Day 01: Arrive Paro; travel to Thimphu and sightseeing in Thimphu (55 km / approx one hour)
During the journey to Paro, you will experience breathtaking views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake in Bhutan.
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, and completion of immigration formalities and collection of your baggage, you will be welcomed by our tour representative who will be your tour guide during your entire trip to Bhutan.
The drive from Thimphu takes you along the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu.
In the afternoon, visit the Memorial Chorten (a huge stupa) built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned the Kingdom from 1952-1972 as well as for world peace. Chorten represents the mind of Buddha.
Late afternoon, visit Tashichhodzong, the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan since 1952 and presently housing the throne room of His Majesty and the secretariat and witness the national flag hoisting down ceremony. Tashichhodzong is also home of the Central Monastic Body which is the apex organization of the country’s main spiritual order. Evening, enjoy traditional dinner at the Folk Heritage Museum with Bhutanese guests.
Overnight stay in Hotel Khamsum inn
Day 02: Sightseeing in Thimphu
After breakfast, we will start exploring Thimphu City with a visit to its cultural sites:
Visit the Institute of ZorigChusum (Painting School) where traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive. The school show cases the 13 arts and crafts of Bhutan. Students at the school receive training for six years on thangka painting, slate curving, tailoring, stone carving, embroidery, etc. We can see the intricately designed local fabrics used for making dresses worn by men and women and used for making souvenirs. There is a small group of weavers working on looms to demonstrate this artistic works who come from Lhuentse district, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family in eastern Bhutan. Weaving a complete set of Gho or Kira, the national dress of Bhutan, would take a weaver five to six months or a year and their price would vary from US$ 1,000 to 2,000. Then visit National Library, which has a stock of holy scriptures especially on Buddhism.
Mini Zoo, houses the national animal-Takin will be a place of interest to visit. The 4th King at one point wanted the animals to be released to the forest but they kept moving around Thimphu town and had to be re-confined at the enclosure. Afterward, take a ride to Sanjaygang to have a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley as well as to have some snap shots of the big apple of Bhutan. Next, if you are interests, Bhutan Post, as they have a good collection of stamps which the Bhutan is known for. They can also print stamps with your photo at a nominal charge, which you can take as souvenirs back home.
Then, visit the handmade paper factory, where traditional paper is made out of inner pulp of daphne and edgeworthia plants. Before it is being processed into paper, the pulp is soaked, boiled, and grinded to a fine pulp and only then laid into a layer of sheets. The process is quite labour intensive, but worth it. In Bhutan it is mainly used for printing Buddhist Holy Scriptures, souvenirs and some are exported to international markets such as North America, Asia and Europe. They have a showroom where the products are on display.
Next, take a ride to the Buddha Point (Kuenselphodrang), where the tallest Buddha statue, which is 161 ft and still under construction and enjoy the view of southern parts of Thimphu valley.
Overnight stay in Hotel Khamsum inn.
Day 03: Travel to Punakha (71 km / approx 2½ hours) and sightseeing in Punakha.
Today, cross over the Dochu La Pass, located above 10,000 ft on our way to Punakha, a journey towards east. Dochu La pass offers visitors with a first glimpse of the Himalayas. The pass houses the 108 DrukWangyalChortens (Stupas) and DrukWangyalLhakhang. Both of these were built to commemorate the victory of Bhutanese soldiers over the Indian militants in December 2003 as well as in memory of 8 soldiers that were killed during the war. The His Majesty, the 4th King led the war himself.
The road from Dochula descends via Lamperi Botanical Park through pine forests, blooming rhododendrons, and beautiful terraced rice fields and the vegetation can vary from sub alpine to sub-tropical when we reach Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. The road to Punakha branches off left and curls its way down the valley before reaching Punakha. Next, visit the PunakhaDzong in the afternoon.
Punakha remained the old capital of Bhutan for almost 300 years. The third king of Bhutan shifted the capital to Thimphu in 1953. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1637 and is located between two rivers – the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). It terms of architecture it is widely believed to be a master piece. People believe that deities of the area helped Zhabdrung in the construction of the fortress during nights. It houses the district administration and serves as the winter residence for the Thimphu central monastic body. In October, the monk body led by the Chief Abbot, Je Khenpo, move to Punakha following the age old tradition of spending a night half way, although the road distance between Punakha and Thimphu by car is just two and half hours.
Overnight stay inDamchen hotel
Day 04: Travel to Paro; Sightseeing in Paro (126 km, 3 ½ hours)
After an early breakfast, drive to Paro. The beautiful Paro valley provides a visitor with all the essential elements of Bhutan, in general ancient temples, massive forts, monasteries, picturesque villages, scenic hikes, and drives.
Upon arriving in Paro, we will visit the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower), located above the Dzong is used as the National museum of bhutan since 1967. However, it is under renovation as of this writing, but the Museum is housed in a separate building and it has collection of large vessels used during ancient times to cook and store water. Other items include traditional weapons, a variety of plants and animals, coins, jewelry and traditional costumes, adzes and earthenware pots collected from different parts of the country, scroll paintings on cloths (Thangkhas) and Bhutanese stamps.
Located below the Ta Dzong is the RinpungDzong (ParoDzong) built in 1646 and currently houses the district administrative offices and the central monastic body. The name stands for “heave of jewels.” The fortress was destroyed by the earthquake of 1897 but was restored to its original shape. An annual festival dedicated to the protecting deity of the area is held at the fortress in March/April as per the lunar calendar. During the event, a big Thangka painting (Throngdrol) is unfurled to the public for viewing and blessings and it is believed that a mere sight of it can liberate one’s soul. The Film ‘Little Buddha’ was also shot within the premises of the fortress in 1992.
An archery ground is located further below the dzong and probably we might be able to witness an archery match in action. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Then, we will take a 16 km drive to the ruins of DrukgyelDzong, 16km up the valley. This dzong was built by ShabdrungNgawangNamgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644 (in fact the dzong’s name means “victorious Bhutan”). The Dzong was used as an administrative center until 1951 when a fire caused by a butter lamp destroyed it. In the evening, take a leisurely walk in and around Paro’s main shopping area.
Overnight stay in hotel Kuenphen
Day 05: Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Have an early breakfast and travel to Paro for Taktsang hike (Tiger’s Nest Monastery). Drive to Tiger’s Nest base camp would take one and half years and climb to the Taktsang monastery will take around 5-6 hours, both ways. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You stop for a rest and light refreshments at the only cafeteria mid-way and then further walk a short distance until we see Taktsang monastery.
The monastery was built in this holy place in 1684 A.D. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here in the form of DorjiDrolo, mounted on a flaming tigress in 747 A.D. and meditated for 3 months. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 msl into the valley below. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria. After lunch we will return to the hotel.
Next, visit DungtseLhakhang, built in 1421 by the famous Tibetan Lama, ThangtonGyalpo (1385-1464) in the form of chorten to subdue a demoness in Paro valley. It is the only Lhakhang, except the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu, that was built in the form of chorten and has one of the most extraordinary collections of paintings in Bhutan.
Overnight stay in hotel Kuenphen
Day 06: Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be taken to the Paro International Airport for your onward flight to destination. It is end of your tour.