9 days to explore Paro and Thimphu plus a stunning 5 day trek in the Thimphu district.
Duration: 9 Days
Best season: October - December; March - May
This 9 day tour allows you to explore Paro and Thimphu and to complete a 5 day trek near Thimphu to visit a large number of lovely high altitude lakes. The trek is easy and most trekking days are short but there are some long steep climbs. Your trek starts from Khoma (near Thimphu) and ends in Simtokha, Thimphu, with the highest point being 4300 metres.
BRIEF ITINERARY:Day 01:
Arrive ParoDay 02:
Paro Sightseeing - ThimphuDay 03:
Khoma - Geynikha [2950m]Day 04:
Geynikha - Gur [3350m]Day 05:
Gur - Labatamba [4300m]Day 06:
Labatamba - Panka [4000m]Day 07:
Panka - Talakha [3083m] - (Simtokha) ThimphuDay 08:
Thimphu Sightseeing - ParoDay 09:
DETAILED ITINERARYDay 01: Arrive at Paro
The spectacular flight into Paro is a great introduction to beautiful Bhutan – you may have breathtaking views of Mount Everest, KanchanJunga and many other Himalayan peaks including the sacred Jhomolhari and Mt Jichu Drake in Bhutan.
Upon arrival at Paro Airport, you will be received by your host who will transfer you to your hotel to settle in and relax.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Paro. Day 02: Paro – Thimphu
After breakfast, we will drive out to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong (fort). This dzong, now in ruins, was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders in 1644. The Shabdrung is credited with being the unifier of Bhutan and he also sought to create a distinctly Bhutanese cultural identity, separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived. The dzong’s name actually means "victorious Druk" and it had been used as an administrative centre until 1951 when a fire caused by butter lamp destroyed it. We can explore the ramparts and on a clear day we can see the unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m).
On the way back to Paro we will visit Kichu Lhakhang, a monastery that was built to hold down the left foot of an ogress whose body covers Bhutan and most of Eastern Tibet. It is one of the 108 monasteries that were miraculously constructed in one night by Tibetan King Songten Gampo in the 7th century. This is one of two of these monasteries that lies within Bhutan, the rest being found in neighboring countries.
After lunch we will visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that, since 1967, has been the National Museum of Bhutan. A specific route must be followed in the building which ensures a clockwise progression around important images. Exhibits include an impressive collection of thangkas; a description of early history that illustrates how magic and science are inseparable in Bhutan; and not to be missed, Bhutan’s eclectic stamp collection, including some stamps that you can listen to on a record player!
In the evening we have a two hour drive to Thimphu. Thimpu is 60km from Paro and is the capital city of Bhutan. Before 1961 it was only a small settlement, but in that year King Jigme Dorje Wangchuk, started developing it as the capital and it now has an approximate population of 100,000. All new buildings have been designed in traditional style with Buddhist motifs and the result is a charming capital nestled in the Wang Chuu valley. It is one of only two capital cities in Asia without traffic lights!
Dinner and overnight in our hotel at Thimphu.Day 03: Khoma – Geynikha [2950m]
After breakfast we drive to the starting point of our trek and start walking!
We follow the trails through terraced fields for rice paddy and other crops and on through conifer forest to the settlement of Geynikha.
The route then descends to a chorten that marks a camping place along side a stream at 2800 metres.
Approx Walking Time: 4hours
Day 04: Geynikha - Gur [3350m]
Crossing a suspension bridge, the trail heads west for a while, then turns south along the east side of the Genetsang chhu (river left) to a side stream, the Dolung Chhu. Cross the stream on a log bridge and start uphill on a eroded trail through a forest of oaks. Our trail is used mainly by yak herders, woodcutters and a handful of trekkers, but it was once a major trading rout between Thimphu and Dagana.
We have a long walk uphill to a rock platform and a crest at 3200 metres with outstanding views. The walk becomes gentler and we have a further walk of about two hours to our camp in a forest clearing at.
Approx Walking Time: 4 hours
Day 05: Gur – Labatamba [4300m]
After climbing back from the camp to the main trail the route continues gently up the ridge on a wide track. A long, stiff climb through blue pines leads to a rocky outcrop where the vegetation changes to spruces, dead firs and larches. The trail traverses into a side valley, crosses a stream at 3870m and begins a long, gentle climb through scattered birches and rhododendrons towards the pass, weaving in and out of side valleys and crossing several tiny streams.
At Pangalabtsa, a pass marked by cairns at 4240m, there is a spectacular view of the whole Dagala range. This is now yak country and there are numerous herders' camps scattered across the broad Labatama valley. We descend from the pass to the first herders' hut and traverse around the head of a small valley to the main valley floor. We camp near Utsho Tsho (lake), where there are said to be plenty of golden trout. There are many lakes in the vicinity and this high altitude area is a mass of alpine wildflowers in September.
Approx Walking Time: 5 hours
Day 06: Labatamba – Panka [4000m]
We get warm quickly this morning with a climb from the valley floor along the western side of the lake to saddle at 4500 metres. From here we have great views of the Himalayan mountains, including on a clear day the peaks from Everest, Kanchanjunga, Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake, Tsevingang, Gangbom, Masagang, Tsendaygang and Ganchen Taa.
From the pass there is a steep descent to another lake at 4350 metres and a short distance beyond the lake we enter the next valley. Passing through meadows, shrubs and lakes, we have the chance to see the Himalayan monal pheasants as well as yaks and horses as we continue on our way to camp at Panka.
Approx Walking Time: 5-6 hours
Day 07: Panka – Talakha [3083m]– Simtokha
The route leads north to a crest at 4100m where several trails lead off in different directions. The trail to Talakha climbs steeply up a slate slope and it's then a long traverse to Tale La at 4180m. From here there is a spectacular view of the Dagala Range and of Thimphu, far to the north. It is then long descent through bamboo forests to the Goemba (monastery) and village of Talakha. We should keep a look out for blue poppy varieties (June – July ) and mountain birds. From Talakha we walk downhill on a steep trail to Simtokha from where we will take a vehicle back to the comforts of Thimphu!
After lunch, we will enjoy some sightseeing around Thimphu. Firstly we will visit the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and some of the oldest records of Bhutanese history and religion. We follow this with a visit to the Painting School, famous for carving and free hand art. Here you can see not only paintings, sculpture, clay work and metal work, but also students and artists at work.
The evening is free for shopping and leisure. There are some great shops in Thimphu and the Government run handicrafts emporium has great displays and set prices.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Thimphu.
Approx Walking Time: 7 hours
Day 08: Thimphu Sightseeing – Paro
After breakfast we will visit the National Memorial Chorten built in memory of the third King of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The deities depicted inside are from the Nyingmapa tradition of Buddhism and teachings of Vajrayana (or tantric form of) Buddhism and provide a rare insight into Buddhist Philosophy.
We then visit the Handicrafts Emporium to see the exquisite artistry of traditional crafts and textiles before visiting the TashichhoDzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion). This
Dzong was built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and reconstructed in 1961. It is presently the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot and spiritual leader of Bhutan).
After lunch we have an excursion to Cheri Monastery which was built in 1620 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The monastery, which is now a major teaching and retreat center of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu order, is stunningly located on the southern edge of the Jigme Dorji National Park, the monastery is a steep walk uphill from the road head through a delightful forest rich in plant species, animal and birdlife. The views from the monastery are delightful and a silver chorten inside holds the ashes of the Shabdrung's father.
Following our visit to Cheri Monastery, we visit the Mini Zoo, where we can see the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Sangay Gang view point to enjoy the prayer flags and the scenery of the valley.
Day 09: Departure
After an early breakfast we will drive to the Paro airport and we bid each other farewell after a great experience in Bhutan!