The wild and rugged east of Bhutan sees far fewer tourists than the western regions, which is reason enough to go. Intrepid travelers venturing east will be rewarded with group-free dzongs and temples, beautiful silks and embroidery, and lush, bird-filled forests. Food and accommodation options can be modest and simple, attesting to the region’s remoteness. However, despite this remoteness, the east is surprisingly densely populated. Most of the population live in remote settlements; secreted high above the road or in isolated valleys, some are home to minority ethnic groups comprising fewer than 1000 people. The east is opening up to tourism but it remains a frontier for adventure travel in Bhutan. The new east–west highway has been widened. If you want to get off the beaten track, this is your place.
The flight into Paro on our national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of our country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks, give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. On arrival at Paro international airport, you will be received by our representative and will escort you to hotel. In the afternoon visit is Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong, the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge. A short distance further is one of the innumerable archery grounds. (Archery is the national sport of Bhutan). If we are lucky, we may catch a match in action.
Overnight stay in Paro.
Right after the breakfast drive towards the road point to Taktshang. Taktshang Monastery, the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. Taktshang means “Tiger’s Nest,” so named because Guru Rimpoche reportedly flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a flying tiger in the late centuries of the first millennium. The monastery is perched on a cliff nearly 3,000 ft above the Paro valley floor. This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! It takes about two hours to reach the cafeteria, which gives a breathtaking view of the Tiger’s Nest. If you still feel like hiking then you can take another hour to reach the temple. Then return back to hotel and free evening in Paro.
Overnight stay in Paro.
Drive to Thimphu for an hour and check in at the hotel. In the morning Visit the Memorial stupa which was built in the memory of our beloved 3rd King in1974. Later drive to Buddha Point to see the larget statue of Buddha Sykhamuni in the world. And visit the mini zoo to see the Takins which is our national animals. If you prefer a short and a easy one could go for Wangditse temple hike: It’s a short easy hike (1 Hr) with beautiful view (1 Hr). You have to drive to the BBS tower where the road ends and starts your nice and easy hike through the pine forest overlooking Thimphu valley, especially the Thimphu Dzong and the parliament house. This is one of the very few hikes in Bhutan where almost no climbing is required. Visit the temple of Wangdise and enjoy the view of Thimphu and walk back to your car.
After 5 PM, visit the fortress of Thimphu, Tashichho Dzong, which houses the throne of the king. If you have the energy walk around the happening town, the largest and the most crowded town in Bhutan.
Overnight: Thimphu| Altitude: 2300m
Morning visit the happening weekend market (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) where the locals from the surrounding villages come to sell their produce. They sell their goods and in return they buy their basic necessities. In olden days, bata system was practiced by everyon. Visit the school of Arts and Crafts which was established to preserve and promote our age old arts and crafts. The students here are taught 13 different traditional arts. Visit Folk Heritage Museum which explains how a traditional house used to be like in the olden days. Later visit the National Library which houses the collection of Bhutanese rich religious text and the contemporary Buddhism teachings from masters all around the world Later continue to Zilukha nunnery to meet the nuns and interact with them.
After lunch you have a option for nice hike.
Take a short drive out of the capital and walk an hour or so to visit Tango Monastery. Start for a beautiful hike (1.5 Hrs) to the temple of Tango/Cheri in the wilderness offering a beautiful view of the thick forest and valley. The hike is all uphill through a small trail and finally opens up once you reach the temple. It’s a very quite and beautiful hike.Visit the monastery founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanampa in the 12th century, today the monastery is a school for the study of Buddhist philosophy metaphysics mathematics and poetry. Later in the afternoon back to the hotel.
After breakfast drive to Punakha. (The ancient capital of Bhutan) is 3 hours drive from Thimphu across Dochu-La Pass. (Alt. 11,400 ft) snow-capped eastern Himalayan ranges can be seen on a clear day. Prayer flags will flutter you over the pass deeper into the essence of Bhutan. Once you cross the pass, you wind down into a warm fertile valley and meander along a gently flowing aquamarine river that leads you to the Punakha valley. En route just before arriving the hotel, taka a nice hike through the paddy field and old village to visit Chimi Lakhang, the temple of fertility associated with religious art of phallus.
After lunch visit the Punakha dzong, the winter residence of the Je khempo (chief abbot). Punakha dzong is the second dzong system built in Bhutan by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel in the year 1637. The Dzong is said to be the most beautiful of dzong in Bhutan; it is an outstanding structure with intense artwork.
Over night at the hotel in Punakha.
Today drive early to Phobjikha valley, A broad glacial valley (10’000 ft) on the flanks of the Black Mountains, Phobjikha with it’s gently slop is a place of astonishing beauty described as” the most beautiful valley in the most beautiful country of Himalayas”. Every winter, the rare and beautiful black-necked cranes return from Tibet to the Gangtey valley where they are protected.
En route could stop for a short hike to the ancient village of Rinchengang overlooking the ruins of Wangdi Dzong. It’s amazing how they have managed to be together and preserve the old houses. This valley is protected being winter home for the endangered Black Necked Cranes migrating to Bhutan every end of Oct to end of Feb. This valley is a paradise for the nature lovers and hikers. Gangtey also has a very interesting Nyingmapa monastery, the only one of the only one of its kind west of the Black Mountain range. The monastery is renovated by 9th Gangtey Tulku Rimpoche.
.This is a very remote village and the hotel standard is very basic. Being protected, this valley got electricity recently only.
Overnight: Phobjikha| Altitude: 2900m
Later after breakfast continue your drive crossing over Pelela Pass at 3,300m which forms the part of Black mountain range that divides the country into east and west. Enroute could take a short break and go for short hike to the remote village of Rukubji or Chendibji. The road pass descends through hillside of dwarf bamboos, pasturelands, evergreen forests and small villages. The vegetation changes from evergreen to broad leaf as it further descends passing through Sephu and Chendebji village.
On the stop visit Chendebji Chorten, patterned on Katmandu’s Swayambhunath stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18 century by Lama Shida, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
Night halt at the hotel in Trongsa.
In the morning visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648; it was seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings ruled the country from this ancient seat. All the five kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop(Governor) prior to ascending the throne. Presently the administrative seat of the district and the home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the dzong offers magical wonder. The watchtower, located directly above the dzong, before used to have many interesting armors and other weapons of war used by ancient warriors which is converted into a museum just few years ago also. Continue onwards to Jakar. Stop in Chumi valley, the weaving place, by the roadside where “Yatha” (wool weaving) is woven here which Bumthang is famous for.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
The valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in the kingdom. It is also the religious heartland where many saints and masters meditated leaving their imprints as sacred places of worship and pilgrimage Tales of Pedmasambhava dominate these holy shrines. In the morning visit, Jampa Lhakhang which is built by Tibetain King Songtshen Gompa in 7th century and then drive to Kurji Lhakhang were body imprints of Guru Rimpoche remains preserved upon a rock. Then short hike to Tamzhing Monastery. If the weather is clear, you will enjoy the view of green valley, dotted with hundreds tempals, thousand flags and beautiful chamkhar river flow through the valley. The valley is also called mini Switzerland of Bhutan.
Overnight at Jakar
Drive towards Eastern Bhutan is spectacular with the views of mountains, hamlets, waterfalls and several birds en-route. On the way, you will pass through Ura valley which lies at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The differences between Eastern and Western Bhutan are far greater than the high pass that separates them. History has played a significant role with the kingdom only being unified with the east at the end of the last century and prior to that many wars separated each side. Thrumshing La pass and a seven-hour drive separate Ura from Mongar in the East.
The journey is one of the most beautiful in all the Himalayas. The descent from Thrumshing La to Lingmithang is astonishing for several reasons. The road drops from 3,800 meters to 650 meters in only a few hours passing from pine forest through semi-tropical forest to orange groves. Carved out of the side of the mountain, in parts the road’s edge borders a sheer cliff which drops thousands feet.
Arriving at Mongar marks the beginning of your eastern Bhutan experience. Eastern Bhutan is famous for its fine weaving. Weavers using backs trap looms produce cotton and silk cloth in incredible colors and patterns. Often natural colors are made from bark, leaves and flowers. The predominant ethnic group in Eastern Bhutan are Sharchops, who are generally followers of the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism and tend to be shorter and stockier than people in other parts of the country. Another characteristic of Eastern Bhutan is that the cities and towns are generally built on mountain slopes, a notable exception being Samdrup Jongkhar which is located in a valley on the Indian border. Sharchopkha is the predominant language of the region, though there are local variations. Some of the finest weaving villages in Bhutan are found in the Mongar area.
Over night in Mongar.
Drive to the remote province of Tashi Yangtse, crossing over the pass of Kori La, driving through villages and paddy fields and the popular Yadi loop, after crossing the Rolong Chuu bridge, we can see the view of Trashigang Dzong, we take a diversion from Chakzam following the river to Yangtse. As you drive you will see houses and villages spread all around the mountains. En route visit the Gom Kora Lhakahng, blessed and mediated by Guru Rimpoche in a big rock, there is a popular festival taking place during March. Picnic lunch at a place by the river. Continue your picturesque drive. As soon as you reach Tashi Yangtse you will be greeted by Chorten Kora temple, a circular chorten where a princess of Arunchal Pradesh was doomed here, the festival takes place in the month of March and many people from Arunchal Pradesh visits this site. Visit the town and villagers making the Dapas (wooden bowls). This is a very remote town and the hotel standard is very basic.
Overnight: Trashi Yangtse| Altitude: 1650m
After breakfast start retracing your journey back till checkpoint at the bridge and start climbing up till you reach Trashigang. Later visit the impressive Trashigang Dzong, overlooking north part of its province. Later drive towards the north of the valley and visit the Ranjung monastery and hike around the quite little town of Ranjung. Drive further up through the dirt road or could walk through the village of Radhi and the Nunnery
Morning start your drive for Bhutan India border town, S/Jongkhar. The drive goes through many villages and again a picturesque landscape. You may spent some time watching the Great Horn Bills and the Rofus Horn bills, which are rare! Picnic lunch on the way. Enjoy the picturesque landscape as you descend over the balcony of Himalayas. Being the India Bhutan border town, it might not be of your Bhutanese traditional expectations. Upon arrival, you guide will assist you to find your transport for the next day to drive you to the airport. Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Overnight: Samdrup Jongkhar| Altitude: 150m
Today we will drive to Gawahati which is 110 Km from Bhutan Boarder. The Bhutan services will end here and your Indian vechiecle will come and pick up in the morning. The entire drive is in the plains. Time to explore Guwahati for rest of your stay