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Punakha, Bhutan

Highlights of Bhutan

11-day tailor-made holiday from £3,765 pp incl. flights

Summary

Short description

Draw back the curtains on this luxury holiday to Bhutan, visiting temple-strewn valleys and 600 year-old fortresses

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Highlights

  • Let expert-led tours put you in touch with Bhutan's unique cultural heritage
  • Swap ancient cities for winding mountain passes as you visit remote villages framed by soaring Himalayan peaks
  • Set out on guided hikes to discover centuries-old Buddhist temples, culminating at Taktshang Monastery’s cliff edge perch

In Brief

  • 2 Nights Thimphu
  • 2 Nights Gangtey
  • 2 Nights Punakha
  • 2 Nights Paro

Itinerary

Recommended for:
City | History & culture | Off the beaten track

In 1974, Bhutan’s mountainous borders and lush green valleys opened up to the world. And, thanks to careful limits, its proud, unique culture remains fully intact complete with hilltop monasteries, village jumbles clinging to valley slopes and nunneries straddling ridge lines. In just over a week, you’ll be exposed to all parts of Bhutanese life from kingly throne rooms and giant fortress monasteries or dzongs to traditional arts and craft centres and untouched townships. You’ll visit the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, before traversing mountain passes to reach the charms of its valley towns, Punakha and Paro, after enjoying a taste of village life in Gangtey.

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
Depart UK

After your overnight flight, board your connection to Bhutan the next morning.

Day 2
Arrive Bhutan/Thimphu

Between Himalayan ranges and Kolkata’s foothills, the flight into Bhutan is not only one of the least travelled but is among the most spectacular. On arrival among Paro’s mountains, you’ll be met and transferred to Thimphu. Along the way you’ll stop at Chuzom where three styles of stupas – one Buddhist, one Nepalese and one Bhutanese – mark the confluence of the Thimphu and Paro rivers. You’ll also find the 15th century Tschogang Lhakhang or ‘Temple of the Excellent Horse’.

After checking into your hotel in Thimphu you’ll explore the local market area where fruit, vegetables and handicrafts are traded busily. You’ll then drive up to Buddha Point, home to stunning valley views and the country’s largest statue. In the evening, you’ll visit King’s Memorial Chorten whose golden spire is continuously circled by devotees to the click-clack of prayer wheels and the hum of mantras.

Stay: Druk Hotel (Superior) or Taj Tashi (Deluxe)

Meals: D

Day 3
Thimphu

Today will be spent exploring the natural beauty and fabled history of Thimphu Valley. You’ll start by interacting and speaking with the monks of Pangri Zampa, a 16th century monastery. After learning about their studies in astrology and Lamaism, a leisurely one-hour walk will bring you to Tango Goemba. Set on an impossibly green incline, its gold roofed buildings and 18th century towers are home to intricate sandalwood statues. In the afternoon, a city tour of Thimphu will bring you to the priceless Buddhist manuscripts of the National Library, the Textile Museum and Zorig Chusum, where students are trained in the country’s 13 traditional arts and crafts. You’ll then enjoy an evening visit to Trashi Chhoe Dzong, a majestic fortress that combines ceremonial brilliance with monastic gravity in its throne room and government offices. End the day with a stroll through a local crafts bazaar.

Stay: Druk Hotel (Superior) or Taj Tashi (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Day 4
Thimphu/Gangtey

After breakfast, you’ll set off on a drive over Dochu La, a 3,000-metre high mountain pass before descending through dense oak and rhododendron forests into the Phobjikha Valley. You’ll then follow – with the Himalayan Peaks as a backdrop – the Dang Chhu River before climbing back up through forests of bamboo and oak to arrive at Gangtey Village. Here, you’ll visit the tiered roofs and whitewashed pillars of Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in this region, before descending to the village floor, the winter home of black necked cranes.

Stay: RKPO Gangtey (Standard) or Gangtey Lodge (Deluxe)

Meals: B D

Day 5
Gangtey

This morning, you’ll visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centre on the edge of the valley’s forest, bordering its wetlands. Make full use of its high powered telescopes for sightings of what has become one of Asia’s most iconic birds with its proud neck and skipping legs. After lunch, you’ll hike southeast through the dwarf bamboo to get closer to the birds and local villages. Then, after crossing through vegetable fields and orchards, you’ll reach Yeshi Gempo, a 16th century temple dedicated to Lord Buddha. After crossing a wooden bridge back, celebrate the day with a locally distilled, traditional drink. Lunch is included at Gangtey Lodge.

Stay: RKPO Gangtey (Standard) or Gangtey Lodge (Deluxe)

Meals: B L D

Day 6
Gangtey/Punakha

On today’s drive to Punakha you’ll stop off for a short excursion where you’ll walk through verdant paddy fields to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple set on a hillock in the centre of the valley. Blessed by Drukpa Kunley – known as ‘The Divine Madman’ – and built in 1499, it features phallic decorations alongside traditional ornamentation. You’ll also visit the tiny settlement of Pana for a rare insight into the daily life of Bhutanese villagers. On arriving in Punakha, you’ll visit Punakha Dzong; once the capital of Bhutan, this grand fortress is elaborately painted in golds and reds, the perfect contrast to its black carved wood and whitewashed walls.

Stay: Dhensa Boutique Resort (Standard) or Uma by COMO, Punakha (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 7
Punakha

Start the day with a hike up through fields of chillies, cabbages and rice to follow the banks of Mo Chhu once more, this time to reach Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a quadruple-decker monument that looks out over the entire valley. Your next stop is a nunnery that straddles the ridge between the twin valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang, offering breathtaking views of both. Here, you’ll find some of the country’s finest statue works along with a learning and meditation centre. In the afternoon, you’ll visit Talo village. Scattered along the hillsides, there’s farmhouses, flower gardens and sweet pea fields to explore.

Stay: Dhensa Boutique Resort (Standard) or Uma by COMO, Punakha (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 8
Punakha/Paro

Crossing back over the Dochu La, you’ll follow the banks of Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu to reach Paro at the northern reaches of the valley. En route, you’ll stop off at Simtokha Dzong, a castle monastery home of tantric teachings and language studies. Then, after checking into your hotel, you’ll head to Ta Dzong. Originally built as a giant watchtower, today it houses Bhutan’s Nation Museum, a collection of antique paintings, textiles, weapons, armour and household objects. There’s also Rinpung Dzong whose inner courtyard is lined with wooden galleries of fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore; it’s no wonder than its name translates as ‘The Heap of Jewels Fortress’. In the afternoon, head into the green of Paro valley where farmhouses all follow the same architectural pattern, one where not a single nail is used.

Stay: Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa (Standard) or Uma by COMO, Paro (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 9
Paro

Your last full day in Bhutan will revolve around a five-hour hike to Taktshang Monastery’s cliff edge perch, hung 900 metres above the valley floor. Story has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived on the back of a tigress, giving rise to its name that translates as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. It’s a sacred site visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their life. Along the way, stop off at Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century temple whose construction marked the arrival of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the afternoon, a professional archery demonstration will showcase the country’s national sport – every village has a range. Teams of bowmen shoot at targets only a foot across from a distance of over 130 yards. Returning to Paro, you’ll have one last chance to pick up some keepsakes from the city’s main market street.

Stay: Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa (Standard) or Uma by COMO, Paro (Superior)

Meals: B D

Day 10
Depart Bhutan

Following a breakfast, you’ll transfer to the airport for your flight to Delhi where you’ll make your evening connection.

Meals: B

Day 11
Arrive UK

Return to the UK after your overnight flight and continue your onward journey home.

Map

Pricing

Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

Accommodation rating: Standard Superior Deluxe

11-day tailor-made holiday from £3,765 incl. flights

Superior

Low Season

from £3,765 pp. incl. flights

High Season

from £4,065 pp. incl. flights

Includes:

  • Return flights between London and Paro
  • Private car and driver throughout
  • 8 nights accommodation in typically 3+ (Standard) and 4* (Superior) hotels on a half-board basis
  • Private touring throughout

Terms & Conditions

Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.

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