The tour includes a visit to the Bhutanese capital – Thimphu, the old capital – Punakha, a day at the green valley of Haa, and finally, Paro – home of the international airport. The tour extends to the Haa valley which, until 2002, was closed to the outside world. Less than 10% of visitors to Bhutan make it to this picturesque valley. The strong-boned and resilient people of Haa inhabit the high valleys above 3000m. Typically yak herders and farmers, they cultivate high altitude crops such as wheat, potatoes, barley and millet.
The drive from Paro to Haa passes through Chele La, the highest motorable road in Bhutan so be prepared for spectacular views. Schedule your trip during the annual Haa Summer festival to see the weaving and making of yak hair tents from scratch! Get to see a variety of yak products on display, learn about the process of yak shearing and wool making, experience the culinary traditions of Haa as you see how they transform yak dairy into delicious traditional meals. Expect to stumble on beautiful, one-of-a-kind bargains as the people of Haa are known for their skills in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
Your first activity begins with a visit to Ta Dzong National Museum and a walk down to Paro Rimpong dzong. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 h). Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Begin your day with a drive to the viewpoint at the Big Buddha Statue. The park here has several walking trails which range from leisurely to moderate. Other places of interest are the National Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Temple (12C), Folk Heritage Museum, School of Arts & Crafts.
Afternoon visit weekend market (open Friday to Sunday). Additionally, visit the Takin pen and Trashichhodzong. Free time in the evening to stroll through Thimphu town.
If time permits, we can drive up to Dochu La pass (3,100m) where we can circumambulate the 108 stupas and, if the weather is clear, enjoy an incredible view of Himalayan peaks. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Depart for Haa, the westernmost valley in Bhutan. This is a beautiful drive (3.5h) that is relatively free of traffic. The road takes us back to Chuzom (river conﬂuence) where we catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese style which were built to ward off evil spirits, and then traverses left past Dobje Dzong, an ancient prison which now houses a monastery. Picturesque and quaint villages dot the hillsides for the rest of our drive to Haa.
Overnight at hotel in Haa.
Haa remains one of the least visited areas in the country and retains the air of an unspoiled, primeval forest. This valley only opened to foreigners in 2002 due to its proximity to the border with Sikkim and Tibet. This unspoilt valley harks back to a simpler, more traditional time, and its wooded hills give us an ideal setting for hiking and mountain biking. There are several pleasant walking trails in Haa and biking on the virtually traffic free valley to visit local areas of interest and village homes is an enjoyable way to spend the day.
Overnight at hotel in Haa.
Chele La Pass and hike to Kila Nunnery (optional bike descents). Start early for the drive to Chele La Pass which (3,988m) from which on a clear day the view sweeps away to Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mt Jhomolhari(7314m). Striding out along the Edelweiss covered ridge, we pass a sky burial site. We then descend for the two-hour hike through dense rhodendron forest, possibly sighting shaggy yaks, to Kila Goemba, an ancient nunnery nestled in a craggy patch on the mountainside below. KilaGoemba is a serene retreat for 32 Anims (Buddhist nuns) who lead an undisturbed life of religious studies, prayer and meditation. An hour’s descent from the monastery and we are back at the road where we can saddle up on a mountain bike and freewheel down to Paro Valley.
Difficulty: Moderate. Picnic lunch. Overnight at hotel in Paro.
After breakfast we hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes us to Taktsang Monastery. Built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor, the monastery is a spectacular sight. It is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. According to legend, great Guru Rimpoche and his consort meditated in a cave here for three months when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. After meditation, they manifested themselves in the forms of Guru Dorji Drolo and a tigress to subdue demons in the valley below. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments.
In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong. The original monument (destroyed by fire in 1951) was built by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, we can visit other remote monasteries in the valley.
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard. Overnight at hotel in Paro.