Bhutan’s snow fed rivers gushing down the mountains offer an ideal setting for water sports such as rafting and kayaking. We will not be disappointed by the rugged, untamed waterways. The rivers are plentiful with strong currents varying between slow, gentle flows in some places and powerful, raging torrents in others. The river courses available in Bhutan offer something for all visitors, regardless of experience. There are easy routes for beginners and harassing runs for the veterans. The best time for rafting and kayaking is March to April and November to December.
The flight into Paro presents stunning views of the Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari (7,314m) and Jyichu Drake (6,794m) peaks in Bhutan. Our representative will be there to receive you at the airport and drive you to Thimphu (52 kms).
The first stop on the drive is to view the beautiful Tachocho Lhakhang (monastery), the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s Iron Bridge Builder. The drive follows the course of the Paro Chu until Chuzom where it joins the Wangchu River flowing from Thimphu valley. You cross the bridge and follow the Wangchu to the nation’s capital. Along the way you will come across farms, village homes and highway stalls selling organic vegetables and fruits as well as hardened cheese, the Bhutanese candy that can give you a prominent jaw line.
In the evening, stroll through the small and unique capital of Thimphu and experience its colours and rhythms.
Today is your tour of the capital beginning with a visit to National Memorial Chorten, a stupa dedicated to world peace and prosperity; the National Institute of Zorig Chusum where students train in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts; Folk Heritage Museum which gives an insight into Bhutan’s rapidly disappearing rural past.
In the afternoon, you visit Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress likes temple, perched on a ridge above Thimphu and the place from where the people in valley get their names from; Takin Preserve to see the Bhutan’s national animal which is associated with the country’s religious history and mythology; and Buddha point to see the 138.6 foot-high seated Shakyamuni Buddha statue. Buddha point offers a bird’s eye view of Thimphu valley.
Then you visit Tashichho Dzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” which houses offices of the central government and the throne room of His Majesty the King. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot.
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
These water sports are done along the tributaries of the main rivers. On this trip, you have options of rafting along the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River), which join to form the Punatshangchhu River, further downstream
The Pho Chhu is famous among enthusiasts. Rivers course suitable for water sports.
The Pho Chhu (Male River) is famous among enthusiasts. Rivers suitable for water sports
On the return journey, stop at Dochu La for lunch. On the way visit Semtokha Dzong the first Dzong built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1629. Spend the evening exploring Paro town.
You will hike about 2 hours uphill to the Taktsang monastery, which clings to a huge granite cliff 900 meters above the valley floor. It is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came here in the 8th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave. It is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese.
In the afternoon, visit Drugyel Dzong, the fort that defended the Paro valley from invasions from the north in the early 17thcentury. On a clear day, you can see Mount Jhomolhari 7314 meters from here. You can either drive to Drugyel Dzong (14 kms) or cycle there following the highway.
Later, visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gempo. This is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan King to subdue the Demoness that lay across the Himalayan region. The rest of the monasteries lie in other neighboring countries.
You will drive to the Paro International Airport for your onward journey.