This 10 days’ itinerary begins with a tour of the most cultural sites in the capital of Thimpu. See the stunning natural beauty of this Himalayan Kingdom with a drive across Dochula Pass, hike in the glacial valley of Phobjikha and a monastery and market tours in semi-tropical Punakha and monastery. Visit the green Paro Valley and hike the most famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
Arrive Paro (2195m) – 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.
Later head out to visit Ta Dzong (the National Museum), built in the C7th as a watch tower for Paro 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.
Chumbu Monastery Hike (5-6 hours)
If you still have doubts, a visit to Chumbu Monastery might convince you that magic truly exists. Chumbu is a 15th century temple founded by terton (treasurer discoverer) Drugda Dorji. Due to its unique statue, it is an extremely popular pilgrimage site. The walk to the monastery takes you along the river, through an enchanting forest until reaching a chorten, you may spot magpies, jungle cock and pheasants. The last incline up to the temple is fairly steep.
The highlight of a visit to Chumbu is the statue of the floating Buddha, Dorji Phangmo (Vajira Yogini). This statue is said to be miraculously floating in the air. At a first glance, you might think that the statue is standing on the ground, however if you get a flashlight and a piece of paper, you will see that you can easily slide the piece of paper between the firm ground and the Buddha’s foot.
The temple grounds are serene place for a picnic lunch before exploring the small waterfall above.
Paro – Thimphu – Phajoding Gompa Hike
Phajoding takes its name from the saint Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who meditated there in the 13th century and is considered one of the most sacred meditational sites in Bhutan. The monastery itself is an open complex that comprises many holy buildings and relics and a State monastic school that currently houses 40 monks. The trek to Phajoding is an uphill climb through forested area of blue pine, fir and spruce.
At a leisurely pace, the hike takes about four hours. Phajoding provides an excellent view of Thimphu Valley and is also a retreat centre for monks and nuns. You can visit some ancient monasteries and commune with the monks. Later by evening, you walk down the trail back to the city.
Hike to Lungchutse Monastery – Drive to Punakha
Today’s 10km trail is one of the most picturesque hikes in the Thimphu region. Starting from the large chorten on the Dochu-la pass the trail slowly climbs through a forest of hemlock, birch and rhododendrons until reaching an open meadow.Re-entering a forest of moss-covered rhododendrons, gigantic hemlocks, junipers, and bamboo undergrowth, a small trail leads you the last 50 meters past a row of fluttering prayer flags up to Lungchutse Temple. On clear days, the view from the temple is fantastic! You will have a 360° view of the Himalayas including views of Jumolhari (7314m) and Gangkhar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan and the highest unclimbed peak in the world (7497m). You can also see Gasa Dzong, as a tiny white speck in a sea of green almost 50 kilometres to the north.
A trail below Lungchutse, leads to Trashigang village and temple then slowly descends through spruce, rhododendron, hemlock and juniper forest. Have lunch around the chorten in the temple’s courtyard while watching the monks in their daily endeavours.
After returning to the main road, you have the option to visit Hongtsho Temple on the hill side, a short hike up through the village. It was built in 1525 by the older brother of Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine Mad Man. It is a two-story traditional Bhutanese building where the main alter room has several enormous statues of important figures in the history of Bhutanese Buddhism
Drive to Punakha.
Punakha Sightseeing – Hike to Khamsum Yuelley
Spend the morning sightseeing in Punakha town including a visit to Punakha Dzong (Fortress). Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan and is still the winter residence of Central Monastic Body. Punakha Dzong is the most magnificent and largest Dzong in Bhutan scenically located between two rivers.
An enjoyable, yet challenging hike, hike takes you through rice paddies and up the winding trail to Khamsum Chorten. Rest here whilst admiring this impressive structure and the beautiful view of the valley below.
Continue climbing slowly upwards to Giligang. There are numerous places on the way with inspiring views of the surrounding temples, rice paddies, mountain tops and green forests. Giligang is a 300-year-old privately owned monastery which has been in the care of the same family for generations
It is the perfect spot to enjoy your picnic lunch. If you are lucky, the charming old couple who resides in the temple might offer some ngaja and join you for some food and good laughs. Descend to Changyul Bridge just before Punakha Dzong where your car will pick you up.
Punakha – jungle hike to Hokatsho
This beautiful untouched lake is hidden amidst dense jungle vegetation. The hike starts on a red mud path sloping uphill through small villages before reaching the C15th temple Chorten Nyeabu. From here, the path follows a man-made creek all the way to the lake. As you climb the vegetation gets denser and the sound of insects is impressive.
Take in the beauty of the setting before continuing down again on an alternative path which is not as steep. You can enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the charming farmhouses scattered on the hillside overlooking the valley. Enjoy the gorgeous views whilst sipping some ngaja with the locals, before commencing on the last hour down to the pickup point.
Drive from Thimpu to Paro – sightseeing
This morning drive back to Thimphu. Here visit the Memorial Chorten built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan’s third King, His Late Majesty, and King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. Also visit the institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School. The Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
In the afternoon continue to the Zilukha Nunnery and meet some of the nuns. Perched on a promontory, overlooking picturesque Trashichhoedzong and Golf course, it is the only nunnery in capital.
Drive from Thimpu to Paro followed by sightseeing
After breakfast drive to Paro, on arrival head to Ta Dzong, (National Museum) built in the 17th century as a watch tower for the Paro Dzong. This Dzong was converted into the National Museum in 1967.
Departure from Paro to Onwards Destination
You will be transferred to the airport where your guide will assist with formalities and bid you farewell.