The tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan awaits, nestled high in the Himalayas it’s isolation from the world has cultivated a culture rich in traditions, religion and a benevolent monarchy. The dramatic landscapes, from snow capped peaks and deeply forested slopes to raging, boulder strewn rivers, sit largely undisturbed as the endeared environmental initiatives and religious beliefs leave the Kingdom pristine and a jewel of nature. The program takes you into this ancient Kingdom for an adventure into the hearts and lands of charming farmers, fascinating weavers, enchanting monks and charismatic leaders.
Tour Highlights & Inclusives:
Day 1: Arrival
From the flight in, weaving through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 1/2 hours and upon arrival and following lunch, you will have the choice of the National Memorial Chorten, National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, and National Library to visit, and perhaps time to stroll main street for some interesting Himalayan artefacts of textiles. (overnight: Amankora in Thimphu)
Day 2: Tour of Thimphu
This morning you will head to the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Roya offices, and pay a visit to pangri Zampa, two 16th century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs, a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town you should be able to visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense. (overnight: Amankora Thimphu)
Day 3: From Thimphu to Gangtey
An early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Fochu La and on to Phobjika Valley. Sights on the way include on of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down through the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway, continues on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing 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. On arrival you will have time to visit the striking Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the head of the valley, and perhaps strolling through the quaint gangtey village. (overnight: Amankora in Gangtey)
Day 4: Gangtey Valley Exploration
This morning will start with a visit to the Black Neck Crane Center and dependent on the season, time spent in the Center’s nearby hide is a must to view the breeding cranes. Various walks or a mountain bike ride through this magnificent valley can be arranged. soaking up the beauty of the valley from the lodge or returning to the revered Goemba for an audience with the Tulkul may be attractive, relaxing alternatives for the day. (overnight: Amankora in Gangtey)
Day 5: Gangtey to Punakha
Today’s journey back to Punakha will be brief and upon arrival you will have time to take lunch at the lodge. In the afternoon you will explore the hidden village of Talo, home of the Queens’ and the valley’s protective deity Ihakhang. Later in the afternoon a hike to an ancient monastery on the hilltop behind the lodge can be organized or time given to enjoy the farmhouse and spa of the lodge.(overnight: Amankora in Punakha)
Day 6: Punakha Valley Exploration
The day in Punakha Valley begins with a beautiful hike from the Punakha Lodge along the Mo Chhu through terraces of rice, chilies and cabbage, takes to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a monument recently built by the four queens of Bhutan. Following the hike you will drive back up the valley towards Khuruthang passing Punthsho Perli Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s head and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. A picnic lunch is served on the banks of the Punak Chu, before visiting the village of Lobesa where a short walk ends at Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built in 1499. (overnight: Amankora in Punakha).
Day 7: From Punakha to Paro
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys, before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, you will find the Amanjora lodge and it’s spa. In the afternoon, there is an opportunity for a quick stroll to the nearby ruins, a visit to some of the valley’s oldest and holiest religious monuments or a ramble down Paro’s main street. Evenings at Amankora may include informative lectures on the history, religion, flora and funa of the region or a intriguing movie on the Himalayas. (overnight: Amankora in Paro)
Day 8: Paro Valley Exploration
The day starts with a visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here, an intriguing collection of artefacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lies the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. From Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, traditional cantilever bridge, and guests are then driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall paintings. Paro options include picturesque picnic spots or, perhaps, a visit to a traditional farmhouse to lunch with the family. In the afternoon, hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. (overnight: Amankora in Paro)
Day 9: Paro Valley Exploration- Tiger’s Nest Hike
Today will be an auspicious pilgrimage up to one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour trek offers spectacular Views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. Accommodating mules and donkeys will be on hand to lessen the exertion for the climb up, and along the way a rewarding picnic will be serves. The afternoon will be at leisure to enjoy the spa and ease those blessed aches from the morning’s pilgrimage. (overnight: Amankora in paro).
Day 10: Departure day
Early morning transfer to airport.