Day 01 – Arrive Paro; travel to Thimphu and sightseeing (55 km / approximately one and half hours)
On your journey to Bhutan, you will experience breathtaking views of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake in Bhutan.
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, and completion of immigration formalities and collection of your baggage, you will be welcomed by our tour representative who will be your tour guide for entire trip to Bhutan.
The drive from Paro will take you along the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.
The Memorial Chorten(stupa) was built in 1974 in memory of the third king, the father of modern Bhutan as well as a monument for world peace and prosperity. Its intricately designed paintings and statues provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. It is one of the busiest places in the capital city, as people from all walks of life come to offer prayers and circumambulate especially in the morning and evening. It is also one popular place for holding religious ceremonies.
Next, visit the Folk Heritage Museum which has a display of traditional artifacts, a testimony of Bhutan’s material culture and living tradition. It occupies a traditional 19th century farmhouse, restored and converted into a museum in 2001.
Late afternoon, visit Tashichhodzong, the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan since 1952. The throne room of His Majesty, the King and his secretariat and office of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan, Je Khenpo are located in the dzong. Witness the flag hoisting down ceremony at the dzong in the evening.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02 : Cheri Hike and sightseeing in Thimphu
After breakfast, visit the Changangkha Lhakhang- It is a fortress like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu, south of Motithang. The temple was established in 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who came from Tibet and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The central statue here is Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) in a manifestation with 11 heads. From the courtyard of the temple, there is fascinating view of the Thimphu valley.
After lunch, we will visit the weekend market where the locals come to do their weekly shopping. This will be one of the highlights of your trip as you observe the Bhutanese people’s culture and life styles. Later we will make a stop at the Centenary Park where the walking Buddha resides; the entire statue was built by Thai workers who specifically came to Bhutan to build the statue. It stands at 45 feet tall.
Then, visit the Institute of Zorig Chusum (Painting School) where the 13 traditional arts and crafts are still kept alive. Students here receive training for six years on thangka painting, slate curving, tailoring, stone carving, embroidery, etc. Upon completion of the training, they either find employment in the government or the private sector and some even start their own arts and crafts enterprises. If you are interested to avail some students made products, they are available for sale.
Next, take a ride to the Buddha Point (Kuenselphodrang), where the tallest Buddha statue, which is 161 ft and still under construction and enjoy the view of southern parts of Thimphu valley.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Travel to Punakha (71 km / approximately 2½ hours) and sightseeing in Punakha.
Today, cross over the Dochu La Pass, located above 10,000 ft on your way to Punakha, a journey towards east.
Dochu La pass offers visitors with a first glimpse of the Himalayas. The pass houses the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens (Stupas) and Druk Wangyal Lhakhang built for world peace.
The road from Dochula descends via Lamperi Botanical Park through pine forests, blooming rhododendrons, and beautiful terraced rice fields and the vegetation can vary from sub alpine to sub-tropical when you reach Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. The road to Punakha branches off left and curls its way down the valley before reaching Punakha. Next, visit the Punakha Dzong in the afternoon.
Punakha remained the old capital of Bhutan for almost 300 years. The third king of Bhutan shifted the capital to Thimphu in 1953. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung in 1637 and is located between two rivers – the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). It terms of architecture it is widely believed to be a master piece. People believe that deities of the area helped Zhabdrung in the construction of the fortress during nights. It houses the district administration and serves as the winter residence for the Thimphu central monastic body.
Bhutan’s first king was crowned at the dzong on 17th December 1907. The royal weddings of the fourth and the present kings were held here in October 1988 and October 2011. The annual festival dedicated to the protecting deities of Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali) is held within the dzong in March-April according to the lunar calendar.
A glacial lake outburst in the north of Punakha in 1994 heavily destroyed some parts of the structure but has been rebuilt to its original grandeur. No sacred relics were lost during the flood. Overnight stay at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 04: Explore Punakha and travel to Paro ( 135 km, approximately 3½ hours)
After early breakfast, drive to Paro. Enroute, take a hike to Chimi Lhakhang (“Temple of Fertility”). The temple was built by a cousin of Lama Drukpa Kunlay, the Divine Madman who was generally known for his eccentric behavior but a famous Buddhist teacher.
The monastery stands for power of fertility and people in and around Bhutan who do not have a child come for offering prayers and receive blessings. There was a report that a couple from New York visited the site and they have been blessed with a child. Monastery is located 20 minutes walk from the vehicle road point.
Upon arriving in Paro, take a 16 km drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 16km up the valley. This dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644 (in fact the dzong’s name means “victorious Bhutan”). The Dzong was used as an administrative center until 1951 when a fire caused by a butter lamp destroyed it.
En-route, visit the Paro Kyichu Lhakhang built in the 7th Century and then the Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) built in 1646 and currently houses the district administrative offices and central monastic body. The fortress name stands for “heave of jewels.” It was destroyed by the earthquake of 1897 but was restored to its original shape. An annual festival dedicated to the protecting deity of the area is held at the fortress in March/April as per the lunar calendar. During the event, a big Thangka painting (Throngdrol) is unfurled to the public for viewing and blessings and it is believed that a mere sight of it can liberate one’s soul. The Film ‘Little Buddha’ was also shot within the premises of the fortress in 1992. An archery ground is located further below the dzong and probably you might be able to witness an archery match in action. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro.
Day 05 – Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be taken to the Paro International Airport for your onward flight home. It is end of your tour!
Thank you & Tashi Delek!