|1||Arrival, drive to Thimphu||Arrival by plane to Paro airport and drive to Thimphu. In case of arrival by land, cross border from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and ~5 hours drive to Thimphu. ➜ Stop at Tachog lhakhang to see traditional bridge made using ancient iron chains. ➜ After reaching Thimphu, drive to Changlimithang stadium to see the archery, traditional sport of Bhutan. Matches are going on from the morning to the evening! ➜ Then walk to relaxing Coronation park with walking Buddha statue and visit Zangto Pelri lhakhang, one of the major temples local Bhutanese like to frequent. Roll the prayer wheels for the sake of all sentient beings! Take a rest after the journey. ➜ Optionally celebrate arrival to Bhutan in famous Mojo Park music club or other Thimphu's popular venues.|
|2||Thimphu – Wangdue / Punakha||Morning drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. ➜ Continue to wild animal sanctuary, where you can see the takin, famous national animal of Bhutan and other dwellers of Bhutanese forests. ➜ Drop to central Clock Tower square and walk in Norzin lam street and see the traffic police signaling in junctions. Thimphu is only capital in the world without the traffic lights. ➜ Finish walk at handicraft market where many interesting Bhutanese souvenirs can be seen and bought for reasonable price. ➜ Continue with visit to Folk Heritage Museum with the exhibition on traditional village life in Bhutan (closed on Sunday, alternatively visit Simply Bhutan museum). ➜ Visit of historical Dechen Phodrang monastery, overlooking the Thimphu valley. From here you can also see monumental Tashichho dzong and other landmarks. ➜ Afternoon transfer to Wangdue or Punakha over Dochu-la pass (3010 m) with visit of royal temple Druk Wangyel lhakhang if time permits.|
|3||Wangdue / Punakha, excursion to Gangtey (Phobjikha)||Early morning drive to Gangtey. Visit of historical Gangtey gompa which is both symbolic and geographic heart of the valley and belongs to Nyingma, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism. ➜ From there take 2½ hour walking tour through the valley. This is one of the most beautiful while very easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go through the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed forest with trees decorated with “old men's” beard lichen, and finally you will get a view of marshland. ➜ Here, in late autumn and winter, rare black neck cranes can be seen. If you are interested, you can also visit Black Neck Crane center to learn more about this elusive bird. ➜ Finish hike with the lunch in local farmhouse to taste local kitchen and other delicacies like the salty suja tea and the ara spirit. Evening drive back to Wangdue / Punakha.|
|4||Wangdue / Punakha – Paro||Early morning short hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten with wonderful views of the valley and it’s terraced paddy fields. ➜ Optionally you can consider rafting on the Mo Chhu (easy) or Pho Chhu (thrilling) river. ➜ Continue with visit of Punakha dzong, dubbed as “Palace of the Great Happinnes” which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom and used to be winter seat of the Bhutanese rulers. ➜ Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to the 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who allegedly taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. ➜ Way to temple is perched by houses decorated with phallic symbols, as commemoration of the saint's antics. Temple is also known as fertility booster, attracting childless couples from all over the Bhutan and foreign countries as well. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. ➜ Afternoon drive to Paro.|
|5||Paro||Hike to Taktsang gomba (The Tiger’s Nest) is the absolute highlight of the tour! While the climb seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can cut it short in cafeteria with nice view of the temple. ➜ If you have spare strength, you might hike up to Zangtopelri Lhakhang to get birds-eye view of Tiger's Nest! You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness, and preferences. ➜ Also visit of the National Museum in Ta dzong, the watchtower protecting the Paro castle below from intruders. ➜ Then drive down to Paro town and marvel over the old traditional bridge below the Paro Dzong. Here, you will have opportunity to try Bhutanese dress and take a beautiful photo with castle in the background! ➜ Continue to Paro airport viewpoint. Depending on schedule, you might see planes landing and taking off. Runway in Paro is famed as one of the most demanding of all World's International airports. ➜ Time permitting, visit Bondey's village Zangtopelri lhakhang, fabulous new temple with splendid decorations or Dzongdrakha lhakhang, the ancient temple perched on the rock cliffs, which is often compared to Tiger's Nest in its beauty and seldom visited by other tourists. ➜ Enjoy the last evening in Bhutan! ➜ Optionally the mask dance performance along with traditional dinner in the local farmhouse can be arranged.|
|6||Departure||If time permits, you can drive to Drukyel dzong to see a freshly reconstructed castle and the summit of holy Jomolhari mountain in clear weather. ➜ After that, you depart from Paro by flight or take ~5 hours drive to land border in Phuntsholing.|
Tour variants, extensions and combinations:
- Overnight in Phobjika (+1 day): Spend one more night in Gangtey to experience morning in most beautiful valley in Bhutan. See Best of Bhutan II, 7 days program.
- Jomolhari Yaksa or Druk Path trek (+6 to 7 days): This tour can be quite nicely extended by moderate high altitude treks, making this tour even more exciting. See the detailed itinerary for Jomolhari combination.
- Haa valley homestay (+2 nights): At the end of the tour, you can drive over the Chele-la pass (nearly four thousands meter high) to rarely visited Haa valley. On the way you can do hike to Kila gompa, the oldest nunnery in Bhutan from 14th century and also experience high altitude on the ridge of the pass from where Mt. Jomolhari and Kanchenjunga can be seen in clear weather. In Haa you'll stay in three hundred years old farmhouse as a guest of local family. Haa is less visited valley due to the fact, it's home to Indian military base. Anyway the nature is very pristine and so are the villages. You can visit few local temples and also make nice village hike around.
- Tshechu festival (+1 night): With proper planning, we can arrange that you will experience annual tsechu festival in some castle or monastery. There are many festivals in Bhutan, so we can definitely fix your travel dates to match. We just need to start planning well ahead (optimally more than 6 months before) in order to secure flight tickets and hotel reservations.
- Gasa Hot springs (+1 or 2 days): Gasa is highland region north of Punakha, just recently connected by road. Apart from beautiful dzong and vistas of nearby high peaks, you can enjoy the natural hot springs, so called "tsachu". There is number of pools with different temperatures. Water is sulfurous and it's believed it's beneficial for number of skin ailments. It's great relax in luxurious pools anyway. Additional experience can be spending overnight here in local farmhouse to try authentic Bhutanese hospitality.