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Journeys Six Senses Bhutan

Six-Night Khamsa: Thimphu, Punakha and Paro Valleys

Travel back in time and take a journey that few people have had the opportunity to experience. Druk Yul, Bhutan’s official name, is known as the Land of the Dragon People with a rich cultural heritage that has largely remained hidden until its recent emergence onto the world stage. Your Six Senses GEM (Guest Experience Maker) will meet you upon arrival and accompany you on your khamsa ‘royal stroll’ through the Kingdom, sharing insights into the culture, history and local life of each valley as you go.

Discover the country’s breathtaking natural beauty, meet and mingle with our Bhutanese friends and embrace the philosophy of a nation that is guided by the principles of ‘Gross National Happiness’. Our khamsas are designed with just the right balance of meaningful encounters and experiences in mind along with a healthy dose of fun.

The following is only a guideline. Your GEM will help to tailor it to your needs and interests to suit each day.

Bhutan Thimphu Dzong Temple
Bhutan Thimphu_Dzong_from_distance

Day 1

Six Senses Thimphu “Palace in the Sky”

After arriving at Paro International Airport, your journey begins with a one-hour drive, passing rich, forested mountains dotted with monasteries and temples on route to Thimphu, the capital.

At an altitude of 7,700 ft (2,200 meters), Thimphu lies in a steep valley and is the only city in the world without a single traffic light.

Six Senses Thimphu, our “Palace in the Sky,’ is situated high above the valley floor, overlooking apple orchards and young pine forests. With captivating views over the Buddha Dordenma, the world’s tallest seated Buddha at 170 feet (52 meters), the location provides a perfect escape from the capital and yet is close enough to explore its many attractions.

We recommend slower paced activities on your first day as you adjust to the altitude. If energy levels allow, head down to the town and wander with your GEM through Thimphu’s lively streets and markets. Stop in at Zorig Chusum (The National Institute of 13 Arts and Crafts) to discover Bhutan’s numerous art forms before crossing the road to visit the Folk Heritage Museum, which offers insights into Bhutanese daily life in the past. Afterwards, create your own stamp at the National Post Office!

Don’t miss a visit to the Tashi Chho Dzong, Thimphu’s impressive Buddhist monastery and fortress, which presently houses the throne room and offices of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan, as well as the head of the country’s religious order.

Return to the lodge and ease your tired muscles with a Dotsho (Bhutanese hot stone bath with herbs) in the spa followed by a jet-lag massage before dinner at signature restaurant Namkha which offers views over the lodge’s reflecting ponds to the twinkling lights of the valley below. Settle into the comfort of your suite or villa for a well-deserved night’s rest.

Bhutan Six_Senses_Thimphu_from_distance

Day 2

Six Senses Thimphu “Palace in the Sky”

Rise early to the Thimphu morning and enjoy breakfast before setting out on a one-hour hike up to Talakha Monastery above our lodge with its 320-degree valley views. Meet the local lama and the monks in residence and enjoy a cup of tea and some conversation.

Head down for an early lunch at the lodge before heading down the valley to explore more of Thimphu’s sites.

This afternoon’s exploration gets you up close and personal with the majestic Buddha Dordenma (170 feet/52 meter) statue perched high above the valley. Next see what the future holds at Pangri Zampa Lhakhang, a 16th-century monastic school of astrology where you can have your chart read. From there it’s only a short distance to the Royal Textile Museum, which showcases the intricate art of Bhutanese weaving. Create your own stamp at the National Post Office before returning home for dinner at the lodge.

Bhutan Punakha Valley

Day 3

Six Senses Thimphu to Six Senses Punakha “Flying Farmhouse Amidst Ricefields”

Rise to the Thimphu morning and enjoy an optional yoga session in the lodge’s prayer pavilion. Before departing for Punakha, enjoy a hearty breakfast by the lodge’s reflecting ponds with views over the valley below.

Today’s journey takes you towards Punakha over the iconic Dochula Pass. On a clear, sunny day, you’ll enjoy dramatic views of the Himalayan peaks as you ascend towards the pass. At a height of 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), there are striking cloud-capped valley views and 108 hillside chortens (Buddhist shrines). Your guide will find a tranquil spot to enjoy a picnic surrounded by nature on the way. Continuing your adventure, descend into beautiful Punakha Valley.

Just before Punakha, make a pilgrimage walk to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple built in AD 1499 dedicated to the “Divine Madman”, Drukpa Kunley, a brilliant but philandering 14th-century monk with a penchant for wine and women. This temple is renowned as a must-visit for couples planning to start a family, who come hoping to receive a blessing. The adjacent village has some of the most surprisingly graphic phallus paintings in honor of the saint on its homes and shops.

Owing to the lower altitude of 4,265 feet (1,300 meters), Punakha offers a warmer climate and is the preferred winter destination for many Bhutanese. Mark your arrival in the valley by spinning a prayer wheel for good luck before crossing over a dramatic suspension bridge hung with colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Stop mid-way for a meditative moment and take in the sound of the rushing river far below.

From the bridge you can opt to indulge in late afternoon cocktails riverside in a rice field. Whether you prefer yours shaken or stirred, you’ll want to toast your arrival to this beautiful valley with pomegranate martinis served up with views to the impressive Punakha Dzong as the backdrop. Watch the sun set and snack on local delicacies like fresh spring rolls and dzao (popped Bhutanese rice).

Afterwards, it’s a short 20-minute drive through the lush scenery of Punakha Valley as you ascend to the Six Senses lodge.

Check in at Six Senses Punakha’s cozy ‘Flying Farmhouse’, a cantilevered wooden structure that serves as a lounge with gorgeous views over the lodge’s heated swimming pool and terraced rice fields below. Treat tired muscles with your choice of a deeply-relaxing, 60-minute massage at the spa. We recommend the Marma Massage, which uses long and firm flowing movements of varying pressure to eliminate stress-related tension and to balance and align vital energy centers. Enriching oils with powerful active benefits are applied to balance the heart chakra and enhance one’s overall sense of well-being. Part of the ritual involves refocusing the mind with a walking meditation exercise. OHM!

Weather permitting, dinner will be served poolside this evening.

Bhutan Punakha_Valley

Day 4

Six Senses Punakha “Flying Farmhouse Amidst Rice Fields”

This morning begins with a hike through terraced rice fields as you ascend towards Chorten Ningpo, a monastery which dates to the 17th century, a 2.5 hour moderate hike. Visit Kabasa village on the way with its school, monastery and typical Bhutanese farmhouses.

Continue to climb towards Chorten Ningpo where in addition to the dramatic views, you can discover a statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, with images trailing the lineage of the great lamas (gurus). Your guide will recount for you the legend of the blazing log thrown by the “Divine Madman”.

Reward yourself with a steaming cup of chai served in an open sala. If the timing is right, you may come across a blessing ritual in progress and experience the otherworldly sounds of monks chanting in unison accompanied by the rhythmic thumping of drums and trumpeting horns.

A favorite stop en route back to the lodge is a visit the home of Aum Tshewang to sample her homemade ara (Bhutanese moonshine). We suggest no more than two shots! Sample our delicious Bhutanese Thali lunch today outdoors on the patio at the lodge. If you have never tried emi datshi, Bhutan’s incendiary national dish of chilis and cheese, now is your chance.

This afternoon, explore the beautiful Punakha Dzong, known officially as Pungtang Dechen Phodrang Dzong, or “The Palace of Great Happiness.” Located at the junction of the Pho Chuu (father) and Mo Chuu (mother) rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue Valleys, the dzong’s majestic structure stands six stories high. Bhutan’s second oldest dzong, it served as the seat of the Kingdom's government until the time of the second King and today is the winter home of the Je Khempo, head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of about 1,000 monks.

Afterwards you can choose to bicycle or try white water rafting along the river next to the dzong or relax back at the lodge.

Our chefs will prepare a delicious Indian menu at Ari, the lodge’s signature restaurant, this evening, or you can choose a poolside barbecue.

Bhutan Paro Stone Ruins

Day 5

Six Senses Punakha to Six Senses Paro “Stone Ruins”

This morning retrace your steps back to Paro by heading westward over the Dochula Pass towards Simtokha Dzong, the first dzong in the Kingdom, built on a strategic ridge overlooking Thimphu Valley in 1629. This small, often overlooked dzong is an art lover’s delight with its beautifully-decorated inner sanctum showcasing colorful religious flags, mural paintings and ornate altar offerings.

Continue down to Chuzom Bridge at the confluence of the Wang Chhu and Pha Chhu rivers, and view three nearby shrines featuring Bhutanese, Tibetan and Nepali architecture. Arriving in Paro, visit Rinpung Dzong which directly translates as “fortress on heaps of jewels”. This dzong is an impressive example of classic Bhutanese architecture and is also where the annual Paro Tshechu (festival) is held.

From here it’s a short downhill walk to Nyamai Zampa (a traditional cantilevered bridge) built in 1525 to connect the dzong with Paro town. Cross the bridge trail over the Paro river and proceed to Paro National Museum, which displays an impressive collection of ancient and modern thangkas (Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton) and a heritage gallery which houses a collection of fearsome festival masks.

Afterwards take a stroll down to the river with your GEM and test your strength and skills with archery, Bhutan’s colorful national sport. Don’t forget to adopt the local custom of singing, dancing and distracting your opponent to gain the upper hand.

From here, it’s a 20-minute drive up a high mountain road past stunning views of the valley below on the way to the lodge.

Six Senses Paro is situated at an elevation of 9,500 feet (2,900 meters) on the grounds of a 15th century ruined fortress. The stone ruins and views of the valley below provide a dramatic backdrop to your stay. There are pleasant walks to be had nearby through pine forests and a number of small, little-known monasteries well worth a visit and just a few minutes’ walk from the lodge.

After checking in, head to the spa for a reviving 60-minute back, neck and shoulder ‘Tension Soother Massage’, the perfect antidote to any accumulated travel aches and great for relieving muscle tension and for restoring mobility.

Take in the fresh mountain air over a pre-dinner cocktail on the patio.

This evening, we’ll serve a delicious menu at Jangko, that incorporates ingredients from our Six Senses organic farm.

Bhutan bhutan tigers nest

Day 6

Six Senses Paro “Stone Ruins”

Your day begins with an energy boosting breakfast before departing for Taktsang Goemba (monastery), known as Tiger’s Nest. One of the most significant cultural icons of the Kingdom, this highly revered monastery was built on a sheer cliff face roughly 2,950 feet (900 meters) above Paro Valley and is visible from the valley floor.

Your GEM will hike up with you to the monastery and share stories of its history along the way. Enjoy the wonderful scenery through pine forests that are colorfully decorated with moss and prayer flags. Listen to the sound of prayer wheels turning and leave your good intentions by tying your own prayer-flag and let the wind carry blessings and prayers across Bhutan. During cooler weather, clouds often shroud the monastery, highlighting its sanctity and remoteness. For lunch, a picnic can be arranged and enjoyed outdoors.

If energy levels and time permit after your descent, visit the colorful Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th-century sanctuary that is an absolute gem for historians and art connoisseurs. It is said to have two magical orange trees that bear fruit throughout the year.

Return to the lodge and take a short stroll over to the 15th-century Samteling Monastery situated just next to our lodge. The single-story temple was built in the traditional Bhutanese style using stones and woodwork and features statues as well as beautiful wall paintings of the Buddhist saints. Reflect on your time in the Kingdom as you light auspicious butter lamps and receive blessings from the resident monks. The light from the butter lamps represents the wisdom of the awakened mind and is said to dispel darkness.

For your last evening, choose from a specially-prepared Indian or Bhutanese menu at Jongka, or opt for the lodge’s signature dining experience with a lavish dinner served next to the stone ruins of a 15th-century dzong on the grounds of our lodge. Don’t miss this chance to get fully decked out in traditional Bhutanese attire ( kira for a woman and gho for a man). The enchanting backdrop is enhanced by fire torches casting shadows on the stone walls. Live Bhutanese music and folk dances make this a memorable occasion fit for royalty.

Take a moment after dinner to sit outdoors beneath the star-filled sky as you reflect on the day’s meaningful encounters.

Paro Bhutan Three_Bedroom_Villa_SetUp

Day 7

Six Senses Paro “Stone Ruins”

After an early breakfast, finalize your packing and say goodbye to your Bhutanese hosts before departing the lodge. From here it is a 30-minute transfer to the airport. Your GEM will accompany you and assist with your departure arrangements.

Some Thoughts ...

Consider this three-valley khamsa as a starting point to your time in the Kingdom. It offers a mix of some of Bhutan’s not-to-be missed sites as well as visits to lesser known places. Our main objective is to nourish your soul and open the door of discovery to connect with this amazing Himalayan Kingdom we call home.

We have designed your itinerary to encourage you to participate and to interact in meaningful ways with the people you meet along your journey. Every part can be customized to your needs. We will be delighted to suggest activities and experiences to match your interests.

*Some of the activities we have included in this program are optional with additional charges. This will all be clearly explained to you.

To book Six Senses Bhutan Six-Night Khamsa, please contact the reservations department directly at [email protected].

Reservation inquiry

The Six-Night Khamsa Journey includes the following:

  • Six nights’ accommodation (Two night in Thimphu, two nights in Punakha and two nights in Paro) based on double occupancy
  • Full board as described in the program for two guests (non- alcoholic beverages included)
  • Round-trip airport transfers to Paro Airport
  • Private Six Senses GEM guide throughout your journey
  • Private driver and vehicle throughout the journey
  • Entrance to all sites, monuments and museums as described in the itinerary

Terms & Conditions:

  • Dinner and lunch/picnic inclusions at the lodges may not be changed for meals at outside restaurants
  • All itinerary items and timings are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. In the case that an experience cannot be arranged as planned, it will be substituted for one of equal value and will be discussed with the guest first before changing

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