Day 1. ARRIVE PARO
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 Bhutan Travel Bureau 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. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Before dinner at the hotel there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 2. 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 an important pilgrim site for 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. Afterwards drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, and 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 3. PARO
Enjoy a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass (3900m), Haa Valley is characterised by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain and unique architecture. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 4. PARO – THIMPHU
Drive to the capital, Thimphu (1 hour). Once a rustic village sitting in a broad river valley, Thimphu is today the nation’s capital. Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, completed by the Royal Queen Mother as a memorial stupa for the Third King. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and the Zilukha Nunnery. If your visit coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5. THIMPHU
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. If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’ housing some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Other options for the day include a hike to Tango and Cheri Monasteries (45 mins), two of the most ancient monasteries in the Thimphu region. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 6. 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 the Punakha valley (3 hrs). 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 and the 108 Bhutanese Stupas, is revered by the people of the land as an emblem of religious sanctity . On your way to Punakha We will take you on a short 15 minutes 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. The monk, it is believed, was bestowed with the powers to subdue the devils with his magical thunder bolt.The monastery is also revered as a sanctum of fertility. Couples looking to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from other parts of the world visit the temple to seek blessings. Legend has it that once the religious ceremonies are performed, the couples are blessed with a child. Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, we will check in to the hotel and in the afternoon visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by the Zhabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. 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. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangdue.
Day 7. PUNAKHA – PHOBJIKHA VALLEY
We will begin our journey to Phobjikha Valley (3 hrs) via Wangduephodrang. Drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests, and over a high pass down into the picturesque Phobjikha Valley. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. After lunch visit the Phobjikha Sanctuary to view the majestic black necked cranes (Nov-Mar only) and Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), dating back to the 16th century. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 8. PHOBJIKA VALLEY – TRONGSA
The next day we start the tour over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa. Enroute visit the beautiful 18th century Chendebji Chorten. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. Visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan and the Ta Dzong museum housing a collection of historical artefacts of the Royal Family. Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.
Day 9. TRONGSA – BUMTHANG
After breakfast we will proceed towards Bumthang (2.5 hrs), the spiritual heart of the kingdom. Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries. On arrival, visit Jakar Dzong (Dzong of the White Bird) and 16th century Tamshing Lhakhang containing ancient Buddhist wall paintings. After lunch visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom and 7th Century Jambay Lhakhang. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.
Day 10. BUMTHANG
Enjoy a day exploring some of the many sites around Bumthang, including the 16th century Tang Ugyen Chholing Palace museum containing an overview of traditional rural life in Bhutan and the pool of Mebartso (The Lake of Fire) where Pemalingpa (founder of the Nyingmapa sect) is said to have found treasure hidden by Guru Rinpoche. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.
Day 11. BUMTHANG – MONGAR
The journey to Mongar takes about 6 hours with spectacular views en route. Drive through Ura village before climbing sharply to the highest point on Bhutan’s road network, Thrumsing-La Pass (4,000m). From here, the road gradually passes through picturesque alpine valleys, pine forests, maize fields and hamlets to reach Mongar town. Visit Mongar Dzong, built in the 1930’s using the traditional process without either plans or the use of nails. Overnight at your hotel in Mongar.
Day 12. MONGAR – TRASHIGANG
Drive to Trashigang (3 hrs) through leafy forests filled with ferns and over Kori-La Pass (2,450m) before descending through cornfields and banana groves to reach the famous road zigzag just below Yadi. Trashigang is the main township of the largest district in the country. After lunch visit Trashigang Dzong. Overnight at your lodge in Trashigang.
Day 13. TRASHIGANG (Excursion to Tashiyangtse)
Visit the temple of Gom Kora and Doksum Village where you can see women busily weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric before reaching Tashiyangtse, the administrative centre for this district. The area is famous for its unique wooden crafts. Visit the Tashiyangtse Dzong, and the dazzling white stupa of Chorten Kora and the nearby institute for Zorig Chusum, where student are trained in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts. Overnight at your lodge in Trashigang.
Day 14. TRASHIGANG – SAMDRUP JONGKHAR
After breakfast drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, the gateway to eastern Bhutan and to Assam, India. It is about 9 hours drive from Trashigang with many beautiful villages and landscapes on the way. Overnight at your hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 15. SAMDRUP JONGKHAR – GUWAHATI
After breakfast, we will arrange your transfer to Guwahati, the capital town of the Indian north-eastern state of Assam, for your onward flight. Tashi delek.