DAY EXCURSIONS WALKING, HIKING AND BIKING IN PARO
Walking & hiking along trails, you will come across small villages, meet local families, visit remote Buddhist temples, see important monuments & historical sites, be a part of farming activities, gain knowledge on organic farming and animal breeding, enjoy a time tested medicinal bath, join in local games, exchange experiences, learn about the life of the locals, learn about local handicrafts, enjoy fine home cooked meals, catch up with warm smiles, and much more...
We will introduce you to places and people and take you on trails that stimulate local interaction. Our guide ensures that you have real connections with the people, the landscape, the culture and the environment. The shared intention will be to be open and available to the people we meet and the places we visit, and use all that we experience to soften our hearts and open our minds. Just visit Bhutan with an open mind and you will find its beauty through its people, unique culture and pristine landscape.
TAKSANG HIKE (TIGER’S NEST)
Walking distance : approximately 4-5 hrs
Difficulty : Moderate-Strenuous
Open from: 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm
Closed on Tuesdays
Strenuous: Strenuous treks are extended walking in a mountain terrain at higher altitudes. Trekkers should be able to cope with difficult paths on steep mountainsides.
After breakfast, we hike toward one of Bhutan’s most sacred places—the site of a Cliffside monastery and an important pilgrimage destination. Partly damaged by fire in 1998, the Taksang (meaning Tiger’s Nest) Monastery was built atop the cave where Guru Rimpoche, the father of Mahayana Buddhism, meditated for three months after arriving in the Paro Valley on the back of a legendary tigress. You’re likely to see locals displaying handicrafts for sale along the route to the monastery—evidence of individual enterprise rarely seen until the past few years.
The trail rises slowly above the valley, passing through fields, forests and by large prayer wheels turned by a stream. We continue hiking across an open meadow and up a steep trail to a ridge where prayer flags rustle in the wind. Just beyond is the Taktsang teahouse, at 9,200 feet, where we stop to enjoy a hot drink and striking views of the monastery across the valley. The scene is straight out of National Geographic, and it’s only when a local’s cell phone goes off that you realize it’s the 21st century! Depending on your energy level, continue just as far as our lunch spot or tackle the next mile of steep climbing to reach another dramatic viewpoint.
Our lunch today takes place at the Taksang View Point Cafeteria enjoying typical Bhutanese food while taking in phenomenal views of the monastery perched across the ravine.
We then retrace our steps for the descent. Back at the base of this rewarding pilgrimage, we board the car and drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control the northern route to Tibet. The drive is picturesque, and the site of ancient, now ruined dzong is magnificent. From here, it is only a two-day hike to the border with Tibet, dominated by the sacred Mt Jhomolhari.
ZURI DZONG, TA DZONG, RINPUNG DZONG & PARO’S SMALL TOWNSHIP
Duration: 3-4 hours (depending on time spent in National Museum and Paro Township)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Wind all the way through pine forests to the pretty grounds of the fortress-like monastery of Zuri Dzong. Go across to Ta Dzong, housing Bhutan’s National Museum with splendid views over the Paro valley.
Ta Dzong- National Museum
Open from: 9am to 1 pm and 2pm to 4pm
Closed on Sundays and local holidays
Ta Dzong built in 1951 was once the watch tower for the defense of Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. It was re-established as the National Museum in 1967 and has been rated among the best natural history museums in Asia. It holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, handicrafts, masks, costumes, armor and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum’s circular shape augments its varied collection displayed over several floors. The visit will provide an insight into the rich and unique cultural heritage and tradition of Bhutan.
The National Museum which is housed in the Paro Ta Dzong suffered major structural damage during the 2011 September earthquake, rendering it inaccessible to the public for safety reasons. More than half of the exhibits from the Ta Dzong are now displayed in a two story building located above the actual museum.
Afterwards, descend upon Rinpung (Paro) Dzong, also known as “Fortress on a Heap of Jewels” which was built in 1646 AD by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal mainly for defense against frequent incursions. Historically, it was an important administrative centre and the seat of many feudal lords and penlops. Today it houses the administrative offices which include the legislative, executive, judicial and religious centre for the people of Paro.
The small township of Paro
Paro's town isn't very large but it has a more traditional feel than Thimphu's city and is a fine introduction to some of Bhutan's unique local products. You'll see strings of chugo (dried yak cheese), either white (boiled in milk and dried in the sun) or brown (smoked). The fruit that looks like an orange egg is actually fresh husky betel nut, imported from India. The jars of pink paste contain lime, which is ingested with the betel nut. There are also exotic-looking ferns, powdered juniper incense, squares of dried jellied cow skin known as khoo (a local snack!) and slabs of datse, the cheese used in almost every Bhutanese dish.
KYICHU LHAKHANG HIKE AND PARO TOWN
Open from: all days from 9am to 5pm
Close to the airport is one of Bhutan’s oldest religious sites- the seventh century Kyichu Lhakhang. We pay our respects at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its mystical orange tree which bears fruit all year round. Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples 1) the ancient temple and 2) the recent temple. The ancient temple is deeply respected for its antiquity and holds one of Bhutan’s holiest statues of the Jowo, Buddha as a prince at the age of eight, which is alike to the one in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The recent temple was built in 1968 and is dedicated to Guru Rimpoche.
After touring the Lhakhangs we will begin our hike to the town of Paro, stopping along the way to view prayer flags and chortens and an old farm house.
CHELE LA NATURE HIKE
Drive: 1.5 hrs up to the pass 3988m
Walk: 3 hours including stops
Open : all days from 9am to 5 pm
April-June: alpine flowers, view towards some of Bhutan’s most sacred peaks, short & beautiful nature hikes around the pass, plentiful birds and wildlife
1.5 hours drive from Bondey to the Chele La Pass at 3988m. We have panoramic views of the two valleys of Paro & Haa and of course, the beautiful Himalayan ranges of Bhutan from the Pass. We will also have the most scenic view of Mt. Jumolhari; Haa Valley is situated in the north-west of Bhutan bordering Tibet. Extraordinarily beautiful Haa Valley is newly opened to tourists. With its three prominent hills representing the three guardian deities, this valley is said to have been named by Guru Padma Sambava himself.
From the pass we will hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (4500m), where there is a small stone hut which is sometimes used by monks to meditate; this is actually a place for sky burial. Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley. To the west there is Kanchenjunga (8,586m), the third highest mountain in the world, to the Northeast, Gangkar Puensum (7,570m), Bhutan’s highest mountain and the highest virgin mountain in the world, Jumolhari (7,314m), Jichu Drakey (6,794m) and a host of other peaks
We will then take a downhill trek from the pass (3,988m) to the stunning nunnery that clings to the mountainside at 3,400m. This nunnery- Kila Koenpa is a serene home for Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their live to spiritual fulfillment and lead undisturbed lives of religious studies, prayer and meditation. From here we descend to a logging track and walk out to the Chele La Pass road to rejoin the vehicle to transfer to the trail head for a short hike to Dzongdrakha Temple.
Start a short hike to Dzongdrakha (2400m), a tranquil village of eight farmhouses and four temples. The main temple complex is situated on the cliff just above Bondey Valley. Like Taktsang and Dra Karpo, this is an area in which Guru Rinpoche meditated in the 8th century. It takes about 30 minutes to hike to the first temple from the drivable road. The trail begins following a dirt road. After about 20 minutes, the path turns to climb through a grove of oak trees. The entire village, set up over the cliffs, stretches horizontally along the ledge, affording beautiful views of the valley below. From the last temple, look for the tall houses of the village of Tashigang. Descend through stunted oaks to reach the chorten at the base of Dzongdrakha.
Jele Dzong Hike
Walking distance : approximately 6-7 hrs including stops
Difficulty : Moderate
National Museum, 8036ft/2450m to Jele Dzong, 11,270ft/3436m
Begin the day’s trek above the National Museum in apple and peach orchards, crossing through a series of quaint hamlets and an ancient pine and oak forest. Above the tree line, the trail continues to a ridge affording 300 degree vistas of the Himalaya. A short hike ends at Jili Dzong, one of the Kingdom’s oldest fortresses. The building was until very recently deserted, but has now undergone some renovation and is in use again as a monastic school. It sits astride a ridge, which affords dramatic views of the valleys on both sides and the Himalaya to the north. Look forward to plenty of interesting birds, flora and fauna throughout the day. A choice of descents is possible all the way to Paro town.
BIKE RIDE TO DRUKGYEL DZONG
Open from: 9am to 5pm - Monday - Sunday
Thirty kilometers today, out of Paro as far as you can bike to the west (either by road or on tracks) and back again. The first half of the ride is flat, easy riding on a dirt road through Paro and then paralleling a river. The second half is one long climb up the valley with Taktsang Goemba (Tiger's Nest Monastery) perched above, winding through villages, rice paddies and pine forest to Drukgyel Dzong.
Hike up the citadel to enjoy a pleasant view of the snow-covered cone of Jumolhari. Later enjoy a gradual freewheeling descent virtually all the way to Paro town.
As support vehicle is on hand to carry you and your bike if you prefer to take it easy. In addition, one of our experienced guides will accompany you enabling us to cater to your level of fitness and allowing you to cycle at your own pace.
Duration: 4-5 hours riding gradual ascents and descents
Trail Conditions: 40% road, 60% wide graded tracks, valley riding
Difficulty: EASY to MODERATE
DAY EXCURSIONS WALKING, HIKING AND BIKING IN PARO