Day 01: Guwahati – Samdrup Jongkhar (110km, approx 3 hours drive)
On arrival at Guwahati airport, received by your representative and transfer to south eastern Bhutanese border town of Samdrup Jongkhar.
There is little to see in this area, other than the busy market which straddles the border. It is also convenient entry and exit point for tourists those wishing to visit Indian state of Assam and other north eastern Indian states along with Bhutan. Samdrup Jongkhar is also a gateway and commercial hub for the five Bhutanese eastern districts. In olden days, it was called Gudama (a corruption of Godown) which means a warehouse for the imported goods. As a trading point, many people from the eastern region of Bhutan exchanged goods and services there with Assamese merchants. The eastern Bhutanese were also able to sell raw silk textiles and other local fabric to western Bhutanese. Today, cash crops like mandarin oranges and chilies are exported via Samdrup Jongkhar to India and Bangladesh.
Evening take an exploratory walk around town and local market. Also visit Zangtho Pelri, the three storied temple situated in the middle of the town adorned with intricate frescos. Then drive pass Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong, serving as the administrative centre of the district. Unlike other Dzongs those are built around strategic locations, this Dzong is built on a flat and wide open area.
Overnight at the hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar. (Altitude 220m)
Day 02: Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang (180, approx 7 hours drive)
After breakfast proceed to eastern town of Trashigang. Once the centre of a busy trade route with Tibet, Trashigang is today the junction of east-west highway with road connecting to Samdrup Jongkhar and then to the Indian States of Assam. This town is also used as the market place for the semi nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng whose costumes are unique in Bhutan.
En route take a short stop at Khaling. “Kha” in Bhutanese language Dzongkha means ‘Bird” and “ling” means ‘valley’. This is one of the most enchanting, haunting and lush green fertile valley, blessed with innumerable variety of birds and their songs. One of the oldest School, established in 1978 is located here known as ‘Jigme Sherubling Higher Secondary School’. At Khaling, we also get opportunity to experience and explore Bhutanese textile weaving.
Drive further via Kanglung town. It is home of Sherubtse college, one of the Royal University of Bhutan’s famous academic institutes.
On arrival in Trashigang check-into the hotel. Later in the afternoon visit Trashigang Dzong (fortress on the auspicious hill), built in 1659, the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body. The Dzong commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside. This Dzong was founded according to the prophecies of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in order to consolidate indomitable power and unparallel reign over the whole of the eastern regions.
Overnight at the hotel in Trashigang. (Altitude 1150m)
Day 03: Trashigang – Mongar (96km, approx 4 hours drive)
After breakfast proceed onward to Mongar, the second largest town in the sub-tropical east, Mongar like Trashigang, is situated on the side of a hill in the contrasts to other towns of Western Bhutan which was built on the valley floor.
En route take a short diversion to visit Drametse Lhakhang. Meaning, ‘the peak without enemy’, is one of the largest and most important monastery in eastern Bhutan, situated about 18 km away from Trashigang to Monger highway. The lhakhang was founded by a highly accomplished Ani (nun) named Choten Zangmo in the 16th century, the granddaughter of the famous religious master Terton Pema Lingpa (the Treasure Discoverer). The lhakhang is deeply associated with Terton Pema Lingpa and the Peling tradition of Buddhism. It houses a full range of spiritual treasures and other sacred objects and is the source of spiritual inspiration to the people of Drametse and neighbouring communities.
Then continue onwards to Mongar. It is site of one of Bhutan’s newest Dzong built in 1930s. Yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs; no drawings and nails have been used. A visit gives visitors an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Later visit Yagang Lhakhang, built in 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Terton Pema Lingpa. Today this temple plays an important role in the religious life of people of Mongar.
Overnight at the hotel in Mongar. (Altitude 1620m)
Day 04: Mongar – Bumthang (196km, approx 7 hours drive)
After breakfast, embark on one of the most scenic journey to Bumthang, en route crossing 3780m high Thrumshing la (pass). Gushing waterfalls, steep cliffs with even steeper drops, blazing flowers and constantly changing vegetation combine, to make this journey as varied as it is beautiful. The route is also full of rhododendrons. Crossing Thrumshing la pass indicates officially exiting eastern Bhutan and entry to central part of the country. You will notice a stark difference in human settlement in two region; in east towns are located on hills and ridges while in west and central Bhutan, they are mostly located in valleys.
Along the way explore fascinating Ura valley (3100m) which is highest of the four Bumthang valleys. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Take a walk around beautiful village and also visit temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the master and remarkable paintings of the cycle of his teachings. Since last few decades, Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to prosperous valley. People in this fascinating valley are mostly engaged in potato farming, mushroom cultivation and dairy farming.
Then continue onwards to Bumthang. Also visit en route Membartsho, literally meaning ‘The Burning Lake’. Located in Tang valley, it is a wide spot on the Tang Chhu river and considered to be one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of Bhutan. Pema Linga found several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures here. The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called ‘Tse Tsa’ in rock niches.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 05: Bumthang
The pleasant Bumthang valley is the spiritual heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley is also famous for the production of honey, cheese, apples and yathra (woolen materials).
After breakfast, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, consisting of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Then proceed to Jambay Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Jakar Dzong, founded by great grand-father of the first Shabdrung is next in sightseeing schedule. This Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and houses the regional monk body
Afternoon drive across the River to Tamshing Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. It has interesting collection of ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Then proceed to Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery. Located above the main town, about 3 km from Chamkhar town, the monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984 who was recognized at a very young age by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and H.H. 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage dates back to the nearest disciples of the great 9th century master. Since then the monastery has developed considerably with increase in number of monks to almost four hundred. The monastery has become part of an extensive effort to preserve and revitalize Tibetan culture.
The evening ends with visit to a local Yathra weaving house and opportunity to interact with the weavers.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang. (Altitude 2600m)
Day 06: Bumthang – Trongsa (68km, approx 3 hours drive)
After breakfast proceed to Trongsa across Yutongla pass (3400m) and driving pass Chumey valley.
Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched.
Afternoon visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, a task entrusted to him by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.
Then visit the striking Trongsa Dzong, ancestral abode of Bhutan’s royal family. Built in 1648 as the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. All kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governer’) prior to ascending the throne. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built.
Evening at leisure, enjoying a short walk or taking refreshment at a local restaurant.
Overnight at the hotel in Trongsa. (Altitude 2310m)
Day 07: Trongsa – Gangtey (Phobjikha) (85km, approx 4 hours drive)
After breakfast, drive on to one of the most fascinating valley of Gangtey. En route a short stopover at Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes panted at four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
Then continue onwards across Pele-la pass (3,300m/10,830 feet), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large white chorten prayer flags. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo.
On arrival in Gangtey, check into the hotel. The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
Afternoon visit Gangtey Goempa. Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Goempa is the only and the biggest Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black mountains. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.
Later explore fascinating Phobjikha valley. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes (these birds can be observed from early November to end of March) that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
Evening explore quaint Gangtey village, taking in the simplicity of life in this remote mountain hideaway.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey / Phobjikha. (Altitude 3000m)
Day 8: Gangtey – Punakha & Wangude (85km, approx 4 hours drive)
After breakfast Proceed to Punakha. En route visit newly developed Wangduephodrang town. It is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pastureland for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Afternoon is scheduled for an excursion to Chimi Lhakhang. Situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, this temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as ‘Divine Madman’. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple.
Later visit to Punakha Dzong. Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha & Wangdue. (Altitude 1300m)
Day 9: Punakha & Wangdue – Thimphu (75 km, approx 3 hours drive)
After breakfast, a beautiful hike (total about 2 hours round trip walk) takes you to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu river and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
Then drive to Thimphu via Dochu La. This pass located at a height of 3,088m/ 10,130 feet is a scenic location with chortens, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, it may be possible to see the following peaks from this pass in the order left to right: Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana – finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m, after this uplifting experience return to Punakha.
Thimphu, the capital city, is a bustling town on the banks of the river Wang Chhu. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal family, the Royal Government and to several foreign missions and development projects.
Afternoon proceed for tour of Thimphu :
Visit King’s Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world 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.
Also visit to Trashichhoe dzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the centre of government and religion, site of monarch’s throne room and seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1960s in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
Evening visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium & Local Crafts Bazaar, to browse through example of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts constituting hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, interesting items made from local materials.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2320m)
Day 10: Thimphu
This morning after breakfast at the hotel, proceed for a tour of Tango Goemba (30 minute drive & one hour walk)
Tango Goemba or monastery was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century and the present building was built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’, Lama Drukpa Kunley. In 1616 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal visited Tango and meditated in a cave near the monastery. His meditation helped ensure the defeat of an invading Tibetan army. The head Lama, a descendent of Lama Drukpa Kunley presented the Goemba to Shabdrung, who carved a sandalwood statue of Chenrezig which he installed in the monastery. The picturesque three-storey tower and several surrounding buildings were built in the 18th century by the eighth Desi, Druk Rabgye and Shabdrung Jigme Chhogyel added the golden roof in the 19th century. Situated north of Thimphu, one way it takes about 30 minute drive and one hour walk through shaded rhododendron forests to reach the monastery.
Afternoon visit the National Library, the library houses an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts.
Later in the afternoon visit Textile Textile Museum: it provides deep insight into Bhutan’s most distinct art form. Later visit Simply Bhutan : it is a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
Then, a drive of about 20 minutes takes you to Dechen Phug Monastery, founded in 12th century. Dechenphug is the seat of Gyenyen Jagpa Melen, the protective deity of Thimphu valley. The temple complex consists of a central tower, the Guru Lhakhang and the quarters arranged around a courtyard. The main tower is painted red which is particular only to Dechenphug signifying its devotion to the war lord Jagpa Melen.
Afterwards, drive to Buddha Point (Kuenselphodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu. (Altitude 2,320m)
Day 11: Thimphu – Paro (55km, approx 1.1/2 hour drive)
After breakfast, we continue our fascinating journey towards Paro, en route visiting Simtokha Dzong.
Simtokha Dzong was built in 1627 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it stands on a low ridge 8 km down the valley from Thimphu. The Institute for Language and Cultural Studies is located within the premises. The most noteworthy artistic feature of this dzong is the series of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
Later continue the drive towards Paro with en-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different style of stupas ; Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese adorn this confluence. Driving onwards, visit Tschogang Lhakhang, built in the 13th century by Thangthong Gyalpo, also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple which is now owned by the descendants of Thangthong Gyalpo.
Arrive in Paro and check in at your hotel.
This afternoon is dedicated to explore Paro and its surrounding.
Visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. After the visit walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Evening explore Paro main street and shopping area.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)
Day 12: Paro
After breakfast, embark on one of the most interesting excursion to Taktsang Monastery (approx 5 hours round trip walk). The Taktsang Monastery is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.
Afternoon drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari, “mountain of goddess” can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong.
Later visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. Later return to the hotel.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2280m)
Day 13: Depart Paro
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Our representative will help you with exit formalities and then bid you farewell.