Historical Heart + Haa, 12 days

Tour highlights

  • Most beautiful and interesting sights of Bhutan
  • Views of Himalayas from domestic flight
  • Reach till Bumthang, “Historical heart” of the country
  • Visit Tang valley with unique museum
  • Visit to pristine Haa valley
  • Iconic climb to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro 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 Paro. ➜ Visit Bondey's village Zangtopelri lhakhang, fabulous new temple with splendid decorations. ➜ Drive to the National Museum in Ta dzong, the watchtower protecting the Paro castle from intruders and visit its comprehensive display of artifacts related to Bhutan history, natural heritage and culture. ➜ Take a rest after long journey.
2 Paro Drive to newly reconstructed castle of Drukyel dzong, from where you can see the top of holy Jomolhari mountain in case of clear weather. ➜ Hike to Taktsang gomba (The Tiger’s Nest) is the 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. ➜ 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. ➜ Enjoy free time in Paro town, exploring it's lively cafés, shops, and bars or take a rest after the hiking.
3 Paro – Jakar flight
Taking domestic flight to Bumthang is extraordinary experience. In clear weather, you might spot many of the seven and six thousand meters high mountains on the border with Tibet, including Gangkhar Punesum, the world's highest peak never conquered by man. ➜ Arrive to Jakar. Visit small brewery to taste local Red Panda beer (subject to brewery operation schedule). ➜ Explore the town with it’s interesting curio shops and welcoming local restaurants. ➜ Day's program is subject to domestic flight timing.
4 Jakar, excursion to Tang valley Drive to Tang valley and hike to Ugyen choling palace which hosts wonderful private museum with carefully selected artifacts used in medieval Bhutan for various activities. ➜ If you feel strong, you can climb to Kundzongdrak gomba overlooking valley from sheer cliff. ➜ Otherwise, you can visit the nunnery, which was established by the reincarnate lama of Gangtey and hosts mostly young nuns. ➜ You should not miss so-called “Burning lake” Membartso where the treasure of scriptures hidden here by magician-saint Guru Rimpoche were discovered by the 15th century saint Pema Lingpa. ➜ Drive to Jakar and relax for the rest of the day of proceed with further sightseeing as suggested by your guide.
5 Jakar Start day sightseeing with ancient Jambay lhakhang temple, which pins down the knee of the giant demoness. According to legends, this one of the two oldest Buddhist temples built in Bhutan by great Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. ➜ Walk to Kurjey lhakhang temple complex where 7th century saint Guru Rimpoche subdued local demoness. After exploring the place, enjoy the picnic lunch on beautiful riverside. ➜ Then continue walk to Tamshing Gompa, the temple which was allegedly built and marvelously painted by 15th century saint Pema Lingpa with the help of angels. ➜ Finally, visit newly built and finely decorated Kenchosum Lhakhang. ➜ Rest of the day in leisure or other program proposed by guide.
6 Jakar – Gangtey Early morning drive to Trongsa over Yotong-la pass (3550 m). ➜ Visit Trongsa dzong, the castle from which the royal dynasty of Bhutan has risen. ➜ Also explore intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples. ➜ Then we will start drive to Pele-la pass (3540 m), ancient border between western and eastern Bhutan. ➜ On the way we will stop at Chendebji stupa, which was modeled after Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu and is just much smaller size. ➜ Reaching Gangtey by the evening. ➜ You might like to try the hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat (on extra payment, need to be ordered in the morning). ➜ Optionally you can attend lesson on Buddhism led by accomplished master with translation to English in Gangtey monastery shedra (buddhist college).
7 Gangtey – Wangdue / Punakha In the morning drive to Gangtey gompa located at the top of the hill with commanding view of the valley. The historically important monastery belongs to Niyngma school of Buddhism. ➜ Walk through village with lots of interesting handicraft shop. From here you will start 2.5 hour walk, one of the most beautiful and easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go around the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed pine forest with trees decorated with old men's beard lichen, and finally you will reach to a view of marshland. Here, in the late autumn and winter, rare Black Neck Cranes can be seen. ➜ Descend to valley bottom and visit Kewa lhakhang, the newly established monastery on the place where the demoness was subdued in the past. ➜ Drive to local farmhouse to taste local kitchen and other delicacies like the salty suja tea and ara spirit. ➜ Then visit to Black Neck Crane center. The birds come for roosting to the valley in great numbers from November to the end of February. See interesting documentary on bird conservation efforts and related exposition. ➜ Start drive to Wangdue / Punakha. ➜ Stop at Lawa-la pass above Phobjikha to visit shops of local herders. You can get a lot of interesting things here, including the yak wool textiles, dust brush made of yak tail, medicinal plants like puttising root, potent cure for cough and fever or cordyceps dubbed as "himalayan viagra" and energy booster. ➜ Reach to destination in late afternoon/evening.
8 Wangdue / Punakha – Thimphu 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. ➜ Then drop to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan with span of 180 meters over Pho chu river. ➜ Walk from here to 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. ➜ Also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. ➜ Late afternoon drive to Thimphu.
9 Thimphu 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 to see the traffic police signaling on main junction. 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). ➜ Go to hand paper factory where you can see production process as well as buy original products. Nearby traditional thangkha painting gallery is also worth of peeking in. ➜ Evening visit of historical Dechen Phodrang monastery, overlooking the Thimphu valley. From here you can also see monumental Tashichho dzong and other landmarks.
10 Thimphu – Haa Morning leisurely revisit the town. ➜ Then drive to Haa valley using scenic road from Chuzom. ➜ On the way we can shortly stop to see 15th century Dobji Dzong castle monastery, which is said to be first building of this design ever built in Bhutan. ➜ Reach to Haa. Overnight will be spent in local farmhouse as a guest of local family, with trying local delicacies like salty butter tea, and ara spirit. Accommodation facilities are rudimentary, but experience is worth of it. Walk in very traditional village around your farmhouse and see traditional lifestyle. ➜ Evening option to try hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat. ➜ Optionally you can spend night in hotel. 
11 Haa – Paro In the morning visit to main village temple, Lhakhang Karpo (white temple) dedicated to local deity. ➜ Drive to Katsho village and undertake short hike up to Juneydrak hermitage. This small temple perched to the rock cliff is considered to be “second Tiger’s Nest”. The last section of climb to this temple is very steep, and you might need a support of rope which is fixed here. Place is inhabited by two welcoming hermits who will take you around. ➜ Drive to Chele-la (3850 m), the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. In clear weather you might see Kanchenjunga mountain to the west and holy Jomolhari peak to the north. ➜ Descend by car to Paro. ➜ If time permits, visit also Dzongdrakha lhakhang, the temple built below the rock cliffs with great view of rice fields of Bondey village. ➜ The beauty of this temple, rarely visited by travelers, is only matched by the Tiger's Nest.
12 Departure Program depends on your departure time. ➜ Depart from Paro by flight or take ~5 hours drive to land border in Phuntsholing.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Tshechu festival  (+1 night): With proper planning, we can arrange that you will experience annual tsechu festival in some of the castles or monasteries. 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 then 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.
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