DAY 01 ARRIVE PARO (DRUK AIR)
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the worlds highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. A tour guide from Sambara Tours & Travels, who will be your personal host throughout your stay in Bhutan, will be waiting to assist you with customs and immigration formalities, and then drive you the short distance to the Hotel.
DAY 02 PARO sightseeing
Your journey into the Thunder Dragon kingdom will truly begin with a drive in the morning to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong 18 km up the valley. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the rampart and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jumolhari. We then drive back for an unhurried stroll through Paro town before proceeding to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon we drive to the Ta Dzong, and ancient watch-tower, which now houses the National Museum. A relaxed evening at hotel, sumptuous meal including (for the adventurous!) authentic fiery hot local cuisine, and a warm bed.
DAY 03 PARO EXCURSION TO TAKTSANG (Tiger's Nest) MONASTERY - THIMPHU
A very special day, with an excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery - a labour of devotion and faith! After breakfast a short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten from where we walk up to the Taktsang viewpoint. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshment at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, Taktsang monastery. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it 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 don¹t seem so impossible after all. Lunch at Taktsang Jakhang and then back to Satsam Chorten for the 2 hour drive to the capital, Thimphu. Overnight at hotel absorbing the sights, sounds and scents of Bhutan
DAY 04 THIMPHU sightseeing
After breakfast we visit the National Memorial Chorten built in honor of our late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and the Dupthop Lakhang one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. We then visit the National Library, stocked with ancient manuscripts, and the Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting thangkas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). After lunch we drive to the Traditional Medicine Hospital where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices, and to Lungtenzampa to observe traditional gold and silver smiths at work. Other highlights include a visit to the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan). The Tashichho Dzong is open to visitors only in winter when the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body move to Punakha the ancient winter capital of Bhutan. We finally visit the Handicraft Emporium followed by shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu.
DAY 05 THIMPHU - PUNAKHA
We set in the morning for Punakha the ancient winter capital of Bhutan. Leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and clear, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass often offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. From Dochula the road descends along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha. Lunch at the hotel in Punakha. In the afternoon we take a stroll through the small town and view the Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and ancient capital of Bhutan, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu. The dzong is open to visitors only in summer when the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body are in Thimphu. Overnight stay at Punakha.
DAY 06 PUNAKHA - TRONGSA
The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. We start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan. We make a short stop at Wangdue, the first major town and district headquarters on our route. We view the Wangdue Dzong dramatically located on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu. In the afternoon the road climbs the Pelela pass (3,300 m), traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. We stop near the pass for the packed lunch. If the weather is clear the Himalayan ranges can be seen, particularly the peak of Jumolhari (7,314 m) to the west. En route we cross Chendebji Chorten built many centuries ago to suppress a demon. Overnight stay at Trongsa lodge.
DAY 07 TRONGSA - BUMTHANG
After breakfast we go out to view the impressive Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home of the ruling dynasty. In the olden days the dzong commanded the passage between East and West Bhutan. We visit the Ta dzong, an ancient watch tower, above the main dzong which has an interesting display of Mongol armour, and then explore the quaint town of Trongsa. After an early lunch, the scenic drive to Bumthang takes about 3 hours and crosses the Yotongla pass (3,400 m). Overnight at Bumthang lodge.
DAY 08 BUMTHANG sightseeing
After breakfast we drive through the beautiful valley of Bumthang to visit the sacred sights, shrines and monuments. We also view the Jakar Dzong (Castle of the White Bird) and observe the famous Bumthang Matha (woolen cloth) being woven. In the afternoon we visit the ancient Wangdichholing Palace and the wood craft centre. We then take a stroll through the interesting town of Bumthang. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 09 BUMTHANG - MONGAR
After an early breakfast, we drive to Mongar (198 kms) which takes 8 hours. The road passes through exotic forest of conifer and rhododendron. Before reaching Ura, however we make a short diversion to one of Bhutan¹s most scared pilgrimage sites Membar Tso, (³Flaming Laek²), where devotees float small lighted lamps on the water. This is the place where the great terton¹ (treasure-discoverer¹), Pema Lingpa, actually found the treasures hidden by Guru Rimpoche in the year 1475. With magnificent views of the mountains of eastern Bhutan from the highest pass, Thrimshingla (3,800 m), along the highway, the road begins a dizzying descent passing through semi-tropical forest of bamboo and liana before reaching Kuri Chu river. In the early evening we arrive at Mongar. Packed lunch will be served en route. Overnight at the Mongar Lodge.
DAY 10 MONGAR - TRASHIGANG
After breakfast we visit Mongar Dzong which houses the local monastic community and District Administrative offices. We then drive 4 hours to Trashigang (90 kms) away over the Korila pass (2,450 m). We check in to the Tourist Lodge and refresh ourselves. After lunch, we set out to view the Trashigang Dzong and stroll through the bustling town. This is a relatively relaxed day to recuperate from the long drive from Bumthang to Mongar. Overnight at the Tourist Lodge.
DAY 11 TRASHIGANG - TRASHIYANGTSE - MONGAR
After early breakfast, we drive for one and a half hours to Trashiyangtse (the nation's nineteenth, and most recently created, district) and the impressive monument of Chorten Kora. This whitewashed monument is uniquely constructed in the Nepalese style and is the site of a great annual religious festival drawing devotees from all over Bhutan and neighboring India. We also view the Trashiyangtse Dzong. Packed lunch is served one of the many inviting spots along our route. From Trashiyangtse, we drive straight to Mongar. Dinner and overnight at the Mongar Tourist Lodge.
DAY 12 MONGAR - BUMTHANG
DAY 13 BUMTHANG - GANGTEY/PHOBJIKHA
The drive is not very long or arduous and we arrive in time for lunch at the village of Gangtey, with its important and architecturally interesting Nyingmapa monastery overlooking the beautiful glacial valley of Phobjikha. It is to this valley that the rare Siberian black-necked cranes migrate in winter. Barbecued dinner by the campfire and over night at the Gangtey Guest House.
DAY 14 GANGTEY/PHOBJIKHA - PARO
After breakfast we start early from Gangtey and reach Paro before sundown. We stop for lunch at the Dochula pass cafeteria. We spend a leisurely evening, exchanging notes and absorbing the sights of the previous days. Overnight at the hotel.
DAY 15 PARO - PARO AIRPORT
In the morning our STT representative will bid you farewell at Paro airport. Good-bye and happy journey back home.