Day 01: Bagdogra/Siliguri – Phuentsholing
Our representative will meet you on arrival at either Siliguri or Bagdogra airport in the Indian state of West Bengal. After a drive of about three hours along a road lined with lush green tea gardens you will reach Phuentsholing, the gateway to Bhutan, which lies directly at the base of the Himalayan foothills. This rapidly growing town is Bhutan’s commercial center, with most commercial organizations headquartered here. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Phuentsholing.
Day 02: Phuentsholing to Thimpu
After breakfast, proceed to Thimphu, making our first stop about 3 km. up the road to visit Kharbandi Gompa. This beautiful monastery situated in a garden of tropical plants and flowers, was built by Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron in 1967. There is a splendid view of Phuentsholing and the Indian plains from the monastery garden.
From this point the road climbs steeply up into the hills, winding in innumerable bends, to an altitude of approximately 2,000m/6,560ft. We will make stops along the way from time to time, so as not to miss the magnificent view of the Indian plains and the Toorsa river below. After a two hour drive through light mountain jungle, displaying lianas and orchids, we pass over the first ridge and begin a long and gradual descent to the river which is the source of energy for the massive Chukha Hydel hydroelectric power project. We cross the river, and rise up the mountainside ever further into the hills, leaving Chukha and the small town of Chimakothi behind us. Lunch is served en route.
After passing through Chapcha the road reaches its highest point of about 2,800m/9,185ft, then descends steeply and runs along the banks of the Wang Chu (river) to Chuzom (meaning confluence), where the Paro Chu runs into the Wang Chu. From here it is only about 2 hours’ drive up the valley to Thimphu. Shortly before reaching our destination, we will stop to visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in the kingdom, built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1627.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimpu
Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
Morning visit to Tashichhodzong, the main secretariat building which houses the throne room of His Majesty, the King. Tashichhodzong is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body. Proceed to the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature, with some works dating back several hundred years. Visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six year training course is given in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Also visit (outside only) the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed. After lunch, visit the National Memorial Chorten. The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous. Also visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums, opened in 2001. Overnight at Thimpu.
Day 04: Thimpu – Wangduephodrang – Punakha
After breakfast drive over Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft) to Punakha.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, when the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Originally situated on the riverbank and dominated by the towering walls of Punakha Dzong, the township was relocated to a safer site a few kilometers down the valley, consequent upon extensive flooding in the early 1990s. At the same time, extensive renovation work was undertaken on Punakha Dzong itself, which is now a breathtaking and glorious sight as you first glimpse it from the road. Although four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in past times destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and also the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Later drive to Wangduephodrang, the last town on the highway before entering Central Bhutan. Situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction, the formidable Wangduephodrang Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century, Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country. Also visit the local market. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 05: Punakha to Paro
After lunch drive to Paro, visiting Simtokha Dzong en route. This dzong, built in 1627, is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.
The valley of Paro contains a wealth of attractions. In the morning, visit Ta Dzong. Once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, Ta Dzong was inaugurated as Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968. Arrive Paro and check into the hotel. Afterwards, walk down a hillside trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 06: Paro to Phuntsoling/Jaldapara
After breakfast, drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 18 km. from Paro town on the north side of the valley. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the kingdom.
After early lunch drive to Jaldapara in India. Jaldapara is a famous wild life sanctuary for one horned rhino and Indian elephant. We check in at the tourist lodge at Jaldapara.
Day 07: Jaldapara to Bagdogra / NJP
Early morning elephant ride/car safari inside the grassland of Jaldapara to watch the great Indian Rhino in their natural habitat. Back to the rest house for breakfast and drive to Bagdogra/NJP Station to catch the return flight/train.