15-Days in Hidden Kingdom, Exploring Far East
Day 1: Paro, the airportcity
Arrive at Paro International Airport by Druk Air. On arrival at Paro International Airport, our tour representative will welcome you. Check in hotel/lunch. Start the day by visiting the National Museum (Ta- Dzong). The museum stands in the location overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. Then, visit Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Today, this massive fortress built in 1646 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful architectural designs in Bhutan.
Day 2: Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest
Drive for about 10km from Paro town to Ramthangkha and walk to the Monastery. The name Taktsang means “Tiger’s Nest’’and the Monastery is perched on a rocky edge with a sheer drop of nearly 4000ft overlooking the Paro valley.
Taktsang is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the Himalayas. However, most people can only visit the main site called Taktsang Pel-phu. According to the legend, Padmasambhava founded Taktsang Monastery in the eighth century. It is believed that the Guru came to this place on the back of a tigress from Khengpajong in the Kurtoe region and meditated here for three months in a cave before converting the Paro valley to Buddhism.
Day 3: Paro – Thimphu. (Aprox. 2hrs drive)
Start with a drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress located about 16 kms away from Paro Town. The Dzong, although in ruins today, holds historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means “The victorious Bhutanese”.
This spot also offers a magnificent view of Mt. Jomolhari, “Abode of the Goddess Jumo” (7315m).
On drive back you will visit one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, Kichu Lhakhang. The first King of Tibet; Songtsen Gampo built Kichu Lhakhang in the7th century to introduce Buddhism to Bhutan when the country was still influenced by the Bon beliefs.
In the late afternoon, you will enjoy two hours drive to Thimphu (7,700 feet), the only Capital City in the world without traffic lights. The drive itself will give you an opportunity to experience the “Last Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom."
Day 4: Thimphu, exploring the capital city
After breakfast, visit the National Memorial chorten that was built in memory of the late king, the third Druk Gyalpo. You will encounter lots of interesting people circumambulating the chorten. Then drive to the Changangkha Temple followed by a drive to Takin National Animal sanctuary to photograph the Takin, Bhutan’s National Animal. Then drive to the National Library to see the collection of old manuscripts followed by a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum. Then you will enjoy lunch in town.
In the afternoon, you will visit the Institute of Arts & Crafts, where young artists are trained in the traditional ways of painting & statue making. Drive to Zilukha Nunnery & on to a viewpoint to photograph the city at sunset. If the time permits, we will visit a traditional hand made paper factory & goldsmiths workshop. Visit Trashi Chhodzong. This old fortress now serves as the center of administration, housing His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s office, the central Monastic Body as well four branches of administration.
Day 5: Thimphu - Punakha. (77 km. 3 hours. 1350 m)
An early drive to the Dochula Pass (3150m) for breakfast and breathtaking view. If the weather is clear, the Dochu- la pass offers the most spectacular views of the eastern Himalayas mountain ranges. Then we drive to Punakha for lunch at hotel.
After lunch we visit Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan. It was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The Dzong is located at the convergence of two rivers, the Pho-chu & Mo-chu. After Dzong visit, drive further up to take a small hike to Nyzergang to visit the Khamsum Yuelly Namgyal Temple. Night Punakha
Day 6: Punakha – Trongsa. (128 km. 5 hours. 2200 m)
We will drive to Trongsa and on the way visit Wangduephodrang, which is another district half an hour's drive from Punakha. In Wangduephodrang Dzong was built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal one year after the Punakha Dzong.
The drive will continue and climb all the way to Pele-la pass at 3300m. It is main landmark that divides Western Bhutan from Eastern Bhutan. The drive continues down to Trongsa. On the way we will come across Yak herder’s camps and encounter Yaks especially during the winter, we will also see high Himalayan villages like Rukubji and Chendebji.
Day 7: Trongsa - Bumthang. (68 km. 2 hours. 2600m)
Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s Royal Family. Both the First and Second King ruled the Kingdom from this ancient seat. All the Kings of Bhutan have to become Trongsa’s Penlop (Honorary post of Governor) prior to being crowned as the Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan). Trongsa Dzong is one of the largest & most impressive in the country. It was built in 1648. Visit the ancient watchtower (Ta- Dzong), which is situated above the town.
After 3hrs drive from Trongsa, you will reach Bumthang, the famous valley which is made up of four main valleys, Chummey, Tang, Ura and Choskhor (Jakar). After crossing Yotong La Pass (3400m), you will encounter buckwheat fields and the only straight road in the country entering the first valley of Bumthang, Chummey. The main development center of the province is situated in Choskhor commonly known as the Jakar valley where you can see a little bit of the modern touch with Swiss influence. On the way one can see girls weaving Yathra, the traditional woolen materials used for different purposes on a traditional handloom. The finished products are all on display for look and sale. Over night in Bumthang
Day 8: Bumthang, explore the essence of central Bhutan
Bumthang is different from all the other valleys in Bhutan. It is very spacious with altitudes that ranges from 2600m to 4000m. It is considered a heaven for hikers and Trekkers in addition to the numerous beautiful and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites, making it the Cultural and Historic heartland in Bhutan. One could spend months exploring this fascinating valley. Almost every little valley or hill has a background of interesting myths and legends about Kings, Buddhist masters and Serpents.
Bumthang is dominated by the religious influence of Padmasambhava (believed to be the second Buddha 7th –8th A.D) and his reincarnation the Treasure revealer,Terton Pemalingpa 1450-1521, who is known to have discovered many sacred Buddhist texts hidden by Padmasambhava in various places.
Take a walk up to Tamshing monastery, founded by Terton Pemalingpa, where about 200 monks reside.
You can visit the Wangdichholing Palace, Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, and the oldest monastery in the Kingdom. All the Kings of Bhutan are taken for their cremation rites to Kurjee Monastery. Visit more temples.
Drive to the sacred Mebartsho (the Burning Lake). The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and is considered as one of the most holy places for Buddhist pilgrimage. After this visit drive back to Chamkhar and spend the night in town.
Day 9: Bumthang - Mongar. (193 km. 7 hours)
After Breakfast the drive will take you through the pine forests keeping the Jakar Dzong view behind us. After a half hour drive you will cross the Tang Chu climbing towards and through Tangsebgi village. The drive reaches Ura valley the highest and most eastern part of Bumthang. It takes around 2 hours drive through blue pine trees, villages and onto the high pass of Sheltheng la (3600m). Looking towards the north in clear weather one can see the high white Gangkar Punsum (7541m/2974ft) the highest peak in Bhutan.
The landscape of Ura valley is different from that of the others, with round sweeping slopes, fertile pastures and wide fields. At the bottom you will see the large and unusual village with its cluster of big houses united by the paved flagstone alleys, a rare sight in Bhutan. The big community monastery dominates the village. It is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Ura festival usually takes place in the 2nd week of May & sometime in June, depending on the Bhutanese lunar calendar.
Thimshingla National park starts here and if one wishes one can visit the field office at Ura. It is open Mon- Fri and closed on holidays. The drive from here will take you through the National Park. There is also the Rhododendron Flower Park (only in spring time). You will also cross the highest point of the road in Bhutan, the Thimshing La Pass (3800 m) and you will see a lot of changes in vegetation and villages. Night hold Mongar.
Day 10: Mongar –Trashing, the Eastern Bhutan (92 km)
After breakfast drive to Trashgang, crossing a low pass between these two Districts called Kori – La Pass (2400 m). You will go through villages like Yedi and cross the Chakzam, the iron Bridge.
Trashigang is considered to be one of the biggest districts in Bhutan. The 3rd Temporal Ruler of Bhutan Menjyur Tenpa built it in the 17th century overlooking the convergence of Drangme Chu & the Gambri Chu. Night in Trashingang.
Day 11: Trashigang – Trashi Yangtse –Trashigang
(Trashi Yangtse 53 km. 1.5 hours or Rangjung, Radi)
You can choose any one of these excursion options and explore the remote eastern parts of Bhutan. If you have a longer period you can drive to the southeast Khaling Weaving center and blind school. Return to Mongar for the night.
Day 12: Mongar - Bumthang
After breakfast drive to Bumthang crossing the highest Pass on the way back. You can stop on the way should there be any points of interest or taking photos. Just let your guide know in advance.
Day 13: Bumtang-Via – Gangtey - Wangduephodrang.
Gnagtey Gonpa was built on a small hillock surrounded by blue pine trees. A descendant of Pema Lingpa (the great Bhutanese saint of Bumthang) built the Gonpa in the 16th century and it is a Nyingmapa monastery.
At the end of the 17th century it was enlarged and currently headed by the 9th reincarnation called Gangtey Trulku. It is run by the family houses of Gomchens (layman), who worship and work at the monastery.
Further down you will reach the Phojikha valley. This place is reserved for the migration of the black neck crane. The people out here have become friendly with the endangered species and every consecutive year starting from the 2nd week of November to the 1st week of April the fields and marshes of this undisturbed valley offer a truly magnificent sight as you watch the cranes.
Day 14: Wangdue – Thimphu – Paro.
Drive back to Thimphu for lunch and last stop for shopping. You can also see some more places in the capital city like the magnificent Tango and Cheri monasteries which are both an hours drive to the north of the city and about an hours hike. In the evening drive back to Paro for tomorrow’s departure.
Day 15: Departure
Representative from our company will drive you to the airport and bid you a farewell and safe journey home.