West Bhutan Tour
22 - 31 May
10D / 9N
The minute you land at Paro airport, it sinks in that you have arrived at a rare destination. The crisp air, clear blue skies, and the majestic snow-capped mountains extend a cordial welcome. Endless rice fields dot the valley, men and women dress in traditional attire, colorful prayer flags flutter on mountain tops and chortens and stupas adorn road junctions. This western Bhutan tour encompasses visit to western cities Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue and Gangtey valley.
West Bhutan is the heartland of the Bhutanese. It is home to the only international airport in the country, the capital, and the most popular festivals and events. Western Bhutan is known for its spectacular views of rice paddy fields and orchards cascading down magnificent mountains and the turquoise Pa Chhu river meandering through the entire expanse of Paro valley. The Cultural Tour Western Bhutan includes all must-see sights – famous forts and dzongs, stimulating day hikes, Tiger’s Nest monastery, and the endangered black-necked cranes.
Day 1 - Arrive Paro
Our representative will receive you at the airport. Depending on the flight time we can squeeze in a few sightseeing today. The first on the list is Rinpung Dzong which translates to the ‘Fortress of heap of Jewels’. The dzong is a majestic fortress built in the 17th century holding treasure artworks—murals, statues, and carvings. Next, visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and sacred temples in the country dating back to the 7th century. It has a pleasant aura and elderly pilgrims can be seen chanting and circumambulating the temple. Paro town is one of the best in Bhutan to explore on foot. At the end of the day, you may take a stroll along the streets of Paro town marked with colorfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 2 - Paro to Haa
Today you will begin an exciting drive to Haa via Chele La Pass, at 3990m elevation, the highest motorable road in Bhutan. The pass is dotted with colorful Buddhist prayer flags and offers incredible vistas into the valleys below. From the pass, walk along the ridges each higher than the last. On clear weather, you can see stunning views of Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake on your right and Mount Kanchenjunga in Sikkim, the world’s third-highest mountain, on your distant left. If you wish to be more adventurous, you can go to the highest ridge, Kungkarpo which stands at about 4200m, the spot for sky burial. You can take well-deserved rest and enjoy spectacular views of the Himalayas. Later, drive downhill for about 26km through the forests of blue pine, fir, and oak and arrive at Haa – it is a picturesque remote valley, which has only recently been opened to tourists. Overnight at a hotel in Haa.
Day 3 - Haa to Thimphu
There are interesting villages scattered around the Haa valley. You will spend the morning hiking on the valley rims and exploring the ancient traditional houses to get a glimpse of typical Bhutanese lifestyle. Then you will drive to the capital, Thimphu via Chele La Pass. Stop for lunch on the way. After lunch, continue towards the south where you will drive past Chuzomsa, the confluence and interesting road junction leading towards the Indian border town, Phuentsholing, Haa and Thimphu. Drive north along the Thimphu river crossing several villages and roadside stands. Thimphu is a small traditional town now in the proximity of commercial zest and modernism taking form with time. The concoction of the old and the new makes the capital an enthralling destination and one of the most unique in the world. You can spend the evening exploring Thimphu town. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 4 - Thimphu
Kick start the program today by visiting the King’s Memorial Chorten, dedicated to world peace and prosperity. This structure holds great religious significance and is the most visible landmark in Thimphu. Then drive to Kuenselphodrang where the169ft bronze Buddha statue is located overlooking Thimphu valley. Next visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as Painting School) and the Traditional Medicinal Institute. In the afternoon, if it is the weekend, visit the weekend market where farmers gather to sell their farm produce. You can see the colorful display of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as local cheese and butter. The people mingling here is a scene not to be missed. In the evening, head Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress-monastery which houses most of the Government’s office and Kings’ Throne Room. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5 - Thimphu to Punakha
After breakfast this morning, enjoy a scenic drive to Punakha with a stop at Dochu La pass at 3100m dotted with 108 chortens, where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges. From the pass, drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir, and hemlock. Punakha valley is situated at 1200m, lower than Thimphu and Paro. Owing to this subtropical vegetation, fruits such as banana, mangoes, mandarin and guava are grown here. En route, you will stop at Lobesa to hike through rice paddies up to the Chimi Lhakhang Temple. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley, or the “Divine Madman,” who is believed to bless women who seek fertility. Continue your drive. You will arrive at Punakha after traversing through the rice field and along the bank of the Punakha River. After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 6 - Punakha to Gangtey/Phobjikha
You will begin the day by driving to Gangtey, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes, through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons. From Punakha, it is a steady ascent to Lawala Pass, 3km short of Pele La which is the crossover point into central Bhutan. Just after few minutes, drive downhill from Lawala Chorten, you will arrive at Gangtey village from where you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range. Spend the afternoon visiting the Gangtey Goenpa and interacting with monks studying there. From the right side of the monastery set out for the exploratory hike downhill through pine forests and picturesque villages with stretch of meadows and farm. The trail passes close by the crane roosting areas and if you travel during the fall and winter seasons, you will be able to spot the black-necked cranes that have migrated from Tibet to spend the winter here. This makes Gangtey one of the most important ecotourism site in the country. Overnight at a hotel in Gangtey.
Day 7 - Gangtey/Phobjikha to Punakha
After breakfast, visit the Nature Information Center which has informative displays about the crane and the valley environment. Head back to Punakha where you will go for an easy hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. Drive 12km north of Punakha valley, cross the suspension bridge and hike uphill for about 40 minutes through paddy fields and fields of chillies and beans. It is a delightful 3-story stupa and from the top most level one can look down on the upper Punakha Valley, a mesmerizing sight with the Mo Chu River meandering through it. The views of the valley, endless fields and the surrounding mountains are stunning. You can linger here for some time relaxing and simply appreciating the harmonious beauty of the location. Later in the evening, you will come back to the bridge below where your car will be waiting to transfer you to the hotel. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
Day 8 - Punakha to Paro
Today you will drive back to Paro via Dochula Pass again. You will stop in Thimphu for lunch. After lunch, visit the National Textile Museum, an exhibition hub of both ancient and modern textile, and notable artifacts. The museum also displays Bhutan’s rich tradition and vibrant culture of waving and embroidery. Next, visit the craft bazar which is just walking distance from the museum. This will be the last stop for some authentic souvenir shopping before your departure. Then continue to drive to Paro. Check into your hotel and relax in preparation for next day’s hike.
Day 9 - Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery
Today you will hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180m. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Guru Padmasambhava, 8th century spiritual hero who was believed to have mediated in a cave to engage in a deep tantric practice to subdue forces opposing spread of Buddhism. After visiting the monastery, hike down to Cafeteria Restaurant for lunch. Later hike down to the valley floor. This is a fantastic conclusion to your stay in Bhutan! Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 10 - Depart Paro
After breakfast, you will drive to the airport for departure. Our representative will bid farewell.
We can also
customize a trip
Culture tour offers an array of activities that can be tailored to suit your whim and fancy. Whether you want a day-long excursion, a walk through the idyllic countryside, or a multi-day adventure, we can make it happen.
We can provide the opportunity to experience Buddhist festivals and celebrations such as traditional marriage, learn about traditional textiles, and any special landmarks. For the adventurous mind we can also offer rafting and other activities. If you have any specific interests, we can customize a tour just for you – please let us know.