he Kingdom of Bhutan sits in the Eastern Himalaya, bordered by Tibet and India. The country’s landscape ranges from lush sub-tropical plains to the sub-alpine Himalaya mountains in the north, with peaks over 7,000m. Wildlife is abundant and includes elephant, tiger, red panda, Himalaya black bear, black necked crane, sloth bear, leopard and gray wolf. Thimphu, the capital of the country, sits at an altitude of 2,350m but visitors arrive via the airport at Paro (2,250m), a 1.5 hours drive away.
This tour will take you to Bhutan’s most iconic sites, such as Tiger’s Nest – a monastery built on a sheer cliff of 2,950m and Trashi Chhoe Dzong, seat of Bhutan’s government. We will also visit culturally interesting places such as the Folk Heritage Museum, Textile Museum and craft bazaar and other market places. For your relaxation you can also take advantage of spa facilities, a cookery class, archery, and hot stone baths.
Enjoy one of the world’s most spectacular descents as your early morning flight arrives in Paro over the breathtaking Himalaya mountains. On arrival, you will be met by your guide who will accompany you on your 1.5 hour drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. There is time to freshen up before exploring the surrounding area. This includes a visit to the Institute of Traditional Medicines, School of Arts and Crafts, Folk Heritage Museum and Simply Bhutan Museum, National Library, Textile Museum, Weaving Centre, Buddha point and the National Memorial Chorten. Alternatively, enjoy a easy hike through the Wangditse Leisure Forest Trail. Tonight take the opportunity of relaxing in the hotel’s spa.
After breakfast take a short morning hike to Cheri Coemba monastery and the 16th century Pangri Zampa, a monastic training school for astrologers. Explore the capital’s cottage industries such as traditional paper making and hand rolled incense, shop among the many Himalayan artefacts. or make your very own stamp at the post office. If your visit falls over a weekend, you can visit the craft bazaar and vegetable market. After lunch visit the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, which is the seat of Bhutan’s government. Stroll past the Takin Animal Sanctuary at sunset where you will see beautiful views over the Thimphu valley.
Depart Thimphu in the early morning and drive over the Dochu La pass with beautiful views of the Himalaya peaks. Pass one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. Set in a fertile valley at the junction of the Mo Chhu (Female River) and the Pho Chhu (Male River), exotic fruit and rice is cultivated here. Visit Chimi Lhakhang, or fertility monastery. Built in 1499 many childless couples come here to pray for children to the saint with the ‘magical thunderbolt of wisdom’.
After breakfast hike up to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, built by the Queen Mother and consecrated in 1999. Then visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, which houses the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler. This is the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his monks. In the afternoon, try your hand at archery, the national pastime of Bhutan.
On the drive to Paro enjoy a picnic along the impressive Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu valleys. In the afternoon enjoy a short stroll through open fields and village houses. In the ruins of the big prayer wheel at Drukgyel Dzong enjoy the rural sights and sounds. In the evening there is the opportunity to learn attend a lecture on Gross National Happiness, enjoy cultural performances, try your hand at prayer flag printing or enjoy a movie about the Himalaya mountains.
The Taktsang Goemba is more commonly know as the Tiger’s Nest. Built on a sheer cliff face, it offers spectacular views of the valley floor below. Mules and donkeys are available (please request ahead of time) for those who would like to ride up the steep path. Lunch will be taken in a local farmhouse, after which drive to the outskirts of Paro where there are the 7th century twin temples of Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country. Light butter lamps and learn about ancient Buddhist traditions still practised today. The alternative is to take an excursion into Paro town to visit the National Museum, which houses an intriguing collection of artefacts showing the rich culture and heritage of Bhutan. A short walk downhill,visit the Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture.
This morning our local guide will take you to the airport for your return flight to Kathmandu.