Itinerary Details: 9 days/8 nights
Day 1: Arrival / Paro - Thimphu
On a clear day, the flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. You will see major Himalayan peaks such as Everest, Kanchenjunga, and Makalu. On the final approach to Paro, view Bhutan's own snowy peaks, including Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang. Bhutan's first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air.
Upon arrival in Paro, meet your guide and drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. En-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different styles of stupas adorn this confluence - Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese. Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see Tschogang Lhakhang, the Temple of the Excellent Horse. It is a private temple built in the 15th century as the result of visitation from Balaha, the excellent horse and a manifestation of Chenrezig, the compassionate Buddha. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 2: Thimphu
After breakfast, take a short drive (15 km) to Pangri Zampa, the 16th century monastery, located just north of Thimphu. It has a monastic school where Buddhist monks learn Lamaism and astrology based on Buddhist philosophy. Also visit Changnaka Lhakhang: It is a fortress like temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who came from Tibet. The central statue here is Chenrezig in a manifestation with 11 heads. From the temple courtyard, there is a spectacular view of Thimphu Valley.
After lunch visit Drubthob Goema / Zilukha Nunnery. Perched on a promontory, overlooking picturesque Trashichhoedzong, it is the only nunnery in the capital known as Zilukha Anim Dratsang. It once belonged to the Drubthob (Realized One). You may interact here with some of the nuns who have devoted their life to spirituality and Buddhism.
Late afternoon visit to 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 food items and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, where all the locals meet and barter. It’s a fantastic opportunity to observe the local life. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu - Gangtey
After breakfast, enjoy a dramatic drive (3 hours) over the high mountain pass of Dochu La (3,080m) and on to the Phobjikha Valley passing through dense forests. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass where on a clear day, the towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak.
In the afternoon take a walk around Gangtey Village and visit Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in the region. The village of Phobjikha neighbors the monastery on the valley floor. The quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black necked cranes which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north. Explore Gangtey Village and Phobjikha Valley. Evening at leisure and overnight.
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Day 4: Gangtey
After breakfast, explore Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley) leisurely on foot. Walk to Kilkhorthang located between the upper and lower valleys of Phobjikha and extends from Kilkorthang on the eastern side and crosses the main river to the other side of the valley.
From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara Village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley.
Late evening walk to nearby village for a traditional farm house excursion. A leisurely walk through the village will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative, and traditionally built without the use of nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat. Overnight in Gangtey.
Day 5: Gangtey – Punakha
In the morning, drive to Punakha (3 hours). En-route take a short excursion to Chimi Lakhang: The Chimi Lakhang, situated on a hillock in the center of the valley, is known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children are blessed with fertility after a temple prayer.
Punakha Valley is famous for rice farming where both red and white rice are grown along the river valleys of Pho and Mo Chhu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. ‘Ritsha’ meaning ‘at the base of a hill’ is a typical village in Punakha. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone foundations. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In the recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous.
Your evening can be spent exploring Punakha Village on the riverbank where the villagers may invite you for yak-butter tea or chili pancakes. Overnight.
Day 6: Punakha
After breakfast, hike through fields of chilies, cabbages, and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999.
Afternoon visit to Sang chhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery: Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (Temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzigchagtongchentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns where, apart from religious training, it provides training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making, and thangka painting.
In the evening, enjoy an optional cooking demonstration. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 7: Punakha - Paro
After breakfast, drive to Paro (3 hours). En-route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies. Upon arrival in Paro, check into the hotel.
Visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons, armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, fortress of the heap of jewels, which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala. Overnight in Paro.
Day 8: Paro
In the morning, hike to Taktsang Monastery. Taktsang Monastery is also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. Trek back to the vehicle and drive to Paro.
Optional evening hot stone bath, historically believed to have medicinal benefits in healing joint pain, hypertension, arthritis, and stomach disorders. Overnight in Paro.
Day 9: Departure
This morning, transfer to the airport in Paro for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!
Please note that some of the sights/itinerary may change due to season, weather, national holidays, and special events. We maintain the rights to alter the itinerary since tours are made in advance and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve your overall travel experience in Bhutan.