Mountain Biking, Rafting, Day walks

Day 1: Arrival. Paro – Ha (60Kms, 2 hrs)
On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, our representative and your guide for the whole trip will receive you and transfer you to Paro town for lunch in town.

After lunch drive over Chele-la pass – the highest motorable road in Bhutan at approximately 13,000 feet, into Ha valley, recently open to tourism. After check-in explore the quaint town and villages on the valley.

Day 2: Ha – Thimphu (Biking, Car)
After breakfast ride your mountain bikes for the next 80 kms through one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Total biking duration will be approximately 6hrs average. En route, stop to visit beautiful temples, villages and rural schools. There is very little strenuous climb and traffic is minimal. Picnic lunch will be served at a scenic spot.

At Chunzom your transport will pick you up for 1hr drive you to Thimphu, the capital city, 36kms away. Evening at leisure.

Day 3: Thimphu Halt
Full day sightseeing in Thimphu. Start with the Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the ancient art of Bhutanese healing system called Sowa Rigpa is still practiced. The institute also serves as a research and training center. The institute has an exhibition room that imparts excellent look into the tradition.

Next briefly stop at the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts. The school offers an eight-year course in the techniques of traditional art in religious and secular paintings, woodcarving, clay sculpture and traditional mask making.

Then visit the Folk Heritage Museum. Established in 2001, this is an interesting museum housed in an old traditional house. The museum is a walk through the fast changing rural tradition, habits and skills, and those of the past.

Before lunch visit the National Library a repository of ancient texts relevant to Mahayana Buddhism and a rich collection of lithographs from whence scriptures and prayer flags where printed in the old days.

In the afternoon visit the Handicrafts Emporium, shop for souvenirs or just stroll the two floors full of Bhutanese handicrafts.

Then, visit the Textile Museum. Established in 2000, this is one of the new theme museums in the city. It is dedicated to the rich skill of Bhutanese weaver, primarily women. The museum has a good collection of samples including rare pieces and antiques, some belonging to the royal family.

Next visit the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, lovingly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is a rare stupa that has an inner sanctum of temples. A very popular religious monument in the city, there are always throngs of devotees circumambulating or turning the giant prayer wheels.

Next, visit the Jungshina Handmade Paper Factory. Here you can see the traditional way of making papers from bark of Daphne plants. Bhutan in ancient days was the biggest supplier of paper in the Himalayan region for printing religious scriptures and prayers.

Lastly, visit the massive fortress, Tashichoedzong, initially a smaller structure in 1641 but enlarged to its current size by Late Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965. Besides being the summer seat of Je Khenpo – the Head Abbot, and the central monastic body, it houses some ministries, the secretariat, the Golden Throne of the King and His Majesty’s office.

Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha (67 Kms/3hrs)
Today we will start our journey further east into the country. Punakha is 48 miles from Thimphu but due to steep climb and descent it will take about three hours to get there. The road climbs to Dochula pass at 10,000 feet before descending approximately 6,500 feet to the base of the valley. On a clear day Dochula pass heralds the most enchanting view of Bhutan’s Himalaya peaks. Some of the peaks you can see from here on a clear day are, Gangchen Ta (20,520 ft), Gangkha Puensum (22,623 ft), Jejekangphu (21,300 ft), Masang Gang (21, 495 ft), Teri Gang (21,900 ft), Tsenda Gang (21,900 ft) and Table Mountain (21,900 ft). We will take a tea break here in a picturesque cafeteria. An hour and half downhill from here will bring us to the Punakha/Wangdue valley.

After checking in and lunch we will drive half an hour to visit Punakha Dzong, the second fortress built by Shabdrung, in 1637, on a strategic junction at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Punakha Dzong has played a hallowed role in history of Bhutan. It served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government, several foreign delegations were received here in 18th and 19th century, the election and coronation of the first King was observed 1907 and the Third King convened the first National Assembly in the Dzong. The central monastic body continues to reside here in winter. The embalmed bodies of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of the country, and Terton Pema Lingpa, famous Bhutanese saint, are kept on the top floor of the main tower. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King from the latest fire in 1987. On our way back we will hike to Chime Lhakhang perched on top a hill surrounded by fertile alluvial fields of rice and farmhouses. The famous saint Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the Divine Madman built it in the 15th century. Hundreds of stories abound on his unusual ways of imparting dharma teachings. Saving details for the day of visit it is a popular destination for fertility blessings including foreigners. Driving time approximately

Day 5: Punakha Halt (Rafting)
After breakfast take an hour drive from your rafting will start. Depending on your choice you can ride the gentler Mo Chhu or the wilder Pho Chhu, one is classified 3- and other 3+ or higer depending on season and river mood. Either route will take you past wide valley of rice fields and the beautiful fortress of Punakha at the confluence. It is a two hour ride ending on a sandy beach near a stupa ehere you can change and enjoy a well deserved tea near the river.
PM free for independent exploration or excursion to nearby town of Wangdue and its lean fortress perched on a sharp high hill.

Day 6: Punakha – Bumthang (197 Kms/7hrs)
After an early breakfast we will push further east towards Bumthang, past Wangdue town, the black mountain range, and Trongsa town. The dense forests of oaks, rhododendrons and other evergreen forests in the black mountain range often surprises and pleases travelers with pack of monkeys and grey langurs passing overhead through the tress or resting by the roadside. Once over the Pelela Pass at 12,000 feet we will stop at Chendebji, where a giant Buddhist stupa stands, for picnic lunch.

Trongsa is about 2 ½ hours drive from here. Trongsa is the ancestral seat of the Wangchuk Dynasty from where our First King was elected. The Second King Jigme Wangchuk ruled the country from Kuenga Chholing in Trongsa during winters. In keeping with tradition the Crown Prince of Bhutan holds the position of the Trongsa Penlop – Governor, prior to ascending the throne. The present King was appointed Penlop in 1972, shortly before his coronation.

Bumthang is 2 ½ hrs from Trongsa. The road climbs higher into the mountains, traversing two passes, to reach Bumthang valley, a different ecological region of conifers and alpine vegetation. The four valleys that make Bumthang is the sacred heart of the country. Besides natural beauty the valley is bountifully blessed with numerous ancient temples and is the revered birthplace of many saints. It was here that the legendary saint Pema Lingpa was born, to whom the Bhutanese Royalties trace their lineage. Bumthang is also distinguished in history as the first place in Bhutan where Guru Rimpoche brought Buddhism.

Day 7: Bumthang Halt
We will do our sightseeing in the valley on foot, starting from the hotel. We will walk to Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey, cross the river to Tamshing and Konchosum Lhakhang and back to hotel. The whole circuit is approximately 8.5 miles. Jambey Lhakhang, the other temple built by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, in the 7th century. It was here that Guru Rimpoche conducted his first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sendha, the local ruler, his family and subjects. The alcove above the entrance to the inner temple where Guru Rimpoche sat during the sermon can be still seen to this day.

Kurjey Lhakhang complex consists of three temples. The one was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The body imprint of the great master can be distinctly seen in the rock cave enshrined in the temple. Your guide will explain the fascinating stories connected to this place.

Second temple was built in 1900 by the first king when he was still the governor of Trongsa. The third temple was built in 1990 by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. A wall of 108 chortens surround the entire complex.

We will stop by the river for picnic lunch and afterwards walk across to Tamshing Lhakhang, located in a village across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang. It is the seat of Bumthang’s famous son saint Pema Lingpa. He built it himself in 1501. A skilled tantric master and an artist he sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in original state. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumambulate the inner sanctum. The throne from which he performed the consecration ceremony is preserved in a small temple outside the main hall. The physical structure surrounding the main inner temple was restored at the end of the 19th century. Pema Lingpa’s expansive skills in building, painting, sculpture and metal work can still be seen in mostly original State. Konchosum Lhakhang is an old temple suspected to be from the 6th or 7th century but the current structure dates back to the same period as Tamshing Lhakhang. It is also a site from where terton Pema Lingpa discovered sacred treasures. There is a bell in the temple, which when rung was believed to be heard as far as Lhasa, Tibet. The Tibetans once tried to steal the bell and when discovered by the caretakers left in haste dropping the bell. So, only half the bell remains with the other half believed to be somewhere in Tibet.

We can also drop by the cheese factory and brewery and celebrate the excursion before crossing over a suspension bridge to head back to the hotel or continue on to explore the small town or drive back to town later after freshening from the walk.

Day 8: Bumthang – Gangtey (102 kms/4hrs)
Retrace your trip until Pelela pass, a little below which the road will branch off to the wide alpine valley of Gangey/Phobjikha. Visit the Gangtey Monastery, currently under renovation, but offers the best place to view artisans of Bhutan at work.
Rest of the day at liesure
Day 9: Gangtey Halt
Today, take off for day hike through the wide valley carved by receding glaciers. Explore villages, rural temples and empty dwarf bamboo land to get a taste of alpine Bhutan.

Day 10: Gangtey – Paro (160 kms/5 1/2 hrs)
After breakfast continue trip back to Paro, halting for lunch at scenic Dochula Cafeteria.

Day 11: Paro Halt
This morning we will hike to Taktshang monastery. One of the famous monasteries of Bhutan, especially to the outside world, is perched on a cliff 900 meters above the Paro valley. Guru Rimpoche, the Indian saint who brought tantric Buddhism to Bhutan, is believed to have arrived here on the back of a tigress and remained in meditation for about three months. Revered as one of the most sacred place, many great saints from both Tibet and India traveled here on pilgrimage. In addition to few other places, every Bhutanese wishes to visit here at least once in their lifetime. The cave in which Guru Rimpoche meditated is open to the public once every year. On 19 April 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but the reconstruction is finally complete. The temple itself is closed to tourists but the hike up to the viewpoint is worth every step. It takes about an hour and half to two hours. Ponies can be arranged on the way up for those who wish to ride. Lunch will be served at the viewpoint cafeteria.

Afternoon, explore Paro town for souvenirs and gifts. Evening, farewell dinner.

Day 12: Departure
Your adventure into the little known, mystical kingdom ends today. Your Bhutanese guide will see you off at the airport on to your next adventure.