Spring is one of the best times to visit Bhutan, when rhododendron, Magnolia and many other spring flowers are blooming and various rare bird species are encountered.
Join with the local inhabitants of Paro to celebrate the spring festival, one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. Monks, as well as laymen dressed in brilliant costumes and wearing masks of both wrathful as well as peaceful deities re-enact the legends and history of Buddhism in the Dragon Kingdom. The festival culminates in the spectacular showing of the four stories 350 years old Thangkha (Buddhisy religious scroll), celebrating the deeds of Padmasambhava, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Locals attend the festival in their finest dresses, beautiful jewelries, and enjoy picnic lunch with abundant of locally brewed alcohol.
After the festival, traverse west to east along Bhutan’s lateral highway enjoying the great biodiversity, ranging from conifer forest to banana trees and cactus plants. Along the route, enjoy the breath taking views of snow capped mountains, glimpses of various birds and wild animals, and experience the ancient old tradition, culture and Bhutanese way of life.
Day 01 Arrive Paro, transfer to hotel.
Fly to Paro. From a window seat on a clear day, you can experience a spectacular view of Himalayan peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival you will be received by our representative and transferred to your hotel.
After lunch, visit the ongoing festival of Paro.
Day 02 Visit Paro Festival, drive to Thimpu
Early morning visit the festival site and view the giant Thangkha (90’ X 70’) that is displayed from the roof of a four story building. This Thangkha embroidered in silk with the images of eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava is more then 300 years old. This Thangkha is displayed only before sunrise.
Return to hotel for your breakfast, followed by the sightseeing tour of Paro, which includes Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, the Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories, it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Chomolhari, alt. 7314 m / 23,990 ft.
Drive south to Satsam Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rinpochey, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in seventh century by a Tibetan King, Songtsen Gonpo.
Late afternoon, drive to Thimpu, and overnight.
Day 03 Full day tour of Thimpu
Today you have a full day tour of Thimpu. Visit to the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang ( Monastery for the nuns), National Library and the painting school where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas ( sacred Buddhist religious scrolls).
Visit the traditional Medicine institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. Continue Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal traditional silver smiths and Bhutanese traditional paper factory.
Drive south and visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It is now used as the Institute for study of traditional teachings Return to Thimpu, and overnight.
Day 04 Overland Thimpu - Punakha
Leaving Thimphu, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges.
Before proceeding further to Punakha, you can hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility.
Arrive in Punakha and check in at hotel. After lunch, drive North of Punakha for sightseeing. Punakha was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong which dominates the whole area was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body.
Day 05 Punakha -Trongsa
Start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As you cross the fertile valley of Punakha, and enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of Wangdue Dzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. Climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.).
With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. On a clear day, you can view the high snow capped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.). As you descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo and quite often Yaks grazing we reach at Chendebji Chorten. This Chorten or Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge.
Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you woud ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles.
Arrive in Trongs and overnight.
Day 06 Trongsa -Bhumtang
From Trngsa the road rises rapidly through a series of hairpin bends to Yotong La Pass (3400 meters / 11200 foot). From here the drive is down the hill up to Chumey Valley (average alt. 2700m / 8800 foot).
You first stop at Chumey will be to visit Domkhar Dzong, This small fortress overlooking the valley was once a summer Palace of the second King Jigme Wangchuk. Continue your drive to Tsugney village where you will see the traditional weaving of woolen fabrics. Continue to Choekhor crossing the Kiki La Pass (2900 meters / 9500foot).Arrive at Choekhor Valley (Valley of Dharma Wheel).
Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys- Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on the animal husbandry.
Day 07 Bhumtang -Trongsa
A bumpa is an oblong-shaped lustral water vase and Bumthang means (Bum - lustral water vase and Thang- Ground) ‘the ground shaped like a bumpa’. Bumthang is considered the holiest valley in Bhutan, many Bhutanese from all over the country visit here on pilgrim to pay their respect and to be blessed by the many holy sites where in ancient times various religious masters have meditated.
Today's sightseeing tour will be followed in the style of Bhutanese tradition, which is in clock wise. Your car will drop you at the Kurjey Lhakhang, it is believed that in the eighth century guru Padmasambhava had meditated here and subdued the local deity known as Shelging Karpo. Begin your hike from here crossing the suspension bridge and visit Padmasambhava Lhakhang. This is another Meditation site of Guru Padmasambhava. It was founded by Pema Lingpa in 15th century and was restored by the Grand Queen Mother of present King.
Continue your hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in beginning of the 16th century by Saint Pema Lingpa. Next you will visit Konchogsum Lhakhang, built in the 8th century, the Temple is famous for its bell, which bears an inscription from the eighth century.
Late afternoon drive to Trongsa. Overnight.
Day 08 Trongsa-Phojbikha- Punakha
Today you will make your journey back through the same route , until reaching Nobding. A road branches off on the left and goes for 13 Kms (8 miles) through a forest of oak and rhododendron into the broad Phobjikha valley alias Gangtey valley. Alt. 3000 meters (9,840 feet) where Gangtey Monastery is located.
Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and the valley floor is quite marshy in places. Phobjikha is also the chosen home of the rare back-necked cranes which migrates from the Central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. The other side of the pass that overlooks the valley is a realm of high-altitude dwarf bamboo, the favorite food of yaks. The Gangtey Monastery, is perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. A large village inhabited mainly by the families of the monk surrounds the monastery.
Continue your drive to Punakha by returning on the same route and connect into the East West highway.
Day 09 Punakha-Paro
After breakfast you will start your journey to Paro, en route stop at Dochula Pass for a tea break and if weather permits, enjoy the panoramic view of Bhutan’s northern snowcapped peaks.
Continue your drive to Thimphu, Lunch will be served here and you have few hours shopping before you continue your drive to Paro.
Day 10 Hike Takshang Monastery
After brekfast, the guide will take you to the starting point of the hike to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
Stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the remains of Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
Back to Paro, and sightseeing tour of 200-year-old Watch Tower that has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of Thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three dimensional and CD stamps issued as early as 1960 that are remarkable, and other galleries showcasing armor and silverware with the handsome Royal teapot.
Day 11 Paro - U.S. or an extension
Transfer to airport, and fly back home or extend a trip to India, Nepal or Myanmar.