BHUTAN : A living museum
Route : Paro-Thimpu-Punakha-Trongsa-Bumthang-Ura Valley-Phobjikha-Punakha-Paro
No of Days : 13nights/14 days
Grade : Moderate
PARO ALTITUDE 7, 600 feet / 2, 280 meters
THIMPHU ALTITUDE 7, 730 feet / 2,320 meters
DISTANCE PARO – THIMPHU = 54 kilometers / 33.75 miles time taken 1:00 hours
Fly from Bangkok to Paro on Druk Air. From a left window seat on clear days you can experience a spectacular view of the Himalayan peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival you will be received by our representative and then start our drive to Thimphu. The road winds along with the Paro River, until you arrive at the confluence of Paro and Thimphu River. From here, we start north along the Thimphu River passing through paddy fields, villages and Apple orchards until we see the Capital City from a distance. We check in to our hotel. When we meet for lunch, we will have a short orientation with your tour guide on Bhutan’s current status and a few ‘Do’s and Don’ts’. If time permits, we will have sightseeing around Thimphu Valley. This will depend on the arrival time of your flight. Overnight at Migmar Hotel or similar.
DAY 02 THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING
After a late breakfast you will start your sightseeing of Thimphu starting off with a visit to the Medicine Institute where traditional medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. Then we head to The Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Followed by a visit to The Folk heritage Museum, a nineteenth century house, preserved to present the visitors with how middle class Bhutanese lived in the past. Next we will visit the National Library and head for lunch. After lunch, we visit Textile Museum, the traditional gold and silver smith workshop, weaving center and other places of interest. Overnight in hotel.
DAY 03 THIMPHU-PUNAKHA
PUNAKHA: ALTITUDE: 4,162 feet / 1,250 meters
DISTANCE: 71 Kilometers / 44.38 miles
TIME: 2-3 hours driving
ALTITUDE GAIN: 2,730 feet & ALTITUDE LOSS 6,298 feet
After breakfast we will start our drive to Punakha early before the clouds come in and block the views of Bhutan’s Snowcapped Mountain range seen from the Dochula Pass. Leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (10,460 feet / 3,140 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350 meters/ 4,162 feet). Before proceeding further to our hotel we will hike up to Chimi Lhakhang temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 15th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility; it is about one and half hour of round trip walk. We will be having lunch on our way back down. After lunch we will proceed to Punakha town to view the majestic Dzong (fortress), situated between the two rivers, Pho Chu and Mochu (male and Female River). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). In the past this Dzong was the capital seat of the Kingdom. We then finally check into our hotel. Overnight at Meri Puensum Resort or similar
DAY 04 PUNAKHA – TRONGSA
TRONGSA: ALTITUDE: 7,259 feet / 2,180 meters
DISTANCE: 143 Kilometers / 89.38 miles
TIME TAKEN: 6 hours driving
We will have an early, heavy breakfast today as our lunch will be late. The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. We start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. We will be passing the Wangduephodrang district in confluence of Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.) With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During clear weather, we can view the high snowcapped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.). We will make a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten. This Chorten or Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge. Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you will ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Arrive Trongsa and overnight at Yangkhil Resort, this resort offers a superb view of the soaring mountains and the majestic Trongsa Dzong.
DAY 05 TRONGSA – BUMTHANG (JAKAR)
BUMTHANG: ALTITUDE: 8,591feet / 2,580 meters
DISTANCE: 71 Kilometers / 44.38 miles
TIME: 2.5 hours driving
ALTITUDE GAIN: 1,245 meters / 4,145 feet & ALTITUDE LOSS 845 meters 2,814 feet
After breakfast we will drive to visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647, by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, this Dzong was the source of many important historical events in making of Modern Bhutan. Our car will drop us at the junction of the road to Bazaar and the Dzong, you will walk from here to the Dzong. After the visit, we will walk to town where we will have about 30 minutes to explore the small town (this is the best time for restroom breaks). We will then continue our walk towards Taa Dzong, the ancient watchtower. This tower had served as the watch tower in the ancient time, now it is turned into a beautiful museum dedicated to the Kings of Bhutan. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria here. If closed, we will have picnic lunch on the way to Bumthang. We will start our drive to Bumthang, crossing the Yotongla Pass and into the first four valley of Bumthang known as Chumey, we will make a short stop at Tsungney village, where we will observe the weavers weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra. Continue our drive for an hour and arrive at the Chokhor Valley, if time permits your car will drop you at the Chamkhar Bazaar, from where you can walk back to the hotel after sightseeing around the market.
Overnight at Yu-Gharling Resort.
DAY 06 BUMTHANG SIGHTSEEING
After breakfast we will start our sightseeing around Chokhor valley. We begin our walk around the valley from our Lodge carrying our day pack towards the Chakar Lhakhang which was built in the 8th century. This House was a castle of the King Sindhu Raja who used to rule the Bumthang Valley. Continue our walk towards Jambay Lhakhang, a temple built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gonpo. This temple represents the ages of the world (past, present and future). Continue your hike to Kurjey monastery, it is here, the great tantric saint Padmasambhava had meditated and left his imprint in the cave, hence known as Kurjey (body imprint). Continue your hike north and cross the Chamkhar River over a suspension bridge (if you have fear of height, your car will drive you to the other side from a different route) and we will arrive at Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pemalingpa (Terton meaning treasure reviver) built this temple in the 1500s. You will be picked up here by your car. Rest of the day free for you to explore the small town before heading back to the hotel.
DAY 07 BUMTHANG – URA VALLEY
After breakfast, we will be driving to Ura village situated at 10,000 feet above sea level. There is about 40-50 closely packed houses alongside cobblestone streets that give the village a medieval atmosphere. The drive to Ura takes about 2 hours, however we will stop at the Serthangla Pass, from where you can get the view of Ura Valley down below. We will start hiking downhill from here till we reach the Ura Temple. We will visit the temple and continue our walk through the clustered village of Ura making frequent stops to converse with the villagers, children and womenfolk that wear a ship skin on their back to protect from loads they carry. Our lunch will be served at a village house, after lunch we will walk towards the school and observe the young students of Ura engrossed in their lesson. We will then say goodbye to this beautiful village and drive back to hotel.
DAY 08 BUMTHANG – PHOBJIKHA
After breakfast we will start our drive towards Phobjikha. This valley is the designated winter home for 100s of endangered black-necked crane that migrate here from the Tibetan plateaus. This valley is also known for produce of best potatoes in Bhutan. Overnight at Dewachen Resort or similar.
DAY 09 PHOBJIKHA – PUNAKHA
After breakfast, we will take a trail hike around the valley. From the Phobjikha Pass we will start walking downhill to Gangtey Monastery. If you enjoy nature then this is a beautiful walk. If lucky, you may encounter the endangered Red Panda and many bird species. We will visit the magnificent Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the valley. After lunch, we will drive back to Punakha. Overnight in Punakha.
DAY 10 PUNAKHA – PARO
After breakfast, we will start our drive to Thimphu. En route, we will stop at the Dochula Pass for leg stretch while enjoying the spectacular view. Next stop will be at Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the Kingdom which now houses the School for Buddhist studies. We will then head to Thimphu town for lunch and souvenir shopping before heading back to Paro. Overnight in Khangkhu or similar
DAY 11 PARO SIGHTSEEING
After breakfast we will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built by a Tibetan King known as Songtsen Gompo in the 7th century, we will continue to the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armors and rare stamps. From here we will take a short hike to Zuri Dzong (walking time 2 hours). From the National Museum in the Ta Dzong, take a leisurely 2 hour hike along the forested hillside to Zuri Dzong and then down to the Uma resort, where your driver will pick you up. The walk passes Gonsaka Lhakhang and then Zuri Dzong and provides wonderful views down over the valley and Dzong. Zuri Dzong dates from 1352 and is home to the valley’s local protector gods. Overnight in Paro.
DAY 12 PARO SIGHTSEEING
Today will be a relaxing day in order to prepare for the hike to Tiger’s nest. After breakfast we will drive 20 minutes North of Paro to visit the Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, the Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Chomolhari, alt. 7314 m / 23,990 ft. Go around the fortress, it is a 30 minutes leisurely hike, this is a beautiful walk. Next we will drive south and visit Paro Rimpung Dzong. You will walk through a traditional covered bridge and then short uphill walk of about 15 minutes to the Dzong, return to town and lunch will be served. After lunch, we are free for souvenir shopping at the Paro market and return to hotel in the evening.
DAY 13 EXCURSION TO TAKTSANG MONASTERY.
After breakfast our car will drop us at the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair) which will take us about 3-4 hours. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike (if not tired) for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all. On our way back down, lunch will be served at the cafeteria. After lunch we start our hike back to Paro valley, if time permits we will have some more sightseeing or a free day for more shopping in the small Bazaar.
DAY 14 DEPART BHUTAN.
After breakfast our car will drop us at the Paro International airport for our flight back to your next destination