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On this 8 days 7 nights tour, you will travel to three western districts of Bhutan: Paro, Thimphu and Punakha and get the real picture of Bhutan packed with unique culture, history and traditions. You will visit some of the major historical sites and religious centers, do a short hike / walking in Thimphu.
On the 4th day of the tour, you will have two options for the morning activity: Do 2 hour return hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Choeten, a beautiful temple built on the peaceful mountain ridge overlooking the magical valley bellow OR do White Water Rafting on the Mochu River, one of the two glacial fed rivers in Punakha.
On the 6th day of the tour, you will venture on a 2-day round trip trekking, graded Easy-Moderate, to one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites called Bumdrak located on the mountain meadow at an elevation of 3,860 meters (12,660 ft). The trail takes you through green lush forests following ancient trails and enjoy breathtaking views of Paro valley below. Camping will be on a serene mountain meadow adorned with ChoetensChoeten means Sacred Buddhist Stupa in Dzongkha. It contains revered holy relics. (sacred Buddhist stupa) and fluttering prayer flags. Your return journey back to Paro will be via the most recognized site in Bhutan, 17th century Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest), built on rock cliff sacred site founded in the 8th century.
Paro International Airport, Bhutan
Although this tour can be done all year round, the best season is from late February to June and late August to early December.
Easy to Moderate – while activities from Day 1 to 5 are easy, Day 6 demand basic level of fitness as it involves almost 4 hours of gradual uphill trekking and steep descent on the way back on Day 7. All of our past clients, many without any fitness training and some even in their late 60s have successfully completed this trekking.
From December 1-5
US$1770 – for single person traveller (Base Price)
3.5% discount – for a couple or group of 2 people
14% discount – for a group of 3-5 people
18% discount – for a group of 6-10 people
20% discount – for a group of 11 people & above
From late February to May & late August to November
US$2070 – for single person traveller (Base Price)
3.5% discount – for a couple or group of 2 people
14% discount – for a group of 3-5 people
18% discount – for a group of 6-10 people
20% discount – for a group of 11 people & above
Arrive Paro International airport by either Drukair or Bhutan Airlines. After you get your visa stamped on your passport and going through customs formalities, you will be greeted at the exit gate by our guide and driver holding your name placard.
After you are received, we will embark on 55km road journey by luxury Van / SUV to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive should not take more than 2 hours including stop overs on the way. We will be driving along the Paro River (Pa Chhu) which runs until the confluence (Chhuzom) where it is joined by Thimphu River (Thim Chhu). The two rivers forms Wang Chhu and flows southward and is the major river running two hydroelectric power plants. After Chhuzom the road follows Thim Chhu river upstream and as you pass through number of villages, you will already feel immersed in a wonderland surrounded by mountains and beautiful landscapes.
Arriving Thimphu, our guide will assist you to check into the hotel so that you can relax for a while and then have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine for lunch. In the afternoon, we will explore Thimphu City by doing few sightseeings.
We could visit this museum before lunch if you arrive Thimphu early. Bhutan Postal Museum is located in the heart of the city in the same building as Bhutan National Bank so you can also exchange your money into local currency if you want. The Postal Museum was opened in 2015 to exhibit the story of Bhutan’s progress and development of communications and postal system in the country. His Majesty the King contributed several rare collections of philatelic and communications products providing additional insights into Bhutan’s history on philatelic and communications system. The Postal Service in Bhutan was first launched in 1962 with the opening of a post office in Phuentsholing, a town in the south bordering with India. If you are interested in philatelic products and stamp collection, they have a good collection of stamps, First Day Covers and stamp albums.
Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. With rapid development and exposure to the outside world, the art of weaving and production of its own handwoven textile is declining fast. To preserve and promote this living art, Her Majesty Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wanchuck established the Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan in 2005 as a non-profit organization. The Textile Museum showcases collection of artifacts to impart understanding of Bhutan’s rich textile traditions and way of life.
Free time to stroll the town and gather at 5PM to visit Tashichho Dzong.
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 His Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck 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 offices of the King, the Throne Room, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Central Monastic Body.
Back to the hotel for diiner.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu. (Lunch, Dinner)
After breakfast, we will begin a whole day excursion in Thimphu including 1.5 hour easy hike from a view point called Sangay Gang to one of the monastic schools in Thimphu and then stop at the Folk Heritage Museum for delicious lunch served in traditional style (available only if the group size is more than five people).
The magnificent 169 feet tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha is located on a hilltop 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.
Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) is the national animal of Bhutan. This takin preserve is the only animal enclosure in whole of Bhutan. It initially started as a mini zoo and later converted to a preserve and its enclosure expanded recently. This unique animals are usually found at an altitude ranging from 1,000 to 4,500 meters above sea level depending on the season and feeds primarily on grasses.
After visiting the Takin Preserve, we will drive to a nearby view point called Sangay Gang from where you can view Thimphu city. From this point we will do an easy hike to one of the monastic schools in the Kingdom. On the way, we will stop at Wangdi Tse Temple which was originally founded in 1750 and was rebuilt in 2016 because of massive damage it sustained from 2009 earthquake. It contains two-storey statue of Lord Buddha Sakyamuni and three choetens constructed with sandalwoods. The trail leads through a forest of pine trees.
Continuing from Wangdi Tse Temple, we will walk downhill following the ridge towards the Dechen Phodrang Monastic School. This Monastery became monastic school in 1971. This is the location where the original Tashichho Dzong was built in 1216 AD by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa but was destroyed by fire in 1771 and subsequently moved the the present location.
Then we will visit the Folk Heritage Museum which also has a restaurant with traditional setting and ambiance where a buffet lunch or dinner consisting of traditional dishes are offered. However, lunch and dinner arrangement is only available for a group of five or more people. Your lunch will be served here if your group size is more than five, otherwise it will be arranged at a similar restaurant serving traditional Bhutanese cuisine.
After lunch visit the Folk Heritage Museum. This museuum was established in 2001 and provides visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three storied, 19th century traditional house. The museum gives you a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese lifestyle, in addition to artifacts from rural households, it also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. In an effort to maintain our knowledge of indigenous natural resources, native trees and plants that had domestic uses in a rural Bhutanese household is grown at the front yard of the museum, creating an oasis of greenery, right in the heart of the capital city of Thimphu.
Note: The Folk Heritage Museum is closed on government holidays. Hours of operation are from 10am to 4:30pm on weekdays; from 10:30am to 1pm on Saturdays and 11:30am to 3:30pm on Sundays.
The National Institute of Zorig Chusum (Zorig Chusum means 13 Traditional Arts & Crafts) is located nearby the Folk Heritage Museum. The National Institute of Zorig Chuzum was established to promote and preserve the thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan and to facilitate increased access in learning Zorig skills by Bhutanese youths. Many of these traditional arts and crafts are declining with the advent of modern technologies and therefore, the government is putting in lot of effort to train youths to keep the traditions alive. The thirteen arts and crafts are categorized as Shing Zo (woodwork), Dho Zo (stonework), Par Zo (carving), Lha Zo (painting), Jim Zo (sculpting), Lug Zo (casting), Shag Zo (wood turning), Gar Zo (blacksmith), Troe Zo (ornament making), Tsa Zo (bamboo work), De Zo (paper making), Tsem Zo (tailoring, embroidery and applique) and Thag Zo (weaving).
These thirteen arts and crafts are an essential part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage that have been practiced from time immemorial. If the class is in session when you arrive, you will be allowed to enter the classroom and observe students as they get hands-on training.
Visiting this market and seeing various agricultural produce on display, you will learn food preference and culture in Bhutanese society. Centenary Farmers Market or Thimphu’s weekend market is located below the main town, near the Thimchu River, and it is the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Farmers come from all over the country to sell their farm products in the market. With its wide assortment of fresh organic produce, the Farmer’s Market has become a favourite spot for tourists and a recreational place for people from all walks of life.
Nearby the Centenary Farmers Market, across a cantilever footbridge over Thimphu Chhu, is a market place selling clothing, textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs. Alternatively, you can visit Handicraft Emporium located in the main town which is owned by the National Women’s Association of Bhutan. Here you may not be able to bargain but the quality of the products are better and you will find wide range of Bhutanese Handicrafts and handwoven Bhutanese attires. If time permits you can visit both. Bhutan Acorn Tours & Travel never make commission based shopping stops.
Leisure time to explore Thimphu city. Back to hotel for dinner.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today, after early breakfast, we will drive to Punakha Valley via beautiful Dochu La Pass. 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 the National Memorial Choeten and pray for our safe journey ahead.
The National Memorial Chorten is a Buddhist Stupa built in 1974 in memory of the Late Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who passed away in 1972. It is one of the important landmark in Thimphu. People from all walks of life comes here to pray and circumambulate and it is a good opportunity for you to observe how Bhutanese people devote themselves to daily prayers and take refuge in the teachings of the Lord Buddha. 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. Her Majesty Queen mother Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck built these 108 stupas to commemorate victory and also in memory of the fallen soldiers in a 2003 battle which was personally led by our Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, against ULFA/BODO militants from neighbouring Indian state of Assam who camped illegally inside Bhutanese territory along the southern belt and refused to leave the country peacefully. There is also a temple called Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) on a nearby hilltop built in honour of His Majesty the Fourth King.
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 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.
Lunch at Lobesa
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.
Married couples who are unable to conceive a child often come to this temple seeking blessings from the Divine Madman. As much as it sounds ‘too good to be true’, there are many stories of happy couples who are blessed with child after visiting the temple.
Drive further towards Punakha town for about 30 mins. On arrival, check into hotel and relax for while before visiting the historic Punakha Dzong means “Fortress” in Dzongkha, the national language of BhutanDzong which was originally known as Pungthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang, meaning the “Palace of Great Bliss”. It was built in 1637 A.D. 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.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Today, before we drive back to Paro valley, you have two options for the activity before lunch: Do 2-hour return hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Choeten a beautiful temple built on the beautiful mountain ridge overlooking the magical valley bellow OR do White Water Rafting on the Mochu River, one of the two glacial fed rivers in Punakha.
After breakfast, you will be going for 2 hour return hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Choeten. Located on a 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 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 under one hour to reach the serene site of the marvelous choeten. The view below is stunning with glacial fed Mochu river snaking through the fertile Punakha valley.
Below is an optional activity you can choose instead of hiking to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten.
This second option of White Water Rafting comes at an additional fee charged by the rafting service provider. Punakha valley is blessed with two glacial fed rivers – one is called Pho Chhu (Male river) and the other is Mo Chhu (Female river). Pho Chhu river is graded 2-4 on an International Scale of River Difficulty therefore only experienced rafters can do rafting on this river. Mo Chhu is graded 1-2 making it possible for all ages to try and experience rafting. Rafting distance is 10-14kms and takes about 2 hours from staring to the finish point.
Lunch at Lobesa and then continue to drive to Paro.
Upon arrival in Paro valley and before you check into your hotel, visit Kichu Lhakhang (Lhakhang means “temple”). Paro Kichu Lhakhang is located just a few minutes drive from the main town of Paro and 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 obstruction to the propagation of Buddhism across Tibet and Bhutan. In order to subdue this demoness, King Songtsen Gampo was required to built 108 temples across the affected region. Kichu Lhakhang, built to pin down the left foot of the giant demoness, is one of the two temples that were built in Bhutan. The other is called Jambay Lhakhang located in the district of Bumthang in central Bhutan and was built to pin down the left knee. Both the temples are believed to have been built overnight.
Check into the hotel and free time to explore Paro Town.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
|Chele La Pass Altitude||3,900m/12,800ft|
Today on the 5th day of the tour, we will drive to Chele La Pass and explore Paro valley.
Drive to Chele La Pass which is the highest motorable road point in Bhutan at an altitude of about 3,900m/12,800ft above sea level. The air is thin and fresh at this altitude. On a clear day, the mountain pass offers a grand view of surrounding Himalayan peaks, Paro valley and Haa valley. We can spend some time walking along the pass among the colourful prayer flags and enjoying the beautiful views around and appreciate the pristine environment. If you are interested, we can arrange a prayer flag hoisting activity for you with a small fund to buy the prayer flags. The prayer flags are traditionally hoisted to bring peace, harmony, ward off bad luck and clear obstacles on your path.
Picnic Lunch on the way back to Paro.
After lunch, we drive back and visit the National Museum of Bhutan which located just above the Rinpung Dzong (administrative headquarter of Paro district). It is housed in an ancient watchtower called Paro Ta Dzong (Ta Dzong means “watchtower 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. Ta Dzong was converted into the National Museum in 1968.
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 that 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 take a stroll in Paro town.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
|Trekking Time||Less than 4 hours|
|Bumdrak Campsite Altitude||3,860m/12,665ft|
Following an early breakfast at the hotel, drive for about 30 minutes to the starting point of trekking, Paro Sangchoekhor Buddhist College which is located at an elevation of 2,950m/9,680ft above sea level.
If you are interested, visit the monastery and get blessings. Start the trek and steadily climb uphill through the ridge covered by forest of fir and pine trees. About 2 hours 30 minutes into gradual climbing, you will come to a cleared spot on which colourful prayer flags are hoisted and you can see beautiful Paro valley below.
Lunch will be served on this spot overlooking the Paro valley with stunning views. There is also a temple called Choechongtse on this lunch spot which you can visit and pray after lunch.
After lunch, continue to trek for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to reach your campsite, Bumdrak at 3,860m/12,665ft above sea level. Your camp will be just below the sacred Bumdrak temple, on a peaceful and heavenlike mountain meadow.
For those still energetic, can venture further up for about 45 minutes to the summit and enjoy unobstructed panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below.
Bumdrak temple is perched on a cliff so close to the campsite. There is a sacred cave inside the temple which was blessed by 100,000 dakinis in the 8th century AD during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. You can visit the temple and spend sometime praying and meditating.
Dinner and overnight in the luxury tent.
For early risers, you may want to observe and take pictures of a beautiful sunrise on a clear weather. You may also see an endangered species of birds called Himalayan Monal Pheasant wandering freely near the camping tents.
After breakfast, you can hang around for awhile appreciating the pristine environment or taking pictures before we begin our return journey viaTaktsang monastery. The downhill descent is steep but we will walk at our own pace and explore the flora along the ancient trails used by monks and pilgrims.
After descending for less than 2 hours, a view of Yoeselgang Monastery, one of the three monasteries situated above Taktsang monastery, opens up. We’ll walk past Yoeselgang, reach 15th century Ugyen Tsemo monastery and hiking further down will bring us to the third temple, Zangdogpelri (zangdogpelri means “copper coloured mountain”) which is referred to as Guru Padmasambhava’s abode. From this temple you can view impressive Taktsang monastery perched precariously on a rocky cliff.
We will continue our descend down and visit sacred Taktsang monastery, the most recognized site in Bhutan.
Taktsang, or the Tiger’s Lair (people prefer to call Tiger’s Nest), is regarded as one of the most important monasteries in Bhutan. Its history 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 A.D. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava flew to Taktsang from Kurtoe Khenpajong in eastern Bhutan, riding on a tigress.
Taktsang is not only a sacred site visited by Guru Rinpoche but was also visited and blessed by many other renowned Buddhist masters. It was the fourth temporal ruler of unified Bhutan, Desi Tenzin Rabgay, who built Taktsang monastery in 1692, encasing a sacred cave in which Guru Padmasambhava meditated. Inside one of the temple is a Choeten, a Buddhist stupa built in memory of one of Guru Rinpoche’s disciple, Langchen Pelgi Singye and holds his sacred body relic. It is believed that the Choeten fulfill wishes if you pray with pure intention.
Having visited and getting blessed, we will continue downhill for about 40 minutes and stop at the Taktsang Cafeteria for lunch.
Looking up from this cafeteria, you can see grand view of Taktsang offering you opportunity for some photo shoots. From this cafeteria, it will take just an hour or so to reach the base where your driver will be waiting for you.
Drive back to the hotel and take rest for awhile.
Towards the late afternoon, you will visit one of the beautiful farmhouses in Paro and experience the traditional Bhutanese way of life. If you are interested, you can indulge in a traditional hot stone bath for an additional fee. Specially selected stones are heated in a wood-fired fireplace. The bath tub is made of wood and a medicinal shrub is added to the hot bath. You can enjoy locally brewed warm liquor known as Ara while soaking in the relaxing bath.
Delicious dinner of authentic Bhutanese cuisine will be served at the farmhouse.
Overnight a a hotel or farmhouse (subject to availability). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
After hearty breakfast, you will be transferred to the Paro Internatioal 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.