On arrival in Paro we clear Bhutan customs and immigration before being met by our Bhutan group leader. At our hotel our Bhutan guide will brief you on your stay in Bhutan before we take our first opportunity to explore the Paro bazaar.
Our sightseeing program in Paro includes a hike to Taktsang Monastery. The two to three hour ascent provides an excellent opportunity to acclimatise and to get the feel for your boots before commencing your trek. Taktsang Monastery - the site of the site of the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery which is one of the divine resting places of the Guru Ringpoche. The monastery was destroyed by fire a few years ago but the rebuilding is nearly complete thanks to various donations from European NGO’s. After visiting Taktsang monastery, an unforgettable experience, we return to our hotel and, in the afternoon visit the Paro Dzong which is the monastic and administrative centre for South-West Bhutan. We also visit the original fort - the Ta Dzong that now houses the National Museum of Bhutan with excellent displays of all facets of the countries rich cultural history. Old costumes and battle dress, together with priceless jewellery and specimens of the kingdom’s unique flora and fauna are included within the museum.
From our hotel our guides can point out the dzong which is visible from the valley. After a short drive to the Ta Dzong we commence our trek along a well defined trail through a series of small settlements where Tibetan refugees have established their homes since 1959. After two hours we reach a small clearing with an important mani wall (3050m) where we camp for the night.
A short stage to assist acclimatisation. We ascend through a forest of blue pine and silver birch for a further two hours. Just above the treeline we reach an alpine glade and the Jilli La (3580m) and gain fine views back down the Paro Valley. It’s a short distance onto camp in a beautiful sheltered clearing to the east of the pass (3490m).
In the afternoon we visit the nearby Jilli Dzong, an impressive fort cum monastery with panoramic views. In the vicinity of the Dzong there are many prayer flags hung from commemorative poles that reflect the ancient Buddhist beliefs that extend across the ridge tops of Bhutan.
We continue along the wooded crest high above the Paro Valley through conifer and rhododendron forest while numerous orchids, ferns and wildflowers line the trail. To the north you may glimpse the snow capped peak of Chomlohari. On this stage we also pass through a number of yak herders settlements who, like their counterparts in Southern Tibet, live in woven yak wool tents throughout the summer months. Our camp at Jangchu Lakha (3780m) is in a fine location overlooking the intermediary valley between the Paro and Thimphu valleys.
Another spectacular day as we continue north along tan alpine ridge. En route we cross a series of small passes in the vicinity of 4050m with each marked by a stone memorial and an abundance of prayer flags. From the passes there are also fine views of many of the peaks that form the border with Tibet. From our lunch spot we can appreciate the location of our campsite on the shores of the Jimilang Tsho. To reach the lake involves a long and gradual descent taking an hour or so, at first across alpine meadows and then through rhododendron and conifer forest to this wonderful campsite.
From the lake the trail ascends through rhododendron forest before traversing a series of grazing meadows. It takes around three hours to reach the secluded encampment of Janye Tsho (3950 metres) and a fine place for a break. Thereafter the profile of the trail continues with short ascents and descents to reach the campsite above Simkota Tsho (4050 metres). From the campsite you can appreciate Jilli Dzong and the ridge-line you trekked along a few days earlier.
On our final day along the ridges we head over a series of small passes leading towards the Thimphu Valley. En route we pass a number of yak herders settlements and alpine lakes before reaching the Phume La (4200m) from where we appreciate the vast sprawl of the Thimphu Valley. We continue our descent to a campsite near Phajoding Gmba (3650m). This is a beautiful Buddhist monastery and an important pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese people.
From Phajoding the trail descends steeply, passing through mixed forest for a couple of hours before following the valley floor to the Youth centre (2580m). From the roadhead, we drive to our hotel in Thimphu. After lunch we commence our sightseeing program of Bhutan’s capital. The town is by no means large and is easily explored on foot. The main Secretariat building, the Tashichho Dzong is the most prominent building consisting of the main Secretariat, the National Assembly Hall, the Office of the King and the Throne Room. It's remarkable 13th century construction is in traditional Bhutanese style without the use of nails or metal of any kind. We also visit the large Stupa dedicated to the late King HM. Jimge Dorji Wangchuk, regarded as the founder of modern day Bhutan. Then there is the Handicraft Emporium with famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings while the Post Office sells Bhutan's world-renowned stamps.
In the morning we complete our sightseeing in and after lunch we complete the two-hour drive back to Paro.
Morning transfer to Paro Airport for your onward flight.