Day 1 - PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Your first glimpse of Bhutan
On arrival at the Paro International Airport you will be welcomed by your tour guide and driver. After a meal/snacks and a brief rest, start your magical experience of Bhutan by first visiting the impressive Rinpung Dzong/Fortress of Heaped Jewels, a fine example of the ostentatious Bhutanese art and architecture. The Dzong is located in the heart of the town and a few minutes’ walk through Nyimazam, one of the few last remaining traditional cantilever bridges in Bhutan. Dzongs serve as a monastic institution and as district administrative offices.
Located above the Dzong is the National Museum that houses various antiques and artifacts of Bhutan and provides a glimpse into Bhutan’s rich cultural and religious history.
Drive for an hour to Thimphu through the beautiful landscape along the rivers of Paro and Thimphu. Enroute stopover at the Tachogang Lhakhang/temple and the iron suspension bridge.
Thimphu is one of the few capital cities in the world with no traffic lights and the traffic is still manned by traffic policemen. Check into your hotel, rest and relax.
Day 2 - THIMPHU VALLEY EXCURSION – Combination of the Ancient and the Modern
Thimphu is the most populated city in Bhutan with about a little more than 100,000 people and truly a combination of the ancient and the modern. While strictly maintaining the traditional style of architecture in modern building, there are also very old temples and numerous monasteries in and around the city, and few discotheques and Karaoke bars.
Soak in the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley from the site of the gigantic Lord Buddha, a 51 meter bronze Shakyamuni Buddha statue gilded in gold.
The beautiful Memorial Chorten/stupa in town is another favorite with the tourists and a regular sight for congregation of devout Buddhists circumambulating the Chorten from dawn till dusk. The main statue of the Buddha inside the Chorten is said to grant wishes for the earnest and honest hearted!
If you want to mingle with the Bhutanese people and jostle with local farmers amongst the aroma of organic fruits and vegetables, the Centenary Farmers Market is the place to be. Smiling tourists watch in awe as locals bargain with the vendors and you could even stock up on your organic fruits for the coming days.
Visit the Simply Bhutan Museum which is a living studio showcasing the age old culture and traditional heritage of Bhutan. Walk for a few minutes from the Museum to Changangkha Lhakhang the oldest temple in Thimphu.
Stroll through the market places and the craft bazaar.
In the evening visit the Tashichho Dzong/Fortress of the Auspicious Religion and office of the Golden throne of the Dragon King of Bhutan.
Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 - THIMPHU TO GANGTEY & PHOBJIKA VALLEYS – Enjoy the ride through the mountain ranges – 6 hours drive
After breakfast check out of your hotel and drive for about three hours to Wangdue and Punakha valleys. Enroute stop over at the Dochulaa Pass (3150 meters) and enjoy the spectacular views of the snow capped Himalayan Mountains. The 108 small stupas built over a small hill is also a beautiful sight. The road from the Pass winds down to the warm and fertile valleys of Punakha and Wangdue. Have your lunch in one of the tourist restaurants at Lobesa – a small settlement along the highway in Wangdue.
Continue drive for about 3 hours to Gangtey and Phobjika valleys. Overnight at your hotel in Gangtey.
Day 4 - EXCURSION OF GANGTEY & PHOBJIKA VALLEYS – The winter roosting grounds for the endangered Black Necked Cranes
Gangtey, Phobjika and the neighboring villages are located at a higher altitude and are one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of Bhutan. The valleys are remote, serene and very scenic. While there are no major tourist attractions or landmarks, but you can enjoy walking through the villages and there are also a lot of short hikes in and around.
Visit the Gangtey Monastery and from the Monastery you can hike down for about 2 hours.
In the evening drive back to Punakha for about 3 hours and overnight at your hotel in Punakha.
Day 5 -PUNAKHA TSHECHU / FESTIVAL – The highlight of your holiday
Punakha Dzong meaning the Fortress of Great Bliss was built by 1673 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the first spiritual & political leader of Bhutan) to commemorate the final victory against the numerous Tibetan invasions. Located on a piece of land between two rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu (literally meaning male and female rivers), the Dzong is massive, huge and magnificent in all its architectural grandeur. Although ravaged by flood, fire and earthquake many times, the Dzong was always rebuilt with its original pattern and design. The Dzong hosted significant events such as the crowning of the first king of Bhutan, The Royal Wedding ceremony of the Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema on 13th October 2011 was conducted in Punakha Dzong and important religious ceremonies are still held in the Dzong.
Today you will spend the whole day watching the Festival at the courtyard of the Dzong. You will definitely enjoy this colorful masked dances and traditional folk songs and dances with the even more colorfully dressed Bhutanese people.
Overnight at your hotel in Punakha
Day 6 - PUNAKHA VALLEY EXCURSION – The old capital of Bhutan
After a leisurely breakfast drive for a few minutes north till you reach a suspension bridge. Walk for about an hour to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten stupa. It is a beautiful walk through the pine trees, paddy fields and traditional houses. The stupa is stunning and so is the view from there of the terraced rice fields and the valley.
Visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang / nunnery, interact and watch as the nuns go about their daily life and rituals. You can also enjoy sweeping views of both the Punakha and Wangdue valleys.
A few minutes drive uphill will bring you to the Lapsakha village. Walk through the village, visit some farmhouses and watch the farmers as they go about their daily farming chores.
Next visit the Fertility Temple / Chime Lhakhang. It is a pleasant 30 minutes walk through mustard and paddy fields. Standing on a picturesque hilltop the Lhakhang is famous for its fertility wish grants to couples. Inside the walls of the Lhakhang are beautiful frescoes depicting the colorful life of Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman regarded for his crazy methods of teaching which included blessing women in the form of copulation!
Stroll through the valley and overnight at your hotel in Punakha.
Day 7 - PUNAKHA TO HAA VALLEY
After breakfast drive back to Thimphu via the Dochulaa Pass. The drive is about 3 hours.
From Thimphu again drive for another 4 hours till you reach the Haa valley.
Rest and overnight at your hotel in Haa valley.
Day 8 -HAA VALLEY EXCURSION – An off the Beaten Path Experience
Excursion of Haa valley has only recently been introduced into the coffers of tourism and still remains an off the beaten path experience not much visited by tourists. Stroll through the villages, visit some traditional farmhouses and interact with the locals/farmers.
You can also visit the Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo – White temple and Black temple respectively.
There are many short hikes in and around the valley, also horse riding is becoming more popular here.
Then drive back to Paro (3 hours drive) via the Chelela Pass at 3,988 meters. If you have time you can hike to the top of the pass from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Haa valley on one side and the Paro valley on the other.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 9 - TAKTSANG MONASTERY/TIGER’S NEST –The most important cultural icon of Bhutan
Have a sumptuous breakfast for your hike to Taktsang Monastery / Tiger’s Nest which is about 3 hours uphill and 2 hours down. Riding ponies are also available if you think the hike is a bit daunting. Located around 900 meters above the Paro valley on a precarious almost vertical mountain cliff, Taktsang Monastery is truly a wonderful and spectacular sight in terms of its location, setting and history. In the 8th Century this was one of the major sites where Guru Padmasambhava – the patron saint of Buddhism in Bhutan meditated with his consort Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal. It is believed that Guru flew on a female tigress in pursuit of a demon which he subdued at the current site of the Monastery. It is one of the holiest site in the Buddhist arena and the most important cultural icon in Bhutan.
You can have tea/snacks at the cafeteria midway.
Before you drive back to your hotel visit the Kyichu Lhakhang/temple, one of the oldest temples built in the 7th Century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gyembo.
In the evening enjoy a traditional hot stone bath. White round stones picked up from the riversides are roasted in fire until red hot and then immersed in a wooden tub of fresh spring water sprinkled with herbs. These hot stones baths are supposed to be very curative with numerous medicinal and healing properties and has been the practice since the ancient times.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 10 - DEPARTURE
After breakfast drive to Paro International Airport (half an hour drive)where your guide and driver will bid you farewell and hope you had a pleasant holiday and hope to see you in Bhutan again.