Day 01: Arrival and sightseeing in Paro (2,250m / 7,382ft)
As our flight nears Bhutan, we can enjoy amazing views of the Himalayas including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks. At the airport, we will be greeted by a representative from Himalayan Glacier who will take us to our hotel. Today, we will visit Rinpung Dzong which was built in 1646 and now houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. We will also visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country and Ta Dzong, once a fortified lookout tower but has now been changed into the National Museum. The museum has a wide assortment of ancient paintings, armors, philatelic displays and a “field of Buddhas”, which helps one visualize while meditating. Overnight in Paro.
Day 02: Paro to Thimphu (2320m/7610 ft): 54 km, 1 hour
After breakfast, we drive to Thimphu on a road that leads through the Paro Valley to the confluence of Paro and Thimphu rivers. Three different styles of Chortens adorn the confluence. A short way beyond, on the left is the Tachogang Lhakhang built in the 15th century by Thangthong Gyelpo, a trader who first introduced Iron Bridges in Bhutan. We check-in to our hotel in Thimphu before touring several landmarks of the city including Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Monastery, mini zoo (to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan), painting school and nunnery temple. Later we also visit Folk Heritage Museum, traditional paper factory, Tashichhodzong and the giant Buddha statue. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu: Tour of the weekend market, Changlingmethang Archery Range and handicraft shops
In the morning, we visit the busy Weekend Market at the bank of the Thimphu River where people from nearby villages come to sell their farm products. While strolling in the busy market, we get to see a variety of food of the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and mangoes. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It's fun to wander the aisle, taking in the bustling atmosphere of the market. Perhaps this market scene offers wonderful opportunity for photographs and to mingle with local people. A few minutes' walk towards south of Weekend Market is the Changlingmethang Archery Range. Perhaps you will come across people playing archery. Afternoon will be spent visiting different handicraft shops and shopping. In the evening, you can stroll through Thimphu town and absorb the lifestyle of the people. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu to Punakha (1300m / 4265 ft): 76 km, 2 - 3 hours
After breakfast, we drive to Punakha via Dochu La Pass (3,100m), where on a clear day we get spectacular views of the Himalayas. Next, we drive downhill through rhododendron, fir and hemlock forests. On the way, we visit Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to the Divine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. After reaching Punakha, we also visit Punakha Dzong which was built between 1637-1638 and is the second oldest and the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 05: Excursion to Gangtey: 164 Km, 5 - 6 hours
In the morning, we explore Wangduephodrang. The nearby villages are known for their slate and stone carvings. We then drive through dense oak and rhododendron forests to Gangtey, a beautiful village surrounded by amazing snow-capped mountains. From here, we enjoy views of the picturesque Black Mountain ranges as well as the beautiful Phobjikha valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. At this time of the year, we can see cranes that migrate from Tibetan plateaus to escape harsh winter conditions. Gangtey Monastery is perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. We explore Phobjikha villages before driving back to Punakha for an overnight stay.
Day 06: Punakha to Paro (2,250m/7,382ft): 130 km, 4 hours
Today, we return to Paro. Upon reaching Dochula, we visit the new Druk Wangyal Monastery, which is the only one of its kind in the country with elaborate paintings depicting the lineage of the present monarchy and their visionary works. Overnight in Paro.
Day 07: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
After breakfast, we hike for 4 to 5 hours to Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan's most famous monastery situated at 3,180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where the Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. After having explored the monastery, we hike down to the valley floor. Overnight in Paro.
Day 08: Final departure
Today we bid farewell to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom and her friendly people. Druk Air generally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions. Therefore, after breakfast, we will be taken to the airport in the morning for final departure.