A short journey into the little-known Himalayan Kingdom. Visit the architectural wonders and spiritual centres of Paro and the nation’s capital, Thimphu to experience a little of the country’s incredible natural beauty. A trip sure to tempt you back for more.
Arrive in Paro (2195m) – transfer to Thimphu (2350m) – afternoon sightseeing
The Druk Air flight into Paro is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of the country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro Valley as you land. Bhutan’s first gift to you will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. After immigration you will be greeted by your guide and set out on the short (71km) drive to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan. Thimphu lies in a wooded valley, sprawling up a hillside on the west bank of the Thimphu River.
Your explorations start at the National Memorial Chorten with its tinkling bells and golden spines shining in the sun; built in honour of third King of Bhutan. Later visit Tashichhoe Dzong, seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan and summer residence of the central monk body and the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). After the visit take an evening stroll around Thimphu.
Hike to Tango monastery – Thimphu sightseeing
Drive (45mins) towards the northern end of the Thimphu valley to hike to Tango Monastery. From the end of the road hike for an hour to Tango Monastery situated on a spur overlooking the valley below. Tango dates back to the C13th and, according to legend is built on a holy site where Avalokatesvara self-emanated in his wrathful form, Hayagriva. Rebuilt as a university in the C16th it houses more than 150 monks who are pursuing in higher studies in meditation and Buddhist Philosophy.
After visiting Tango hike back to the road and return to Thimphu for lunch.
In the afternoon visit the Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts School (Painting School) and the Textile Museum, where the art of traditional weaving is kept alive. The exhibition and has a good collection of old, preserved textiles which are rich in colour and design. Simply Bhutan is an exhibition where visitors learn about Bhutanese traditions and can dress up in traditional clothes and be photographed in front of painted backdrops. There are also craft displays and a souvenir shop. Beautiful textiles in wool, silk and cotton, basketwork, silver jewellery, thangkas and other traditional crafts of the Kingdom are available in various handicraft emporiums.
Sightseeing in the Paro Valley
After the short drive back from Thimphu, today’s sightseeing begins at Paro Dzong, perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. Ta Dzong, (the National Museum) was built in the C7th as a watch tower for the Dzong. It was converted into the National Museum in 1967. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong, built to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders, it is now used as an administration centre and school for monks. A short walk takes you across a traditional cantilevered bridge to one of the innumerable archery grounds (Archery is the National sport of Bhutan) where you can have an archery lesson.
Paro – Hike to Taktsang (3180m) – visit Kyichu Lhakhang
Start early to drive to Ramthangkha for the hike up to Taktsang monastery. The hike up takes 2-3 hours depending on your fitness, with a break at the viewpoint (and cafeteria) to enjoy stunning views of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed, riding on the back of a tigress in the C8th. Hence the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The interior design of the temple impresses with its luxurious beauty: a gold-plated dome and flickering lights that illuminate golden idols. In the hall of Thousand Buddhas, which is carved into the rock, a large statue of a tiger is located. There are 8 meditation caves, including those where Padmasambhava arrived and the one where he meditated.
After the hike back down visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in the C7th, is said to be one of the 13 great geomantic temples ordered built by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It holds down the left foot of an ogress whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of central Tibet.
After breakfast drive a short distance to Paro airport where your representative will help you with the exit formalities and bid you farewell and wish you a happy journey back home.