Special Tour

DAY 1: Paro (2250 m)

Paro Cultural Tour should always start with a casual browse through the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) of the Rinpung Dzong, where an intriguing collection of artifacts serves as a great introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short stroll below lies the dominating Paro Dzong, a premier example of Bhutan?s architecture. From the Dzong, a leisurely walk back into town crosses the scenic Nyamai Azmpa, a unique model of Bhutan?s traditional cantilever bridge. Continue to the town temples, Tshongdue Lhakhang and Drukchholing Lhakhang, with its fascinating altar and paintings. The wall paintings and unique design of Dungtse Lhakhang plus a visit to the revered Kyichu Lhakhang, which pins down the left foot of a treacherous Ogress, are a great finish to this day of cultural immersion. Book this experience

The National Museum

The National Museum boasts a rich variety of exhibits collected from all over the country and belonging to different eras, some as early as 2000 B.C. A visit through the galleries shows the country?s transition from the later Stone Age to a modern Mahayanist Buddhist kingdom.

Paro Dzong

Paro Dzong, built to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of a heap of jewels’. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom, dating back to the 7th century when the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and to spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries which were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. Paro offers several attractive opportunities for shopping and experiencing the local fare. Among them, Cane and Jewels should be the first stop if you are interested in some genuine antiques and the Vajrayana Art Gallery offers an interesting collection of contemporary Bhutanese paintings. On the way you could stop at Sonam Trophel for tea and momos. The Glass House Bar at the Gangtey Palace offers the best views of the Punakha Dzong over an evening drink.

Overnight at a hotel/resort in paro

Day 2: PARO (2250 m) - THIMPHU (2300 m) Approx 1hr drive 65 KM

Visit to Cheri Monastery – Hiking

A 20-minute drive from Thimphu, takes you to the starting point for the walk to Cheri Monastery, which is believed to have been visited by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. After crossing a bridge, the main trail to Cheri zigzags upwards to a chorten. Remember to pass the Chorten in clock-wise direction as a sign of respect. Shortly after passing a few buildings, you will see the temple on your left. Sometimes you might spot goral (wild goat) jumping around the cliffs nearby. Cheri is considered very sacred as it contains the remains of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Zhabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built it in 1620 in memory of his father. Parts were later converted to a nunnery and still today a few nuns live here.

Time: Hike to Cheri – 1 - 2 hours round trip (2.7 km return, 330 m climb), Difficulty level – Moderate

Along this hike to Cheri Monastery we may spot the following birds:

1. Spotted Laughing Trush
2. Fire Capped Tit
3. Golden Breasted Fulvetta.
4. Yellow Backed Flower Packer
5. Maroon Backed Accentor
overnight at a hotel/resort in thimphu

DAY 3: THIMPHU (2300 m)- punakha (1310M) Approx 3hr drive 65 KM

Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

Birding on the way to PUNAKHA

En-route to Punakha – Dochula and Lampari Botanical Park): The pristine forests of hemlock, fir, oak, magnolia, and rhododendrons offer a wealth of birds. Birding is along the highway and on forest trails. A full day en route to Punakha is required for birding in this area. Along with others highlight could include:

Endemic Wards Trogon and Wood Snipe if lucky.
Fire Capped Tit
Fire- tailed Myzornis
Rufous woodpecker
Striated laughing thrush.
Eurasian Jay
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon.
Tashithang area

Yellow Vented Warbler
Pallas fish Eagle
White bellied Heron
Kalij pheasant
Crested kingfisher
Slaty-backed Forktail
Spangled Drongo
Spotted wren Babbler
Slender-billed scimitar Babbler
Nepal Fulvetta

DAY 4: punakha (1310M) – Pelela (3400M)- Trongsa (2200M) Approx 5hr drive 142 KM

On the way to Trongsa valley, you travel through exquisite, mixed broad-leafed forests, evergreen forests of mixed conifers, rhododendrons and magnolias till you reach the Pelela Pass (3400m.) mak6 several stops and do birding.Descending Pelela Pass, you enter the temperate alpine forests and meadows. In this environment amongst others you can chance upon:

Great Parrot Bill
Spotted laughing trush
Brown Parrot Bill
Common Buzzard
Accentors
Trongsa (2200M)

Bhutan Laughing Thush (endemic to Bhutan, recently discovered)
SpottedForktail
Bush chats
Bush warblers
Crested serpent Eagle
Overnight at a hotel/resort in Trongsa

Day 5: Trongsa (2200M) – Yotongla (3520m) Bumthang (2700M) Approx 3hr drive 68 KM

Yotongla Area 3520m

The scenic drive crosses over the 3520m high Yotong la, and is studded with Gompas and villages. The habitat at Yotungla Pass consists of Hemlock and Blue Pines with dense impenetrable dwarf bamboo thickets. Aside from:

White-winged Grosbeaks

White-browed Rose finch
Fire-tailed Sunbird
White-browed Scimitabr Babbler
Mrs. Gould Sunbird, Red-tailed and Chestnut-tailed Minlas
Ibis bill.
Hot breakfast and lunch will be served by the camping crew on the way.

Overnight at a hotel/resort in bumthang

Day 6: Bumthang (2700M)

Bumthang experiences

We will then visit the auspecious Jampa Lhakhang.The monastery is believed to have been built in the year 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro, in order to subdue a Tibetan demoness. It was here that Guru Rinpoche conducted the first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sindhu Raja, the local ruler and his family. The place where Guru Rinpoche sat during the sermon can still be seen. Every year in October, the temple hosts a spectacular festival, the Jampa Lhakhang Drup. Two of the main attractions are the fire dance and the treasure dance or ‘naked dance’, and the fertility blessings for women.

And later we will visit Kurjey Lhakhang. The monastery is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche who was invited to meditate here in 746 AD to subdue evil spirits and demons. There are three temples; the oldest temple was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The body imprint of the great master can be seen distinctly in the rock cave enshrined in the temple. The second was built in 1900 by the first King when he was still the Governor of Trongsa. The third temple was built in 1990 with the support of the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang. A wall of 108 chortens surrounds the temple grounds and symbolizes Buddha’s victory over the evil spirits. The Cypress tree which is seen near the temple is believed to have grown from the Guru’s walking stick. After the visit we will take a short walk to the Kurjey Drupchhu (holy water). During the 8th century Sindhu Raja, the King of Chakhar invited Guru Padhma Sambawa from Yangleyshey in Nepal (meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche) to cure his prolonged illness. The Guru meditated at the present Guru Lhakhang and subdued the Demon of Dragmar Dorji Tsegpa, known as Shelging Karpo, responsible for the sickness of the Raja. Drupchhu was made available at the end of Guru’s meditation with his spiritual power to celebrate the victory over the Demon and to cure the illness of the King. Therefore it is believed that this water is holy and cures all our sins and illnesses. In the afternoon, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang (temple of good message) The monastery is located in a village across the river from Kurjey. It was built by Pema Lingpa in 1501 and is the most important Nyingma Lhakhang in the Kingdom. Being a skilled tantric master and an artist, Pema Lingpa sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in original state. He also created a 25 kg suit of chain-mail armour and it is believed that you will be freed from your sins if you carry it around the lhakhang three times.

Bumthang Farmhouse Lunch

If you wish to experience not just traditional Bhutanese food in authentic surroundings, but also Bumthang specialties made from local products such as buckwheat, we would like to take you for a very different lunch experience. The family you will visit has cooked for the Royal family for generations, and their idyllic farmhouse is located in Dorjibi village nearby the river further into Choekhor Valley. By the time you arrive at their house, the lady of the house, will have spent the entire morning preparing a range of local dishes, including some of the Royal family’s favorites for you to enjoy along with a taste of their home made local wine, ara.

Time: 20 minute drive to the farmhouse in Dorjibi (or 50 minute bike ride)

Candle-lit Bhutanese Farmhouse Dinner

If you are celebrating a special occasion and wish to experience a more authentic way to explore Bhutanese cuisine, then let us arrange an out of the ordinary evening for you out. Whereas lunch in a farmhouse is served in the kitchen, the dining room is used on special evenings. Sit back in the majestic wooden chairs, and enjoy each other’s company in the flickering candlelight. On arrival you will be served freshly brewed ngaja accompanied with homemade tsho, zowh and sip. The meal will be made up of a symphony of local dishes, all prepared with fresh ingredients and each with a distinct character. To extend the evening further, a pot of heated ara with butter will be served at the end of the meal to be enjoyed in the peaceful surroundings.

We will be happy to discuss the drink menu to accompany your farmhouse meal.

OVERNIGHT AT a hotel/resort in bumthang

Day 7: Bumthang (2700M) – Wangduephodrang (1300m) Approx 8hr drive 210KM

The way back towards Wangduephodrang brings you through the same road, we will continue birding where ever we sopt the birds.

Overnight in a hotel/resort in wangduephodrang

Day 8: Wangduephodrang (1300m) – Paro (2250 m)

Birding along the way to Paro.

Paro Dzong

Paro Dzong, built to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of a heap of jewels’. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.

Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom, dating back to the 7th century when the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and to spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries which were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. Paro offers several attractive opportunities for shopping and experiencing the local fare. Among them, Cane and Jewels should be the first stop if you are interested in some genuine antiques and the Vajrayana Art Gallery offers an interesting collection of contemporary Bhutanese paintings. On the way you could stop at Sonam Trophel for tea and momos. The Glass House Bar at the Gangtey Palace offers the best views of the Punakha Dzong over an evening drink.

Overnight at the hotel/resort in paro

Day 9: Departure Paro

We offer Bhutan honeymoon packages of which share the following attractions included in your package:

. Assistance with all visa formalities for both of you including procuring the two visas on your behalf

. Personalized welcome at the airport

. Assistance with airport immigration and customs

. Hotel transfer

. Welcome drink upon arrival at the hotel

. Hotel stay

. Breakfast, lunch and dinner

. Tea, coffee and snacks at appointed intervals

. Sight-seeing in a private chauffeur-driven automobile

. Shopping trips organized at your convenience

. Lots of privacy and classy comfort

Details as follows

Day 1:

The Honeymooners arrive at Paro International Airport

Your true Bhutan experience, in a real sense, commences not when you touch down at Paro International Airport but when you begin to approach Bhutan air space. The sheer beauty of the Himalayan range with its immaculate and majestic snow-peaked tops is a sight to behold even for the uninitiated. Once both of you arrive at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted very cordially by an English-speaking/professional linguistic representative from Bhutan New Creation Tours and Treks Agency who will help you negotiate customs and immigration formalities. Your tour representative is also your tour host, guide and Good Man Friday. It goes without saying that all services will be provided from a safe and comfortable distance.

Unlike some of the really busy airports you have probably seen in the past, the Paro International Airport is relatively quiet, much less crowded and functions with clockwork precision. Your tour representative will drive you to the Taj Tashi Hotel in Thimphu, the exquisite five star hotels in Bhutan where quality is the standard default. The class facility where luxury is always the order of the day is very popular with those on a royal Bhutan honeymoon package. After all, we don't call this honeymoon tour Crowned Prince for any reason. After a round of welcome drinks and an opportunity to settle in comfortably at Taj Tashi, you are all set to begin your enchanting Bhutan honeymoon.

Bhutan National Museum

Your only stop for the day is the Bhutan National Museum. Enjoy a rare collection of Bhutanese art, crafts, paintings and sculptures from a by-gone era carefully preserved for posterity. The museum also holds an impressive collection of ancient folk art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, rare postage stamps, exquisite artifacts, coins and handicrafts and a small natural history collection. The museum is especially famous for the amazing range of colors and shades used in the fabrics on display many of which probably don't even have a name.

Once both of you visit the National Museum, you are free to wander leisurely around Thimphu by yourselves until dinner time. Visit the markets, parks and the traditional outdoor cafes Thimphu is so famous for especially among those who are here for a Bhutan honeymoon. Our chauffeur-driven travel agency car will address all your transportation needs and will bring you back to your hotel well in time for a sumptuous buffet dinner.

Day 2:

The Newly Weds in Thimphu

King's Memorial

The next day, after a delectable leisurely breakfast of Bhutan's choicest breakfast delicacies plus the traditional continental fare for which Taj Tashi is famous, you will visit the King's Memorial. The monument was built in memory of the third king of Bhutan who reigned for three decades from 1952-1972. This monument is a favorite for Bhutan honeymoon vacationers because of the numerous photo opts it offers. So be sure to bring your camera along on your Bhutan honeymoon. We have made special arrangements for both of you to be photographed together not just at the Memorial but at every attraction you visit during your Bhutan honeymoon tour.

Dupthop Lhakhang and Changankha Monastery

You will next visit Dupthop Lhakhang, a place of spirituality and worship for Bhutanese nuns. Dupthop Lhakhang is among a handful of nunneries in the region and the experience is rather solemn and unique. Watch the Buddhist nuns as they remain engrossed in prayer and meditation.

The Changankha Monastery was built in the fifteenth century AD by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo. All the new-born babies of Thimphu and other parts of the country are taken here to receive holy blessings from the chief High Lama.

Bhutan Mini Zoo

You will next go out on a very short visit to the Bhutan Mini Zoo, where you will be greeted by Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. We are absolutely sure that you have never seen this animal before because the Takin is both native and exclusive to this region. The Takin lives only on the Himalayan slopes. Its head looks like that of a goat and the body resembles that of a cow or yak. There are other animals in the zoo that are unique to Bhutan and your tour guide will tell you about them. Great photo opps here!

Trashicho Dzong

You will next visit the Trashicho Dzong also known as the Fortress of the Glorious Religion. Initially built in 1641 AD and later remodeled by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965, the Dzong is the home of the main secretariat of the Government. The throne of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan, is situated here. The National Assembly Hall is in a modern structure on the other side of the river. During summer, the main monk group led by His Holiness, the Je Khenpo, resides in the Dzong.

Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory

Both of you will surely need to take back lots of presents and mementos to your respective families after your Bhutan honeymoon vacation so the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory is the perfect stop. Come and see how Bhutan protects its environment through long-term sustainability. Paper products are manufactured from mulberry plant bark called "daphne" in the local language. This factory manufactures a special watermark paper as well as products such as lampshades, envelopes and other objects made of traditional Bhutanese paper. They make great gifts to take home with you and are genuinely unique. It is not just the texture of these handmade paper products that will intrigue you, but also their unique earth tones and natural hews.

After your day of exploring and sightseeing in the nation's capital, you will return to Taj Tashi in good time for dinner and a good night's rest. After all, your next day, like every other day you will spend in Bhutan, is meant to be exciting and full of delights and sensations-precisely what a Bhutan honeymoon is all about.

Day 3:

More Sight-seeing In Thimphu

Textile Museum and Folk Heritage museum

You are all set to depart after breakfast. The Bhutan Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage museum are your first two stops. Learn first-hand about Bhutan's rich cultural traditions, its deeply rooted heritage which spans thousands of years and the Bhutanese way of life.

The two museums were open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. These treasure troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. You should take the time to visit not one but both the museums during your stay in Thimphu. Your trip to both museums will take only a few hours. We have scheduled your visit during the morning hours since the museums are less crowded at that time and there is plenty of sunlight to go around.

Handicraft shops

A wide assortment of colorful, hand-woven textiles and other craft products are available for purchase at the government-run Handicraft Emporium and several smaller craft shops around the town. You can purchase exquisite hand-woven fabric in a million colors and decorations for your living room. After all, you will need new furnishings to make a new start in life and nothing beats Bhutanese furnishings. Your Bhutan honeymoon is the perfect time to think, plan and dream. The agency car will take you around for a leisurely bout of exploration and local transport will never be a matter of concern for the two of you.

Simtokha Dzong

The Simtokha Dzong is your next stop. Simtokha Dzong is the oldest and the most secure fortress in Bhutan. It offers you an amazing backdrop to take pictures. Not to worry, there will be plenty of folks on hand to click the two of you together to help you preserve a bundle of memories.

Sangay gang

If you are up to it, we will take you to Sangay gang. Enjoy a stunning view of the sun set from Sangay Gang which is your next stop. You will drive down to Sangay Gang View Point which is approximately 2685 meters above sea level. The entire Thimphu Valley is visible from here. This is a spectacular place to take pictures and that's one thing you can say about all of Bhutan for sure.

Enjoy a full-course buffet dinner at Taj Tashi and some little "me" time in the evening. Feel free to go out on your own since Bhutan is a very safe country for everyone including tourists.

Day 4:

The Bhutan Honeymooners drive to Punakha!

Druk Wangyal Chorten (108 Stupas)

Your Bhutan honeymoon vacation package is now in full swing as you check out of Taj Tashi and leave Thimphu for Punakha after breakfast. You will go through the Dochula Pass which is an experience in itself. Situated high among the mountains, the pass is the primary conduit that connects the two points.

Your first destination of the day, the 108 Bhutanese Stupas, is revered by the people of the land as an emblem of religious sanctity. Notice their architectural beauty and the manner in which they have weathered the four seasons over the years. If the weather decides to cooperate, you can admire the glory of the snow-capped Himalayan Ranges from this vantage point.

Punakha Dzong

After the stupas, the two of you will drive to Punakha to visit the Punakha Dzong. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It continues to remain the winter seat of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. The city enjoys a temperate climate and is extremely popular with newly wed couples on a Bhutan honeymoon.

The valley of Punakha is considered to be the most fertile agricultural terrain in the country. It offers spectacular views from the Dochu-la pass which you have crossed earlier in the day and is 3,088 m/10,130 ft above sea level on the Thimphu - Punakha highway.

Punakha Dzong is situated near two rivers-- the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River.) Even rivers in Bhutan celebrate an eternal never-ending honeymoon and so a Bhutan honeymoon experience is bound to be the perfect honeymoon for you! The Dzong is one of the largest Dzongs in Bhutan. Take the suspension bridge to arrive at the Dzong. Punakha Dzong was initially called Druk Pungthang or Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness), for many years until the second king of Bhutan assumed power. Punakha Dzong happened to be the seat of the Government for a long time. The booty seized during the various wars with Tibet are carefully preserved at Punakha Dzong. Punakha continues to serve as the winter residence of Je-Khenpo, the country's spiritual leader. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk convened the National Assembly here in 1952.

ChimiLhakhang

We will next take you on a short and easy evening hike to Chimi Lhakhang, one of Bhutan's most famous monasteries. It was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in 15th century AD. It is dedicated to Drukpa Kinley who is also known as the Divine Madman. The spiritual leader inherited the accolade since he revolted against the principles of orthodox Buddhism.

You will be staying at the Royal Living Hotel in Punakha and you will return to your hotel in the evening well in time for a quick session of "us" time serenaded with a little dose of the bubblies. Dinner will also await you at the hotel and will be served to you in true Bhutan honeymoon style!

Day 5:

Punakha - Wangdue - Paro

Wangdue Dzong

After a laid back morning breakfast, a short drive to Wangdue takes you to the Wangdue Dzong. It was founded by Zhandrung in 1639 AD and is located on a hill which overlooks the valley. The view leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Folk lore has it that Bhutan's protective deity, Yeshey Gonpo told Zhabdrug Rimpoche that if he would construct a dzong on this remote ridge, he would be able to rule the nation. The word "Wangdue" means "to bring under one's power."

You can either relax in your hotel in the afternoon or visit the local markets for a quick round of window shopping before you drive to Paro in the evening. Wander around the town at your own pace. Meet the friendly shop owners many of whom speak English and trade stories with them. This is the perfect time to shop for gifts for both families and haggle for the right price.

Once you arrive in Paro, you will check in at Hotel Uma Paro, an elegant and exquisitely appointed five star hotel in Paro. You have two more fun-filled days during your Bhutan honeymoon package.

Day 6

The Bhutan Honeymoon Couple Explores Paro

Hike to Taktshang Monastery

(Tiger Nest)

Your call of the day after a sumptuous breakfast is the Taktshang monastery. It can be called "the Tiger's Lair" when translated. The short and extremely easy trek to the monastery passes through a dense pine forest. You can hear the insects chirp as you pass along the clearly marked and maintained pathway. You will stop at a traditional Bhutanese cafeteria for rest and refreshments royal Bhutanese style. You will then continue the hike till you arrive at the ruins of the ancient Taktshang monastery. This abode of traditional Buddhist religious prayer and worship was built in the 17th century AD. It literally hangs from the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. According to a legend, Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, came to Bhutan from India flying on a tiger.

You and your significant other will have Lunch and refreshments at the cafeteria adjacent to the monument. Take in the amazing views of Bhutan's majestic peaks and valleys as you enjoy your meal. If you wish, your tour guide can arrange for a pony for you at a nominal expense. The pony ride is very safe and an experience in itself. You will return to your hotel and if you like, you can surely go out for a quick spin around town and stop by at a restaurant for coffee. Many Bhutan honeymoon couples say that they really enjoy these strolls around the quaint and dainty markets which, in essence, characterize the true spirit of Bhutanese life and culture. We will get you back to your hotel in good time for a full course meal. Cocktails are available at all the three hotels in which you will stay for a very attractive price.

Day 7:

DEPARTURE

Like all good things, your Bhutan honeymoon vacation will come to an end. We will be sad to see you go but we know you will come back again because Bhutan has more to offer to you. And hopefully, you will bring your family and a few friends with you the next time you arrive. The entire travel team at Bhutan Travel Agency is standing by to assist you with your hotel check-out and departure formalities. Memories are meant to be made and preserved for posterity and your Bhutan honeymoon package is certainly no exception.

TASHI DELEK

DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU

The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport exit doors following customs formalities.

After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hours) following the Pachu River. Before dinner at the hotel there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 02: THIMPHU

After breakfast, drive to Tashichhodzong to attend the Thimphu festival. You will see locals dressed in their finest clothes who have walked from miles around to attend the festivities. They come to watch masked dances, to pray, and to feast. While the underlying purpose of the festival is spiritual, dances are more often like plays, telling stories where good triumphs over evil, or depicting significant historical events, especially surrounding the life of Bhutan’s patron saint, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche). There is inevitably a great deal of socialising as well.

Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’. Initially erected in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 03: THIMPHU

Enjoy a morning of sightseeing, including a visit to 12th century Changangkha Temple, the Zilukha Nunnery and the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernisation, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972.

In the afternoon return to Tashichhodzong to further experience the colourful events of the Thimphu festival. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA

Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. The inside walls are covered with elaborate murals depicting the teaching of the Buddha. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.

DAY 5: PUNAKHA

After breakfast enjoy a short hike through ricefields up to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.

Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before an excursion to visit 15th century Chimi Lhakhang, temple of Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism of his time. He is considered a symbol of fertility and many childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.

DAY 06: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA

Transfer to Trongsa (6 hrs). Drive via the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang. Drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests and over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. Further down the road stop to visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten. It is built in a style unusual for Bhutan, with painted eyes facing the four directions. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road.

On arrival, enjoy some relaxation time before visiting Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa is the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th Century and there are now 22 temples in the complex. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the impressive landscape for many miles. In the old days, it was the vigilance point for both the eastern and western trade routes, thus a strategically important Dzong. Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.

DAY 07: TRONGSA – BUMTHANG

Following breakfast visit the Ta Dzong museum located on the hill overlooking the Trongsa Dzong. The museums main focus is on the history of the monarchy, and is dedicated to the coronation and centenary celebrations of the Bhutanese monarchy with very rare and precious artefacts on display. These include statues built in the 17th century, to the first King’s Namza (dress), the Raven Crown and Sword of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal and the 3rd King.

Afterwards, proceed to Bumthang (2.5 hrs), one the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the spiritual and historical heartland of the country. The road winds steeply up to Yo Yutung La Pass (3,400m) before descending down through dense coniferous forest to Chummey valley. From here it is about an hour to Jakar, Bumthang’s main township.

Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. The beautiful architecture unique to Bhutan is evident in the many large farmhouses and temples. Bumthang is associated with Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and with Terton Pemalingpa.

After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong, also known as ‘Fortress of the White Bird’. It was founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung. The Dzong was initially built as a Monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.

DAY 8: BUMTHANG (ATTEND TANGBI MANI)

Transfer to the remote Tangbi Mani village for the day by vehicle and a 45 minute walk. Spend the day viewing the Tangbi Mani Festival in an enchanting rural atmosphere. You will be captivated by the dances and costumed performances accompanied by clapping cymbals, drums, horn and the unforgettable chanting of Buddhist monks. Watch on as the dancers whirl their array of colourful brocades through the air, play local games and stroll handicraft stalls, explore around the village and visit locals at their homes. In the afternoon transfer back to Jakar. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

DAY 9: BUMTHANG

Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Bumthang beginning with Jampey Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen in the 7th Century. It was here that Guru Rimpoche conducted his first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sendha, the local ruler, his family and subjects. Continue on to Kurjey Lhakhang, famous for a rock within one of the temples that features a body imprint of the great master Guru Rimpoche. The big cypress tree in the temple grounds is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rimpoche.

Afterwards visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the seat of Bumthang’s famous son, saint Pema Lingpa. He built it himself in 1501. A skilled tantric master and artist, he sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, some of Bhutan’s oldest which can still be seen even today, mostly in their original state. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumambulate the inner sanctum to cleanse sins. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

DAY 10: BUMTHANG – GANGTEY (PHOBJIKHA VALLEY)

Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan. The wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.

DAY 11: GANGTEY (PHOBJIKHA VALLEY) – THIMPHU

Morning visit to view the Black-Necked Cranes (winter only) before departing for Thimphu (approx 6 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley before climbing up over Dochu La Pass and into Thimphu. Remainder of day at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 12: THIMPHU – PARO

After breakfast enjoy a morning hike to Tango Monastery (approx. 1 hr walk). Tango Monastery is a higher education institute for Buddhist monks built there in the 15th century by Drukpa Kunley (‘The Divine Madman’). Like many Bhutanese monasteries, Tango was built over a cave where meditation and miracles were said to take place. The monastery has no less than twelve corners and, it is said, was built in only two months – including the six temples within. On a clear day, the views of the surrounding valley and hills is amazing.

In the afternoon continue sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the School for Arts and Crafts, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum. Afterwards transfer to Paro for overnight.

DAY 13: PARO

After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments before returning to Paro for lunch.

In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, built to commemorate a victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

Alternatively, day 13 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterised by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

DAY 14: DEPART PARO

Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.

DAY 1: ARRIVE PARO (2250 m)

The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport.

The National Museum

The National Museum boasts a rich variety of exhibits collected from all over the country and belonging to different eras, some as early as 2000 B.C. A visit through the galleries shows the country?s transition from the later Stone Age to a modern Mahayanist Buddhist kingdom.

Paro Dzong

Paro Dzong, built to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of a heap of jewels’. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.

Kyichu Lhakhang

is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom, dating back to the 7th century when the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and to spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries which were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. Paro offers several attractive opportunities for shopping and experiencing the local fare. Among them, Cane and Jewels should be the first stop if you are interested in some genuine antiques and the Vajrayana Art Gallery offers an interesting collection of contemporary Bhutanese paintings. On the way you could stop at Sonam Trophel for tea and momos. The Glass House Bar at the Gangtey Palace offers the best views of the Dzong over an evening drink.

DAY 2: PARO (2250 m) - THIMPHU (2300 m) Approx 1hr drive 65 KM

Being the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu offers unique opportunities to explore the Bhutanese culture and traditions in depth. Whether you are interested in spirituality, Buddhism or astrology, experiencing different aspects of the local culture such as weaving, sacred paintings or the local markets, or would like to gain an insight into the abundant flora and fauna of Bhutan, we will arrange that your curiosity and interests are satisfied.

Due to the high altitude, the sun is relatively strong and we would therefore recommend you carry sunscreen whenever you are outdoors. The Bhutanese are required to wear their national dress at all times, especially when visiting monasteries or government bodies, and are proud to do so as it is a reflection of their culture and way of life. This rule does not apply to foreigners; however admission may be refused if you are wearing clothes that expose your shoulders and legs.

Because some activities, hikes and excursions require planning, we recommend that you discuss what you might be interested in doing with your guide or with one of our tour planners at least one day in advance.

Cycling in Thimphu

We invite you to see the sights of the Kingdom?s capital with us.

Seeing Thimphu from a bike is a great alternative to touring the town in a car. The bike rides described below, tour around town and end up at strategic locations in the middle of town for those who want to continue exploring by foot after the ride. The routes take you on trafficked roads; however the traffic you will experience is usually minimal compared to that of other cities in the modern world. Even on the two-lane highway, there is plenty of space for vehicles to pass, and the number of vehicles passing is low considering that you are on the most trafficked road in the country. Both routes below follow paved roads only.

OPTION 1: Short Town Loop

From the Hotel start cycling towards Zilukha Nunnery, a private goemba housing 55 nuns. As you cross the valley floor, you will pass the Indian Embassy before turning right on the old road to Lhazophakha. You will pass Trashi Chhoe Dzong on your right before continuing towards town. Trashi Chhoe Dzong is popularly known as Thimphu Dzong, and is the seat of the government and the centre of all religious affairs of the Kingdom. It houses the office of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. Bike through Chubachu roundabout and continue on the Expressway to the National Memorial Chorten. This is a Tibetan-style chorten built in 1974 in memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk who passed away in 1972. It is one of the most visible religious structures in town and for many people it is the focus of daily worship. Remember to bike around the Chorten at least once to gain merit and good luck before completing the ride in the parking area next to the Chorten.

Time: 1 – 1 hour Difficulty level – Easy

OPTION 2: Long Town Loop

From the hotel ride to Chubachu roundabout and follow the road towards the Trashi Chhoe Dzong. Cross the bridge by the Lingkhana Palace, the Palace of the 5th King, and then take the old roadway towards Lungtenphu, the army camp. In Simtokha, you can see the oldest dzong in Bhutan before continuing to Babesa, passing the Botanical Garden on the left. Shortly after, turn onto the highway to Paro and follow it all the way to the Clock Tower in the middle of town.

Time: 2 – 3 hours Difficulty level – Moderate

DAY 3: THIMPHU (2300 m)- punakha (1310M) Approx 3hr drive 65 KM

Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

Pho Chhu Biking (Department of Tourism Biking Trail)

This is the trail for those who have already covered a few miles on the top of a two-wheeler and are up for a challenging ride! The roughest part of the trail is the first section from Punakha Dzong as you start climbing on the narrow rocky pathway leading up to the top of the mountain ridge along the left part of river. When you reach the top, the narrow path continues on a steep ledge along the mountainside with a straight drop to Pho Chhu far below. There are sections in the first part of the trail where you might have to get off and push your bike. The path flattens out through peaceful forest landscape, as it gets closer down towards the riverside. Just before you reach Samdingkha, there is a nice little sandy area by the river perfect for a well-deserved break and some refreshments. Continue below Tempakha village and the rice paddies before crossing the suspension bridge taking you to the opposite side of the river back towards Khuruthang on dirt road. After crossing the Khuruthang Bridge, continue on the paved main road until you reach the dzong parking. If you still have energy left, you can continue pedaling all the way back to the Hotel / Resort

Time: Dzong – Samdingkha – Khuruthang – Dzong: 3-4 hours (18 km round trip).

Visit to Punakha Dzong

The Punakha Dzong is considered one of the most important and also one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the Kingdom. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637, and was the seat of the government every winter until Thimphu was established as the permanent capital in 1955. It is still the winter residence of the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body). Take time to admire the impressive, colourful and detailed artistry of the surroundings, including huge statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, as well as paintings of one thousand Buddha’s.

Overnight at the hotel/RESORT IN PUNAKHA

DAY 4: punakha (1310M) – PARO (2250 m) Approx 4hr drive 142 KM

Paro Cultural Tour should always start with a casual browse through the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (Watch Tower) of the Rinpung Dzong, where an intriguing collection of artifacts serves as a great introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short stroll below lies the dominating Paro Dzong, a premier example of Bhutan?s architecture. From the Dzong, a leisurely walk back into town crosses the scenic Nyamai Azmpa, a unique model of Bhutan?s traditional cantilever bridge. Continue to the town temples, Tshongdue Lhakhang and Drukchholing Lhakhang, with its fascinating altar and paintings. The wall paintings and unique design of Dungtse Lhakhang plus a visit to the revered Kyichu Lhakhang, which pins down the left foot of a treacherous Ogress, are a great finish to this day of cultural immersion.

PARO EXPERIENCES

Insight to Bhutanese Farming Traditions

Paro Valley is often known as the “rice bowl? of the Kingdom as it produces a bulk of red rice from its fertile terraced fields. Paro is also known for production of wheat, millet, potatoes, apples and seasonal vegetables, which are grown mostly on a commercial scale. To experience how farming is done without the use of machines and modern technology, we can take you to our friend?s farmhouse, where you can practice your traditional farming skills. During the month of May, you can join the locals in rice or maybe chili planting. In the autumn months of October and November, you can help harvest the season?s crops. Throughout the year, the fields need to be ploughed and a helping hand is always appreciated. Should you also wish to try Bhutanese food in authentic surroundings, the locals will proudly prepare lunch for you to give you a real taste of the local cuisine.

DAY 5: PARO (2250 m)

Dzongdrakha by Bike

Follow the 14-kilometre main road from the Drukgyel to town. Continue past the airport and take a right towards Chele La. On the way you can enjoy beautiful views of Paro Valley. The ascent to Dzongdrakha will certainly get your heart pumping as you climb turn after turn for about one hour until reaching the turn off to the temple. The last part to the temple has to be walked as it is too steep and narrow for a bike. From the turn-off, the walk to the temple and back, including a visit to the temple will take about 1 . to 2 hours. The chorten at the turn-off is a nice place to enjoy a picnic lunch before letting yourself roll down the hills and back into town where you can enjoy a well deserved beer in one of the local bars. Dzongdrakha is considered the second Tiger?s Nest. Along with the two temples Dra Karpo and Taktshang (Tiger?s Nest) it was prophesised and blessed by Guru Rinpoche on the same day in the 8th century. The beautiful temple was built in the 13th century by Lama Gyem Dorji. During the first and last day of the Paro Tshetchu, a very important relic – the temple?s hidden treasure, is displayed along with the Statue of Longevity. These temple relics were once brought out of the temple, however an unknown power instructed them to be brought back.

Time: 1 hour ride from town to the Dzongdrakha turn-off, 1 – 2 hour walk roundtrip to Dzongdrakha, 30 min ride back to town. Difficulty level – Strenuous

DAY 6: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.

The clean and clear rivers of Bhutan are one of the kingdom’s best kept open secrets. Fed by the Eastern Himalayas, the six rivers (Wang Chhu, Sunkosh, Puna Tsang Chhu, Mangde Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Dangme Chhu and their tributaries) have been scouted for kayaking and rafting. They cut through high valleys and low plains to meet up with the Brahmaputra river in India. The natural setting and the sheer variety of the rivers’ courses makes up for a unique opportunity to explore Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness. It is more than a teaser and an invitation to anyone interested in adventure travels. The rivers are plentiful with high currents and depths reaching a maximum of about five meters; at places it passes gently on and in others the rivers rage through loudly, dominating the environs. Although adventure sports and tourism are relatively recent introductions, it is gaining on in popularity. The sport offers something for everyone: There is easy rafting for beginners and hair-raising runs for the veterans. Besides the rafts and the kayaks,
Bhutanese agents also organize walking and trekking expeditions along the scenic river banks. The best time for rafting and kayaking is from March to April and November to December - src : TCB