Day 1: Your flight descending over the final Himalayan ridge brings you to Paro International Airport, elevation 7500 feet. Your Druk Air experience has been highlighted with breathtaking views of Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake in Bhutan.
Your excitement mounts and you are received at Paro Airport by your tour representative, visas are processed and you are escorted to your hotel for lunch and check-in. After lunch visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong). Once the watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The conch shaped museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. "Fortress of the heap of jewels". A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses. Today the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. Evening we visit Paro town, built in traditional architecture with rows of shops lining the main street. We enjoy diner in cozy local restaurant. Overnight Hotel Dechen.
Day 2: Drive to Thimphu (2-hour drive) capitol of Bhutan. We will visit the bank and post office once arriving in Thimphu. Here you may exchange currency, and have an opportunity to purchase collector item Bhutanese stamps, exquisite! Next we visit the famous weekend market; fresh produce, rice, chilies, jewelry, local art, handicrafts and enchanting local shoppers. After check in at our hotel and lunch we depart Thimphu and drive to embark on a vigorous hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery one of my favorite experiences in Bhutan. Tango is one of Bhutanese' most important Buddhist colleges. Its name, meaning 'horse's head', is derived from the horse-head shaped rock at the top. It is a beautiful dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the eight-year-old reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. Meet with monks for discussions. Tonight join Soenam, your local Bhutanese host, for a welcome reception dinner at her home. Overnight in Druk Hotel.
Day 3: Today after breakfast we will visit The Memorial Chorten (a huge stupa) built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who regined the Kingdom from 1952 - 1972. We will then tour the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved, as well as visit Tashichho Dzong. This is the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses part of the government ministries, office of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the State Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and senior monks. Next we visit Simtokha Dzong. This is one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan. It was built in 1629 A.D. It houses the largest monastic schools in the country. We enjoy lunch in downtown Thimphu, followed by a tour of the exceptional Textile Museum, featuring masterpieces from the Royal Family of Bhutan and splendid fabric and exquisite Thangkas. A trip to Bhutan would not be complete with seeing the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. A cross between a musk ox, moose, cow or goat, this huge beast has a unique look of its own. No place else will you see this animal, he is in a class all of his own. Itinerary review with guide after dinner at your hotel. Rest well tonight. Early AM wake up!
Day 4: Today we depart Thimphu towards Shong Pang, our departure spot
for our trek. Drive north up the valley towards Dechencholing (the
residence of the Queen Mother) Palace, following the Thim-Chu. The
transport will reach you up to Pangrizam, the last motor point. From
here, the trek starts towards Shong Pang which takes about 4 to 5 hours
through remote villages. The camp will be just above Chamina village.
Overnight halt at Chamina. Enjoy Bhutanese gourmet meal by campfire,
along with song and forklore tales. Sleep Well..
Day 6: Buckwheat pancake breakfast will get us going this morning as we leave for Dopshing Pang on our trek to Chorten-Ningpo. The trek to Chorten Ningpo is rather gradual and will be walking through thick forests, villages and rice fields. Over 70% of Bhutan is blanketed in virgin blue pine forest. It is the least deforested country in the world. Picnic lunch will tide us over until we reach our campsite tonight.
Day 7: Breakfast at Chorten Ningpo and begin our day trek to Zomlingthang.
For about 2 or 3 hours the trek trail will go through several villages
until you reach a motor road. From the motor road, we will follow the
road towards Punakha which is the ancient capital of Bhutan. Revel
in the beautiful valley, river, and medieval Dzong below. "Palace
of Great Happiness" the Punakha Dzong is the former winter Capital
and at present day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also
the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot.
The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female
the location is strategic. It was built in 1637 AD It was
here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan's first king was crowned. We continue
on our trek to reach Zomlingthang for our overnight halt and campout.
Day 8: Depart Zomlingthang towards Limukha as we follow the motor road to Punakha Dzong and then cross the Pochu River (Male River), the river that drains the remote Lunana region. You will have a steady halfday climb into a forest of scattered long needle chirpines. Your guide will make sure to fill your water bottle before leaving Punakha, as there is no water on the way for a couple of hours. As you trek you will have wonderful views of Punakha valley and the Dzong. If the weather is clear, you can see some snow mountains to the north. The campsite is near Limukha village. Rest and relax as your meals are prepared.
Day 9: Depart Limukha towards Chungsaka/Wangdiphodrang. The trek trail ascends gradually up through the thick forest of oak species and rhododendrons till you reach a pass called Dochula (10,500ft). Prayer flags send prayers on the wind. Enjoy spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains In Bhutan there are over 50 species alone of Rhododendrons, not to mention beautiful wild orchids, tropical and high altitude plants, and the national flower, the Blue Poppy. Then we descend through the thick forest leading to a small monastery dedicated to a lama called Drukpa Kuenly ( popularly known as the Divine Madman). From Chungsakha you can look across the valley to Samtengang on the ridge to the south. Walk down hill till you reach the motor road and then drive for about half an hour to Wangdiphodrang. Overnight at the Dragons Nest Resort, situated on a beautiful river, with gorgeous views of the village, and the Wangdu Dzong, impressively located on a hilltop over the village. Enjoy a hot meal, hot bath and refresh tonight.
Day 10: Depart Dragons Nest Resort after breakfast and drive towards the west to Thimphu. On our way we will stop at the Punakha Dzong to tour the Dzong and marvel at its architecture and ancient wall frescoes and its ornate structure. Drive over Dochula Pass and stop for a hot cup of tea and some snacks. Continue to drive down to Thimphu. Tonight you can refresh at the Health Spa for sauna and steam, or unwind at your hotel.
Day 11: This morning after breakfast we say good bye to Thimphu and head west toward Paro. We will enjoy a light picnic snack prior to our hike up the mountain to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). Ponies can be provided and you may ride up the mountain, or hike as your choice. The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 800 meters. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava, the saint who converted Bhutan to Buddhism, alighted here upon the back of a tigress. Farewell dinner at Dechen Hill Resort, our hotel.
Day 12: Departure day from Bhutan. We hope you have enjoyed our Punakha Winter Trek.