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Bhutan is a small Buddhist Kingdom located on the eastern edge of the Great Himalayas and sandwiched between the two most populous countries in the world, India to the South and China (Tibet) to the North. Landlocked in the heart of the Mighty Himalayan Mountains, Bhutan is carefully charting a course into modern world while rigorously protecting its rich natural environment and preserving its time-honoured tradition and unique cultural heritage.
This 5 days 4 nights trip will present a true Glimpse of Bhutan and imbibe in you what it takes for a tiny Buddhist Kingdom to emerge as a unique tourist destination. The journey will take you through the hearts of 3 western districts of Bhutan – Paro, Thimphu and Punakha which all exhibits the strength and tenacity of a nation known for preserving its ancient Buddhist culture and living in harmony with its pristine natural environment. Paro stands as the gateway to Bhutan for visitors by air as the country’s only international airport is located here. Paro is obviously the most visited place in Bhutan.
You will visit major historical and religious centers including a day hike to the most spectacular tourist attraction, Paro Taktsang, which was originally built in 1692.
Paro International Airport, Bhutan
All year round
During the months of January, February, June, July, August & December
US$1000 – for single person traveller
US$960 per person – for a couple or group of 2 people
US$840 per person – for a group of 3 people or more
During the months of March, April, May, September, October & November
US$1200 – for single person traveller
US$1160 per person – for a couple or group of 2 people
US$1040 per person – for a group of 3 people or more
You will take a flight in the morning by either Drukair or Bhutan Airlines and arrive at Paro International Airport. On the way, if the weather is clear enough you will see Great Himalayan mountain ranges. As you enter Bhutanese airspace and soon approach Paro valley, you would already notice the green mountainous landscapes and Paro river snaking down the valley.
After arrival, your visa will be stamped on your passport at the immigration counter. You will be received by our guide and driver at the exit gate and then you will be transferred to the hotel. After you settle in the hotel and new surroundings, you will be taken on your first adventure in this beautiful Kingdom.
As it is considered auspicious, you will first begin by visiting one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, a seventh century Kyichu Lhakhang (Lhakhang means “temple”), which is located just a few minutes drive from the main town of Paro, is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. It is believed to have been built in 659 A.D. by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to subdue spirit of a giant demoness causing harm to the propagation of Buddhism in the Himalayan region. In order to subdue this demoness, King Songtsen Gampo was required to built 108 temples across the affected region. Bhutan is blessed with two of these 108 temples, the other one is Jampa Lhakhang located in the district of Bumthang in central Bhutan. Both the temples were believed to have been built overnight.
The National Museum of Bhutan is located in Paro just above the Rinpung Dzong (administrative headquarter of Paro district). It is housed in an ancient watch tower called Paro Ta Dzong (Ta Dzong means “watch tower fortress”) built in 1649. It displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artworks including traditional costumes, armour, weaponry and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.
Paro Rinpung Dzong (Rinpung Dzong means “fortress of the heap of jewels”) was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1646 and established as the administrative and monastic centre of the western region. Today, the Dzong serves as the office of the governor of Paro district and head of the district monk body in Paro. A great annual festival known as Paro Tsechu is held in Rinpung Dzong from the eleventh to the fifteenth day of the second month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar (usually in March or April of the Gregorian calendar). On this occasion, holy images are taken in a procession followed by a series of traditional mask dances conveying religious stories which are performed by monks for five days.
After visiting the Dzong, take a short walk to the traditional wooden cantilever bridge called Nemeyzampa, where your driver will be waiting for you. The roofed wooden cantilever bridge is built in a traditional style and this type of bridges are called Bazam.
Free time to explore Paro town.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro. (Lunch, Dinner)
Today, on the 2nd day of your trip, you will hike to the famous Paro Taktsang Monastery and later in the afternoon, drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.
After early breakfast, we will do 4-5 hour return hike to the famed Taktsang or the Tiger’s Nest which is located on the face of a sheer 800-meter rocky cliff in Paro. It normally takes about 2 hours to reach the monastery from the nearest road head. The history of Taktsang is associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava (known as Guru Rinpoche), the Indian saint who came to Bhutan and introduced Tantric Buddhism in the 8th century AD. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava flew into the cave from Kurtoe Khenpajong in eastern Bhutan, riding on a tigress. It is not only considered as one of the most sacred pilgrimage site in Bhutan but also “a must visit” place for tourists.
After visiting Taktsang monastery and a sumptous lunch at Taktsang cafeteria, hike downhill back to the road head where your driver will be waiting and then head to Thimphu.
It is a 55km road journey by luxury private SUV/Minivan/Bus depending on your group size and the drive should not take more than 1.5 hours. Upon arrival in Thimphu, check into hotel and settle down for a while. We then go to explore Thimphu city. Later in the evening after 5pm, visit the majestic Tashichho Dzong.
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan and it is home to approximately 100,000 residents. This bustling little city is the main centre of commerce, religion and government in the country. It is the only capital city in the world without traffic lights and even commercial billboards.
Tashichho Dzong, which means “Fortress of the Glorious Religion” is opened to visitors only after 5PM during working days and from 9AM to 5PM on weekends. The original Dzong was built in 1216 AD on a location where Dechen Phodrang monastery stands today. Following a fire disaster which destroyed the original dzong in 1771, it was relocated to the present location. The Dzong suffered several earthquakes and fires and was subsequently renovated and new structures added by successive rulers.
It was late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third hereditary King of Bhutan, who renovated and enlarged the entire Dzong to its present form in 1962 over the period of six years. The magnificent architectural feat was achieved using traditional method without any blueprint plans or nails. It houses the Secretariat and office of the King, the Throne Room, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Central Monastic Body. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot (Je Khenpo) of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan.
Back to the hotel and gather for dinner.
Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today, after early breakfast, we will drive to Punakha Valley via beautiful Dochu La Pass (3,150m/10,335ft). Before we embark on a 74km road journey which takes less than 3 hours under normal road condition, we will pay a short visit to Buddha Point to pray for our safe journey ahead and enjoy the scenic view of Thimphu valley below.
The magnificent 169 feet tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha is located on a hilltop, Kuensel Phodrang, overlooking the Thimphu valley. From here you can see a nice view of Thimphu city. It was built to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and also for the purpose of bringing peace in the world . The giant Buddha statue houses more than 100,000 8-inch tall Buddha statues of same type. The construction began in 2006 and was completed in 2015 after almost 10 years. The total cost of the entire project is well over US$100 million. We will then drive to Dochula Pass. We then start our journey toward Punakha.
About 45 min drive from Thimphu towards Punakha is a mountain pass at an altitude of 3,150 meters above sea level from where you can see, on a clear day, some of the highest peaks of Bhutan. Before the construction of these beautiful 108 Druk Wangyal Choetens (stupas) in 2004, this mountain pass remained only as a sacred place blessed by a famous Buddhist saint, Lam Drukpa Kuenley in late 15th century.
From Dochu La Pass, we will continue driving towards Punakha, passing through some villages, the elevation drops gradually and the road winds through the pine trees. As you reach the lower subtropical valley, you will feel the drastic change in altitude from 3,150m just an hour and a half ago to subtropical valley at 1,200m.
Arriving Mesina or Lobesa, a small quaint town about 20 km before reaching Punakha town, you will visit a 15th century Buddhist temple called Chhime Lhakhang. Then transfer you to hotel, have lunch and then visit the historic Punakha Dzong, a 17th century fortress.
Chhime Lhakhang is located on a gentle hilltop near the village of Sopsokha. To reach the temple, you have to walk 20 – 30 minutes through beautiful terraced paddy fields and traditional farm houses. The history of Chhime Lhakhang is associated with 16th century Lama Drukpa Kuenley who was affectionately known as “Divine Madman” for his obscene behavior and outrageous ways of cleansing people from religious dogmatism and egoistic self-possession by exhibiting his strong desire for sex. He would often use phallus as a tool to subdue malevolent spirits. Using the phallus was also intended to free up the social inhibitions enforced by the socially established values. Today, one of the relics of Chime Lhakhang is a phallus. The blessing of the phallus is considered sacred particularly to women who are unable to conceive a child as it brings fertility to women, giving them ability to bear offspring. Because of this belief, people like to call Chhime Lhakhang as “Temple of Fertility”.
Lama Drukpa Kuenley built a small black stupa on this hilltop to mark the burial site of demons whom he managed to subdue after chasing all the way from Dochula Pass, where the demons were terrorizing the travellers. This black stupa can be seen even today just outside of the main temple. It was Lama Ngawang Chogyel, the younger brother of Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who built the present temple in 1499 AD.
Transfer you to the hotel and rest a while before we hit the road towards the historic Punakha Dzong.
The historic Punakha Dzong was originally known as Pungthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang, meaning the “Palace of Great Bliss”. It was built in 1637 AD by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (Tibetan Buddhist master who came to Bhutan in 1616 and founded nation-state of Bhutan) on a small stretch of land where the rivers Phochu and Mochu converge. Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and second largest Dzong in Bhutan. The sacred wall paintings and main artifacts inside the dzong, the intricate wood works and the architectural structure of the dzong displays fine example of Bhutanese arts and craftsmanship which continues to influence Bhutanese architecture even today.
Leisure time to explore Punakha town and then drive to the hotel for dinner.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today, before we drive back to Thimphu, you will do a wonderful hike to a Buddhist temple known as Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel Choeten. After lunch, drive back to Thimphu.
After breakfast, you will be going for 2.5 hour return hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Choeten. Located on a mountain ridge overlooking the picturesque Punakha valley, this wonderful Buddhist structure is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture used in building temples, monasteries and Zangdogpelri (copper coloured mountains). It was built over a period of almost 10 years under the command of Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, one of the Grand Queen Mothers of Bhutan and was consecrated in 1999.
It takes only about 20 minutes drive from the main town of Punakha to the nearest road point. From there you cross a suspension bridge over the Punakha Mochu River (female river) and the trail takes you through paddy fields. Normally it takes just 1.5 hour to reach the serene site of the marvelous choeten. The view below is stunning with glacial fed Mochu river snaking through the fertile valley of Punakha.
After lunch we drive back to Thimphu via Dochula Pass.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into hotel and then you have rest of the time to explore Thimphu city OR visit one or two places of interests.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, drive to Paro and transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Your guide will assist you to complete all exit formalities before you check-in.
All tour services we provide are independent with flexible itineraries which can be customized to suit your interest and requirement. You can form a group to get discounts. Apart from the predesigned packages which have proven successful, Bhutan Acorn Tours & Travel can also arrange the following add-on activities to enrich your experiences in Bhutan. These activities can be fitted into any tour itineraries.
Please note that some of the activities may involve extra fees.
All your deposits and any payment less administrative fees of US$100 per person will be refunded if you notify us at least 30 days prior to your arrival date. Refer the cancellation fee schedule below to determine the applicable charges:
|DAYS TO ARRIVAL||CANCELLATION CHARGES PER PERSON|
|30+||US$100 administrative fee per person|
|16-29||20% of the total cost|
|8-15||50% of the total cost|
|0-7 days||No refund is available|
In case the trip is cut short or duration lost due to unforeseen reasons after arrival in Bhutan, no refund is available as the payment would have been already made to hotels and other logistics.
There shall be no charges for the number of days of delay either during arrivals or departures or both, due to weather conditions, communication problems, cancellation or delay in Bhutanese airline flights, sickness or any other legitimate reason as Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) may deem reasonable. However, the Tourist will be charged on the actual expenses on accommodation, food, transport and any other services provided.