Bhutan West to East Tour Itinerary
Duration: 15 Nights, 16 Days
Location: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Phobjikha, Trongsa, Bumthang, Lhuntse, Mongar, Trashi Yangtse, Trashigang, Khaling, Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 1 : Arrive at Paro AirportYour introduction to our enchanting kingdom begins on a flight over the Himalayas into the lush green valley of Paro; truly one of the world’s most spectacular sights. Flying into Paro, Bhutan is a unique experience altogether. You will view the world’s highest, most majestic peaks and enjoy the view of the approaching valley with its primeval alpine forest, monasteries, temples and farmhouse nestled in splendid mountain isolation. Welcome greeting in a Bhutanese style with Tashi Khada (white scarf) by our representative & your guide at the Airport. You will be driven to hotel for refreshment and a brief discussion on your tour program. (Please note; your itinerary shall be flexible and your guide shall give you options based on your interest)
Paro Sights & Acclimatization Day!The National Museum ( Ta-Dzong).Once the watch tower for the Rinpung Dzong ( Fortress), it was converted into the national Museum in 1968 (one of the best museums of Asia). The museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. Visit the Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guard houses to the Dzong. Today, this massive fortress built in 1645 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower ( Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. In the evening after tea, visit the oldest temple of the kingdom, Kichu Lhakhang. This temple was built in 629AD by a Tibetan King to pin down a giant demon. There is a sacred orange tree that grew on its own at the courtyard which bears fruits on all the seasons. This tree is said to be 600 years old. In the evening walk around Paro town. Overnight Paro. (Alt; 2280m)
Day 2 : Quest for Mystical Taktsang
After a wholesome breakfast, drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. This point offers bird eye view of the Mt. Chomolhari (7329m). On the way back spend the day hiking up the forested path to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s most famous and scenic icon. The climb is steep and takes about 4 hours round trip. An important place of pilgrimage and refuge for more than 1200 years, Taktsang Monastery clings to sheer cliffs two-thousand feet above Paro Valley, and from your closest vantage point on a rocky ledge directly across from it, you will still need 200-300 mm lenses and a steady tripod to get tight photographs.
This sacred place got its name when Guru Rinpoche rode there on the back of a flying tiger and meditated in a cave behind the present-day monastery. Sadly, in 1998, the central temple was destroyed by fire, leaving the country in mourning for their holiest of spiritual places. But religious leaders and the King quickly developed a plan to rebuild Taktsang and donations started pouring in from Buddhist centers all over the world, and today, the magnificently rebuilt exterior is complete. Tiger’s Nest is once again the subject of cloud-shrouded posters that say, “Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Picnic lunch on the hillside cafeteria.
Special permit will be arranged for you to enter the Tiger’s Nest monastery but you will not be allowed to take pictures of the inside shrines.
Evening, visit a typical village home for a traditional Bhutanese style dinner accompanied by the local liquor called “Ara” (tastes somewhat like the Japanese Sake) & yak meat. Then luxuriate in the Bhutanese equivalent of a Jacuzzi called a “Chu Tse” (hot stone bath). River rocks are heated and dunked into a large wooden tub with herbs. This type of bath is considered to have medicinal properties of healing. Overnight Paro.
Day 3 : Countryside Getaway to Haa Valley
In morning, drive to the valley of Haa via Chele La Pass (3,810m). This is a scenic drive and you might spot few yaks along the way. The pristine Haa Valley, ancestral home of Bhutan’s Queen Mother was closed to outsiders till 2001. It is surrounded by forested hillsides full of ancient shrines, while the narrow valley floor is dotted with fields of millet, barley, and potatoes. Its farmhouses are adorned with intricately painted wooden cornices and ornately carved window frames.
You will walk through the serene hamlets and remote monasteries below mountain peaks like the temple of Black & White Dove. Evening, take a leisurely drive to the beautiful valley of Damthang and on the way back stroll around the remote town of Haa. Overnight Haa. (Alt; 2670m)
Day 4 : Thimphu Lifestyle & City Tour (106km/ 4.5hr)
This is a lovely drive through wonderful landscape and remote settlements. Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. It is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. All houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style. En route visit Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortress of Bhutan built in 1629 and it houses the largest monastic schools in the country.
On arrival, visit the Farmer Fresh Market which opens only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Try some organic fruits & nuts. In evening, take a drive to Buddha Gang to enjoy the sunset and the lovely view of Thimphu city. Astrologers & locals believe this spot is one of the main meeting point of the sacred energy vibe of the country hence the massive statue of Buddha facing the rising sun. On the way back circumambulate around Memorial Chorten. This huge stupa was built in memory of the late 3rd King and it’s the favorite place for the people of Thimphu to pray and show their devotion. From here on embark on a walking tour that includes; Hongkong Market/ Main Traffic Area/ Norzin Lam/ Chang Lam, Central Plaza/ Clock Tower, etc. Overnight Thimphu. (Alt; 2320m)
Day 5 : Thimphu Sights & Excursion to Tango Chari
Morning, drive to the animal sanctuary where the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, is found in captivity. Walk around the BBS tower which is also known as the “romantic point” and lovers often come here to look at the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley.
Visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. They also have on display the largest Picture Book on Bhutan in the world.
Visit the Zorig Chuksum “School for Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts” followed by a visit to Textile Museum, Handicraft Emporium and some local shops for antiques
After lunch, drive to Chari monastery located 12 kms away from Thimphu. This 12th century Chari goemba is one of the most popular meditational retreat centre for the monks. The meditational sites are glued to the rocky cliff 300m above the river valley. Once the monks graduate from Tango Monastery most of them decides to sit for meditation around the holy temple of Chari from three years to nine years.
The hike to Chari goemba takes about 2.5hrs round trip. After visiting the holy shrines, you can spend some time meditating in the temple and the surrounding campus. It is believed, meditation happens own at this serene site.
On the way back, visit the Tashichhoe Dzong, the main secretariat building, the office of the King and Throne room and also the house of the State Monastic Body. In evening, witness an archery match played by the locals with lots of hue & cry! Archery is the national game of Bhutan and it is also one of the best ways of expanding your public relation. Overnight Thimphu.
Day 6 : Punakha & Wangdue Adventure (78km/ 3hr)
The journey will take you across Dochu La pass ( 3150m) where you can enjoy the spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountain ranges. Take a walk around the 108 stupas which decorates the pass and visit the Drukwangyel lhakhang built by the four Queens as a tribute to the beloved fourth King of Bhutan.
After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness.” It hosts the administrative seat of the district. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female river. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned. This ancient fortress is considered to be one of the most beautiful by many. Punakha is the former winter Capital of Bhutan and now It’s the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot.
In the evening, take a hike to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is called the Temple of Fertility as it is believed that childless couples who come here to pray for a child is usually blessed with a child. This is the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman.” The trail takes you through the Himalayan paddy fields and a typical village called Lobesa. You can take a leisurely walk in Punakha town if you aren’t tired. Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue. (Alt; 1240m)
Day 7 : Rural Expedition to Phobjikha (65km/ 3hr)
Visit the Wangdue Dzong in the morning. This classic fortress has many sacred temples hidden within its old structure and your guide will take you to some of the main shrine rooms for blessings.
Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the north western tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservatoin area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Goenpa that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjikha valley.
According to legend that the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson ( the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613. The Phobjikha valley is also one of the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its nothern habitats in Tibet and Siberia to these grounds.
On arrival, visit the Gangtey Goenpa. This is one of the biggest Nyingma temple of the kingdom located on the hilltop. In evening, hike on the Gangtey nature trail hike which takes you through the Blue Pine forest to a remote little village. Try traditional Bhutanese snacks made from corn and rice with a homemade wine at the farmer’s house. Overnight Phobjikha. (Alt; 2900m)
Day 8 : Trongsa Safari & Nimalung Festival (140km/ 5.5hr)
At dawn take a walk out into the serene valley of Phobjikha to enjoy the sunrise. After breakfast head on the journey which will take you across Pele La pass (3,300m), which is marked by a chorten and an array of prayer flags. On a clear day, you can get spectacular views of the highest peaks of the kingdom and its quite common to spot some yaks and yak herders on this pass. This point marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.
Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. You’ll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. As you drive down through rhododendron trees and ferns, you’ll reach Chendebji village. This was a night halt for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reign of the 2nd King of Bhutan.
Just below Chendebji village is the Chendebji chorten, a large white structure beside a stream. This chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu. The last village before you reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which provides full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive roof. Trongsa Dzong, built in 1645, is a vast, white fortress that appears to grow directly up from the narrow green ridge on which it is constructed. It is one of the most powerful Dzongs and even today the crown prince of Bhutan must first become its Trongsa Penlop (governor) before he can become Bhutan’s King.
En route visit Trongsa Dzong and the Ancient watch tower which has been now turned into a historical museum. This tower provides a good view of the Trongsa town & its surrounding valley. Drive to Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This journey will take you over one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan via the Yotong La pass (3425m), which is also the habitat for the Satyr peasant. Good for photography.
As you enter the Chhume Valley (the first of the four valleys that comprise the Bumthang Valley) you can visit a center of Yathra weaving. Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout the country.
Take a walk to Nimalung Dratshang (monastery) en route and attend the lively evening Tsechu (festival) at the courtyard of the monastery. Hundreds of villagers & locals attend this festival with their finest ghos & kiras (traditional dress). It is believed by the locals, attending Tshechu brings blessing and purifies your life. The locals don’t go for the festival only to enjoy but also to show respect to all the great seekers of the past who eventually found enlightenment. You can enjoy the Colorful Mask dances, Spiritual folk music, traditional Bhutanese dances, the funny clown (Atsara), the enthusiastic crowed and more…
On arrival, visit the Kharchu Draktsang, a monastery on the northern slope of Bumthang valley. This monastery is one of the biggest Buddhist colleges of the kingdom and a home to the reincarnation himself (Namkhaningpo Rimpoche). This point offers great view of the Bumthang valley and its town. (Bumthang had been named “the little Switzerland of Asia” by many travelers. Wait here to catch the golden hour while the sun sets gently. Evening, stroll down from the monastery to the river bank and walk around the peaceful town of Bumthang. Overnight Bumthang. (Alt; 2580m)
Day 9 : Kurjey Tsechu & Bumthang’s Spiritual Sights
On rise, visit the Jakar dzong (fortress of the White-bird). This beautiful dzong situated on the hill overlooking Bumthang town is probably one of the biggest fortresses in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about 1 km in circumference.
Than attend the Holy Festival of Kurjey, one of the most sacred temples of the kingdom. You will meet lots of devoted locals here with a happy face. Interact with them and take pictures. Villagers love when their picture is being taken. All the festivals around the kingdom has deep religious meaning & significance while this festival also consist an integration of religious prayer & blessing which helps to dispel evil spirits and restore divinity to the community and remind humans about the path of Dharma.
Numerous lively shops & entertainment gets displayed surrounding the temple hence It’s common to see villagers & children buying many things to gift it to their family members & friends who couldn’t make it to the festival.
After lunch, spend the day hiking through the ancient and important monasteries such as, Jambay lhakhang, Tamshing & Pema Samba lhakhangs. (These temple have many mythical stories linked to its origin and some of them dates back as early as 7th century. Your guide will unfold its mystery as you visit these holy sites).
In evening, drive to visit the extensive palace of Wangdichholing, the early home of the third king of Bhutan, which was built in 1857 on the site of the battle field. It is the first palace of the present Wangchuk dynasty and also the first palace that was not designed as a fortress. Overnight Bumthang.
Day 10 : Ura’s Nomadic Sojourn (48km/ 1.5hr)
En route drive to the riverside and hike to the Menbar Tsho (the burning lake). This lake is the holiest of lakes in Bhutan and when a local visits this lake they tie a coin inside a white scarf, make a wish and offer it to the lake. It is believed someday your wish will be fulfilled.
Ura is one of the oldest villages of the kingdom situated on an elevation of 3100m. The people here still live a semi nomadic lifestyle by herding yaks and sheep. This typical Bhutanese village is known for their warmth & hospitality.
Stop by Shertingla pass (3590m) from where you can see Mt. Gangkhar Puensum (7541m), the highest peak of Bhutan and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world..
In evening, explore this beautiful village with your guide or on your own and experience their humble lifestyle. Have Bhutanese style dinner at traditional home with a Bhutanese family. Overnight Homestay in Ura. (Alt; 3100m)
Day 11 : Mongar Landscape Tour (148km/ 5-6hr)
After a homemade breakfast in Ura, gear up for a fantastic drive to Mongar. You will be able to see the rivers, landscapes, cliffs, different types of forest, water fall and the distant glacial peaks. Picnic lunch will be arranged along the journey near Namling’s rocky cliff. The journey takes you through mist-covered Thrumshingla pass (3800m), which is one of the highest pass in Bhutan. On the eastern side of the pass the three-hour drive plunges down through a sunless forest almost 10,000 feet to the village of Sengor. Then after a few miles of level road it plunge again through what is considered by many to be the most “white knuckle” 12 miles of national highway in the country. Here the road was blasted out of sheer cliffs with a guard-railed edge that drops clear out of sight.
After crossing the bridge over the Kuru River, 15 miles further on the climbing twisting road, there is a ancient trade route stop of Mongar. Since the area is very mountainous with few valleys, Mongar is built on the side of a mountain. The true homeland of the Eastern People, the Sharchops, begins from Mongar. People from the east are shy yet friendly. Evening, explore the Mongar town and interact with the locals. Overnight Mongar. (Alt; 1600m)
Day 12 : Textile Tour to Lhuentse (154km/ 6hr)
Lhuentse is one of the most isolated districts of the kingdom. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the present monarchy.
Visit the higher secondary school en route in Tangmachu village. Meet some of the teachers & visit few classes. Talk to the students and observe what they learn. The students of Bhutan are one of the most well behaved students in Asia. As they are very curious about the outside world they might ask you few questions though they may be shy.
Picnic lunch along the way. On arrival, explore the remote lifestyle and culture of these talented villagers with your guide. Visit some home and try to learn the art of traditional weaving. In evening, drive back to Mongar. Overnight Mongar.
Day 13 : Exploring Trashigang District (91km/3.5hr)
Your visit to Mongar high school will be arranged in the morning, when the students would have lined up for assembly. The students will recite prayer in unison to the God of intelligence; there will be a short speech by two students one in English and one in the national language (dzongkha) and a briefing by a principal. This session will be followed by a national anthem.
The road will take you across KoriLa pass (2400m), stop offer butter lamps, and for tea and cookies as we have all along most of the passes. Beyond the pass, driving through corn fields and patches of banana trees, we come to the village of Yadi where we will stop at a farm house and photograph weavers making natural dyes from native plants.
After Yadi the road zigs and zags in what seems like never ending switchbacks descending to SheriChu village at the Sheri River. After SheriChu we come across roadside sheds where oil is extracted from lemon grass. After crossing two more rivers the road climbs up to Trashigang town which situated at the slope of a rocky mountain. Trashigang is the biggest and the second most populated district of the country. It is surrounded by several villages from all the corners. Villagers often come here to shop and sometimes just to get the feeling of being in a city. You might spot some nomadic people who’d have come down for shopping.
In evening, visit Trashigang dzong located on a cliff. The entire eastern Bhutan was ruled from this fortress in the early history. Take a walk around Trashigang’s unique town and visit some local shops & some friendly bars. Overnight Trashigang. (Alt; 1070m)
Day 14 : Discovering Trashi Yangtse (106km/ 5hr)
After breakfast, drive to Trashi Yangtse which is situated in a small river valley, and it is a lovely spot from which to take walk in the surrounding countryside. This district is very near to the Tibetan border and in the olden days of Bhutan this village was popular place for trade. Trashiyangtse is famous for its wooden containers and bowls, which makes inexpensive, attractive and useful mementos of the visit to this remote region.
En route visit the Gom Kora. This temple is near the Drangmechu river. The myth says in the 7th century there was a demon living in the river who used to attack the villagers. When Guru Rimpoche came to save the villagers the demon disappeared into the river. Guru meditated under the rock cave near the river bank and subdued the demon. This cave still contains the body print of the second Buddha hence it is worshiped by the Bhutanese. It is said that if anyone can climb below the rock cave and emerge from the summit, he will be forgiven of all his sins. A few kilometers from Gom Kora you will arrive Doksum village. Take a look around the village. The people from here are said to have great talents in weaving.
As you enter Trashiyangtse, drop by Chorten Kora (a huge stupa). Chorten Kora is one of the only two such stupas in the kingdom with styles similar to those found in Nepal and it host to a great festival which attract all of east residents. The stupa is entirely whitewashed and is ideally situated next to the running brook. Once you arrive Trashiyangtse, lunch will be arranged at the royal guest house. The king spends the night in this government guest house when he visits Trashiyangtse. Visit the Zorig Chuksum “School for Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts” followed by a walking tour around the wonderful town of Trashiyangtse. Evening, drive back to Trashigang. Overnight Trashigang.
Day 15 : Samdrup Jongkhar “The Final Voyage” (180km/ 6-7hr)
After breakfast drive to Kanglung. Have homemade tea & snacks at Aum Chimi’s home. After farewell from this family, walk around Kanglung’s small town and visit the nearby college & interact with the students. This was the only college in the whole of country till 2005 and it was rated as the 7th best college in Asia. It’s is a dream of many Bhutanese students to get a scholarship to this college. Visit the Zangtopelri. This temple is a replica of the celestial abode of the second Buddha in heaven. Stop in Khaling and visit the post office for stamp collection. Take a short walk in Khaling town. Lunch in Wamrong.
After lunch take a walk around Wamrong town. When you reach the Mirror Cliff, your guide will assist you in putting the windhorse flags on the trees. Windhorse flag brings blessing and protection to sentient beings. Since this is your last day in the country. We believe this will bring you good luck and safety on your return trip to hometown. On arrival, check in hotel and free to shop or walk around. Farewell dinner and overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar. (Alt; 233m)
Day 16 : Departure
Transport will be arranged for your drop to Guwahati. Our representative will bid you farewell at the Indo-Bhutan Gate. Travel through the plains of Assam toward Guwahati Airport (India). Tashi Delek!