Bhutan Expedition Itinerary
Duration: 8 Nights, 9 Days
Location: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Gangtey, Trongsa, Bumthang
Day 1 : Arrive at Paro AirportYour introduction to our enchanting kingdom begins on a flight over the Himalayas into the lush green valley of Paro; truly one of the world’s most spectacular sights. Flying into Paro, Bhutan is a unique experience altogether. You will view the world’s highest, most majestic peaks and enjoy the view of the approaching valley with its primeval alpine forest, monasteries, temples, and farmhouse nestled in splendid mountain isolation. Welcome greeting in a Bhutanese style with Tashi Khada (white scarf) by our representative & your guide at the Airport. You will be driven to the hotel for refreshment and a brief discussion on your tour program. (Please note; your itinerary shall be flexible and your guide shall give you options based on your interest)
Paro Sights & Thimphu “City Tour”Drive on the river bank of Paro to the wooden bridge below the Paro Dzong. This is the bridge where the popular Hollywood movie “Little Buddha was shot. You hike up from this point to the Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses to the Dzong. Today, this massive fortress built in 1645 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower( Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. Visit the oldest temple of the kingdom, Kichu Lhakhang. This temple was built in 629 AD by a Tibetan king to pin down a giant demon. After tea, take a walk around the peaceful town of Paro and head to Thimphu via the winding river of Pachu & Wangchu (53km/ 105hr). Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. It is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. Most of the houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style. After checking in Hotel; take a walk around the streets of Thimphu and interact with the locals. Overnight Thimphu. (Alt; 2320m)
Day 2: Thimphu Lifestyle & Cultural Sightseeing
Morning, drive to the animal sanctuary where the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, is found in captivity. Walk around the BBS tower which is also known as the “romantic point” and lovers often come here to look at the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley. Take a 45mins hike down to the Zilukha Nunnery. You get a nice photo opportunity from this point for Tashichhoedzong & SAARC building.
Visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. They also have on display the largest Picture Book on Bhutan in the world.
Visit the Zorig Chuksum “School for Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts” followed by a visit to some handicraft shops for a souvenir.
Take a drive to Buddha Gang for City view and on the way down circumambulate around the Memorial Stupa, built in memory of the third King of Bhutan. This is the favorite place for the locals to practice their religious devotion.
Visit the Farmer’s Weekend Market, and try some fresh organic fruits & nuts.
Visit the Tashichhoe Dzong, the main secretariat building, the office of the King and Throne room and also the house of the State Monastic Body.
Take a walk to the National Stadium, archery ground and witness an archery match played by the locals with lots of hue & cry! Archery is the national game of Bhutan and one of the best ways of expanding your public relation is by participating in it. Evening, free to walk around the town. Overnight Thimphu.
Day 3 : Trongsa Safari (207km/ 7.5hr)
The journey will take you across Dochu La pass (3150m) where you can enjoy the spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountain ranges. Take a walk around the 108 stupas which decorates the pass. Also, visit the Drukwangyel Lhakhang built by the four Queens as a tribute to the fourth king of Bhutan.
After lunch, the journey will further take you across Pele La pass (3,300m), which is marked by a chorten and an array of prayer flags. On a clear day, you can get spectacular views of the highest peaks of the kingdom and it is quite common to spot some yaks and yak herders on this pass. This point marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. You will spot a few animals & birds along the journey. Stop as and when you want to take pictures.
Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. You’ll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. As you drive down through rhododendron trees and ferns, you’ll reach Chendebji village. This was a night halt for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reign of the 2nd King of Bhutan. Just below Chendebji village is the Chendebji chorten, a large white structure beside a stream. This chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.
The last village before you reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which provides a full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive roof. Trongsa Dzong, built in 1645, is a vast, white fortress that appears to grow directly up from the narrow green ridge on which it is constructed. It is one of the most powerful Dzongs and even today the crown prince of Bhutan must first become its Trongsa Penlop (governor) before he can become Bhutan’s King. On arrival visit Trongsa Dzong and the ancient Watch Tower which now has been turned into a historical museum. The tower offers a lovely view of the surrounding village. In the evening, walk around the sloppy town of Trongsa. Overnight Trongsa. (Alt; 2180m)
Day 4: Landscape Tour to Bumthang (68km/ 3hr)
After breakfast, to Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This journey will take you over one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan via the Yotong La pass (3425m), which is also the habitat for the Satyr peasant. Good for photography.
As you enter the Chhume Valley (the first of the four valleys that comprise the Bumthang Valley) you can visit a center of Yathra weaving. Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout the country.
On arrival check in resort and get some rest. Visit the historical Jakar Dzong. It is probably one of the biggest Dzongs in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about 1 km in circumference. Visit the Kherchu Draktsang, a monastery on the western slope of Bumthang valley. This monastery is one of the biggest Buddhist colleges of the kingdom and home to the reincarnation himself. This point offers a great view of the Bumthang valley and its town. (Bumthang had been named “the little Switzerland of Asia” by many travelers. Wait here to catch the golden hour while the sun sets gently. In the evening, stroll down from the monastery to the river bank and walk around Bumthang’s local town and experience their serene lifestyle. Overnight Bumthang. (Alt; 2580m)
Day 5: Bumthang “the Spiritual Sojourn”
In the morning, take an easy hike through the ancient and important pilgrims such as Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Tamshing & Pema Samba Lhakhang. (These temples have many mythical stories linked to its origin and some of them date back as early as 7th century. Your guide will unfold its mystery as you visit these holy sites).
Drive to Menbar Tsho (the burning lake). This holy lake is located about 20km from the town. When the locals visit this lake they tie a coin inside a white scarf, make a wish and offer it to the lake. It is believed someday your wish will be fulfilled.
Evening, take a walk in the remote valley of Bumthang and interact with the villagers. Overnight Bumthang. (Alt; 2580m)
Day 6 : Gangtey Rural Expedition (148km/ 5.5hr)
On rise, drive to Phobjikha through different vegetation of alpine, subtropical and glacial. Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the northwestern tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Goenpa that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjikha valley. According to a legend that the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson ( the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613. The Phobjikha valley is also one of the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its northern habitats in Tibet and Siberia to these grounds.
On arrival, embark on a Gangtey Nature Trail Hike through the Blue Pine forest to the village farmhouse. Try traditional Bhutanese snacks made from corn and rice with homemade wine. Overnight Phobjikha. (Alt;2900m)
Day 7: Discovering Wangdue & Punakha (65km/ 3hr)
At dawn, take a walk out into the calm valley of Phobjikha and enjoy the sunrise. After breakfast, visit Gangtey Goenpa while the monks will be sitting for their morning prayers. This is one of the biggest Nyingma temples of the kingdom.
On arrival, visit the classic fortress of Wangdue situated on the hilltop. There are many sacred temples hidden within its ancient structure and your guide will take you to some of the main shrine rooms for blessings.
Drive to Punakha, which is the former winter Capital of Bhutan and now It’s the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. Visit Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness.” It hosts the administrative seat of the district. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female river. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned. This ancient fortress is considered to be one of the most beautiful by many. Take a walk on the long suspension bridge atop the Male river, behind the fortress.
Evening, hike to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is called the Temple of Fertility as it is believed that childless couples who come here to pray for a child are usually blessed with a child. This is the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman.” The trail takes you through the Himalayan paddy fields and a small village called Lobesa. Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue. (Alt; 1240m)
Day 8: Quest for Mystical Taktsang
After a wholesome breakfast, drive to Paro. On arrival check in resort and prepare for the hike. Drive to Satsam chorten (stupa) and then spend the day hiking up the forested path to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s most famous and scenic icon. The climb is steep and takes about 4 hours round trip. An important place of pilgrimage and refuge for more than 1200 years, Taktsang Monastery clings to sheer cliffs two-thousand feet above Paro Valley, and from your closest vantage point on a rocky ledge directly across from it, you will still need 200-300 mm lenses and a steady tripod to get tight photographs.
This sacred place got its name when Guru Rinpoche rode there on the back of a flying tiger and meditated in a cave behind the present-day monastery. Sadly, in 1998, the central temple was destroyed by fire, leaving the country in mourning for their holiest of spiritual places. But religious leaders and the King quickly developed a plan to rebuild Taktsang and donations started pouring in from Buddhist centers all over the world, and today, the magnificently rebuilt exterior is complete. Tiger’s Nest is once again the subject of cloud-shrouded posters that say, “Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Picnic lunch on the hillside cafeteria.
The special permit will be arranged for you to enter the Tiger’s Nest monastery but you will not be allowed to take pictures of the inside shrines.
Evening, visit a typical village home for a traditional Bhutanese style dinner accompanied by the local liquor called “Ara” (tastes somewhat like the Japanese Sake) & yak meat. Then luxuriate in the Bhutanese equivalent of a Jacuzzi called a “Chu Tse.” River rocks are heated and dunked into a large wooden tub with herbs. This type of bath is considered to have medicinal properties of healing. Overnight Paro.
Day 9 : Departure
Our representative will bid you farewell at the Airport. Tashi Delek!