Walking Tour Duration: 11 nights/12 days

Day 1   Arrival at Paro & Travel to Thimphu, the Capital of Bhutan

Fly from Bangkok to Paro on Drukair Royal Bhutan Airline. From a window seat on clear days you can experience a spectacular view of Himalayan peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival you will be received by our representative and then drive to Thimphu the Capital City. The drive will take about 2 hours.

After lunch, we would suggest, you go to Bhutan National Bank for currency exchange and you can also get an opportunity to purchase exquisite collectable Bhutanese stamps. Then visit the National Library where ancient texts and manuscripts are preserved; the Indigenous Hospital where traditional medicines are still practised; the Woodcraft and Painting School where traditional art and crafts are kept alive; and the Handicrafts Emporium where Bhutanese textiles are displayed and can be purchased. In the evening explore the busy Thimphu town with your guide or on your own.

Overnight – hotel base in Thimphu.

Day 2   Thimphu day hike to Tango and Cheri monasteries

We will drive 12km north of Thimphu to hike to Tango and Cheri monasteries. It will take about 45 minutes to hike to the first monastery. Tango Monastery is a Buddhist college, and it’s the residence of the Desi Tenzin Rabgye, a boy who is the reincarnation of the 16th-century monk who built Tango. We will then hike to Cheri monastery, which is also about a 45-minute hike.

After picnic lunch we then drive back to Thimphu and visit 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 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, and the traditional paper factory.

Overnight at the same hotel.

Day 3   Thimphu /Gangtey

Rise early to drive to Phobjikha, across Dochu-La Pass at 3050m from where the snow-capped eastern Himalayan ranges can be seen on a clear day. Prayer flags will flutter along your way over the pass which takes you deeper into the essence of Bhutan. Once you cross the pass, you wind down into a warm fertile valley of Wangdue. Visit Wangduephodrang which was built in the 17th Century by Shebdrung Nawang Namgyel, and take lunch in the town.

After lunch drive further to Phobjikha. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes which migrate from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Gonpa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan and now housing 200 monks. If time permits then you can walk through the natural trail till it reaches the hotel after a one and a half hour hike.

Overnight at the hotel base in Phobjikha.

Day 4   Phobjikha to Bumthang

After breakfast take the 6hr drive from Phobjikha to Bumthang valley, passing over Pele la (11,000ft) and Yotungla pass. Here we get our first glimpse of the Black Mountains. High Himalayan mountains such as Jomolhari are in view amidst hundreds of prayers flags; blessings abound. As we continue onwards we begin to get our first glimpse of the incredible massive dzong, Trongsa dzong – an architectural wonder! Trongsa medieval watchtower and the great Mangde chu (river) enhance Trongsa dzong in its exceptional beauty and grandeur. We now stop to visit Trongsa dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Built in 1648 AD it is presently the administrative seat of the district and the home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the dzong offers magical wonders. The watchtower, located directly above the dzong, has on display many interesting armours and other weapons of war used by ancient warriors. Continue onwards to Jakar.

Overnight at your hotel base in Bumthang.

Day 5   Bumthang Sightseeing.

Morning visit to Jampa Lhakhang (another of the 108 temples built by King Songtsen Gampo), Kurjey Lhakhang (in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche came to Bumthang and meditated, leaving JEY (imprint) of his KU (body) in the rock, hence the temple’s name Kurjey. From here a short hike to Tamshing Monastery, which is one of the most important Nyingma temples in the Kingdom. It was built by Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501 with the help of Khandroma (female celestial beings). The inner walls contain the original unrestored images that were painted by Pema-Lingpa himself.

After lunch visit Jakar Dzong and the old place of Wangdicholling. In the evening, take a leisurely stroll through Bumthang market area.

Overnight at the same hotel.

Day 6   Day Excursion to Ugyencholling

In the morning, take a drive through Tang Valley to have a short hike to Ugyencholling Palace. En route we will visit Tang Member Tsho (Burning Lake) where Saint Pemalingpa discovered several hidden treasures in the lake; and Pemacholing Nunnery, the only Buddhist Institute which provides degrees in Buddhist philosophy for women.

Overnight at the same hotel.

Day 7   Bumthang / Wangdue

Depart Bumthang for Punakha with stops for scenic photo opportunities along the way. Look for Yaks along the route.

Overnight at your hotel base in Punakha.

Day 8   Attend Punakha Festival

After breakfast, proceed to Punakha town to view the majestic Dzong (fortress), situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (Male River 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 visit the dzong inside and attend the ongoing festival. You have the whole day for witnessing the masked dances and the fair around the monastery ground. Meet the local people, learn about each other’s countries and cultures and maybe make a lifelong friend!

Overnight at the same hotel

Day 9   Punakha to Paro

In the morning, take the short hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten in the northern part of the valley. Newly built, it is a more elaborate version of the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu. It has astounding works of frescoes and intricate statues. Then drive to Dourchu la cafeteria for lunch. Then finally drive back to Paro valley.

Overnight at your hotel base in Paro.

Day 10   Paro Valley Sightseeing

Today first 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. 7314m / 23,990ft. Go round the fortress, it is a 30 minutes leisurely hike, this is a beautiful walk. Drive south to Satsam Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rinpochey, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the seventh century by a Tibetan King, Songtsen Gonpo. After lunch we will visit the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armors and rare stamps. Take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. You will walk through a traditional covered bridge across the river to your waiting car and drive to your hotel.

Overnight at the same hotel

Day 11   Excursion to Taktsang Monastery

After breakfast your car will drop you at the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). 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 a short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the remains of 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 where and how the monastery was built, flying tigers don’t seem so impossible after all. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria.

Overnight at the same hotel.

Day 12   Departure from Paro International Airport

After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch your onward flight. Your escort from Your Tour Guide for Bhutan will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom will be seen to disappear again behind its guardian mountains.

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