Day 1: Arrival
From the flight in, weaving through the valley, arrival in Bhutan is like no other. The transfer to Thimphu is approximately 1 ½ hours and upon arrival and following lunch, you will have the choice of the National Memorial Chorten, Buddha Point, National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, and National Library to visit, and perhaps time to stroll main street for some interesting Himalayan artefacts or textiles. (Overnigh)
Day 2: Tour of Thimphu
This morning you will head to the north end of the valley to view Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and Royal offices, and pay a visit to Pangri Zampa, two 16th century buildings that now house a monastic training school for astrologers. At the head of the valley, should you wish to stretch your legs, a short hike will take you to Cheri Goemba, the monastery where the first monastic body was established in the Kingdom. Back in town you should be able to visit a few of the capital’s cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense. (Overnight).
Day 3: From Thimphu to Gangtey
An early departure for a dramatic drive over the high mountain passes of Dochu La and on to the Phobjika Valley. Sights on the way include one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass where on a clear day, towering Himalayan peaks are clearly visible. The descent down thru the Punakha Valley along the Kingdom’s only east-west highway, continues on through the scenic village of Wangdi. Carrying on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing thru forests of bamboo and oak, and just before crossing the Pele La pass, a small side road splinters off to the hidden Phobjika Valley. On arrival you will have time to visit the striking Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the head of the valley, and perhaps strolling thru the quaint Gangtey village. (Overnight).
Day 4: Gangtey Valley Exploration
Gangtey Nature Trail .This pleasurable walk will give you a nice feeling for Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley. After passing a Chorten and Khewa Lhakhang, the trail ends at the local community school. If you wish to start your hike from the lodge, this involves a 30 minute walk up to the start of town. Evening you will have choice to relax and enjoy the Hot stone bath ($200++per bath) which is situated in a candle lit stone huts at Tokha village, a ten-minute walk from the lodge. It offer open views of the magnificent Phobjikha Valley. When you arrive, the stones used to heat up the water will be red hot on the outdoor fire. Sit back, enjoy with a cup of hot apple cider and unwind in the bath for an hour while watching the sun set. Your body will benefit from the minerals in the stones and the healing effects of the local herbs. (Overnight)
Day 5: Phobjika to Bumthang
Today’s journey onward to Jakar (Bumthang) is perhaps long, but certainly memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses viewed from the only east west highway that has been ingeniously carved out of the mountain faces. Following a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten, which according to belief was built to cover the remains of a demon spirit, you will carry on to what was the original home of the royal family. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official business permitting, perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. (Overnight)
Day 6: Explore Bumthang Valley
This morning you will explore our neighbouring palace, Wangdichhoeling, home to the 2nd King, and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up valley, you will take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of Bhutan’s most auspicious monuments, that was once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche, and Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings. Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, you will enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by quick visits to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits. (Overnight)
Day 7: Explore Tang Valley – Bumthang District
Today you will explore further in Bumthang district with an excursion the stunningly beautiful Tang Valley. This seldom visited valley offers a treat in revealing some off the beaten track lhakhangs and monasteries, and the amazing museum at Ugen Chhoeling Palace. A short hike takes you up to this well maintained Palace and it cultural treasures inside. Along way you will stop for a traditional picnic with breathtaking views of the pristine surroundings. (Overnight: Amankora)
Day 8: Bumthang to Punakha
Today you will start with an early departure for the lengthy drive to Punakha. Upon entering the Punakha Valley you may stop to stretch your legs for a short walk thru the valley floor to the Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built by the “Divine Madman in 1499. (Overnight)
Day 9: Explore Punakha Valley
Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up thru fields of chillies, cabbages and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Returning down thru the valley you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler, Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks. Later a picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chhu at a vantage point of the stunning Dzong and confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. Following lunch a quick drive will take you to the village of Talo where you will stop to walk the stunning, quiet grounds of the village temple and perhaps visit the home village of the Kingdom’s four Queens. Further hikes or valley excursions can be organized. (Overnight)
Day 10: From Punakha to Paro
After descending back down from Dochu La, you will follow your way back up the dramatic Wang Chu and Paro Chu river valleys, before crossing thru Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. Here, set in a pine forest, you will find the Amankora lodge and its spa. In the afternoon, visit to the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower), Kyichu Lhakhang, Dumtse Lhakhang. For the hikers, a beautiful trail can be taken up behind the lodge carrying on past Drukgyel Dzong, along the Paro Chhu, then across a suspension bridge and up thru terraced farmland and forests before looping back down the river to a second bridge and across the river, returning to the lodge. (Overnight)
Day 11: Tiger’s Nest Hike
This morning will begin with a hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. The balance of the day can be spend browsing shops in town, enjoying the spa around the lodge or taking on another hike into the rich forests that rise up behind the lodge. (Overnight)
Day 12: Departure Day-Transfer to airport.
Note: This is very much a guideline for the travels across the Kingdom and the overall program is subject to travel conditions, and may be amended to cater to particular interests and desired experiences along the way.