In this Travel Asia Holiday exclusive eight days Discover the Dragon tour, our Bhutan experts have handpicked the best destinations in Bhutan for a perfect week long Bhutan Holiday. You will visit the capital city of Thimphu which is so unlike any other cities you would know, the beautiful landscapes of Punakha, the scintillating valley of Gangtey and you will also get to indulge in an exciting trek to Taktsang monastery in Paro. There are a lot you will discover in this tour which cannot be just put into words.
Day - 1 : Paro - Thimphu
After you land in Paro and complete immigration formalities, our representative will meet and drive you to the Capital, Thimphu, 55km away and a journey of little more than an hour. Enroute stop to Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers, will reveal Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese styles of stupas. Before that, you will see Tschogang Lhakhang, a temple built in the 15th century, in honor of Balaha, the excellent horse and a manifestation of Chenrezig, the compassionate Buddha.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into hotel. Late afternoon visit to Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang) where a gigantic Buddha statue sits; offers you a bird's eye view of Thimphu.
Take a walk around Thimphu. Visit the Local Crafts Bazaar where you get a local handicrafts. Evening drive around Thimphu after dusk to capture the night lights and sights.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day - 2 : Thimphu
Visit the National Library which houses a huge collection of Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum/the Painting School where students learn Bhutan's 13 traditional arts and crafts for six years. Visit Textile Museum to get a glimpse of Bhutan's textiles. Also visit Simply Bhutan, a museum and studio that delineates Bhutanese cultural heritage.
After lunch, drive to Sangaygang view point, more than 2,500m above sea level for a canopy view of the city. Drive to Takin Reserve Centre to see Bhutan's national animal, the Takin.
Next up is Changangkha Monastery, built by Lama Phajo Drugom Zhipo in the 15th century. This monastery is especially frequented by parents to get blessings for their babies.
Visit King's Memorial Chorten, built in honor of His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk and as a monument of peace.
Lastly, visit Trashichhoedzong, the Secretariat building that houses the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices besides being the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and the central monk body.
Overnight in Thimphu.
Day - 3 : Thimphu - Gangtey
After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,000+m above sea level). If the weather is favorable, you will be able to view the mountain peaks of Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), and finally Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
Dochula Pass has 108 stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother.
Enroute Gangtey, visit Rinchengang Village, a small cloister village in Wangduephodrang, 20 minutes hike from the nearest road point, opposite erstwhile Wangduephodrang Dzong. After lunch, drive onto Gangtey, one of the most beautiful and pristine valleys in the country. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, lies the surreal Phobjikha valley.
Overnight at homestay in Gangtey or Hotel.
Day - 4 : Gangtey
In the morning, visit Gangtey Goempa whose overseer is Gangtey Tulku, the ninth reincarnation of Pema Lingpa-a famous Buddhist saint.
An excursion along the Gangtey Nature Trail will take you from the small ridge overlooking Gangtey Goemba to Semchubara village and end at a local community school. Post-lunch, explore Phobjikha valley - the winter roosting ground for black necked cranes that migrate from the north. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (black river) and Gay Chhu (white river ). The Black Necked Crane Information Centre along the main road of Phobjikha valley has an observation room with a telescope to spot cranes. The centre also offers information on the area's history. Alongside is a small gift shop that sells handicrafts made by the locals.
Overnight in Gangtey.
Day - 5 : Gangtey – Punakha/Wangduephodrang
Start for Punakha after breakfast. Punakha, a fertile valley watered by the Pho Chhu (Male River) and Mo Chhu (female River), takes around three and half hours to reach from Gangtey. Punakha is a temperate valley. Until 1955, Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. Today, it is the winter residence of the central monk body.
Visit the Punakha Dzong built strategically at the confluence of the two rivers by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as the religious and administrative centre of the region.
Take a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, known as the Divine Madman due to his use of ribald humor to spread the Dharma. It is believed that childless couples will conceive if they visit the lhakhang.
Move towards Wangduephodrang adjacent to Punakha soon after. Wangduephodrang district known as Sha or 'east' to the Bhutanese was pivotal in unifying the western, central and southern regions.
Overnight in Punakha / Wangdue.
Day - 6 : Punakha/Wangduephodrang - Paro
Visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery overlooking Punakha. The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara, one of the biggest in the country made by Bhutanese artisans. Others include statues of Guru Padmasambhawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The temple complex also shelters higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where apart from religious training, they learn life skills such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangkha painting.
Drive back to Paro descending Dochu La and alongside the Wang Chhu.
En route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest dzong in the country built in 1627, now a school for Dzongkha language study.
After checking into the hotel, proceed to Ta Dzong, originally built as a watch tower, now the National Museum housing antique artifacts such as thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor.
Walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, or the 'fortress of the heap of jewels'. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard wall paintings depict Buddhist lore such as the four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and the cosmic Mandala.
In the evening, take a stroll through Paro street, exploring local shops.
Overnight in Paro.
Day - 7 : Paro
After breakfast, excursion to Taktshang Monastery (takes about five hours to and fro). About 900m above the Paro valley floor and considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the country it is also arguably the most famous. Lore has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a flying tigress and meditated at this monastery hence the name - 'Tiger's Nest'. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited it in 1646.
An afternoon drive to the base of Drukgyel Dzong, a fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago, but is in ruins now. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhar mountain can be seen from the approach road to the Dzong. Also, visit a traditional farm house to get insight into the lifestyle of locals.
While returning to the hotel, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, an important landmark to the advent of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight in Paro.
Day - 8 : Paro - Departure
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Paro airport for the flight as per schedule.