Day 1 - Arrive in Paro, Bhutan.
Your flight will likely include breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Chomolhari and Jichu Drake of Bhutan.
On arrival at Paro, Bhutan, airport, meet your guide and driver after clearing immigration and customs. You’ll need to present your Visa Approval document, which we will email to you about three to four weeks before the trip date. In Paro, you will get the actual visa sticker on your passport.
After introductions, your guide and driver will transfer you to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch, visit the National Museum of Paro which gives an excellent introduction to Bhutan's history, culture and religion. The museum exhibits good of collection Bhutanese textiles, manuscripts, books, murals, armors, crafts, traditional utensils, philatelic collections, and more. Then, we will descend to the impressive Rinpung Dzong Fortress that houses the office of the district administration and religious body.
Now, we take scenic one-hour drive to Thimphu, the capital, with a stop for a short walk at the temple of Tamchog Lhakhang-built in the 13th-century by the famous Tibetan iron-bridge builder Thangthong Gyalpo who was also a physician, teacher, and a saint! The temple is owned and maintained by his descendants, until today.
In Thimphu, we’ll have time to settle in before a walking tour of the tiny city. Thimphu is probably the only capital in the world without any traffic lights! We will take a stroll and visit the memorial chorten (shrine) of the 3rd King of Bhutan Jigme Dorje Wangchuk, and whatever else time and our interest allow.
Day 2 - Sightseeing and hiking in Thimphu
After breakfast, with our guide and driver, the adventures begin as we get a feel for the city. On the weekend, it's worth visiting the weekend market. Archery is the Bhutanese the national sport, and we’ll hope for matches while we’re there.
Next, visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum that offers a six years course on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Then, visit the Simply Bhutan Museum, a living museum of Bhutan, resembling a typical village that promotes the cultural heritage and local lifestyle. Here, you will have a chance to wear traditional Bhutanese costumes and pose for photographs, if you wish.
Next stop – the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, dispensary of traditional Bhutanese herbal and other medicines. Other attraction, if time permits and if you wish is a textile academy that preserves the centuries-old living art of Bhutan. Thimphu's latest addition is Buddha Dordenma, a massive 177 ft tall Buddha statue on a ridge overlooking the valley.
Late afternoon, take a short 10-minute hike through the forest to visit the Takin Sanctuary. Takin– a kind of sheep by way of antelope, are the National animals of Bhutan and believed to exist only in Bhutan Himalaya. On the way back to our hotel, we’ll stop at the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, home to 40-60 Buddhist nuns.
Finally, we visit the Trasichoe Dzong that houses the Royal Throne, National Assembly, and the seat of Chief Abbot of the central monastic body.
An option: Hiking enthusiasts keen to experience a monastic lifestyle away from the crowds of town can take a half-day hike to Tango Goemba monastery. You’ll miss some sights listed above. Tango Goebma Monastery is Bhutan's highest learning center for Buddhist studies. All Je Khenpo, the religious head of Bhutan, must complete a nine-year program here and a three-year, three-month, three-day in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba Monastery! With luck, the monks will be in recess, and we can join them for tea. If you want to hike to Cheri Goemba Monastery back to back, allow another two hours.
Are you interested in Buddhist astrology? On our way back, we can stop at Pangri Zampa Temple-an astrology school for the state clergy. More than a hundred monks study astrology in this center, and they also see the public or visitors by appointment.
Day 3 - Hike Taktsang Monastery
A big day and a special one, with an early start. After breakfast, we’ll transfer to Paro and hike to the famous Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, a highlight of any trip to Bhutan. The monastery sits dramatically on the edge of a 4000-foot cliff above the valley floor; it is an unbelievable sight. The hike up is less than three hours. With a prior arrangement, ponies can take us two-thirds of the way up, but no further. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche by Tibetans and Bhutanese, flew on a tigress from Tibet and landed at the monastery’s site. Guru meditated in a cave here, it is said, and subdued the local demons and established the supremacy of Buddhism in Bhutan.
On the way back to the town, we will detour to the ruins of the historic Drukgyel Dzong. It was built in the 16th century to mark the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invaders. We will also stop to visit the ancient Kyichu Lakhang Temple, notable as one 108 temples that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built miraculously over a single night in the 7th century to subdue a demoness!
Late afternoon, visit a typical Bhutanese farm family and their colorful farmhouse, made up of wood without the use of a single nail! With prior arrangement, we can share a traditional meal with the family.
Experience Traditional Hot Stone Bath (Optional):
After such an active day, we recommend a traditional Bhutanese Hot stone bath, an ancient Bhutanese method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other diseases. Your guide needs one-day advance notice to book the experience for you. Some hotels also may offer this experience, but the one in a farmhouse is more authentic. Budget $25-$30 per person.
Day 4 - Depart
After breakfast, your driver will transfer you to the airport in time for your flight to next destination.