Bhutan is rightly known to the world today as the Last Shangri-La. It was the mighty Himalayas that protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left this Himalayan jewel blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain in a jealously guarded isolation.
This country of rolling hills and towering crags certainly exudes charm. The mountains are magnificent, the forests are dense, the people are delightful, the air is pure, the architecture inspiring, the religion exciting and the art superb. Like timeless images from the past, the traveller encounters the full glory of this ancient land through its strategic fortresses known as Dzongs, numerous ancient temples, monasteries and stupas which dot the countryside, prayer flags which flutter along the high ridges, wild animals which abound in dense forests, foamy white waterfalls which are the ethereal showers, and the warm smile of its friendly people. With its beautiful and largely unspoiled Himalayan setting, its rich flora and fauna and its vibrant Buddhist culture, Bhutan has become an increasingly popular destination for international tourists.
Classical Western Bhutan Tour
7 Nights / 8 Days
Trip Start From
Trip Ends At
ARRIVE PARO (BHUTAN) BY FLIGHT & TRANSFER TO THIMPHU (55KM, APPROX. 1.1/2-HOUR DRIVE)
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas. Flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over Himalayan foothills if flying over Kolkatta, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air.
After immigration formalities and baggage collection you will be welcomed by our representative with a ‘tashi khaddar’ (white scarf offering to the guest which is an auspicious way to welcome guest) and drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan. The road leads through the Paro valley to the confluence of Paro and Thimphu rivers at Chuzom (confluence).
Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see on your left Tamchog Lhakhang, the temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, a pioneering engineer who introduced the construction of suspension bridges into Bhutan and Tibet (several of which are still in use today). The present bridge to Tamchog Lhakhang was restored in 2005 in the design of a traditional style with iron chains and crossing this iron bridge is a wonderful experience. (approx. 50 min, roundtrip walk).
On arrival, in Thimphu check-into the hotel. The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. With the population of about 1,30,000 it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.
Later in afternoon visit National Memorial Chorten, a large white structure crowned with a golden spire. It is located close to the center of Thimphu city and is one of its most iconic monuments. This is the most ideal spot to interact with locals who throng in large numbers to circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at a small shrine inside the gate. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Afterwards an exploratory walk around Thimphu main street and market area.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).
Morning after breakfast, take a short drive to the north of town to Buddha Dordenma, located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni made of bronze and is gilded in gold, measures 51.5 meters in height, making it one of the largest statues, in Bhutan. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue, each of these also have been cast in bronze and gilded. Here at Buddha point, you’ve option to perform meditation at a designated area.
Bhutan is known for its innovative postage stamps and The Postal Museum showcases the progress of postal services and also to some extent communication system in Bhutan & country’s rare and unique stamps issued over the years. Also visit the Postal office located next door to get your own personalised postal stamps made and check out various souvenirs.
Then drive to Textile Museum. With the opening of Textile Museum, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden, Bhutanese textile have reached new heights as one of the most visible distinct art forms. The textile museum has opened its exhibition on six major themes - warp pattern weaves, weft pattern weaves, role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile arts, textiles from indigenous fibres and the Royal collection.
Post lunch, for an insight into traditional crafts of Bhutan, visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum, established in 1971, it is the premier institute to preserve and promote thirteen traditional art and crafts of Bhutan. Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers 4-to-6-year courses in 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
This is followed by visit to The Folk Heritage Museum, dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life.
Then explore Centenary Farmers Market. Popularly known as Weekend market, this bustling, colourful market centre is the biggest where farmers from different part of the country gather to sell their farm products. With its wide assortment of products including handicrafts and its picturesque and colourful setting, the Farmer’s Market is a favourite spot for many.
Conclude the sightseeing of the day with visit to Trashichhoedzong, ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. This is the center of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Evening at leisure in Thimphu city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).
THIMPHU – GANGTEY (150KM, APPROX. 5-HOUR DRIVE)
After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m), Kangphugang (7,170 m), Zongphugang (7, 060 m), a Table Mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,570m.
At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty-seven, built around the main chorten.
Then drive onto Gangtey, passing through dense forests of oak and rhododendron tress.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lies the village of Phobjikha.
Afternoon explore fascinating Phobjikha valley. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
Also visit Black Neck Crane Information Centre. Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The centre also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area. There is a small gift shop, which sells handicrafts produced by the local people.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey (Altitude 3,000m).
GANGTEY - PUNAKHA (85KM, APPROX. 3-HOUR DRIVE)
After breakfast visit Gangtey Goenpa (monastery). Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’s and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery. Gangtey was founded by Pema Trinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa, the famous Nyingmapa saint of Bhutan. In 1613, Pema Trinley establish the monastery and became the first Gangtey Tulku. The religious traditions of Pema Lingpa still taught there. The second Tulku, Tenzin Legpa Dondrup (1645 to 1726), enhanced the size of Gangtey while keeping up good relations with Drukpas, and rebuilt the monastery in the form of a Dzong.
Then proceed a pleasant walking excursion on Gangtey Nature Trail. This pleasurable walk will give you a nice feel of Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goenpa, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. The trail ends at local community school after passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang. (approx. 5.5km, 2 hours walk).
After lunch, drive onward to Punakha. Before entering Punakha town, on the way visit to Wangduephodrang Dzong. Founded by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638, on the top of high ridge between Punak Tsang Chhu and Dang Chhu rivers, offering fantastic of the valley below, Wangdue Dzong holds special place in Bhutan’s history. The strategic location of the dzong, provided Penlop (Governor) of Wangduephodrang, chance to protect the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana and Thimphu making him the third most powerful ruler after Governors of Paro and Trongsa. The Dzong had been damaged by fire in 2012 and restored to its original grandeur and splendour recently (in 2022).
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955 and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at an elevation of 1300m above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is popular year-round destination.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha (Altitude 1,300m)
After breakfast, a beautiful hike takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
After lunch, visit Punakha Dzong or (Palace of Great Happiness), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative centre of Bhutan in the past. It measures some 600 by 240 feet and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. Inside are courtyards and religious statuary that hint at the depth of history and spiritual tradition embodied here. Your guide will illuminate your understanding of this intricate culture that is exotic to us, though long established here.
Then a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang.
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Evening explore newly developed Wangdue town and its local market.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha (Altitude 1,300m).
PUNAKHA - PARO (125 KM, APPROX. 4-HOUR DRIVE)
After breakfast, drive to Paro along scenic highway. En route visit handsomely proportioned Simtokha Dzong built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and modelled on Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet). Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras), Simtokha is often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan. It is in fact also the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure.
On arrival in Paro, check into the hotel.
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only international airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
Post lunch, proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Ta Dzong visit immediately followed by a short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong), meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and cosmic Mandala.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m).
After breakfast, embark on a fascinating excursion to Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest (approx. 5 hours round trip walk): It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
Late afternoon, drive end of the Valley to newly restored Drukgyel Dzong. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate an early military victory over Tibetan invaders, the dzong name means, indeed, ‘victorious Druk’. Historically and strategically, this Dzong withstood all its glory and was featured in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) from the village, below the Dzong.
Neary by we will also visit a typical farmhouse. Bhutanese farmhouses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small, isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize and buckwheat.
While driving to Paro town, stop en route at the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Evening at leisure in Paro city centre.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m).
DEPART PARO BY FLIGHT
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for the flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.
What Is Included
Accommodation in standard 3* Superior hotels, approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan
All transfers and sightseeing as per the itinerary
English speaking accompanying guide
Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) @ US$ 200.00 per person per day for the first four nights after onwards 3 nights without the daily levy
Bhutan visa fee (@ US$ 40)
What Is Not Included
Insurance of any kind / medical expenses
Beverages (alcoholic / non – alcoholic)
Expenses of personal nature (like tipping, laundry, Telephone/fax calls, camera/video fees etc)