Day 01: Arrival in Paro drive to Thimphu
On your arrival at Paro International Airport, an English-speaking tour guide who will be your personal tour host and facilitator throughout your stay in the country will cordially receive you. Once you complete the customs and immigration procedures, you will be driven in a private car to the main parking lot below the Paro Dzong where you will assemble your bikes and short guidelines will be given for your code and conduct before you bike to the capital Thimphu. The capital Thimphu lies at an elevation of 7700ft/2350m is only 65 km, and easily negotiated in 2.5 hours. Thimphu is a bustling town on the bank of the river Wang Chhu. It is the home to the royal family, the royal government and to several foreign missions and development projects.
Your ride takes you following the Pa Chhu River with arid and has mainly scrub as vegetation. The countryside from Chhunzom to Thimphu is less forested and you may need a good pick up from some section where the valleys are narrow and widens into strained gentle slopes. At your arrivals check in to your hotel and rest day at leisure.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
Today you will be using the vehicle for your full day sightseeing in Thimphu. In the morning hour drive south of Thimphu to visit Simtokha Dzong, originally called Simmo Dokha (Demon on the Stone)till the Zhabdrung cleansed and purified it and build the dzong whose complete name is san ngay sabdon phodrang( The Palace of Profound Tantric Teaching).This was the first of the many dzongs constructed by Zhabdrung in 1631. Heading back to the main town and visit the giant Buddha Statue overlooking the valley below. The spot offers a good view of the capital city. Following visit, National Memorial Chorten built in 1974 in memory of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk by his mother. Changangkha Lhakhang will be your next stop and is one of the oldest temples in Thimphu, dating back to the fifteen century. It was built by a descendent of Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo. The main statue here is that of Avaloketeswara and opposite the entrance is a large painting of Tsangpa Gyaray Yeshay Dorji. The place has an air of peace and tranquility, located as it is above and away from the city. Lunch will be served in the finest restaurant in the capital and after lunch visit Drubthop Gompa, a small building surrounded by prayer flags that now house the Zilukha Nunnery. Located above the dzong, this gompa is believed to protect it from fires. Your drive will now take you past the rolling greens of the golf course with the grand National Library coming up on the opposite side. This was open in 1967 to preserve the ancient Dzongkha texts and act as a repository for thousands of old religious books and manuscripts as well as the wooden blocks used for printing. National Institute Of Zorig Chusum, which offers a six-year course on Bhutan’s traditional crafts for those who are artistically inclined. Your last stop for the day is Trashichhoe Dzong. The Dzong can be visited only after 5 pm on weekdays, when the government office closed-or then during the day on Saturday/Sunday. The Trashichhoe Dzong, in its present incarnation, was consecrated as late as 1969 and this building is a visual delight. With its superb sense of proportion and space, it carries an aura of regal dignity. Its history dated back to the 13th century. After becoming the property of Zhabdrung in 1641, he rebuilt the dzong. In the evening stroll around the town.
Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha
Today at your early hotel check out you will be offered full day biking until you reach the ancient capital Punakha which lies at an elevation of 4430ft/1351m. It takes around 77km and can be negotiable within 4 hours. Punakha serves as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by the two main rivers, Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. Your morning ride is quite an uphill ride until you reach the highest point at Dochu La Pass (10150ft/3100m). It takes around 22km and takes you past through Simtokha Dzong. There are a 108 Chortens in three tiers of 45, 36 and 27 circumscribing a single large chorten. Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk initiated the building of this chortens when her husband, the fourth king, travelled to the South-East of the country in December 2003 leading his army against insurgents from India. Beside these magnificent chortens in an amazing setting, you will be able to sport some of the great Himalayan peaks. From this lofty pass it’s a downhill ride till you reach Punakha. When you are near Lobesa en-route visit Chemi Lhakhang. This lhakhang dates back to 1499 and was built by Lama Drukpa Kinley, when he visited this valley. Lama Drukpa Kinley is believed to have subdued the demoness residing at Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ and a wooden effigy of this is preserved within. Lunch will be served in Khuruthang and after lunch bike up to Punakha Dzong. The dzong straddles the confluence of two rivers and resembles a giant battleship. Its full name is ‘Pungthang Dechen Phodrang’ or ‘Palace of Great Happiness.’ This extremely impressive fortress was built as far back as 1937. It was the second of the mighty dzong built by Zhabdrung and was the seat of government till the end of the reign of the second king. Returning back check in to your hotel and rest day at leisure.
Day 04: Punakha – Phobjikha Valley
Today you will be given option for biking. In the morning hour you can chose to bike for an hour till you reached Teke Zampa. From here, the rout is quite an uphill climb for 48km till you reach Lawala Pass at an elevation 10800ft/3293m. Phobjikha is quite remote and glacier valley and is the winter home for the Black Necked Cranes, which migrates from the arid of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months in a milder climate. Entering the valley you can visit the only goemba the Gangtay Goemba built in 17th century. Drive further through the valley to visit Black Necked Crane Centre, though you might not be on a Crane season, you will get a load of information about the crane, even a short 3-4 minute documentary will be available regarding the Black Necked Crane.
Day 05: Hiking Through Phobjikha Glacier Valley
Today you are offered with many interesting hiking trails through Phobjikha Valley. Here are some optional hiking trails and chose any two to make your day.
- SHASILA NATURE HIKE: This beautiful hike starts from Gangtay and continues through Tokha village and slowly up words through Rhododendron forest. It continues across open meadow and bush bamboo towards the Shasi La Chorten. From here the trail continues downward through stunning old-growth Rhododendron forest all the way to Khelikha village.
- LONGTEY HIKE (Lord of The Ring): If you are looking for a picturesque hike through some of the most beautiful part of Gangtay, this is the one.
- TONGPHUSHING TRAIL: This is a beautiful leisurely walk through the pine forest, farmland and the villages. The hike starts from Gangtay and continues through Tokha village all the way to the Phobjikha valley. The walk provides insight into village life, farming and also offers great view of the Phobjikha Valley
Day 06: Phobjikha Valley – Trongsa
You will have an early start today for a full day biking to the ancestral home of the royal family, Trongsa. The full distance covers is around 92km. Trongsa lies at 6800ft/2073m and Trongsa forms the central hub of the kingdom and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country where launched. In the morning you will be having an uphill task until you reach Lawala Pass. From the pass, the biking tails provide an immense look into the landscape and you will pass through several alpine settlement of Rukubjee and Chendeb Jee. En-route stops at Chendeb Jee Chorten on the bank of Nikar Chhu River. Lama Shida of Tibet to suppress a demon that has been troubling the inhabitants of the valley built this large white Chorten in eighteen century. Lunch will be served in the nearby restaurant and after lunch continue you’re biking through lush green broad-leaved forest until you reach Trongsa. At your arrival check in to the hotel and rest day at leisure.
Day 07: Trongsa – Bumthang
Today before you depart to Bumthang stop to visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and the second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All 5 Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop “governor” prior to ascending the throne. The dzong is the massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Your next stop before you leave for Bumthang is the Ta Dzong, It was built by Chhoje Minjur Tempa, the first governor of Trongsa in 1652. It houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significant of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. As of date, the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum of the country. After the dzond continue your drive to Bumthang en-route Yotong La Pass (11000ft/3354m). From the pass, you can choose to ride a bike till you reach Bumthang valley (8450ft/2576m). Reaching your destination check in and rest day at leisure.
Day 08: Bumthang Sightseeing
In the morning visit, Jakar Dzong the “Castle of the White Bird” dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. It was built in 1549 by Lama Nagi Wangchuk the great grandfather of Zhabdrung. The dzong plays an important role as the fortress of defense of the completely eastern districts. It also became the seat of the first King of Bhutan. Proceed to visit Tamshing Lakhang, located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501, a Terton(treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa, who was the re-incarnation of Guru Rinpochhe There are very old religious painting around the inner wall, which was restored at the end of the 19th century. This temple can be approached from Kurji Lhakhang with a short walk crossing through the suspension bridge. THANGBI GOMPA, this temple can be approached with 30 minute walk from Kurje Lhakhang, situated in the middle of a wide fertile plateau overlooking the river. Visit Kurje Lakhang, located further along the valley, Kurje Lhakhang compresses three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face, where Guru Rinpochhe meditated in the 8th century. The middle temple was built on the site of a cave containing with the rock imprint of Gurus body, and is therefore, considered to be the most holy . The temple on the left was built by the Queen Mother, Ashi Kesang Choden in 1990. This three temples are surrounded by 108 chorten walls. If time permits drive further east of Bumthang to visit the MEMBAR TSHO ‘ the burning lake’. In the evening stroll around Jakar town.
Day 09: Ura Ride
Today we will bike to the highest of the four valleys, which make up the Bumthang Valley. From the Tang Valley, the road gradually climbs through the scenic countryside to Ura La (3,408m/11,180ft) which is marked by a chorten and mani wall. Just before the pass, if the weather is clear, magnificent views of Bhutan’s highest peaks, Gangkhar Punsum (7,239m/23,750ft) can be seen. The village of Ura, unlike most Bhutanese villages, is made up of closely clustered houses centred around a new temple recently dedicated to Guru Rimpoche. From Ura we will bike on the recently constructed road leading up to the neighbouring village of Shingkhar. This beautiful village is entered around an old temple and manor house that hosts the annual Shingkhar festival. After a packed lunch and a walk through the village, we can visit the manor house to observe rural Bhutanese life. By late afternoon, we will head back to Jakar by a combination of riding and travel on our accompanying bus.
Day 10: Bumthang – Punakha
Today before you depart to Punakha, make a short vitit to the historical Jambay Lhakhang. The Tibetan King, Songtsen Gompo, built it in the 7th century. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built to subdue the giant ogress who tried to demolish Buddhism in Tibet. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. After the temple drive straight to your onward destination Punakha. Lunch will be served en-route and in case, if you want to stop for photograph you can ask your guide. Reaching Punakha check in to the hotel.
Day 11: Punakha – Paro
In the morning hour your accompanied vehicle will transfer you to Dochu La Pass and from this lofty pass you will bike downhill till Thimphu. Stop of lunch in Thimphu and after lunch continue your ride to Paro. En-route stop to visit Tamchog Temple, It was built by Drubthob Thangtong Gyalpo” the Iron Bridge Builder” in the fourteenth century to protect the lower part of Paro valley after he had a vision of the Supreme Steed. If you reached earlier in Paro visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong: It was built by the Zhabdrung in the year 1644 and established it as the administrative and monastic centre of the western region. It is worth visiting. After the dzong ride to your hotel and rest day at leisure.
Day 12: Hike to the Famous Tiger’s Nest
We suggest you to make an early start since the goemba is located on a cliff side at an altitude of 3000ft/915m from the valley and 9700ft/2950m from the sea level. It is quite an uphill task and takes around 3-4 hours walk at an average speed. To reach to Taktsang Goemba you have to drive up to Satsam Chorten (10 km from Paro town) and from there walk up to Taktsang Monastery. The name Taktsang means “Tiger’s Nest ". The Monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff drop of nearly 4000 ft. and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan meditated on this spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress. Picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. The round hike takes about 04-05 hr. Ruined Drukgyel Dzong, this Dzong was built to commemorate the victory over Tibet by Tenzin Drukdra, the son of the consort of Tempai Nyima, while he was second Paro Penlopand was named “ Drukgyal Dzong”. Kyechu Lhakhang, Paro Kyechu Lhakhang is said to be one of the 108 temple built by the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo within a single day in the year 643. Ugyen Guru also came to this sight in the eight century and hid many treasures of the Dharma, precious things and sacred substances. Returning back from your last day sightseeing, stroll around the main town of Paro for your last day shopping and buying gifts for your family and friends back home.
Day 13: Hotel –Paro Airport
A sensational take off