ARRIVAL AT PARO | TRANSFER TO THIMPHU
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatise to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and lets have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sight-seeing in Thimphu if possible.
TOUR OF THIMPHU
Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu Valley includes the National Library which has a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts, manuscripts, modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags and the Thimpu Painting School, famous for traditional thangkha paintings. Then Kuensel Phodra, known locally as Buddha Point and the largest of the Buddha statues within the country, from this vantage point we’ll also take in spectacular views overlooking the town of Thimphu.
Continuing we explore Memorial Chorten, a beautiful stupa built in the memory of Bhutan’s third King. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. Trashichhodzong, the beautiful fortress/monastery which houses Secretariate building, King’s Throne room and other government’s offices, is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot. To see a wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products, visit the Handicrafts Emporium.
THIMPHU - PUNAKHA
This morning drive to Punakha, an old winter capital of Bhutan. En-route stop at the lofty Dochu La Pass, 3,048m to view the rugged eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan's highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum, 7,550m. The road then drops down through varied–ever changing forest, finally emerging into the highly cultivated Punakha valley.
This afternoon visit the impressive Punakha Dzong or Pungthang Dechen Phodrang "Palace of Great Happiness," which is located on the confluence of two rivers (Phochu and Mochu). It was built in 1637 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal and following the ancient traditions, it serves as winter residence for chief abbot (Je-khenpo) and the monks of Central Monastic Body, who returns to Thimphu in the summer. The building was damaged and rebuilt several times, due to flooding, fire and earth quake. It is one exemplary masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture.
Later hike to the Chimi lhakhang – the temple of Divine Madman which was built by lama Drukpa Kunley in 1499. Legend has it that he subdued the demoness of the Dochu la with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.’ A wooden effigy of the Lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint. It’s a 20-minute walk across the rice fields from the road at Sopsokha to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana. There are very few monks at the temple, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some very beautiful slate carvings.
DAY EXCURSION TO THE GANGTEY VALLEY
Day excursion to the Gangtey Gompa valley at an altitude of 2800 meters. The only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan is located here. This beautiful valley is also home to the rare Black Necked Cranes migrating from the Tibetan plateau to escape the harsh winter. Currently there are 200 to 300 cranes residing in this valley and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) is taking every measures to ensure the safety of the Cranes.While the cranes reside in the winter valley for 4/5 months the village folks are not allowed to make load noises or fish in the river that runs through the valley. Explore the fascinating glacier valley and return to the Resort.
PUNAKHA - PARO
Travel back to Paro today via the scenic Doch La Pass, where on a clear day you can enjoy spectacular views of the towering Bhutan Himalaya peaks. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of the Paro Valley before we wander the National Museum which holds an intriguing collection of artefacts and provides a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom.
Dungtse Lhakang, an incredible 3-storey Chorten-style building which was constructed in 1433. Next, we’ll see the beautiful Kichu Lhakang, one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan, built in the 7th century.
Overnight stay in Hotel Le-Meridien, Paro
PARO |DAY EXCURSION TO CHELELA PASS
After your breakfast you will visit the ruined fortress of Drugyel dzong which still attracts visitors due to the strategic location of the fort. The fort defended the Paro valley from the Tibetan invasion from the north in the early 17th century. On clear weather Mount Chomolhari 7320 meters can be seen towering over the Dzong.
Proceed through the beautiful valley to the watch tower or locally known as Ta-Dzong. It was housed into the National museum in the 1960s by the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The seven floors museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century. A short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong which serves as the administrative center and school for monks. Walk further down crossing the traditional bridge into Paro Town.
After Lunch embark on a driving excursion to Chelela pass. At an elevation of 3,988 meters, it is considered to be one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. About an hour’s drive along a thickly-forested road, this pass is a botanical paradise. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jumolhari and Jichu Drake. It is also marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
PARO| HIKE TO TIGER'S NEST
On our final tour day, we take an exhilarating three-hour hike to Taktsang Monastery (or Tiger’s Nest), one of the most recognizable sites in Bhutan. Built precariously on a hillside cliff, it sits more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Accessible only by foot, we follow a trail decorated with colorful prayer flags along the way to protect travelers from evil spirits. Built over the caves that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in for three years, this eighth-century father of Bhutan Buddhism is said to have been brought there on the back of a tigress. One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan it offers breathtaking views to those energetic enough to make it to the top.
We end the day with a visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, a beautiful seventh-century Buddhist temple, one of the oldest in Bhutan. According to legend, a giant demoness lay her body across the Himalayas to prevent the spread of Buddhism. Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo built 108 temples throughout the region and around her body to pin her down, with Kyichu Lhakhang built to hold down her left foot.
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back to your destination. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments!