Day 1: Delhi – Paro – Thimpu. You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel in the early morning and then you are driven to the airport to board flight to Paro. You will be greeted at the airport by our travel facilitator, and then ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to Thimphu. The drive is about one and half hours to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan. This drive will take you through the beautiful valley of the Thimphu River. Arrive at Thimphu and you will be assisted with your check in at the hotel.
You are at leisure for the balance of the afternoon.
Day 2: Thimphu. Begin your exploration of Bhutan with a city tour of ‘Trashichoedzong’ (fortress of the glorious religion). This is the center of the Bhutanese government. It houses the monarch’s throne room and the seat of Je Khenpo or the Chief Abbot. The spectacular dzong (fortress) was built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It was reconstructed in 1960, in traditional Bhutanese style by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the father of modern Bhutan. It was made the seat of the government of Bhutan in 1969.
There is a break for lunch.
Afternoon – Proceed to visit the King's Memorial Chorten (Buddhist funeral monument), which is continuously circled by people, murmuring mantras and spinning prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the father of modern Bhutan. His plan was to dedicate this monument to world peace and prosperity. It was completed in 1974 after his untimely death. Today, it serves both as a memorial to the late King and as a monument of peace. Also visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums, a fascinating testimony of Bhutan’s living traditions.
Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha. Check out of your hotel after an early breakfast and drive to Dochu-la (a pass at 3,088 m / 10,130 ft). Stop here and admire the view of the chorten 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 (7,158 m), Tsendagang (6,960 m), Terigang (7,060 m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m), Zongphugang (7, 060 m), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497 m.
The descent into the Punakha valley is through rhododendron and magnolia forests which bloom in March and April. Punakha was the winter seat of the government of Bhutan until 1952. Subsequently, the capital was permanently shifted to Thimphu. Punakha lies at an altitude of 1,350 metres and is 72 kms from Thimphu. Its small size is no measure for the role it has played in Bhutan’s history. It has the distinction of being the winter capital of Bhutan for 300 years. At Punakha, visit its claim to fame the ‘Punakha Dzong’ which was known in ancient times as the ‘Pungthang Dechhen Phrodang’ (the palace of great happiness). It dates back to 1637. Resembling a giant ship, it is the second dzong to be built in Bhutan and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. The dzong was the coronation site of Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan in 1907. It was also here the historic treaty was signed with the British 1910, wherein they agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan. Although, four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in the recent past has destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
From here, drive to Wangdi Phodrang, the last town on the highway before entering Central Bhutan. Situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction is the formidable Wangdi Phodrang Dzong, the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century, Wangdi played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country. Also visit the local market to see day to day life. The district of Wangdi Phodrang is also famous for its bamboo products, and slate and stone carvings.
Continue with a drive to Punakha. Arrive at Punakha and check in to your hotel.
Day 4: Punakha – Paro. Check out of your hotel after breakfast and proceed on a drive to Paro. Stop at Simtokha Dzong for a tour. This dzong, built in 1627 is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.
Arrive at Paro and check in to your hotel.
There is a break for lunch.
Afternoon – Explore the valley of Paro which contains a treasure house of ‘must see’ attractions. Proceed for a tour of the Ta Dzong which was once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars in the 17th century. The Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s only National Museum in 1968. Then walk down the trail to visit ‘Rinpung Dzong’ (fortress that sits on a heap of jewels). It has a long and fascinating history and is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore. It was built in the 16th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. The dzong today houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. The approach to the dzong is through a traditional covered cantilever bridge called Nemi Zam.
Day 5: Paro. Proceed for an excursion to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Also visit Taktsang (Tiger’s lair) monastery, the most famous of the Bhutanese monasteries. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The excursion to monastery takes about five hours, for a round trip.
Late afternoon – Drive back to Paro, en-route visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom.