On arrival at Guwahati airport, you will be received by our local representative and transferred to the south eastern Bhutanese border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. There is little to see in this area, other than the busy market which straddles the border. It is also a convenient entry and exit point if you wish to visit the Indian state of Assam and other north eastern Indian states along with Bhutan.
Samdrup Jongkhar is also a gateway and commercial hub for the five Bhutanese eastern districts. In olden days, it was called Gudama (a corruption of Godown) which means a warehouse for imported goods. As a trading point, many people from the eastern region of Bhutan exchanged goods and services there with Assamese merchants. The eastern Bhutanese were also able to sell raw silk textiles and other local fabric to western Bhutanese.
Today, cash crops like mandarin oranges and chilies are exported via Samdrup Jongkhar to India and Bangladesh.
This evening take an exploratory walk around town and local market. Also visit Zangtho Pelri, the three storied temple situated in the middle of the town adorned with intricate frescos.
Overnight at Samdrup Jongkhar
Enjoy breakfast in your hotel and then drive to the eastern town of Trashigang. Once the centre of a busy trade route with Tibet, Trashigang is today the junction of east-west highway with roads connecting to Samdrup Jongkhar and then to the Indian States of Assam. This town is also used as the market place for the semi nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng whose costumes are unique in Bhutan.
En route take a short stop at Khaling. “Kha” in Bhutanese language Dzongkha means ‘Bird” and “ling” means ‘valley’. This is one of the most enchanting, haunting and lush green fertile valley, blessed with innumerable variety of birds and their songs. One of the oldest School, established in 1978 is located here known as ‘Jigme Sherubling Higher Secondary School’. At Khaling, enjoy an opportunity to experience and explore Bhutanese textile weaving.
On arrival in Trashigang check-into your hotel.
Later in the afternoon visit Trashigang Dzong (fortress on the auspicious hill), built in 1659, the Dzong serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as the home of the monk body. The Dzong commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside.
Overnight in Trashigang
Tuck into a delicious breakfast and then time to proceed onward to Mongar, the second largest town in the sub-tropical east. Mongar like Trashigang, is situated on the side of a hill in contrast to other towns of Western Bhutan which are located on the valley floor.
Enroute take a short diversion to visit Drametse Lhakhang. Meaning, ‘the peak without enemy’, is one of the largest and most important monastery in eastern Bhutan, situated about 18 km away from Trashigang to Monger highway. It houses a full range of spiritual treasures and other sacred objects and is the source of spiritual inspiration to the people of Drametse and neighbouring communities.
Then continue onwards to Mongar, site of one of Bhutan’s newest Dzong built in 1930s. Yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs; no drawings and nails have been used. A visit gives visitors an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Overnight in Mongar.
After breakfast, embark on one of the most scenic journies in Bhutan to Bumthang, en route crossing 3780m high Thrumshing la (pass). Gushing waterfalls, steep cliffs with even steeper drops, blazing flowers and constantly changing vegetation combine, to make this journey as varied as it is beautiful. The route is also full of rhododendrons. Crossing Thrumshing la pass indicates officially exiting eastern Bhutan and entry to central part of the country. You will notice a stark difference in human settlement in the two region; in east towns are located on hills and ridges while in west and central Bhutan, they are mostly located in valleys.
Along the way explore fascinating Ura valley (3100m) which is highest of the four Bumthang valleys. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Take a walk around the beautiful village and with a brief visit to the temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Over the last few decades, Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to a prosperous valley. People in this fascinating valley are mostly engaged in potato farming, mushroom cultivation and dairy farming.
After this interesting stop, continue onwards to Bumthang. Also visit en route Membartsho, literally meaning ‘The Burning Lake’. Located in Tang valley, it is a wide spot on the Tang Chhu river and considered to be one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of Bhutan. Pema Linga found several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures here. The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called ‘Tse Tsa’ in rock niches.
Arrive Bumthang an check into your hotel.
The pleasant Bumthang valley is the spiritual heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley is also famous for the production of honey, cheese, apples and yathra (woolen materials).
Overnight in Bumthang
After breakfast, a day to explore Bumthang. Visit some of the monasteries, such as Kyichu Lhakhang, consisting of three temples. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.
Then proceed to Jambay Lhakhang. Finally stop at the Jakar Dzong initially built as a monastery in 1549. The Dzong is now used as administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and houses the regional monk body
Afternoon drive across the River to Tamshing Lhakhang. It has interesting collection of ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava).
The evening ends with visit to a local Yathra weaving house and opportunity to interact with the weavers.
Overnight in Bumthang
After breakfast proceed to Trongsa across Yutongla pass (3400m) and driving pass Chumey valley.
Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched.
Afternoon visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a classy museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity.
Then visit the striking Trongsa Dzong, ancestral abode of Bhutan’s royal family. Built in 1648 as the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. All kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governer’) prior to ascending the throne. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built.
Evening at leisure, enjoying a short walk or relax in a local café and watch traditional Bhutanese people as they go about their daily chores.
Overnight in Trongsa
After breakfast, drive on to one of the most fascinating valleys of Bhutan - Gangtey. En route a short stopover at Chendbji Chorten, patterned on Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes painted at four cardinal points. It was built, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
Then continue onwards across Pele-la pass (3,300m/10,830 feet), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large white chorten prayer flags. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forests replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo.
On arrival in Gangtey, check into your hotel.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed.
jThis afternoon visit Gangtey Goempa. Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Goempa is the only and the biggest Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black mountains. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.
Later explore fascinating Phobjikha valley. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes (these birds can be observed from early November to end of March) that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
Evening explore quaint Gangtey village, taking in the simplicity of life in this remote mountain hideaway.
Overnight in Gangtey/Phobjikha
After breakfast check out and drive to Punakha. En route visit newly developed Wangduephodrang town. It is the last town on the central highway before central Bhutan. Located in the south of Punakha, the higher reaches of the Wangduephodrang valley provide rich pasture land for cattle. This district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings.
The afternoon is scheduled for an excursion to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple.
Later visit to Punakha Dzong. Built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored.
Overnight in Punakha & Wangdue.
After breakfast, a beautiful hike (total about 2 hours round trip walk) takes you to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu river and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
Then drive to Thimphu via Dochu La. This pass located at a height of 3,088m/ 10,130 feet is a scenic location with chortens, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, it may be possible to view some of the high peaks of the Himalayan Kingdom.
Travel further to Thimphu, the capital city, a bustling town on the banks of the river Wang Chhu. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal family, the Royal Government and to several foreign missions and development projects.
After checking into your hotel, freshen up and proceed on a sightseeing tour.
Visit King’s Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. It serves, both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Also visit to Trashichhoe dzong, “fortress of the glorious religion”, in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans. Evening visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium & Local Crafts Bazaar, to browse through example of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts constituting hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, interesting items made from local materials.
Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast, sightseeing in Thimphu valley including visit to the following : the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts. Later visit Textile Museum, which provides insight into Bhutan’s one of the most distinct art form. Also visit Simply Bhutan, a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
After lunch, drive to Sangaygang view point (2685 meters) to have view of whole Thimphu valley and walk through hundreds of colourful prayer flags that dot the hill overlooking the valley.
Then drive to Takin Reserve Centre. The takin, the national animal of Bhutan can be seen here. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region.
Next stop is Changangkha Monastery. This monastery is built on a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. Many parents take their new born babies to this monastery to be blessed by a high lama.
Afterwards visit King’s Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. It serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Conclude the day with visit of Trashichhoedzong. This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
After breakfast, we continue our fascinating journey towards Paro, enroute visit the Simtokha Dzong. It stands on a low ridge 8 km down the valley from Thimphu. The Institute for Language and Cultural Studies is located within the premises. The most noteworthy artistic feature of this dzong is the series of over 300 finely worked slate carvings behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
Later continue the drive towards Paro with en-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different style of stupas ; Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese adorn this confluence.
Driving onwards, visit the Iron bridge. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple.
Arrive in Paro and check in at your hotel.
This afternoon is dedicated to explore Paro and its surrounding.
Visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. After the visit walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Evening is free to explore Paro main street and shopping area.
Overnight in Paro
After breakfast excursion to Taktshang Monastery (approx. 5 hours round trip walk). It is one of the most famous and visited of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. Donkey’s can be organised for easy access to the monastery.
Later in the afternoon, drive to the base of Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari, “mountain of goddess” can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong. Nearby visit a traditional farm house, which offers deep insight into lifestyle of local people especially the village folks.
While returning to the hotel, along the way, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Overnight in Paro
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in your hotel until check out time. Transfer to the airport and bid farewell to this beautiful country as you fly back home with wonderful memories of your holiday with Airtours Holidays!
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