Tour the last Shangri-La in two weeks visiting important places of interest and getting connected to Bhutan and its way of life. We journey from the west to the central region and eastwards, winding through rugged terrains. The road then rapidly to the plain through a dense tropical forest to exit into India for onward journey.
Duration: 14 Days
Places to Visit: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Trongsa, Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 01: Arrive Paro
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 farm house 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 (55 km, 2 hours)
- After breakfast take a hike to Taktsang Monastery view point. It is also known as the Tiger’s Nest as it is believed that Guru Rinpoche, the father of the Bhutanese strain of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. Taktsang was severely damaged by fire in 1998 but has been restored to its original splendor. As one of the most sacred sites in the region, the Bhutanese and visitors from neighbouring areas come to Taktsang quite often on pilgrimage.
- Later drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. En route visit the Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses of the country which now houses the Institute for Advanced Buddhist Studies. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu
Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley includes, visit to;
National Library; it holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts, manuscripts, modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
Painting School; famous for traditional thangkha paintings.
Traditional Medicine Institute; the rich herbal medicines abundant in Kingdom is prepared here. The institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to would be practitioners.
Textile and Folk Heritage Museum; the fascinating testimony of the Bhutanese material culture and living traditions.
Memorial Chorten; the beautiful stupa built in the memory of Bhutan’s third King. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Trashichhodzong; the beautiful fortress/monastery which houses Secretariat building, King’s Throne room and other government’s offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot.
Handicrafts Emporium; it displays wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 05: Thimphu – Punakha (75 km, 3 hours)
After breakfast, 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.
- 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.
- After lunch visit the majestic 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. Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 06: Punakha – Wangduephodrang -Gangtey (Phobjikha) (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 Dzong is under major restoration after it was destroyed in a massive fire in 2012. Wangdue district is also famous for its bamboo work, slate & stone carving. 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. Explore the Phobjikha valley and visit the crane information center. Overnight at the Guest House/Camp.
Day 07: Gangtey (Phobjikha) – Trongsa (128 km, 4 1/2 hours)
- After breakfast, visit the beautiful Gangtey Gompa, the only one of its kind in the region from where we take the enchanting Gangtey nature trail for about an hour. During the nature walk, you will see the roosting areas of the cranes and the grazing grounds of our domestic animals.
Later, drive to Trongsa across the Pelela pass (3,300m). This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and for miles on end the dzong seems to tease you so that you wonder if you will ever reach it.
- Stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, built in the 18th century in Nepalese style.
- On arrival, check into the lodge. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Trongsa.
Day 08: Tongsa – Bumthang (Jakar) (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. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 09: 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),from here 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 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar (180 km, 6 hours)
After an early breakfast drive for about 6 hours to the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. Along the way, pass Sherubtse College, the first college in the country founded in 1978.
- Visit the Zangtho Pelri temple built in 1978 that represents Guru Rinpoche’s paradise.
- Visit the Weaving Centre, the first of its kind that was a pioneer in design and vegetable dye
- Drive through Deothang, the hill station for many living in Samdrupjongkhar and the hub of technical education. Overnight at the lodge in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 14: Depart from Samdrup Jongkhar
After breakfast transfer to the Bhutan border where you will be met by the Indian agent.