Day 1: Arrival
On your flight to Paro from Bangkok, on clear weather you will be able to see the massive peak of the eastern Himalayas, including Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world) and Bhutan’s holy mountain, Chomolhari. Upon arriving the Paro Valley and after completing visa formalities, you will be met by Gawaling Tours & Treks’ representative at the airport.
In the afternoon, we will visit Ta Dzong (watch tower) which houses the National Museum. The museum has an interesting collections of different costumes and thangkas from various parts of Bhutan. After Museum visit, we drive towards the north to see the Drukgyel Dzong, in ruins. It was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1649 to commemorate a victory over the Tibetan forces. Unfortunately the fortress was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. On clear weather, we will be able to see Mt. Chomolhari from the Drukgyal Dzong and the Tiger’s Nest on our way back to Paro. En-route, visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the two oldest monasteries built in Bhutan by the King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century.
Day 2: Paro sightseeing
Paro is a valley of religion and myth. The most famous landmark, the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), stands on a granite cliff about 800 m above the valley. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, a famous Buddhist saint, flew to Paro on a tigress and meditated at Taktsang. The monastery, considered a national treasure, was burnt in April 1998 and still the cause is unknown.
The hike to Taktsang would take us around two and half hours. To reach a cafeteria, a point from where one can enjoy a great view of the monastery is more than an hour walk from the road-head uphill. Those interested can walk further 45 minutes uphill to get a closer view of the monastery and return to the cafeteria for lunch. The journey downward to the road-head would take us less than one and half hours.
Day 3: Paro to Thimphu
Drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Before reaching Thimphu, we will pass by Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (the man who unified Bhutan). The fortress serves as an administrative center and the center for the monk’s religious activity. The fortress now houses a language school, where scholars study both Dzongkha (the national language) and the English.
Upon arrival in Thimphu,visit some of the handicraft shops where young men and women are trained to continue the handicrafts tradition. Some are busy making masks for the religious dances while others learn the ancient art of thangka (scroll) painting. Stay overnight in a hotel.
Day 4: Thimphu sightseeing
Visit the Sunday Market(if the day coincides), where the people buy vegetables and fruits and stock to last for one week. The market starts from Friday and continue till Sunday. Here, we can witness how Bhutanese people, especially the farmers carry out commerce.
Next, visit the Mini Zoo to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. When we return, en-route visit Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 14th century and the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the third king. If an archery contest is in progress, we can also have a look.
Day 5: Thimphu to Trongsa
We will have early breakfast and drive to Trongsa, an ancestral home of Bhutanese kings. The journey would take us around six and half hours. Cross over the two high passes – Dochula (3,050m) and Pelela (3,300m). On clear weather, we can see the view of a chain of mountains towards north. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 6: Trongsa to Bumthang
Visit the Trongsa Dzong, the biggest fortresses in Bhutan in the morning; then drive to Bumthang located two and half hours away. On our way, we pass by a weaving center, where professional weavers weave fine fabrics out of wool & yak hair known as “yathra” in different patterns. Bumthang is known for its four spectacular valleys and is the seat of the government till the second king. The place is known for its historical sites. Next, we visit Jambay lhakhang, one of the two oldest monasteries built in Bhutan by a Tibetan king in the 7th century. Next, proceed to see Kurji Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Kenchog-sum Lhakhang, and Swiss Farm, only farm in Bhutan which makes Bhutanese assorted wines, beer and cheese.
Day 7: Ura Excursion
Morning we will take an excursion to Ura village located 48km away from Bumthang towards east. Visit Ura Lhakhang and travel back to Bumthang. While coming back, en-route visit Mebartso “Burning Lake” where Terton Pemalingpa, a treasure revealer is believed to have taken out a hidden treasure from the lake. These treasures were believed to have been hidden by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century to be revealed by special persons at a propitious time. Late afternoon, visit Jakar Dzong, the seat of the district administration.
Day 8: Jakar to Punakha
We will have early breakfast and drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. We begin our explorations of Punakha valley with a visit to Punakha Dzong, located between Pho(male) and Mo (female) rivers. It was the national capital until 1966. It is also the winter residence for the central monastic body in Thimphu, as the area provides with more comfortable temperatures. The Punakha Dzong contains the body remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is considered one of the holiest of the dzongs in the country. Punakha valley is one of the richest agricultural regions of Bhutan. People grow rice as their staple crop.
Day 9: Punakha to Paro
On our way to Thimphu, hike to Chhimi Lhakhang, the monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, ‘the Divine Madman’. The Lama was known for his eccentric behavior and the monastery for its power of fertility. Many Bhutanese and even westerners make a pilgrimage to the monastery to get themselves blessed. Stop briefly for tea at Dochula Cafe and continue our journey to Thimphu for our lunch. Next, visit the handmade paper factory in Thimphu and do our last shopping, if we need to & drive to paro.
Day 10: Departure
After breakfast drive to the airport for departure.