Your journey at a glance
Embark on an exceptional 10-day Bhutan tour through the iconic regions of Thimpu, Gangtey, Trongsa, Punakha and Paro. This adventure is filled-to-the-brim with awe-inspiring landscapes and extensively covers some of Bhutan’s finest cultural attractions. Discover the Himalayan heights of Bhutan, starting in the capital of Thimpu, where you can admire spectacular mountain views, Buddhist monuments and statues, as well as colourful market stalls.
Traditional architecture and ancient monasteries await in Punakha. Stock up on traditional handicrafts, marvel at the magnificent scenery and visit an ancient watchtower in Paro. Strap on your hiking boots for a truly memorable journey to the legendary Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest).
What to expect …
Flight to Paro Day 1
Today you will board an early morning flight from New Delhi Airport to Paro, in Bhutan. The flight takes you close to the great Himalayan Mountains, offering dazzling views of some of world’s highest glacial peaks. As you descend into the Paro Valley you will pass forested hills, with the Pa Chu (Paro River) meandering through the valley below and the Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watch tower) situated on a hill above the town.
As you exit the Paro Airport terminal you will be met by a representative from &Beyond, who will drive you to your hotel in Thimphu. Along the way you will have the opportunity to stop and view the Tamchogg Lakhang Temple, crossing the river on an ancient iron bridge that was reconstructed from original chain links used by the famous Tibetan bridge builder, Thangtong Gyelpo
Overnight in Thimphu Day 1
On arrival in Thimphu you will be driven directly to Zorig Chusum, an institute showcasing the thirteen arts and crafts of Bhutan. Here you will be introduced to the uniqueness of Bhutanese traditional paintings, including their formation, scaling (measurements) and materials used.
Afterwards, you will be driven to your hotel for lunch and the opportunity to freshen up. Later in the afternoon, you will meet your guide for your next adventure to the Trashicchoe Dzong, Bhutan’s administrative and religious centre. It houses the throne room of the King of Bhutan, the government ministries, the nation’s largest monastery and headquarters of His Holiness, the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) and the central monk body.
You will also have the opportunity to visit the weekly market, where vendors from throughout the region sell their harvests. Superb produce arrives from surrounding orchards as well as from the southern region, where most of the country’s vegetables are grown. The market is a wonderfully vibrant attraction to visit.
Spend two nights at the Taj Tashi, Thimphu. Your accommodation is in a Deluxe Room with ensuite facilities. Your stay includes dinner and breakfast.
Visit an authentic Buddhist university Day 2
Set off from Thimpu and delight in a short hike to Tanga Goemba monastery, built in the 13th century. The name of the monastery means ‘horse head’ and refers to a local legend about the origins of the temple. Legend has it that a local lama heard a horse’s neigh echo from the direction of the cliffs and saw the crags take the form of the god Tandin, consumed by flames. It was prophesied that a monastery and temple would be built and the site would be dedicated to meditation and prayer.
The temple is only a 30-minute drive from Thimpu, followed by an hour-long walk through shaded forests of rhododendron. The monastery has a colourful history, which includes a great saint meditating in a cave near its site and helping to defeat an invading Tibetan army. Today, the monastery is home to a Buddhist University, with nearly 300 monk scholars in residence.
After exploring the temple and possibly even meeting some of the monks, you can choose to continue your hike further up the mountain, past a hot stone bath used by the monks. Cross a clear bubbling mountain creek and pass by the monks’ soccer field before continuing along a ridge to the Drolay Goemba monastery. From here you can see the meditation huts that dot the mountainside beneath the Tango Goemba. Pause to enjoy the panoramic view of the nearby Cheri monastery, as well the city of Thimpu and the endless ridges of mountains that lies to the north. Return to the base of the hiking trail where the Thimphu Chu, or river, flows through the scenic Jigme Dorji National Park, where you can enjoy a beautifully laid out picnic lunch..
Drive to Gangtey region Day 3
After a scrumptious breakfast, you will be driven to the beautiful Gangtey region. Your journey will take you through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees to the renowned Dochula Pass, situated at 10 000 feet. The pass offers sensational panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges before the road descends into the fertile valley of Wangdue.
Overnight in Gangtey Day 3
Gangtey is one of the most beautiful destinations in the country and is the winter home of the endangered black-necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains in the north.
Upon reaching Gangtey, you will check in to the Gangtey Goemba Lodge and enjoy a delicious lunch. The lodge draws inspiration from the unique and beautiful Bhutanese rural architecture. The focal point of the lodge is an informal lounge and dining space with wall to ceiling views of the valley below.
In the evening you will be taken to the Shedra for evening prayers where 300 monks who study there and perform the prayers.
Spend three nights at Gangtey Lodge. Your accommodation will be in a suite with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Visit Gangtey Goemba (monastery) Day 4
After breakfast, visit Gangtey Goemba (monastery), which enjoys the valley’s prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. Pema Thinley, the grandson and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, founded the Nyingma temple here in 1613 and today the Goemba is the seat for 9th reincarnation of the body of the Terton (Treasure discoverer) Pema Lingpa. There are 300 lay-monks studying the Nyingma sect of Buddhism in this Goemba.
From the Goemba, walk along the Gangtey Nature Trail, quite popular amongst the visitors to the valley. Crossing streams and rhododendron gardens you cross Sumchubara village, afterwards you enter the Pine covered forest, which opens at a canopy that affords fabulous views of the valley. Further down, the trial passes the village of Khewang and later you will cross the Nake Chu (Check out for trout’s here), where you will be picked up by your car.
Later on the way back to the lodge visit the Crane Information Center, which gives you detailed information regarding the valley and the black necked-crane. The center is also equipped with binoculars, installed to watch the cranes. There is a good chance that the last few may still be around this time. Also you will be shown a 15-minute documentary about the endangered bird “The Birds of Heaven’
Walk along a bamboo forest deep within the valley of Phobjikha Day 5
The Gangtey Valley, also known as the Phobjikha Valley, is a breathtaking glacial valley in mystical Bhutan. This breathtaking hike through the region begins with a scenic drive from the riveting Phobjikha Valley to the charming village of Longtey. From here you will set off on a four-hour moderate walk back towards Gangtey Gompa, an impressive Buddhist monastery that traces back to the 17th century. Head along a sloping, lined pathway that takes you through towering bushes of jade-hued bamboo, swaying together in a jumble of shadow and light. At the end of the bamboo enclave lies a small group of village houses, built in the distinct Bhutanese style, which features elevated platforms, intricately carved timber window panes and wood-lined, arched roofs.
During the spring months the woodlands on either side of the valley look particularly stunning, gloriously cloaked in a kaleidoscope of crimson, violet and candy floss coloured rhododendrons. In the winter months, the valley is splendidly shrouded in thick blankets of pearly white snow, on which mighty onyx and caramel-horned yaks graze. As you move upwards, you’ll pass ancient rhododendron forests and soaring trees that sigh in the wind, whispering the ancient secrets of this mystical region. The peak of the pathway features magnificent, unobstructed views of the valley and the lofty monasteries below as you enjoy an authentic Bhutanese lunch. Next, head down to the tranquil village of Kumbu, where you can choose to end your walk, or carry on to the deep valley floor and the Shedra, a renowned and mystical place of teaching.
Drive to Trongsa Day 5
After an early breakfast, you will set out for a fabulous drive to Trongsa. On arrival, visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong, perhaps the most impressive dzong fortress in Bhutan. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture, and home to the ancestral residence of the ruling dynasty.
After a delicious lunch you will have the opportunity to visit the Watch Tower of Trongsa, which functions as a museum dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty. The tour of the five storey museum begins with a 15-minute documentary on the brief history of Trongsa. The museum also provides a glimpse of Bhutan’s history over the last hundred years.
After your tour of the museum you will set off back to Gangtey.
Drive to Punakha Day 6
Early this morning, post breakfast, you will be chauffeured to Punakha (3 hours drive).
Well before reaching Punakha stop en route and hike about 30 minutes to Chimi Lhakhang, which is on a small hilltop. The temple was dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century, known as Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the “Divine madman.” He is known for dramatizing Buddhist teachings using songs. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. After visiting the temple you will stop at the various art galleries that line the road and watch the Thangkha painters in action.
Afterwards, you will be driven to your hotel for check-in and lunch.
Later in the afternoon, proceed towards Punakha and visit the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, this was second of Bhutan’s Dzong and for many years its seat of government. From this spectacular setting you can look back to see the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance.
Drive back to your hotel and rest.
Overnight in Punakha Day 6
Spend two night at Uma by COMO Punakha . Your accommodation will be in a Valley view room with ensuite facilities. Your stay includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Explore Punakha Day 7
Early this morning, post an early breakfast at about 0700 hours, drive to the suspension bridge from where you begin a hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. This three storey lhakhang was recently built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon for the protection of the country and present King. It has an impressive view of the Punakha valley below. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa master (1904-87). The functions of the deities are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and also to spread peace and harmony. The lhakhang is a 45-minute hike from the main road.
After the hike, you will drive to the other end of the valley to go for a rafting trip down the Pho (father) chu river. The Pho Chu is the most popular river for water sports; it is easily accessible by road and has a couple of class III & IV rapids. Furthermore, you can sight one of the endangered birds, the White-belled Heron, on the banks of the Pho Chhu River. This river is little technical and a few rapids on the river have names, the Wrathful Buddha and Strainers Paradise. The river is aqua blue and is much clearer compared to the Mo Chhu which is the river located in the adjacent valley. If you are looking for a peaceful morning in the Punakha Valley our scenic float past the Punakha Dzong is recommended. After the confluence of these two rivers near Punakha Dzong, the main river is known as Punatsang Chu which offers even more exciting river run acknowledged mostly for its culturally stimulating and exciting rapids.
After your rafting, you will be driven back to your hotel for freshening up and lunch.
Later this afternoon, you will drive to visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhendrup Lhakhang Nunnery. Perched on a ridge amid pine trees gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang(temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns where, apart from religious trainings, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting.
Drive to Paro Day 8
This morning, after a scrumptious breakfast, you will be driven to Paro (4 hour’s drive).
Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country’s only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced field
On arrival in Paro check into the hotel.
On entering Paro town, drive directly to visit the Ta Dzong or the National Museum. One time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. Since 1967, the Ta Dzong has been serving as the National Museum of the country. It holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum’s circular shape enhances its varied collection displayed over several floors.
On the way back stop to visit a local farmhouse. It is a traditional village house. The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of old fashioned farm houses. Bhutanese farm houses are very colourful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to Farm House is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
Then drive to your hotel for check in and a restful evening.
Overnight in Paro Day 8 - 10
Before reaching Thimphu, you will also stop at the Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong in the country. Constructed in 1629, the dzong houses an old clay statue of Buddha. The wall paintings are one of the most beautiful in the country.
Later that afternoon you will reach Paro, an historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum and the country’s only airport. Upon your arrival you will check into Uma Paro.
Spend two nights at the Uma Paro. Accommodation is in a one-bedroom villa and will be on a room, dinner and breakfast basis.
Tread the sacred path to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery Day 9
Popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, Paro Taktshang is a revered temple and monastery in beautiful Paro. The sacred structure is spectacularly situated 900 metres (2 955 feet) above sea level, at the edge of a cliff in the upper Paro Valley. The temple is cloaked in folklore and myth, illustrating the sacred tales of Guru Padmasambhava, the source of Buddhism in Bhutan. Legend has it that the Guru flew from Tibet on the the back of a mystical tigress and landed on the steep cliff to meditate in a cave. In the late 17th century, the monastery was constructed around the cave by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, who was universally believed to be the reincarnation of the Guru.
Numerous miracles are associated with the monastery, such as sightings of mysterious flowers that appear in the air, only to disappear before touching the ground. The Guru has also been spotted both inside and outside the cave at the same time.
The complex is open to visitors and the scenic hike to the temple takes around five hours. Travellers will pass through a dense forest and will emerge on the edge of a rocky chasm, where they will need to climb down to a trickling waterfall and then back up the cliff face to the monastery on the other side. Apart from its rich history, the spot boasts magnificent views over green valleys and mountain ranges.
Transfer to Paro Airport Day 10
Today, we wave a fond farewell as you are driven to Paro Airport for your flight home.