Day 01: Guahati (India) – Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan)
Today upon your arrival at Guahati airport, your one-day guide or representative from India will be there to welcome you. After a short introduction drive straight to Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan) situated in the southeastern parts and has its borders with the Indian state of Assam to the south. Your drive is mainly through plains covering 106km and can be negotiable within 2 hours. At your arrival at Samdrup Jongkhar your Indian guide will help you finish the Bhutan entry formalities and then drive straight to the hotel. Here you bid adieu to your helpful Indian tourist guide.
Day 02: Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang
We suggest you to make an early start since the drive from Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang is quite a long drive and takes around six hours. Your drive gradually ascends uphill with several u-turns taking you from sub tropical belt to thick vegetation of rich forest. As you continue, driving through rich forest the charming landscape offers breathtaking vistas, pristine forest with several settlements amidst the hills and mountains offering unforgettable experience for adventure and nature enthusiast. You can also ask your driver to stop at certain points where you want to step out of your car and soak into the natural splendor. There are several places en-route where you can peep through into the cultural splendor including National Handloom Development project in Khaling offering an insight into the traditional Bhutanese textiles. From here a 3km drives takes you to Yongphu La (8200ft/2500m) and interestingly, there is a small airstrip on the ridge above and one day you may actually be able to fly in and out of here. From the pass the road, descend downhill till you reach your destination. En-route you can also stop at Zangtopelri Lhakhang located opposite Sherabtse Collage (Peak of Knowledge). The lhakhang houses several sacred relics with Terchham festival held every year to commemorate the feats of religious luminaries like Guru Rinpoche, Guru Chhowang and Sandag (Pema Lingpa’s youngest son). From here, your destination is only 31km downhill taking you through unique settlement and farmland. Arrivals at Trashigang check in to your hotel.
Day 03: Trashigang - Trashiyangtse Excursion
Today you will visit Trashiyangtse lies further north of Trashigang. It was established as separate districts in 1992 and is one of the newest districts in the country. The people here are known for making wooden bowls and containers, which are said to be the finest wooden products in Bhutan. The district is also famous for the 13 arts and crafts of Bhutan or Zorig Chusum offering six years course for students. En-route in Duksum, you can also visit the Iron Chain Bridge over Kholung Chu River. It was built in 15th century by the great Yogi Drubthob Thongtong Gyelpo and is considered one of the eight bridges the great saint built in Bhutan. If you are here during mid October to early March the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visited place offering a protected habitat for the rare and endangered Black-necked Crane that migrate from Tibet. The surrounding rich temperate fir forest is also home to some of the wildlife including big cats like Bengal Tiger and the common leopard. While you are in the town area visit the Chorten Kora, a stupa similar to that of Boudhanath in Nepal and was built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday. On your way back to Trashigang you can also make a short stop at Gom Kora, a small temple set in an undulating meadow along the riverbank. The small cave below the giant black rock that lies adjacent to the temple amidst vibrant lush fields is where Guru Padmasambhava have left his body imprint while meditating in the cave. Continue your drive to Trashigang and if time permits make a visit to Trashigang dzong. The dzong offer a scenic view of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. Drive to your hotel in the late evening.
Day 04: Trashigang – Mongar
After your leisurely breakfast in the hotel, drive to Mongar. Mongar is previously known as Zhongar, and is one of the six districts that make up eastern Bhutan and the district headquarter is truly a trend in eastern Bhutan situated on the mountainside instead of the valley. The township lies at an elevation of 1,620m. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliff, gorges, and dense conifer forests. Travelers will also have an opportunity to stop en-route to take photography of the surrounding isolated mountain valleys, scattered settlement, farmhouses with golden roofed monasteries and temples dotted throughout surrounded by colorful Buddhist prayer flags. Arrival at Mongar check into your hotel and in the evening you can walk down through the town and surrounding places for photography.
Day 05: Mongar – Lhuntse Excursion
Wedged like an upside down tooth in the northeastern corner of the kingdom, the ancient region of Kurtoe (or Lhuntse known today) enjoys two auspicious connotations in the Bhutanese mind. First, it is considered the spiritual home of Bhutan’s beloved kings, and secondly, it boasts some of the most sacred sites of pilgrimage in the country. Geographically, Lhuntse is one of the remotest districts of Bhutan and lies between an elevation of 500m – 5500m.
Your drive initially travel through open landscape, then sweeping down a tighter valley till you reach the fast flowing Kuri Chu river. A 12km ahead lies Autsho village with its cornfields. En-route you pass through startling white Chorten surrounded by a hundred and eight smaller chortens, marked by series of narrow valleys and sinuous ravens with village perched on a ridges offering many opportunities to stop and soak in the grand vista. Your drive to Lhuntse is truly a breathtaking. Explore some of the easy reaching sites including Lhuntse Dzong and Khoma Textile village known to produce some of the best textile weaving in the country. Later return to Mongar for night halt.
Day 06: Mongar – Bumthang
The journey from Mongar to Bumthang is one of the most beautiful in the Himalayas. We suggest you to make an early start since the drive from Mongar to Bumthang is quite a tiring drive covering 179km and takes around 7 hours. Your drive is truly a unique and en-route experience the dramatic landscape, scattered settlements and unsurpassed beauty with rich and diverse biodiversity.
Day 07: Bumthang Sightseeing
Explore a rich cultural heritage of Bumthang. In the morning hour drive further, north of the town to visit the Jambay Lhakhang built in 659 AD by Tibetain King Songtsen Gampo to pin down the left knee of the giant ogress whose body lay across the Himalayas. A short walk from here through farmland takes you to Kurjey Lhakhang. The temple complex of kurjey is an important place of pilgrimage for devout Bhutanese as it was built around a rock on which Guru Padmasambhava left an imprint of his body while meditating there in 8th century. After Kurjey continue further 30-minute walk through the old trail crossing the suspension bridge over Chamkhar Chu River takes you to Tamshing Lhakhang. The lhakhang was founded in 1501 by Tertom Pema Lingpa who was personally involved in its construction. During the construction of the temple, it was believed that he was accompanied by celestial beings. A short 5 minute walk from Tamshing takes you to Kencho Sum Lhakhang, was originally built in 7th century but later restored by the great “treasure revealer” Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century. The three sacred Buddha statues that grace the temples shrine are said to have miraculously flown there from Khini lhakhang in Kurtoe. A 5km drive takes you to Chamkhar town for lunch. After your good lunch in the restaurant drive to visit the giant Jakar Dzong lies on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. Jakar Dzong or “Castle of the White Bird” was initially built as a monastery and later converted into a dzong in 1677 and renamed it as Yuelay Namgyel Dzong. Today the dzong functions as the administrative and the religious seat of the district. You now head down the main road below the dzong and proceed up the valley to visit Wangduecholing Palace built in 1857 by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel, the father of the first king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk. In the late evening, stroll around Chamkhar town.
Day 08: Bumthang – Trongsa – Phobjikha
Early hotel checkout, drive to Phobjikha valley via Trongsa. The road now climbs past Kiki La at (9300ft/2835m) and Chhumey valley through apple trees and blue pines and finally climbs steep above Gyetsa. As you ascend, the roads pass through dense forest of blue pine, bamboo and fir and gradually reach the high point of the drive – the Yotong La at 11,000ft/3354m. From this lofty pass, it is all the way downhill until you reach Trongsa at an elevation of 6800ft/2073m. Trongsa is one of the twenty districts but till the very recent past played a pivotal role in the history of the country. In 19th century, it was the de facto center of authority as the penlop controlled all of the central and eastern Bhutan, including the rich fertile southern duars. En-route you can stop for photography as the surrounding mountains and dense forest offers a breathtaking views. Arrival at Trongsa, just below the tiny town lays the Trongsa Dzong on a ridge overlooking the Mangdue chu river, in complete harmony with its surrounding. It is possibly the most impressive dzong in the country. It was built in 1644 by Chhogyel Minjur Tenpa, who later became the third Druk Desi and renamed it to Druk Minjur Rabten Tse Dzong. Later in 1777, Desi Tenzin Rabgyel enhanced the structure and now contains twenty-three temples. Having taken the sights of Trongsa, the road now takes you to Phobjikha valley. The drive to Phobjikha from Trongsa is only 84km and takes you through rich forest of broad-leaved trees and settlements. Chendebji Chorten lies 41km ahead and you can make a short break walking down to the chorten. It lies on the bank of Nikka Chu. This startling white stone chorten is built in the Nepalese style with eyes painted on all four sides. It was built in eighteenth century by lama Shida of Tibet to suppress a demon who had been troubling the inhabitants of the valley. The road finally ascends uphill through rich forest of fir, rhododendron and bamboos until you reach Pelela pass at 11,070ft/3375m. From this lofty pass continue further and just off the main road, you turn left and gradually ascend to Lawala pass 10,800ft/3293m. In summer, the hill slops are alive with vibrant blooms of pink, white and red rhododendron and you may even encounter some yaks or the odd barking deer or red panda. A short descend downhill finally leads you to Phobjikha valley, the winter roosting ground of the Black-necked Crane.
Day 09: Phobjikha – Punakha
In the morning hour, before you depart to Punakha make a short one-hour lovely hike through the valley and finally leads you to thefame Gangtay monastery located on a hilltop at approximately 2,800 meters above sea level. The location of the goemba offers a clear view of the valley. More importantly, the Gangtay goemba was founded by Je Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1613. The current emanation of Terton Pema Lingpa, the Gangtay Trulku, is the Chief Abbot of the monastery. After taking the sight of the valley your drive takes you backcrossing Lawala pass and then to the main road. From here, it is all the way downhill till you reach Punakha valley lies at 1350 meter above sea level. If time permits visit the Chemi Lhakhang located on a barren hill above Sobsokha village. It is a lovely 30-40 minute walk and takes you through cultivated fields. The Lhakhang was built in 1499, by Lama Ngawang Chogyel to honor his brothers Lama Drukpa Kuenley and his great deeds. Returning to the main road drive to your hotel in Punakha. Rest day at leisure.
Day 10: Punakha Sightseeing
Today in the morning hour, you will be having an optional hiking and both the hike are located in the northern part of Punakha.
- Chorten Ningpo Hike: The Chorten Ningpo hike is recently ranked as the best walking place in Punakha. It also have got many interesting places en-route offering great opportunities for visitors to experience the daily farming activities of local people. It also boasts several historical temples including Kabji Chorten Ningpo dated back to 15th century and Thu Drub Gang Lhakhang where Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel performed his magical power against the five lamas. Beside the cultural and architectural splendor, the enchanting pristine natural environment of the land offers a fascinating place to walk.
- Khamsum Yueley Namgyel: The temple perched on the majestic hillside of blue pine forest above Yebesa village. It is a 2-hour leisurely hike over the gentle hill with panoramic view of the Kabji village and surrounding hillside. The walk begins with crossing a suspension bridge over Mo Chu river and gently climbs through terrace of rice field and finally climbs uphill through lush blue pine forest. On your way back you will take the other way round beginning with steep descent and then finally through the bank of Mo Chu river. Before entering Bali village a suspension bridge takes you over to the other side of the river and then finally leads you to the main road where your vehicle awaits to see you.
On your way back to Punakha, visit the glorious Punakha Dzong, saddle on the confluence of Pho Chu (Male) and Mo Chu (Female) River. The dzong cuts a striking picture with its imposing walls rising up from the tumbling clear waters of the river and framed against strikingly blue skies – with a row of flowering Jacaranda trees providing a beautiful texture to the viewers. The dzong was built in 1637 and named Pungthang Dechen Phodrang or “Palace of Great Happiness” and was built by Zhandrung Ngawang Namgyel. It surrounds with myths and stories and for that matter you can ask your guide or the local people. Historically Punakha serves as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. The establishment of Wangchuk dynasty on 17th December 1907 took place in Punakha Dzong and the first National Assembly was held in the dzong in 1953. Today Punakha Dzong continues to be the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body.
Day 11: Punakha – Thimphu
Your drive to Thimphu takes around three hours and we suggest you to make a leisurely start after your breakfast. The road takes you pass Chemi Lhakhang with great view of the surrounding valley. As you reached Lobesa your drive turns right from the crossroad and slowly begins to ascend with several turns and twists. The road is much busier compare to other eastern and central parts of Bhutan. The ascend is mainly through virgin forest with the magnolia tree blossoming in April and lending its beauty with freshness of mountain breeze, the smell of the spring flower, the sight and sounds of the nature and finally takes you to Dochula pass at 10150ft/3100m. The top is unlike that of any other pass you will encounter here or for that matter anywhere in the world. On a clear day the view of the eastern Himalayan, mountain range from Dochula is possibly one of the best in the country. Beside the Himalayan mountain range, the pass also offers 108 magnificent chortens in an amazing setting. These chortens ware constructed as recently as 2004 and the groups of chortens are known as Druk Wangyel Chortens or “Chortens of the Victory of the Druk Gyelpo”. From this lofty pass, it is downhill for 22km till you reach your destination.
At your early arrival in Thimphu drive straight to Kuenselphodrang (Buddha Point) located about 6km from city to visit the Buddha Dordenma Statue which is 169ft is the world’s tallest Buddha statue. Returning backstop at National Memorial Chorten located in the heart of the city. This chorten was built in 1974 in memory of the Third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk by his mother Ashi Phuntsho Choedoen Wangchuk. The complex is visited by people from all walks throughout the day and is one of the most public religious places in the country. Later drive to your hotel.
Day 12: Thimphu Sightseeing – evening drive to Paro
The affluent and vibrant province nestled between the mountain hills posses the real charm. The capital is unlike most capital cities of the world. There are no high-rise buildings, no traffic lights! The traffic lights is directed by policeman, standing on highly decorated boxes. The capital city of happening also serves as the cultural hub for ten and thousands of locals and foreigners. Well preserved cultural heritage, serene environment and easy accessibility of modern amenities are peculiarities that sets Thimphu apart from rest of the provinces in Bhutan. Your tour program in Thimphu includes, in the morning hour drive further north of the city for 30 minute and hike to Cheri and Tango Goemba
- Cheri Goemba Hike: The hike to the Goemba starts with crossing a lovely wooden bridge that spans the Wang Chu, and then ascends gently through the rich forest of rhododendron and oaks until you finally reached the monastery. It is a lovely 1.5-hour hike up to Cheri Goemba. The goemba was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1620 and is the place where he established the first monastic body.
- Tango Goemba Hike: This is another 300m hike and takes around one hour walk through beautiful forest from the road point. The goemba sits at the edge of richly forested hill with its great white walls appears stunning in contrast to the surrounding foliage and dominate the entire hillside. It was founded by Lama Gyelwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century. Today the monastery is an important centre of higher learning for monks. The monastery was also associated with Lama Drukpa Kuenley and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
It is now time to return to Thimphu for lunch after which you can take in some more attractions that this quaint capital city has to offer. We would suggest starting with National Institute of Zorig Chusum (Painting School). The school preserves the invaluable heritage and promotes arts in Bhutan, started in 1971. Your next stop of the day is the National Textile Museum followed by weekend vegetable market where farmers and small business vendors gather on the bank of Wang Chu where the weekend market is held. It is an interesting place to visit and provides opportunity to mix with the local people. Your last stop of the day sightseeing in Thimphu is the Thimphu Dzong known as “fortress of the glorious religion”, initially erected in 1702, by Sherab Wangchuk, the 13th Druk Desi. It is open to visitors after office hours, and when monk body moves to Punakha in the winter months.
Later in the evening drive to Paro it takes only 1 hour covering 65km
Day 13: Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest
The highlight of the excursion will be graded as unforgettable memory as the incredible “Tiger’s Nest Hile” unveils the era of rescue by Guru Padmasambhava from the darkness period. Taktsang, literally means the Tiger’s Lair and is adventurously perched on a cliff at 3000ft above Paro valley. The history dated back to 8th century when Guru Padmasambhava flew on the back of tigress from Tibet en-route Singye Dzong in northeast Bhutan. His mission to subdue evil spirits dwelling in the Himalayan region of Bhutan was brought to fruition after meditating for three months in the existing cave. Up on his blessing, the current stature of the monastery was initiated in 1694 and unfortunately the old structure was engulfed by fire in 1998 and it was revamped in 2004, which you will behold on you visit. The fascinating hike could vary in duration depending on the physique of an individual. However, at an average speed the hike takes around 3-4 hour. You also have other option, whether to make up until the goemba or enjoy the breathtaking up view of the goemba from the cafeteria viewpoint. In the evening, stroll around the Paro town for your last day shopping and buying gifts for your friends and family back home.
Day 14: Hotel – Airport