Day 01: Arrival Paro – Transfer to Thimphu
On your arrival at Paro International Airport, our local tour guide and driver will greet you and after short introduction, you will be led for your half day sightseeing in the picturesque Paro valley. The countryside is dotted with elegant farmhouses and traditional homes that are considered the most beautiful in the country. The first glimpse of your sightseeing begins with an introductory visit to Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the most impressive and well-known fortress in Bhutan. It is locally known as the “fortress on the heap of jewels.” It houses both a flourishing school of monastic studies as well as government administrative agencies. Your next stop is the Ta Dzong (watchtower) that lise above Paro Rinpung Dzong and dates back to around 1650. This circular shape building was later turned into a national museum during the ring of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. Today it houses precious artwork, costumes, armor and other handcrafted objects and offers a good snapshot of daily life of Bhutanese rich cultural heritage. Following the same road back make a short visit to Jangsa Dumtse Lhakhang whilc lies just outside of Paro town and en-route to Paro Dzong. This unusual and circular Lhakhang is possibly the only ancient temple built in the shape of a chorten. Local believe that it was literally chained down since the people belief that otherwise it will fly off to heaven. This dark three storied temple was built around 1421 and was built by Tibetan saint Drubthob Thongtong Gyelpo “Iron Chain Bridge Builder.” After the temple make a short walk to Paro town which lies just on the other side of Paro Chhu River.
Lunch will be served in the finest tourist restaurant in the heart of Paro town. After your good lunch the glimpses of your half day, sightseeing begins by road as you proceed to the capital Thimphu, leading you through traditional settlements and terrace of rice field. The capital Thimphu lies in a steep valley with alpine forest and golden-topped monasteries scattered throughout. The drive from Paro to Thimphu covers 65km and it is easily negotiable within 1:30 minutes. Reaching Thimphu, drive straight to your hotel and check-in. Rest day at leisure.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
The capital Thimphu posses real charm, situated at an elevation of 2350 meters with its bustling and colorful main street. It is a meeting place for many and the main commercial centre for many of the Bhutanese. It is also home to the royal families and the summer home for the monastic body. The capital Thimphu offers many opportunities and your day sightseeing in Thimphu begins with a visit to Tango and Cheri Goemba. A 30 minutes drive from your hotel to further northern road end of Thimphu valley takes you to Cheri Goemba. From the parking lot just before the wooden bridge above wang chhu river a hike for 1.5 hour walk up to Cheri Goemba. This magnificent Goemba overlooking the valley below was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1620 and is the first place where he frst established the monastic body. The walk up to the Goemba takes you through rich forest of rhododendron and pine. After exploring the Goemba follow the same trail back and take other alternate short hike to Tango Goemba. It is 300m hike and takes around 1 hour to rich the Goemba. The Goemba sits at the richly forested hill and appears stunningly in the contrast dominating the entire surrounding hillsides.
Return to Thimphu for lunch. After lunch visit the National Library which was opened in 1967 to preserve the ancient Bhutanese texts and scriptures. It serves as a repository of thousands of old religious books and other manuscripts as well as the wooden block used for printing. Just above the National Library lies the National Institute of Thirteen Arts and Crafts, this offers a six years course on thirteen Bhutan’s traditional crafts. Drive to visit the giant golden Buddha statue located atop a hillside overlooking the valley below. The site offers an amazing view of the city and the surrounding mountainside. Returning back make a short stop at the National Memorial Chorten lies in the heart of the city. With its golden spires gleaming in the sun and its large white dome framed by the lazuline sky it’s a definitely worth a visit. This complex is one of the busiest sites in Thimphu as well as throughout Bhutan and is visited by people from all walks and throughout day and nights. It was built in 1974 in memory of the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk by his mother Ashi Phuntshog Choden Wangchuk. Your last stop of the day is the Trashichhoe Dzong, it is close to visitors during the day or office hours and opened to visitors only after 5pm or after the office hour. The complex functions as the Kings Office, government office and home to the central monastic body. It also offers a unique Bhutanese traditional architecture. In the evening stroll around the downtown Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu - Punakha
We suggest you making an early start since the view of the eastern Himalayan mountain range from Dochu La Pass are possibly one of the best in the country. Your drive takes you pass several settlement, farmhouse and apple orchards and takes around 45 minutes to reach the top. The top is unlike any of the pass that you will encounter in Bhutan. Apart from the magnificent 108 memorial chortens the view of the virgin eastern Himalayan mountain range can be visible on a clear day. Explore the surrounding areas with magnificent 108 chortens. You can also walk up to the Druk Wangyel Temple “The temple of victory further atop a hillside. It was built to honor the 4th king of Bhutan and the armies who went for war against the insurgents from India in 2003. Their victory led Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk to chose Dochu La Pass as perfect sites for the construction of the Druk Wangyel Chortens in 2004.
Your drive to Punakha from this lofty spot it is all the way downhill and the journey offers breathtaking scenery taking you through lush green forest, farmhouse, and scattered settlements. If you are here in the spring season, the rich forest filled the land with blossoming flowers of magnolia, rhododendrons, primulas etc. Reaching Lobesa a tiny village in Punakha (1351m) en-route you can make a short 35 minutes hike up to Chhemi Lhakhang, a tiny temple located on a barren hillside. This temple was founded by Lama Ngawang Chogyel in honor of his brother Lama Drukpa Kuenley in 1499.
Lunch will be served in the finest tourist restaurant in Khuruthang Town. After lunch a 6km drive takes, you to the striking Punakha Dzong saddle the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Its full name is ‘Pungthang Dechen Phodrang’ or ‘Palace of Great Happiness’. This extreme impressive fortress was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the year 1637.
Other optional sightseeing available
- Nalandra Buddhist Studies
- Talo Goemba
Day 04: Punakha Sightseeing
Today you drive to Kabje Sirigang about 30 minutes and then hike about 2 hours to Chhorten Ningpo. This is a beautiful walk, visiting a lovely villages, there are orange groves and a temple which dates Back to ‘The Devine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenley. The temple can be visited and it is now a winter residence of the incarnated Desi Tenzin Rabgay, which now had be restored. Way back take the trail of the Sinchula trek route for an hour until tongchena village. After lunch hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Temple, it is about 45 minutes hike and it was consecrated in December 1999 and contains sacred relics donated from Punakha. Leaving the exit path descending downhill, walk through the field passing few houses. By then you will you will be reaching another suspension bridge where you will be meeting you transport.
Rafting program can be arranged from this sport at extra cost. The Mo Chhu River provides tourists a unique opportunity to enjoy the valley from a different perspective.
- Length: 6 km (01 hour) (Note: In spring, higher winds and small currents wakes this stretch longer and harder)
- Difficulty: Class I – II
- Flow: 800 – 1000 cfs
Day 05: Punakha – Phobjikha Valley
Today, after a few days steeped in cultural and architectural splendor, it is time now to savor to the enchanting pristine natural Phobjikha valley (9,840ft). The region is rich in natural resource with diverse range of flora and fauna. The valley of Phobjikha is the winter home to the Black Necked Crane (Grus Nigricollis) that migrates form Tibetan plateau. The birds can be observed from early November to end of March. The road takes you cross the tiny Wangdue town and then crossing over Dang Chhu River, from here the drive takes you through rich broad-leaved forest with lots of twist and turns. The valley sides also offers visitors a scenic view of the landscape dotted with far reaching settlements with terrace of rice fields. The steep ascend until you reached Lawala Pass, a crested ridge at 10,800ft/3293m gives way to vibrant blooms of pink, white and red rhododendrons and visitors may also encounters yaks, barking deer and red panda. From this lofty pass the road takes you all the way downhill with a stunning view of the Gangtay Goemba monastery until you finally enter the Phobjikha Valley. Drive straight to the farmhouse where you will be spending nights with your host family for another three nights.
Day 06 – 07: Gangtay Goemba Festival
These two days you will participate in the grand Gangtay festival along with other optional sightseeing available. The famed Gangtay Goemba, also known as Gangtay Sanga Choeling Goemba, is located on hilltops approximately at an elevation of 2,800 meters above sea level. The festival s held in the festival ground in the main courtyard. Different kinds of mask dances are performed during the festival along with other fold dances and cultural dances. On the final day the festival concludes with the Nguedup Langwa (receiving of spiritual wisdoms/power) which is the special spiritual blessing for the people.
Optional hiking program
- Shasi La Natural Hike: This beautiful hike starts from Gangtay and continues through Tokha village and slowly up words through rhododendron forest. It takes crossing open meadows and lush dwarf bamboos towards the Shari La Chorten. From the spot the trail takes you all the way downhill through stunning old growth of rhododendron forest and then finally to Khelikha village.
- Longtey Hike: If you are looking for picturesque hike through some of the most beautiful part of Gangtay, this is one of the finest natural hikes taking around 4-5 hours.
- Tongphushing Trail: This is one of the beautiful leisurely trails available for all type of tourist and takes you through pine forest, farmland and settlements. The hike begins from near Gangtay Goemba and continues through Tokha village and then all the way to Phobjikha valley. The walk provides an insight into the living cultural hub, village life and farming with great view of the valley.
Day 08: Phobjikha Valley – Paro
Today your drive takes you following the same road all the way back to Paro. If you have missed any place or wishing to stop anywhere, you are free to discuss with your guide.
Day 09: Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest
We suggest you making an early start since the hike to Taktsang Goemba is quite an uphill task. It takes around 3-4 hours walk for an average speed. To begin you need to drive for 8km further north of Paro valley until you reached the large parking lot below the Goemba. Tiger’s Nest is one of the chief among many of the holy sites available in whole Himalayas, clings precariously to a cliff of 3000ft above the valley floor. Legend tells that in the eight century Guru Padmasambhava flew to the cliff on the back of a tigress and meditated in the cliff for three months. After him many permanent Buddhist saints also visited the holy sites and centuries later in 1684, the 4th Druk Desi/Deb Raja Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgyel, considered by many to be the ‘heart-son’ of Zhabdrung, built the monastery on the site and gave it the name “Taktsang,” as a reminder of its origins in the Padmasambhava legends.
Lunch will be served at the Taktsang Cafeteria. After lunch follow the same track back to the parking lot and then drive to Paro, en-route visit historical Kyechu Lhakhang which lies just above the roadside. It was built by Songtsen Goempo a Tibetan king in 659 AD. It is one of the 108 temples built by him in a day (according to legend) throughout the Himalayan region. Returning back stroll around the Paro town for your last day shopping and buying gifts for your family and friends back home.
Day 10: Hotel – Airport