Arrival in Paro, Bhutan
When you first arrive at Paro International Airport, you will be met by one of our delightful tour guides just outside the arrival hall. At 7,333 feet above sea level, the first thing you will likely notice is the effect of the high altitudes, so we will give you time to acclimate as we take a short drive to Thimphu and check into your hotel.
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and the perfect location to transition from your familiar lifestyle to our unique country that is like no other place on earth. Here you will begin to appreciate our local customs as you get your first glimpse of monks dressed in traditional red robes, men in striped ghos, and women in brightly colored kiras. Once you settle into your hotel, we will begin to unlock the mysteries of Bhutan by touring Thimphu’s most important sites. The National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 to memorialize Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the third king of Bhutan (1928-1972). A chorten is a stupa, or hemispherical structure, that is used as a place of meditation. The whitewashed building with a golden finial on top is a popular location for prayer as it represents the strength and kindness of our beloved third king.
The Thimphu Tashichho Dzong is a fortress and Buddhist monastery with a distinctive Bhutanese architectural design. Sitting aside the Wang Chhu (river), it is the current seat of the Druk Desi, the head of the civil government, and houses the offices of the current king.
On the weekends, Centenary Farmers’ Market is where farmers come to sell their vegetables, cheeses, grains, and the occasional yak leg. Across the street is the Kundeyling Baazam where you can bargain for local handicrafts, such as mala beads and prayer wheels. We will then take a scenic drive up to Buddha Point in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park to see the 169-foot-tall bronze statue of the seated Buddha Dordenma. One of the largest sitting Buddha statues in the world, it sits atop a hill where you will see sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains. After returning to town for dinner, you can wander through the shops, bars, and cafes of Thimphu.
After breakfast proceed on to visit Thimphu valley. Visit Trashichhoedzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery which houses most of the Government’s office and King’s Throne room It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. Then visit National Library which has vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts.
After that drive to Arts & Crafts School, famous for traditional thangkha paintings. Here you will see, students at work producing intricate design on cloth. Later visit Textile and Folk Heritage Museums, a fascinating testimony of the Bhutanese material culture and living traditions.
After lunch visit Handicrafts Emporium which displays wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products. Then drive to Memorial Chorten, the stupa built in the memory of Bhutan’s Third King who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside this monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Late afternoon drive to Punakha across Dochula pass (3,080m ). Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Thimphu to Punakha / Wangdue
Wangdiphodrang DzongAfter breakfast visit Punakha Dzong, Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has now been fully restored.
Then drive to Wangdiphodrang visiting Dzong and local market. The district of Wangdiphodrang is also famous for its bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Punakha To Paro
The beautiful valley of Paro is home to many of Bhutan's old monasteries and temples. The country's only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Jomolhari (7, 300m) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pa Chhu flowing through the valley.
Kyichu Lhakhang - Also known as Kyerchu temple or Lho Kyerchu, it is the oldest temple in Bhutan. Just like Jambhay Lhakhang in Bumthang, it is one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to subdue and pin down an ogress that was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. According to legend, all 108 temples were built in a single night.
Go back in time and history and visit the seventh century Kyichu temple. As the name suggests, the temple is a reservoir of peace, and you will feel at peace here. Next to the temple is a house that was turned into a museum dedicated to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. One can come across photographs and other artifacts belonging to Rinpoche.
Dumtse Lhakhang - Built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Thangton Gyalpo, the temple was built to subdue a demoness and so was chained firmly to the ground. It's three floors represents hell, earth and heaven. To enter Dumtse Lhakhang, you will require a special permit.
Metta Resort & Spa
Le Meridien Riverfront
On our final tour day, we take an exhilarating one-hour hike to Taktsang Monastery (or Tiger’s Nest), one of the most recognizable sites in Bhutan. Built precariously on a hillside cliff, it sits more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Accessible only by foot, we follow a trail decorated with colorful prayer flags along the way to protect travelers from evil spirits. Built over the caves that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in for three years, this eighth-century father of Bhutan Buddhism is said to have been brought there on the back of a tigress. One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan it offers breathtaking views to those energetic enough to make it to the top.
We then take a short drive north of Paro to visit the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of medieval Bhutan, it was used as a stronghold against invading Tibetan armies. After a fire destroyed it in 1951, it remains a ruin as a symbol of the past military victories. On clear days, you can also see the snowcapped peak of Chomolohari mountain.
We end the day with a visit to Kyichu Lhakhang, a beautiful seventh-century Buddhist temple, one of the oldest in Bhutan. According to legend, a giant demoness lay her body across the Himalayas to prevent the spread of Buddhism. Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo built 108 temples throughout the region and around her body to pin her down, with Kyichu Lhakhang built to hold down her left foot.
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!