Day 1: Today after you check in at the airport, you will board your plane for a spectacular flight into Bhutan. Ascending over the High Himalayan Mountains you view in awe the sacred Mount Chomolhari, "The Goddess Peak" and Jitchu Drake. Excitement mounts following a descend in altitude over a large mountain ridge. You have arrived at Paro International Airport, Bhutan, altitude 7500ft. Your visa will now be processed. Received by your local tour representative. Enjoy lunch in quaint Paro village and we then visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) once the watchtower for Rinpung Dzong. It was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses, to the dzong. Today the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, displays superb woodwork.
Depart Paro (2 hour drive) to arrive in Thimphu, Capitol of Bhutan. Check into the lovely Bhutanese Druk Hotel. Tonight join Sonam, your local Bhutanese host at a welcome reception dinner at her home. Later discuss itinerary overview with your guide at Druk Hotel.
Day 2: Following a hearty breakfast we depart the hotel and visit Bhutans National Bank to exchange money as well as visit the post office to purchase collector item Bhutanese stamps, a must for any collector.Our exhilarating day begins with a visit to the famous weekend market, a must in Bhutan. The marketplace is alive with fresh and organic fruits, rice, chilies, wonderful textiles, handicrafts, art and jewelry and so much fun! One of my very favorites…Bring the camera, there are many Kodak moments here. Lunch and prepare for our drive to the path to embark on a vigorous hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery. 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 senior monks for discussions. Overnight Thimphu.
Day 3: Leave Thimphu to begin our drive to Central Bhutan across Dochula pass (10,500ft) to Wangduephodrang. On a clear day you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Eastern Himalayan mountain range. Prayer flags flutter their message of peace and serenity. Rewarding photo opportunities. Dragon's Nest Hotel check in and lunch. Early afternoon visit the Punakha Dzong, the former winter capital and present 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 rivers. It was built in 1637 AD. Dinner and overnight at Dragons Nest Resort. Wonderful views from your balcony room.
Day 4: After an early breakfast we depart for Bumthang in Central Bhutan. A long drive on a scenic and breathtaking highway rewarded by a stop at the Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Winding down the steep mountain road you begin to glimpse Trongsa Dzong from afar, and you wonder at this architectural wonder. Built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, in 1648 it is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. Views from here are extensive creating strategic location of this Dzong. Over the Dzong is the medieval Watchtower. This ancient structure gives unobstructed views of the valley, and it's winding river and roads. The WatchTower is located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong. Climb the ancient ladders to the top, as you view warrior armor and aging altars, immersing yourself in the presence unchanged within its walls. We will lunch in Tronsga town and continue to Bumthang. Enjoy Bhutanese hospitality family style at your overnight at the River Lodge.
Day 5: After breakfast, we hike to Tamshing and see the FESTIVAL. Bhutanese from many different areas will gather to pay respect and to be blessed at this social gathering. Locals dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry attend this celebration of purification and religious blessings. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colorful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step". Masks of glorious demonic demons and animals arouse your senses as you watch the purification take place. The intensity goes on. Your spirit will fly, Your camera will snap away, and you will again be transported. We will join the local people and sit around the temple for picnic lunch. Watch for the Atsara (clown) This dancer, unique in his own style, mimics dancers and entertains onlookers. Festival deities are invoked through benediction and luck is increased and misfortunate gone. Tashi Delek!
Overnight at Bhutanese Lodge nearby the festival
site; Bhutanese family style hospitality welcomes you.
Day 6: In the morning see the last day of the Festival. After lunch we will visit the Ugyenchholing Palace, now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport you to another world and time. You will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan's history unfolds. In the evening we return to Jakar Valley for overnight at River Lodge where we relax. Enjoy local wine "arak" and delicious dinner.
Day 7: After our leisure breakfast we say good bye to River Lodge and begin our scenic drive back to western Bhutan. We stop along our route at road side textile weavers to watch ancient weaving techniques and purchase Bhutanese textile and fabric. Along the way we look for herds of yaks grazing nearby or perhaps even an "early bird" Black Neck Crane. Crossing over the high Himalayan passes you may want to "host" prayer flags that you have purchased in Bumthang. This is in the true Bhutanese spirit!
We pass throught Trongsa town one more time and here we stop to enjoy lunch. We then continue on to our hotel for the evening; Dragons Nest Resort. After dinner we enjoy a drive to the mystical and magical Wangdi Dzong; a most impressive structure.
Day 8: Depart Wangdi and arrive in Thimphu for lunch and check in at Druk Hotel. Visit the exceptional Textile Museum, featuring masterpieces from the Royal Family of Bhutan and splendid fabric and exquisite Thangkas. You will want to visit some local shops in Thimphu for purchase of crafts, art, textile or unique mask and watch local archers at play. A visit to the National Library and Home of Incense making (and purchase thereof). Dinner at hotel and go over itinerary with guide for Druk Path Trek
Day 9: (Day 1 of Druk Path Trek) After breakfast we drive to Motithang, where our Druk Path begins. Your guides, pack horses, cooks are waiting. All is provided for you, you need only carry a light daypack. Horses are available to ride as well. High altitude tents and warm sleeping bags are provided. Our destination today is Phajoding. The trek to Phajoding is an uphill climb through forested area of blue pine, fir and spruce. Bhutan is the least deforested country in the world, covered with 70% virgin blue pine forest. The walk, at a leisurely pace, takes about four hours. Phajoding provides an excellent view of Thimphu Valley and is also a retreat center for monks and nuns. You can visit some ancient monasteries and commune with the monks. Overnight halt at campsite Phajoding, altitude 11,000 ft. Bhutanese forklore by campfire as you dine on wholesome food prepared by your cooks. Optional song and drink.
Day 10: (Day 2 of Druk Path Trek) Depart Phajoding on our path to Jimilangtso. The hike today is about 5 hour hike, with less climbing. The trail continues with gradual climb up to Phajoding Pass, about 12,500 ft. From this pass you can enjoy a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan mountain ranges including Mt. Gankar Puensum which is the highest mountain in Bhutan at 24,890 ft. After crossing the pass, the trail slowly descends through juniper trees and alpine flowers. You will also come across yak herders with their yaks and have an opportunity to visit the yak herder's camp to enjoy yak milk and yak butter tea. Visit Alpine lake. Halt Jimilangtso.
Day 11: (Day 3 of Druk Path Trek) Buckwheat breakfast and we are on
our way to Jele Dzong . Today we will walk 7-8 hours, with lunch and
rest stops. The trail starts with a gradual climb up to a high ridge
through dwarf rhododendron and juniper trees. From the ridge, you can
enjoy a great view of Paro Valley and Thimphu valley as well. After
crossing the ridge it's a gradual down hill trail through cedar, fir,
spruce and rhododendron forests. Occasionally you may see some monal
pheasants and come across yak herder camps. You can also see Mt. Jichu
Drake (23,000ft) and other famous peaks such as Jumolhari, Goddess
Peak. Camp Jele Dzong.
Day 13: Today we visit the famous Tigers Nest Monastery. Departing after a hearty breakfast we drive to begin our excursion hike, or ride a pony, to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 4,000 feet. 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. Here we enjoy snacks and tea at the cafeteria viewpoint. Returning to our hotel we will enjoy our "farewell dinner" tonight and rest for our departure tomorrow.
Day 14: Depart from Paro airport to Bangkok and your next destination.
Tashi Delek! (Good Luck)