|Arrival, drive to Thimphu
|Arrival by plane to Paro airport and drive to Thimphu or in case of arrival by land, crossing border from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and full day drive to Thimphu. ➜ Stop at Tachog lhakhang to see traditional bridge made using ancient iron chains. ➜ See Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. ➜ Other sightseeing depending on the arrival time.
|Early morning drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. ➜ 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 hand paper factory a Thangkha painting centre, where young artists learns the skills of their forefathers. ➜ After that drive to Changankha lhakhang, the oldest place of worship in the valley. ➜ Visit of Tashichho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government.
|Thimphu – Gangtey (Phobjikha)
|Transfer to Wangdue Phrodang over Dochu-la pass (3010 m) with visit of royal temple Druk Wangyel lhakhang. In clear weather, you have good chances for panoramic views of mountains, including Gangkhar Punesu (7570m), the highest mountain of Bhutan. ➜ Descend to tropical valley of Punatsang chu river. ➜ Soon after lunch you will start driving up to the mountains again until you reach pristine Phobjika valley (2750 m). ➜ Optionally you can attend lesson on Buddhism led by accomplished master with translation to English in Gangtey monastery shedra (buddhist college).
|Gangtey (Phobjikha) – Wangdue / Punakha
|Visit of historical Gangtey gompa. ➜ 2.5-hour walking tour through the valley is one of the most beautiful and 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 crane can be seen. ➜ Finish hike with the lunch in local farmhouse to taste local kitchen and other delicacies like the salty suja tea and ara spirit. ➜ Drive back to Wangdue. ➜ Afternoon walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who did teach Buddhism by singing, drinking and rampant sexual behavior.
|Wangdue / Punaha, excursion to Gasa
|In the morning start drive to Gasa, the highland region north of Punakha, just recently connected by road. ➜ Visit Gasa Dzong which dates back to 17th century and used to be important part of defense against Tibetan incursions. Stunning views of snowy peaks, especially Kang Bum (6550m) might be seen in clear weather. ➜ Down near to the river enjoy the natural hot springs, so called "tsachu". ➜ There are a number of pools with different temperatures. Water is sulfurous, and it's believed it's beneficial for number of skin ailments. It's great to relax in luxurious pools. ➜ Afternoon drive back to Wangdue.
|Wangdue / Punakha – Haa
|Visit of Punakha dzong, which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom. ➜ After this we will start driving to Dochu-la pass and then descend to Thimphu and will continue drive to Haa valley. ➜ 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. ➜ 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. ➜ Optionally you can spend night in hotel if simple facilities are not your cup of tea.
|Haa – Paro
|In the morning visit to main village temple, Lhakhang Karpo (white temple) dedicated to local deity. ➜ Then 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. ➜ Then 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.
|Visit of the National Museum and Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. ➜ The pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. ➜ Climb to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), is the highlight of the tour. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can climb just halfway to cafeteria with nice view of the place. ➜ You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness, and preferences.
|Departure from Bhutan
|If time permits, you can make visit to Drukyel dzong, the castle ruins from where you can see the summit of holy Jomolhari mountain in clear weather. ➜ After that, you depart from Paro by flight or take 6 hours drive to land border in Phuntsholing.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations:
- Exclude Gasa (-1 day): See the Gems of Western Bhutan I, 8 day program variant for that.