Bhutan

11-Day Punakha Winter Trek

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Tour type

Tour Level: High level

Tour Comfort: Standard

Tour Period: 11 Days

Tour Highlight

  •  Explore the hundreds of produce stalls of Centenary Farmers Market
  • View precious works of art and cultural artefacts at the National Museum
  • Relax in a ‘dotsho’, a traditional hot stone bath
  •  Take in incredible views of Phajoding Monastery and Sinchula Pass
  • Trek through oak, alpine, chirpine, deciduous and rhododendron forests

tour details

Experience the incredible natural wonders and historical sites near Punakha, the ancient capital city of Bhutan on this 11-day tour. Visit many of the spectacular religious monuments in the area such as the Drukgyal Dzong and Phajoding Monastery, rich with history and Bhutanese culture. Explore the collections of incredible art and religious artefacts found at the National Museum and National Library of Bhutan. Then, go on a relatively easy 6-day trek across gently sloping trails through forests and rice paddies with incredible views of snowcapped mountains.

After arriving at the Paro International Airport, receive a welcoming ‘khadar’ greeting scarf from your guide and then commence your sightseeing tour. First, visit Rinpung Dzong, which was built to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. Now is a modern school for monks. Then, visit the Ugyen Pelri Palace, which was designed after the Second Buddha’s celestial paradise, Zangtopelri, and is considered one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. Afterwards, visit the National Museum, which is rated as one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia. It has a collection of precious works of art and fantastic costumes, armour and other handcrafted, culturally significant objects. There is also a gallery dedicated to exquisite pieces of thangkas. Enjoy a free evening to leisurely explore downtown Paro.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Paro.
The day begins with a short drive to the trailhead before hiking to the famous Taktsang Monastery. Also known as Tiger's Nest, Taktsang is one of the holiest sites in the country clinging precariously to a cliff 900 metres (2,600 feet) above the Paro Valley. The climb to the viewpoint will take approximately three hours. Afterwards, lunch will be served during the return hike back to the road point.

In the afternoon, explore the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1646, it strategically crossed over the only passage into Paro Valley and helped prevent numerous invasions throughout the course of Bhutanese history. Following this, drive to see Rinpung Dzong before touring the precious works of art and cultural artefacts of the National Museum. Its thangkas depicting Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first Je Khempo and first Druk desi, are particularly significant. Then, enjoy a leisurely evening to visit Paro town. Later, visit a farmhouse for a glimpse into the lives of Bhutanese people. Built and decorated in the classic style of the region, these 3-storey farmhouses are home to cattle on the ground floor, hay on the top floor and a family on the middle floor. While there, try a ‘dotsho’ hot stone bath, which is believed to heal the mind, body and spirit and has been a long tradition in Bhutanese households.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, enjoy a morning drive towards Thimphu. On the way see the 15th-century Tachogang Temple, also known as the ‘Temple of the Hill of Excellent Horse’. Then, continue to Thimphu. Urbanisation began here when Thimphu was proclaimed as a national capital in 1952 and the Dechenchoeling Palace was built, and yet this is the only capital in the world with no traffic lights.

After checking into your hotel, begin your afternoon of sightseeing beginning with Memorial Chorten. It is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu and, for many people, it is the focus of their daily worship. Then, drive to the Takin Preserve to see Bhutan’s national animal, the takin, and then onward to the BBS Tower for a stunning view of Thimphu Valley. Afterwards, visit the Changangkha Temple, which was built in the 15th century and contains ancient scriptures and thangkas. The main deity of the temple is Avalokiteshvara, the god of compassion. Conclude the evening with a visit to Tashichho Dzong, which houses His Majesty’s Throne Room and is the summer home to the Monastic Body.

Dinner and accommodation at a hotel in Thimphu.
After an early breakfast, visit the Bhutan Post, which is known for its world-famous stamps. It’s home to an extensive collection of exotic stamps made from metal and silk. Next, walk through the treasure trove of priceless Buddhist manuscripts at the National Library of Bhutan. The NLB also accommodates a large and steadily growing collection of manuscripts, books, scriptures and written documents as well as numerous hand-carved wooden blocks for printing traditional religious books.

Continue to the National Folk Heritage Museum to get a glimpse of the lifestyle, items and artefacts of Bhutanese villages and rural households. In addition to the displays, the museum also organises demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs. Next, visit the traditional art and crafts Institute for Zorig Chusum or the 'Painting School’. One can often see students learning the various skills taught whilst visiting the school. Afterwards, visit Kuensel Phodrang, which has one of the biggest statues of Buddha in the world (160 feet tall) and depicts the present Buddha, Buddha Sakya Muni (Sha cha Thupa). From here, enjoy a beautiful view of the capital city of Thimphu.

The trip continues to a Jungshi paper factory, which uses the bark of the Daphne and Dhekap trees to manufacture traditional paper. Try your hand at making this ancient craft, which was originally used by monasteries for woodblock and manuscript books and also for writing prayer books. Then, explore the bustling Centenary Farmer's Market one of the biggest structures in Bhutan. Built in 2008, it has more than 450 stalls selling vegetables, fruits, meats and other farm products. Vendors from all over the country come here to sell their produce. The market is open six days a week except for Wednesday. Across the Wangchu, over a traditional ‘Bazam’ cantilever bridge, vendors also sell handicraft items. Enjoy evening free time to visit Thimphu town before settling down for the rest of the night.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Thimphu.
Today drive north up the valley towards Dechenchholing Palace, following the Thimphu River. We’ll drive along a logging road for about an hour and passing Kabesa Village en route to Shong Pang where the trek begins. The trail ascends gradually to Sinchu La to an altitude of 3,200 metres. If the weather is clear, it’s possible to see Phajoding Monastery from the pass. After walking another two kilometres, see Thinleygang Village, Talo Monastery and the road to Bhutan’s former capital, Punakha. The trail descends gradually from the pass until we reach our overnight campsite at 2,900 metres, concluding the day’s trek after a total of 17 kilometres and six hours of hiking.

Dinner and camp at Dopshing Pang.
The trail to Chorten Ningpo descends rather gradually trekking for six to seven hours, passing mainly through densely forested areas. We’ll trek a total of 18 kilometres, some of which will be through scenic rice fields before reaching our campsite at an altitude of 2,700 metres.

Dinner and camp at Chorten Ningpo.
The morning will begin with a 1-hour trek through a 5-kilometre stretch of villages. Afterwards, you will be picked up and transferred by van to Punakha. Roughly seven kilometres outside of Punakha, visit Chorten Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal. It is dedicated to Bhutan’s protective deity, Mahakala, and contains exceptionally fine sculptures and mural paintings.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Punakha.
Continue trekking along the road to Punakha Dzong and then cross the Pho Chu River, which drains the remote Lunana region. After walking through rice fields for about 15 minutes, begin a gradual climb through chirpine forests for roughly three hours and then enter a deciduous forest. Further along the trail, enjoy a wonderful view of Punakha Valley and Punakha Dzong. If the weather is clear, you'll see snowcapped mountain peaks to the north. The campsite is near Limukha village at an altitude of 2,250 metres. The total trekking for the day is 15 kilometres for roughly six hours.

Dinner and camp at Limukha.
The trek trail rises gradually up through oak and rhododendron forests and then descends gradually through a thick forest to a small lhakhang dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who used it as a winter residence in the 15th century. From Chungsakha, look across the valley to Samtengang. Walk downhill until we reach the road, for a total trek of 15 kilomteres for six hours, where you will take a 30-minute van transfer to Wangdue.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Wangduephodrang.
Today, drive back towards Paro Valley via the Dochula Pass. On a clear day, Dochula offers a stunning view of the snowcapped Himalayas. There is a powerful binocular telescope in the cafeteria from where several peaks including Zongophu Gang (7,100 metres) and Gangkhar Puensum (7,541 metres), can be viewed. Lastly, visit the 108 memorial 'Druk Wangyal Chortens', a new landmark for travellers as they cross Dochula.

On arrival to Paro, check into your hotel and enjoy the rest of the evening leisurely exploring the town.

Dinner and accommodations at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, your guide will accommodate you to the airport and bid you, "Tashi delek!", for your flight onward.

Includes

  • All private transfers, Hotel accomodation and transportation inclusive of taxes during the entire tour
  • Meals as stated in the programme B= Breakfast, L= Lunch & D= Dinner
  • Transfers and tours with English-speaking guides in private air conditioned vehicles
  • All entrance fees as mentioned in the programme
  • Mineral water available in the vehicles
  • Visa fees at US$40 per person

Excludes

  • Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
  •  International airfare to / from Lao (quoted separately, if requested)
  • Optional tours
  • Surcharges for other language guides
  • Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal expenditures, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities, etc.
  • Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
  • Drinks with meals
  • Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges which will be advised at the time of booking or when available
  • Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme

Notes

Upon request, a licensed French, German, Spanish or other language-speaking guide can accompany participants for the whole duration of the trip at an additional cost.

Tour code: PWT11

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