Arrival at Paro International Airport: your guide and driver will greet you at the airport and take you to your Hotel. If your arrival to Paro is by the morning flight, you can start your exploration right away after refreshing and a meal; the guide will take you around Paro valley to visit famous historical and religious monuments like the Kyichu Lhakhang, Dhungtse Lhakhang, and Paro Dzong, and the Museum. A short drive further to the North will take you to Drukgyel Dzong, ruins of a fort built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet. You will also have some time to yourself for the rest of the evening; reflect and rejoice!
If your arrival to Paro is in the afternoon, short visits to the Town and surrounding areas can be arranged. Alternatively, you can travel to Thimphu and schedule the Paro tour for the last two days of your stay in Bhutan.
Highlights of the Paro Valley tour- Taktsang Walk: Known as the “Tiger’s Nest”, Taktshang is considered one of the most important monastery to visit in Bhutan. The four to five hour return trek, offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor, and a bird’s eye view of the Paro valley. This is truly a spiritual journey.
To avoid walking in the hot sun, an early start is advisable for the two-hour climb.
Duration of drive: 1.5 - 2 hours (55km)
A beautiful drive for one and a half hour along Paro and Thimphu valleys will take you to Thimphu city, the capital of Bhutan. This is where you can feel a blend of the Oriental and the modern, and experience the nostalgia of a nation in gear. The National Memorial Chorten, Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the “fortress of the glorious religion”, the National Textile Museum, the Weekend Market, the Folk Heritage Museum, and the Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic 42-meter-tall Buddha statue, Takin reserve in Motithang, are some of the tourist attractions in Thimphu. Perhaps you may also try the one hour walk up to Tango Monastery where monastic higher education is imparted to monks or to Cheri Goemba which is a meditation Center for senior monks. You can explore the city in the evening and find a few surprises.
Heading off to Punakha is a truly awe inspiring journey with roads which zigzags up to the 3,140m-high mountain pass of Dochu La with its forests of fluttering prayer flags, maze of memorial chortens and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the main Himalayan range. Driving further down towards the valley, you can stretch the legs with the short walk across rice fields to Chimmi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint known popularly as “Divine Madman.” infamous for his colourful and sometimes outrageous adherence to the Buddhist faith. The temple sits atop a picturesque hill surrounded by rice fields. Drukpa Kuenley built a chorten on the site in the 14th century, and it has long been a pilgrimage site for childless couples.
A visit to the Punakha Dzong is a must. Built at the confluence of the Pho-Chu and Mo-chu in the 17th century by Zhabdzung Ngawang Namgyal, this Dzong was the Capital of Bhutan until 1955. The Dzong contains the embalmed body of the Zhabdrung. If time permits, a visit to the Khamsum Yueley Chorten would end the day with a refreshing view of the Punakha valley.
Duration of drive: 3 - 4 hours (76km)
Overnight: Wangdue Phodrang
The magnificent Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was destroyed by fire in 2012. We regret that Bhutan and the world have lost a monument. However, visitors can still see the ruins and the rebuilding efforts.
The journey ahead takes you through forests of bamboo and oak, and just before crossing the Pele La pass, a small side road splinters off to the hidden Phobjika Valley. Gangtey Goemba, a famous monastery perched on a strategic hilltop is a sight to relish. Activities in this valley could be anything from strolling through the Gangtey village or hike across the valley to the Black Neck Crane Center. Depending on the season, huge flocks of the black neck cranes could be seen. Crossing over the Pele La (3420m) in the Black Mountains, through Longtey and Rukubji villages where you can see yaks grazing on the dwarf bamboo, you reach the Chendebji Chorten, a stupa built in the style of Swayambhunath (the monkey temple) in Kathmandu. A short drive further leads to a spectacular view of the Trongsa valley.
Duration of drive: 6 hours
Trongsa is the ancestral home of the Monarchy and therefore, a historical place for Bhutan. While it is in the center of Bhutan, the settlement is largely rural and exotic. Among the many places of interest to visit, a few stands out as “must see” features.
The Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648, stands perched on a narrow spur overlooking the traditional routes to the east and the west. The location was strategic in the old days to impose control on travellers and opposing forces. The Dzong itself is considered the most unique, both in structure and layout, and houses twenty seven temples and various artefacts. The Mangde Chu meanders below the Dzong. A short leisurely trek between the view point and the Trongsa Dzong, along the traditional east-west route is interesting.
The Ta-Dzong, an ancient Watch Tower of the Trongsa Dzong is located on top of a steep hill overlooking the town. It was converted into a Museum and has a lot to offer to visitors. Then there is the small yet cozy town from where you can proceed to Kuenga Rabten and see the south of Trongsa. Alternatively, a trek to the north of Trongsa will offer you a nostalgic experience of rural Bhutan and the lives of the people.
Duration of drive:
The Journey to Bumthang is along one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan, passing pretty villages and monasteries, across wide open farm, and wood land before entering Jakar. You can visit weaving centers on the way.
Bumthang is a place of great spiritual significance in Bhutan, being strongly associated with many myths and legends, as well as historical events. The area is truly unspoilt and is famous for the production of honey, as well as cheese, apples, apricots and Red Panda beer. Among the areas of interests are Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Palace, Lamey Goemba, Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang and places for treks and walks.
Driving along an interesting route through pine forests, you will reach Ura Villag which is said to be home to some of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. This traditional, picturesque medieval village and its temple echo Bhutan’s past, especially when one walks the cobbled walkways and meets the villagers who still wear sheepskins on their backs (used to sleep on at night). Depending on the time spent in the Ura valley there may still be time to visit Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and/or take a short hike to Thangbi Monastery in the afternoon.
Visit Chumey valley sites like the Gangjur village, Domkhar Dzong, and Buli Lhakhang.
Drop by Tangsibi and Chendebji villages which are typical Bhutanese rural settlements.
Visit villages on the way and drop by the Tamchog Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo in the 14th century.
Paro: lap up more of Paro.
Mr Mr. Wesel Wangmo
P.o Box No. 1001 General Post Office, Langjophakha, Thimphu, Bhutan