Day 1: Arrival in Paro, Paro to Thimphu
Arrive in Paro by druk air, the only national carrier. The flight offers you beautiful view of mountains and landscapes. Upon arriving the Paro Valley and after completing visa formalities, you will be met by Gawaling Tours & Treks’ representative at the airport. We will then drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The journey would take us one and half hours.
Upon arriving Thimphu, we will visit the National Painting school to see the young men and women at work in the production of handicraft items. Some specialize in mask making, some in wood curving, some in slate curving, and others in embroidery & scroll painting. Overnight stay in a hotel.
Day 2: 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 3: Trongsa to Tongtongphey to Jangbi village
After an early breakfast at your hotel, you could afford some time to strut around the Trongsa town, combining it with a visit to the Dzong and also the Ta Dzong. The latter is going to be upgraded into a museum which will definitely captivate a visitor with its myriad collections. A 2 hours drive from the town along the Zhemgang highway brings you to the start of the Trek, Tongtongphey. You could also augment your itinerary along the way, with a visit to Kuenga Rabten palace, an important heritage in Bhutanese history. After furnishing yourself with ample information about the trek from the information booth, the village guide steers you down to the Mangdi river where you cross a suspension bridge. Unless you have a strong proclivity for ants and other ground creatures, it is almost impossible to miss out on Golden Langurs that are bountiful on this stretch. The first day brings you in contact with the Monpas who are believed to be the first inhabitants of Bhutan. A glimpse on their lifestyle further validates their ethnicity, coupled by mythical legends about their origins. The campsite in Jangbi stands on the valley sill, which offers a resplendent view of the Mangdi valley. If you still have some energy for locomotion, you could audience yourself to a local cultural program, or better, partake in it.
Day 4: Jangbi village to Kudra village
The morning allows you to further interact with the Monpas. Before you proceed, you could also pay a visit to the orchid garden that fences about 75 different kinds of orchids till your thirst for botanical photography gets satiated. The hike to Kudra provides a nuance of jovial atmosphere because this part of the trail meanders along stone imprints of Guru Rinpoche’s footprints, dagger and phallus, festooned by stories that espouse Guru’s praxis. Lunch is served just before you arrive at Phrumzur, one of the villages of the Monpa communities, off the trail. You could also visit the village Lhakhang in Phrumzur and then proceed to the campsite in Kudra. En route, you traverse another small Monpa village called Lekpogang, after which, the campsite in Kudra is just an hour’s walk. The campsite offers a bird’s-eye-view of Nyimshong village and also the Zhemgang town.
Day 5: Kudra village to Nabji village
(Total distance: 11-14 kms, circa 5-7 hours, altitude range – 1,500m – 1,300m)
You wake up with the distant call of the Rufous-necked hornbill. This part of the trek is a collage of streams, waterfalls and thick forests that will give you an invigorating feeling of being out in the wild. The Great Himalayan Squirrel, Rhesus Mecaques, and small snakes are often spotted along the trail. Unseen but present, are Himalayan black bear, Red pandas, tigers, Clouded leopards et cetera. Upon arrival at the holy tree in Nabji, the people will give you a heartwarming reception. Nabji is a beautiful village where paddy fields seem to circumambulate the clustered houses. You could also hike to the community school and indulge yourself in game of football or volleyball, where children rejoice the presence of outsider athletes.
Day 6: Nabji village to Korphu village
En route to Korphu, the Nabji temple is located in the middle of the paddy fields. Inside, there remains a stone pillar on which Guru Rinpoche, while traveling through Bhutan in the 8th century, brought consensus between the warring kings: King sindha Gyelp of Bumthang, and King Noeche, by imprinting their thumbs on each side of the stone. A unique festival is celebrated sometime in early January at the temple grounds. Korphu is situated on a mountaintop at an altitude of 1,500m. The most striking thing about Korphu is that the people exemplify hospitality almost treating you like ‘A King on accession to throne’. You have the option of being welcomed with a traditional ‘Chipdrel’ procession and a ‘Marchang’ ceremony, singing traditional songs of praise and wellbeing for new visitors. They also perform the traditional ‘Tashi Labey’ dance to bid you farewell. If you are interested, the villagers can explain and demonstrate and even allow you to participate in the quintessential Bhutanese games of ‘Khuru’, ‘Dego’, ‘Sok-sum’, and ‘Gee-dum’, all on the brink of disappearance. You could also pay a visit to the village temple that houses the sacred relics of Pema Lingpa, the famous ‘Treasure revealer’ of Bhutan. A local lunch could be provided in the village campsite which also provides a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Nabji and other surrounding areas.
Day 7: Korphu village to Nimshong village
The hike from Korphu to Nyimshong is the pleasant and arguably the best birding spot which can boast a bird list of more than 395 species. The elusive Rufous Necked Hornbill has its nesting holes adjacent to the trail. The walk is mixed with waterfalls and, streams and cantilever bridges. The evening brings you to Nyimshong, a village with its reticent architecture and lifestyle. The campsite is equipped with an amphitheatre. The women of Nyimshong have a penchant for singing and dancing and a cultural show would be ideal to express certain euphoria to end your trek. Of course this is optional.
Day 8: Nimshong village to Trongsa town
If you are lucky, the Golden Langurs will lead you to the exit. You descend down to the Mangdi river again to see some Herons and River-lapwings. An hour’s steep ascend to the road and your driver will drive you back to Trongsa.
Day 9: Trongsa to Punakha
After breakfast, drive towards Punakha. On reaching Punakha, we begin our explorations of Punakha valley with a visit to Punakha Dzong, located between two rivers. It serves as the winter residence for the central monastic body.
Next, visit Wangdiphodrang Dzong built in 1638 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and then take a hike to Chimi Lhakhang, the monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley ” Divine Madman” knows for his outrageous behavior. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 10: Punakha to Paro
After breakfast drive to Paro, en-route Thimphu. Afternoon, visit Ta Dzong (watch tower) that houses the National Museum. The museum has an interesting collections of different costumes and thangkas from various parts of Bhutan. After Museum visit, Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the two oldest monasteries built in Bhutan by the King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 11: Departure
After breakfast drive to the airport for departure.