Visit Punakha Dzong, then drive to Thimphu via the Dochu La Pass. When you arrive in Thimphu in the afternoon, you will go to see King's Memorial Chorten and the Trashichhoe Dzong. Overnight in Thimphu.
Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and its governmental, religious and commercial centre. It is nestled in the Wang Chuu river valley and is abundant in natural splendour, wildlife and culture. Thimphu is a very unique city with an unusual mixture of modern developments alongside ancient traditions. With a population of about 100,000 people, it is perhaps the world’s only capital city without traffic lights. In fact, there are no traffic lights in the whole of the country. Here, policemen stand in decorated pavilions in the main intersections and direct traffic using hand gestures in a conscious effort to save their culture from modern influences. Every building is still decorated with Dzong-style features and Buddhism influences every part of daily life. There is a variety of cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, and Thimphu is one of the few places in Bhutan to have ATM machines. Altitude: 2,320m.
Trashichhoe Dzong ('Fortress of the Glorious Religion') is the centre of government and religion, the site of the monarch’s throne room and the seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was reconstructed in 1960's in a traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Dochula Pass is located on the way from Thimphu to Punakha. The pass is a popular location as it offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days, with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Known as the Druk Wangyal Chortens - the construction of these 108 chortens was commissioned by the eldest Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. The pass is also popular spiritual destination for both locals and tourists because an important temple is located at the crest of Dochula pass.
The King's Memorial Chorten is commonly called the 'most visible religious landmark in Bhutan'. It is continuously circled by people in clockwise direction who murmur mantras and spin large red prayer wheels, as is custom in all Bhutanese religious structures. This landmark was constructed in honor of Bhutan's third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk ('the father of modern Bhutan'). Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, the monument is dedicated to world peace and prosperity, as well as a memorial to the king.
The majestic Punakha Dzong, known as the Palace of Great Happiness, used to serve as Bhutan's religious and administrative centre until the 1950s. The inside courtyards and religious statuary hint at a deep historical and spiritual tradition. It is quite large,
measuring over 180m long by 70m wide and has a six-story, gold-domed tower. The dzong sits at the junction of the Pho chhu and Mo chhu rivers and was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan Buddhist lama. Arguably the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan, it was the second to be ever built in the country. Bhutan's most treasured possession, the Rangjung ('Self-Created') Kharsapani image of Chenresig is kept here, but is closed to the public.