Manas NP + West Bhutan, 9 days

Tour highlights

  • Birdwatching hotspot in Tingtibi
  • Safari on elephant back in Manas National Park
  • Charming stay in Pangbang Jungle Camp
  • Kheng cultural program with bonfire
  • River rafting safari in Manas
  • Most important cultural sights of Western Bhutan
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Arrival to Paro. Visit busy little town. Other sightseeing subject to time of arrival. 
2 Paro Visit of the National Museum and Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. The pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. 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.
3 Paro – Gelephu (flight), drive to Manas

Taking domestic flight in Bhutan is extraordinary experience. Just after take-off from Paro, you might glimpse Jomolhari group of peaks on the border with Tibet. Then flight will take you south to Gelephu town, airport just recently open for traffic. We will not stay here though. After arrival, car will drive you up to the hilly region to the northeast. First reaching to Tingtibi village, which is important junction of the area and famous birdwatching and fishing hotspot. We will sleep here next day, anyway now we will continue driving south to Pangbang and further to Panbang Ecolodge for overnight.

4 Manas – Tingtibi This morning we will have great adventure on river rafting safari with experienced local river guides. Rafting is relatively easy and focused on wildlife spotting along the river shores. While reaching Manas, we will take ferry to other side of Manas river where the park headquarters is located. Manas National Park is habitat of many animals, including Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, pygmy hog, wild elephant one horned rhino, tiger, wild water buffalo and others. Anyhow, be humble in your expectations. Only the small portion of park is accessible, and it depends on good luck if you see any animal. Only jungle walk safari is currently permitted. Walk through the periphery of the National Park takes about 1 hour. After that, take the wooden ferry to cross Manas river once again and drive to nearby Tiger Centre where you will learn about successful tiger conservation in Bhutan. Also visit Bhutan border and walk to Indian side of Manas park. After all this we will turn back to Pangbang and will drive further up, back to the mountains, reaching Tingtibi village in the evening, getting accommodation in simple local hotel.
5 Tingtibi – Trongsa Today we will wake up before dusk and drive above the Tingtibi for bird and wildlife watching. Dense jungles are full of golden langurs and various birds including hornbills. This is one of the major birdwatching hotspots in Bhutan. After that, start arduous drive to Trongsa. On the way you might like to make additional cultural sightseeing like visit of Zhemgang castle or stopping to see tea plantation in Samdrupcholing. Watch the roadside carefully while, sometimes you can spot a lot of wild animals just like that.
6 Trongsa – Wangdue Visit the great Trongsa dzong, the castle from which the royal dynasty of Bhutan has risen. Intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples. After that drive to Wangdue with the stop at Chendebji chorten, which was modeled after Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu. Continue drive to Pele-la (3540m) pass, which is divide between central and western Bhutan. This is habitat of gray langurs which can be spotted at the place from time to time. Reach to warm Wangdue valley by the evening.
7 Wangdue – Thimphu Short morning hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten with wonderful view of the valley and it‘s terraced paddy fields. See the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan stretching the length of 350m over Pho Chhu river. 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 did taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and rampant sexual behavior. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. Afternoon drive to Thimphu. Visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. 
8 Thimphu  Early morning drive to 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. Excursion to Taking reserve. Here the animals are kept in safe and bred to be released to wild nature from time to time. Usually you can also see muntjak (barking deer) and himalyan spotted deer here. These animals are kept here after being found injured in the wild for recovery. Visit hand paper factory a Thangkha painting centre, where young artists learns the skills of their forefathers. After that drive to Changankha lhakhang, the oldest place of worship in the valley. Visit of Tashichho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government.
9 Departure Departure from Bhutan by flight or drive to Phuntsholing border with India.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Phobjika valley stop (+1 night): On the way from Trongsa to Wangdue, you can make interesting detour to Phobjika valley (Gangtey). Ancient Gangtey monastery and stroll through picturesque glacial valley are things to experience here. In winter month you can see the flocks of black neck cranes, rare birds which flies here for winter from Tibet and are considered holy birds by the villagers.
  • Include central Bhutan (+4 nights): You can also consider to extend the trip with central Bhutan rich in culture and wildlife. See Wildlife Bhutan program.
  • Haa valley homestay (+2 nights): At the end of the tour, you can drive over the Chele-la pass (nearly four thousands meter high) to rarely visited Haa valley. On the way you can do hike to Kila gompa, oldest nunnery in Bhutan from 14th century and also experience high altitude on the ridge of the pass from where Mt. Jomolhari and Kanchenjunga can be seen in clear weather. In Haa you'll stay in three hundred years old farmhouse as a guest of local family. Haa is less visited valley due to the fact, it's home to Indian military base. Anyway the nature is very pristine and so are the villages. You can visit few local temples and also make nice village hike around.
  • Tshechu festival  (+1 night): With proper planning, we can arrange that you will experience annual tsechu festival in some of the castles or monasteries. There are many festivals in Bhutan, so we can definitely fix your travel dates to match. We just need to start planning well ahead (optimally more then 6 months before) in order to secure flight tickets and hotel reservations.
  • 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.
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