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15-Day East to West Bhutan Cultural Conquest Travel

Suitable Months : March, April & September, November

Bhutan has introduced the domestic flights between Paro, Bumthang and Yonphula (Trashigang). You can reduce the duration of the trek to 15 days if you use the domestic flight to Trashigang from Paro International Airport.

Day 1: Arrival at Paro and drive to Thimphu (Altitude 2,280m)

Drive time: 45 minutes

Welcome to Bhutan, “The Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Landing down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your tour guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Then we will drive to Thimphu, let you check in the hotel and serve you with the first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some sightseeing in Thimphu if possible.

Day 2: Paro to Trashigang

Fly to Yonphula from Paro International Airport

We will drive down to Trashigang from the Yonphula Airport. Enroute visit the university town of Kanlung, which is located 25km south of Trashigang. Sherubtse College was founded in 1978 and, if time permits, visit the sacred Zangtokpelri Monastery.

Trashigang is a tiny and a lively town, the bars are worth a visit. Walk through the town where a large prayer wheel sits in the centre of the square and we will visit the Trashigang Dzong. The entire eastern region was governed from this Dzong from the late 17th century until the beginning of the 20th century.

Day 3: Trashigang to Trashi Yangtse to Trashigang

  • Trashingang Yangtse: We will visit Trashi Yangtse (1hour 45mins) via Gom Kora to visit Chorten Kora. Trashi Yangtse borders the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The old trade route from east and west Bhutan used to travel through Trashi Yangtse. We will then stop at the village of Duksum to see the shops selling the colourful pattern cloths woven by the women of the village using back strap-looms. We will just relax and explore Trashigang.

Day 4: Trashigang to Mongar

Now we will drive westwards to Mongar in the morning. As we travel into the valley of the Kuri Chhu we will pass by extensive cornfields and paddy field, tropical fruits such as mango and pineapples flourish. When travelling though eastern part of Bhutan the main language is Sharchop, much different from National Language, Dzongkha. In western Bhutan most towns are located in valleys but in eastern Bhutan most towns, including Mongar, are at the tops of hills or ridges.

  • Mongar Dzong: We will visit Mongar Dzong, which was established in 1930 to replace the original Dzong. Currently it is used as the district office and monastic body.

Day 5: Mongar to Bumthang

The most spectacular drive in the country is between Mongar & Jaker, we will cross the Thrumsing La (Bhutan’s highest pass at 3,800m), and it’s a pass where we officially depart eastern Bhutan. The drive across the Thrumshing La pass and the subsequent descent through the mountains from high altitude pine forest to lush pastures is long and at times tiring, the relentless natural vegetation variation and change makes it one of the most exciting drives in the country. We will then pass by Ura valley, the highest valley in Bumthang and believed by to have been the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan.

It allows us an insight into how the central Bhutanese live. The paved streets of the traditional village of Ura give a medieval feel. The old women of this region still wear sheepskin shawls on their backs which double as a blanket and cushion.

Day 6: Bumthang sightseeing-I (Altitude 2,600 – 4,000m)

Bumthang is known as the paradise of Bhutan, it has the most spectacular valley and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. Bumthang is a home to the Guru Rinpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) which have led to construct more than 50 temples in this peaceful valley. Bumthand valley is also rich in fauna and flora.

Following visits will be made:

  • Tamshing Goemba: Built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa.
  • Kurjey Lhakhang: It is one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses a rock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who had taken the form of a white lion.
  • Jambay Lhakhang: It is built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism.
  • Jakar Dzong: Built as monastery in 1549 by the great grandfather of the Zhabdrung, located on a pitched high ground overlooking the town junction. It is currently used as the administrative center for Bumthang district
  • Thangbi Lhakhang: Located along the Thangbi Valley, we will have to hike for a short while, crossing a suspension bridge. This Lhakhang was built in the 14th century.

Note: Visit in October, Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan.

Day 7: Bumthang sightseeing-II (Altitude 2,600m – 4,000m)

  • Me-Bar Tsho (Burning Lake): One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, the holy lake is said to be one of the holiest lakes in Bhutan. The legend says, Terton Pema Lingpa (Buddhist saint and treasure discoverer) dived into the lake holding a burning butter lamp on one hand. After several hours when he came out of the lake, he was holding some relics on one hand and the butter lamp on his other hand which was still burning. Thus the lake was called Me-Bar Tsho (Me-bar=Burning Tsho=Lake)
  • Ugyen Choling Palace:  A two hours drive journey, a roadside Lhakhang and a nunnery, ending at Tang valley and the village of Kesum. From the road we will have to hike for an hour over a suspension footbridge, along the farm fields and cluster villages, up a hill to the mystical Ugyen Choling palace where we will spend nights in the owner’s guesthouse or in the Dzong.

Day 8: Bumthang to Gangtey (Altitude 3,000m)

Drive time 5 hours

On the way to Gangtey we will pass by Trongsa, which is the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty.

  • Trongsa, means “New Town” in our national language Dzongkha. Tronsga is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. For each King in the line of succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before crowning the Raven Crown.
  • Trongsa Dzong: The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by Pema Lingpa. The Dzong flourished during the 17th century under Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal. With its massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde ChuValle.
  • Trongsa Taa Dzong: Built as a watch tower the Taa Dzong has since been converted into a Heritage Museum. A book on this prominent Dzong is written by Christian Schicklgruber entitled The Tower of Trongsa, Religion and Power in Bhutan.

Day 9: Gangtey to Punakha (Altitude 3,000m) 

Before the start of the journey we will do some sightseeing in the Phobjikha valley.

  • Phobjikha valley: The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis. These valley is one of the popular places that the birds migrate from the Tibetan plateau to the valley in winter months. These elegant birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes.
  • Gangtey Goempa: This is an old monastery built around 17th century, overlooking the Phobjikha valley.
  • View of Wangdue: One of the district capital of Western Bhutan. Located south of Punakha, downstream of the river flowing from Punakha. The district is known for bamboo works, slate and stone carving.

We will stop for a while to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Built in 1638, which is now seen only the remains of the walls, it was fiercely engulfed in fire last year, 2012. Every Bhutanese have been disheartened on this unfortunate incident.

Day 10: Punakha sightseeing

  • Chhimi Lhakhang:  20 minutes’ walk along the green fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. This Temple was built by Ngawang Chogyel in 15th century after the ’divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten over there. Now, It is a pilgrim site for barren women.
  • Punakha Dzong: Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning Bhutanese architecture, built at the fork of two rivers. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored as of today.

Day 11: Punakha to Thimphu

Drive time: Two and a half hours

  • Dochula Pass: 108 chortens built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the soldiers lost.
  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten: Built by the Third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon wangchuck this Chorten is a splendid Bhutanese architecture and art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It was built over eight and a half years and the details have been drawn from religious scripture.

After reaching the capital, Thimphu, we will do some light sightseeing around the capital town.

Day 12: Thimphu sightseeing

  • Takin enclosure: To see the Takin National animal of Bhutan.
  • Buddha Dordenma Statue: You will see the Biggest Buddha statue in the world at Kuenselphodrang.
  • Heritage Museum: Dedicated to connecting Bhutanese rural though exhibition of artifacts used in rural households.
  • Textile Museum: You will witness the art of traditional weaving.
  • TashichoDzong: The Biggest Dzong, in the Country, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
  • National Memorial Chorten: Built in honor of the Late third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. You will see hundreds of people chanting around the chorten in the evening.
  • Papermaking Factory: You will see the art of papermaking
  • Semtokha Dzong: Five miles from Thimphu stands the oldest fortress in the Kingdom known as Semtokha Dzong.
  • Centenary Farmers’ Market: Here villagers from the nearby village  and other nearby places as far as Wangdue come to sell their agriculture products. This market is open every Saturday and Sunday.

Day 13: Thimphu to Haa via Chela La to Paro

Drive time 3 hours (one way)

Drive to Haa and to Paro via Chele La (3,988m). From the Chele La pass you can view the Paro valley on one side and Haa valley on the other. You can also have a great photo shot at Chele La overlooking other mountains. At Haa, we will do some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visit the Katso Lhakhang. After the sightseeing, Since, there are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we will drive to Paro.

Day 14: Paro sightseeing

  • Taktsang Monastery: A one hour hike to the cafeteria is also a vantage view whereby you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. The name Taktsang came after Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century.
  • Drukgyal Dzong: A drive to north of Paro valley you will see the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong which was built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, known as the father and unifier of medieval Bhutan. Drukgyal Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as reminiscent reminder of the great victories from Tibetans.
  • Kyichu Lhakhang: We will then visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest Lhakhang in the country.

Day 15: Departing Paro

We will drive you to Paro airport for your flight and you bid a farewell to the Kingdom of Bhutan.