Get glimpses of Bhutan in 15 days as you journey across the country exploring places of interest and getting connected to its way of life. We start from the west towards central and eastwards and back, driving across specular scenery and views. It also exposes you to the traditional arts and crafts and textiles of Bhutan.
Duration: 15 Days
Places to Visit: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Gangtey, Trongsa, Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse.
Day 01: Arrive Paro by Druk Air
On a clear day, the flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over foothills from Kolkata, the journey offers you a wonderful view of the Himalayas and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. On arrival at Paro airport, on completion of immigration and custom formalities, you will be received by our representative. Transfer to the hotel. Evening take a stroll around Paro town’s main street. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 02: Paro
Paro is a picturesque valley with quaint clusters of hamlets amidst terraced paddy fields. It is a good blend of rural life and urbanization.
- After breakfast, visit the Ta Dzong (National Museum) and then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong which has a long and fascinating history from where you can walk further down to a traditional cantilever bridge.
- Afternoon visit Drukgyel Dzong, the ruined fortress from where Bhutanese repelled several invasions by Tibetan armies. Currently, the Dzong is under restoration.
- Visit a traditional farmhouse that offers a good insight into the lifestyle of local people.
- In the evening, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 03: Paro – Thimphu (60 km, 2 hours)
- After breakfast proceed to Thimphu, the modern capital city of Bhutan. En route stop at Chuzom (confluence) where the Paro river joins the Thimphu river. Three types of stupas adorn the meeting point of the rivers offering a picturesque view from the bridge.
- Visit the Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the Kingdom which now houses the Institute for Advanced Buddhist studies.
- After lunch, visit the National Memorial Chorten. The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk “the Father of modern Bhutan”, who wished to erect a monument for global peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace. It has now become a vibrant centre of spiritual practice and religious events.
- Visit the Royal Textile Museum, the Folk Heritage Museum and the Handicrafts Emporium followed by a visit to the local market.
- Visit Tashichhodzong, a beautiful medieval fortress/monastery that houses His Majesty the King’s Throne Room, some offices of the Government and the summer residence of the monk body. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu – Punakha (75 km, 2 1/2 hours)
After breakfast, take a halfday sightseeing tour of Thimphu
- Visit the National Library that has a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts.
- The Painting School, famous for its traditional thangkha paintings. Here you will see students at work producing intricate design on cloth.
- The National Institute of Traditional Medicine where centuries old healing arts are still practiced.
After lunch drive to Punakha with a short stop at Dochula pass (3,050m) and enjoy the most enchanting view of the 108 stupas against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas. On arrival, check into the hotel.
- Visit Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. Punakha was Bhutan’s capital until 1955, and Punakha Dzong still serves as the winter residence of the central monk body. Bhutan’s first King Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned here in 1907. The fortress has withstood several damages from fire, earthquake and flood over the centuries. The last flood in 1994, caused great damage to the fortress but miraculously spared its most holy statue.
- Take a drive to view the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chhorten and if time permits, take a hike there to enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley below.
- Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 05: Punakha – Wangduephodrang – Gangtey (70 km, 3 hours)
After breakfast drive to Wangduephodrang and stop briefly to enjoy the scenic view of the Wangdue Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The approach to Phobjikha valley is through a forest of oak and rhododendron. Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys of Bhutan and the home of the rare black necked cranes, which migrate in winter from the central Asiatic Plateau to escape the harsh cold.
Evening – take a walk around Gangtey village and visit Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in this region. You may like to take a leisurely walk along the Gangtey Nature Trail that takes about an hour. Overnight at Camp / Guest House.
Day 06: Gangtey – Trongsa (120 km, 4.1/2 hours)
Morning – explore Phobjikha valley which is famous for the Black Necked Cranes and visit the Crane Information Centre. After lunch drive to Trongsa crossing the Pele la pass at 3300m. Evening- visit the Trongsa market. Overnight at the lodge in Trongsa.
Day 07: Trongsa – Bumthang (68 km, 3 hours)
- After breakfast, visit Trongsa Dzong. Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Our Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governor’) prior to ascending the throne, and the present Crown Prince now holds the post. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built.
- Visit the Ta Dzong (watch tower), dedicated to the Buddhist epic hero, King Gesar of Ling.
Drive to Bumthang, 68 km from Trongsa, a journey of about 3 hours, over the Yutong-la pass (3,400m). The road winds steeply up to the pass, 28 km from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley. Evening at leisure. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 08: Bumthang
Bumthang is the general name given to a combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitudes varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of the prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries of Bhutan. Its scenic beauty is often compared to that of Switzerland.
After breakfast at the hotel:
- Visit Jambey Lhakhang, a 7th century temple and one of the 108 built by King Songtsen Gampo in one day.
- Next, explore the religious sites on foot: Kurje Lhakhang, where the saint Padmasambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock; Tamshing Lhakhang that has some of the oldest wall paintings in Bhutan and Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the region. Stroll in the village, visit the little handicrafts shop at the entrance to the town, and perhaps, take refreshments at a local restaurant. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Bumthang is the general name given to combination of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2,600m to 4,000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries.
- Visit Jambey Lhakhang (7th century temple)
- Explore the religious sites on foot to Kurje Lhakhang, where the saint Padmasambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock,
- Tamshing Lhakhang (housing some of the oldest wall paintings in Bhutan) and
- Jakar Dzong (administrative center of the region).
- Stroll in the village, visit the little handicrafts shop at the entrance to the town, and perhaps take refreshments at a local restaurant. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 09: Bumthang – Mongar (198 km, 7 hours)
The journey continues eastwards winding through more rugged terrain. The drive, with spectacular views of pristine nature will take about 7 hours through the Ura village in Bumthang climbing sharply to the highest motorable pass in the kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass at 4000m. It gradually drops down to Sengor ascending further through lush pine forests, maize fields and eastern hamlets.
- Visit Mongar Dzong – The Dzong is a fine example of a blend between traditional and modern architecture. Overnight at the lodge in Mongar.
Day 10: Mongar – Trashigang (96 km, 3 hours)
The drive to Trashigang, the eastern most part of the country, takes about 3 hours across the Kori la pass (2,450m). The first part of journey is through lush forests filled with ferns rapidly descending through corn fields and banana groves until you reach the recent settlement of Yadi and further along the Gamri river.
- Visit Drametsi temple perched on top of a steep hill. It was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place from where the famous Naga Chham, a mask dance with drums originated.
About 30km onwards lies Trashigang at l000m. Trashigang is the centre of the biggest and most populated district in the country.
- Visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of a spur, overhanging the Gamri River. It serves as the administrative seat for the district. A part of the dzong is occupied by the monastic community. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Day 11: Trashigang – Day excursion to Trashiyangtse
The district of Trashiyangtse lies 24 km from Trashigang.
- Visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place of pilgrimage where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon.
- Doksum village – see weavers at work making intricate traditional Bhutanese fabric. Visit a chain bridge dating back to the 15th century.
- Visit Trashiyangtse Dzong, a newly built structure situated at an altitude of 1,850 m. In former times, Trashiyangtse was an important centre of the caravan routes from western and central Bhutan.
- Visit the famous Chorten Kora (Stupa).
- Evening return to Trashigang. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Day 12: Trashigang – Bumthang (289 km, 10 hours)
- After breakfast drive back to Bumthang with lunch en route. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 13: Bumthang – Punakha (205 km, 6 hours)
- After breakfast drive to Punakha. Stop at a local restaurant en route for a traditional Bhutanese lunch. Arrive Punakha and check into the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 14: Punakha – Paro (125 km, 4 1/2 hours)
- After breakfast at the hotel, hike to Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the center of the valley. The sacred temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humor, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings owing to which he is also known as ‘Divine Madman’. The temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that childless couples that want children, can pray at this temple and they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is located about 30 minutes walk from the road across paddy fields and interesting little shops. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. It then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang.
- Later drive to Sangchen Dorji Lhendup Nunnery, built upon a pine-covered ridge high up above Punakha valley. The nunnery’s chapel houses a 4.5 meters (14 ft) bronze statue of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, along with statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It is home to a small and friendly community of nuns.
- After lunch drive to Paro for overnight stay.
Day 15: Depart from Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for final departure.