This 7-day Bhutan tour will take you through the western districts of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang on an exploration of important cultural sites, monuments, the country’s unique culture and tradition, its people, and villages.
The highlight of the tour is a visit to the magnificent Punakha Dzong which served as fortress in 16th century which sits at the confluence of the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River) in the historic Punakha valley.
DAY 1:ARRIVAL PARO (2280m) – THIMPHU: APPROX 1HR/65KM
The flight into Paro valley is perhaps one of the spectacular view in the world. It takes you over the mighty and sacred Himalayas, offering views of amazing world’s highest peaks. As you descend into the terraced of rice fields in Paro valley, You will see Paro Dzong served as fortress in 16th century on the hilltop overlooking the Pa Chu (Paro River), with Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum, above the Dzong. Our representative will be at Paro International Airport to receive you and will escort to Thimphu. At the first stop you will view the Tacho Lhakhang on the other-side of the river, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s Iron Bridge Builder. You will continue to drive to Thimphu which will take about an hour that follows the course of the Paro Chu (river) and the Wang Chu rivers. It is a scenic route that offers beautiful views of villages by the riverside. In the evening stroll through Thimphu city and mingle with the locals. Overnight at hotel, Thimphu.
DAY 2:THIMPHU (2320m)
Day two in Thimphu begins with visit to the National Memorial Chorten, dedicated to world peace and prosperity. It was built in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan. You will find Thimphu residents circumambulating the Stupa throughout the day praying for universal harmony and all sentient beings. Visit to Buddha point to see the largest Buddha Stupa and bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley. Your next visit to National Library that holds thousands of ancient Buddhist texts and scriptures is enthralling . It also has a small but growing collection of modern books. Visit to National Institute of Zorig Chusum where students train in Bhutan’s thirteen traditional arts and crafts and the Folk Heritage Museum, which will provide insight into a traditional Bhutanese farm house and Bhutan’s fast disappearing rural past. Later in the afternoon visit Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu city. Toward the northern end valley of Thimphu, you will find a Takina preserve, the kingdom’s national animal. Your further drive to Sangaygang for a view of Thimphu city. On the way back, visit nunnery temple and the Tashichhodzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” which is Bhutan’s seat of government. It is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo or the Chief Abbot. Overnight at hotel, Thimphu.
DAY 3:THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (1300m): APPROX 3HR/77KM
After early breakfast, you will be driven to Punakha, the Bhutan old capital, and the kingdom’s dramatic river valleys and paddy lands. Your first stop at Hongtsho, about 10 kms drive from Thimphu, you will take a short hike to Hongtsho Goemba to view the stunning 15th century wall paintings of the monastery. Then drive up to Dochu La pass (3050m). From Dochula you can see the eastern Himalayan range on a clear day and then gradually descend to the warmer valleys of Punakha and Wangdue. En route you will stop at Mitsina village to visit Chhimi Lhakhang, also known as the temple of fertility. This monastery is dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, the 15th century saint known as the divine madman for his outrageous methods of dharma teaching. It is 20 minute walk through rice fields to the temple were you get blessed by a wooden phallus. Visit the majestic Punakha Dzong which stands at the confluence of the rivers Pho Chu and Mo Chu. The Dzong was built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan and has been witness to defining moments of Bhutanese history. It is fine example of Bhutan’s highly refined architectural skills. Overnight at hotel, Punakha.
DAY 4:PUNAKHA – THIMPHU
You will start your day drive further north to Punakha valley following the Mo Chu river and then hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, another splendid example of the Bhutanese arts and architecture. In the afternoon you will travel back to capital city, before heading to Thimphu you will drive 30 minutes to Wangdue and briefly visit the Wangduphodrang. The monument former glory was engulfed by fire in 2011. You will again stop at Dochu La pass to view the sun set behind the himalayas and visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang. Also visit the Semtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortress in the kingdom. Overnight at hotel, Thimphu.
Today you will start your day with a short hike to the Cheri 17th century monastery. It is an hour walk from the road head. The monastery serves as a school of higher learning for Buddhist studies where monks practice meditation. It is also an important site for pilgrimage. The return walk to the Thimphu will follow the ancient route. The route is dotted with Tibetan settlements and passes through rice fields. A highlight of the hike is the school for arts and crafts run by a private entrepreneur. You will also encounter ancient ruins before you finally come to the road-head at Pangrizampa, where the monks studies for Buddhist astrology. On the way back to the city, you may stop to view the Dechencholing Palace, which is the residence of the Queen Mother. You could go to the Changlimithang archery range and watch a local archery match, the Bhutan national game in action. Overnight at hotel, Thimphu.
DAY 6:PARO TIGER’S NEST HIKE
In the morning you will drive to Paro valley and hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery one of the popular Buddhists sites in the Himalayan region. The monastery clings to a sheer rock face situated 900 metres above the Paro valley floor. The uphill hike from the road point will take around 3 hours at a moderate pace. The trail passes through beautiful pine forests adorned with Spanish moss as you go further up. You can stop for rest and light refreshments at the cafeteria to enjoy the view of Tiger’s Nest. Legend says Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew to Tiger’s Nest on the back of a flying tigress and meditated for three months. On the way back, visit the oldest temple, Kitchu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gompo. Then drive north to recently rebuilt Drugyel Dzong, the imposing fortress, which kept at bay invasions from Tibet in ancient times. In the afternoon drive to Ta Dzong the 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 to the imposing Rinpung Dzong which serves as the center for district administration and religious affairs. You will walk further down and cross a traditional bridge into Paro town. Overnight at hotel, Paro.
DAY 7:PARO DEPERTURE
Morning drive to the Paro International airport for your onward journey.
- Passport (with at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your exit from Bhutan)
- Photocopy of picture page of passport showing number, etc. Keep this in a separate place in your baggage. If for any reason you lose your passport, this will expedite the process of applying for a new passport.
- Print out copy of the visa & International air tickets.
- Temperatures will fluctuate greatly depending on elevation and time of day. You should be prepared for a minimum temperature of 04 degrees and a maximum of 35 degrees. You have to plan for layered clothing to be prepared for such a wide-ranging temperature fluctuations.
- Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, etc.
- Stay away from any cold salad! These are normally rinsed in tap water before or after being sliced and are a major cause of traveler’s gastro-intestinal distress.
- All tipping is optional and by no means mandatory, however if you feel that your staff and drivers have performed at a good or excellent level, it is a great way to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
A few items to keep in mind:
- Accept or offer items with the right hand or, more politely, with both hands. Using both hands to give or receive signifies that you honor the offering and the recipient or giver.
- When you visit Buddhist shrines or temples, it is appropriate and a sign of respect to walk around the building in a clockwise direction (so that the structure is to your right side). This is also true for mani walls (walls built of stone tablets with Buddhist mantras carved on them) and Chorten (small Buddhist shrines.)
- Your guide will give you additional tips along the way, when in doubt, check in with them. You will be travelling into areas that have had relatively few foreign visitors. Your positive attitude and interaction is needed and welcomed to maximize this adventure.
What should I bring with me for the trip?
- Good walking shoes
- Sunscreen (highest possible)
- Headgear for sunny days
- Bug/Insect repellent
- Cotton clothing for summer days, light woolen clothes for evenings. Heavy woolens for winter.
- Shorts for hiking and walking around town are fine. Out of respect, please don't wear shorts in public buildings or monasteries. Have a pair of long pants or longer skirt for these locations.