Day-3: Punakha Adventure (76 kms/ 2 hrs 30mins)
Punakha Valley via Dochu La & Chimmi Lhakhang. If the weather gods are with us at 3,080m the pass affords sweeping views towards the main Himalayan range and a meditative stroll amongst the forest of fluttering prayer flags and maze of 108 memorial chortens.
The route now plunges into primeval forest (look out for monkeys and birdlife) either by bike or in the vehicle snaking nearly 2,000 meters down into the Punakha valley at Chimmi Lhakhang. This hilltop, fertility temple, was founded by the tantric Buddhist Master Drukpa Kunley, one of Tibet’s foremost saints and yogis and the patron saint of Bhutan. He belongs to the Drukpa (Dragon) school of Tibetan Buddhism and is greatly loved by all the people as an enlightened master and an exponent of ‘crazy wisdom’. He taught through outrageous behavior and ribald humor in order to awaken the people he met to a higher awareness free from conventional morality and self-obsession.
Punakha Dzong (Druk Pungthang Decchen Phodrang – the Palace of Great Happiness) awaits you. Built in 1637 by Zhabdung Nawang Namgyal in a commanding position at the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu (Father and Mother rivers).
Bhutan’s second oldest dzong served as the seat of the Kingdom’s government until the time of the second King and today is the winter home of the Je Khempo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of about 1,000 monks. Some guests are so captivated by the murals, shrines and general goings on in the courtyards that they chose to spend a few hours in the dzong.
Optional half day white water rafting adventure (at an additional charge).
Overnight: Punakha (Alt; 1,300m)
DAY-5: Phobjikha to Paro (170 kms/ 5-6 hrs)
On the final leg the sinuous route follows the Pa Chhu River, through apple orchards and rice paddies, past quaint homesteads to our home in the Himalaya, Paro town.
Visit Bhutan’s National museum which houses some of the religious mask, Thangkas (wall hanging/tapestry), religious artefacts, History & geological landscape of Bhutan.
Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Evening at leisure!
Overnight: Paro (Alt; 2,280m)
Day-6: Taktsang Hike, Drukgyel Dzong
The hike to the iconic Taktsang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery provides a fitting climax to our adventure. Otherworldly forces seem to be at work to keep the monastery clinging to its perch in the rock face so it comes as no surprise to discover that this Cliffside was where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a ﬂying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet.
To avoid the hot sun an early start is advisable for the two-hour climb to the viewpoint. Descend steeply, then climb up to the monastery, passing a waterfall and entering through the main gates. Retrace your steps or alternatively (if time and energy levels allow) head further up to several remote temples and monasteries for more magnificent views over Taktsang and the valley below. Time permitting, we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1649 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet (from here, it is only a two-day hike to the border, dominated by Mt Jhomalhari).
On the way back to Paro stop for some last minute shopping if you are not tired or you can just relax at the hotel.
Duration: 7 – 8 hours
Difﬁculty: Moderate to hard