THE BEST OF BHUTAN

This trip provides us the opportunity to traverse through the culturally centered valleys of Paro, Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue, experiencing the enchantment of pure and exotic land, through its ancient fortresses, monasteries, and temples that dot the country side. Thanks to its isolation, small population, mountainous terrain, and the national religion of Buddhism, which stresses the sanctity of all life, Bhutan has protected its forests and wildlife. As a result, this tiny kingdom, in contrast to all of its neighbors, possesses the last truly intact, large-scale ecosystem in the Himalayas. Protecting not just nature but culture is a huge priority for Bhutan. The Bhutanese people constitute one of the most interesting and least disturbed cultures in the world. It is not uncommon to be engaged in discussion by passerby, or to be invited in for lunch by a Bhutanese family. The Bhutanese are often as curious about outsiders as tourists are about them. Over the course of our 08 days in Bhutan, we will immerse ourselves in the country’s rich Buddhist culture and ancient traditions.

DETAILED ITINERARY:

Day 1: Kathmandu Arrival
Kathmandu arrival and transfer to hotel. Check-in and refresh. In the evening, enjoy Nepali dinner with cultural program.
Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 2: Fly to Paro and drive to Thimphu
After breakfast, fly to Paro (1 hour). From the left seat, you can see mountain range including Mt. Everest (8848 m, highest peak in earth) and the spectacular view of Bhutan’s snow capped peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival you will be received by our representative and drive to Thimphu, which will be approximately 1.5 hrs drive. Thimphu is situated at an elevation of 2500 meters / 8200ft.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.

Day 3: Sightseeing of Thimphu Valley
Visit King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk Memorial Chorten, Dupthop Lhakhang ( Monastery for the nuns), National Library, the Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas ( sacred Buddhist religious scrolls), and the Medicine Institute where traditional medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. After lunch you will visit Lungtenzampa to observe the traditional silver smiths plying at their crafts and tour the Bhutanese traditional paper factory. Return back to town to visit the handicraft stores and stroll around the tiny capital city. Overnight at Hotel. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
OPTION: If you are in Thimphu during Friday Saturday and Sunday then the sightseeing will
Visit Thimphu weekend market, which is in a permanent set of stalls, vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and foodstuffs. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip. At the northern end of the market is a collection of stalls called the indigenous goods and handicrafts section. Here you will find locally produced goods, including religious objects, baskets, fabrics and different hats from various minority groups. Continue your sightseeing to Zangdopelri temple, the Changlimithang where you can witness young Bhutanese practicing their favorite archery game. Return to hotel for lunch, after lunch visit the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang (Monastery for the nuns) and other places of interest.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.

Day 4: Drive to Thimphu to 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. Your car will drop you at the mule track, from where you will hike through the Rhododendron, Magnolia, Juniper and Pine forest with chirping sounds of the many rare species of birds that are found in Bhutan. Your picnic lunch will be served at a good spot. You will then be driven to Lobesa where you will make another hike to Chimi Lhakhang Temple on small hill. 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. You will continue your drive north to visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, situated between Phochu and Mochu, this dzong is the most magnificent dzong of Bhutan and had served as the capital of the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. Presently the Dzong is the district administration and judiciary office as well as the winter home for Bhutan’s spiritual leader Je Khenpo and the 600 monks of Thimphu and Punakha. 
Overnight at hotel in Punakha.

Day 5: Day trip to Phobjikha
After breakfast a short drive takes us to Wangdue at an elevation of 1,350 meters (4,430 feet), one of the major towns and district headquarters of western Bhutan. We make a short visit of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong dramatically located on the spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. We will continue our journey for another two hours and enter into the broad Phobjikha valley ( 3,000 meters/ 9,840 feet). The drive will be through a forest of Oak and rhododendron and often encountering the gigantic Yak. Phobjikha is also the chosen home of the rare black-necked crane 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. We will visit the Gangtey Monastery, perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. The monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 gomchens who take care of the monastery. The only Nyingmapa monastery in western side of Bhutan and the largest in Bhutan is headed by its spiritual master known as ninth Gangtey Tulku. The road continues for a few more kilometers beyond the monastery to the village of Phobjikha. The valley of Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. We return to Punakha, which will be four hours drive. Picnic lunch will be served.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha.

Day 6: Drive back to Paro
After Breakfast resume your journey to Paro stop at the Dochula Pass for few minutes for a leg stretch and photographs, if lucky you might be able to view the Bhutan’s 200 mile snowcapped peaks in the north if you had missed the other day. Resume your journey; your next stop will be at the oldest Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It now houses the institute of traditional studies for lay men and women. Continue your drive to Thimphu. Lunch will be served here. After lunch you will have about an hour to do the last minute shopping before you resume your journey to Paro. On your way to Paro you will stop at the Tachogang Temple, built by Thangtong Gyalpo in the 15th century, who was responsible for numerous iron bridges throughout Bhutan. Continue your drive to Hotel. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 7: Sightseeing of Paro Valley
After breakfast visit, 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. After lunch visit the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armor and rare stamps. Take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. You will walk through a traditional covered bridge across the river to your waiting car at the valley floor and take you to the Hotel. If time permits, hike up the nearby hill to get a panoramic view of the Paro Valley. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
Overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 8: Excursion to Taktsang Monastery
After breakfast your car will drop you at the starting point of the excursion 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. You stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike (if not tired) 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. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria.  Lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
Overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 9: Departure to Kathmandu from Paro
After breakfast, transfer to Paro International Airport for flight back to Kathmandu.
Kathmandu arrival and transfer to hotel. Optional sightseeing or full day rest.
Eve: Enjoy farewell dinner at one of the nice restaurant.
Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 10: Departure from Kathmandu or Extend Nepal tour
Breakfast and timely transfer to airport for departure from Kathmandu.