Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.
DAY01 ARRIVE AT PARO AIRPORT
Arrive at Paro Airport and then drive to the capital city Thimphu. Altitude: 2320m/ 7656ft above sea level. (1 hour 30 minutes drive)
The flight into the Himalayas reveals scenic and breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains. If weather permits you will be able to see Mt Everest (8848m, 29,198ft) and other Himalayan mountain ranges. Your representative will greet you on arrival and drive you to the capital city, Thimphu.
Tshendhen Incense Factory in Paro was established about eleven years ago. Today, it produces varieties of incense sticks. The owner, Aap Chencho, a former monk, said he wanted to open an incense factory while he was still a monk.
According to Tshering Dorji, the benefits of offering incense are manifold. The former Lam Neten said “as the dirty clothes become clean after washing, similarly, the incense stick can also clean impurities and act as an offering to Kencho Sum“
Currently, Aap Chencho‘s factory has day workers and can produce about four hundred packets of incense every day.
Mini zoo: Here you can see just one animal – Bhutan’s national animal- the Takin. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family, found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo.
Kuenselcholing View Point: A place from where you can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley is from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). It is again a short drive from the town. You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Tashichho Dzong: The names means – Fortress of Glorious Religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room as well as the office of the King and the central monk body.
Later stroll around the city and have dinner at a typical Bhutanese restaurant with a cultural show.
Overnight in Thimphu
DAY 02 IN THIMPHU
Morning, visit the weekend market: Held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, people crowd the stalls every day, dressed in vibrant colors, gathered to meet and to barter, much like the street markets in London!
Later take a hike to Cheri Monastery (Includes Dodina and Jigme Dorji Wild life Sanctuary): Hike about 1hr (to and fro) to Cheri Goemba (Cheri Dorji Dhen). Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620 and established the first monk body here. Here you have a chance to spot birds such as Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Yellow-browed Tit, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Long-billed Thrush, Ultramarine Flycatcher, etc.
Paper factory: Handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in the 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper is a valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and has been preserved through the ages. Traditional paper is recognized and held in high esteem, both at home and outside.
General Post office of Bhutan: Get an insight into Bhutan through its stamps. Visit their Philatelic Bureau for their beautiful, unique and wide range of stamps and philatelic products. You can also order them from Bhutan Post and its agents around the world. All types of attractive postage stamps, picture post cards, stamp albums, envelopes, etc. are available at the philatelic counters which are best for presentation and gift purposes. The bureau also maintains prepaid customer accounts such as Ordinary Account and Standing Order Account.
Bhutan Craft bazaar: The private stalls had a variety of high-end quality products from places across the country such as wood carved national symbols, bags and western wears with a touch of traditional designs, wooden and clay utensils, Bangchung, Dhapa, key hangers, jewelry boxes, bookmarks and handmade packing papers (Deysho) in different patterns, antique items, etc. The stalls have a distinctly rich outlook with fine tones of elegance, and a warm and inviting atmosphere. The craft bazaar is also an example of how bamboo can be used to construct houses in the country.
Later, take some time for resting and prepare for the next journey.
Overnight in Thimphu.
DAY 3 THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA/WANGDUE
Altitude: Day50m/4455ft above sea level.(3 hours drive).
Morning drive to Punakha/Wangdue, we come across a pass known as Dochula (3140m, 10362ft) from where a beautiful panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range can be seen, especially in clear winter days. The beauty of this place is further enhanced by the Druk Wangyal Chortens- a 108 stupas built by the eldest Queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
Later you can also visit the Botanical garden just below Dochula Pass where there are lot of collection of rhododendrons.
You can even go for hikes, cycling and go for bird watching activities whereby you will see Whiskerd Yuhina, White Nated Yuhina, Rufous Vented Yuhina, Strip Throated Yuhina, Rufous Sidia, Brown Parrot Bill, Misses Gould’s Sun Bird, Green Tailed Sungird etc….
Later hike to Chimi Lhakhang(Temple of fertility): This Temple was built by lam Drukpa Kuenley (The Divine Madman) in 1499. It is about thirty minutes hike across fields from the road –Wooden phalluses are often found hanging in the four corners of the houses and also phalluses are painted on the walls of houses. It is the common belief that this helps in driving away evil spirits. (30 minutes hike to and fro, gentle steep, good footh path across the valleys and villages)
Overnight in Punakha/Wangdue.
DAY 4 PUNAKHA/WANGDUE TO GANGTEY
Altitude: 2800m/ 9240ft above sea level (2 hours drive)
Morning excursion to Talo with a picnic lunch. The festival there takes place in spring and will capture any visitor’s attention. Let your tour take you there in summer during the corn harvest. It’s an adventure to enjoy corn harvest with the farmers and also an opportunity to look for the Himalayan bear. A walk through Talo and down to the other village of Nobgang will be a great day’s itinerary.
Later drive to Gangtey.
Overnight in Gangtey.
DAY 5 GANGTEY TO PARO
Altitude: 2280m/7524ft above sea level.(4 hours drive)
Morning you will hike across Gangtey Nature Trail: (Duration: Half day: two hours at a quicker pace): This is one of the most beautiful and shortest of the existing nature trail. In this trail you have the opportunity to visit the magnificent Goemba (Monastery), it also leads to a sloping area of green grass, flanked by pine trees on either side. You will even come across some villages, rivers, and crane roosting ground.
Later drive to Paro.
On the way a picnic lunch at Dochula pass area.
Visit Rimpung Dzong: The Bhutanese Dzongs are huge architectural structures constructed for a variety of functions throughout the country, from administrative buildings to monasteries and temples, yet they are carefully and thoughtfully designed and are strikingly beautiful. The Rimpung Dzong, known as the “fortress of the heap of jewels” in the picturesque setting of the Paro valley, is of course no exception, built in the time of the dynamic spiritual and political leader Zhabdrung in 1644. Once a year, as part of the Tsechu festival, one of the oldest Thongdol (gigantic scroll paintings) is ceremonially unfurled here.
Kichu Lhakhang (Monastery): It is one of the two most sacred and the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.
Overnight in Paro.
DAY 6 IN PARO
Morning hike to Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest): This is Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon, perched 800m/2640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998, it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimopche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. (Five hours hike to and fro, some gentle and some steep hike, some stony footpaths and some good ones) If you ride a horse upward it will cost an extra US$25 per person, which we will provide free of cost.
Visit Farmhouse: Picturesque farm houses dot the valley amongst fields and hillsides. We welcome you to enjoy the hospitality of the Paro farmers. The farmers welcome you to their homes with genuine smiles. The two to three-storied Bhutanese farm houses are handsome in appearance, with colorfully decorated outer walls and lintels, and are traditionally built. A visit to a farm house gives an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of a farming family. (If you take hot stone bath in the farm house it will cost an extra US$25 per person.)
Later stroll around the town and see how locals live.
Overnight in Paro
DAY 7 DEPART FROM PARO
Early breakfast at the hotel and then drive to the airport. Your escort will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.