9 Days - Amazing Glimpses of Paro-Thimphu-Punakha & Phobjikha
Delve into Bhutan’s rich heritage during an 8-day cultural tour through Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Wangdiphodrang. Explore ancient monasteries, witness vibrant festivals, and embrace Bhutanese traditions, creating a deep cultural connection.
Upon your arrival visit the following places at Paro:
Paro National Museum: The museum provides an excellent overview of Bhutanese history and culture. Shaped like a conch shell, it was completed in 1656. The museum holds the largest collection of artifacts, textiles, and antiques in Bhutan.
Paro Dzong: standing high over the Paro Valley, this fortress is a landmark in Bhutan. In1644 Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal initiated construction of this massive temple-fortress on the foundation of a monastery earlier built by Guru Rinpoche.
Paro Dungtse Lhakhang: Dungtse Lhakhang, the little three storied chorten-shaped temple, was built in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo to subdue the ogress on the top of whose head it is said to be built. It was restored in 1841 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen and the names of the Paro donors can still be seen written on the wooden pillars of the ground floor. It is said that on the day of construction, the founder himself appeared in the form of five vultures, and circled the temple showering his blessings before taking flight to Tibet. One can also see the central tower (utse), the pinnacle of the temple, chained from four directions to the roof of the temple. It is believed that while the consecration was being performed the central tower moved, attempting to fly to Tibet. Thus to stop it from its flight the central tower was chained down.This temple is unique in Bhutan as its paintings show the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School.
Overnight hotel at Thimphu.
After breakfast, you have options to visit the following places in Thimphu.
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. Thimphu is the commercial hub and also where all the central government agencies are located.
The temple is one of the oldest in Thimphu, built in the 12th century. The site was chosen by Lam Phajo Drugom Zhipo. After the death of his son Nyima, his descendants took care of the monastery. Its silhouette, perched high on a spur, is a landmark of Thimphu.The monastery houses Chenrizig (Avolokitesawara), an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation as the central statue. The prayer books in this monastery are larger than the usual Buddhist texts. There are large prayer wheels inside the monastery and small wheels on the walls outside the monastery. The main guardian deity is named Dom-Tshang.
2: Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the mountains of Bhutan celebrating the 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha Dordenma itself, will be made of bronze and gilded in gold. The Great Buddha Dordenma is sited amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the thirteenth Desi Druk, overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Construction begun in 2006 and was planned to finish in October 2010, however construction did not conclude until 25 September 2015. The completed work is one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world, at 169 feet (52 m) and contains 100,000 8-inch-tall and 25,000 12-inch-tall gilded bronze Buddhas.
If you prefer, spend some quiet moment and pray for the wellbeing of the entire sentient beings.
3. Fortress Tashichhodzong – It was first constructed in 1216 A.D. by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa where Dechen Phodrang now stands above Thimphu.In 1641 Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal acquired it but finding it too small, he built another one, known as the lower Dzong. The original dzong was destroyed by fire in 1771 and everything was moved to the lower dzong. The new building was later expanded several times over the years. It was damaged during an earthquake in 1897 and rebuilt in 1902. King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck had it completely renovated and enlarged over five years after he moved the capital to Thimpu in 1952 in traditional style using neither nails nor written plans.
Tashichho Dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby.The dzong is located close to Thimphu town, next to the banks of the Wangchhu River. It is an impressively large structure, surrounded by well-kept lawns and beautiful gardens.
4. Bhutan Postal Museum : The Bhutan Postal Museum, Evolution of Communications Systems in Bhutan, was established in November 2015 to celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
The main objective of the museum is to tell the story of Bhutan’s progress and development through the lens of the evolution of communications and postal system in the country. The story is told through anecdotes, artifacts and the rich assortment of stamps the country has produced over the years.
You will not find much about Bhutan Postal Museum either online or in guide books because this is a pretty new museum inaugurated in Nov 2015 only.
The exciting thing about visiting the museum is because, you can get yourself printed on Bhutan stamps at this museum. Yes, you can get your personalized stamps here. Get clicked your picture then and there or give a picture of your near and dear ones and in 10 minutes, you will have your own stamps in your hand. You can put these stamps on picturesque Bhutan postcards and send to your family and friends back home.
This museum is operated by Bhutan Postal Department and you can also get postcards and envelops with beautiful pictures of Bhutan and its culture and heritage. Though you can get the same postcards from any shop in Bhutan but there are various envelops and other postal souvenirs which you will not get anywhere else.
Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast, drive towards Punakha crossing Dochula Pass. On a clear day, from Dochula pass you will be able to get spectacular view of the great Himalayan ranges.
After reaching Punakha, beautiful hike/drive takes one to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond. The village of Nezigang is the starting point for our gradual ascent through cultivated fields and little hamlets to the Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a shrine recently built by the royal family. The shrine is an elaborate structure with a rainbow of Guru Rimpoche images and superb views of the Punakha Valley.
Hike back/drive down down and follow ancient riverside trails amid whitewashed farmhouses, en route visit Punakha Dzong Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637, by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. The Dzong is open for visitors during Punakha festival and in summer months when the monk body moves to Thimphu.
While returning from the Hike- you can experience walking on the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan” – Punakha Suspension Bridge. This160 meters Suspension Bridge is the longest in Bhutan. The bridge is stable and provides a good view of the river and valley, with the mountain as background.
Please don’t worry – you have the option to drive back and see the places instead of the hike. But the kids will enjoy walking on the bridge. It is quite adventurous!!
Overnight at Punakha.
After breakfast, drive towards Phobjikha Valley. On the way, stopover to visit Chimmi Lhakhang – a short walk from the road point (have the option to drive but recommend to walk from the road point)
Chimi Lhakhang is a very popular and revered temple that lies on the periphery of the fertile valley of Lobesa, Wangdiphodrang where the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdiphodrang districts meet. Being dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, the temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility. Lama Drukpa Kuenley lived in Bhutan around the 1500s. He was a highly accomplished buddhist master. As a buddhist master, Drukpa Kuenley is placed among the highest levels of sainthood. But he is remembered more vividly for the outrageous nature of his teachings, which were administered in the most unexpected ways, often with a strong sexual overtones and inclinations. It was because of his peculiar styles that he is remembered with much fondness to this day by Buddhists in the Himalayas as an eccentric saint.
After the visit continue to drive towards Phobjikha Valley (2900 meters). Phobjikha is a wide open valley and popularly known for its winter roosting place for the endangered bird- Black Necked Crane. After reaching Phobjikha -visit Gangtey Gompa.
You will also visit Visit Gangtey Gompa– is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan. The Monastery, also known by the Gangtey village that surrounds it, is in the Phobjikha Valley where winter visitors – the black-necked cranes – visit central Bhutan to roost, circling the monastery three times on arrival and repeating this circling when returning to Tibet. The Monastery’s history traces to the early 17th century and back to the prophecies made by the well-known Terton (treasure finder) Pema Lingpa in the late 15th century.
The Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa’s revelations and one of the two main centres of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country.
Time: 5-6 Hours (Drive is beautiful) – stop over for taking pictures and upon arrival Explore Gantey Valley and if desired, visit some village house and meet with locals.
Overnight at Phobjikha.
Continue your walk towards Gangtey Gompa. The day hike will pass via Semchubara village through forests of blue pine trees covered with lichen (known as old man’s beard). Continue on from the end of the nature trail to Kingathang village where you can visit a temple built by the Queen Mother- of the Fourth king of Bhutan.
In the olden days, these are some of the strategic routes people have used for trading. Ancient routes typically passes through villages for safety and also to up keep the collaboration and community vitality. Village people lead a hard life. With the advent of modernization and easier accessibility to motor able roads, electricity and rural water supply have made the life much easier for villagers.
If two of you wish, visit house of some locals and interact with them. Bhutanese people are very hospitable and it will be a privilege to invite you to their homes.
From Kingathang, you can walk via Yusa village back to your hotel.
Living a metro city life, such hikes may give life time experience to your kids to see remote different part of the world.
Total distance 12 to 13 Km (6 to 7 hrs).
Overnight at Phobjikha.
After leisurely breakfast, drive from Phobjikha to Thimphu. You can stopover on the way to take rest and take pictures at your convenience.
Before reaching Thimphu visit – Simtokha Dzong (Fortress – OLDEST FORTRESS built in BHUTAN)
The name Simtokha literally means “Atop a Demon” and the legend associated with the Dzong’s construction tells us that it was built in order to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing travelers in the region. The Dzong was modeled after the Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet) and is quite distinctive as its Utse or central tower has 12 sides. A large statue of Yeshay Gonpo (Mahakala), the chief protective deity of Bhutan, is housed inside the Utse. Another interesting aspect of the dzong is that it contains the bed chambers of both Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Jigme Namgyel, two of the most important figures in Bhutanese history. Zhabdrung was the leader that first united Bhutan as a nation and Jigme Namgyel was the father of the first King of Bhutan Ugyen Wangchuck. The dzong houses countless statues and paintings of various Buddhas, deities and religious figures including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rimpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattava of Wisdom, Shakya Gyalpo the Buddha of Compassion and many more all carved and painted in exquisite detail.
After reaching Thimphu, visit The CENTENARY FARMER’S MARKET located below the main town, near the Wangchhu River, Thimphu’s weekend market is by far the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Located below the main town, near the Wangchhu River, Thimphu’s weekend market is by far the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Farmers come from all over the country to sell their farm products in the market. With its wide assortment of fresh, organic produce, the Farmer’s Market has become a favourite spot for tourists and a recreational place for people from all walks of life.
Nearby, across a cantilever footbridge, Kuendeyling Bazaam (Image below), to the west bank is a collection of stalls selling clothing, textiles and handicrafts.
Overnight at Thimphu.
After breakfast you have the options to visit the following places in Thimphu:
- Radio tower to for the view of Thimphu valley
- Folk Heritage Museum and Textile Museum
- Weaving center in Changzamtok
- Traditional paper factory
Located in the cultural Centre of Thimphu, the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, we are a major scriptural repository and research facility dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rich literary, cultural and religious heritage of our country. The scripture and document collection held in our library and archives is a national treasure and a fundamental source for Bhutanese history, religion, medicine, arts and culture.
Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts:
Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
Day Hike to Tango Buddhist College
After breakfast you will drive 12km north of Thimphu to hike to Tango monastery. It will take about 45 minutes to hike to the monastery. Tango Monastery is a Buddhist college, and it’s the residence of the Desi Tenzin Rabgye, a young boy who is the reincarnation of the 16th-century monk who built Tango. It is not a tedious hike. You will encounter with langur and get to see different birds. The hike is refreshing and it will be a good treat for your eyes to see some breathtaking views.
Later in the evening you can talk a causal walk around the clock tower and visit local book / souvenir shops.
Overnight at Thimphu.
After breakfast drive to Taktsang base. Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 hundred meters above the Paro Valley. It was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it.
Taktsang Lhakhang is located approximately 10 km north of Paro town at an altitude of 3,120 meters. In order to arrive at the temple visitors must trek for around 2-3 hours through beautiful, shady pine forests. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site.
Upon return from Taktsang, visit Paro Kichu Lhakhang: Kichu Lhakhang: This temple was built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. It holds down the left foot of an ogress whose body covers Bhutan and most of Eastern Tibet. This temple is one of the most spiritual places in Bhutan.
In the evening you can explore Paro town.
Overnight hotel at Paro.
All that starts well must end well. In the morning your guide will accompany you to the Paro International Airport to see you off onto your flight and wish you Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good luck).
FAQ related to visa
Your visa will be taken care by Bhutan Gateway Travel. You are requested to email us a clear valid passport with validity of six months or more prior to your visit to Bhutan.
Once approved, Bhutan Gateway Travel will email you the electronic visa (e-visa) approved by the Department of Immigration. You will print and hand carry a copy of the approved e-visa.
In case of emergency, based on the merit of the case, we will pursue with the relevant authority and get it extended. However, under normal circumstances, it is not possible to get the visa extended.
Three to five government working days.
FAQ related to SDF
The new SDF of US$100 per person per day will become effective from 1 September 2023.
The new SDF shall remain effective for four years until 31 August 2027.
Any guest who already paid the SDF for their upcoming visit to Bhutan is eligible for a refund of the excess SDF amounts paid.
When applying for a visa to enter Bhutan, you will need to pay the SDF. Visas can be applied for at the Department of Tourism’s website.
No, the incentives introduced in June 2023 have been revoked and are no longer applicable. However, the 24-hour SDF waiver for border towns in Bhutan remains valid.