Bhutan Cross Country Cultural and Festivals Itinerary

Day 1 — {date1s}

Departure to Paro, Bhutan from Bangkok

Bhutan  Bridge
Paro Dzong taken from the footbridge—learn how to frame your photos better.

Departure to Bhutan 9:00 a.m. Meet at Bangkok International Airport departures row U at 6:30 a.m. Robin will have your visa and airlines tickets plus you will have a copy. Arrive Paro Airport (7,200 ft.) at 12:20 p.m. (Gain one hour.) After clearing customs and immigration we will be greeted by Rainbow Tours & Treks representatives, guides and drivers. We just had a hot breakfast on the plane so nobody is usually hungry and since Nak Sel Resort is 45 minutes from the airport, our guides will take us in different directions and then meet for lunch in a Paro restaurant—frankly stated, we hit the ground running.

  • National Museum
  • Archery grounds for Friday practice rounds
  • Rinpung Dzong, aka Paro Dzong
  • Kyichu Lhakhang (temple), one of the oldest in Bhutan (7th century)
  • Drugyal Dzong, a ruined fortress used to fight off invading Tibetans.
  • Paro town, walk around and get a feel for this small authentic Bhutanese commercial district

Kids wearing uniform ghos and kiras must attend school through grade 10.
Young monk curiously peering at the visitors.

The National Museum, once the watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong, located high on a promontory overlooking the Paro Valley. First constructed in 1645, the Rinpung Watchtower was converted to the National Museum in 1968. While photography within the museum is not allowed, there are numerous photo ops of the exterior and the valley below. This first outing is meant to familiarize you with the history of this amazing kingdom in the clouds, and a visit to the National Museum is the very best way to quickly learn the culture and natural history since it houses everything that is Bhutanese in a very different museum style that will delight you.

From this point on and throughout the tour the daily itinerary becomes very flexible. Since we are in cars we don't all have to go to these places at the same time.  Our 16 guides and drivers are familiar with this concept and stay in touch with each other to notify everyone of any special events in the area, like "You should go to Kichu Temple because there are a lot of pilgrims there," etc.  So as you read down through this itinerary keep this important concept in mind--“…you are the captain of your ship and can make changes to the itinerary on the fly.”

We can walk or drive down to Paro Town and walk along the Paro Chu (River) to take pictures of the Paro Dzong and the watchtower above. Here we will have photo ops of the covered foot bridge over the river, the huge wooden gate leading to the bridge, and the interior of the dzong. Built in 1645, this massive building now houses the District Administration Office and the Monk Body. A flagstone path leads to the dzong, rising gradually from the bridge that is abutted by two guard houses. The central tower, called the “Utse” of the Dzong, is clad in superb woodwork and is considered to be the nation’s most beautiful tower.

monk Bhutan
We can also visit the Paro archery grounds where there might be practice going on by government employees mostly—they take long lunches.

Dinner and overnight at Nak Sel Resort, a new five-star resort owned by our Bhutanese partner, Ms. Sonam Ongmo, also the owner of Rainbow Tours and Treks of Bhutan. Sonam has arranged for many of the special items on our itinerary, such as placing our own prayer flags, the Brokpa Festival performed just for our group (we feed over 150 villagers a hot lunch, you will be asked to help in the serving line) and all the many other wonderful events and sights that you will enjoy during your tour. Her hospitality and bubbling personality ensure a very special evening for us. A multi- million-dollar property, Nak Sel is situated at the edge of a quiet forest on property that was once an apple orchard--the original farmhouse and many of the trees still exist.  It has some of the best traditional hot stone baths in Bhutan so after dinner those who wish to relax in Bhutan’s version of the hot tub may do so. (Reservations and additional fees are required.)  The one-person tubs are long and made of wood--they have four of them, side by side in a semi-enclosed bath house. A board with holes at one end (feet) separates the bather from the hot stones. With long steel tongs the attendant picks red-hot rocks from the bonfire and drops them into this chamber causing a cauldron of boiling water. The heated water then courses through the holes in the board at your feet and the water around your body heats up until you tell the attendant, “No More Rocks!” You will also enjoy the fragrant herbs that are dropped into the tub, including mint and marijuana--yes, it grows wild in Bhutan and is normally used for pig food so ask your guide to locate some while out and about.

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Prayer Flags - Photo by Robin Smillie