Travel to one of the most unique and enriching destinations on earth, Bhutan, located in the Himalayas between Tibet and India. This classic itinerary takes you from Thimphu’s streets and dzongs up and over the Dochu-La pass offering spectacular views of Himalayan peaks and a remote lifestyle. Take village walking tours in Gangtey, see the monastery, enjoy light treks on nature trails, and take in a region of rich culture and tradition. Admire the dramatic landscapes, deep river valleys, perched farmhouses and more as you visit some of the country’s oldest palaces, temples and monasteries. Discover the ancient capital of the kingdom, Punakha, with hikes to monuments and fortresses and then conclude your tour in Paro with a hike to the famed Taktsang Monastery.
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Hotel with daily breakfast, lunches & dinners as indicated, services of expert English speaking local guides, entrance fees to sites listed on the itinerary, private A/C transportation with expert drivers, airport transfers, and Bhutan visa fee. International flights are not included, contact us for preferred rates and schedules.
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On a clear day, the flight to Paro is breathtaking, with views of major Himalayan peaks such as Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu and on the final approach Bhutan’s own snowy peaks, the sacred Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and Tserimgang. Arrive in Paro during the day, and then meet for your drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, where you will check-in to your hotel. In the evening, visit the impressive Tashichho Dzong which houses the Throne Room of the King and various Government Offices. It is also the Summer Residence of the Chief Abbot and the Central Monk Body.
Bhutan has been a remote Himalayan kingdom with most of the population living in villages. Urbanization began here in the early 1960s, when Thimphu was proclaimed as a national capital. Thimphu is a small bustling city in the heart of the Himalayas. Thimphu’s charm comes not only from its wealth of museums or places of historic interest, but also from the strong national character of its architectural style. Today’s sightseeing includes the bronze statue of Sakyamuni Bhudda, the Memorial Chorten, Zorig Chosum (painting school), Textile Museum, Post Office, and a Traditional Handmade Paper Factory. In the evening, spend time with a few local women to get insight into Bhutanese women’s lives. Note that many sites are closed on Sat/Sun, an Government holidays.
Start early today for Gangtey. Near the junction of the roads to Paro and Punakha, you will stop to visit the Simtokha Dzong which is believed to be the oldest Monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery now serves as the Institute for Language and Culture Studies. Continue your drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. From the pass, the road drops gradually with changing vegetation to the subtropical Punakha and Wangdue Valleys. As you continue east, the impressive Wangdue Phodrang Dzong comes in view. Enjoy lunch en route and continue to Gangtey, driving over the Lowa-la pass (3,360 m) down into the picturesque Phobjikha Valley. On arrival, check in for your stay. In the evening, stroll through the quaint Gangtey village. For hiking enthusiasts, there are a number of short hiking trails in the Phobjika Valley if you would be interested.
This morning we start with a visit to the striking Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Followed by a visit to the Black Neck Crane Center and dependent on the season, time spent in the Center’s nearby hide is a must to view the breeding cranes. Various walks can be arranged in this magnificent valley. In the afternoon, you will be driven to Punakha where you will check-in to your hotel. Afterwards, drive a short distance for a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. The evening is free at your leisure.
The day begins with a drive to the north end of the beautiful Mo Chu valley. Hike up to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a monument recently built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan. The temple is located on a hill with stunning views of the Mo Chu valley. It is a 30-40 min walk up through rice fields and forest. After the visit, walk back down to the suspension bridge at Hebisa for the rafting adventure on the Mo Chu River. The Mo Chu river rafting is a 10km course with 10 rapids (class 2). Prior to rafting, the river guide provides a thorough briefing about the safety measure and guidelines. Along the way, we pass by surrounding fields and the summer palaces. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of fish jumping in the river. As you reach near the Punakha Dzong, look out to your right to see the old house of the Bhutanese Juliet - Changi-bum Galem. The tragic love story of Changi-bum Galem & Gasa Lamai Singye is the Bhutanese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. After we pass the Punakha Dzong, we reach the junction where the Mo Chu River joins the Pho Chu River. A few meters from here (near Punakha high School) marks the end of the scenic rafting trip. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the riverside. The rest of the day at leisure or if you like & time permitting you can further explore picturesque villages, the Nalanda Monastery, and the Punakha Dzong.
This morning, drive towards Paro. After descending from Dochu-la, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. In the afternoon, drive towards the north ends of the valley to view the Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum. Then walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro valley. In the evening, visit a traditional farmhouse to interact with a local family and learn more of their culture.
Today, drive up the steep road that climbs to Chelela pass (3810mts) (45 km/1.5 hr drive) through blue pine and rhododendron forest. On a clear day there is a superb view of Mt. Chomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake from this point. If the weather is favourable we will stop here briefly to stroll around and enjoy the lovely mountain scenery. We will later walk to the nunnery nestled in a craggy patch of rock on the mountainside below Chele-la pass. This is the serene home of Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their lives to spiritual fulfilment. After the visit, walk down to the road head where your vehicle will be waiting. Enjoy a packed picnic lunch and later return to Paro and have the rest of the day free at leisure.
This morning, enjoy an excursion to the Tiger’s Nest monastery (closed on Tuesdays), spectacularly located on the side of a cliff 900m above the valley floor. It is said that in the 8thcentury Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months, hence its name, “Tiger’s Nest”. The principal temple of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. A pilgrimage to Taktsang is the dream of a lifetime for the devout. Later on, take an evening stroll along the main street or have some leisure time at a local café.
After breakfast, you will be met at the hotel and transferred to the airport to board your departure flight.
Day 10: Hike to the revered Taktshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest).
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