This tour is full of contrasts. Visit both the summer and winter residences of the monk body, as well as the historic sites of the Paro valley. Your journey starts at 2,300 metres in Paro and Thimphu. Enjoy the breath-taking view of the Himalayan mountain range from a 3,000 metre pass. Descend through rhododendron and Magnolia forests to the warmer climes of the Punakha valley at 1,200 metres. Experience the different climates of the mountains and valleys and marvel at the variety of flora and fauna.
After arriving in Paro, either spend the afternoon acclimatizing in the peaceful Paro valley or set off on a 90 minute drive to Thimphu, the capital city, situated at 2,400 metres. Two days are spent in Thimphu, either side of the visit to Punakha. Visit the impressive Dzong (fortress) and many of the most important temples, museums and other sites dotted around the town and in the beautiful countryside nearby. Experience the activities of the monks and witness the role that Buddhism plays in the daily life of the Bhutanese people. From there you will set off on a comfortable journey towards the East.
You will cross over the Dochula pass (3,000metres) and descend into the lush, tropical valley that brings you to Punakha. Punakha Dzong, the winter residence of the monk body, is situated in a stunning position where two rivers, the Pho-chu and Mo-chu join together. Punakha Dzong has been restored to its full glory after about twelve years of restoration work. Enjoy the sight of the traditional carvings and colourful painting in perfect condition.
The excursion to Punakha includes a visit to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Drukpa Kinley, the Divine Madman, a quirky character who played a significant role in Bhutanese religious and cultural history. Sited on the top of a gently rolling hill, the Lhakhang is approached by taking a charming walk through a small village, across the neatly terraced rice fields and then up onto the expansive hilltop. Couples who wish to receive a fertility blessing visit this temple without fail.
From your base in Punakha you will head furher east. The fortress Dzong of Wangdi Phodrang looms high above the river-crossing with its bridge and massive towers and the river at this point runs deep and is an impressive turquoise-blue. The Phobjika valley is the site where the black-necked cranes come to spend the winter, having flown from Siberia. Famous for the unusual dance that they perform before taking flight, they can be seen if you visit in winter. The Gangtey monastery, located in the broad and beautiful Phobjika valley (3000 metres) is our destination. It is the only Nyingmapa monastery in Western Bhutan and you will have a good chance of catching the monks in the middle of performing one of their many rituals.
The trip ends with a day in Paro. The Paro valley has many sites of historical and cultural importance and the hike to Taktsang is an opportunity that should not be missed. However, since it requires a certain degree of physical fitness, it is optional. Absorbing the peace and serenity of Paro is an ideal way to end your trip. Wander through the courtyards of the Dzong, cross the wooden bridge into the town and stroll around the shops selling traditional crafts alongside every-day Bhutanese goods. Photo opportunities abound, as they do the length and breadth of Bhutan.