The 5-day cultural tour package will bring you to the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu! It's one of the travellers' favourite. This modern city retains its traditional charm. There are a lot of vibrancy and city vibes in Thimphu. You'll also get to explore another popular city, Paro - home to the country's most sacred site, Taktsang (aka Tiger's Nest). Paro town will give you a relaxing vibe as you stroll through the handicraft shops.
ARRIVAL IN PARO
Upon your arrival at Paro International Airport, you will see your tour guide waiting for you at the arrival hall. From Paro, you will take a one hour drive to the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu. In Thimphu, you will check in to your accommodation and have your first Bhutanese meal!
The city will provide you a glimpse into the local cultures and you will quickly notice Bhutanese in their traditional costumes, Kira for the ladies and Gho for the men. You will also realise that unlike other cities in the world, you will not see any traffic light on the roads!
On the first day, your itinerary will be light to ensure that you have sufficient rest from the flight and are ready to explore Bhutan! Your first stop will be the National Memorial Chorten located at the heart of the city. The chorten was built in honour of the late third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. After that, you will visit the Buddha Dordenma (also known as Buddha Point) to learn more about Buddhism in Bhutan. The scenic view from Buddha Dordenma makes great photo opportunities for travellers. It’s located near Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and the 169 feet bronze Buddha statue is considered one of the largest in the world. Subsequently, you can take a stroll to check out the Thimphu Town and visit the Craft Gallery to learn more about the different arts and crafts available in Bhutan.
THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA
On the way to Punakha, you will drop by Dochula Pass, one of the most beautiful mountain passes in Bhutan. Dochula Pass comprises 108 chorten built by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over the Assamese insurgents from India. If you are lucky, you can also get a clear view of the gorgeous Himalayan range from Dochula Pass!
You can visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang located near the Dochula Pass. This beautiful temple was built in honour of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck who led the battle against the Indian rebels. You will be able to see locals offering butter lamps at the temple.
Upon reaching Punakha, you will first visit the Punakha Dzong, one of the most beautiful fortresses in Bhutan. It used to be the seat of the government until the capital shifted to Thimphu. The dzong continues to be a winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbot (Je Khenpo). The dzong is strategically located at the fork of two rivers, Mo Chhu and Po Chhu and beautiful jacarandas can be seen blooming at the courtyard during spring.
Then you will visit the Po Chhu Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan measuring 160 metres long. You can feel a sense of calm as you stand atop the suspension bridge admiring the picturesque lush green valleys. The bridge offers you a spectacular view of the rivers and Punakha district.
You will explore one of the most popular temples in the Punakha District, Chime Lhakhang (also known as Temple of Fertility). You will start your journey from Sopsokha Village where you can witness traditionally built houses and shops. Do not be surprised by the amount of phalluses you will see around the village! You will get to learn more about the significance as you reach Chime Lhakhang after taking a 20 mins stroll across a serene terraced field. Travellers from all around the world visit Chime Lhakhang to receive fertility blessings.
Then you can take a one hour hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a picturesque chorten built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. The chorten is an example of the magnificent Bhutanese architecture. This four storey pagoda style stupa was built to protect Bhutan and bring peace to all sentient beings and the world. It offers a spectacular view across the Punakha valley.
PUNAKHA TO PARO
Thereafter, you will head back to Paro for further exploration. In Paro, you can visit the Rinpung Dzong aka Paro Dzong that is located near the town. This 15th century massive fortress is the administrative centre of the district. It was built in 1647 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan. The dzong is literally known as Fortress on a Heaps of Jewels. It is one of the country’s finest architecture. Scenes from Bernado Bertolucci’s 1993 film ‘Little Buddha’ were filmed in Rinpung Dzong!
You will visit Kyichu Lhakhang - one of the oldest and most beautiful temples in Bhutan. It has a very calming ambience where you will see locals spinning prayers wheels and circumambulating the temple. Inside the temple also housed two mystical orange trees that bear fruits throughout the year!
Subsequently, you can explore and chill around the Paro town. There are plenty of shops selling handicrafts, eateries and souvenirs.
You will be embarking to visit one of the most popular and iconic landmarks of Bhutan - Taktsang Monastery also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery! The monastery is located 2,600 feet above the Paro Valley. Your day will begin early in the morning. The entire hike can take approximately 3 and half to 5 hours depending on your pace. You will reach a cafeteria after one hour hike where you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. You will be able to see many locals of all ages, from kids to the elderlies making their way up to the monastery - sometimes in sandals. Do not be surprised!
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (aka Guru Rinpoche) flew from Tibet to the monastery on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. He meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days before subduing a demon that was terrorising the inhabitants of the valleys. This monastery is considered one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan. A trip to Takstang is a holy pilgrimage for the locals.
*Do remember to pace well and enjoy the views along the way!
One of the most authentic Bhutanese experiences you can have in the Kingdom is definitely pampering yourself with a hot stone bath! Aum Choden Homestay is a two storey traditional Bhutanese house that is 108 years old. It has a rustic charm that will leave you feeling rejuvenated. The locals usually soak themselves in hot stone baths once or twice weekly and it is believed that the hot stone bath has healing properties. Stones are fire-roasted and plunged into the wooden bath tub. Medicinal hot stone bath can help to alleviate some health issues such as stomach ache, hypertension, arthritis or joint pain.
DEPART FROM PARO
The day that you will say goodbye to this amazing Himalayan Kingdom and vow to be back again to explore more of it someday! You will be departing Bhutan from Paro International Airport. Hopefully you would have made some great memories and new friends that will last you a lifetime. We certainly hope that you will come back to discover more charm of Bhutan in some other parts of the country!