For a small country Bhutan the last Shangri-la of the Himalayan region and only kingdom that exists, offers fascinating scenery of dramatic landscapes with high snowcapped peaks where all types of vegetables, crops and fruits are grown in its varied climatic zones from sub-tropic, alpine to arctic temperatures in the midst of serene country with its old traditional way of life.
Day 02: Sightseeing in Thimphu
In the morning, we visit Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), nunnery temple, mini zoo to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Today, we also visit other landmarks of Thimphu including the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Bhutanese traditional painting school, folk heritage museum, the majestic Tashichho Dzong and the traditional paper factory. However, some of the landmarks are closed in the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). Therefore, if we are in Thimphu during the weekends, we explore the Weekend Market instead. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu to Punakha (1,250m/4,100ft): 76 km, 2 – 3 hours
After breakfast, we drive to Punakha via Dochu La Pass (3,100m), where on a clear day we get spectacular views of the Himalayas. Next, we drive downhill through rhododendron, fir and hemlock forests. On the way, we visit Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to the Divine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. After reaching Punakha, we also visit Punakha Dzong which was built between 1637-1638 and is the second oldest and the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 04: Excursion to Gangtey: 164 Km, 5-6 hours
In the morning, we explore Wangduephodrang. The nearby villages are known for their slate and stone carvings. We then drive through dense oak and rhododendron forests to Gangtey, a beautiful village surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains. From here, we enjoy views of the picturesque Black Mountain ranges as well as the beautiful Phobjikha valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. At this time of the year, we can see cranes that migrate from Tibetan plateaus to escape harsh winter conditions. Gangtey Monastery is perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. We explore Phobjikha villages before driving back to Punakha for an overnight stay.
Day 05: Punakha to Paro (2,250m/7,382ft): 130 km, 4 hours
After breakfast, we begin our drive to the Paro valley. In Paro, we visit Rinpung Dzong which means “fortress made from a heap of jewels.”. We also visit the the Ta Dzong, once a fortified lookout tower but has now been changed into the National Museum. The museum has a wide assortment of ancient paintings, armors, philatelic displays and a “field of Buddhas,” which helps one visualize while meditating. Next, tour Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. Overnight in Paro.
Day 06: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
After breakfast, we hike for 4 to 5 hours to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3,180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where the Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. After having explored the monastery, we hike down to the valley floor. Overnight in Paro.
Day 07: Final Departure
Today we bid farewell to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom and her friendly people. Druk Air generally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions. Therefore, after breakfast, we will be taken to the airport in the morning for final departure.