Nine Days in Bhutan
Bhutan celebrates the deep passion we have to travel and explore. This luxury experience goes beyond sightseeing to uncover the subtlety of a remarkable destination. Meeting the locals is integral to the experience, both the random everyday encounters and the pre-planned meetings with the country’s intriguing characters.
This classic Bhutan experience has the flexibility to build on these encounters. While the day’s overall route is relatively fixed, there’s a freedom to accept invitations from strangers and continue conversations with new friends. There’s a beauty in every encounter and you’ll be able to experience life as it has been for centuries.
Day 1 - Paro
Bhutan Introduction in Paro
Touch down in Bhutan and you immediately feel the sense of remoteness. Himalayan peaks provide a majestic backdrop to the formality of local Bhutanese dress. You’ll immediately notice men and women wearing elegant traditional wear on their journeys to the dzongs – the monastic and political centerpieces of local life. Monasteries and temples dot a bucolic valley around Paro, each a memoir to everyday life. Paro’s lanes have an ascetic simplicity, shunning the excesses of commercialism. You’ll spend a full day exploring the area with a guide, both the old city of Paro and its surrounding valley, where the country’s second oldest temple helps introduce the country’s various legends.
Day 2 - Paro
Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Bhutan’s most famous image is of Taktsang Lhakhang, the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It is images of this monastery that first grabbed the attention of travelers seeking a new adventure. Clinging impossibly to a vertical cliff, reaching out 600 meters above the valley floor, this mysterious monastery harmonizes Himalayan nature and culture. Approach as the pilgrims do, on foot. First ascend on a narrow trail, to a teahouse where the iconic photos are taken from. Climb further, up 700 steps, the journey involving three hours of steep hiking in the mountains. The monastery’s legend dates back to 747 CE and Guru Dorji Droloe subduing spirits from the back of his tiger. Embrace its diaphanous wonder and feel the spiritual atmosphere, as you experience the depths of a religion and a country.
Day 3 - Thimphu to Punakha
Bhutanese History Tour of Punakha
The Punakha Valley is home to Bhutan’s holiest and most important icons. Wander into Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, the “Divine Madman.” His name is accompanied by endless legends and the best history lesson comes from local villagers, who love to recount a maverick who taught the dharma 500 years ago. Punakha Dzong is home of sacred relics from centuries past and present. Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Chorten is the treasured temple in the forest, protected by deities that guard each of seven levels. Punakha itself is the country’s old capital but it continues to serve an important purpose today, as the country’s highest monks decamp here from Thimphu during the winter. Strange names and stories will be elaborated upon by your expert guide and the locals themselves.
Day 4 - Gangteng Gompa
Meet the Monks of Gangteng Gompa
Luxury Bhutanese travel isn’t about flashy hotels. It’s the authenticity and connection with the Bhutanese, through unique encounters with families, monks and important local figures. Walking through Jinge Singye Wangchuck National Park you reach Gangteng Gompa, a legendary 17th century monastery with a head lama incarnated from Pema Lingpa. Exploring complexes like these offers an insight into a culture and identity that’s been preserved into the 21st century. This moment is a chance to share moments, exchange stories and understand a way of life that redefines notions of richness and development.
Day 5 - Trongsa
Tibetan History of Trongsa Tour
Trongsa is the home of an iconic medieval fortress complex, with mazy lanes connecting dozens of buildings and temples. This is the classic example of how Bhutan developed over the last five centuries, accompanied by tales from Tibetan history and the ever-warming smiles from locals. You’ll be surprised at how much architectural ingenuity existed in the mountains here, long long before the kingdom was known to the Western world.
Days 6 & 7 - Jige Singye Wangchuck NP
Himalayan Safari in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park
Snow leopards and Himalayan black bears are among the residents of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, two rare predators occupying a landscape that’s never been interrupted by man. All of Bhutan is remote and unconnected. Just imagine the remote atmosphere when you visit national parks. Habitats collide, subtropical green blurring into temperate forest and alpine white. Imposing peaks look down on pine forests and some of the world’s rarest birds find a place to roost. With a Bhutanese guide you will walk in this far-flung national park, admiring the harmony of flora and fauna.
Day 8 - Tang Valley
Buddhist Heritage Tour of Tang Valley
Silence reigns. Isolation envelopes. Bhutan enchants. Meet monks at pre-eminent religious centers, wander through striking hillside villages, and enjoy special permission to enter a 16th century ancestral palace. Prayer flags flutter in a granite gorge and your guide explains the local legend, of Pema Lingpa diving into the Membartsho (burning lake) to pull out terma, Buddhist teachings hidden for future generations. In one sense it’s religious mythology, but it feels poignantly real when you explore the Tang Valley. This travel moment finds the point where fable morphs into reality, on one of the most extravagant landscapes on earth.