This tour takes you on a number of sightseeing in various places as you journey towards central Bhutan. Visit the beautiful valleys of Gangtey and phobjikha which is also the winter home of the blacknecked cranes. Wrap up the trip with an amazing hike to the Tigers Nest.
Day 01 : Arrive Paro by Druk Air
The flight into Bhutan takes you close to the great Himalayas, offering a dazzling scenic view of some of the world’s highest glacial peaks. As you enter Paro valley, you will sweep past forested hills and over the silvery Pa Chu (Paro river) meandering down the valley below. Our representative will meet you at the airport and after completion of arrival formalities, you will be transferred to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, a charming city with an exciting blend of tradition and modernity. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02 : Thimphu
Full day sightseeing tour of the charming city of Thimphu. It includes visits to:
- National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk “the Father of modern Bhutan”, who wished to erect a monument for global peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace. It has now become a vibrant centre of spiritual practice and religious events.
- Buddha Dordenma: It is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park overlooking the southern entrance to the Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni is 51.5 m tall, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue- 100,000 statues of 8 inches and 25,000 statues of 12 inches. Each of these Buddhas have also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
- Motithang Takin Preserve is a wildlife reserve area for the takin, the national animal of Bhutan. It was converted from a mini zoo into a preserve when it was discovered that the animals preferred to remain there even when set free. It is a quaint looking animal with a head of a goat and body of a cow and its creation is linked to an interesting local mythology.
- The National Institute of Traditional Medicine where centuries old healing arts are still practiced.
- National Library that has a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts.
- The Painting School, famous for its traditional thangkha paintings. Here you will see students at work producing intricate design on cloth.
- The Royal Textile museum and the Folk Heritage Museum, a fascinating testimony of Bhutanese culture and living traditions.
- The Handicrafts Emporium that displays a wide assortment of beautifully hand woven and crafted products.
- Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery that houses some offices of the Government and His Majesty the King’s Throne Room. It is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of the monastic body.
- Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03 : Thimphu / Trongsa ( 200 Km, 6 hours drive)
After an early breakfast, drive to Trongsa via the Dochula pass (3,050m). If the weather permits, enjoy the beautiful view of some of the Himalayan peaks towards the north east such as Masagang (7158m), Tsendagang (6960m), Terigang (7060m ), Jejegangphugang (7158 m), Kangphugang (7170m), Zongphugang (7060 m ) and Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7497m.
- Stop for a picture of the Wangdue Dzong which is under major renovation after the devastating fire in 2012.
- Proceed to Trongsa across the Pelela pass (3,300 m ). Lunch at a local restaurant situated at the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large prayer flag and the ground is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo.
- Stop enroute at Chendbji Chorten, which was built in the 18th century by a Lama named Shida. Nepalese in style, the stupa resembles the famous Boudhnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Arrive Trongsa and check into the lodge.
Day 04 : Trongsa / Bumthang ( 68 Km, 3 hours drive )
- After breakfast, visit Trongsa Dzong. Built in 1648 it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governor’) prior to ascending the throne, and the present Crown Prince now holds the post. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built.
- Visit the Ta Dzong (watch tower), dedicated to the Buddhist epic hero, King Gesar of Ling.
- Drive to Bumthang, 68 km from Trongsa, a journey of about 3 hours, over the Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass, 28 km from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley. On arrival in Bumthang, check in at your lodge.
Day 05 : Bumthang
Bumthang is the general name given to a combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitudes varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of the country’s prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries. Its landscape and scenic beauty is very often likened to Switzerland by locals and visitors from around the world.
After breakfast at the hotel:
- Visit Jambey Lhakhang, a 7th century temple and one of the 108 built by King Songtsen Gampo in one day.
- Next, explore the religious sites on foot: Kurje Lhakhang, where the saint Padmasambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock; Tamshing Lhakhang that has some of the oldest wall paintings in Bhutan and Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the region. Stroll in the village, visit the little handicrafts shop at the entrance to the town, and perhaps, take refreshments at a local restaurant. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 06 : Bumthang / Gangtey / Phobjikha (190 km, 7 hours drive)
After breakfast, drive to Gangtey / Phobjikha. In the mountains east of Wangduephodrang lies the beautiful Phobjikha valley, on the slopes of which is situated the great monastery of Gangtey, established in the 17th century. The village of Phobjikha lies a few km down from the monastery on the valley floor. This quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north to pass the winter months in a milder climate. Explore Gangtey village and Phobjikha valley. Overnight at the lodge in Gangtey / Phobjikha.
Day 07 : Gangtey / Phobjikha / Punakha (70 km, 3 hours drive)
After breakfast, drive to Punakha.
- Afternoon visit Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. Punakha was Bhutan’s capital until 1955, and Punakha Dzong still serves as the winter residence of the central monk body. Bhutan’s first King, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned here in 1907. The fortress has withstood several damages from fire, earthquake and flood over the centuries. The last flood in 1994, caused great damage to the fortress but miraculously spared its most holy statue.
- Also visit Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, the newly built stupa. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha / Wangduephodrang.
Day 08 : Punakha / Paro (125 km, 4.1/2 hours drive)
- After breakfast, drive to Paro and enroute visit Simtokha Dzong. This dzong, built in 1627 is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Advanced Buddhist Studies.
- Afternoon visit the Ta Dzong, which, in the past, served as a watchtower for Paro Dzong (Rinpung Dzong) and now houses the National Museum.
- Rinpung Dzong, built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal , the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. The Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam. It is also the venue of the popular Paro Tshechu, held once a year in the spring. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 09 : Paro
- After breakfast, drive up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1647 by the Zhabdrung to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetans in the war of 1644.
- Next, take an excursion to the Taktsang Monastery view point. It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called the ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and was visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
- While returning to the hotel visit en route, Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 10 : Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for final departure.