|Start||:||Samdrup jongkhar ( eastern Bhutan )|
|Trip Style||:||Cultural Tour|
|Trip Rating by Popularity||:||***|
|Physical Demand Rating||:||1|
|Discounts||:||Not Applicable on this Trip|
|Group Size||:||Maximum 16, Avg 4|
|Group Leader||:||A Certified Tour Guide|
|Transport||:||Quality and appropriate transportation will be made available.|
This 15 day and 14 nights trip package to Bhutan is unique in its nature as it begins from the eastern gate of Bhutan instead from the western side. As it could be noted, most of the trip to Bhutan begins from our International Airport, Paro. After your arrival at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati, Assam India, you will be received by our guide and driven for almost 3 hours and approximately more than 100 km in the plains of Assam, you will enter Bhutan from Samdrupjongkha Dzongkhag gate. Our basic objectives of using this route is mainly to show you our rural hinterlands, semi-urban towns, extensive paddy fields, meandering rivers, sacred snow-clad mountains to monumental fortresses. While travelling from Samdrupjongkha of the east and flying out from Paro, you will visit our ancient monuments, see number of art and architecture, enjoy local delicacies, culture, beautiful valleys and Bhutanese friendship and hospitality. This trip is set to give you Bhutan’s ultimate splendour. From the commercial hub of North-East India you will be travelling to some of the remote parts of Bhutan. The trip ends at Paro after an rejuvenating visit to the Tiger’s Nest. While flying back, you may be amazed by the realisation that Bhutan indeed remains to be the last Shangri-La on Earth.
Day 1 : Arrival at Guwahati and drive to Samdrup Jongkhar (110 km, 3-hour drive)
On your arrival at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati, Assam India, you will be received by our certified tour guide with the drivers and vehicle. From there you will travel more than 100 km in the plains of Assam taking approximately three hours and enter SamdrupJongkha Dzongkhag the first town of the east Bhutan. You will be halting there for the night and in the evening (if you are not jet-lagged) could explore the town.
Day 2 : Drive to Trashigang (180 kms, 7 hrs)
On the 2nd day, you will be driving towards Trashigang, one of the main town in the eastern region. You will be travelling more than 180 kms taking almost 7 hours and passing through number of satellite towns like Wamrong and Khaling. In Khaling you have the oldest and the only Blind school and on the way you will also notice developing urban life of Bhutanese people. Before you reach, Trashigang, you’ll also come across the oldest degree college, known as Sherubtse. If you are interested we could arrange a tour of the college. Just above Kanglung, we also have a domestic airport, known as Yongphula Airport, about which, we could say, it is one of the high altitude domestic airport. Trashigang town is located in a slopping area and a local market for daily needs of the local people. You will also see nomads from Merak-Sakteng attired in their traditional costumes come here to barter and sell their dairy products. You’ll then visit the Trashigang Dzong (fortress) built in 1659 perched on a hilltop overlooking the vast underlying valleys. You will halt for the night and your journey further.
Day 3 : Drive to Mongar (96 km, 4 hours)
After having breakfast at Trashigang and on our way to Monggar, we will make a visit to Gom Kora, an ancient 17th century temple known for its religious treasures and a rock garden. Locally, we believe, you’ll be liberated in this life and reach the heaven of Guru Rinpoche, if you are able to carry a particular stone around the garden for three rounds and scale the biggest rock in the garden. So with this littel episode at Gom Kara, we will continue our journey towards Mongar. Every year, Gom Kora comes alive with the annual Gom Kora festival, a picturesque festival attended mainly by people from the eastern regions of Bhutan.
Day 4 : Drive to Bumthang (195 km, 7 hours)
After halting at Monggar for the night, on day 4, we will proceed towards Bumthang, on the way you’ll see the ancient Zhongar Dzong which is in ruins after an earthquake and a fire outbreak. Your guide will narrate the background of Zhongar Dzong and relate that these mythical stories are a part of our everyday life. Drive from Mongar to Bumthang is pretty long, however once we reach Bumthang, we’ll ensure you are treated with some local cuisine topped with fresh trout fish from the local river. If you are in the adventurous mood, your dinner will be complemented with some ara (home brewed wine) that would fit perfectly with the Bumthang culinary.
Day 5 : Bumthang Sightseeing
Many visitors has tipped, that your visit to Bhutan is not complete without a visit to Bumthang. On your approach to this Dzongkhag, you will be welcomed by a huge valley that stretches deep into the hills. Bhutan being a religious Country, locally we believe, visiting the religious sites would wash away your sins and pave your way for a better after life. The valley is dotted with some of Bhutan’s most important and sacred pilgrimage sites and you’ll be made witness to all the amazing stories that go with it. Visit Kurje lhakhang (temple) that is house to one of Bhutan’s biggest statue of Guru Rinpoche and more importantly the stone imprints of Guru’s body in a cave. Followed by Jambay Lhakhang, most probably the oldest temple that is believed to be one of the two in Bhutan, out of 108 temples that King Songtsen Gembo of Tibet built across the entire Himalayan region in the 6th century. Finally to Tamzhing monastery was built by Terton Pema Lingpa. We can also arrange a visit to the local cheese factory, the beer factory and the bee keeping farmers if any of these may interests you. Now with a local airport, travel to Bumthang has become more easier and short.
Day 6 : Drive to Trongsa (69 km, 2 hours)
Enjoy the scenic drive to Trongsa, Trongsa Dzongkhag holds an important chapter in the history of the Country, as every Monarch prior ascending the Throne, holds the post of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). During your stay at Trongsa, you should visit the Tower of Trongsa, which had served as a watchtower now developed into a museum that houses some of Bhutan’s most prized possessions including the ‘Raven Crown’ used by the first two Kings. After that, don’t forget to visit, Trongsa Dzong which holds monumental political importance that was central to unification of the country under one central administration and eventually led to the introduction of Monarchy in Bhutan. With the visit of His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo, Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Gyalsey to Trongsa during the 109th National Day celebration, the importance of Trongsa Dzongkhag has scaled further.. After lunch you could either go for a hike along the ancient trade route which descends rapidly to the river and then ascends to exit at a view point from which you could take good picture of the Dzong and the surrounding houses. You’ll be picked up at the view point and driven back to the hotel.
Day 7 : Drive to Phobjikha ( 90 kms, about 4 hours)
On day 7th, we will drive from Trongsa to Phobjikha, which is about 90 km and approximately 4 hours drive. Phobjikha is host to the endangered ‘Black necked cranes’ (Grus Nicorocolis) in the winter who migrate from Tibet and parts of China. The government has given much importance towards the preservation of the bird, and its part time migratory habitat by designating its roosting areas as restricted areas. Development of industry and electrification in the valley has been stalled lest affecting the birds, and the locals are unperturbed as the valley is gifted with extensive land area which makes it ideal for potato farming. Before you reach your hotel, we recommend you to take a walk through the village to get a feel of the rural life. If the weather is good, you also have the option to camp next to the river with a bonfire as many of our guests likes combining their cultural holiday with camping.
Day 8 : Phobjikha Sightseeing
To begin the Phobjikha sightseeing, we will visit the Observatory for some information on the endangered Black Necked Cranes and fortunately, if you are here towards late fall and winter, you can have a close-up on the birds aided by a telescope. Lunch will entail a pleasant 4 km hike around the periphery of the roosting area which eloquently ends into the entrance of the Gangtey Gompa monastery sitting atop a hill overlooking the whole valley. After visiting this special temple that has been renovated recently with fine examples of Bhutanese architecture, you will be picked up by your driver and driven back to your hotel or your camp. The hike is a recommended activity as we ourselves enjoy it every single time we are there as the weather is usually superb for a photographers and the object to be captured is an underlying valley that probably prompted the early visitors to Bhutan to compare the country with Switzerland. We can also augment this day with mountain biking and motorcycles as they valley offers some good collection of dirt roads.
Day 9 : Drive to Wangdue (80 km, about 4 hours)
While driving towards Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag on day 9th, you will probably notice the changes in vegetation from a relatively high altitude of Phobjikha valley that is home to small bamboo shrubs to the lower altitudes of the Wangdue Phodrang valley covered with temperate broad-leafed forests. If you are travelling on this road towards the fall, you could possibly see yaks along this part. When you arrive Wangdue Phodrang town which is unlike any other towns in Bhutan you should visit the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong perched on a steep slope. The fortress is a fine example of ancient Bhutanese architecture replete with fabulous artwork. It stands on a spur commanding a spectacular view of the valley and the emerald river. The Dzong was burnt down in 2012 and every effort is made to bring back to its old glory. The Dzongkhag is well known for Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Goenpa and endangered Black necked crane.
Day 10 : Punakha Sightseeing
we will drive to Punakha, which is approximately four hours drive from Thimphu. Besides visiting local tourist sites, trip to Punakha is never complete without visiting the Dzong (fortress). The historical Dzong is also known as Pungtang Dechen Phodrang Dzong (meaning very awesome dzong “the palace of great happiness or bliss”). It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. Punakha Dzong served as the capital of the Country from 1637 to 1907 and the first National Assembly was held in 1953. The significance of the Dzong stepped up in 2011, when His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk married Gyeltseun Her Majesty Jetsun Pema on October 13th at Punakha Dzong. One of the beautiful aspect of Punakha Dzong is its location, the Dzong is located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley. Do not forget to visit Chhimi Lhakhang popularly known as fertility temple, It was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa, Ngawang Choegye and is located at Lobeysa (on the way to Punakha). Worldwide known as TEMPLE of FERTILITY, Thousands of childless couple has visited Chimi Lhakhang to pray for children and other couple to seek protection for their children. There are stories by American and European tourists how they have conceived after their pilgrimage to Chimi Lhakhang. Chimi Lhakhang is not only renowned for its fertility blessings, it also fulfils other religious and spiritual needs of the Bhutanese. Here you will have option to camp near the river or driven back to Wangduephodrang.
Day 11 : Drive to Thimphu (70 km, 2 hour)
On day 11th we will proceed towards the Capital City, Thimphu, which is more than 70 km and approximately more than 2 hours drive. On the way to Thimphu, we will be crossing one of the highest pass among many others named Dochula which is 3140 meters high. Before reaching Dochula we will take a short break for refreshment and enjoy the breathtaking view of the eastern Himalayan ranges through a telescope. On Dochula pass you will also see the Druk Wangyal Chortens, a collection of 108 chortens (stupas) mainly built to illustrate the achievements of the Fourth King. Once you reach the capital city, you will be seeing an urban life of Bhutan. In the evening you could dine at a very fine restaurant with choice of Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese or Thai culinary but do seek the advice of the guide.
Day 12 : Thimphu Sightseeing
In your Thimphu sightseeing programme of day 12, begin your visit from any of the following tourist sites, such as; National Folk Heritage Museum, Zorig Chusum school of 13 traditional arts/crafts, Textile Museum, Memorial Chorten (stupa), Kuenselphodrang (AKA Budha Point) and the Simtokha Dzong. These visits will showcase not only our age old heritage, tradition, customs and even fabrics (which is the present identification of a Bhutanese) but our deep commitment to preserve and promote it. Your visit to Centenary Farmers market will bring across our efforts to promote self sufficiency in agriculture produce against chemically infused vegetables imported from neighbouring states. Do visit our only Takin Reserve Center and see an unique animal (mixture of a goat and wildebeest) which is also national animal of Bhutan – the Takin. Takin is chosen as the National Animal of Bhutan, because it is unique, rare and native to Bhutan. It is closely associated to religious history and mythology of the country. The animal was called ‘Dyiong-gyem tsi’ or takin. After dinner, we could visit some interesting bars or drayangs for some drink, music and conversation. After all these days of travel and sightseeing, you might land up meeting any Bhutanese, who is outspoken and friendly city dweller keen to give your his perspective of the current affairs and the general observations of the world. If you are interested in dancing (no age restrictions), we may as well hit the dance floors of Thimphu for some taste of local choreography.
Day 13 : Hiking in Thimphu
On day 13th, In Thimphu, we’ll take you for a short drive to Begana, a small village in north of Thimphu. From there we will hike to Tango monastery, a temple which was build in 1659 and continue hiking to Cheri Gompa, another half an hour hike to the first monastic school built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan in 1620. Look out for wild gorals and deer along the way as they’ve unwittingly found shelter around the temple. After that, we can visit, Takin Reserve Centre in the evening to meet the national animal of Bhutan- the Takin. We can also arrange other evening activities depending on your interests such as; a meditation session with a Buddhist institute, swimming in the only pool in Thimphu, some sporting activities like tennis, basketball, golf, biking, motorcycling etc. You could spend the remaining time going around Thimphu town and buy souveneirs for your family and friends back home.
Day 14 : Drive to Paro (55 km, 1 hour)
On day 14th, we proceed to Paro and visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, the sister temple of the Jambay Lhakhang the one we saw in Bumthang, built by King Srongtsen Gembo of Tibet in the 6th century as part of the 108 temples built across the entire Himalayan region in one night. In the afternoon, visit the National Museum, the largest museum of Bhutan that showcases some of the most valuable arts, artefacts, historical transcripts, statues, stamps etc.
Day 15 : Paro Sightseeing and Taktsang
Definitely the best for the last, we will drive north for a short hike to the famous Taktshang monastery (popularly known as Tiger’s nest). A two-hour hike up will bring you to the temple perched on a 1000 feet cliff – truly a modern marvel which defies all engineering theory. The view of the temple as our clients have been saying is “nothing short of spectacular”. Your guides during the hike and visit will compliment with its history. Lunch will be served at the temple cafeteria. In the evening, with a local theatre company, we will organize a cultural evening at the hotel which will showcase some of our traditional music and dances, mask dances and folklore at the hotel. After dinner, a dip in the traditional hot-stone bath may help you unwind and reflect about your journey before departing.
Day 16 : Depart for onward journey
Being with you for last 15 days, saying farewell is usually not mechanical. However, with a hope that this trip to Bhutan has build up a friendship which is more valuable than anything else and the service has been more than satisfactory, we will say goodbye with a promise of meeting each other very soon. If it is a bright sunny day, your holiday fades out with panoramic views of the Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga, and our very own Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drakey. Please do not hesitate to unbuckle yourself and lean over other passengers on the window side to take some pictures!!
Additional Activities that can be included: Mountain biking, Motorcycling, Swimming, Fly Fishing, Cultural Performances, Cooking Classes, Art Classes, Attending rituals in private homes, Meditation Sessions with reputed lamas, Yoga sessions, Buddhism talks, Volunteerism like being part of a house construction, fruit-picking; Sports like Tennis, Golf, Basketball and even a Football match; Music Jam-up sessions with local musicians. If you have a burning desire to share your story with the locals, we can also have some FM radio stations or local newspapers to talk to you – you name it and we will make it possible!!
What’s Not Included