|Guwahati – Samdrup Jongkhar – Tashigang
|Early morning in 5 o’clock you will be picked-up in Guwahati, driving to Samdrup Jongkhar. Here you will meet your Bhutanese guide and driver, who will manage all immigration formalities. Then you will start all day drive ascending to the Himalayas. After few hours drive we will stop to get blessing from Hindu hermit for safety of our journey. Soon after you will have opportunity to visit first of many charming Bhutanese Buddhist temples, called Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, with detailed mural painting. During afternoon you will stop in Khaling village to visit National Handloom Development Project, which maintains rich tradition of local weaving. Also you will pay a visit to the National Institute for the Visually Impaired. One of the accomplishment of this progressive institution is the development of Bhutanese version of Braille's script. Along the way, you'll also pass by Karma Thegsum Dechenling Goemba, huge monastery school and Sherubtse College, first Bhutanese university campus established in 1978. Also we visit temple in nearby Kanglung village. Reach to Tashigang.
|Tashigang, excursion to Tashiyangtse
|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. 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 art crafts of their forefathers to keep Bhutan's traditional arts alive. In winter, if time permits, it's also good idea to make detour to Bumdeling birds reserve further to the north as the rare Black Neck Cranes might be spotted here if you're lucky. Evening return to Trashigang.
|Tashigang – Mongar
|It's just 3.5-hours drive to Mongar but it would be a pity not to make a 2 hours detour to Dramtse Gompa, which is one of the most important monasteries 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 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. After reaching Mongar, you will pay a visit to it's dzong (castle). Although built in 1930, the dzong maintains Bhutanese architectural traditions.
|Mongar, excursion to Lhuentse
|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.
|Mongar – Jakar
|The journey continues westwards winding through more rugged terrain. The drive will take minimum 7 hours, but it won't be boring at all. Road offers most spectacular views in the country ascending 3200 meters in the distance of 84 kilometres. After about a hour drive, you'll pass along the ruins of Sengor dzong, which burned to ash in 1899. 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. After crossing the second highest motorable pass in Bhutan, the Thrumshing-la (3,580 m), you gradually descend to clustered village of Ura. It's good idea to stop at rhododendron garden just after the pass to see the number of species of this beautiful tree. From Ura village we will continue drive to the Shertong-la pass (3580 m). Right after that in sharp turn, the Gangkhar Punesum, the highest mountain in Bhutan might be seen in clear weather. Reaching Jakar in the evening.
|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 where you can wipe your sins by carrying the chain-bar smithed by 15th century blackmisth-saint Pema Lingpa. Then marvel over the wonderful paintings inside the renovated Kenchosum Lhakhang, the seat of the mind and speech reincarnation of Pema Lingpa. Rest of the day in leisure or other program suggested by guide.
|Jakar – Gangtey
|Early morning drive to Trongsa over Yotong-la pass (3550m). Visit dzong, the castle from which the royal dynasty of Bhutan has risen. Also explore intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples. Then we will start drive to Pele-la pass (3540m), ancient border between western and eastern Bhutan. On the way we will stop at Chendebji stupa, which was modeled after Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu and is just much smaller size. Reaching Gangtey by the evening. You might like to try the hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat (on extra payment, need to be ordered in the morning).
|Gangtey – Punakha / Wangdue
|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. Drive to Wangdue, reaching in the evening.
|Wangdue / Punakha – Thimphu
|Early morning short 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 Dochu-la pass where you can see nice mountain panorama in clear weather and stupa made of 108 smaller stupas. Reach Thimphu by evening.
|Thimphu – Paro
Early morning drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. See Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. 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. 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 Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. Evening drive to 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.
|Morning program depending on the departure time. Then drive to airport for ongoing flight. Optionally drive to Indian border at Phuntsholing and departure form Bhutan overland.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations:
- Going opposite way from Paro to Guwahati: Tour can be also conducted opposite way starting in Paro (or Phuntsholing) and ending in Guwahati.
- Tang valley visit (+1 day): Stay one more night in Bumthang to visit Tang valley with interesting museum of village life in Ugyencholing palace. You can even stay overnight there as a guest of local nobility which owns palace to thiese days.
- 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 by 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 a number of pools with different temperatures. Water is sulfurous and it's believed it's beneficial for number of skin ailments. Additional experience can be spending overnight here in local farmhouse to try authentic Bhutanese hospitality.
- Omit Gangtey, Lhuentse or Tashiyangtse (-1 to -3 days): To make tour even shorter, you can omit visit to mentioned places, although it is not recommended.