South by Northwest Bhutan, 10 days

Landscape around Khamsum lhakhang
New Concept
Cultural sightseeing
  • Rarely visited southern Bhutan
  • All major sights of western Bhutan
  • Circuit trip utilizing new built roads
  • Pristine Phobjika valley
  • Monumental Trongsa castle in central Bhutan
  • Optional Manas National Park visit
  • Good for winter season
From: 
US$ 1660 / person ?
Dates: 
Flexible
 ?
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival, drive to Thimphu Arrival by plane to Paro airport and drive to Thimphu or in case of arrival by land, crossing border from India in Phuntsholing/Jaigon and full day drive to Thimphu. Visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. If time permits, visit of the other sights.
2 Thimphu Excursion to Takin enclosure, where the national animal, the mysterious takin, is kept. After that Changankha lhakhang, the oldest place of worship in the valley and School of traditional arts, where the young men and women learns the arts and craft of their forefathers. Drive to gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. If time permits you can make hike to Tango or Cheri monastery on the northern side of the valley.
3 Thimphu – Gangtey Transfer to Wangdue Phrodang over Dochu-la pass (3010 m) with visit of royal temple Druk Wangyel lhakhang. Descend to tropical valley of Punatsang chu river. Soon after lunch you will start driving up to the mountains until you reach pristine Phobjika valley (2750 m). Visit of historical Gangtey Gompa.
4 Gangtey – Trongsa Early morning 2½ hour walking tour through the valley is one of the most beautiful and easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go through the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed forest with trees decorated with old men's beard lichen and finally you will get a view of marshland. Here, in late autumn and winter, rare black neck crane can be seen. Finish hike and drive over the Pele-la pass (3500 m) to Trongsa with lunch near picturesque village Rukubji. After reaching Trongsa you'll visit intricate museum in the watchtower called Ta Dzong. It hosts number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues. You will also see great Trongsa Dzong, the castle from which the royal dynasty of Bhutan had risen.
5 Trongsa – Gelephu Early morning we start drive to Gelephu, the major south-central town bordering with India. Total distance is 275 km which will take about 7 hours to cover. On the way, we will visit Green tea gardne, some 1.5 hour drive after Trongsa. Very good quality green tea is produced here, although just hundreds of kilograms a year. Also we will stop at Kuenga Rabten, the third king's palace. In the vicinity it's also possible to visit Karma Drubdey Nunnery. Some 20 minutes further drive down, there is Eundu Choling, another old royal palace with display of antique armoury and musical instruments. Continuing further south, you can make several stops to enjoy the changing nature. Surrounding forests and mountain slopes, especially around Tingtibi, are a are very popular for birdwatching. Reach to Gelephu in the evening.
6 Gelephu – Sarpang – Damphu (Tsirang) Pay a visit to Nyimalung Tratsang monastery. If permitted, we can also visit distillery which produces ubiquitous Bhutan Highland Whisky and other great spirits. Then we undertake approximately 1 hour drive to Sarpang, the district headquarters. This is one of the old and important towns in southern Bhutan. We will visit Zangto Pelri temple built by Ap Dorji Wangdi in 1975. It servers as winter residence of famous Bhumthang's Tharpaling monastery. Also we will see Sarpang school, which is one of the oldest in central Bhutan. Many of the country leaders  studied there. Later we will take 2 hours drive to Damphu (Tsirang town) enjoying the beauties of southern foothills on the way. If time permits, we can also visit to some of the villages, which belongs to various ethnic groups and castes of Nepali origin. These people, called generally Lhotshapmas, started settling in southern Bhutan at the end of 19th century. Reclaiming it's fertile land, they vastly contributed to emergence of present day Bhutan.
7 Damphu (Tsirang) – Wangdue / Punakha After breakfast we will take get back to Damphu town and we will visit joint Hindu-Buddhist temple, the unique feature symbolizing unity of local Buddhist and Hindu communities. Short walk in botanical garden and visit the castle, center of local administration which was freshly built in traditional style. Optionally you can also peep in Damphu Dratshang, the monastery of local monastic body. Then we will set to drive further north, taking longer diversion route through Tsirang Toe. On the way stop at Singa Devi Temple, one of the few authentic Hindu shrines in Bhutan. When reaching Tsirang Toe, you will walk above the central school to see picturesque ruins of large dzong (castle) who is said to be over 200 years old and use to be seat of local king Sang Sup Gyap, who was deposed from power by Jigme Namgyel, the father of first king of Bhutan. Walk from here through vital forest to Goemba, the viewpoint marked with stupa. Walk back to car and continue drive, reaching the main highway and continue to Wangdue / Punakha. Stop at Sunkosh bazaar on the way to shop for homemade pickles, famous Tsirang oranges, honey and many other local products. On the way you will be coming through the only Bhutanese road tunnel. Evening rest in hotel.
8 Wangdue / Punakha – Paro Early 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, know 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. Evening drive to Paro.
9 Paro Morning visit of Kyichu lhakhang, the temple built in 8th century by Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. Climb to Taktsang gompa (Tiger's Nest), most venerated and holy place in Bhutan, overlooking valley from the steep cliff. Afternoon visit of National Museum and Paro dzong, castle where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot.
10 Departure Depart from Paro airport by flight or drive to land border in Phuntsholing.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Bumthang extension (+2 or +3 nights): In case you want to visit central Bhutan, you can continue from Trongsa to Jakar on day 5 and spent two or three night in this spiritually loaded valley. After that, you will turn back to west and reach Gelephu via Trongsa.
  • Finish tour in Gelephu (-4 days): In case you don't want to get back to Paro, you can also finish the tour in Gelephu. From there you can either go to Guwahati or Bagdogra in India.
  • Dagana excursion (+1 day): If you stay one more night in Damphu, you can make full day excurion to Dagana, formerly one of the most prosperous districts of Bhutan. Apart from beautiful hill nature, there is large and interesting castle to see. Really few tourists visit this place.