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Welcome to the Kingdom of Bhutan and the start of your eye-opening adventure! The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 ½ hours and upon arrival and after settling in; you will have the choice of the National Memorial Chorten, weekend market, and perhaps time to stroll the Main Street for some interesting Himalayan artifacts or textiles.
This morning you will head to the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Royal offices, and pay a visit to Pangri Zampa, two 16th century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs, a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town you should be able to visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense.
An early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain passes of Yotongla and on to the Phobjika Valley. The journey continues over the 11,234ft mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down through the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway continues on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak, and just before crossing the Pele La pass, a small side road splinters off to the hidden Phobjika Valley. On arrival you will have time to visit the striking Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the head of the valley, and perhaps strolling through the quaint Gangtey village or hike amongst the beautiful valley behind the lodge.
This morning will start with a visit to the Black Neck Crane Center and dependent on the season, time spent in the Center’s nearby hide is a must to view the breeding cranes. Various walks or a mountain bike ride through this magnificent valley can be arranged. Soaking up the beauty of the valley from the Lodge or returning to the revered Goemba for an audience with the Tulkul may be attractive, relaxing alternatives for the day.
Today’s journey onward to Jakar (Bumthang) is perhaps long, but certainly memorable. Following a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten, which according to belief was built to cover the remains of a demon spirit, you will carry on to what was the original home of the royal family. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official business permitting, perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork.
This morning you will explore our neighbouring palace, Wangdichhoeling, home to the 2nd King, and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up valley, you will take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of Bhutan’s most auspicious monuments, that was once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche, and Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings. Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, you will enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by quick visits to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits.
We opt for an early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Dochu La and on to the Punakha Valley. Sights on the way include the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down through the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway will loop you through the Valley of Wangdi where you can visit the rustic Wangdiphodrang Dzong and perhaps the local town temple next door. This afternoon you will have a choice to visit the village of Talo, home of the Queens’ and the valley’s protective deity lhakhang. Later in the afternoon a hike to an ancient monastery on the hilltop behind the lodge can be organized.
Your day begins with a hike up through fields along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. Returning down you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks. A picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chhu at a vantage point of the stunning Dzong and confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. Following lunch a quick drive will take you to the village of Talo where you will stop to walk the stunning, quiet grounds of the village temple and perhaps visit the home village of the Kingdom’s four Queens.
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys, before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, you will find the Amankora lodge and its spa. In the afternoon, there is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a ramble down Paro’s main street. Evenings at Amankora may include informative lectures on the history, religion, flora and fauna of the region or an intriguing movie on the Himalayas.
The day starts with a visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here, an intriguing collection of artefacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lies the dominating Paro Dzong, fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. The tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, and drive on to the town temple. Paro options include picturesque picnic spots or, perhaps, a visit to a traditional farmhouse to lunch with the family. In the afternoon, hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor.
Today marks the end of your unique journey. After breakfast and hotel check out we will transfer you to the airport in time for your onward departure journey.