|1||Arrival to Paro||Arrival by plane to Paro airport by flight or drive from Phuntsholing on Indian border. Visit of the National Museum and Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot.|
|2||Paro||Drive to castle-ruins of Drukyel dzong, from where you can see the top of holy Jomolhari mountain. Climb to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), is the highlight of the tour. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can climb just halfway to cafeteria with nice view of the place. You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness and preferences. Explore the calm Kyichu lhakhang, one of the two oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan, which was built to pin down the ankle of giant demoness by Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in 7th century.|
|3||Paro – Thimphu||Drive to the country capital Thimphu and visit Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. Walk in Norzin lam street and see the traffic police signaling in junctions. Thimphu is only capital in the world without the traffic lights. Finish walk at handicraft market where many interesting Bhutanese souvenirs can be seen and bought for reasonable price. Continue with visit to Folk Heritage Museum with the exhibition on traditional village life in Bhutan (closed on Sunday, alternatively visit Simply Bhutan museum). Visit hand paper factory and Thangkha painting center, where young artists learns the skills of their forefathers. Then drive to Changankha lhakhang, the oldest place of worship in the valley. Alternatively cut previous program short and explore the Thimphu town on your own. Evening visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government.|
|4||Thimphu – Wangdue||Drive to Wangdue Phrodrang over Dochu-la pass (3010 m) with visit of royal temple Druk Wangyel lhakhang. Descent to tropical valley and Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. In the afternoon you can explore rustic village Rinchengang overlooking the valley.|
|5||Wangdue – Gangtey||Short morning hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten with wonderful view of the valley and it‘s terraced paddy fields. Visit of Punakha dzong, which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom. Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. Drive to Gangtey and pristine Phobjika valley. Optionally you can attend lesson on Buddhism led by accomplished master with translation to English in Gangtey monastery shedra (buddhist college).|
|6||Gangtey||In the morning drive to Gangtey gompa located at the top of the hill with commanding view of the valley. The historically important monastery belongs to Niyngma school of Buddhism. Walk through village with lots of interesting handicraft shop. From here you will start 2.5 hour walk, one of the most beautiful and easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go around the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed pine forest with trees decorated with old men's beard lichen and finally you will reach to a view of marshland. Here, in the late autumn and winter, rare Black Neck Cranes can be seen. Descend to valley bottom and visit Kewa lhakhang, the newly established monastery on the place where the demoness was subdued in the past. Drive to local farmhouse to taste local kitchen and other delicacies like the salty suja tea and ara spirit. Then visit to Black Neck Crane center. The birds comes for roosting to the valley in great numbers form November to the end of February. See interesting documentary on bird conservation efforts and related exposition. Rest day in leisure or optionally visit very scenic Ngelung Drechagling Lhakhang nunnery. You might like to try the hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat (on extra payment, need to be ordered in the morning).|
|7||Gangtey – Jakar||Drive to Trongsa over Pele-la pass (3500 m). Stop here to see the shops run by local herders. You can get lot of interesting things here, including the yak wool textiles, dust brush made of yak tail, medicinal plants like puttising root, potent cure for cough and fever or cordyceps dubbed as "himalayan viagra" and energy booster. Continue drive on scenic road with stop at Chendebji chorten which was built to resemble Boudhanath stupa of Kathmandu. Another important stop would be Trongsa viewpoint to see the full extent of the Trongsa castle, which you will visit some more drive afterward. This is the place from where the royal dynasty of Bhutan had risen. Also visit intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong. It hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples. Finally drive to Jakar over Yotong-la pass (3550 m), reaching in the evening.|
|8||Jakar||Visit of sleepy castle Jakar dzong and old Jambay lhakhang temple, which pins down the leg of giant demoness. Walk to Kurjey lhakhang temple complex. After exploring the place, enjoy the picnic lunch on beautiful riverside. Finally continue walk to Tamshing Gompa, the temple which was allegedly built and marvelously painted by 15th century saint Pema Lingpa with the help of angels. If the production cycle permits, visit the Red Panda brewery. Explore the town with it’s interesting curio shops and welcoming local restaurants.|
|9||Jakar, excursion to Tang||Drive to Tang valley and hike to Ugyen Choling palace which hosts wonderful private museum with carefully selected artifacts used in medieval Bhutan for various activities. If you feel strong, you can climb to Kundzongdrak gomba overlooking valley from sheer cliff. Otherwise you can visit nunnery, hosting the Buddhist nuns of all ages. Also you should not miss so called “Burning lake” Membartso where the treasure of scriptures hidden by magician-saint Guru Rimpoche were discovered by the saint Pema Lingpa.|
|10||Jakar – Mongar||
This day we will move further eastwards in long minimum 7 hours drive to Mongar. First we need to negotiate Shertong-la pass (3,580 m). In good weather, it's possible to see highest mountain of Bhutan, the Gangkhar Punesum from the road just before the summit. If you like to stretch the legs, it's also possible to descent to Ura village from the pass, through the alpine forest and along the stream with some nice views. Ura is beautiful clustered village with elaborate large temple, which is worth of visit. Now we need to negotiate Thrumshing-la pass (3,580 m), the second highest motorable pass in Bhutan. It's good idea to stop at rhododendron garden just before the summit to see the number of species of this beautiful tree. After the pass, the road continues gradually descending. There is a lot of scenic points, which will not let you get bored. Chortens on the roadside are built in memory of 300 labourers who died during roadbuilding in 1970's. You'll also come along the stunning Namling waterfall and the ruins of Sengor dzong, which burned to ash in 1899. Finally in the late afternoon or evening you will reach Mongar.
|11||Mongar, excursion to Lhuntse||Morning drive to Lhuntse which is one of the most rural and isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and gorges, beautiful conifer and pine forests and remote villages with rice, millet and corn fields. Kurtoe region of Lhuntse is the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family. On the way, we will make a detour to Takey la, the place where the gigantic statue of Guru Rimpoche was recently built. Inside the statue, you find number of richly decorated chapels, which belongs to best in Bhutan. Further you will continue to Khoma village for most elaborate traditional cloths in Bhutan. Quality of weaving is so fine that even Royal Family places their order for clothes here. Village itself is interesting and beautiful so we will spend some extra time here having a lunch in local house and tasting local delicacies. Then we will continue to Lhuntse to see a dzong which belongs to one of the most spectacular monastery-castles in Bhutan, with total 7 chapels you can explore. Residing monks have welcoming reputation. Drive back to Mongar.|
|12||Mongar – Trashigang||Morning visit to Mongar dzong, which was built only in 1930 but still maintains Bhutanese architectural tradition. It's just 3½ hours drive to Trashigang, but there is a lot of to see on the way. Just 30 minutes after the Mongar, you will reach summit of Kori-la pass (2,400 m). Another 2½ hour drive will take to reach Dramtse Gompa, which is one of the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place from where the famous Naga Chham (Drums of Dramtse), mask dance with drums originated. This dance is ubiquitous feature of many festivals and also it was included to the UNESCO list of oral and intangible heritage. Monastery itself was founded in 16th century by descendants of the saint Pema Lingpa and it's name means "the peak where there is no enemy". There is number of interesting chapels with a lot of important statues of the saints and protector deities. If you're in mood for short hike, you can also pursue 1.5 hour scenic hike from Dramtse to Baging la via Shergang village (currently might not be possible due to road works). Alternative option would be easy half hour hike going downhill from Drametse to Baging village directly. Finally, after another two hours, you will reach Trashigang. If you're early, you can continue drive for another 45 minutes to visit Rangjung monastery. This beautiful Nyingma institution hosts number of interesting statues and relics.|
|13||Trashigang, excursion to Trashi Yangtse||Morning visit of Trashigang dzong which was built in 17th century and has commanding view of the valley. Inside are few interesting temples and local government offices. After that you'll take about 2 hours drive time to Trashi Yangtse. On the way, pay a visit to the Gom Kora temple, place where 8th century magician-saint Guru Padmasambhava left his body imprints. Further drive will offer occasional views of snowy mountain in clear weather. Finally you will see impressive building of the old Trashi Yangtse dzong which is home to 300 monks. The dzong used to protect former trade route with Tibet and was established by the saint Pema Lingpa of 15th century. The temples with valuable statues are worth of exploring. Also near the Trashi Yangtse is the famous Chorten Kora, the largest stupa in Bhutan built in Nepali style. This is the site of two colourful local festivals at the beginning of the year. Trashi Yangtse is also home to National Institute for Zorig Chusum, the school where the young people learns the arts and crafts of their forefathers to keep Bhutan's traditions alive. Evening return to Trashigang.|
|14||Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar||This will be all day drive descend from the Himalayas southwards to Indian border. After about 45 minutes you will reach Kanglung village with interesting temple. There is also Sherubtse College, first Bhutanese university campus established in 1978 nearby. Further drive down, you can pay a visit to huge monastery school named Karma Thegsum Dechenling Goemba. After reaching Khaling village, you will have an opportunity to see the last of elaborate Bhutanese temples of your trip, the Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, with detailed mural painting. You will also visit National Handloom Development Project, which maintains rich tradition of local weaving and National Institute for the Visually Impaired. One of the accomplishment of this progressive institution is the development of Bhutanese version of Braille's script. For the rest of the day, you will keep driving down. Just before the Samdrup Jongkhar, you can stop to get blessing from the hindu hermits, who are stationed along the roadside to bless the Indian and Bhutanese drivers alike for the safety of their journey. Reaching Samdrup Jonkhar at the evening.|
|15||Samdrup Jongkhar – Guwahati||Leaving Bhutan at the border and 3-4 hour drive to Guwahati.|
Tour variants, extensions and combinations:
- Going opposite way from Guwahati to Paro: If it better fit's you plan, you can also do the tour opposite way! You can fly to Guwahati, visit Kaziranga National Park famous for it's rhinos or even experience diversity of tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, before entering Bhutan. Then you will drive along the same route through Bhutan weswards to Paro, from which you can take flight or drive back down to Indian border at Phuntsholing.
- Tang valley overnight: Instead of staying in Jakar on day 9, you can drive to Tang valley and spend a night in the old aristocratic palace Ugyen Choling. Palace hosts interesting private museum and the proprietors family belongs to renowned Bhutanese nobility. Authentic atmosphere of the place is unbeatable. Staying overnight there will give you more time to explore the valley sights.
- Lhuntse overnight (+1 day): Instead of going back to Mongar on 11 eleven you can spend overnight in Lhuntse. Basic local hotel near Dzong or welcoming farmhouse in Khoma village are available for sleeping. Staying here will enable you to continue further to the north to visit Kurtoe region and Dungkhar Nagtshang, the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal dynasty. You will be able to pursue interesting 1.5 hour hike above Khoma which covers lot of holy places related to Guru Padmasambhava and some interesting views.
- Merak-Sakteng (+2 to 4 days): Off beaten trail trek in eastern Bhutan is open just few years for tourist. You can experience life of Borkpas, distinctive nomadic tribe famous for their tailed berets and carmine red jackets. You can either just visit Merak village and get back to Trashigang next evening or you can make a hike to Sakteng and extend your stay in the country of yeti for a while. Hike is of easy to moderate difficulty and is accompanied with various cultural programs and interaction with the local people.
- Gasa Hot springs (+1 or 2 days): Gasa is highland region north of Punakha, just recently connected by road. Apart from beautiful dzong and vistas of nearby high peaks, you can enjoy the natural hot springs, so called "tsachu". There is number of pools with different temperatures. Water is sulfurous and it's believed it's beneficial for number of skin ailments. It's great relax in luxurious pools anyway. Additional experience can be spending overnight here in local farmhouse to try authentic Bhutanese hospitality.