Day 01: Arrive Paro, Paro-Thimphu (54 km, 1 hr drive)
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. One can see the Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchanjunga, Mt. Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Mt. Chomolhari, Mt. Jichu Drakay, and Mt. Tsherimgang. The green wall of hills known as the doors, or gateways into Bhutan from the plains climbs continually higher as down the forested mountainsides, and to the north, the great snowcapped peaks of the inner Himalayas rise up to the sky. You will be received by the representative of Access Bhutan Tours (local Bhutan tour operator) who will be your guide throughout your tour.
Check into the hotel. After the refreshment, visit the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here an intriguing collection of artifacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom.
Walk down to Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, walk further down to Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge.
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. Simtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”, stands sentinel on a hillock a few kilometers out of town. This dzong now houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
In the morning, visit the National Library where a vast collection of ancient manuscripts is preserved. Visit the School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where children are taught the traditional art of woodcraft and painting. Then visit the Folk Heritage Museum, which is located in the same area, and further down to the Textile Museum.
After lunch, visit Tashichhodzong, “the fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the center of government and religion, site of the monarch’s throne room and the seat of the Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans. Also visit the National Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by the faithful, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who had wished to erect a monument to world 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.
Then, visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts shops, to browse through examples of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangka paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, and other interesting items made from local materials.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu Short Hike
After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Tango Monastery and hike up to the Monastery. Tango is the center for higher studies for monks. The hike up will take approximately 45 minutes. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtaking. Drive back to Thimphu and evening free to relax/stroll around Thimphu town. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu -Punakha -Wangduephodrang
Distance: 71 km
Estimated driving time: 2 1/2 hrs
After breakfast, travel to Punakha through Dochula Pass (3,088m/10,130ft). If you have a clear sky, the view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges is spectacular and you can even see the Gasa Dzong as a white dot in the horizon. Visit the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo for the security and well being of His Majesty the King of Bhutan.
Travel onto Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan and presently the winter residence of the central monk body. Visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho – Chu (male) river and the Mochu (female) river. Visit the Dho Jha Gha Lam Temple.
Evening, walk through the Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing . Overnight at a hotel in Wangdue/Punakha.
Day 05: Wangduephodrang – Trongsa
Distance: 129 km
Estimated driving time: 5 hrs
Visit Wangdue Dzong, situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction. In the 17th century, Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country. Also, visit the local market.
After lunch, drive to Trongsa via Pele la pass at an altitude of 3,150 meters, a wonderful opportunity for photographs. Commanding the Mangde Chu at an altitude of 2,200 meters Trongsa Dzong is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1644 by the Shabdrung, the dzong is an architectural masterpiece.
Overnight at a hotel at Trongsa.
Day 06: Trongsa –Bumthang
Distance: 68 km
Estimated driving time: 2 hrs
After breakfast, visit Trongsa Dzong, the main administration center during the Second King’s reign and it is also known for its masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Then visit Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this dzong. After lunch, travel to Bumthang, the religious heartland of the nation, with lush valleys and hilly forests. Bumthang consists of four valleys–Chumey, Choekhar, Tang, and Ura–with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000 meters. Overnight at hotel in Bumthang Jakar.
Day 07: Bumthang Sightseeing
Sightseeing includes a visit to 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.
Chakhar Lhakhang. Besides the main road, a short distance beyond Jambay Temple is Chakhar (Iron Castle) Lhakhang. Although it is easy to mistake it for a house and drive right by, this is an interesting temple and is worth a short visit. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region.
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.
Tamshing Lhakhang. This temple is also known as Tamshing Lhendrup Chholing (Temple of the Good Message).
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 stroll around the beautiful landscape of the Bumthang Jakar valley. Dinner and overnight in Bumthang.
Day 08: Bumthang –Gangtey- Wangduephodrang
Distance: 197 km
Estimated driving time: 7 hrs
After breakfast, travel to Gangtey Gompa with a picnic lunch. Visit Gangtey Gompa, which now houses one of the only Nyingmapa monasteries in Bhutan. The valley is also the winter home to the rare black-necked cranes (Grus Nicorocolis), which migrate, from remote parts of Tibet, China and Siberia during winter to this valley. Drive to Wangdue for overnight stay.
Day 09: Wangdue-Thimphu
Distance: 71 km
Estimated driving time: 2 1/2 hrs
After breakfast, walk to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten (50 Mins) temple built by the Queen Of Bhutan for peace and stability in this ever-changing world.
Travel back to Thimphu, visiting Simtokha Dzong en route. This dzong, built in 1627, is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.
In the evening, drive to see the Takin Zoo, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. Drive further to Sangaygang to get a bird’s eye view of the Thimphu valley in the evening. Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 10: Thimphu-Paro
Distance: 54 km
Estimated driving time: 1 hr
After breakfast, travel to Paro. Visit 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.
After lunch, 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. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 11: A Day Hike to Paro Taktsang Monastery
After breakfast, drive up to the base camp of Taktsang and then hike up to the most famous Monastery in the entire kingdom of Bhutan perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. The hike to the viewpoint will take about an hour and it will take 2 hours to the monastery. Lunch at the viewpoint. 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.