Duration: 5 Night / 6 Days
Destination: Paro, Thimphu and Punakha
This itinerary provides you an ideal introduction to the kingdom of Bhutan. In five nights and six days, you will visit three western districts of Punakha, Paro and capital Thimphu. Nonetheless, you will not miss Bhutan’s most iconic monastery, the Tiger’s Nest, which will be the main highlight of the program.
Day 1: Arrive in Paro, Bhutan, stay in Thimphu
The flights into Bhutan are a unique experience. At the Paro Airport, you will pass the immigration gate where you would have to show your visa and then arrive at the luggage terminal. Then you will sail through the custom formalities and at the exit terminal, your guide from Actual Travel Bhutan will be waiting for you with your name placard.
You will then drive for an hour to reach capital Thimphu. You can check into your hotel and then go about capital Thimphu in the afternoon. It is the only capital city without traffic lights. You can also visit the biggest statue of Lord Buddha, which is located over a hilltop overlooking the entire capital valley. You can also visit the Thimphu Memorial Temple, a shrine built in the memory of the third king. If you choose to, you can also visit some handicraft shops. In the evening, you can talk a casual walk around the city.
Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 2: Thimphu sightseeing
After breakfast in your hotel, you will drive for about 45 minutes to go out of the city and reach the base of the Chari Monastery located at the northern end of Thimphu. Then you will hike for about 45 minutes to reach the Monastery built in 1620. It is a teaching and retreat center for a Buddhist school and also serves as a monastic school for Biddhist studies.
After lunch, you will then visit the 12th century Changangkha Temple. The main shrine of the temple is a bigger than life-size statue of Alalokitesvara, the god of compassion. The temple also has the statue of the local deity, Tamdrin, who is believed to be the protector of all people born in Thimphu. Parents of newborns thong the temple to get the names for the child.
You can then visit the Thimphu Mini Zoo, which has the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin. It is believed that the animal was snapped to life magically by a Tibetan Lama in the late 15th century after he placed the skeleton head of a goat on the skeletal body of a cow. If time permits, you can also visit the Textile Museum and the Fork Heritage Museum.
Day 3: Drive to Punakha
After breakfast at your hotel, you will check out of the hotel and drive towards Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan. It takes about three hours to reach Punakha.
On the way, you will stop at the Dochula Pass (3,048m/10,000ft), which is the highest pass along the route. On a clear day, you can enjoy a strategic view of almost all the major mountain ranges in the country including the highest mountain in Bhutan – Gangkar Puensum (7,550m/24,770ft) – which is also the highest unclimbed mountain the world.
You resume the drive. It is a downhill drive descending to the more subtropical vegetation of Punakha. Just before reaching Punakha, you will take a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple built in 1499 by a Tibetan Lama, Drukpa Kunley who is known as ‘The Divine Madman’ for his eccentric ways of teaching Buddhism. He is said to have subdued an evil demoness using his phallus, which is symbolically referred as the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.” A wooden effigy of his phallus is still preserved at the temple. There is lot of accounts of childless couples, even tourists, who bore children after a visit to the temple.
You will visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, which is the most beautiful fortress in the country. The 17th century fortress is located at the confluence of the male and the female river giving it a romantic ambiance. The Dzong also houses the embalmed body of the founder of Bhutan who consolidated the country for the first time in the 17th century. It is customary for all kings to take blessing from the embalmed body before becoming the king.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 4: Drive to Paro & Paro sightseeing
After breakfast, you will drive towards Paro. It will be a relaxed drive and you can chose to go to Thimphu for lunch. Once in Paro, you can check into your hotel and after a short rest, you can visit the National Museum of Bhutan. It is a good repository of Bhutanese history, culture, religion and identity. Then you can visit the Paro Dzong located just below the Museum.
If time permits, you can also visit the ruins of the Drugyal Dzong built to celebrate the victory over the Mongols and the Tibetan forces. In late afternoon, you can go to a local farmhouse and try your hand at the national sport of archey. Then you can choose to have a hot stone bath. You can also have traditional dinner at the farmhouse.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 5: Hike to the Tiger’s Nest
No visit to Bhutan is complete without a visit to the iconic Tiger’s Nest known as Taktshang Monastery. It is legend and recorded history that the reincarnation of Lord Buddha flew to the site in the 8th century on a tigress and meditated at the site. The monastery was built later and is perched on a vertical cliff face. It takes about 3 hours hike to reach the monastery.
From the base, you have the option to take ponies while you hike up to the monastery. The way back will take half the time you took to hike up. In the afternoon, you can visit the 7th century Kichu Monastery, which is one of the oldest temples in the country.
In the evening, you can walk about Paro town and if you wish check out few souvenir shops in the town.
Day 6: Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, you will drive toward the Paro Airport. You are expected to reach the airport two hours before the flight departure time.