You have an unforgettable arrival into Bhutan, as your plane flies over the Himalayas and descends into the Paro Valley. Having checked in to your hotel, this afternoon you can explore the town on foot, including a visit to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan.
In And Around Paro
This morning, you start the 5-hour walk along a forest trail to Tigers Nest monastery, famously perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the valley floor.
After the hike, you'll be driven to the ruined fortress of Drukgyel Dzong, which stands commanding the entrance to the Paro Valley. In the 17th century it was the site of some fierce battles as the Bhutanese triumphed over several Tibetan attempted invasions. This evening you'll visit Rinpung Dzong. The courtyard galleries contain fine wall paintings depicting scenes from Bhuddhist lore.
To Jele Dzong
In the morning you'll visit Ta Dzong which houses the national museum collection. This includes art, religious thangkha paintings, traditional costumes and handicrafts. Now you begin your trek. Today is a short trekking day covering 8kms in about 3 hours. You start with a gradual ascent to the camp near Jele Dzong. If the weather is clear there will be views back to the Paro Valley with the mountains behind. Jele Dzong, a largely ruined fortress, stands above the camp and there is a lhakhang (temple) containing a statue of Buddha.
To Jele Dzong And Tshokam
Your trek today starts with a climb back to the ridge to cross the small pass leading down to Jele Dzong. You walk through the village of Gida and close to the dzong and several lakes. From here you travel north for some ten minutes along the ridge where you get fine views, before the route takes you in to the forest, and on to another ridge. There's a short, steep ascent to the peak at 3,750 metres, from where you have views back to the part of the Paro Valley, and can see the Dagala mountain range to the south. The trek continues for another four hours or so to the campsite at Tshokam, at 3,962 metres. Today's trek is about 9 km and takes 4-5 hours.
The trail today follows a ridge and offers some sensational views of the mountains and valley, weather permitting. To begin with you ascend a gentle gradient to a couple of passes, with views of Jhomolhari and Jimilang Tsho laker. As you continue you see lots of small stone shelters, used by yak herders, and should be able to make out yak trails. There are many lakes in this area, including the large sacred lake of Jimilang Tsho which you glimpsed earlier. This is known for its trout and you may see locals standing in the water as hey fish, using bamboo spears. Your camp is nearby. You cover about 10kms today and will be trekking for around 6-7 hours.
The scenic trail passes through dwarf rhododendron trees and Janetsho Lake today. There are several yak herders' camps in this area, and you may come across some of these and gain some insight into their lifestyle. The camp tonight is close to Simkota Lake. If you feel lucky try your hand at fishing here and you may catch a trout for your dinner! You'll have walked bout 11kms today in the course of 4 hours.
This morning your path climbs steadily uphill and if the weather is kind, you'll see the impressive Mount Gangkar Puensum, the tallest mountain in Bhutan, plus many other peaks. The trail now descends slowly through juniper trees to the camp at Phajoding. Trekking time today is 4 hours covering 10kms.
Your day starts with a visit to Phajoding monastery, built by Shagcha Rinchen who introduced the Kagyu school of Buddhism to Bhutan. Your trek continues downhill, through a forest of blue pine and reaches Thimphu. This part of the trek takes about 3 hours and is 5kms in length. Check in to your hotel on arrival in the town and the rest of the afternoon is free. This evening you will visit Trashichhoedzong, the centre of government and religion in the kingdom and site of the throne room of the monarch.
In the morning you will visit the National Library with its vast collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts and the National Institute of Zorig Chusum, where students learn traditional art skills. You will also take in the National Textile Museum, the Simply Bhutan exhibition which provides an insight into traditional rural life and the National Memorial Chorten, built to commemorate the 3rd Druk Gyalp Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the father of modern Bhutan. After lunch, you will drive across the Dochla pass, with views of many mountain peaks, and on to Punakha. The drive takes about 3 hours and on arrival you check in to your hotel.
The morning is spent sightseeing in and around Punakha, the former capital. You'll visit the impressive Punakha Dzong and also Chimi Lhakhang, on a small hill in the centre of the valley. This temple is dedicated to the so-called divine madman, who used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to illustrate his teachings. It is known as the temple of fertility and is much visited by childless couples. The walk to the temple takes about 30 minutes and passes rice paddies. After lunch you'll drive back to Paro, visiting Sitmokha Dzong, the oldest in the country, en route. The drive takes about 4 hours today.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
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