Arrive at any time and transfer to Thimphu. In Thimphu, time permitting, take an orientation walk in town and get settled in. In clear weather, the flight over the Himalayas offers magnificent views of the world's highest peaks as they give way to the lush green Paro valley. The first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step off the plane. After clearing customs and visa control, an arrival transfer will take you to Thimphu, where we'll be met by our local CEO who will conduct a welcome meeting and orientation.
In the morning, meet a Buddhist Monk and scholar to discuss Buddhist beliefs, ways of life, and values in Bhutan. Drive to Punakha, crossing the Dochula Pass and enjoying stunning views of the Himalayas through flickering prayer flags. In the afternoon, drive to Lobeysa and hike 20 minutes to Chime Lhakhang, temple of the "Divine Madman", built in 1499. Today, it is mostly visited by women, as it is known as a temple of fertility. After breakfast, drive through dense forests of blue pine, oak, and rhododendrons and enjoy views of the Himalayan range and the valley beyond. After a lunch stop, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass at 3,050m (10,007 ft). After stopping here for tea and panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha.
Enjoy a full day of exploration including a visit to Punakha Dzong, Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery, and Wangdue Phodrang. In the afternoon, hike through rice terraces and forests to Khamsum Yueley Chorten. Visit Punakha Dzong, winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, located between the rivers of the Mo (female) Chu and Pho (male) Chu. Hike to Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and observe this complex of mediation and traditional arts training center for nuns.
Walk back to the road and then drive a short distance to Wangdue for a visit to the Wangdue Phodrang. We'll continue on to the suspension bridge and hike through rice terraces, fields, and deep pine forest to Khamsum Yueley Chorten, where the view is superb. Descend until we reach the suspension bridge and the return to the hotel.
Travel to Gangtey and visit the Black-Necked Crane Centre, one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in Bhutan. Visit the Crane Information Center and learn about the Gangtey/Phobjikha valley which is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in Bhutan and is known as the winter habitat for the endangered black necked cranes. Explore the Crane information Center which is managed by the RSPN (Royal Society for the Protection of Nature), an NGO striving to protect Bhutan's environment, flora, and fauna. These magnificent cranes migrate from Tibet in early November and return at the end of February.
Walk to the monastery of Gangtey Goempa, known to hold the most sacred relics in Bhutan. After, walk across Phobjikha Valley to Khewa Valley, where we'll visit an old temple and make an offering. This evening, stop at the village of Khewa and visit a local family's farm for a cooking demonstration and a home cooked dinner. The valley is also a centre for crane observation run by the RSPN (Royal Society for the Protection of Nature), an NGO striving to protect Bhutan's environment, flora, and fauna. At certain times of the year, it is possible to spot these magnificent birds.
Drive to the capital to visit the Big Buddha and the Institute for Zorig Chusum, an arts and crafts school where we can watch students practicing traditional arts such as woodworking, painting, and ceramics. Hear a lecture on the Gross National Happiness, an index used by Bhutan to measure the nation's progress. Please note that on occasion the Institute for Zorig Chusum art school is closed due to school breaks and holidays. If it is not open on the day of your visit, another activity will be arranged.
In the morning, visit Memorial Chorten. Drive to the valley and visit Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple). In the afternoon, spend time exploring Haa town.
Drive to the Haa Valley, one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan via the Cheela Mountain Pass, at 3,810m (12,500 ft). Hike to Kila Goempa Nunnery which clings to a rocky cliff. Later, visit Kyichu Lhakhang Temple and the local archery grounds.
Embark on a vigorous hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger's Nest), the most venerated pilgrim site of the Himalayan world. The view is absolutely stunning, with the monastery clinging to a cliff face towering 2,953m (9,688 ft) above the valley. Return to Paro and visit the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong fortress.
Depart at any time. Airport transfer included.