Day 01- Arrival in Paro – Thimphu (1.2 Hrs)
In clear weather, Druk Air’s flight to Bhutan provides a wonderful view of Himalayan scenery. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, it is a breathtaking journey, culminating in an exciting descent past forested hills into the kingdom.
On arrival at Paro airport, you will be met by Far East Himalaya representative. On completion of airport formalities, you will be drive towards the hotel in Paro. Today’s tour program depends on your arrival time in Paro.
Evening free after dinner. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 02- Thimphu sightseeing
Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
In the morning visit to Tashichho Dzong (fortress), the main secretariat building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King. Tashichho Dzong is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body. Proceed to the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, with some works dating back several hundred years. The National Library in the neighborhood houses a huge book, called “Giant visual odyssey through the Kingdom of Bhutan”, and was made by scientist Michael Hawley and is one of the eleven models available worldwide. It has a height of 1.52 meters and a length of 2.13 meters and weighs about 60 kilograms. In its 112 pages, the book offers stunning and high quality images of the Last Himalayan Kingdom, taken on four trips through Bhutan. The entire book requires 1 gallon of ink and 1 day to be printed. Visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six-year training course is given in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Also visit (outside only) the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed.
After lunch, visit the National Memorial Chorten (stupa). The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous. Also visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums.
Evening free after dinner. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03- Thimphu – Punakha (2.5 Hrs)
Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan is the winter home of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century.
Drive to Punakha and on the way you will cross over Dochu-La pass (3,088m/10,130ft) and see good view of the Eastern Himalayan peaks, if the weather is clear.
Overnight halt at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 04- Punakha Festival
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.
In 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local peopleto host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
These two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.
Day 05- Punakha Festival
Continue with festival observation.
Afterlunch, sight seeing around Punakha.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, when the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Originally situated on the riverbank and dominated by the towering walls of Punakha Dzong, the township was relocated to a safer site a few kilometers down the valley, consequent upon extensive flooding in the early 1990s. At the same time, extensive renovation work was undertaken on Punakha Dzong itself, which is now a breathtaking and glorious sight as you first glimpse it from the road. Although four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in past times destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Visit Chimi Lhakhang, the fertility temple of the divine madman-Lama Drukpa Kuenley.
Overnight halt at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 06- Punakha – Phobjikha (3 Hrs)
Morning drive to Phobjikha. Phobjilha is 2-3 hours drive from Punakha.
The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley, also known as Gangteng Valley named after the impressive Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect in central Bhutan, where the graceful black-necked cranes in Bhutan (Grus nigricollis) from the Tibetan Plateau visit the valley during the winter season to roost. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangteng Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning toTibet
The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species. Within the ambit of the valley, an area of about 163 square kilometres (63 sq mi) has been declared a protected area, which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), for the protection of nature, authorized to manage, on lease basis, by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Overnight halt at the hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 07- Phobjikha halt
Sight seeing at phobjikha
Overnight halt at the hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 08- Phobjikha to Paro
Drive back to Paro, visiting Semtokha Dzong, Thimphu, en route. This dzong was built in 1627 and is the oldest in Dzong in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.
Arrive Paro and check into the hotel.
Day 09- Paro sightseeing
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong. Once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968. Afterwards, walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history.