After clearing customs and immigration in Paro, you'll be met by our group leader. There will be a pre-trip briefing on arrival at the hotel, followed by an afternoon/evening at leisure in Paro, to allow some acclimatisation; Paro is 2280m above sea level. Overnight at Kyichu Resort on the banks of the Paro Chhu (Paro River) or similar.
We drive to the foot of the Taktsang Monastery - the famous Tigers Nest Monastery (3120m) said to have been one of the divine resting places of the Guru Ringpoche. However, although much of the building was once destroyed by fire it is now restored and it is still worthwhile to ascend the walking trail to appreciate the monasteries breathtaking location on a cliff edge about 800 metres above the valley floor. The rest of the day is free to complete sightseeing and purchases before our early morning departure the following day.
After breakfast we drive towards the Haa valley. Just about 45 minutes before reaching Chele La pass, we come to a junction from where we start our hike to Kila gompa. It is about an hour walk uphill to the Kila nunnery. We can stop at the spot below Kila Gompa, a nunnery perched on a steep cliff face at 3500m. This staggering site houses 7 small temples and about 70 nuns. Views are magnificent and it is well worth the hour’s hike to get there. From Kila gompa we ascend about 2hrs uphill to a point marked by hundreds of prayer flags (Chelela pass 3750 m). During clear day from the pass, there is a magnificent view of sacred Mt. Chomolhari (7329m) which is located between the Bhutan & Tibetan border, TigerNest, part of Haa & Paro valley.
We then proceed to Haa valley. As we descend further we can see the square yellow roof of the main monastery/fortress, Wangchulo Dzong which is now used as a military base. Haa town lies a few kms further to the north-west and is really quite attractive with traditional two story shops lined in 2 rows. We also visit Lhakhang Nagpo and Karpo which now serve as seats for monastic community in Haa. Overnight Haat village farmhouse.
After breakfast we commence the drive towards Thimpu. Along the way we stop at Dogar Dobji Dzong, a 16th century structure, built by the brother of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley. This Dzong became Bhutan’s first jail in 1976 but has since returned to its monastic origins.
After Lunch, we visit Kuenselphodrang (Large statue of Buddha in a sitting position). If time permits we walk through Kuenselphodrang Park, which enjoys impressive views of Thimphu. Overnight Thimphu City Hotel or similar
Tango Monastery - The trail to the Gmba is a climb of 280m & takes about half an hour if you follow the steeper shortcut, or about an hour if you take the longer, more gradual trail. Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa founded the gmba in the 12th century. The present building was built in the 15th century by the 'Divine Madman', Lama Drukpa Kunley. Cheri Gmba - A short distance beyond the turn-off to Tango Gmba the roads end at Dodina. A walk of about 1 1/2 hours (200m ascent) leads to Cheri Gmba. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, built this gmba in 1620 & established the first monk body here. A silver chorten inside the gmba holds the ashes of the Shabdrung's father. Afternoon visit Memorial Chorten, Changangkha monastery, Handicraft centers and free time in the market for shopping. Overnight Thimphu City Hotel
A drive of approximately 45 minutes brings us to the Dochu La pass (3000m). From here we walk about an hour downhill to Lamperi (2700m). During spring season the forest is covered with lots of rhododendrons, Magnolia & Daphne flowers. We visit the Royal Botanical Park at Lamperi before driving 1 1/2 hrs to Wangduephodrang (locally known as “Wangdi”).
*On the 24th June 2012, the beautiful Wangduephodrang Dzong was completely destroyed by fire. It was one of the oldest and most substantial dzongs in Bhutan built in 1638. Renovations were underway when the fire started and so most of the historic relics had been put into storage and were saved from the devastation of the fire. Re-building is already underway to restore the dzong to its former glory. Overnight Kichu Resort or similar
After an early breakfast, we drive about 3 hours to Gangtey. Visit Gangtey monastery,which is the only Ningmapa monastery in Bhutan. We then start our Gangtey nature trail walk which can take around 2 hrs. This is the most beautiful and shortest of the existing nature trails. From Gangtey monastery the walk heads south and ends over the meandering chhu Nap (Black river) near Khewang village. Afternoon visit the Black necked crane observation center & then drive another 3-4 hours to Trongsa. Overnight Yangkhil Resort or similar.
* Due to national highway widening work between Wangdi and Bumthang (including Gangtey Valley) the road will be rough, bumpy and dusty at times with delays possible.
Morning visit to Trongsa Dzong and Tronsga museum before driving to Bumthang. After lunch drive to Jambay Lhakgang and we take a short walk to nearby Kurjey, Tamshing & Kunchusom monastery. This Lhakhang is a complex of three temples, on the right beneath a giant cypress tree, the main temple was built in 1652 by Minjur Tempa, Trongsa Penlop. This temple houses the cave where Guru Rinpoche had meditated and left an imprint of his body. The middle temple was built by the First King of Bhutan during his tenure as Trongsa Penlop in 1900. The third temple is recently constructed under patronage of Her Majesty queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk and is located opposite Kurjey Lhakhang on the other side of the river. If was built by Terton Perma Lingpa. We finish the day with a drive towards Jakar Dzong. The road to the dzong starts near the junior high school and climbs westwards to a parking lot. The final approach to the dzong is made on foot along a stone-paved path. Overnight Mountain Lodge or similar
* Due to national highway widening work between Trongsa and Bumthang the road will be rough, bumpy and dusty at times with delays possible.
After breakfast, we drive 1.5 to 2 hours to Tang valley and then on to Kizum. From Kizum, we cross the bridge over Tang chu river and climb 45 minutes (150m) up to the hilltop of Ugyenchling Palace.This Palace has been turned into a beautiful museum. It exhibits in the main building are captioned with description of the life style and art works of a Bhutanese noble family. After having a look at many artifacts, the kitchen will be ready with your lunch which can be enjoyed outside the palace overlooking the Tang Valley or inside the traditional cabin-like living room. If you are interested, the Kitchen will gladly demonstrate the preparation of Bumthang Specialties like Khuley (Traditional Bumthang Buckwheat pancake) or Puta (buckwheat noodle).
*Each year one departure, typically in October or November, will coincide with the Jambay Lhakang Festival. Traditional Buddhist festivals in Bhutan are colourful affairs with dancing in elaborate traditional costumes and sometimes masks, and the Jambay Lhakhang is one of the most spectacular. The dancing is designed to bring blessings to the spectators, instruct onlookers as to the Buddha’s teachings and protect the monastery and the Kingdom from bad luck. Witnessing this important festival offers a rare insight into Buddhist culture. Overnight Mountain Lodge or similar
The few houses and potato fields that make up Tangsibi is 24 km from Bumthang. The road climbs to 3420m, where there is a monument with a cross, in memory of a Indian road supervisor who died here in a 1985 road accident. The road finally crosses Shertang La pass (3590m), also known as Ura la (Ura pass). It's then a long descent into the Ura valley to the Ura village which lies below the road. The descent on foot from the pass makes for a nice hour-long walk into the village.
The return drive to Wangdi is no less enjoyable and offers a different perspective of the beautiful forest and mountain scenery.
*At present, there are roadworks along this stretch of the highway that is significantly slowing the drive between Bumthang and Wangdi. These roadworks are scheduled to be completed in late 2018. While local flights are available, these have also proved unreliable in the past, often subject to last minute cancellations. For the time being, we will continue to return to Wangdi via the road. Overnight Kichu Resort or similar
Drive to Lobesa and take a short walk through farm houses and fields to Chimme Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 15th century and dedicated to the famous Lam Drukpa Kunley or divine mad man. He is one of the most famous saints in Bhutan and his temple is visited mostly by childless couples. We then visit the Punakha Dzong, built strategically at the Junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers in 1637 to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region. We return to Paro this evening, a drive of approx. 4-5 hrs. Overnight at Kyichu Resort or similar.
In the morning after breakfast we drive to the Ta Dzong and walk through pine forests past the tiny monastery of Gemjola to the fortress-like monastery of Zuri Dzong. Traverse across to Ta Dzong, housing Bhutan’s National Museum and on to Rinpung Dzong. The trail then leads across Paro Chhu River via a traditional covered bridge and into Paro town.
*In September 2011 a large earthquake occurred in the area and caused damage to the National Museum. The Museum is currently closed to the public for safety reasons until such time as repairs can be carried out although the exhibits are now housed in a nearby modern building.
After breakfast our trip concludes with a transfer to the airport for onward arrangements.