Transformative Travel’s Himalayan Explorer features Bhutan’s ancient towns of Paro and Punakha. Breathtaking scenery includes ancient monasteries, hiking, rafting, fly fishing as well as witnessing ancient living cultures, traditions and practices in one of the most environmentally conscious nations on our planet.
Upon arrival you will be greeted by staff from COMO Uma Paro before embarking on the 10-minute transfer to their luxurious property.
After checking in and spending some time settling into your new surroundings, explore the Himalayan kingdom with sightseeing in Paro and a temple visit. This afternoon trip allows you to acclimatize to the rarefied air at this altitude as well as the chance to get to know your guide.
The capital Thimphu, sprawled across the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chhu River, is Bhutan’s centre of government, religion and commerce.
During the journey from COMO Uma Paro to COMO Uma Punakha, you can stop off in the nation’s largest city, with an immersive tour taking in some of the major attractions, including the Buddha Dordenma statue, the National Memorial Chorten, a view of Trashi Chhoe Dzong and the Folk Heritage Museum (exact tour itinerary varies). After leaving Thimphu the drive to Punakha is spectacular, winding snake-like up the 3,000m-high mountain pass of Dochu La, offering views to 108 chortens (Buddhist shrines), forests of cluttering prayer flags and, on a clear day, sweeping views of the Himalayan range.
This is a full day of exploration through the lush Punakha Valley, which at 1,200m is low enough for bananas and oranges to grow. The morning starts with a short walk across farmhouses and rice paddies to reach Chimmi Lhakhang, a 15th-century fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, a Tibetan Buddhist saint, perhaps better known as the ‘Divine Madman’. This site has long been a pilgrimage for couples hoping to start a family. Heading further down the valley, the 300-year-old Punakha Dzong comes into view. Built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (who founded the Kingdom of Bhutan), the fortress once housed the country’s government. It is now the winter home of Je Khenpo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of 1,000 monks. After lunch, the tour takes you on a walk through homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a shrine recently built by the royal family.
Duration: 6 to 7 hours
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Overnight: COMO Uma Punakha
After breakfast drive to Chorten Ningpo, which dates back to the 17th century. The chorten is a little-known spot with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. The great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown out of the blazing log that the ‘Divine Madman’ threw (the tree’s bark is still black from where it was burnt). In 2005 the monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village, and founded a small Buddhist educational institution where the children can study traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts as well as Western subjects. The hike back to COMO Uma Punakha is around 45 minutes, going past Thodrup Lhakhang.
Retrace your steps back over the Dochu La pass for a second chance to view the Himalayan mountain range. Returning to the Chuzom (the confluence of the rivers Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu), you can glimpse the three nearby shrines, built to ward off evil spirits – each with a different style of architecture: Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese. Time- permitting, there will be a visit to Tamchog Lhakhang, a temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, a pioneering engineer who introduced the construction of suspension bridges into Bhutan and Tibet (several of which are still in use today). The final part of the drive to COMO Uma Paro is through apple orchards and rice paddies back to our mountain home, where you can spend the rest of the day in this calming setting. One popular option is to try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport.
Walk to Zurig Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, Ta Dzong, Paro Town, Kyichu Lhakhang and Drukgyel Dzong
Wind through pine forests high above COMO Uma Paro to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zurig Dzong. We traverse across to Ta Dzong, home to Bhutan’s National Museum, with magnificent views over Paro, and on down to Rinpung Dzong (also known as ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’). The trail then leads across Paro Chhu river via the traditional covered bridge Nyamai Zam, and then past the main archery ground, Ugyen Pelri Palace, and into Paro town. Driving a few kilometres north of Paro, we pay our respects at Kyichu Lhakhang. This is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magical orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Time permitting, we drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1648 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet.
The historical Paro Valley is the focus of today’s activities, culminating in a visit to the Taktsang ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery, which is one of Bhutan’s most important pieces of architecture. According to legend, this cliffside is where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet. The trip starts early in order to avoid the hot sun during the two-hour climb to the Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. We have a steep hike passing a waterfall and end among beautiful murals at the monastery’s main entrance. If time allows, there is the possibility of heading further up to visit remote temples. After lunch – either a prepared picnic or from the charming Taktsang cafeteria – you return to COMO Uma Paro, where you can recharge on your final night, enjoying the steam rooms, gym and swimming pool or indulging in one of our COMO Shambhala treatments.
Your 10-minute transfer to Paro International Airport will be arranged according to your flight schedule.
Accommodation on this journey ranges from private villas to luxury rooms that blend traditional Bhutanese craftsmanship and contemporary design with award-winning cuisine and an incredible spa.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons. The spring season (late March, April & May) and autumn season (late September, October & November) are the most popular times to visit with generally clear, mild weather, excellent scenery, lower rainfall and a range of festivals, including Tshechus and Dromchoes.
Other experiences in the area
Bhutan is a landlocked Himalayan nation where religion and nature have come together offering adventure travelers opportunities for multi-day trekking, fly fishing, white-water rafting and even wildlife. Call us for a FREE 30-minute complimentary consultation via video or phone.
Please note that all booking are subject to availably during the time of deposit.