Day 1: Bangkok to Paro Today after you check in at the airport, you will board your plane for a spectacular flight into Bhutan. Ascending over the High Himalayan Mountains you view in awe the sacred Mount Jumolhari, "The Goddess Peak" and Jitchu Drake. Excitement mounts following your descent in altitude over a large mountain ridge. You have arrived at Paro International Airport, Bhutan, altitude 7,500 ft. Your visa will now be processed and you are met by tour representative. Departing the airport we drive to our quaint Paro hotel for check in and lunch. Converse with your expert Bhutanese guide and go over your itinerary. We then depart to visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) once the watchtower for Rinpung Dzong. It was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses, to the Dzong. Today the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong displays superb woodwork. We now return to our hotel and enjoy dinner.
Day 2: Paro to Thimphu Departing your hotel in Paro we begin our drive towards Thimphu, Capitol of Bhutan. Along our route we take a side trip and drive to the path to hike to Taktsang Monastery. The name Taktsang means "Tiger's Nest'. The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 800 m. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambbava alighted here upon the back of a tigress. Picnic lunch will be served at Taktsang cafeteria. We also will visit the Drugyel Dzong - ruined fortress. The Dzong, although in ruins, holds great historical significance in Bhutan. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. On a clear day this spot offers a magnificent vista of Mount Jumolhari, "Mountain of Goddess". This afternoon we will drive to Thimphu (2 hours).
A stop at Bhutan’s National Bank to exchange currency, as well as visit the post office to view and purchase elaborate and exquisite Bhutanese collector item stamps. We now check into your Thimphu hotel and relax and rest. This evening we attend a reception welcome dinner with your Bhutanese host, Sonam.
Day 3: Thimphu Week-end Market. This morning we attend the famous Thimphu “weekend market”. Load your camera and get ready to mingle with Bhutanese locals; this is a favorite Bhutanese open shopping market; the marketplace bustles with excitement as local Bhutanese farmers sell their produce and family’s get together to shop and socialize. This is a colorful market and a wonderful opportunity to experience a true Bhutanese experience; fun and lively, guaranteed to please! We will visit the National Memorial Chorten, which was built in 1974 in memory of the third king as well as the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. Visit the Takin Reserve, which protects the national animal of Bhutan; a most unusual animal said to resemble a goat or a cow. Perhaps a moose? We tour the Textile Museum displaying embroidered and appliqué splendid fabric for sacred and ceremonial use; as well as exquisite thangkas and altar coverings. Many pieces are on display donated by the Royal family of Bhutan. Overnight: Thimphu Hotel
Day 4: Thimphu to Wangdue Today we will depart for Wangdue. The drive takes about 3 hours. En route stop at Dochula Pass, (10,000 ft) for tea and biscuits and enjoy a view of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains amongst hundreds of fluttering prayer flags and beautiful hilltop chortens. We enjoy our scenic drive and stop for lunch in Lobesa. We now check into our hotel in Wangdue. Rest and relax and enjoy the pristine views from your room. Later we visit the Punakha Dzong. This is the winter residence of Bhutan’s spiritual leader, the Head Abbot, and the Central Monastic Body. The Dzong is built between two rivers known as Phochu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River). After Punakha take a short hike to Chhi-Med Lhakhang in the picturesque Lobesa valley, to visit the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the Divine Madman. Overnight: Resort
Day 5: Wangdu to Gangtey: After lunch we drive to Gangtey in Phobjikha, a glacial valley on the western slopes of Black Mountain national park. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders the Black Mountain National Park. Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winter here (from late October to late March), it is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country Phobjikha Valley is circled by beautiful pine covered mountains. Along the way, look for nocturnal red pandas that sleep in the trees during the day. At the valley’s center, rising dramatically from a small ridge, stands Gantey Gompa, one of the oldest Nyingma Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan. Gantey Tulku Rimpoche, the head lama of Gantey Gompa, is the ninth incarnation of Terton Pemalingpa, the famous 14th-century Treasure Revealer from Bumthang, one of Bhutan’s famous Buddhist saints and an ancestor of the ruling Wangchuck dynasty. Visit the Gangtey monastery overlooks the large green expanse of Phobjikha Valley. The extensive complex consists of the gomba itself, the monks’ quarters, meditation centers, and schools. Evening: Visit the Black-necked cranes roost in the swampy marshland from the Observatory overlooking the fields. Overnight: Hotel or tent
Day 6: Phobjikha “Black Neck Crane Festival” Attend the unique and unusual Black Neck Crane Festival presented by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature. The one day festival was started by the local community of Phobjikha; the winter home this magnificent bird migrates to each year. The festival provides an opportunity to raise awareness and create some income to aid in the birds’ conservation. Enjoy masked and costume dances performed by children, ladies, monks, nature club students and the Highlighted “Dance of the Black Neck Crane”. Costume and mask of the Black Neck Crane are worn proudly in honor and praise. Stroll handicraft and game stalls and try your luck at Bhutanese game play.
Day 7: Phobjikha to Bumthang Depart towards Trongsa. The drive from Phobjikha to Trongsa takes about two and half hours. Our route crosses Pele La (11,155 feet), which is marked by a chorten and an array of prayer flags. If the weather is clear we should see Mt. Jumolhari (23,684 feet) and other peaks from the pass, which marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. We'll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. As we drive down through rhododendrons and ferns, we’ll reach Chendebji village. This was a night halt for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reign of the 2nd King of Bhutan. Just below Chendebji village is the Chendebji chorten, a large white structure beside a stream. This chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu and was built in the 19th century.
The last village before we reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which affords us a full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive yellow roof. Built in 1648 AD it is presently the administrative seat of the district and the home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. The view from here extends for many miles and in the old days, it was a vigilance point for both the eastern and western routes; thus, the strategic importance of this Dzong. Continue onwards to central Bhutan. Today is a long day of driving to reach our destination tonight in Jakar. We will take ample breaks and rest stops. Tonight we overnight at local River Lodge in Jakar valley of Bumthang; Bhutanese family hospitality at its finest!
Day 8: Paker Festival Today we attend a full day at the Paker Festival, held in a remote and beautiful valley in Bumthang; Chumey Valley.Bhutanese from many different areas will gather to pay respect and to be blessed at this social gathering. Locals dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry travel far to be at this celebration of purification and religious blessings. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colorful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step". This festival is held each year to honor Lama Thukase Dawa, son of the Treasurer Discover Pema Lingpa, who lived in Bumthang in the 15th century. Overnight at River Lodge
Day 9: Jambay Lakhang Drup Festival Today we enjoy our second festival; Jambay Lhakhang Drup, located in the heart of Chokor Valley. The festival symbolizes the fight between good and evil and thankful offerings are made for good harvest. Return to River Lodge for overnight.
Day 10: Bumthang sightseeing Morning: Visit the historical Jakar Dzong, built in 1646 A.D. by MinjurTenpa, the third Druk Desi (Temporal Ruler). In 1683 A.D. it was extended by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth Desi. Visit several ancient and sacred monasteries such as the Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang and Jakar Dzong. Return to our lodge for lunch and in the afternoon we take an excursion to the Thangbi Monastery, an 18th Century temple Evening: Visit a local farm house and enjoy Bhutanese hospitality; perhaps try a local favorite; Arak! Stops along our way to watch expert textile weavers at their ancient toe and back strap looms; here is the best place for purchase of quality Bhutanese textiles. Overnight: River Lodge.
Day 11: Bumthang to Wangdue Departing Bumthang we drive to Wangdue. Stop in Trongsa town for lunch and arrive in Wangdue to check into our hotel. Tonight we will tour the Wangdi Dzong courtyard; a most impressive Dzong perched strategically high on a hilltop. Tonight you may hear the sound of jackals in the nearby hills. Overnight at Resort.
Day 12: Wangdue to Thimphu Depart Wangdue and enjoy a leisure drive to Thimphu. Stop at Dochula pass along the route for tea and snack. Arrive Thimphu and check into your hotel. This afternoon after lunch is free time for shopping; a visit to the Dechen Phodrang Monastic School and Arts and Crafts School; and optional visit to the House of Incense and House of Paper; always favorites as well. Evening at your leisure; ask your expert Bhutanese guide to assist you in your special request. Overnight Hotel
Day 13: Thimphu - "Tango Monastery Hike" Enjoy a hearty breakfast and depart for a fantastic hike to the "Tango Monastery". Embark on a vigorous 2- hour hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery, one of my favorite experiences in Bhutan. Tango is one of Bhutanese’ most important Buddhist Colleges. Its name, meaning ‘horse’s head’, is derived from the horse-head shaped rock at the top. It is a Beautiful dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the Nine-year-old reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. Returning to our hotel we enjoy lunch and prepare for our departure to Paro; we overnight at our Paro hotel and enjoy our farewell dinner.
Day 14: Paro Departure This morning we leave for Paro airport and onwards to your next destination. We hope you have enjoyed your Bhutan adventure into the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Tashi Delek! <top