (so that the structure is to your right side). This is also true for mani walls (walls built of stone tablets with Buddhist mantras carved on them) and Chorten (small Buddhist shrines.)
• Your guide will give you additional tips along the way, when in doubt, check in with them. You will be travelling into areas that have had relatively few foreign visitors. Your positive attitude and interaction is needed and welcomed to maximize this adventure.
What should I bring with me for the trip?
• Good walking shoes
• Sunscreen (highest possible)
• Headgear for sunny days
• Bug/Insect repellent
• Cotton clothing for summer days, light woolen clothes for evenings. Heavy woolens for winter.
• Shorts for hiking and walking around town are fine. Out of respect, please don’t wear shorts in public buildings or monasteries. Have a pair of long pants or longer skirt for these locations.