This in-depth cultural tour offers a rare opportunity to savour the different customs and cultures of the western and central valleys of Bhutan at a leisurely pace. Highlights include Ta Dzong Museum, Rimpong Dzong and the infamous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in the beautiful Paro Valley, The National Memorial Chorten, 12th century Changangkha Temple and the National Library exhibiting ancient scriptures in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, and after crossing the 3050m Dochula Pass with spectacular Himalayan views, a journey into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley featuring the incredible the Punakha Dzong and Chimi Lhakang, temple of the ‘Divine Madman’.
Day 1: Arrive Paro
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our Yudruk representative will meet you at Paro airport. After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the National Museum, Ta Dzong. This museum houses many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical and cultural past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards walk to the beautiful cantilever wooden bridge still in use. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 2: Hike to Tiger’s Nest
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you high above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Kyichu is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 3: Trek starts from Jele Dzong
8km, 4-5 hours. 1090m ascent
Today is a short trekking day. The journey starts with a climb up to Jele Dzong. The trek trail ascends gradually up to the camp, and if the weather is clear Paro valley can be seen surrounded by snow capped mountains. Above the camp is Jele La (3400m) and Jele Dzong. There is also a Lhakhang containing a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3480m.
Day 4: Jangchulhakha
10km, 3 – 4hours. 310m ascent, 50m descent
Begin with a one and a half hour climb and then ascend more gradually upwards. The trail takes us through thick alpine forests of rhododendrons. We will have fine views of Mt. Chomolhari and other snow capped peaks if the weather is right. We may hear some pheasants calling during the day. We may also see yak herders around your campsite. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3770m.
Day 5: Jimilangtsho
11km, 4 hours. 230m descent, 330m ascent
The trail follows the ridge, and when the weather is clear views of the mountains and valley are sensational. We will enjoy a great view of Jichu Drake (6989m), the peak representing the protective deity of Paro. Our camp is close to Jimilangtsho lakes, famous for their giant sized trout. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3870m.
Day 6: Simkota
11km, 4 hours. 820m ascent, 400m descent
The trail takes us through dwarf rhododendron trees and passes by the lake of Janeetsho. Today we may come across some yak herder’s camps and get an idea of how these people live. We camp overnight close to Simkota Lake. If you are lucky you can catch a lake trout for your dinner. Overnight at campsite.
Day 7: Phojoding
10km, 4 hours. 130m ascent, 680m descent
Today begins with a gradual climb and if the weather permits you will enjoy majestic views of Mt.Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan. You may also view a host of other peaks from Phume La (4080m). The trail slowly descends through juniper trees to a campsite. Overnight at campsite. Altitude 3610m.
Day 8: Thimphu
5km, 3 hours
The trek to Thimphu is downhill all the way, passing through a forested area of mostly blue pine. Taking a leisurely pace, you reach Thimphu in about 3 hours. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 9: Day excursion to Punakha
(Day excursion to Punakha)
After breakfast, drive over the Dochu-La Pass (3100 m), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu Rivers and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Return to Thimphu. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 10: Paro
Enjoy sightseeing in Thimphu beginning with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernization. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the third King who passed away in the year 1972. Other highlights include the 12th Century Changangkha Temple, Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha nunnery, the School for Arts and Crafts where the students are taught to master the 13 types of Bhutanese art, the National Library housing a collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum. If there is time, you may also visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan and Tashichhodzong. In the early evening depart for Paro. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 11: Depart Paro
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.