In clear weather, enjoy magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks as they give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. The first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. After clearing customs and visa control you are met by your local CEO who will conduct your welcome meeting and orientation. Later enjoy dinner and visit the Rimpung Dzong, a school for monks, and take a walk through the town.
Approx. Altitude: Paro 2300ft
Drive to Punakha, crossing the Dochula Pass and enjoy stunning views of the Himalayas. On Day 3, take a short hike to Punakha Dzong, a monastery and fertility shrine. Also visit the town of Wangdue and walk through rice terraces and forest to Khamsum Yueley Chorten, a shrine built by the Queen of Bhutan.
After breakfast on Day 2, drive through the dense forest of Blue pine, oak and rhododendrons and we enjoy the view of the Himalayan Ranges and the valley beyond. After a lunch stop, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass often offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping for tea and the view, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha.
On Day 3, visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo (Female) Chu and Pho (Male) Chu and drive to Lobeysa and hike another 20 minutes to Chime Lhakhang, temple of the “Divine Madman” built in 1499 and today it is mostly visited by women as it is known as a temple of fertility. After the visit walk back to the road point and then drive a short distance to Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan where we make a short stop and visit the Wangdue Phodrang. Continue to the suspension bridge and then hike to Khamsum Yueley Chorten, the walk is through the rice terraces fields and deep pine forest until you reach the stupa at the top which was consecrated in December 1999 and the view from here is superb. After the visit descend the trail till you reach the suspension bridge and return to the hotel.
Day 2 approx travel time: 180 km/7 hours (including stops and lunch)
Approx. Altitude: Punakha Valley 1300ft
Travel to Gangtey, visiting the village of Khewa en route, where their main production is potato farming and dairy products. On Day 5, walk to the monastery of Gangtey Goempa, known to hold the most sacred relics in Bhutan. Afterward, visit the community school, then walk across Phobjikha Valley to the Khewa Valley and visit an old temple to make an offering.
The monastery of Gangtey Goempa, was built in the 16th century and renovated and consecrated in 2008. The monastery holds the most scared relics in all of Bhutan and its architectural design is amazing. After that visit the Community School of Gangtey, where we sit with the students through one of their classes. If participants desire, donations to the Goempa are accepted and welcome (donations are made directly to the school trust fund-consult your guide).The valley is also a centre for crane observation run by the RSPN (Royal Society for the Protection of Nature) an NGO striving to protect Bhutan’s environment, flora and fauna. After our visit to the school we walk across Phobjikha Valley and into the Khewa Valley, where we visit an old temple and offer a (compulsory) donation – a necessity to keep the monastery running (app roc 2.5 hour walk).
Day 5 approx. travel time: Punakha - Gangtey: 78 km/3 hours
Approx. Altitude: Gangtey Valley 2900ft
Drive to the capital to visit the National Library, Memorial Chorten and the Institute for Zorig Chusum, an Arts and Craft school where we can watch students working with paints, clay, woodworking and other traditional arts. Options for shopping at the art school and throughout the Capital--be sure to visit the post office to have personalized stamps made with you picture.
While Thimphu is the largest centre we visit in Bhutan, it contrasts sharply with most cities you have visited throughout the world. It is a capital city without traffic lights, where no cars existed until 1962 and where all stores are closed on Tuesday on the upper lane and Wednesday on the lower lane. This is to give business people a rest from their capitalist pursuits and allow time with families. Although people lived and farmed the valley and hills bordering the Thimphu Chhu for many years, the town did not really develop until it became the capital city in 1961.
The Institute for Zorig Chusum, an Arts and Craft school is a highlight for those interested in Asian artworks. The Institute was established in 1971 to ensure Bhutanese traditional arts and cultural heritage continues. Students study here for 4-6 years in various mediums. There is the opportunity to purchase arts and crafts from the shop at the school.
Drive to one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan via the Chelela Pass. At the pass, hike to Kila Goempa Nunnery which clings to a rocky cliff. In the valley, visit Wangchuk Lo Dzong shrine and the Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple), which were built in the 7th century.
The Haa valley was closed from the outside world until 2002. It is also the last valley of Bhutan adjoining with autonomous Tibet. From the pass one can get a good view of the Himalayan Ranges and the valley beyond. Here, we hike through the deep forest of pine trees and rhododendron to Kila Goempa nunnery (approx 2.5 hours), clinging on a rocky cliff and is a house for around 60-70 nuns. After visiting the nunnery the trail descends through the forest of firs and spruce and then drive to Haa. In Haa town, visit Wangchuck Dzong which dates back to 1915 and visit Lhakhang Nakpo (Black temple) which is said to have been built by pigeon emanation of King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and also visit Lhakhang Karpo.
Approx. Travel time: 8 hours (including hike, lunch and temple visits)
Approx. Altitude: Haa Valley 2800ft
Return to Paro and visit the ruined fortress of Drukgyal Dzong, then hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest), the most venerated pilgrim site of the Himalayan world. Gasp at the stunning view from this monastery, which clings to the rock towering 900 metres above the valley. Later, visit Kyichu Lhakhang Temple and the local archery grounds.
Drive the winding road to Drukgyal Dzong, the ruined fortress, which once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions. We then drive to Ramthangkha, where we hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest). The hike up to the cafeteria will take around 2 hours of average walking speed and is located above 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above sea level. At the view point enjoy the stunning view of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigeress in the 8th century.
Continue to hike up to the monastery (approx 1 hour), which contains thirteen holy relics. Taktsang is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan World, the complex clings to the rock towering 900 meters above the valley (over 2,600 feet). After lunch at the viewing point, we walk back and visit Kyichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temple in Bhutan (7th century). After continue to the archery grounds for a demonstration. (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). In the evening take a walk around the main street of Paro’s main shopping district.
Approx travel time day 8: 65 kms/2 hours
Approx. Altitude: Paro 2300ft
Depart at any time.