Essence of Bhutan
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A delightful journey taking in the highlights of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and the Gangtey Valley
On this short but comprehensive journey through Bhutan we experience the highlights of this remote and culturally rich kingdom. With time spent in Paro we visit the famous museum and Taktsang Monastery, discover the sights and sounds of the capital of Thimphu and drive across the Dochu La to explore the beautiful Punakha Dzong and visit the isolated Gangtey Valley - well known as one of the last wintering grounds of the endangered and graceful black-necked cranes.
- Sightseeing in Paro and visit the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tigers nest)
- Immersion in Bhutanese culture at Paro's National Museum
- Visit the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu.
- Ancient dzongs (fort-monasteries) and monasteries in Thimphu
- The Gangtey Valley, winter home to the Black Necked Crane
Day 1 Join Paro
We fly in to Paro with Druk Air, Bhutan's national airline, and after clearing customs and immigration, we're met by our group leader. There will be a pre-trip briefing on arrival at the hotel, followed by an afternoon/evening at leisure in Paro, to allow some acclimatisation; Paro is 2280m above sea level. Overnight at Kyichu Resort on the banks of the Paro Chhu (Paro River).
Day 2 Paro Valley
We spend the day sightseeing in and around Paro. We visit the ruined fortress of Drukyel Dzong (“dzong” means fortress-monastery), which still attracts visitors due to its imposing location. The fort defended the Paro Valley from invasion by Tibet in the early 17th century. On a clear day, Mt Chomolhari (7320m) can be seen towering over the dzong. Further along the beautiful Paro Valley we come to the watch tower known locally as Ta-Dzong, which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. The seven-storey museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century; there are excellent displays of all facets of the country's rich cultural history including traditional costumes and battle dress, priceless jewellery and specimens of the kingdom's unique flora and fauna. We take a short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong which serves as the administrative centre and school for monks, before walking a little further and crossing the traditional bridge into Paro Town.*In September 2011 a large earthquake occurred in the area and caused damage to the National Museum. The Museum is currently clased to the public for safety reasons until such time as repairs can be carried out. If the Museum is closed at the time of your tour alternate arrangements will be made.
Day 3 Transfer to Thimphu (approx. 1-2hrs)
Bhutan's compact capital (population about 50,000 – Bhutan, had its very first census in May 2005) is easily explored on foot. We visit the Indigenous hospital, where traditional healing arts are still practiced, the Art & Craft school, the National Library, the Royal goldsmith workshop and the Handicraft Emporium with its famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings. In the afternoon we visit the memorial chorten (a “chorten” is a stone Buddhist monument, often containing relics) dedicated to the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the founder of modern-day Bhutan. We'll also visit the 15th century Changangkha monastery and Motithang mini zoo, where we'll see the rare "takin" (the national animal of Bhutan), before driving out of town for a view of the Thimphu Valley. We also visit the new Drupthob nunnery temple and browse the local market. Overnight Thimphu.
Day 4 Cross Dochu La, Punakha Dzong
From Thimphu, we drive for about three hours to Wangduephodrang (locally known as “Wangdi”) via Punakha, changing climatic zones from mountainous to tropical. On the way, we cross over Dochu La, a 3150-metre-high pass marked by prayer flags and a chorten and, if the weather is fine, a view of the eastern Himalaya including the highest mountain in Bhutan, Mt Gangar Punsum (7520m). We drive through forests of rhododrendron and magnolia, before the road descends into the warmer lowlands around Punakha. We visit the Punakha Dzong, which once served as the old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress is built in 1637 between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods and fire. Every February there is a procession known as the Punakha Serda to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans. Overnight Wangdi Kyichu Resort. *On the 24th June 2012, the beautiful Wangduephodrang Dzong was completely destroyed by fire. It was one of the oldest and most substantial dzongs in Bhutan built in 1638. Renovations were underway when the fire started and so most of the historic relics had been put into storage and were saved from the devastation of the fire. Re-building is already underway to restore the dzong to its former glory.
Day 5 Wangduephodrang to Gangtey Gompa (drive approx. 4hrs return)
Day excursion to the Gangtey Gompa valley, at an altitude of 2800 metres. Gangtey Gompa is a Buddhist complex which includes monks' quarters, a meditation centre, schools and a small hotel – all overlooking the Phobjikha Valley, a designated conservation area which borders Black Mountain National Park. This is one of the most isolated gompas in Bhutan; there's no telephone and no electricity (to protect wildlife). This beautiful valley is home to the rare Black Necked Cranes which migrate from the Tibetan plateau to escape the harsh winter. About 200 to 300 cranes live in this valley and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) is taking every measure to ensure their protection; during the 4-5 months that the cranes are in residence over winter, for instance, the villagers are not allowed to make loud noises or fish in the river that runs into the valley. We explore this fascinating glacier-carved valley before returning to Wangdi for the night.
Day 6 Return to Paro (drive approx. 5/6hrs)
The return drive back to Paro is no less spectacular, we re-cross the spectacular Dochu La and arrive into Paro in the afternoon.The remainder of the day can be spent wandering the peaceful streets of Paro or relaxing in the hotel.
Day 7 In Paro, Taktsang Monastery
We drive to the foot of the Taktsang Monastery - the famous Tigers Nest Monastery said to have been one of the divine resting places of the Guru Ringpoche. However, although much of the building was once destroyed by fire it is now restored and it is still worthwhile to ascend the walking trail to appreciate the monasteries breathtaking location on a cliff edge about 800 metres above the valley floor. The rest of the day is free to complete sightseeing and purchases before our early morning departure the following day.
Day 8 Trip concludes in Paro
Our trip officially ends after breakfast with a transfer to the airport.
- 7 breakfasts,7 lunches,7 dinners
- English speaking local guide
- good quality accommodation on a twinshare basis throughout
- private internal transport throughout
- all airport transfers
- sightseeing & sight entry fees as listed
- the use of a World Expeditions trek pack which includes a quality sleeping bag, down or fibre fill jacket and insulated mat (valued at over US$500)
- souvenir World Expeditions kit bag
- 8 day trip
- 7 nights hotels
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).
What You Carry
In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), a rainjacket, water bottle, film and camera gear, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc. Porters and mules carry all group gear and your trek pack.