Day 1: Arrival Paro
An Aku Drukpa representative will receive you at the Paro International Airport
(2280m) and escort you to the hotel. Flights usually arrive in the morning, so feel free to explore Paro and intermingle with the Bhutanese people. Dinner will be served in the hotel.
Day 2: Sightseeing Paro
Breakfast will be served in the hotel. Afterwards, there are a number of attractions in Paro to choose from. A must-see is the National Museum housed in Ta-Dzong. Built in 1656, it served as the watch tower of Paro Dzong in the past. We may also visit the Dzong itself, where Bhutanese monks reside and perform rituals. It may also be called Rinchen Phug Dzong, which means fortress on a heap of Jewels.
After lunch in town we can visit Drukgyel Dzong, 14 kilometres from the Paro town. Also known as the fortress of victory, Drukgyel Dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644. On the way to Drukgyel Dzong you can have a view of Takshang Monastery (the Tiger’s Nest), perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. Our group will find a local restaurant to suit tastes for dinner; you may rest in the hotel or visit the town afterwards.
Day 3: Taksang Hike, Drive Paro to Thimphu
After breakfast, we will drive eight kilometres north of Paro to visit
Bhutan’s most well-known monastery, Taktshang or (Tiger’s Nest), perched on a cliff 900 meters above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century, flew to a cave in Taktshang on a
tigress and mediated for three months. The trek to the monastery and back takes
about four hours. Horses are available for an extra charge but only for the ride up. Lunch will be served in the cafeteria near the monastery.
Upon returning we will drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The 53 Km drive will navigate beautiful cliffs for about 90 minutes. If Thimphu is reached early, you can go out in the town and mingle with the Bhutanese people. Dinner will be served in the hotel or in town, depending on the group’s energy level.
Day 4: Drive to Punaka
Time permitting in the morning there are several additional attractions in Thimphu. We recommend seeing the one of the largest Buddha statues in the world, perched atop a mountain overlooking Thimphu. You may also wish to visit other sites in Thimphu as time here will be limited on the way back.
The first stop on this road journey is Dochula pass at 3,140 meters. Dochula is about 23 kilometres from Thimphu and during a clear day it offers an astounding view of the Himalayas. After refreshments the journey continues to Punaka.
Punaka offers many unique attractions. Perhaps the most popular is the temple of fertility. Built for Drukpa Kinley, perhaps one of Buddhism’s more colorful characters, the temple is often visted by couples wishing to have children. On the way we may also visit Punaka Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan and host of the most recent royal wedding. If in season the Punaka fruit market is also a colorful attraction. Punaka is among the warmer parts of Bhutan; so many tropical fruits grow year round. We will arrive at Gante to stay the night in a hotel.
Day 5, 6: Arrive in Bumthang
Once in Bumthang we will be able to observe multiple Dzongs, holy places, and authentic crafts. In Bhutan Bumthang is called a model city for here beauty is matched only by authenticity. Indeed it is like stepping back in time.
We will have the opportunity to observe traditional weaving. This is a very important and detailed craft in Bhutan, as many garments are made from Yak hair dyed with natural plant dyes. The patterns are heavily influenced by Buddhism and passed down from many generations.
Holy places are abundant in Bumthang. Some of the more popular locations include the burning lake, where Pema Lingpa swam underwater with a burning lamp that was unextinguished when he emerged from the waters. You may also visit the former private temple of the King, dedicated to that famous Bhutanese character Guru Rinpoche.
There are also opportunities for gorgeous hikes around the area, so be sure to chat with your tour guide to find what’s most accommodating to you!
Day 7: Drive to Trongsa
We will visit Trongsa and/ or the Phabjaka valley on our way back. The day will be mostly driving, but there will be opportunities for local attractions along the way. Perhaps we will stop and visit with nomadic yak herders, or visit the Trongsa Dzong. Depending on the time of year there may also be a few black necked cranes still lingering about. We may even encounter monkeys along the way, so be sure to have a few extra bananas on hand.
Day 8, 9: Drive to Thimphu, Sightseeing
Upon returning, sightseeing in Thimphu (2320m) offers many possibilities: A good choice is the National Library, which was established in 1967 and has many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts). Also consider the Painting School or the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (the 13 traditional arts and crafts like painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue making). Aches and pains? The natural medical institute may also be an appealing attraction!
Unique temples in the area include the National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 memorializing the third King of Bhutan. Also Semtokha Dzong is about five kilometres south of Thimphu. Semtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Today it houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.
Other attractions include Tashichho Dzong, the seat of government of Bhutan. It houses the secretariat, the Throne Room, His Majesty’s secretariat, the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. If the sightseeing falls on the weekend you can visit Thimphu’s open vegetable market where farmers from the nearby regions gather to sell their produce.
Lunch and dinner will be at local restaurants near attractions the group chooses to visit. That evening we will return to Paro. If pressed for time dinner will be eaten along the way or in the hotel at Paro.
Day 10: Departure
After the early breakfast, our tour guide will bring you to the airport