A. Itinerary in Detail (11 Days)
Day 01 : Fly Kathmandu /ArrivalParo (by Druk Air) – Paro
The morning flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights / fantastic views of Mt. Everest, Kanchen Junga, Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Jhomulhari and Jichu Drake / the first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. Your Bhutanese escort will greet you on arrival / then drive the short distance to the hotel.
Paro is a picturesque valley with quaint clusters of hamlets amid terraced paddy fields / although the site of the nation’s first airport Paro still retains its tradition by way of architecture and farming / visit National Museum, Ta dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum / the museum boasts antique thangkas, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts / below the Museum is the Paro Rinpung Dzong / built in 17th century to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders / the dzong is now used as an administration centre and a school for monks.The evening ends with a walk through Paro’s main shopping district / overnight at hotel.
Day 02 : Paro sightseeing
After breakfast drive the winding road to the Drukgyal Dzong, the ruined fort, which was once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions / on your way back visit Kyichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temples in Bhutan (7th century) / lunch is served at a restaurant in Paro town / afternoon at leisure.
Day 03 : Paro – Taktsang – Thimphu
Morning drive to Satsam Chorten / then hike to Takstang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, the most photographed in Bhutan / the monastery was rebuilt after a disastrous fire destroyed it some years ago / the monastery to the public and can be visited/ Here it is said Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigeress in the 8th century /lLunch served at the viewpoint cafeteria and then walk back to the road point and visit Kyichu Lhakhang / one of the oldest temples in Bhutan / after, continue drive to Thimphu,the modern capital of Bhutan. The drive takes around 1½ hours / Thimphu has a population of around 98,000 / the town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights / in the evening visit the Handicrafts Emporium / all types of Bhutanese handicrafts for sale / overnight at hotel.
Day 04 : Thimphu valley sightseeing
After breakfast drive at Sangaygang / a field of Bhutanese prayer flags, perched high above the city / coloured flags send prayers to the heavens and white flags honor the dead / visit the Motithang Mini Zoo and visit the National Animal Takin Research Centre where these odd animals graze peacefully in a small protected park / walk to the Zilukha Nunnery and then drive to the Tango Monastery for a picnic lunch / the hike to the monastery takes about 45 minutes / it is a 13th Century structure and today is home to about 150 monks studying Buddhist Philosophy and meditation / Thimphu sightseeing continues with the Folk Heritage Museum (a beautifully restored Bhutanse farmhouse from the last century) and the National Painting School / in the evening visit the National Memorial Chorten built in honor of our 3rd king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (a wonderful opportunity to mix with the local population) / all the buildings in Bhutan conform to national building principals and are beautifully carved and decorated. Dinner at The Royal Golf Club / overnight at hotel.
Day 05 : Thimphu – Punakha
After breakfast drive over the Docchu-La pass (3050 m)and into the beautiful valley of Punakha / the teahouse at the pass offers beautiful views of the Himalayan range in the distance / this is a 3 hour drive with stops en route / afternoon visit the magnificent Dzong spanning the MoChu and Po Chu rivers / the winter residence of the monastic body and the Je Khenpo (chief Abbott). If time permits a hike to Khamsum Yule Chorten is worthwhile / dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 06 : Punakha – Trongsa – Bumthang
Today we start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan / the drive to Bumthang via Trongsa is approximately 7 hours crossing over Pele La pass (3,300 m) and Yotongla pass (3,400 m) /”The Central Road” across the Black Mountains / it was completed 30 years ago / it brought about great changes to the people in central Bhutan /
we pass Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan where we make a short stop to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong dramatically located on the spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers / we then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and up to Pelela Pass (3,300 m) with an alpine environment and forests of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo / this pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan / good views of the Himalayan ranges, particularly the peak of Jhomulhari (7,314 m) to the west. En route we pass Chendebji Chorten built many centuries ago to suppress a demon / after lunch we view the impressive Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home of the ruling dynasty / in olden days the dzong commanded the passage between East and West Bhutan / we also visit the Ta dzong, an ancient watchtower, above the main Dzong / it has an interesting display of Mongol armour / we then drive to Bumthang valley (described as “ one of the most beautiful spots in the Himalayas” across the Yotongla pass (3,400 m) / overnight at Rinchenling Lodge.
Day 07 : Bumthang sightseeing
Bumthang is said to be one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here many great teachers meditated and left in their wake many sacred grounds. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders), have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley.
In the morning we hike to visit Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic schools built by Terton Pema Lingpa) and Kurjey Lhakhang (where the Guru Rinpoche subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock) / we also visit Jambay Lhakhang (one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in 7th century) and Jakar Dzong (seat of the district administration) /
in the afternoon hike to the Thangbi Valley across the suspension bridge and visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century / dinner and overnight at Rinchenling lodge.
Day 08 : Bumthang – Gangtey – Wangdue
The drive to Wangdue takes about 7 hours via Gangtey / Gangtey lies towards the east of Punakha and Wangdue on the flanks of the Black Mountains / there is an old monastery of Gangtey Gompa dating back to the 17th century / a few kilometers on from the Gompa is the fascinating valley of Phobjikha / the gentle sloping hillsides of Phobjikha make this a truly beautiful valley / it is the winter home of black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in a milder and lower climate / overnight at hotel.
Day 09 : Wangdue – Thimphu
After breakfast we take a short drive to the valley of Lobesa and from the road point walk for 20 minutes through rice terraced fields to the temple of Chhimi Lhakhang / temple of the divine madman” Drukpa Kuenley” / the temple is mostly visited by women who are unable to bear children / then drive back to Thimphu / the evening ends with a stroll through the main street of Thimphu / dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 10 : Thimphu – Paro
After breakfast drive to Paro / transfer hotel / the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 11 : Departure
Drive to the airport for flight to Kathmandu