Bhutan - In clear weather, enjoy magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks as they give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. The first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. After clearing customs and visa control you are met by your local CEO who will conduct your welcome meeting and orientation. Later visit the Rimpung Dzong, a school for monks, and take a walk through the shopping district.
Today we drive to one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan—via the Chelela Pass. At the pass, we hike to Kila Goempa Nunnery clinging to a rocky cliff. In the valley, we visit Wangchuk Lo Dzong shrine and the Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) which were built in the 7th century. After breakfast drive to Haa valley via Chelela pass (3899 m) onto Haa valley which was closed from the outside world until 2002. It is also the last valley of Bhutan adjoining with autonomous Tibet. From the pass one can get a good view of the Himalayan Ranges and the valley beyond. Hike through the deep forest of pine trees and rhododendron to Kila Goempa nunnery (approx 2 hours), clinging on a rocky cliff and is a house for around 60-70 nuns. After visiting the nunnery the trail descends through the forest of chirping, firs and spruce and then drive to Haa. In Haa visit Wangchuck Dzong which dates back to 1915 and visit Lhakhang Nakpo (Black temple) which is said to have been built by pigeon emanation of King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and also visit Lhakhang Karpo. Approx travel time: 65 kms/2 hours
Continue on to Punakha, crossing the Dochula Pass, which offers stunning views of the Himalayan Ranges. On Day 4, we take a short hike to Punakha Dzong, a monastery and fertility shrine. Later, visit the town of Wangdue and walk through rice terraces and forest to Khamsum Yueley Chorten, a shrine built by the Queen of Bhutan. After breakfast on Day 3, depart to Thimphu. The drive is through the dense forest of Blue pine, oak and rhododendrons and we enjoy the view of the Himalayan Ranges and the valley beyond. After a lunch stop in Thimphu, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass often offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping for tea and the view, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha. On Day 4, visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo (Female) Chu and Pho (Male) Chu and drive to Lobeysa and hike another 20 minutes to Chime Lhakhang, temple of the “Divine Madman” built in 1499 and today it is mostly visited by the women who couldn’t bear Children as it is known as temple of fertility. After the visit walk back to the road point and then drive a short distance to Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan where we make a short stop and visit the Wangdue Phodrang. Continue to the suspension bridge and then hike to Khamsum Yueley Chorten, the walk is through the rice terraces fields and deep pine forest until you reach the stupa at the top which was consecrated in December 1999 and the view from here is superb. After the visit descend the trail till you reach the suspension bridge and return to the hotel. Day 3 approx travel time: Haa - Punakha: 180 km/7 hours
En route to Gangtey, visit the village of Khewa. On Day 6, walk to the monastery of Gangtey Goempa, which holds the most scared relics of Bhutan. After, visit the community school, and then walk across Phobjikha Valley and into the Khewa Valley to visit an old temple and offer a donation. On Day 5 take a short drive to Gangtey via Wangdue. After lunch drive into the village of Khewa where their main production is potato farming and dairy products. Also visit the monastery of Gangtey Goempa, which was built in the 16th century and renovated and consecrated in 2008. The monastery holds the most scared relics in all of Bhutan and its architectural design is amazing. After that visit the Community School of Gangtey, where we sit with the students through one of their classes. If participants desire, donations to the Goempa are accepted and welcome (donations are made directly to the school trust fund. Consult your guide).The valley is also a centre for crane observation run by the RSPN (Royal Society for the Protection of Nature) an NGO striving to protect Bhutan’s environment, flora and fauna. After our visit to the school we walk across Phobjikha Valley and into the Khewa Valley, where we visit an old temple and offer a (compulsory) donation – a necessity to keep the monastery running Day 5 approx. travel time: Punakha - Gangtey: 78 km/3 hours
Continue over the Chendebji Chorten and Pelela Pass to Trongsa and visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong situated on a spur overlooking the Mangde Chhu and then continue your drive to Bumthang. Here we hike to the Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic schools) and Kurjey Lhakhang. We also visit Jambay Lhakhang and Jakar Dzong. The evening ends with a walk through Chamkhar bazaar and a walk across the Chamkhar Bridge. Drive to Trongsa via Chendebji Chorten and Pelela pass (3,300m). At Trongsa, visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong situated on a spur overlooking the Mangde Chhu. Ta Dzong holds the history and ornaments of the hereditary monarchs of Bhutan from 1907 to date. We then continue to Bumthang. On Day 8 take a morning hike to visit Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic schools built by Terton Pema Lingpa) and Kurjey Lhakhang (where the Guru Rimpoche subdued a local demon and left his body imprinted on a rock). We also visit Jambay Lhakhang (one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in 7th century) and Jakar Dzong (seat of the district administration). This evening ends with a walk through Chamkhar bazaar and across the Chamkhar Bridge to visit Nyingkhe Ningpo Lhakhang where you will see the yonge monks playing and studying in the courtyard. Later take a walk into the valley of Chamkhar town. Day 7 approx travel time: Gangtey - Bumthang: 188 km/6 hours
Stunning views again as we travel over the Yotongla Pass onto Trongsa and continue via Pelela Pass to Wangdue. Approx. travel time: Bumthang - Wangdue: 197 km/8 hours
Visit Thimphu for some shopping, then drive to Paro. On Day 11, visit the ruined fortress of Drukgyal Dzong, then hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest), one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world. The monastic complex clings to the rock towering 900 meters above the valley. Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang Temple and the local archery grounds. On Day 10 drive to Paro via Thimphu over the Dochula pass (3100m). In Thimphu you will have an hour on your own for shopping before continuing to Paro via Chundzom. On Day 11 drive the winding road to Drukgyal Dzong, the ruined fortress, which once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions. We then drive to Ramthangkha, where we hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest). The hike up to the cafeteria will take around two hours of average walking speed and is located above 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above sea level. At the view point enjoy the stunning view of the monastery, where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigeress in the 8th century. If you desire then you can hike up to the monastery which contains thirteen holy relics. Taktsang is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan World. The monastic complex clings to the rock towering 900 meters above the valley (over 2,600 feet). After lunch we walk back and visit Kyichu Lhakhang one of the oldest temple in Bhutan (7th century). After we continue to the archery grounds for a demonstration. (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). In the evening take a walk around the main street of Paro’s main shopping district. Day 10 approx. travel time: Punakha - Paro: 142 km/5 hours
Depart at any time.