Arrive at Paro International Airport from Kathmandu. Paro is situated in a beautiful valley and is a fitting introduction to this charming kingdom. Your flight arrives late afternoon and your guide will meet you and take you to your hotel. After you have checked in you can go for a stroll around Paro town.
This morning visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. You can also visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. Later you can drive along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. There will be time for sightseeing and you can visit Changangkha temple, perched on the hill top overlooking the town. Devotees flock throughout the day to circumambulate and turn the prayer wheels. The temple also contains beautiful wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold. There may also be time to visit the revered Memorial Chorten or drive up to the Radio Tower (offering splendid views of the city from a hilltop festooned with prayer flags), and visit the Takin Reserve showcasing the unique national animal, the Takin.
Thimphu to Punakha. In the morning drive to the old capital, Punakha, via Dochu La pass at 3050 metres, where we will stop for a hot drink and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. In the afternoon visit the imposing Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. Built in 1637, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. Then take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’ (Lama Drukpa Kuenley) .
Then after breakfast drive to Wangdi (originally considered Bhutan’s secondary capital and commanding an important central position). Visit Wangdi Dzong, built by the Shabdrung in 1638 on an auspicious site where four ravens were seen flying in four different directions. In the afternoon hike an hour or so up to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, an interesting temple, high on the hill across the other side of the valley.
Drive to Gangtey (at 3300 metres). Enjoy the views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges. Visit Gangtey Gompa (one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and recently extensively renovated). Overnight in Phobjikha where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This is the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet. As a result no electricity is run to the valley to avoid disturbing their habitat. You may be interested to visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centre and then hike the Tenkhor Yuetshe Sum trail into the valley behind Khewa Lhakhang.
Today we return to Paro. In the afternoon you could visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (fortress of victory), constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. Then spend the rest of the day with a local farmer family near Paro. You can have tea or dinner with them and take the opportunity to try the restorative properties of a hot stone bath laid on for you by your hosts at Blue Poppy’s request!
Take a day walk to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, the sacred Taktshang monastery which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress. He subsequently meditated here for three months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. You can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria from where you get a spectacular view of the monastery. Later you can visit some of the local handicraft shops or see any sights you didn’t get to see earlier.
Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off onto your flight to Kathmandu and wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck).
Druk Air flight from Paro to Kathmandu