Day 1: Arrive Paro (By Flight) – Thimpu (55 Kilometres/ 1.5 hr drive)
As you enter Paro valley, you will see the silvery Pa Chu (Paro river) meandering down the valley, the Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watch tower). On arrival, received by our representative and transfer to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan. On arrival check in at hotel.
Evening visit National Memorial Chorten: The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the Father of modern ”) and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. Overnight stay in Thimpu.
Day 2: Thimpu
After leisurely breakfast at hotel proceed to a guided tour of Thimpu.
Start with a visit of National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.
Also visit nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as or , the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of . On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
Drive towards city centre to visit Textile and : These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
Conclude sightseeing with a visit of Trashichhodzong: This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
Late afternoon or early evening before dinner time visit Handicrafts Emporium: This government-run enterprise displays a wide range of beautifully hand-woven textiles and craft products. It also carries a small collection of books on , Buddhism and Himalayan culture.
(note: National library, Museum, & Zhoring Chusum remain close on Sat, Sun and govt holidays)
Day 3: Thimpu – Punakha (75 kilometres / 3 Hrs)
After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana – finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
Later visit to Punakha Dzong, the 17th century fortress which has played important role in building up of modern followed by visit to local market. Then visit, Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, the newly built stupa.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 4: Punakha – Trongsa ( 147 Kilometres / 6 Hrs)
Morning visit Wangduephodrang Dzong, the majestic fort sitting on top of the hill at the confluence of Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers, the Dzong is town’s most visible features.
Drive across Pele-la pass (3300m/10830 ft) to Trongsa, The Pela La (pass) is marked by a large white chorten prayer flags. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo. Stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, patterned on ’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes panted at four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida from , to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
After checking into hotel proceed to visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648 it was the seat of power over central and eastern . Both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governer’) prior to ascending the throne, and the present Crown Prince now holds the post. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Also visit Ta Dzong, recently opened fort in Trongsa. The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five stories, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity. The Ta Dzong is the only structure that has been restored specifically to tribute the Wangchuck dynasty as celebrates the centenary of the Monarchy.
Day 5: Trongsa – Bumthang ( 68 Kilometres / 3 Hrs)
Morning after breakfast drive to Bumthang, over the Yutong-la pass (3,400m/ 11,155 ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass, 28 km from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley.
On arrival in Bumthang, check in at your lodge. Afternoon at leisure . Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 6: Bumthang
Explore the neighboring palace, Wangdicholing, home to the second King, and see the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Head up the valley and take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of ’s most auspicious monuments. Traveling back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by a quick visit to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits.
Day 7: Bumthang – Punakha (200 Kilometres / 7 Hrs)
After a short stroll around the town depart for the lengthy drive to Punakha along the scenic mountain highway.
Day 8: Punakha – Paro (125 Kilometres / 4 Hrs)
After descending back down from Dochu La, follow the way back up the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, before crossing through towards the north end of the valley. There is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a stroll down Paro’s .
Day 9: Paro
Morning visit Ta Dzong (Sun & Mon closed): once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as ‘s in 1968. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and ‘s exquisite postage stamps. The museum circular shape augments its varied collection displayed over several floors Afterwards, walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal , the first spiritual and temporal ruler of , the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also the venue of Paro Tshechu, held once a year in the spring.
Afternoon visit Drukgyel Dzong: This Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung
Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and was featured in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount. Chomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.
Drive a lttle further down the dzong to visit Kyichu Lakhang : It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom dating back to 7th century (the other is Jambey Lhakahng in Bumthang). The lhakhang complex is composed of two temples. The first temple was built by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and in 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, built the second temple in same original pattern.
Day 10: Paro
After leisurely breakfast go for an excursion to Taktshang Monastery (5hrs hike): It is one of the most famous of ’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.
Afternoon free for independent activities.
Day 11: Departure Paro
After leisurely breakfast transfer to the airport for flight to onward destination.