6th October - Day 1 Singapore - Paro (2200m)
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our Bhutanese guide will meet us at Paro airport. After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the National Museum, Ta Dzong. This museum houses many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical and cultural past.
Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards walk to the beautiful cantilever wooden bridge still in use. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
7th October - Day 2 Paro (2200m) – Punakha (1242m)
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 metres), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast rhododendron forests that grow to tree size.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
Afterwards enjoy a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing.
Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
8th October - Day 3 Punakha (1242m) – Trongsa (2580m)
Drive from Punakha to Trongsa (8 hrs) over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range. On the way visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten, erected in the 18th century. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. After lunch, visit Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the landscape for many miles. Also visit the Ta Dzong museum housing an incredible collection of historical artefacts of the Royal Family. Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.
9th October - Day 4 Trongsa - Bumthang (2580m)
Continue driving to Bumthang, home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces and temples. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. Overnight at your lodge in Bumthang.
Explore some of the many sites of the Bumthang valley, including the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples. Also visit Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings.
You may also visit 14th century Tang Rimochen Lhakhang where Guru Rinpoche meditated, and Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche’s treasures were found in the 15th century by the famous treasure hunter Pema Lingpa. It’s a good location to meditate. Overnight at your lodge in Bumthang.
10th October - Day 5 Bumthang (2580m)
Explore Bunthang for the day.
Overnight at your lodge in Bumthang.
11 October - Day 6 Bumthang (2580m)
Today you will witness the festival of Thangbi Mani. You can see the lay monks perform the purification rituals Mewang ceremony (fire blessing) which is performed in an open field. All the people jump over the flame three times as it is believed that it will wash away all the sins and the misfortunes for the entire year. Masked dances and folk dances are performed in the enclosed courtyard of the temple.
Later in the afternoon visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom, where Bhutan’s patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated. Overnight at your lodge in Bumthang.
12th October - Day 7 Bumthang (25800m) – Gangtey (3000m)
Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan. The wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan and explore Phobjikha Valley with time to view the Black-Necked Cranes. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.
13th October - Day 8: Gangtey (3000m) – Thimphu (2334m)
Drive back to Thimphu (approx 6 hrs), visiting Semtokha Dzong en route. The Dzong, built in 1627, is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Culture studies. On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
14th October - Day 9 Thimphu (2334m) – Paro (2200m)
Once a rustic village sitting in a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu is today the nation’s capital. We depart after breakfast to visit the National Takin Preserve to acquaint ourselves with the odd looking national animal of Bhutan - half goat and half cow. Morning is the best time to visit as the animals are more active.
We then enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the stunning Buddha Dordenma Statue, made of bronze and gilded in gold and is 51 metres high, and the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernisation, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. We then continue on to the 12th century Changangkha Temple and The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century. In the late afternoon, depart for Paro. Overnight at your hotel in Thimpu
15th October - Day 10 Paro (2200m)
Early morning after breakfast we leave for Paro for our walk to the Tigers Nest monastery (optional walk). The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 3 hours uphill takes you high above the Paro valley. The view of Tigers Nest monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century.
In the late afternoon we drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Kyichu is built in a manner similar to the Jokhang in Lhasa, Nepal. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
16 October Paro - Singapore
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.