The Bhutan Exploration Tour
For those who wish to spare no expense in their experience of Bhutan, but have a limited amount of time, this is the trip for you. The Bhutan Exploration begins with your arrival by business class on Druk Air. Your first class accommodation options may include Taj Tashi, Uma Punakha, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, Uma Paro, ZhiwaLing and Amankora providing you the finest in luxury with services including massage, spa, wellbeing therapies and fine dining. Your transfers are by the highest in luxury 4WD vehicles in Bhutan, whilst your excursion from Bhutan’s spiritual heartland Bumthang back to the western valley of Paro is undertaken mountain flight. You will be accompanied by our most senior guide and driver, as well as an interpreter if required. To truly immerse you in all things Bhutanese, we will arrange a private dinner and culture show, a traditional private tented lunch, and an audience with a Rinpoche (if available). All of these options can easily be tailored to suit your level of luxury.
Day 01: Arrive Paro, Paro – Thimphu
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. This beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples, and the country’s only international airport. After being welcomed with “Khadar” (traditional scarf), a Druk Country Explorer representative will provide you with the necessary assistance for completion of all immigration and customs formalities. You will enjoy an exquisite lunch experience before transfer by deluxe 4WD to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. Remainder of the day is at leisure to settle in, relax, enjoy the hotel facilities or if you wish undertake a small tour of downtown Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu – Punakha
Spend the morning visiting some of the highlights of the capital, including one of the oldest temples in Thimphu, 12th century Changangkha Lhakhang (Lhakhang means temple) and the National Memorial Chorten, first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernisation, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Afterwards if there is time also visit a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum before lunch.
Transfer by deluxe 4WD to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, check into luxurious accommodations. Overnight at Punakha.
Day 03: Punakha
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike to through ricefields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before exploring the Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father 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. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
Afterwards drive back into the Punkha valley for a short 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. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 04: Punakha – Gangtey/Phobjikha
Transfer to Phobjikha Valley (5.5-6 hrs). Drive by luxury 4WD over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters) 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.
Continue on through the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang, and up winding mountain roads through mixed forests and over high passes before descending down into the wide and picturesque Phobjikha Valley. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 05: Phobjikha Valley – Bumthang
Following breakfast visit the Phobjikha Sanctuary to view the majestic black necked cranes (Nov-Mar only) and Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), dating back to the 16th century. Afterwards drive by luxury 4WD over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range towards Trongsa (4.5 hrs). Enroute visit the beautiful 18th century Chendebji Chorten. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. Visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan and the Ta Dzong museum housing a collection of historical artifacts of the Royal Family.
Continue driving towards Bumthang (2.5 hrs), the spiritual of the kingdom. Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries.
Enjoy an optional Spa Treatment before dinner. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 06: Bumthang
In the morning visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and 7th century Jambay Lhakhang. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples. Return to Amankora Resort for lunch before continuing sightseeing including Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pemalingpa and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang – Paro (Mountain Flight)
Enjoy a stunning mountain flight with incredible views over Bhutan from Bumthang back to the Paro Valley. On arrival you will enjoy some sightseeing around Paro including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious 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 check-in to you luxury accommodation. After enjoying an optional Spa Treatment (subject to availability), enjoy a sumptuous dinner. Overnight in Paro.
Day 08: Paro
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. 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. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. Refreshments and lunch will be arranged in the tent specifically pitched on the path to Taktsang Monastery.
On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Overnight in Paro.
Day 09: Depart Paro
Enjoy breakfast before driving to the airport for flight to your onward destination.