Historic Central Bhutan – 11 Days
This in-depth cultural tour offers a rare opportunity to savour the different customs and cultures of the western and central valleys of Bhutan at a leisurely pace. Highlights include Ta Dzong Museum, Rimpong Dzong and the infamous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in the beautiful Paro Valley, The National Memorial Chorten, 12th century Changangkha Temple and the National Library exhibiting ancient scriptures in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport exit doors following customs formalities.
After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum and Rimpong Dzong.
Afterward, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hours) following the Pachu River. Before dinner at the hotel, there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, completed by the Royal Queen Mother as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to the 12th-century Changangkha Temple and the Zilukha Nunnery.
If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market (Open only from Friday until mid-Sunday). Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 03: THIMPHU
Continue sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the School for Arts and Crafts, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.
If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time).
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Drukpa Kuenly. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
DAY 05: PUNAKHA – TRONGSA – BUMTHANG
Drive from Punakha to Bumthang via Trongsa (8 hrs) over Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range. En route visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten, erected in the 18th century.
After lunch, visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the landscape for many miles. Also, visit the Ta Dzong museum housing an incredible collection of historical artifacts of the Royal Family.
Continue driving to Bumthang, home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces and temples. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.
DAY 06: BUMTHANG
In the morning visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and 7th-century Jambay Lhakhang.
After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pemalingpa and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Afterward enjoy exploring the village of Jakar, Bumthang’s main township. Overnight at your lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.
DAY 07: BUMTHANG
Enjoy a day exploring some of the many sites around Bumthang. The 16th century Tang Ugyen Chholing Palace stands features a museum containing an excellent overview of traditional rural life in Bhutan. Continue on to visit the pool of Mebartso (The Lake of Fire).
DAY 08: BUMTHANG – GANGTEY
Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan.
Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan, and explore Phobjika Valley with time to view the Black-Necked Cranes. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.
DAY 09: GANGTEY – PARO
Morning visit to view the Black-Necked Cranes (winter only) before departing for Paro (approx 7 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley before climbing up over Dochu La Pass. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 10: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery.
In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong. The original monument (destroyed by fire in 1951) was built by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. On the return drive to Paro, visit other sights in Paro valley. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 11: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for a flight to your onward destination.