Over the centuries mountainous Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist kingdom surrounded by Indian states to the south, east and west, and Tibet (China) to the north, has had to fight to preserve its identity. Even its impressive monasteries (dzongs) retain much of the appearance of fortresses, which indeed they were, being not only strategically sited to defend the cultivated terraced hillsides so coveted by hostile Tibetans of old, but also great centres of religious and secular power. Situated on the southern flank of the Himalaya, Bhutan “Land of the thunder dragon”, enjoys an abundance of flora from the lush forests of the southern lowlands with their bamboo’s, giant orchids, banyan and teak trees, through temperate deciduous forest of ash, magnolia and rhododendron to alpine meadows, all supporting a varied wildlife. Slightly larger than Switzerland, Bhutan has been, and continues to be, relatively isolated, and although the attitude to tourism has recently relaxed, it is still in its infancy and numbers are strictly limited. It is however an exquisite country characterised by great beauty, a rare integrity and an all-pervasive tranquillity, best seen March to May and September to November.
Paro – Thimpu – Mendegang - Paro
Day 1 Fly into Paro (the old capital of Bhutan) and drive to Thimpu. Check into hotel for 3 nights
Day 2 Visit the Dechenchholing Valley with its palace and visit the nearby community of working gold and silversmiths.
Day 3 Visit the local market and vegetable bazaar to experience the local colour. Visit the Central Secretariat and National Assembly housed in the vast Tashichho Dzong. After lunch visit the Handicrafts |Emporium where a vivid display of traditional crafts and textiles are on sale.
Day 4 Drive for 2 hours to Mendegang. On the way you pass the Dochu-La Pass which has superb views of the northern peaks. On arrival in Mendegang check into the hotel for 2 nights. Afternoon excursion to Punakha Dzong, at the confluence of the Pho Chu (Father) and Mo Chu (Mother) rivers, the old winter capital of Bhutan.
Day 5 Full day sightseeing that takes you along the scenic Punakha and Gompa valleys with perhaps a glimpse of the famous black-neck cranes for which the region is renowned.
Day 6 Depart for Paro, stopping on route at Thimpu and driving via the early C17th Simtokha Dzong (the oldest monastery-fortress in Bhutan and now a religious university), along the forested Paro valley to Paro itself, dominated by the vast Paro Dzong and surrounded by paddy-fields and shingle-roof houses. Check into your hotel for 2 nights.
Day 7 Full day sightseeing starting with the ruins of the C17th Drukgyel Dzong at the end of the valley and offering superb views of sacred, white capped Chomolhari on a clear day. After lunch visit one of the watch towers above the Paro Dzong which houses the fascinating National Museum and walk the short distance to Paro Rimpung Dzong. The rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 8 Drive to Paro airport for return flight.