Journey into the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ on this leisurely 7 day tour combining visits to age-old temples, imposing Dzongs and gold-roofed monasteries with an exploration of some of Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness and countryside. On the Dragon Kingdom Explorer tour you will discover the attractions of the stunning Paro Valley including the ancient Kyichu Temple and Drukgyel Dzong, and enjoy hiking up to Taktsang “Tigers Nest” Monastery, perched on a rocky ledge 900m above the valley floor. Sightseeing in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu includes the Memorial Chorten and the National Library, as well as a walk up through an alpine forest to Tango Monastery. Highlights in the Punakha Valley will be a visit to the stunning Dzong located at the confluence of 2 rivers, and a walk up through rice fields and orange plantations to a hillside chorten offering sweeping valley views. Enjoy your evenings relaxing in the five-star comforts of our preferred accommodations, and indulge in one of their range of holistic therapies.
DETAILED SUGGESTED ITINERARY:
Day 01: Arrive Paro
Fly into Paro Valley on our national carrier, Drukair. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. The first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane – a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of Bhutan. The concierge of Amulet Luxury Travel Bhutan will take care of all airport formalities whilst you enjoy the comfort of the VIP airport lounge services.
After lunch visit one of the holiest temples in Bhutan, Dungtse Lhakhang (temple). Dungtse Lhakhang was built in 1421 by the famous Lama, Thangton Gyelpo (1385-1464), also known by the name of Chagzampa, ‘the builder of iron bridges’ or Drubthob, ‘the realized One’. It has three floors representing hell, earth and heaven and the paintings inside are considered to be some of the best in Bhutan.
In the afternoon explore Kyichu Lhakhang. King Songtsen Gampo built this temple in 659 AD. It is believed to be holding down the left foot of a demon whose body is so large that it covers Bhutan. This Lhakhang contains a 5 meter-high statue of Guru Rinpoche and another of Tara, who represents one of the wives of King Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan.
If time permits, explore Paro town, either accompanied, or on your own. Please note that your personal guide and chauffer will be at your beck and call as and when you need his/her assistance. He/she will be just a phone call away (use the phone which will be provided to you upon arrival).
Return to your hotel for dinner. Overnight in Paro.
Day 02: Drive to Thimphu, Capital City of Bhutan
Drive to Thimphu, a journey of approximately 1.5 hrs.
Spend the remainder of the day on a tour exploring some of Thimphu’s many sites. These include the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who died in 1972.
Also visit Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu valley, the National Library featuring an extensive collection of Buddhist literature mostly in block-printed format, with some works several hundred years old, the School of Traditional Arts and the Folk Heritage Museum.
In the evening before dinner, stroll through the streets of Thimphu to explore the city center. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu
After an early breakfast drive to Tango Monastery, located about 12 kilometers north of Thimphu. The trail to Tango Monastery is a climb of 280 meters and takes about an hour. Tango Monastery was founded in the 12th century by one of the Tibetan saints, and was rebuilt in its present form in 1688 by the 4th temporal ruler of Bhutan, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. It is now the residence of his young 7th reincarnation. Tango Monastery is also the only Buddhist University in Bhutan where His Eminence the 9th Khamtrul Rinpoche completed his studies in Master of Buddhist Philosophy in 2009. Currently, His Eminence Thuksey Rinpoche is in his final year in Tango University of Buddhist Studies pursuing his Master of Buddhist Philosophy.
Following lunch return to your hotel for some time at leisure. In the late afternoon, visit Tashichoedzong, ‘The Fortress of the Glorious Religion’. The Dzong houses some of the Ministries, His Majesty’s Secretariat, and the Central Monk Body.
After a long day, unwind with a relaxing hot stone bath*.
Overnight in Thimphu.
*A select range of accommodations offer in-house hot stone baths. Please contact us for details.
Day 04: Drive to Punakha
After breakfast begin drive to Punkaha, a distance of approximately 72 kilometres. The road climbs to Dochu La Pass, located 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level and marked by a large array of prayer flags and 108 chortens. On a clear day the pass offers a panoramic view of the Bhutan Himalayas. You will have the best chance of a view in the early morning between October and February.
Following lunch visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the unifier of Bhutan. The Shabdrung died in 1651 while he was in meditation at Punakha Dzong, and his body is preserved in one of the Dzong’s temples. Punakha Dzong is the winter headquarters of the Central Monastic Body headed by the Je Khenpo. The Central Monastic Body shifts to Punakha for the winter and back to Thimphu for the summer. The three-storied main temple of the Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. The coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck, the First King of Bhutan, took place at Punakha Dzong in 1907.
Return to your hotel where you will have time at leisure. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 05: Punakha
Enjoy a morning visit to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, perched high on a hill on the opposite bank of the Mo Chhu (Female River). Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck had the three-storied chorten built for the protection of the country. It was consecrated at the end of 1999. The monument is situated an half an hour’s walk from the road amidst an idyllic rural farming area. It is renowned for its beautiful paintings featuring incredibly complex iconography.
A sumptuous lunch will be served on the way back from Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten by the side of a river accompanied by a musician showcasing traditional Bhutanese instruments.
After lunch visit Chimi Lhakhang, approximately a 20-minute walk from the road at Sopsokha. Lama Drukpa Kunley, ‘The Divine Madman’, built the temple in 1499. He subdued the demon of Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. A wooden effigy of the lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang. If time permits we can drive further east to visit Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel founded this Dzong in 1638. It sits atop a high ridge between the Punak Chhu and the Dang Chhu.
Drive to Paro, a journey of approximately 4 hours. Overnight in Paro.
Day 6: Paro (Taktsang Monastery, ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Hike)
Drive to the foothill of Taktsang Monastery. There are two options available to enable you to reach Taktsang Monastery (Please note that riding pony downhill is not recommended). You can either choose to ride a pony or hike. It takes approximately one and a half hours uphill to reach the Taktsang cafeteria overlooking the magnificent Monastery perched on the side of a cliff 900 meters above the floor of the Paro valley. From here it is about another hour to a lookout point beside the monastery.
Taktsang means ‘tiger’s lair/nest’. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress. Guru Rinpoche then meditated in a cave for three months and converted the Paro valley to Buddhism. According to Bhutanese tradition, the tigress was a form taken by one of Guru Rinpoche’s consorts for the occasion.
Following lunch continue on to explore Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1647 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the great “Unifier of Bhutan”. He constructed it to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. Drukgyel Dzong was featured on the cover of the US National Geographic magazine when John Claude White published an article about Bhutan in 1914. In 1951, a butter lamp fell over and started a terrible fire which destroyed the glorious and magnificent Dzong. Now the Dzong is in ruins and its main courtyard is closed to all visitors.
Afterwards visit the Rinpung Dzong, also known as ‘fortress of a heap of jewels’. Built in 1646, the dzong stands on a hill above Paro, and features beautiful architecture and ancient frescos. If you wish, you can also enjoy an exploration of Paro Town at leisure. Overnight in Paro.
Day 7: Depart Bhutan
After an early breakfast you will be transferred to Paro International Airport for your flight to your onward destination.
End of Service and Tashi Delek!
Day 01: Arrive Paro.
Day 02: Drive to Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu.
Day 04: Drive to Punakha.
Day 05: Drive to Paro.
Day 06: Paro. Hike to Taktsang.
Day 07: Depart Bhutan.
Our many years of experience have enabled us to establish the network and knowledge that provide our clients with a more in-depth experience of Bhutan. All of our tours are tailor-designed by our specialist travel designers to ensure they perfectly suit client interests. This itinerary is designed to provide only an example of the kinds of accommodations, activities and experiences that we can customise for you.
- Bhutan Government Tourist Tariff Royalty
- Visa fees
- Arrival & departure airfares to Bhutan including taxes
- Accommodation in superior standard hotels (and premium hotels and resorts where applicable)
- All meals in Bhutan
- Services of a professional, experienced and English speaking personal guide
- Experienced driver
- All private excursions and transfers in superior air-conditioned vehicle.
- All excursions, transfers, route permits and monument fees
- Medical / Travel Insurance.
- Expenses such as bar and laundry, cigarettes and other tobacco items, sleeping bags whilst on treks and other personal expenses.
- All add-on activities such as wellbeing and spa programs at premium hotels and resorts
- Telephone calls (except those made on the supplied mobile phone for contacting Amulet head office or your private guide)