SMILE ( Thimphu-Punakha-Paro )

8 Days | 7 Nights

The tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan awaits, nestled high in the Himalayas its isolation from the world has cultivated a culture rich in traditions, religion and a benevolent monarchy. The dramatic landscapes, from snowcapped peaks and deeply forested slopes to raging, boulder strewn rivers, sit largely undisturbed as the endeared environmental initiatives and religious beliefs leave the Kingdom pristine and a jewel of nature.

Day 1: Arrive Paro, Transfer to Thimphu Valley (1 hr drive/60kms)

Your journey to Bhutan begins with the most spectacular flight experience with views of major Himalayan peaks such as Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, all dressed in beautiful white snow. The final show of Bhutan’s own magnificent peaks awaits your arrival. The sight of marvelous mount Jomolhari along with Jichu Drake and Tserimgang greeting you is a must experience at all cost. You fly over the southern hills, known as ‘Duars’, or gateways into the Himalayas as they rise from the plains until they meet the great snow-capped peaks that rise up to the sky.

After landing at Paro airport and while completing of airport formalities, you will be received by your guide for the rest of your stay in Bhutan. You will then be driven from Paro to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan and an exciting blend of tradition and modernity.

After the swift drive to Thimphu, you will be taken to you hotel to freshen up and after which you can take a leisure stroll around the town.

You can spend the evening visiting the striking fortress, Tashichoedzong which houses the throne room of the King and various government offices.  It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and the central monk body. The fortress exhibits excellent masonry skills of the Bhutanese artisans as the architecture of the structure is simply awe-inspiring.

Visiting the fortress in the morning has certain eye-catching experiences like as you will be treated with the sight of the National flag being hoisted and the march of the royal guards.

Visiting hours: Weekdays (Open: Mon-Fri [Mar-Oct after 5:30pm] [Nov-Feb after 4:30 pm]

                        Weekends/Govt. holidays: Open on Sat, Sun, Govt. Holidays)

 (Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu)

Day 2: Thimphu Valley Exploration

Today’s visit will include:

National Library: The National Library was established in the late 1960s mainly to preserve the literary treasures which form a significant part of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. It now houses an extensive collection of Buddhist literature mostly in block-printed format, some of which are several hundred years old. This collection is known as the Choekey Collection and it mainly comprises of Buddhist literature written in Choekey language. Choekey is the religious script of Northern Buddhism and also includes scripts written in Tibetan and in Dzongkha. Dzongkha is Bhutan’s national language. The national library also flaunts of the biggest book in the world – “Bhutan” (a former Guinness Book of World’s Record holder). Besides its sheer size and weight, the continuously printed images (printed on a roll of paper longer than a football field and with a gallon of ink) are spectacular – vivid colors and human size portraits.

Visiting hours: (Closed Sat, Sun, Govt Holidays)

Zorig Chosum: Widely known as known as the painting school, the center offers a six year course in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The students follow a comprehensive course that starts with drawing and progresses through painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue-making. This is a great opportunity to interact and photograph the students while they practice their skills in the classroom.

Visiting hours :( Closed on Sat 1pm, Sun, Govt. Holidays, School Break Jul, Jan-Feb).

Postal Museum: The museum is located in the heart of the town and is worth a visit. The first postage stamps were issued in 1962, the same time the first motor able road was opened.  Ever since then Bhutan has been known for the unusual designs and materials of its stamps. The museum flaunts of artifacts from the postal stamps including dresses of the first mail runner. You can see the different stamps available in Bhutan. You can also make personalized stamps with your picture for as less as $5 as a souvenir or send a post card to your family and friends with your face on the stamp. Visiting hours: (Closed Sat at 1pm, Sun, Govt Holidays)

Buddha Dordenma is one of the most popular attractions in the country. The 51.1 meters tall statue of Buddha Shakyamuni sits on top of a hill overlooking Thimphu valley. The Statue is probably one of the tallest in Asia. The site of Buddha Dordenma offers unobstructed views over the capital town.

Visiting hours: (Closes Daily Nov-Feb at 4pm & Mar-Oct at 5pm)

Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre: Weaving is predominantly a woman’s domain but this private weaving center is different as it is owned and run by Mr. Kesang (a man – which is very rare in Bhutan).  He weaves, creates original and unique patterns, strives to create atypical color combinations and is very involved.  The center frequently produces ceremonial textiles for Bhutanese royals. The center was also responsible for producing the wedding dress for the Royal bride and groom (King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema) for their highly publicized royal wedding in October 2011.

Visiting hours: (Closing based on owner’s discretion, in such an event we will replace with another site)

Memorial Chorten: the construction of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. He wanted to erect the monument to spread an aura of peace and prosperity in the world. The construction was completed in 1974 after his untimely death. The stupa serves as a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument dedicated to peace. The place gets swamped during the mornings and evenings with people of all ages circumambulating the Chorten/stupa, praying and prostrating at the shrine. Turning the big prayer wheels, offering butter lamps, basking in the sun as they socialize and mingle, is a must observe activity.

Visiting hours: (Closes Daily Nov-Feb at 4pm & Mar-Oct at 5pm)

In the evening, take a stroll along the town’s main street.

(Overnight at Hotel in Thimphu)

Day 3:  Transfer to Punakha (3 hrs/78 kms)

After breakfast you will be driven across Dochula mountain pass at 3,088m.  The highest point on the road is marked by 108 small stupas and prayer flags fluttering on the pass.  On a clear weather day, the magnificent Himalayan peaks grace the visitors. The pas treats the visitors with a panoramic view of the peaks.

Descending from the pass, the village of Lobeysa/Mitsina awaits the arrival of the guests.

Chhimi Lhakhang: a 30-40 minute gradual walk through the village and paddy fields. Situated on a hillock overlooking the village of Sopsokha, the quaint temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley; the eccentric Buddhist saint also known as the Divine Madman. The temple is popular for blessing childless couples with the children.

Punakha valley is located in a sub-tropical region with warm summers and pleasant winters. Punakha also served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 after which the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Punakha still serves as the winter residence for the chief abbot and the central monk body.

Later visit the magnificent Palace of great bliss (Punakha Dzong)

Punakha Dzong: The fortress is strategically built at the junction of the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) river. After being damaged by 4 catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong/fortress has been fully restored to its former glory. Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful fortresses in Bhutan. The fortress is known to give immense joy to the person looking at it, hence its Dzongkha name Punthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang literally translates to; The palace of great bliss. The fortress plays a significant role in the history of Bhutan as most of the remarkable events occurred in the fortress which aided in shaping Bhutan as a nation.

Visiting hours: (Open 11am-1pm & 3pm-5 pm)

 (Overnight at Hotel in Punakha)

Day 4: Explore Punakha Valley

Punakha valley offers a multitude of sightseeing opportunities to its visitors.

Today’s sightseeing includes:

Sangchen Dorji Lhendrup Nunnery: The nunnery is perched on a ridge with spectacular views of the Punakha and Wangdue valleys. The temple houses a 14 foot bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig with thousand hands and thousand eyes), one of the biggest in the country.  The statue was handcrafted entirely by local artisans. The temple houses a complex for higher studies and meditation center for 120 nuns. Apart from religious schooling, the nuns are also provided with important life skills such as embroidery, tailoring and statue making. The ambience of the nunnery offers amazing opportunity for the visitors to immerse in meditation and self reflection.

Villages of Talo or Nobgang: The picturesque village of Talo and Nobgang is the ancestral home of the Queen Mothers of Bhutan. The village is spread along a ridge above the Punakha valley at an altitude of around 2,800m and is known amongst Punakha villages for its neat and clean facade. The women here are particularly known for their beauty.

Nalanda Monastery: to visit the monks who are pursuing higher Buddhist studies and learning English as well. You may interact with the monks and chat with them. They will be more than happy to practice their English language skills with you.

(Overnight at Hotel in Punakha)

Day 5: Transfer to Paro Valley (4 hrs drive/130kms)

The 5th day of your trip begins with a hearty breakfast in Punakha and then set off for Paro after once again crossing Dochula pass.On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

After Lunch drive towards the north end of the valley to visit the National Museum.

National Museum: Originally built as a watch tower to protect the Paro Dzong, the museum has circular body structure like most of the watch towers. Later it was refurbished as a national museum to exhibit history to the visitors. The museum flaunts some of the rarest ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection.

Visiting hours 🙁 Closed on Govt. Holidays)

Kichu Lhakhang: one of the oldest temples in the country. The temple is one of the 108 temples built in one day throughout the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, SongtsenGampo to subdue a demoness in the 7th century. The construction of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

 (Overnight at Hotel in Paro)

Rest of the day at leisure or explore the quaint town.(Overnight at Hotel in Paro)

Day6: Chelela Pass – Kila Gonpa Nunnery Hike (Total Hike Time 2-3 hrs)

Driving up a steep road through lush blue pine & rhododendron woods will take you to the idyllic Chelela pass at 3810 meters of elevation. Chelela pass is the highest point of motor able road in Bhutan. In Bhutan pass are considered sacred and are adorned with fluttering prayer flags. The pass offers a superb view or Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jichu Drake and if you are lucky, you will be graced with a sight of full circle rainbow in summers.

You can choose to descend from the pass to reach another great attraction; The Kila Gonpa nunnery. The nunnery is probably the oldest in the country having been established in the 9th century. A cluster of huts nestled in a craggy patch of rock makes up the nunnery. The isolated center is home to some 70 Buddhist nuns pursuing higher Buddhist studies, all who have renounced the pleasure of normal life and who have dedicated their lives to spiritual fulfillment.

The sight of watching these nuns practice religious studies, prayers and meditation is a fulfilling experience.

Enjoy a packed picnic lunch amidst pine trees (if weather permits).

Upon returning to Paro, you can choose to visit a traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn something of their lifestyle and enjoy an engrossing talk over a local butter salt tea.

(Overnight at Hotel in Paro)

Day 7:  Taktsang Hike (Total Hike Time 4-5 hrs)

The Tiger’s Nest monastery is the most famous attraction in the whole of the country. The marvelous structure is spectacularly suspended on the side of a cliff at 900m above the valley floor. Legend has it that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche rode on the back of a flying tigress from eastern Bhutan to the current monastery site and meditated in a cave here for several years, hence the name, “Tiger’s Nest”. The principal temple of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. The main structure was relentlessly damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. A pilgrimage to Taktsang is the dream of a lifetime for any visitor. 

The hikers can hire Ponies with a little extra charge to carry the stuffs or even ride one to the monastery. They are available from the base point.

Explore the beautiful Paro town in the evening

 (Overnight at Hotel in Paro).

Day 8:  Depart Paro

Transfer to Paro International Airport for your onward flight.

We cannot change the night halt at designated places but our sightseeing programs are completely flexible and upon arrival the guide can speak with the guests about any special interests they may have. Running day to day, the program remains open to what the guests would like to experience (hiking, Mt. biking, rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, etc.)We only offer a recommended program as a guideline and not a mandatory list to follow sternly.

The driving and hiking times mentioned are approximate times and do not include breaks in the journey for sightseeing, photo/tea/meal/rest or stops. During the treks/hikes, there may be delays or diversion of hiking trails due to trail conditions, inclement weather and other unforeseen natural circumstances.

Places of Interest

These are the most popular ones there plenty more to discover,hidden places but we can t put them all here