West Bhutan Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Kathmandu - Paro
The flight into the Bhutan Himalayas is one of the most spectacular experiences you will ever witness. Flying in from the himalayan country of Nepal towards the Northeast, one can witness from the left side of the plane, a chain of the world's highest and majestic peaks. Pay careful attention when the Druk Air captain points out the names: Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and the rest as you fly pass them in minutes. Soon you will descend into Druk Yul, and even as the plane lowers it landing gears preparing for landing you will not find any air strip or signs of a city, do not despair, instead enjoy the view of the approaching valley and the primeval alpine forests, the little monasteries, temples and farm houses all in splendid isolation. Moments before landing, you may catch a glimpse of the fertile Paro valley, the colossal Paro Dzong and the winding Paro Chu river. As you step out of the plane, take your first breath of cool, clean fresh air, this will be your first free gift Bhutan has to offer to the guest. After your Bhutanese guide identifies you, he will escort you to the Olathang Hotel on the hill.
Day 2: Paro Valley
The people of Paro are known for their hard work which they like to show in their big and traditional country houses. If you marry a girl from Paro, be prepared to put a metal roofing over the traditional shingle roof in your wife's house, to show that you are a capable and well – to – do husband, so we joke among ourselves. Morning sightseeing includes : the Ta Dzong National Museum considered to be one of the best natural history museums in Asia ; it has a fine collection of natural and historic artifacts. A short drive to the Drukgyel Dzong fortress, a strategic sentry where the Bhutanese forces repelled the numerous Tibetan invasions from the north ; the majestic Jumolhari or the 'Mountain of the Goddess' can be seen in the background for many, the 2- 3 hour hike to Taktsang or the famous ' Tiger's Nest' is a memorable spiritual journey. It was here that the great tantric master Guru Padmasambhava flew in from Tibet on a tiger to bring Buddhist teachings to Bhutan, retreat in their spiritual quest : the remainder of the day can be spent shopping or simply strolling through town.
Day 3/4: Thimphu: The Capital Of Bhutan
Thimphu is a short hour and half drive from one main valley to the next across paddy fields, apple orchards, farm houses, paddy stacks, farmers drying paddies on the rosd, cattel, pine trees and hamlets that smell of burning wood. Check in at the Jumolhari or Druk Hotels. When in Thimphu be prepared for several things. This unique capital (8000 feet) of the country has adopted its own version of the British – India colonial times traffic policemen, who can startle you and memorize others with his elaborate hand gestures: sometimes he may be signaling stop when it looks like go but don't worry just observe the flow and notice this smile as you stare at him.
Sightseeing includes the Tashicho Dzong, seat of the royal government and central monastic body, it was rebuilt in the early 1960s after a fire destroyed most of the building; the late King's Memorial Chorten which is well visited by the residents of Thimphu especially during the festive and religious occasions; the Handicrafts Center to view the traditional arts now being revived by the government : the Indigenous Medicine Hospital, where herbal medicine, acupuncture and the ancient art of healing that has passed down from Tibet is still being practiced today ; if time permits you can also visit the Thankha Painting School ; silver and goldsmith village ; if you visit coincides on a Saturday or a Sunday you witness the interesting 'Sunday Market' so called even on Saturday !), you can delve into the various vegetables, chilies, temperature fruits from all parts of Bhutan, (all grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers); not far from the market place is the Changlimithang ground where you will always find the game of archery (the national sport of Bhutan) being played.
Day 5: Thimphu To Punakha & Wangiphodrang (3hrs Drive)
After breakfast, drive east climbing steadily towards the Dochu La Pass at 10000 feet. A large chorten and forest of prayer flags greet you as you face the range of majestic peaks towards the North , Gangar Punsum , among others is the highest unclimbed peak (over 24000 feet) in the world. The descent from the pass to valley is about 2 hours, with a altitude drop of over 5500 feet you pass through temperate forest colored with rhododendrons and magnolias, down to the semitropical zone of orange, banana and cactuses. Situated near the river on a small plateau is the famous Chime Lhakhang for infertile women.
The Punakha Dzong built in the 16th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, was the winter capital for 300 years; today it is winter home to the Je Khenpo the chief Abbot, hundreds of monks, and also serves as the asministrative headquaters for the Punakhadistrict. Downstream from the Punakha valley is the Wangdiphodrang Dzong strategically located on a ridge (4430 feet) over looking the junction of the Sunkoshi Tangchu rivers ; it is the gateway to central and eastern Bhutan. Legend has it that Mahakala, the protective deity of Bhutan appeared to tell Shabdrung of a prediction, saying ; 'at top of a rocky spur where two rivers meet , at the place where a flock of raven will fly off in four directions, you will build the dzong.' As prophesied by the deity the Shabdrung built the dzong in 1638. The Punakha and Wangdi valleys are also the winter home for many of the high altitude farmers who migrate with their cattle to the warm climate in the valley. The numerous paddy fields indicate the fertile conditions ideal for agriculture, farmers here often grow 2- 3 crops a year , rice and chili being important cash crops for the farmers. After lunch drive back to Thimphu in time for dinner.
Day 6: Thimphu – Paro (Fly Out)