Day 1: Arrival in Paro
Arrive Paro by Druk Air, the only national carrier. The flight offers you beautiful view of mountains and landscape. Upon arriving the Paro Valley and after completing visa formalities, you will be met by Gawaling Tours & Treks’ representative at the airport.
Day 2: Paro to Thimphu
Drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The journey would take us one and half hours. Before reaching Thimphu, we will pass by Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress built in 1629 by Shabdrung 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 workshops where young men are trained to continue the handicrafts tradition. Some are busy making masks for the religious dances while others learning the ancient art of thangka (scroll) painting. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 3: Thimphu to Trongsa
We will have early breakfast and then drive to Trongsa, a district in central Bhutan. The journey would take us seven hours by car. First we make a gentle climb to Dochula Pass(3050m). Next, descend to Wangdiphodrang and cross over the Pelela Pass (3300m). On clear weather, we should be able to see the view of a chain of mountains bordering Tibet to the north. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 4: Trongsa to Bumthang
After breakfast, we will visit the Trongsa Dzong – the biggest fortresses in Bhutan and the watchtower located above the Trongsa market. Next, start our journey to Bumthang, located two and half hours towards east. We cross over the Yotongla Pass(3400m) and then descend to Chumi Valley and pass by a weaving center- where professional weavers weave well-patterned fabrics out of wool and yak hair known as “yathra”. Bumthang is known for its four spectacular valleys and was the seat of the government until the reign of second king. The district is famous for its historical sites. After lunch, visit Jambay lhakhang- one of the two oldest monasteries built in Bhutan in the 7th century. Next, visit Kurji Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Kenchosum Lhakhang, and Swiss Farm, where people make Bhutanese assorted wines and beer. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 5: Bumthang (Excursion)
Morning, drive to Mebartso “Burning Lake” where the Terton Pemalinga, the Bhutanese famous “treasure revealer” is believed to have taken out a hidden treasure. Late afternoon, visit the Jakar Dzong, the seat of the district administration and the district monk body.
Day 6: Bumthang to Gangtey
After early breakfast, we drive to Gangtey Gompa, a seat of the Ngyingmapa Buddhism, a religious sect in Bhutan. The present chief abbot of the monastery is the 9th reincarnate of the descendant of Terton Pemalingpa. Upon arriving Gangtey, visit Gangtey Monastery, and walk around the place. This area serves as the wintering place for endangered black-necked cranes migrating from Tibet and Lhadak. The cranes stay here from November till April. The journey would take us seven and half hours.
Day 7: Gangtey to Punakha
En-route to Punakha, visit Wangdiphodrang dzong. Next, hike to Chhimi Lhakhang, the monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley “the Divine Madman” who was known for his eccentric behavior. The monastery is known for its power of fertility, thus is a site of pilgrimage for both Bhutanese and westerners. We will begin our explorations of Punakha valley with a visit to Punakha Dzong, located between two rivers. The Dzong remained the national capital until 1966. It also serves as 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. Night halt at hotel.
Day 8: Punakha to Thimphu
After breakfast, we drive to Thimphu. Stop for a tea at Dochula Cafe, and continue our journey to Thimphu for lunch. After lunch, visit the Bhutanese handmade paper factory and see how the traditional paper is being made. Other places of interest will be to visit the textile museum, painting school, folk heritage museum, and Indigenous hospital- where traditional medicine is being made and dispensed to cure diseases. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 9: Thimphu
We will visit the Sunday Market(if the day coincides) – where the people buy vegetables and fruits and stock them to last for one week. The market starts from Friday and continue till Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the Bhutanese people – especially farmers carry out trade. Then, drive to Motithang to see the Bhutan’s national animal, Takin at the Mini Zoo. On our way back, visit Changangkha Lhakhang built in the 14th century. Next visit the National Memorial Chorten, built in memory of third king. If there is an archery contest in progress, we can stop to witness it. Then, visit some of the Bhutanese handicraft shops, if you need to get some things to take home as presents or souvenirs.
Day 10: Thimphu to Paro
After our breakfast, we will drive to Paro. Afternoon, we can either relax or take a drive to Chelela Pass (3500 m) too see the view of Haa, another district in the west. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 11: Paro (Hike)
Paro is a valley of religion and myth. The most famous landmark, the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), stands on a granite cliff about 800m 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 is considered as a national treasure of Bhutan.
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 12: Departure
After breakfast drive to the airport for departure.