Package #11: The Bhutan Himalyan Shangrila Tour – 16 days
Enjoy the mountains and the marvelous view of high Himalayan peaks in Bhutan as you travel from West towards the eastern region of Bhutan.
- Day 1: Arrive at Phuentsholing Gate
- Day 2: Travel to Thimphu (152Km, 4-5hrs)
- Day 3: Thimphu sightseeing tours, activities and explorations
- Day 4: Continue with Thimphu sightseeing tours, activities and explorations
- Day 5: Travel to Punakha (71Km, 2-3hrs)
- Day 6: Sightseeing in Punakha and Wangduephodrang continues
- Day 7: Travel to Trongsa (129Km, 3-4hrs)
- Day 8: Trongsa sight seeing and travel to Bumthang (68km, 2-3hrs)
- Day 9: Bumthang sightseeing tour and travel to Ura
- Day 10: Ura sightseeing
- Day 11: Travel to Mongar (198 Km, 6-7hrs)
- Day 12: Mongar Tour and travel back to Gyelpozhing
- Day 13: Travel Trashigang (91Km, 3-4hrs)
- Day 14: Travel to Tashi Yangtse and Travel back to Trashigang (54Km, 4-5hrs)
- Day 15: Travel to Samdrup Jongkhar (180 km, 6 hours)
- Day 16: Depart for onward destination from Darangamela – Samdrup Jongkhar border.
Day 01: Arrive at Phunetsholing Gate
Depending on the local time of your arrival in Phuntsholing, you will be taken to the Hotel to take some rest and then after that, we will discuss with you the following sightseeing in Phuntsholing as per the time permits;
Visit Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang
Situated in heart of city centre, this small temple represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. On the ground floor, there are statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and paintings on Buddha’s life while the next floor contains eight Bodhisattavas and statues of Avalokiteshvara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On the top floor, there is a main statue of Amitabha.
Visit Kharbandi Goemba
Karbandi Monastery, or as locals call it, Karbandi Goemba, is located at a height of 400 metres. Founded in 1967, it’s the winter residence of the late Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron. The temple compound houses impressive, large statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Guru Rinpoche and Buddha Shakyamuni. The plush garden located right outside the monastery gives a panoramic view of the Bengal Plain and the Phuentsholing town. Eight different Tibetan Buddhist Stupas can be seen enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the garden.
According to legend, an Indian pilgrim couple visited this place and prayed for a child. The wish was granted, and since then, couples have been visiting this place in hopes of a better future.
Visit Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre
The Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre is undisputedly one of the most popular places to visit in Phuntsholing. Get close to these dangerous creatures in real life, and see them snooze or feed. Of course, how close you get depends on the time you visit the breeding centre. With various species of crocodiles and alligators, it’s the place to be if you’re an animal lover.
In the Evening we’ll visit Phuntsholing market and take a stroll through the town’s main street. Dinner and overnight halt at the hotel in Phuntsholing.
Day 02: Travel to Thimphu (152Km, 4-5hrs)
Travelling from Phuntsholing towards Thimphu through the curvy roads with sharp turns is something you must experience. The uphill journey from Phuentsholing to Thimphu follows the first highway in Bhutan, built in 1962 by Dantak, the Indian border-roads organisation. It’s still the most important road in the country and is constantly being widened and improved. Driving on these roads should be on every traveller’s list. The scenery on the roads is so magnificent, you might want to stop in the middle of the road and just observe the beauty and take pictures. Leaving the busy Phuntsholing town, the road climbs up through the teak jungle for about 5km to the Rich ending, where Technical Institute and Polytechnic College are based. Just before it, on the right side of the ridge is Kharbandi Gompa (400m), After crossing Rich ending check-point, the road begins a long climb, first through a series of switchback turns at Sorchen, then through tropical jungles up to Kamji village with a small temple, and gradually through misty areas to Jumja and the large village of Gedu (2,200m). From Gedu the drive is along the ridge with spectacular scenery of landscapes, waterfalls and distant villages. After crossing Takti-chu, the road drops downhill and crosses the bridge over Wangchu at Wangkha, after which the climb begins to Chimakothi township. But now with the recent bypass opened for traffic on 18th July 2018, we do not have to travel all the way through olden route which now saves a lot of time. Bypass itself is a broad and smooth way which looks so stunning that following the river upstream to the Chuzzom (confluence). Chhuzom is the juncture of the Thimphu river (Wang Chu) and Paro river (Pa Chhu). Chuzom is also a major road junction, with southwest road leading to Haa (79km), south road to Phuntsholing (141km) and northeast to Thimphu (30km). From Chuzom, the road follows Wangchu River upstream as you pass through villages and suburbs to the capital, Thimphu. The notable villages you will see along the way are Kharbije, Ramtogto and on the opposite side of the river is Sisina, where you can stop to see the small nunnery institutions, Khasadrapchhu with Hydro plant and shops, Namseling with extensive rice paddies, apple orchards and several old houses. As you approach Thimphu, the suburbs are Simtokha and Lungtenphu. Simtokha Dzong lies en route. Simtokha means the place of profound tantric teaching, this dzong now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language.
On arrival in Thimphu, check into the hotel. Evening, time for an exploratory walk before dinner. After diner we will sit back and discuss with your of the next day sightseeing areas in Thimphu. We are much certain that we cannot cover all the sightseeing itinerary listed in this package because Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan has the largest tourist attraction site in Bhutan, however your tour guide will be kind enough to discuss with you and prioritise the most attraction sightseeing to visit first.
Day 03: Thimphu Tour
After breakfast, sightseeing of Thimphu valley includes the following;
Visit Tashichho Dzong; the Dzong has been the seat for Bhutan’s government since 1968. It presently houses the throne room and offices for the king, the cabinet secretariat and the Ministry for home & cultural affairs. It also houses the Central Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks.
Visit Textile Museum, you will see the Royal Collection, of Bhutanese antique textile artefacts, warp pattern weaves, and weft pattern weaves including crowns of Bhutan’s kings, Namzas (dresses) and other accessories are worn by the Royal Family, The ground floor of the Textile Museum has displays demonstrating the skills of spinning, colouring fibres, preparing a loom, and manipulating two sets of yarns. Decorative fabrics and textile arts and crafts are categorically displayed in the galleries situated on the first floor of the Textile Museum. There are displays showing the traditional regional garments produced by women and men in Bhutan, and those garments used for special religious occasions.
Visit Folk Heritage Museum. This museum lets you experience the traditional way of lifestyle at Bhutanese home. The museum also displays an impressive collection of typical household objects, tools and equipment. The Folk Heritage Museum is set inside a three-storied, 19th-century traditional house. The museum also organizes regular demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs as well as hosting educational programs for children.
Visit The National Library; was established in 1967 for the purpose of preservation and promotion of the rich cultural and religious heritage of Bhutan. It holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and contains arguably the best collection of religious and historical literature in the Himalayas.
Visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Zorig Chusum refers to the thirteen traditional visual arts and crafts that Bhutanese have practised for generations. The thirteen arts and crafts include; painting, carving, sculpture, calligraphy, carpentry, gold- silversmithing, bamboo work, wood turning, weaving and embroidery, pottery, blacksmithing, masonry and incense-stick making. You can have an interview or conversations with the students and instructors to know more. The showroom sells good-value pieces made by students.
Visit Simtokha Dzong; Built-in 1627 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, (the founder of Bhutan), the Dzong is the oldest fortress in Bhutan. The site is said to guard a demon that had vanished into the rock nearby, hence the name Simtokha, from simmo (demoness) and do (stone). The site was also a vitally strategic location from which to protect the Thimphu valley and entryway to the Dochu La and eastern Bhutan.
Visit Centenary Farmer Market is a must, The Centenary Farmer’s Market in Thimphu is an explosion of colours and scents. Thimphu residents throng the market on the weekends, to buy the freshest local produce (pure organic) from across the country, as well as a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and other products imported from India. You’ll see the variety of food in the country, including basket fiery chillies, fresh cheese, and fruits and the seasonal vegetables are eaten by the Bhutanese, including various types of Orchids and Ferns. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It’s fun to meander the aisles, taking in the lively atmosphere of the market.
Visit The TAKIN Preserve: Located in Motithang about 3km away from the heart of Thimphu city is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. The reason for declaring takin as a national animal of Bhutan on 25 November 2005 is attributed to a legend of the animal’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kuenley. When a small number of Takin were confined in a “mini-zoo” in Thimphu, the Fourth King of Bhutan felt that it was improper for a Buddhist country to confine animals for religious and environmental reasons. He, therefore, ordered the release of the animals and the closure of the mini-zoo. To everyone’s surprise, the takin, known for their docile behaviour, refused to leave the immediate area and stayed in the streets of Thimphu in search of food for weeks.
Visit National Memorial Chorten (Stupa): This stupa one of the most visible religious structures in heart of Thimphu city, The building of this landmark was originally envisaged by 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. Visitors will find elderly
Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Chorten literally means ‘Seat of Faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments, the ‘Mind of Buddha’.
Visit Buddha Dordenma Statue: This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures at a height of 51.5m, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue; 100,000 statues of which are 8-inches-tall and 25,000 statues of which are 12 inches tall. Each of these thousands of Buddhas has also been cast in bronze and gilded. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
Visit Tarayana Rural Products
Bhutan’s Queen Mother Dorje Wangmo (the fourth king’s wife) established this NGO to support rural communities across Bhutan through the marketing and sale of traditional crafts. Crafts here include paper products from Samtse, handwoven scarves, bags and nettle place mats, and the quality is generally high.
Visit Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu▲
This studio and art gallery is the capital’s main centre for local artists. The goal of the studio is to promote both traditional and contemporary works of Bhutanese art, to provide vocational training for young artists and to act as a creative meeting venue for artists. It’s a great place to plug into the Thimphu art scene, check out the latest exhibit and chat with artists. Some art is displayed in the public park outside.
Visit Changlimithang Archery Ground
On weekends it’s worth checking to see if there’s an archery tournament going on at this ground near the Changlimithang Stadium: whether it’s traditional bamboo or high-tech carbon-fibre bows, the skill, camaraderie and good-humoured ribbing are always entertaining. Traditional songs and victory dances are all part of the fun. Archers often practise here in the mornings.
By the evening when the times comes to conclude the day program, you can visit some of the most famous restraints, club and pubs for relaxation and jam-session. There are heaps of both international and local fine restaurant in the town
Day 04: Continue with Thimphu sightseeing tours, activities and explorations and travel to Paro (54km, 1-2hrs) in the evening
After Breakfast we will continue with the sightseeing tour of the following spots:
Visit Changangkha Lhakhang: This popular temple, perched like a fortress on a ridge above central Thimphu, hums with pilgrim activity. It was established in the 12th century on a site chosen by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo, who came from Ralung in Tibet. Parents traditionally come here to get auspicious names for their newborns or blessings for their young children from the protector deity Tamdrin (to the left in the grilled inner sanctum). Children are blessed by a phurba (ritual dagger) and given a sacred thread. The interior murals are particularly fine. Give the resident astrologer your birth date and he will consult divination charts to decide which kind of protective prayer flags will benefit you (Nu 150 for the flags). Don’t leave without checking out the shrine to the tshomen (mermaid) in the central courtyard and then taking in the excellent view from the back kora (pilgrim path), with its lovely black-and-gold prayer wheels.
Visit National Handicrafts Emporium
This government-run souvenir emporium has fixed prices and takes credit cards. There are a wide range of products under one roof, including traditional boots, bamboo baskets and festival masks.
Visit BBS Tower
There’s a wonderful view of Thimphu valley from the hillside below the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) tower (2685m), high above the town at the end of a road that branches off from the approach to the youth centre. Don’t photograph the telecommunications installation, but the valley is worth a few snaps particularly in the afternoon. The area is known as Sangaygang and the access road attracts fitness fanatics after work and becomes a lover’s lane after dark.
Visit Zilukha Nunnery
Just above Gadem Lam in the north of Thimphu is this modern nunnery, which is also called Drubthob Goemba. The site has links to Thangtong Gyelpo, and there’s an interesting enclosed chorten in the main courtyard. It’s best visited after the BBS tower, by taking Gaden Lam for great views of Thimphu and Trashi Chhoe Dzong.
Visit National Institute of Traditional Medicine where centuries old healing arts such as acupuncture and herbal remedies are still practised. Established in 1978, this institute collects medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya, such as Lingzhi, Laya and Lunana, and then distributes pills, tablets, ointments and medicinal teas to regional health-care units around the country. The small museum details some of the 300 herbs, minerals and animal parts that Bhutanese doctors have to choose from.Of particular interest is yartsa goenbub (cordyceps) – the high-altitude cure-all ‘Himalayan Viagra’, which is actually a caterpillar that has been mummified by a fungus. The curious ‘worm-root’ sells for up to US$25,000 per kilogram in China.
Visit Nehru-Wangchuck Cultural Centre
This Indian cultural centre in front of the Taj Tashi hotel runs performance programs, documentaries and lectures on South Asian, particularly Indian, culture. There’s also a library covering the religion and culture of South Asia and Tibet, plus a yoga room.
Visit Royal Botanical Garden
A road leads uphill from Babesa to the Royal Botanical Garden, which might be of interest to horticultural enthusiasts. The centre was inaugurated in 1999 and has a weedy collection of 500 species of plants. It’s a favourite weekend picnic spot of Thimphu residents.
Day 05: Travel to Punakha
After early breakfast, drive to Dochula pass (3,050m) which is enrolee to Trongsa. We’ll have a chance to stop for a photo shooting and taking fresh air at Dochula Pass. Dochula pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass. Bhutanese families enjoy visiting the pass during holidays and weekends to picnic and simply enjoy the scenery. It is common to see families and groups of friends seated amongst the chortens, enjoying a packed lunch and hot tea. For tourists, this is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of the Himalayan mountain range during clear, warm days. If the weather permits, you can see a range of high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast. Following peaks can be seen from this pass, on a clear day ; 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.
It would be still early day at the time we reach Punakha, so we’ll have engage with following sightseeing activities:
Visit Chime Lhakhang, located on a hillock among the green and lush paddy field stands a pilgrimage site for a childless couple. Chimi Lhakhang is known as the “Temple Of Fertility”. The temple was built over half a millennium ago by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarch. The monastery is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find guidance at the temple. Thousands of pilgrimage within and across the country visit the Fertility Temple in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a wang, blessing, from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom. Couples with new-borns often visit the temple so that a local lama, Buddhist teacher, can bestow a resounding forename on the child, whilst eager travellers can approach lamas for their unique Bhutanese name and special meaning. Myth and folklore cloak Chimi Lhakhang and its maverick saint, Drukpa Kunley. He preached Buddhism is an unconventional manner, by way of song, comedy, and shocking sensual connotations. Legend has it that the Yogi buried a dog-like demoness under the rotund earth, shaped in the female form, that now stands under the Stupa floor. He actively encouraged phallus symbols to be used throughout the design of the temple in paintings and carvings. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, embedded with a silver handle, from Tibet, that is used to bless visitors and pilgrims. You will be also given a wooden phallus symbol locket or wristband.
Visit Punakha Dzong: The journey continues through varying scenes of greenery all the way to Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers with their local names as the Phochu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River). Presently, this Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the District Administration. Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Rimpoche. Shabdrung Rimpoche went into meditation in 1651 at the age of 58, for 12 long years in the Punakha Dzong, after he had established the DUAL system of Governance in Bhutan. Shabdrung Rimpoche’s death was announced only 25 years after his death, as it was believed that even after his physical death, he remained in a meditational form which all the great Buddhist Lamas can only perform. The Dzong houses many sacred, holy ancient relics, the most sacred being the RANGJUNG KHARSAPANI. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated. The first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.
Visit Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten: The magnificent chorine sits high above Punakha Valley, affording panoramic views of the verdant hillsides below. The four-storey temple remains a worthy example of the country’s traditional architecture and artistic techniques. This chorten, however, is unique. It is not designed for community worship or for a monastic retreat or education like other Buddhist Institute and Colleges. It is designed as a magical tool. This is a temple situated on a hilltop and built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan for the fifth and reigning King of Bhutan. The temple is a mark of Bhutanese architecture and paintings. Its a half day hike round trip.
Experience river rafting in Phochu and Mochu: This river facing experience will surely offer you the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. The Pho Chu, with its approx 16 km course with about 15 rapids of class 2-4 is the most popular for rafting in Bhutan followed by Mo Chu river with 10 Km course comprising around 10 rapids with 2 – 2+ rapids. you are not only enjoying the rafting but can also watch world’s rarest bird, the white belled Heron in its natural habitat and Kingfishers frolicking on the riverbank – all these topped off with the spectacular sight of serene lush green alpine valleys, are the most amazing experience you would love to treasure. Rafting in Bhutan is a superb experience in its own right. No special experience is required as long as you do not mind doing a bit of paddling and getting a bit wet – or quite possibly very wet! – then you will have an exciting time riding the white waters of the Himalayan rivers. Rivers in Bhutan also offer great potential for Kayaking. If you are looking for more adventure, we will be happy to customize a suitable Kayaking adventure in Bhutan.
By the time we conclude for the day, it would be already late evening, so we will take you to hotel, serve you dinner and usher you to Hotel for rest.
Day 6: Continue sightseeing touring of Wangdiphodrang and Phobjikha
After breakfast, sightseeing of the day includes;
Visit to Wangdue Phodrang Dzong : The Dzong overlooks the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu clearly chosen for its commanding view of the valleys below. The ridge where the dzong was built resembles a sleeping elephant. Wangdi region itself was considered as important in the history of Bhutan because in the early days it was the country’s second capital. There are also a few popular short-easy and long-hard hike trail. The district of Wangdi Phodrang is also famous for its bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
Short Hiking to few remotest villages like Gaselo and Nahi under Wangdue district: we will prepare to go for a day hike to Gaselo and Nahi Village. The two villages are located in the west of the province, under the Wangdue Phrodang district. The two villages are considered the best spot for a picnic, which we will experience by having lunch there in the village. We will explore the people’s lifestyle in these two village Village. Life here is still medieval and farmers are always happy to see visitors. If visiting during early summer, you’ll be fascinated by the age-old traditional methods used during rice plantation. Experience the joy and simplicity of farming life. In autumn you’ll be able to share the happiness of farmers over a bountiful harvest and truly experience Gross National Happiness.
Travel to Phojikha for sight seeing (64Km): Phobjikha which is another top highest priority sight reserved for tourist is situated at an average altitude of 3,000m is a wide and beautiful valley, designated as conservation zone within the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park (formerly known as Black Mountains National Park) is a natural habitat for wildlife, including nesting grounds for endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from Central Asia in the winter (late October and stay till March). The general vegetation is composed of mainly blue pine, birch, maple and several species of rhododendrons. The Central Valley inhabited by the Cranes in winter has mostly dwarf bamboo. The repeated grazing of the bamboos by the local cattle and horses in summer prepares the ground for the wintering Cranes. The magnificent Black-necked Cranes heighten the breathtaking scenery of Phobjikha in winter respiratory. The place is popularly known for camping. our office boys will have already organised your camp before we arrive, they will be waiting for us with a cup of tea/coffee in their hand as Bhutanese traditional gesture of welcoming. Tonight you will be spending your night in a wild life habitat sanctuary, do not worry, we will be camping on a safe designate areas.
Day 7: Sightseeing of Phobjikha valley and travel to Trongsa (129 km, 3-4hrs):
Exploring wildlife sanctuary and small hiking over spectacular Phobjikha valley .
After break fast: Aside from enjoying the tranquility of the valley, you can engage in short distance hikes. There are multiple trails with easy to moderate difficulty, leading through the pine forest. Hikers will come across community school, temples and small village where they can engage with the locals if they choose to. One can spot different birds making it ideal for photography. We will visit the information centre of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN), which has informative displays about the black-necked cranes and the valley environment. You can use the centre’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet Field Guide to Crane Behaviour. This is also the centre of the valley’s fledgling ecotourism initiative, and it can arrange mountain-bike hire (Nu 700 per day), a hiking guide (Nu 500) and local homestays. If the weather’s iffy, you can browse the library and handicraft shop and watch a 15-minute video. Ornithologists or anyone with a keen interest in birds might find this place most suitable. This place is run by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and has an observation room with high-power telescopes and good scope for spotting the famous Black Necked Crane which migrates to the region during winter. It also displays information about the history of the region.
This pavilion lookout on the Gangte Nature Trail offers fine valley views and is just above a hide used by birders spotting back-necked cranes.
Visit to Gangte Goemba temple:
The Temple stands on valley’s prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. The extensive complex consists of the central goemba, monks’ quarters, a small guesthouse and outlying meditation centres. Much of the interior and exterior woodwork of the 450-year-old goemba was replaced between 2001 and 2008 due to a beetle-larvae infestation.
Visit to Wangmo’s Hand-Woven Carpet Factory: The factory contains beautiful handwoven carpets with intricate patterns and designs. It was set up by a local woman known as Dorji Wangmo in 1992.
By the time we concludes todays program our boys will have organised Bhutanese traditional Stone Bath. So we will return to the camp and bring your dress change for taking stone bath. Taking a hot stone bath is the perfect way to unwind any hardship traveler’s day, and you will feel complete relaxed in the middle of nature reserved forested areas. In a traditional set up, cold water is poured into a wooden tub. The enclosed small room would also have a fireplace where the stones are heated and the fire also to keeps the room warm. Once heated, the hot stones are put into the tub in a segregated compartment releasing high concentration of minerals while also heating the water. Stones are periodically changed to maintain the water temperature. Herbs are also added to make it more therapeutic.
By the late afternoon travel to Trongsa (129 km, 3-4hrs).
Day 8: Trongsa tour
After breakfast, sightseeing of Trongsa includes the following;
Visit Trongsa Dzong: The Dzong is easily visible from anywhere in town and is always an impressive sight as it is situated atop a steep ridge that drops off into the clouds on its south side.
The dzong is one of the largest and longest Dzong in the country. The Dzong was built in 1644 and used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuk dynasty of our hereditary kings before it became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. The Royal Family of Bhutan has strong links with Trongsa. Both the first and the second king ruled the kingdom from Trongsa’s ancient Dzong. Traditionally all the Kings of Bhutan has to serve as Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan passed through the courtyard of the dzong. A five-day festival known as the Trongsa Tshechu is held in the northern courtyard during December or January.
Visit Taa Dzong: This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong against internal rebellion, stands on a promontory above the town. It was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the 1st Governor of Trongsa in 1652 to guard the dzong against enemies. It has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda, and Dragon. Climb up the path to visit Ta Dzong, which now houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. As of the date, the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum of the nation. It is a short, steep walk from the main Trongsa town. The building is a massive circular five-storey tower flanked by two lower towers. Two smaller, free-standing towers are below the main building. From 2005 to 2008 the watchtower underwent extensive structural and interior designing work in order to become a museum. The funds were granted by the Austrian Government and work was done by the Royal Government of Bhutan. The museum was opened in 2008, in celebration of three auspicious occasions: enthronement of the fifth King, recognition of 100 years of Monarchy and introduction of democracy in the country. The museum showcases some of the rare and priceless artefacts belonging to the monarchy.
Kuenga Rabten Palace: During the first half of the 20th century, the palace served as a winter residence for the second King, Jigme Wangchuck and his senior Queen, Ashi Phuntsho Choden. Due to this heritage, the Kuenga Rabten Palace is surrounded by stone walls that have spy-holes, which were used by the royal guards. A gallery runs around the courtyard on three sides, and the tall main building is located on the fourth side as two protruding aisles.The ground and first floors were used as a granary and a military garrison, respectively, when His Majesty and the Queen were staying at the palace. However, the ground floor is now empty and the first floor has classrooms for the monks. On the second floor, there are three adjacent rooms. The main entrance leads into the central room, known as the Sangye Lhakhang, which is the main temple.Next to the chapel was the private residence of King Jigme Wangchuck and Ashi Phuntsho Choden. At present, the King’s room is well preserved, with everything remaining as though the second King were still resident there. During the second King’s time in Kuenga Rabten, other rooms on the floor were used as guest rooms and to grant audiences. It takes about an hour from Trongsa to reach Kuenga Rabten, it passes through open countryside high above a river gorge. The land slopes quite gently in this region, and farming is well developed, so there is much of interest to observe in the fields and in the villages.
Travel to Bumthang (68km, 2-3hrs) You will cross another pass which is 29 km away from Trongsa towards Bumthang, its called Yutong La pass situated at 11,000 ft altitude and it is the highest pass. Top of the pass is fully covered by mist most of the time, prayer flags hang on top of the pass adds furthermore beautification on the site. This pass marks the border area between Trongsa and Bumthang. Further 13 km ahead, the road enters into a wide open cultivated valley known as Chumey valley under Bumthang district. Your tour guide will tease you while entering Bumthang valley, saying ‘Guys welcome to Switzerland’, its because the wide plain valley exactly resembles Switzerland. Depending on the arrival time to Bumthang, we will first take you to the hotel for check in and let you take rest for while, after brief rest, we will visit the following sightseeing should the time permits;
Visit Kurje Lhakhang where the saint Padmasambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock., the Jambey Lhakhang (7th-century temple), Tamshing Monastery (one of the oldest monastic school), the Jakar Dzong (administrative centre of the region) and Swiss Farm House. Return back to Hotel, serve you dinner and take complete rest to boost energy for next days trip.
Day 9: Bumthang sightseeing tour and travel to Ura
After breakfast, sightseeing of Bumthang includes following;
Hiking: We will go for hiking to explore the true beauties of Bumthang valley. There are lots of smooth Trail maintained especially for tourist to walk or ride on strong trained horses. The long trail will take you around whole Bumthang valley to give you experience of feeling you just been in Switzerland. You could choose to ride on horse back or just walk. Bumthang is known as heaven for hikers and trekkers and you will come across many beautiful monasteries, also important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites.
Jakar Dzong: The Jakar Dzong or the “Castle of the White Bird” dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan. A special feature of the Dzong is the approximately fifty meters high Use or the Central tower, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. The other unique feature of the Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day.
The Kurjey Lhakhang (Temple): where the kings of Bhutan are taken for their cremation rites. This large, active and important temple complex is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche, which is preserved in a cave inside the oldest of the three buildings that make up the temple complex. The big cypress tree besides the Lhakhang is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rimpoche. The great Guru also created a holy water hole beside the temple which people frequent either for religious or medical purposes.
Wangdicholing Palace – Wangdichholing was built in 1857, on the site of the battle camp of the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan, who was also born here. It was the first palace in Bhutan that was not designed as a fortress. Both the first and second king adopted Wangdicholing as their main summer residence. There are five giant water driven prayer wheels, to the north which is quite interesting to see.
Take a Drive to Ura valley: In the evening we will drive to Ura valley. On the way, if you are a cheese and honey lover, we will take you to the farm where you could try to taste the pure organic produced by Bumthang community. We will then proceed driving to Beautiful Ura valley which is located on the way to eastern Bhutan with the incredible community and amazing valley. It is also the most beautiful valley within Bumthang district with traditional and well-preserved cultures and traditions.
Visit Mebartsho: Enroute to Ura Valley, visit Mebartsho (The Burning Lake), it’s believed to be one of most sacred religious sites in Bhutan. During the time of Tertoen (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa it’s said that he discovered the hidden treasure of Guru Padmashambava from that lake with a lamp burning on his hand.
You could choose to spend the night in Ura as follows; Homestay, Motel, and Camping.
Day 10: Ura sightseeing: After breakfast: we will hike for a day to explore the whole Ura valley. The Ura valley is one of spectacular valley amongst other in Bumthang. Ura valley is situated at 3100 meters above sea level which makes Ura the highest among the valleys in Bumthang. Hiking in Ura Valley will let you see and experience for yourself the spectacular landscape that the region is known for and you will also have the opportunity to explore and learn the culture of its charming village. The trail will take you through the middle of Ura village community where you get to explore unique cultures and people’s lifestyle. You have an option either to walk or ride on Horseback. On the trail, besides enjoying the best scenery of whole Ura valley, you may be also interested in picking edible mushroom. Your tour guide will show you the samples of varieties of mushroom grown in these areas and he/she will brief you the techniques to find them. The finding mushroom is a fun game in the jungle and to entertain more, your tour guide will collect few bucks as entry fees and ask you to find the mushroom, at the end of a day trip, whoever gets the highest number of mushroom wins and takes the collected money. Your chef/cook will prepare tonight supper of the mushroom you collected, some tourist even participates in cooking mushroom of their style.
To advocate on the conservation of mushroom, every year, Ura Mushroom Conservation in collaboration with Tourism Association organises a mushroom festival with fund support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
This fun game concludes the long day hike.
Day 11: Drive to Mongar (198 Km, 6-7hrs)
After breakfast, we will proceed driving towards Mongar which is 198 kilometres and 7 hours away from Ura. The road approaching Mongar is one of the most spectacular journeys in the country. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. You will have the opportunity to visit the Rhododendron garden. There are countless varieties of rhododendrons here and on clear days you can even catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 m), a strong candidate for the world’s highest unclimbed mountain. Enroute to Mongar, we will visit Lingmithang where you will get to explore a world-class hazelnut production industry in Bhutan. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests recognized the potential of hazelnuts in the 1990s and developed hazelnut trial orchards for nearly two decades, demonstrating that Bhutan has suitable conditions for hazelnut production in Lingmethang, hence the Royal Government of Bhutan has signed to become Partnership with Mountain Hazelnuts. This partnership is based on a 30-year Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Government of Bhutan and Mountain Hazelnuts, structured with the aim of creating sustainable income for farmers, positive environmental effects, foreign currency earnings for the Government, and a profitable, sustainable private company.
Depending on arrival time Mongar, we’ll take a stroll through Mongar town’s main street. Dinner will be served after your short walk.
Day 12: Mongar tour
After breakfast, the sightseeing of Mongar includes:
Explore Mongar town
Like many other settlements in Eastern Bhutan, Mongar town is situated atop a hill rather than within a valley. This town is considered the main trade and travel hub of Eastern Bhutan and most travellers and merchants active in the east pass through here often spending the night at one of the local hotels.
The main street is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas. Near the clock tower, there is a large prayer wheel around which people often gather to meet old friends and chat. The local restaurants offer a decent variety of Bhutanese and Indian cuisine.
Visit Lotus Pond International Restaurant: For a change of scene seek out this cheerful local restaurant with an ambitious menu including Bhutanese, Chinese, Indian, Tibetan and continental dishes. We recommend the chicken chilli and momos. You can also pick up a bottle of the owners’ home-made fragrant lemongrass oil here.
Although more recently built (1930), it was constructed the same way as all earlier dzongs, without plans or nails. However, unlike the earlier dzongs, that are located in strategic positions, Mongar Dzong is located on a small gently sloping area just above the town. A visit to Mongar Dzong demonstrates how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Visa Aja Ney
Another sacred site in the Mongar district is the renowned Aja Ney. Pilgrims from all other parts of Bhutan converge here to receive blessings and wash away their sins. A rock that bears 100 renditions of the sacred syllable “Aa,” is said to have been discovered by Guru Padmasambhava. It is located at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters and falls under Ngatsang geog. It is approximately a two-day trek from Serzhong village.
Visit Yagang Lhakhang
Yagang Lhakhang is located in a small village next to the town is another sacred monument of the Dzongkhag.
It was built in the 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Tertoen Pema Lingpa. It was built after the Kupijigtsam Lhakhang in Yangneer village in Trashigang was completed. Today, the Lhakhang plays an important role in the religious life of the people. As you enter the main hall, notice how the original entrance on the far wall was blocked up after the arrival of the road (in the interests of security), leaving a mixture of old and new murals.
One of the most notable religious sites is the Dramitse Lhakhang. It was built in the 16th century by Ani Cheten Zangmo, the daughter of the renowned Terton (religious treasure seeker) Pema Lingpa.
The Dramitse Ngacham or the “Dance of the Drums of Dramitse,” was created in this Lhakhang in the 16th century. Today, it is a popular dance performed at all major festivals. It is also on the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage list.
Travel back to Gyelpozhing: In the evening we will drive back to Gyelpozhing where the Kurichhu Hydropower plant is located. The hydropower is a run-of-river scheme, with a dam of height 55 m (from its deepest foundation), a crest length of 285 m and a surface powerhouse located at the toe of the dam. The Project has an installed capacity of 60 MW consisting of four units of 15 MW each and a mean annual energy generation capacity of 400 million units (MU), which can cover electricity to whole eastern Dzongkhags. The Kurichhu Hydropower Plant was formally inaugurated by HRH Trongsa Poenlop Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Present Fifth King of Bhutan and H.E Shri Sudhir Vyas, Ambassador of India to Bhutan, on April 26, 2006.
Depending on the time, we’ll take a stroll through Gyelpozhing town’s main street. You’ll get to see the true nature and lifestyle of Bhutanese people at this market as because of huge employees of Hydropower and other organisations, business people and farmers from nearby villages swarms in this market for trade and evening gathering.
Dinner will be served at the guest house of Kurichhu hydropower project.
Day 13: Travel to Trashigang (96Km, 3hours drive)
This trip of about 96 km takes 3 hours passing through Kori la pass (2,450m), the place marked by a pretty chorten and a stone wall. The first part of the journey is through a leafy forest filled with ferns. The latter road descends rapidly through corn fields and banana groves arriving the famous zigzags of Yadi, which is a recent settlement. After that follows the Gamri River until the bifurcation to Dametsi, this temple perched on top of the steep hill was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place from where the famous Naga Chham, masks dance with drums originated. About 30km onwards lies Tashigang at l000m. Trashigang is the centre of the biggest and most populated district in the country.
Upon reaching Trashigang, lunch will be served and after lunch, we will then visit
Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri River. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the dzong is occupied by the Drukpa monastic community. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Visit Radhi village:
The village is famous for two things, its rice fields and the skill of its weavers. It is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ because of its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to eastern parts of the country.
The village has around 200 households, all of which the people make living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons. All textiles produced in Radhi are made using the traditional back-strap loom and traditional dyes. As a result, Radhi village produces some of the most authentic high-quality raw silk textiles to be found anywhere in Bhutan.
If the time permits, we will take a stroll through Trashigang town’s main street.
Day 14: Travel to Trashi Yangtse (54Km, 4-5hrs) and back to Trashigang
After breakfast travel to Trashi Yangtse: Trashiyangtse is a place well known for its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget. The entire area is filled with fig trees and alpine forests which gives this valley a majestic view. Filled with natural beauty, flora and fauna amongst its dzongs; it’s something which is nowhere else. 24 km away from Trashigang, towards Trashi Yangtse visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon. Further ahead reach Doksum village where you can see women busy in weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric and a chain bridge dating of the 15th century.
Visit Yangtse Dzong, situated at the altitude of 1,850m. In former times Trashi Yangtse was the important centre because it lies on one of the carven routes leading from western and centre Bhutan. The Dzong is new and nearby are the Art School and the famous Chhorten Kora.
Visit Chorten Kora
Chorten Kora is large, but not nearly as large as the stupa of Bodhnath in Nepal, after which it was patterned. It was constructed in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday in memory of his uncle, Jungshu Phesan, and to subdue local spirits. The story behind the chorten is that Lama Ngawang Loday went to Nepal and brought back a model of Bodhnath carved in a radish. He had it copied here so that people could visit this place instead of making the arduous trip to Nepal. The reason that Chorten Kora is not an exact copy of Bodhnath is that the radish shrank and became distorted during the return trip.
During the first month of the lunar calendar, there is an auspicious kora held here, whereby people gain merit by walking around the main chorten and its inner kora. It is celebrated on two separate dates (the 15th and 30th days of the lunar month). The first date (Dakpa Kora) is for the people from the Dakpa community in Arunachal Pradesh, India, who make the three-day pilgrimage here to celebrate the sacrifice of an eight-year-old girl from Arunachal Pradesh who was enshrined in the chorten to appease a troublesome demon. The second kora (Drukpa Kora) is for the Bhutanese, who come from all over eastern Bhutan, including from the Merak and Sakteng regions, to attend the local fair and gain some good karma by witnessing the unfurling of a giant Thongdrol. Dozens of stalls and gambling stands give pilgrims a chance to catch up on some shopping and local gossip. A month before the festival the chorten is whitewashed anew. This is paid for with funds earned from rice grown in the fields immediately surrounding the chorten.
Visit National Institute for Zorig Chusum: Zorig Chusum refers to the thirteen traditional visual arts and crafts that Bhutanese have practised for generations. The thirteen arts and crafts include; painting, carving, sculpture, calligraphy, carpentry, gold- silversmithing, bamboo work, wood turning, weaving and embroidery, pottery, blacksmithing, masonry and incense-stick making. Royal Government of Bhutan has opened this art and craft institute in the south of town in 1997, with the main intention to provide vocational training opportunities for those who are not continuing in the higher education system. You can visit the school, watch the students at work, get interact with teachers and students and take photographs. The institute showroom sells good-value pieces made by students, this can help interns of financial support to improve and develop new infrastructures for the institutions.
Visit Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary:
Located in the northwestern part it covers a massive area of 1,545 sq. km. The sanctuary is home to around 100 species of mammals, including globally endangered species such as snow leopard, Royal Bengal tiger and red panda. About 150 black-necked cranes spend their winter in Bumdeling every year from mid-November to early March. Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is also a paradise for butterflies: as of now 130 species have been recorded and another 120 are expected to inhabit this area. Besides natural beauty and diversity, many significant religious and cultural places can be found inside the sanctuary, such as Rigsum Gompa, the mystic Singye Dzong and Dechenphodrang Lhaghang– maybe the most scenic monastery in the country. The area itself is a broad and plain which is very different landscapes from other valleys. Your tour guide will tease you saying ‘we are on the beach’ because some part of Bumdeling landscape looks like Bach which you may want to take photographs. It’s a good idea to spend some days here. Be here for a lifetime experience!
Evening return to Trashigang. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Day 15: Travel to Samdrup Jongkhar (180Km, 5-6hrs): Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar road completed in 1965 and the journey takes about 5-6hrs depending on stop over. Along the way, pass by Sherubtse College, the only college in country founded in 1978. Also visit the Zangtho Pelri temple built in 1978 by the late Minister of Home Affairs. It represents Guru Rinpoche’s paradise. Driving ahead, reach to Khaling to visit the Blind School and Weaving Centre. Deothang, 80 kms from Khaling is the centre of Technical training college and road maintenance head quarters for the east. From here the road descends fairly rapidly to the plain through a dense tropical forest with an abundance of teak, bamboo and ferns. Overnight at the lodge in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 16: Depart for onward destination from Darangamela – Samdrup Jongkhar border.
Our sincere service doesn’t end here. While you and tour guide exchange thanksgiving and bids farewell, our good-humoured drivers will gently pack your valuable luggage on your taxi
We only part to meet again. ~John Gay
Click here to Book this package
- Stay in 2-3 star rated hotels
- All three meals, tea and coffee
- A dedicated vehicle with a driver and
- English and Hindi Speaking Guide throughout the Trip
- Short hikes, Packed lunches and snacks wherever required
Package Does Not Include:
- International Airfare
- Refreshments and bottled drinks and alcoholics/gratuities
- Cost arising out of Flight Cancellation/road blockades/ landslides and events beyond our control
- Expenses of personal nature and any other expenses not mentioned in the above cost