This popular Bhutan cultural tour provides an in-depth view into the ancient way of life and rich culture that still thrives in Bhutan today through the western valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangduephodrang. It is a well paced tour, designed to provide the opportunity to really savour the unique highlights of Bhutan’s western districts which offer diverse mountainous landscapes, a rich Buddhist heritage including monasteries, temples and chortens, historical fortresses and an extremely hospitable people. You will discover the vibrant history of Bhutan visiting the Ta Dzong Museum, Rimpong Dzong with its wooden cantilevered bridge and the infamous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in the beautiful Paro Valley. In Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, you will visit the The National Memorial Chorten, 12th century Changangkha Temple and the National Library exhibiting ancient scriptures before crossing the 3050m Dochula Pass with its 108 chortens, numerous prayer flags and spectacular Himalayan views into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley featuring the incredible Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakang, temple of the ‘Divine Madman’.
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As your Druk Air flight weaves through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. As you touch down, keep your camera at the ready, as we have noticed how passengers slowly disembark and then stand on the tarmac totally bewildered. Then move through to immigration where you will present your Visa Approval letter and Passport for the official stamp. As you clear the Immigration check, please make your way to the baggage delivery area and here you will meet your Guide for the first time. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 ½ hours and upon arrival and after settling in; you will have the choice of the National Memorial Chorten, National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, National Library to visit, and perhaps time to stroll the Main Street for some interesting Himalayan artifacts or textiles. (Overnight at Taj Tashi - Thimphu)
This morning you will head to the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Royal offices, and pay a visit to Pangri Zampa, two 16th century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs; a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town you should be able to visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense. Later in the evening drive to Kuensel Phodrang, (Buddha Point) is another place from where one can get a complete view of the town of Thimphu. The point has the largest statue of the Buddha. (Overnight at Taj Tashi – Thimphu)
We opt for an early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Dochu La and on to the Punakha Valley. Sights on the way include one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries; the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain passes where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down thru the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway will loop you through the Valley of Wangdi and perhaps the local town temple next door. Time will be afforded to walk this small village and explore its row of intimate shops before heading back into Punakha Valley. This afternoon you will have a choice to visit the village of Talo, home of the Queens’ and the valley’s protective deity lhakhang. Rest of evening at your leisure (Overnight at Kunzang Zhing Resort – Punakha)
The day in Punakha Valley begins with a beautiful hike along the Mo Chhu, takes to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a monument recently built by the four queens of Bhutan. Following the hike you will drive back up the valley towards Khuruthang passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s head and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. A picnic lunch is served on the banks of the Punak Chu, before visiting the village of Lobesa where a short walk ends at Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built in 1499. (Overnight at Kunzang Zhing Resort – Punakha)
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu en route visiting a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse, to gain an insight into the lifestyle and culture of the local people. The sightseeing at Paro starts with a visit to the National Museum. Here, an intriguing collection of artefacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lays the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, and guests are then driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall paintings. Rest day at your leisure (Overnight at Zhiwaling - Paro)
The day starts with an hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. In the evening, there is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a ramble down Paro’s main street. (Overnight at Zhiwaling - Paro)
A car will be ready to take you to Paro Airport. Transfer time is approximately 20 - 30 minutes and you are advised to arrive at the airport an hour before your international flight departure.
This itinerary is not suited for you? Plan your own trip.