Day 1: Arrive at Paro Airport. (Altitude: 2,280m/7,524ft above sea level).
The flight into Paro brings breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains. If the weather permits you will be able to see Mt Everest (8,848m, 29,198ft) and other Himalayan mountains. The landing, flying through the Paro valley between the 4,000 metre high mountains, starts your day in an unforgettable way! Your Bhutanese representative will greet you on arrival and drive you through the beautiful valley of Paro to the hotel where you will be staying.
This beautiful valley is home to many Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The country’s only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Chomolhari(7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.
Later visit, Ta Dzong: This means - watch tower, which it served as during the 17th century to guard the region from the Tibetan invasion. It was converted to the National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thankas (used to bolster the visualization generated during meditation and were made from Himalayan animal fibers), paintings, animals found in Bhutan, arms and ammunitions and the country’s exquisite stamp collections.
Rimpung Dzong: Means fortress of the heap of jewels. It was built during the time of Zhabdrung (deeply revered to this day as dynamic political and spiritual leader) in 1644. It houses both administrative and monastic bodies. It is also the venue for the Paro festival (Tsechu), held once in a year during spring season (April). The main highlight of Paro festival is that it has the unfurling of the one of the oldest Thongdol (gigantic scroll painting) which literally means
Kichu Lhakhang(Monastery): It is one of the two most sacred and the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. It is believed that he took the responsibility to built 108 temples in the different regions of Tibet, Bhutan and in other Himalayan regions to control evil spirits, disease and droughts out of which two of them are in Bhutan.(Kichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang). Overnight in Paro.
Day 2: In Paro
Acclimatization hike to the famous Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest): This is Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon perched 8,00m/2,640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998 it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimopche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew from Kurtoe (eastern Bhutan) on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. The hike takes between one to two hours there and slightly less on the way back. Most of the route is through wonderfully cool and sheltered oak forests. Although the paths are worn they are easily walked. There is a tea house half way for a break. After the tea house the path is slightly steeper and more open with one area of exposed steps. It is a route that anybody of reasonable fitness can make but those who suffer from vertigo might prefer to wait at the tea house.
Then visit the Farm House: Bhutan is justly NOT famous for its cuisine, which is somewhat predictable. Eating at a local farmhouse at least gives a slightly different variation, and a chance to see the inside of such a home, rather than just the brightly decorated exteriors. (Please note that if you take hot stone bath or eat in the traditional farm house then you need to pay extra).
Later stroll around the town. Overnight in Paro.
Day 3: Trek Begins (Jumolhari Trek II)
Duration: Eight days
Max. Elevation: 4,890m
Highest Camp: 4,080m
Best Seasons: April to June, September to November
Start: Drukgyel Dzong (Paro)
Finish: Drukgyel Dzong (Paro)
Drukgyel Dzong: Sharna Zampa
(Distance 17 km,4/5 hours, 360 m ascent, 80m descent, camp altitude 2,850m).
Drive up to Drukgyel Dzong (2,580m) where the road ends and the trek begins. With a gradual climb the trail follows the Paro Chhu passing beautiful meadows, paddy fields and impressive farm houses. After about four hours you will reach the army post at Gunitsawa village. At the army checkpost your trek permit (provided by your tour operator) will be checked and endorsed. The campsite is on the opposite side of the river, not far from Gunitsawa.
Day 4: Sharna Zampa- Thangthangkha
(Distance 22km, 7/8 hours, 770m ascent, 10m descent, camp altitude 3,610m).
On this long day, the trail continues with lots of small ups and downs. After goinguphill through the river valley, you enter the Jigme Dorji National Park. The valley finally narrows gradually to a mere path which descends to a meadow where a camp will be set up. From here, if weather permits, you will have the first great view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 5: Thangthangkha – Jangothang
(Distance 19km, 5/6 hours, 480m ascent, camp altitude 4,080m).
If you did not see Mount Jomolhari last evening, you will have a great chance to get a great view this early morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. Cross an army outpost along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. Yaks and the herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. Reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari.
Day 6: Jangothang Halt:
The day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views on lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatisation. Trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jumolhari and it’s subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and a number of unclimbed peaks to the east.
Day 7: Jangothang to Dhumzo
(Distance 16km, 6/7 hours, 810m ascent, 1,090m descent, camp altitude 3,800m).
The trail leads to a last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu. Passing the lake of Tshophu (4,380m) you will climb up steeply to Bhonte La pass at 4,890 m, the highest point of this trek route. Reaching the Dhumzo Chhu river, you trek downstream passing the few houses of Dhumzo to arrive at your camp soon after.
Day 8: Dhumzo to Thombu Shong
(Distance 11km, four to five hours, 720m ascent, 340m descent, camp altitude 4,180m).
The trail climbs 100m over a ridge to drop to another stream then. After crossing the Takhung La pass (4,520m) you descent to Thombu Shong, three yak herder huts with your campsite next to them.
Day 9: Thombu Shong to Zakhapang
(Distance 13km,4/5 hours, 200m ascent, 1,650m descent, camp altitude 2,850m).
Crossing Thombu La pass (4,380m) you will finally reach Gunitsawa and the campsite of your first night of this trek.
Day 10: Sharna Zampa to Drukgyel Dzong.
(Distance 17km,4/6 hours, 80m ascent, 360m descent).
Coming across the primary school and shop the valley opens. From Mitshi Zampa you can see how the dzong is positioned and where the path takes you finally to Drugyel Dzong. Later the vehicle will pick you up and will drive to the capital city Thimphu (2 hours drive)
Altitude: 2,320m/7,656ft above sea level.
Thimphu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Royal Government to several foreign missions and development projects. Bhutan’s only golf course, a nine-hole circuit, is situated next to the magnificent Tashichoo Dzong. The following are some of the prominent places you will visit in Thimphu. You can relax and stroll around the city. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 11: In Thimphu
Morning take a hike to Cheri Monastery(Includes Dodina and Jigme Dorji Wild life Sanctuary): Hike about 2 hrs leds to Cheri Goemba (Cheri Dorji Dhen). The trail starts by crossing a lovely covered bridge that spans the Wang Chu, and then climbs to the monastery. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620 and established the first monk body here. Silver Chorten inside the monastery holds the ashes of Shabdrung father (Option for meditation). A chance to spot birds such as Mrs. Gould's Sunbird, Yellow-browed Tit, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Long-billed Thrush, Ultramarine Flycatcher.
Later visit the weekend market: The days are absolutely central to the lives of the Bhutanese, but there are many reasons to visit other than the delicious fresh food on offer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are regular competitions centered on the national sport of Bhutan archery as well as the opportunities to buy beautifully handcrafted items such as yak tail dusters and butter tea cups. The people crowd the stalls every day, dressed in full colour and gathered to meet and to barter, much like the street markets in London!
Institute of Traditional Medicine: In November 1967, the third Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck commanded the Health Department to establish traditional medicine system for the welfare of Bhutanese people and to preserve its rich culture and tradition. Accordingly Indigenous Hospital was opened on 28th June 1968. The main objectives of the hospital are to promote and preserve traditional medicine system in the country. Provide alternative medicine as complementary to the allopathic system and to achieve excellence in traditional medicine services in Bhutan.
Paper factory: The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. It began as domestic ancient activity which is still in practice in remote areas. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
Later visit, Zorig Chusum Institute (Thirteen Crafts): It was established in 1971 by the Royal Government in order to preserve the invaluable heritage and promote the arts of Bhutan. The two main objectives of the institute are (a to preserve and promote the traditional arts and crafts and b) to create job opportunities for the underpriviledged group of the society, school dropouts and unemployed youths.
Folk Heritage museum: It was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, who is the founder and patron of the Museum, on 28th July 2001. It is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibition of its items and artifacts used in rural households,demonstrations of rural customs, traditions, habits and skills; educational programmes for children about rural lifein Butan, and research and proper documentation of rural life.
Mini zoo: Here you can see just one animal - Bhutan’s national - the Takin. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125 ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds. The zoo was emptied in accordance with Buddhist principles, but the Takin came back so the keepers decided to look after them, also in accordance with Buddhist principles!
Sangaygang View Point: As well as being the location of the transmitter tower of the only national television tower in the country (BBS), the view point is also the perfect place to take in some truly breathtaking views of the entire city of Thimpu. On a clear day you can see the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering on the hills in the distance as well as the whole of the Thimpu valley - needless to say, this is THE place to take your camera and capture the essence of a remarkable country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also known as the Lover’s Point!
Tashichho Dzong: The names means - Means Fortress of Glorious Religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
In the evening if you wish we can make arrangements to take you to enjoy the recent trends of the younger Bhutanese, who spend their evenings in the discotheques, or in the entertaining hubs where there are live performances of Bhutanese songs and dances (traditional and modern) by the best Bhutanese bands. If you wish you can even test your singing talents in the bars that offer Karaoke. Overnight in Thimphu
Day 12: Thimphu to Punakha to Thimphu. Altitude: 1,350 m/4,455 ft above sea level
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo(Chief Abbot) and the monk body. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by Pho(male) Chu and Mo(female) Chu (river)
Morning visit, Memorial Chorten: Chorten are memorial structures designed to evoke the same perfect symmetry and elegance of the Buddha himself, and it is traditionally good luck to pass them on the left. This particular chorten was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of the country, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The chorten is just another example of how seriously the Bhutanese consider, and how perfectly they realize, their unique architectural style.
Driving towards Punakha(3 hrs 30 min), we come across a pass known as Dochula (3,140m, 10,362ft from where a beautiful panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range can be seen, especially in clear winter days. The beauty of this place is further enhanced by the Druk Wangyal Chortens- a 108 stupas built by the eldest Queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. You will also come across Pelela pass (3,290m, 10,857ft) that divides the western parts from the central region.
Later visit, Punakha Dzong (fortress): Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung which is remarkably located between the rivers of Mo (Female) Chu (river) and Pho (Male) Chu. Until the time of second king it served as a seat of the king. Now it is the winter capital of the central monk body.
Then hike to Chimi Lhakhang: This Temple was built by lam Drukpa Kuenley (The Divine Madman) in 1499. It is about thirty minutes hike across fields from the road – a welcome chance to stretch your legs after the drive. His style of teaching was thought shocking, insulting and including obscene behavior. His outrageous actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard preconceptions. In the temple you will receive a blessing from his wooden phallus. Wooden phalluses are often found hanging in the four corners of the houses and also phalluses are painted on the walls of houses. It is the common belief that this helps in driving away evil spirits. Later drive back to the capital city Thimphu(3 hours 30 minutes drive) Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 13: Depart from Paro.
Early breakfast at the hotel and your escort will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.