Drive from Punakha to Paro after breakfast. The drive will take approx. 4.5 hours, with a stop to stretch your legs and soak up the mountain views again at Dochu La Pass.
Paro enjoys a picture-postcard setting on the banks of the Paro Chhu River in the centre of Paro Valley, surrounded by rice fields and pine forest clad mountains. Its attractive main street is lined with traditional style buildings, housing handicraft and souvenir shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
After checking in to your hotel, make a visit to Paro’s impressive Rimpong Dzong. Built in 1646 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders the dzong, like most in the country, now houses both the district government offices and the monastic body, with around 200 monks living and learning here.
Late afternoon transfer to a local farm house where, under the guidance of the resident family, you will try your hand at preparing a traditional meal. A staple of Bhutanese food is the fiery ema datse, large chillies in a cheese sauce, and this will be one of the dishes you’ll learn how to make. Datse is a feature of most Bhutanese meals and you’ll find it covering potatoes (kewa datse), mushrooms (shamu datse), essentially whatever veg is in season, so once you master the datse you’ll be able to rustle up several dishes! You’ll also be using traditional methods, such as cooking over a fire stove, to prepare your meal, as these techniques are widespread throughout the country. Once you’ve completed a selection of dishes, it’s time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour with your host family and guide.
After eating transfer back to your hotel.
Overnight in Paro.
Depart Paro in a south west direction, following winding roads to Chele La Pass. As you travel and the road climbs, you’ll notice an increasing number of prayer flags lining the road to catch those important gusts of wind to carry prayers into the air. At the lofty height of 3,988m above sea level, Chele La Pass is the highest paved road in Bhutan and on a clear day offers impressive views of the sacred peak of Jhomolhari, as well as down the Haa valley.
From here take a scenic, 60-minute downhill hike to Kila Gompa nunnery, passing through wooded forest and rhododendron meadows. Allegedly the oldest nunnery in the country, Kila Gompa is dramatically located against the craggy mountainside and resembles a mini version of Taktsang Monastery. The resident nuns, of which there are around 50, have chosen to renounce their worldly life and live in isolation to concentrate on Buddhist studies. You’re likely to be the only visitors at the nunnery.
Having spent some time exploring, it’s a short walk to the road where your driver will be waiting to drive you back to Paro.
Before returning to your hotel, make a stop at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, and the most venerated in Paro. The temple sees a constant stream of prayer wheel-spinning pilgrims.
Overnight in Paro.
We recommend a hearty breakfast in preparation for your day of trekking.
After breakfast, you will be met by your guide and driven to Ramthangkha – the starting point for your hike to Taktsang Monastery, a.k.a Tiger’s Nest.
Clinging to a cliff face, just over 3,000 metres above sea level this iconic monastery is considered to be one of the most venerated and sacred Buddhist sites in the world. It’s certainly one of the most photogenic. Legend has it that in the 8th Century Guru Rimpoche, founder of Buddhism in Bhutan, flew from the east of the kingdom on the back of a tigress and meditated here for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days.
Sadly, we are unable to provide a flying tigress and the only way to access Taktsang these days is on foot. Follow the steep trail as it climbs through pine forest, catching the odd glimpse of the monastery through the trees, passing rows of prayer flags strategically hung to catch the wind. After around one hour, depending on your fitness levels, you’ll reach the half way point which is marked by a small café and offers the clearest views of Taktsang so far.
After a break for tea and a snack, continue following the steep uphill trail. Upon reaching a ridge opposite the monastery (where a photo stop is obligatory) you descend a steep flight of stone steps before climbing uphill again to the entrance of Taktsang. This section of the trek will take around 1.5 hours.
Once inside the monastery complex there are small temples, meditation caves and ornate shrines to visit. The smell of incense fills the air and you are likely to hear the sound of monastic chanting.
It’s easy to while away an hour exploring, after which return to the halfway café for a well-deserved sit down and lunch. Then continue downhill to the base point where you will be met by your driver and transferred back to your hotel for a much needed rest.
Overnight in Paro.
After a leisurely breakfast check out and transfer to the Airport for your onward flight. At check-in don't forget to request a seat on the right-hand side of the plane for views of Mt. Everest.