Day 1: Fly Paro and Drive to Thimphu
Fly onboard Druk Air to Paro, Bhutan. On a clear day, the panoramic views of the Himalaya are sensational, including Everest, but particularly exciting is the approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep, turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro. In Paro, you will be received by your Bhutanese guide and transferred to the capital town of Thimphu (1 hr drive).
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 2: Thimphu sightseeing
There are a good many things to see in the capital which has a very relaxed, laid-back feel about it. Thimphu is relatively small having a population of approximately 90,000 people and the streets are wide and tree lined. You will almost certainly visit the Late King’s Memorial Chorten, the National Library, Drubthob Nunnery, Folk Heritage Museum, Takin Preserve, the handmade paper factory, the school of arts and crafts where young students learn the traditional arts and crafts (Zo Rig Chusum – the thirteen crafts), Gold and the Silver Smiths workshop, Zangtopelri Lhakhang, and the Handicraft Emporium and the local handicraft centers to see the weavers at work and also varieties of textiles, thangka paintings, masks, jewellery etc.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu – Gangtey
After breakfast drive for about 5 hours to Gangtey. En route cross Dochu-la pass (3,088m) and drive by Wangduephodrang Dzong.
Overnight in the camp/farmhouse, Gangtey.
Day 4: Gangtey Gompa – Gogona, 15km, 6-7 hours
Trek commences today. A winding trail upwards through meadows and fields, ascending to Tsele-la pass (3,400m) where we stop for lunch. The trail then descends gradually for some time through forests of junipers, bamboo, magnolias and rhododendrons. After a last short climb, we reach Gogona village. The people of Gogona were originally nomads and they speak a language called Bjopkha (language of nomads).
Overnight in Gangtey.
Day 5: Gogona – Khotokha, 16km, 6-7 hours
The trail winds up gently above Gogona village, climbing into a forest of firs, oak, spruce, rhododendron, cypress and junipers. A long and gradual climb takes us up to Shobju-la pass (3,400m). The path leads down to the wide valley of Khotokha, where the people of Sha (a region of Wangduephodrang district) come in summer to graze their animals.
Day 6: Khotokha – Chazam/Wangduephodrang, 12km, 5 hours
A short ascent takes us to a pass, from which the path descends steeply through ever-changing vegetation till finally reaching the bridge at Wangduephodrang. The trek ends here.
Overnight at the hotel in Wangduephodrang.
Day 7: Wangduephodrang – Punakha – Thimphu – Paro
In the morning we visit Wangdi Phodrang Dzong and then drive to Punakha (1 hrs. drive), the old winter capital. Hike to Chimi Lhakhang, the divine mad monk’s temple. It is a beautiful walk through a lovely village. The temple can be visited and there is a tree outside which is supposed to have sprouted up after Drukpa Kunley sent a thunderbolt from an adjoining valley to kill some evil spirits who had gathered at the site. Also visit the courtyard of Punakha Dzong.
Later, drive back to Thimphu, which takes about 3 hours. En-route stop at Dochula cafeteria for tea and views. Continue drive to Paro, which takes another 1 hour.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 8: Paro (Hike to Takstang)
In the morning hike to the Tiger’s nest, afternoon visit Dungtse Lhakhang and Kichu Lhakhang.
Taktshang – Tiger’s Nest: Tiger’s Lair or Tiger’s Nest as it often referred to for Taktshang Pelphung monastery, is one of the most venerated and famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. It is located on the face of a sheer 900m cliff above the floor of Paro valley. It is an impressive and un-miss-able sight but accessible only by walk or to ride mules/pony. If you need the riding horse, you must ask your local guide to arrange it on the previous day. From the trail head (2600m), the walk till the Cafeteria is a steep one hour uphill (about 350m ascent). From the Cafeteria (2940m) and areas around it, one can get a good close-up view of Taktshang. Savor views of the monastery over a well-deserved cup of tea and biscuits at the cafeteria.
For those who wish to proceed further from here, one must be able to walk. Usually Ponies/horses will not take people beyond this point and neither will they take you downhill. From the cafeteria, trail continues uphill for another 45 minutes to a high observation point (3140m) where there is a Chorten (stupa). From this vantage point, the lookout to the monastery is a very spectacular and seems almost close enough to touch. It is now on the other side of a deep chasm, only around 150m away as bird flies, but takes half hour or even more to reach. Continue down the flight of cliff-hanging steps on the narrow trail to a beautiful waterfall that plunges down the deep chasm and alongside is a retreat hermitage, jammed dramatically into a rock crevice. Then climb up the flight of steep steps to the monastery. At any point on this walk, you can always return if you find it too difficult. Once inside the monastery, there are several shrines or temples to see with few monks in residence. After visiting Taktshang monastery’s many shrines, most tours schedule lunch at the Cafeteria upon return. After lunch, retrace back to the road-head where you started in the morning. The retrace back is all downhill and always on foot as it is not suitable for riding pony/horse. Please note that proper walking boots is recommended for this hike. Further, if you have more time and ready for more challenging day, there are several monasteries, temples, retreat houses in the surrounding area of Taktshang. The most notable among them are Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tsemo as described seperately.
Drukgyel Dzong: Drukgyal Dzong ruins is located 14kms north of Paro town, near the end of the paved road. Drukgyal Dzong (victories fortress) was built around 1644-49 to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan-Mongol forces. It was later burnt in fire accident in 1951. On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari, Bhutan’s holy peak is seen against its backdrop.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 9: Hike to Chele
La and Dzongdrakha This morning a scenic drive of 1 & ½ hr will bring us to Chele La pass at an altitude of aprrox. 3900m/1300ft. On one side is the Paro and on the other side is Haa valley . The hike of this morning begins from a short descent below the pass. It is about a half hour uphill and shorter coming down hill. The hike brings you to a clusters of shelters built on sheer cliffs, under the rock/cave and a temple that houses some 50 or so nuns.
On your way back to Paro, we will stop at a place for the hike to a monastery called Dzondrakha which looks similar to famous Tiger’s Nest monastery but located at shorter hiking distance. Half the walk will be along the agricultural field and very easy, another half will be an uphill climb and when both versions of hikes are summed up it will take less than 1 hour to reach at the top where the monastery stands. On reaching the site of the monastery, one would enjoy the view of the fertile Paro valley below. Your guide will take you inside the main temple of the monastery.
In Paro, drive 15 minutes to the old watch tower ‘Ta Dzong’ now the national museum. Take an hour long tour of the National Museum and also visit the impressive Rinphung Dzong, where the Hollywood movie ‘the Little Buddha’ was shot. Overnight at the hotel.
Overnight in Paro.
Day 10: Departure Transfer
After breakfast, drive to Paro International airport for onward destination.