DAY 1~ Arrival Paro valley (2280m)
The flight into Paro valley is perhaps one of the most spectacular in the world. It takes you over the mighty and sacred Himalayas, offering amazing views of the world’s highest peaks.
As you descend into the terraced rice fields of Paro valley, you will see the Paro Dzong (fortress) on the hilltop overlooking the Paro river, with Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum, above it.
Spend the afternoon exploring Paro valley and Paro town. Get to know the locals.
DAY 2~ Thimphu (2320m)
Today you will head towards Thimphu, 52 kms away, along a two-lane undivided highway that follow the course of the pristine Paro Chu and Wang Chu rivers.
The exploration of Thimphu begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, a Buddhist Stupa, dedicated to world peace and prosperity. It was built in the memory of third king of Bhutan in 1974. You will find Thimphu residents circumambulating the Stupa throughout the day praying for universal harmony and all sentient beings.
Your next stop is the National Library that holds thousands of ancient Buddhist texts and scriptures. It has a small collection of modern books.
You will also visit the Bhutan’s thirteen traditional arts and crafts where students train in, the Folk Heritage Museum, which will provide insight into a traditional Bhutanese farm house and Bhutan’s fast disappearing rural past.
After lunch, you will visit the 12th century Changangkha Lhakhang, a castle like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu. Toward the northern end of Thimphu valley, is a preserve for the Takin, the kingdom’s national animal.
Drive further up from the preserve to Sangaygang for a bird’s eye view of Thimphu city. On the way down visit the Tashichhodzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” which is Bhutan’s seat of government and nunnery temple. It is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo or the Chief Abbot.
DAY 3~ Hiking Simtokha – Talakha peak: approx 8hr walk 17km/approx
This stunning hike starts from oldest Dzong of Bhutan, the Simtokha Dzong, . The trail is up the ridge through blue pine and poplars. You have the option to drive to Talakha monastery.
Talakha monastery offers excellent views of Thimphu valley and the high Himalayas. From here the urban sprawls of Thimphu far down below seem a world away.
If it is a clear day you will be able to see the rounded cone of Jomolhari peak, Bhutan’s most sacred mountain (7,314 meters), the sharp pinnacle of Jichhu Drake (6,989 meters), Tsherem Gang (7000 meters) and the Kanchenjunga (8589 meters) towering over the mountains of Paro and Haa.
On an extremely clear day you can look far into Nepal, where Makalu (8481 meters) and possibly Mount Everest (8848 meters) are just visible against the western horizon.
Further to the east of the high Himalayas the Black Mountains range dominate the skyline.
You have the option of camping for a night to catch the sunrise and sunset.
DAY 4~ Thimphu – Punakha (1300m): 77km/approx 3hr
Today, you will drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, passing through some of the kingdom’s dramatic river valleys and paddy lands.
The first stop is at Dochu La pass (3050m). From Dochula you can see the eastern Himalayan range on a clear day. Once you cross the pass, you wind down to the warmer valleys of Punakha and Wangdue.
End-route you will stop at Mitsina village and visit Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the temple of fertility and dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, the 15th century saint also known as the divine madman for his outrageous methods of teaching the dharma.
It is a 20-minute walk through rice fields to the temple were you get blessed by a wooden phallus.
DAY 5~ Punakha (1300m)
Today you will drive further north of Punakha valley following the Mo Chu and then hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a splendid example of the Bhutanese architecture and art.
In the evening you will visit the majestic Punakha Dzong which stands at the confluence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers.
The Dzong was first built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan and has been witness to defining moments of Bhutanese history. It is a fine example of Bhutan’s highly refined architectural skills.
DAY 6~ Punakha – Phobjikha valley: 69km/approx 3 ½hr
Today you will further drive to the glacier valley of Phobjikha, one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country, and the winter habitat of the endangered Black-necked cranes. The valley also has a very interesting Nyingmapa monastery that dates back to the 17th century.
After lunch continue drive to Phobjika valley. you can do a short walk leading downhill from the mani or prayer stone wall north of Gangtey Goenpa to the Khewa Lhakhang. The trail descends to Semchubara village and keeps straight at the Chortens into the edge of the forest, before descending to a square Chorten and the Lhakhang. From here we can cross over the metal bridge to the community school.
DAY 7~ Phobjikha valley – Thimphu (2320m) 95km/approx 5hr
You will start the day by visiting information center and crane Observation before drive back to Thimphu.
Enroute briefly visit the Wangdue Dzong, which is being restored and then hike to the nearby village of Rinchengang where the clustered settlement is made of mud and stone.
Stop at Dochu La pass for lunch and visit the 108 Druk Wanggyal Lhakhang .Continue drive to Thimphu, In the evening freely leisure walk through Thimphu and catch its sights and sounds.
DAY 8~ Paro tiger’s nest hiking
In the morning you drive back to Paro valley and hike to Taktshang or “Tiger’s Nest” one of the holiest Buddhists sites in the Himalayan region. The monastery clings to a sheer rock face, almost 900 metres above the valley floor.
The uphill hike from the road point takes around 3 – 4 hours at a moderate pace. The trail passes through beautiful pine forests adorned with Spanish moss as you go further up. Stop for rest and light refreshments at the Taktshang cafeteria.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tigress Dorji Drolo and meditated for three months.
Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Songtshen Gampo. Then drive north to Drugyel Dzong, the imposing fortress, which kept at bay invasions from the north.
Afternoon drive to the Ta-Dzong (watch tower), which now serves as the national museum. The museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century. A short walk downhill takes you to the imposing Rinpung Dzong which serves as the district’s administrative and religious centre. Walk further down and cross a traditional bridge into Paro town.
DAY 9~ Paro airport departure
Early morning, drive to the airport for your onward journey.