Tour Duration: 12 nights/13 days
Day 1 Your Arrival in Paro
The flight into the Himalayas reveals breathtaking views of the World highest peaks, taking you right into the Dragon Kingdom to its cloud-scraping airstrip in the lush green valley of Paro (alt.7000ft). You will be received at the exit gate by our representative who will escort you to the hotel where arrangements have been made.
After lunch there’s a visit to Ta-Dzong (Bhutan’s National Museum), considered to be one of the best natural and historical museums. Then a walk down the hill to visit Paro Dzong with its traditional cantilever bridge called Nyame Zam, which literally means ‘bridge with no fish’ over the Pa-chu (Paro River). Enjoy an evening at leisure in the Paro town to become accustomed to the place and the people.
Overnight at the Hotel/Resort in Paro.
Day 2 Excursion to Taktsang
Take a morning hike to Taktsang temple (one of the most sacred places in Bhutan, due to its association with Guru Rinpoche who reputedly, in 747 A.D., flew in the form of Guru Dorji Drolo, mounted on a flaming dakini-tigress, to Paro Taktsang cliff where he meditated and subdued evil spirits). A number of temples have now been built on the site, and these occupy precarious positions, clinging to a black cliff high above the Paro Valley. The visit involves a two-hour climb on a steep footpath through a beautiful pine forest, with many of the trees coated with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
In the afternoon take a drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, passing through idyllic countryside with villages and paddy fields on either side of the road. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit in the town square and watch a gathering of local people wearing their traditional dress and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way.
Overnight hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 Thimphu Festival
After breakfast take a drive to the festival site and enjoy the spectacle of the ongoing festival. This festival is celebrated annually in the autumn in honour of Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpochey, to commemorate his deeds. Both lay people and monks perform the dances of the Tsechu. The dancers take on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities. The dances known as Cham bring blessings upon onlookers, to instruct them in the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma, to protect them from misfortune, and to exorcise evil influences. Deities are invoked during the dances; through their power and benediction, misfortunes may be annihilated, luck increased and wishes realised. It is also a social gathering where the people rejoice together, dressed in their finest clothing and jewellery.
In the late afternoon drive to the Buddha Dordenma sited amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the 13th Desi Druk, overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu. It is one of the largest Buddha rupas, or statues, in the world, at a height of 169 feet (51.5 meters). You can also enjoy the view of the Thimphu city clearly from here.
Overnight hotel base in Thimphu.
Day 4 Thimphu Festival
Today you will attend a half day of festival and then after lunch Thimphu city sightseeing, a visit to the Takin Zoo (the takin is the National Animal of Bhutan), and the Memorial Chorten of the Third King. Along the way there may be archery matches! The handmade paper factory and house of incense are Bhutanese handicraft specialties worth visiting.
Overnight same hotel in Thimphu
Day 5 Drive to Wangduephodrang via Punakha
After early breakfast, proceed to Punakha across Dochu La pass (3,088m/10,130ft), the highest point on the road is marked by a large Bhutanese Chorten and prayer flags fluttering on the hill. On a clear day, from this spot there is a breathtaking view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas.
Visit Punakha Dzong, where there is the secret relic Rangjung Kharsapani which Zhanbdrung brought with him from his monastery at Ralung in Tibet. Legend says that a statue of Rangjung Kharsapani (Avalokiteshvara) appeared miraculously from the vertebra of Tsangpa Gyre, the founder of Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Mahayana Buddhism. 30 minutes for personal meditation in the largest congregational Hall in the dzong.
There’s an afternoon hike to Chimey Lhakhang, the fertility temple of Lama Drukpa Kuenley the Divine Madman, and then a drive to Wangduephodrang for overnight.
Overnight hotel base in Wangdue
Day 6 Wangduephodrang to Bumthang
There’s a morning drive to Trongsa to visit Trongsa Dzong (the biggest and the most impressive Dzong at an altitude of 1900m) and in the afternoon drive to Bumthang. Bumthang is the most historical valley with visible signs of the visit of the Great Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche, Longchen Rabjampa and home of Terton Pemalingpa.
Overnight hotel base in Bumthang.
Day 7 Bumthang – Tangbi Mani Festival
Today you will attend a very unique village festival of Tangbi Mani. Glorious masks of demons and demonic animals arouse your senses as you watch the purification take place. Mewang ceremony (fire blessing) is performed on open ground. The lay monks perform purification rituals while all the people and guests jump over the flames to get themselves purified from their sins and evil deeds. It is believed that if one is able to jump over the flame three times he or she is protected from ill luck, and misfortunes are removed for that entire year. That is why people of all walks of life attempt to jump across the flame three times to be blessed for the whole year. Then mask dances and folk dances are performed as scheduled in the enclosed courtyard of the Temple. Of all the dances Goem Bernak is believed to be the most secret Dance (Tercham).
Overnight at the same hotel
Day 8 Bumthang – Tangbi Mani Festival
Returning to Tangbi Mani Festival in the morning to enjoy our last hours of the Festival. After lunch there’s a hike to Shukdrag Gompa, a meditation monastery built around a sacred cave in which Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tantric Buddhism, meditated in the 8th century. As you hike through Thangbi village, you will see beautiful traditional farm houses, happy children, and hard-working farmers. On the way to the Gompa, you will pass a small hut with a stone grinding wheel turned by water, used by the local people to grind buckwheat.
Overnight – same hotel.
Day 8 Excursion – Ura Valley & back to Bumthang
Enjoy an early breakfast and drive to Ura Valley. Ura is the highest valley in Bhutan and history tells of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan here. It is considered the holiest of all valleys here. Cobblestone village roads between clusters of homes create a true medieval atmosphere. We will visit Ura Temple, with its unique temple and ancient masks, worn only at the time of festival. Ura village is endearing to all that visit.
Overnight same hotel
Day 9 Bumthang Gangtey
It’s a return journey from here as we drive back retracing the road to Pele La to go to Gangtey. We will have as many stops as possible on the way to make the drive easier and to enjoy the scenary. The Phobjikha Valley is surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes which migrate here, having flown across the mountains from the Tibetan plateau. Visit the 17th century Gangtey Gonpa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan and it houses about 200 monks. If time permits we will walk down the alpine meadow passing by the habitat of the black-necked cranes.
Overnight – hotel/Guest House base in Gangtey.
Day 10 Gangtey Thimphu
A morning walk to explore the village, then return to Thimphu (about 5 hours drive). From Gangtey, the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha Valley, and then begins a long climb back up to the Dochu La, where a stunning field of white chortens and colorful prayer flags send blessings up to the Himalayan sky; snow peaks line the horizon. From the La, it is only another hour to Thimphu. Check into your hotel, relax and be refreshed.
Overnight hotel base in Thimphu
Day 11 Thimphu Paro
After breakfast, depart for an exhilarating hike to Tango Monastery. Drive till the Dodena and embark on a vigorous hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery. Tango is one of Bhutanese’ most important Buddhist colleges. Its name, meaning ‘horse’s head’, is derived from the horse-head shaped rock at the top. It is a beautiful Dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the young reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye.
After Lunch Drive to Paro and if time permits then visit Drukgyel Dzong (a ruined fortress 16km away from Paro). On a clear day the peaks of Mt. Chomolhari (Alt 7329 m), ‘Mountain of the Goddess’ can be seen. Then visit Kichu Lhakhan (one of the oldest temples of Bhutan built in 659 AD by a Tibetan King) and visit local shops. Enjoy dinner in the quaint Paro Town.
Overnight- hotel base in Paro
Day 12 Paro – Haa Valley excursion 28th September
Day excursion to Haa Valley situated in the north-west of Bhutan bordering Tibet. It was closed to tourism until 2001. On arrival in the picturesque Haa Valley, stroll through the quaint town. Hike to Katso village (alt. 8840 ft). This is a fairly easy hike of about one hour’s walking through Katso village and fields. Opposite Katso village one can see the famous Katso Lhakhang (temple) of Guru Rimpoche built against the rocky ledge. Then return back to Paro.
Overnight – same hotel
Day 13 Departure from Paro International Airport 29th September
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in good time to catch your flight. Your escort for your tour will bid you farewell and soon you will see the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappear again behind its guardian mountains.