7 DAYS BHUTAN ESCAPADE

7 DAYS BHUTAN ESCAPADE

Land of the Thunder Dragon, one of the most mysterious and unknown of all Himalayan kingdoms, hidden in isolation behind the high peaks of the Himalayas. A trip to Bhutan is like having a magic wand transporting one back to the 15th century.

For centuries forbidden to foreigners, this timeless Buddhist Kingdom has succeeded in preserving its enchanting traditions and ancestral way of life. This is further epitomized by the state’s mandate of “Gross National Happiness”, whereby economic development, a goal for much of its humanity, is only a means to the real goal of happiness.

This trip combines the best of what Bhutan offers. Begin our tour in Thimphu, the only capital in the world without any traffic light! Catch the weekend market, Textile Museum and more before taking a three-hour winding scenic mountain to Punakha. Tour the impressive Punakha Dzong, enjoy day hikes in the cultivated valley of Punakha or take excursion to Phobjikha Valley.

We then re-cross Dochu La to Paro and explore the beautiful valley of Paro and ends our visit to the dramatic Taktshang Monastery, built on a sheer cliff face at a height of 2950m.

Tentative itinerary

DAY 01 ARRIVAL IN PARO/DRIVE TO THIMPHU

The flight into Paro (2,200m/7,800ft) on the national carrier, Druk Air (‘Druk’ meaning Dragon) is a befitting introduction to the magnificent beauty of Bhutan. From the window seat on clear days you can enjoy a spectacular view of Bhutan’s snow capped peaks as you approach Paro International airport (some say, it could be one of the World’s loneliest airports).

On arrival you will be received by our representative, we’ll meet with our local guide and the Driver. We’ll then drive through the beautiful agricultural valley of Paro to visit National Museum (Closed on Sun/Mon) it helps us to learn basic of the country before the sightseeing. Take a leisure hike down to visit the first of many medieval fortress temples you’ll see in Bhutan. Paro Rinpung Dzong, “fortress of the heap of jewels.” This was the setting for the Bernardo Bertolucci movie, “Little Buddha” starring Keanu Reaves. You’ll walk down following the path crossing a traditional covered cantilever bridge, your driver and car will be waiting for you. We’ll then drive (1 and half hours) the winding road following the Pa Chu (Paro River) downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu (Thimphu River), then up-valley to Thimphu, the capital. As we enter Thimphu Valley we will pass by Simtokha, the Dzong built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the man who unified Bhutan). Simtokha is the oldest of the Dzongs, originally serving as a fortress to protect the region, an administrative center and the center for the monk’s religious activity. Simtokha now houses a language school where scholars of all ages study Dzongkha, the national language. Upon arrival in Thimphu (the only capital city no traffic light!), we'll have the rest of the evening free.

Fly Bangkok/Paro, if we are lucky, we’ll have glorious views of the snow capped Himalayas on the way to Paro (Try and get the left hand seat for better view of the Himalayas). The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro Valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to our adventure. Already you can feel the pace of life slow down.

Upon arrival, take an hour drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Although Thimphu is the capital in Bhutan, it is a village compare to other Asian countries.

Catch the bustling weekend market (Fri to Sun) which offers the best opportunity to see the colorful vegetables, dairy products and to mix with the locals. A visit to Takin Preserve to see Takin, Bhutan’s national animal, is a favorite along with the Bhutanese archery game (the national sport) at Changlingmithang National Stadium.

Further up the valley, take in the view of the majestic Tashichoe Dzong, the seat of the government before circumventing the Memorial Chorten. We then move on to the Heritage Folk Museum and Textile Museum.

Take a walk along the streets of Thimphu and enjoy some free shopping time in the handicraft emporiums.

DAY 02 THIMPHU/PUNAKHA

After breakfast, we will drive about 3 hours to Punakha. Climb up the mountain road to Dochu La at 3140m. On clear weather, the pass commands a wonderful panorama of the Eastern Himalayas and in spring, the blooming rhododendrons cover the mountains with a riot of colors.

From the pass, we begin descending through varied forest and finally emerging into the highly cultivated valley of Punakha. Take a short hike to Chime Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, who as a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people is known affectionately as "the Divine Madman". The temple is on a hillside in the middle of rice fields and has become a pilgrimage site for childless couples.

In the afternoon, we visit Punakha Dzong. Located at the confluence of the Pho-chu (male-river) and Mo-chu (female-river), the Punakha Dzong is arguably the most impressive Dzong in the country. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

DAY 03 PUNAKHA

Basing ourselves in Punakha, we explore the surrounding countryside. Drive about 3½ hours to Gangtey Goenpa hidden in the beautiful Phobjikha Valley. We enjoy a 1½ hours nature trail from the monastery through the jungle before emerging to the valley floor and ending at a local school. Phobjikha Valley is also the last winter grounds of the black necked cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau from mid October to March. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

DAY 04 PUNAKHA/PARO

Have a leisurely breakfast before re-crossing Dochu La and stopping at Thimphu for lunch. Arrive Paro in the afternoon and check into your hotel. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

DAY 05 PARO

We begin our tour with a visit to Paro Museum (Closed on Sun/Mon) and Paro Dzong, which means “the fortress of the heap of jewels.” This complex houses the administrative and religious headquarters for the Paro district. A part of Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie, “Little Buddha,” was filmed inside this dzong. From the dzong, we will enjoy a short and easy walk to the Pachu river and cross to the other side over a traditional cantilever (wooden covered) bridge. Just on the outskirts of Paro town, we visit Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan and visit a farm house to interact with the villages. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

DAY 06 HIKE TO TAKTSHANG MONASTERY

This morning, we make an excursion to Taktshang Monastery – this has to be the monastery with the most outstanding setting in Bhutan. Set on a vertical cliff face at 2950m above sea level, it defies all engineering logic. For the energetic, hike 2 hours up to get a more dramatic view of the monastery. (The hike demands a certain level of fitness and a pony ride to the monastery can be arranged at additional cost).

Upon descent, we enjoy a spectacular drive to the remote ruins of Drugyel Dzong and on clear day, you would be rewarded with view of snow-capped Mt Jhumolhari

The rest of the afternoon is free at leisure. You may wish to take a stroll along the street of Paro or indulge in a hot-stone bath in the hotel! (Breakfast, lunch, dinner included)

DAY 07 DEPARTURE

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight.

Tashi Delek

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