Day 01: Arrive Paro,Paro-Thimphu (54 km, 1 hr drive)
Arrive Paro by Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines) or Bhutan Airlines ( Private Airlines).You will be received at the Paro International Airport by the representative of Access Bhutan Tours (local Bhutan tour operator)who will be your guide throughout your tour.
You directly travel to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan. The road runs down through the Paro valley, to Chuzom (Confluence) at the entrance to the valley, where the Paro and Thimphu rivers meet. The road passes along a narrow valley with high, rocky cliffs on the left, and then the valley opens out into farmland on the approach to Thimphu.
On arrival at Thimphu, check into your hotel and after a refreshment or lunch visit the following:
- Centenary Farmers’ Market (open from Thu-Sun only): Most of the Thimphu’s population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held by the side of Wangchu River. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday afternoon till Sunday evening. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people.
- Archery Match (National Game of Bhutan) at Changlimithang National Stadium
- Kuenselphodrang ( commonly known as Buddha Point) where the largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu Valley. You may take a nature hike through Kuenselphodran Nature Park for about 20-30 minutes.
- Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
- The National Memorial Chorten (stupa) which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The term ‘chorten’ literally means ' seat of faith' and Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of Buddha'. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation, especially in the evenings, at the National Memorial Chorten.
- Craft Bazaar – A one stop place to witness Bhutanese culture and buy Bhutan made art and craft product. The Bazaar in its 80 stalls covers all aspects of the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.At this Bazaar craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts. And also visit other handicraft stores.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02:Thimphu Sightseeing
After breakfast visit the following:
- School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
- Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory. The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
- National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs.You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
- Bhutan Post Office Headquarters to get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends.
After lunch visit the following:
- Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. 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. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
- Changangkha Lhakhang (temple): Changangkha Lhakhang is an old fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who came from Ralung in Tibet. The central statue is Chenresig in an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation ( God of compassion). There are enormous prayer wheels to spin and even the prayer books in the temple are larger in size than usual Tibetan texts.
- Dechenphodrang (meaning ‘Palace of great bliss’) Monastery located at north of Thimphu valley. It is a monastic school for about 500 young monks enrolled for 8 years courses. You will visit the monastery and have free interaction with young monks who are mostly from poor family ground and some even orphan. The ‘Palace of Great Bliss’ serves as a home and learning center for these young monks. You will spend some time interacting with young monks.
In the evening stroll through Thimphu downtown.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu Short Hike to Tango and Cheri Monasteries
After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Tango Monastery which lies north of Thimphu city with packed picnic lunch. From the base camp which is the end of motor road you hike up to the Monastery is through the forest filled with oak and pine trees as well as Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during spring season. The Tango Monastery site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the highly revered Buddhist monks who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tango Monastery was built in 1689 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyal. The three-storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months. At present Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You will experience complete peace and serenity in this area. After visiting the monastery, walk back to the road and drive to the base of Cheri Monastery where you will eat your packed picnic lunch by the side of the river.
After lunch hike to Cheri Monastery through the forest filled with oak and Rhododendron flower trees. This is the place where monks undergo meditation/retreat with a duration ranging from 4 months to 3 years. Therefore, this place is so peaceful and you will experience complete serenity at this place. The hike up will take approximately 50 minutes. The view from Cheri Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You can sit in one of the temples of this monastery complex and meditate for some time if you would like to do so. Then walk back to the base where your car will wait for you and then travel back to Thimphu.
In the evening relax and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu -Punakha -Wangduephodrang
Distance: 71 km
Estimated driving time: 2 1/2 hrs
After breakfast, travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass 3140 m). In the clear sky; enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan.
Also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) .The temple was built to honor His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appear to merge in the details of the lhakhang that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
Then drive onto Punakha. Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history. Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907 and the 1st National Assembly was held there.
On the way, stop at Metsina village and take a 20 minute walk through the paddy fields to visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
After lunch visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho - Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the person who unified Bhutan) to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork.
In the evening, visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Punakha and Wangdue valleys from there.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 05- Wangduephodrang – Trongsa
Distance: 129 km
Estimated driving time: 5 hrs
After breakfast, drive to Trongsa through Wangdue Phondrang and lunch will be served enroute. Trongsa is the ancestral home of the royal family.
The drive will take you through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and through the tropical vegetation through the village of Nobding and Pele la pass (11,000ft). Throughout your trip you will come across the beautiful sceneries of rural Bhutan, with scattered settlements far from the road which makes for good photographing.You will also pass through open meadows, and valley of yak herders and several other villages via Chendebji Chorten (Stupa) and drive for another 2 hours to Trongsa.
On arrival at Trongsa and after the refreshment visit the National Museum which is housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower). A museum in which aspects of Bhutanese culture and history are explained by beautifully objects. Documentary will be shown too which explains a great deal about Bhutanese history and history of monarchy. You will also visit Trongsa Dzong, which is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1644 by the Shabdrung, the dzong is an architectural masterpiece.
In the evening visit Trongsa town.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
Day 06:Trongsa –Bumthang
Distance: 68 km
Estimated driving time: 2 hrs
After breakfast drive to Bumthang, this is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers meditated and left in their wake many sacred grounds. The Guru and his lineage of Tertons, treasure finders, have led to the sprouting of many temples in the valley.
On the way, visit the “Yathra” Weaving Centre at Zugney. Yathra is the name for the colorful, hand-woven woolen cloth (often with geometric designs) that is produced in this region and wool used for this type of textile is sheep wool as the sheep is reared in the Bumthang district. Yatra is made into jackets or bags, etc.
Then drive onto Bumthang. On arrival at Bumthang Check into your hotel and after lunch visit the following:
- Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Goempo of Tibet. In his effort to propagate Buddhism he had a plan to build a total of 108 temples in Tibet and neighboring kingdoms.
- Kujey Lhakhang (Kujey means, "Body imprint"). The temple to the right is the oldest and was built by Minjur Tempa in 1652. It was built around the cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated and left his body imprint.
- Jakar Dzong, "castle of the white bird". According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a monastery and for Jakar Dzong. The fortress is now used as an administrative center of the valley and summer residence of Trongsa monks.
In the evening visit one of the farmhouses in Bumthang valley to get an insight into the village life in Bumthang Valley. You may enjoy typical Bhutanese dinner at the farmhouse.
Overnight at a hotel n Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang Tang Valley Excursion
After breakfast start your day excursion to beautiful lush but remote Tang valley. Visit the century old Ugyencholing Heritage Museum, which once belongs to the Royal Family of Tang valley. Lunch will be served at a farmhouse. After lunch drive back to Bumthang, on the way visit Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rimpoche’s treasures were discovered in the 15th century by the famous treasure discoverer- Pema Lingpa. It is a serene place to meditate.
In the evening stroll around Bumthang town and dinner at local restaurant in the town.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Day 08: Bumthang –Gangtey-Punakha
Distance: 197 km, estimated driving time :7 hours
After breakfast, drive to Wangdue/ Punakha via Phobjikha valley. Driving through the dense forests of the Phobjikha Valley you arrive at Gantey village where you see the Gangtey Monastery and visit the monastery. Phobjikha valley is part of the beautiful Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park ( formerly known as Black Mountains National Park), one of Bhutan’s most important nature sanctuaries. Each winter it is home to a flock of 300 rare and endangered black-necked cranes. The surrounding hills and mountains are home to nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. This is one of the most remote and untouched regions in Bhutan and is only just opening its doors to the outside world. After lunch at Gangtey and explore Phobjikha valley and also visit the Black Necked Crane Center. Then travel on to Wangdue phodrang.
Dinner and overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 09: Punakha Sightseeing and Punakha -Thimphu
Distance: 71 km
Estimated driving time: 2 1/2 hrs
After breakfast drive through upper Punakha valley passing through farm houses and take a leisure walk through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
After lunch, you will visit Rinchengang village in Wangduephodrang where you will take a short walk through the village and have free interaction with the villagers. Round trip hike will take about 1 hr. At the same time you can view the ruins of Wangdue Dzong (the Dzong was razed to the ground by fire in 2012).
In the late afternoon drive to Thimphu. Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 10: Thimphu-Paro & Paro Sightseeing
After breakfast travel to Paro and visit the following:
- Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks. From the Dzong you will walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Cantilever Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan.
- Dzongdrakha temple:Often called the mini- Taktsang, Dzongdrakha temples are built on the cliffs above Bondey village. Take a short walk to the temple for about 15 minutes. Legend says one of the temples is built around a levitating monument. Folks built a stronger temple around this monument with the hope that the levitating monument does not fly away into the sky.
- Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
After lunch visit the following:
- Dungtse Lhakhang( temple): The unusual and circular lhakhang, reminiscent of the Shanag, or the black hat worn by the Bhutanese Black Hat dancers was, built by the great “Builder of iron chain bridges,” Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo.
- Kichu temple,one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness.
- drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 18 km. from Paro town on the north side of the valley. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Evening at leisure to visit local shops.
In the evening stroll around Paro town and you may visit the local handicraft stores.
Overnight at the same hotel in Paro.
Day 11: A Day Hike to Taksang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest Monastery)
After breakfast, drive for about 20 minutes to the base camp of Taktsang Monastery and hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria.Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months. The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former glory.After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point. Then drive back to hotel.
In the evening relax after the tiring day in the traditional Bhutanese hotstone bath. Dinner at the farmhouse in Paro valley.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 12: Departure from Paro
In the morning, your tour guide from Access Bhutan Tours & Treks ( local Bhutan travel agent) will escort you to the airport for your onward destinations.