This tour can be done both ways, West to East or East to West:
- Enter from Paro and exit from Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati, Assam, India or
- Enter from Samdrup Jongkhar, via Guwahati, Assam and exit from Paro to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Dhaka or Singapore.
Day 1: Paro
- On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be warmly received by a friendly, customarily dressed Chen-Ray Travel & Tours’ (Bhutan Travel Company) agent with a traditional white welcome scarf (called Khadhar) with eight propitious symbols printed on it. Drive to Thimphu which is about 1 hour drive from airport with sightseeing en route. Check in to your hotel and lighten up with a cup of welcome tea.
- Visit Ta Dzong (watch tower), Built in 1656 as a watchtower for Rinpung Dzong is now used as the National Museum which is a repository of not only valuable works of art but also costumes, Armour and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provide a good photograph of the rich cultural traditions of the country. It opens 7 days a week except on National Holidays.
- Next visit Rinpung Dzong: Built in 1646 by Lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal and strategically located to thwart Tibetan incursions into the rest of the country, this Dzong became one of Bhutan’s strongest and most significant fortresses.
- If time permits visit Kyichu Lhakhang. It was built in 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The temple fell into disrepair but was fabulously restored in 1839 by the 25th Je Khempo (Chief Abbot). He also contributed the stupendous statue of Avalokiteshwara, with eleven heads and thousand arms, which is located in the refuge.
- Over night at your hotel in Paro.
Day 2: Hike to Tiger Nest Monastery
- Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery: The hike to Taktshang Monastery perched on a cliff at 2950m/9700ft takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours as per your hiking ability. It is an uphill hike to the Monastery. The trail goes up through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of waving prayer flags. There is a cafeteria (Taktsang Jakhang) on the half way. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (the great Buddhist master) with his thrilling powers came to Taktshang in the eighth century, flying from the east of the country on the back of a tigress (a form that one of his companion is believed to have taken). He is said to have meditated for about three months in a cave on the cliff and subdued the evil spirits. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1692 by the fourth Desi Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below.
- Evening free to stroll around the Paro town with a street of traditional buildings with shops selling Bhutanese handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 3: Paro – Thimphu
- Drive to Thimphu (one hour) with sightseeing en route.
- Buddha Point: Kuenselphodrang now commonly known as Buddha point since the construction of the world’s tallest Buddha (Dhordenma) Statue (169 feet) started. Located on a hill, can enjoy the spectacular view of Thimphu valley.
- Visit the monumental chorten (Stupa).This Chorten was built (1974) in honor of the late 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. Built in a typical Tibetan style outside and with three shrines inside represents the main spiritual themes of the Nyingma School. The paintings inside depict tantric Buddhism and all its complexity. The complex is visited by people from all walks throughout the day and is one of the most visited public religious places in the capital.
- Changangkha Monastery: Is one of the oldest temples of Thimphu dating back to 15th century. It was built by a successor of Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo. The new born babies of residents of Thimphu valley are taken to receive their first blessings from a High Lama (Monk).
- Drive to Takin enclosure at Motithang, to see the National Animal Bhutan.
Dupthop Lhakhang: One of the few nunneries in Bhutan.
- Visit Zorig chusum (meaning 13 arts and crafts) which is popularly known as the painting school. Students in this institute learn 13 different conventional arts and crafts like painting, sculpture, wood carving, weaving, embroidery, etc.
- National Library: Was opened in 1967 to preserve the ancient Dzongkha texts and act as a repository for thousands of old sacred books and manuscripts as well as the wooden blocks used for printing.
- Evening drive to Tashichho Dzong: The present form this Dzong was sanctified as late as 1969 and it is a visual delight. The history of this Dzong dates back to thirteenth century but the original dzong was not at the present site that offers no defensive merit. The old one was built in 1216 or so by the founder of the Lhapa School and was located on a spur to the North-East of the present one. This Dzong was badly damaged during a subsequent struggle with the drukpas and later became the property of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in the 1630s. In 1641 he rebuilt the Dzong christening it Tashichhoe (the Fortress of Glorious Religion). This became the summer residence of the Zhabdrung and the clergy and Punakha the winter retreat. A fire in 1772 resulted in brutal damage and the Desi and Je khempo of that time decided to rebuild it at the bottom of the valley where it now stands. After the capital was moved to Thimphu, it was renovated and expanded in 1962.
- Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha
- Drive to Punakha, old capital of Bhutan (about 3-hour drive from Thimphu).
- Before reaching Punakha (about 22km from Thimphu) you will pass through a mountain pass “Dochu La” at 3100m above sea level. On a clear day, the view of the Eastern Himalayas from this pass is one of the best in the country. There are a hundred and nine chortens (stupas) in three tiers of forty five, thirty six and twenty seven circumscribing a single larger chorten at the top. This chortens are called Druk Wangyal Chortens or ‘Stupas of Victory’. The building of these chortens was initiated by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck when her husband the fourth King, travelled to the South-East of the country in December 2003 leading his army against the insurgents from India.
- Hike to Chemi Lhakhang, a nice walk along the paddy field and through a village. This Lhakhang dates back to 1499 which was built by Lama Drukpa Kinley who is till this day known as a Divine Madman. Located beautifully on a hilltop, it is about 30 to 40 minute walk passing through a charming village set in lush terraced fields. Lama Drukpa Kinley is beleived to have subdued a demoness residing in Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ and a wooden effigy of this is preserved within. There are also statues of him along with those of Lama Zhabdrung, Sakyamuni and Avalokiteswara. Devotees receive blessings from his wooden phallus and iron Bow and arrow that lie here and childless women are said to have their wish fulfilled after visiting this Lhakhang.
- Punakha Dzong: The Dzong straddles the confluence of two rivers- Phochu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River) is the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan. It was named as ‘Pungthang Dechen Phodrang’ or ‘Palace of Great happiness’. This impressive fortress was built in 1637. It was the second of the mighty dzongs built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (person who unified Bhutan) and was the seat of government till the end of the reign of the second King. The site of the Dzong is believed to have received the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava (the Great Buddhist teacher who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan). In the eighth century he is believed to have prophesied: “…on the edge of the hill that looks like an elephant’s trunk, a man named Namgyal will come and build a fortress…”The most recent historic event the wedding ceremony of the present King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema’s was held inside this Dzong.
- Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5: Punakha – Trongsa
- Drive to Trongsa, it takes 6 to 7 hours. On the way divert to the Phobjikha valley (about 12 km). This valley is famous for potatoes which is one of the cash crops of the region and an important export to India. Phobjikha is also famed for the migratory black-necked cranes that make it their winter home. This endangered species of birds arrives from Tibet towards the end of October. Known as ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’ by the Bhutanese, the locals have great affection for these beautiful birds and are featured in many folk songs. Their departure by the end of February is marked by songs of lamentation. Details of their habitat and habits are available at the Crane Observation and Education Center. If you visit the place at the time when the birds are in residence, you may be able to get a close view from the hides specially constructed for this purpose.
- Also visit Gangtey Goenpa: The Monastery was established by Pema Lingpa’s grandson who became the first Gangtey Trulku. The goenpa is affiliated with several other important goenpas in this region, including Tamzhing in Bumthang. Currently the ninth reincarnation, Kunzang Pema Namgyel is the abbot here. Besides the goenpa there are several schools, a Tibetan style chorten (stupa) and meditation centers where monks retreat for periods ranging from three days to three years. There is also a Buddhist college nearby that offers a nine-year course in Buddhist studies.
- Stop at the Chendebjee Chorten (stupa). This Napalese style stupa lies on the banks of Nikka Chu at an extremely serene spot. It was built in the eighteenth century by Lama Shida of Tibet to suppress a demon who had been troubling the inhabitants of the valley. A smaller Bhutanese style chorten was constructed nearby by the Royal grandmother in 1982.
- Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.
Day 6 Trongsa – Bumthang
- Trongsa Dzong: The most impressive Dzong (Fortress) in the country – it is intricately layered into the hillside, in complete harmony with its surroundings. The structure is aesthetically designed and its clean lines boast a superb sense of proportion and space while finely carved woodwork and elegant paintings suitably embellish it. Following the instruction of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the Dzong was built in 1644 by Chhogyel Minjur Tempa who later became the third Desi (Governor). The Dzong was named Chökhor Raptentse Dzong. The structure was enhanced by Desi Tenzin Rabgye in 1771 and now contains twenty-three temples. It is a veritable maze of corridors, courtyards and passageways leading to the multiple levels contained within the great outer impregnable shell.
- Ta Dzong: Located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong, it was built by Choeje Minjur Tenpa, the first governor of Trongsa, in the year 1652. The tower stood guard over the Trongsa Dzong to protect the main stronghold of the town from any external threats. It is a short steep walk from the Trongsa town.Tower was converted into museum in 2008.
- Drive to Bumthang enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way.
- Over night hotel in Bumthang.
Day 7: Bumthang
- Start the day by visiting the Wangdicholing Dzong, The first palace in Bhutan was built in 1857 then Trongsa Penlop (Governor), Jigme Namgyal the father of the first king. It is considered a masterpiece of architecture in the country.
- Drive to Jampa Lhakhang, believed to have built on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the year 659. The temple is dedicated to Maitreya or Jampa and the central shrine holds a large statue of the Buddha of the future, surrounded by four boddhisatvas. The statue is guarded by iron chainmail handcrafted by Pema Lingpa. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.
- Drive further to Kurji Lhakhang. This monastery is the country’s most historical holy place – the complex is surrounded by 108 chortens (stupas), transforming it into three dimensional mandala patterned on the lines of the Samye Monastery in Tibet. ‘Kur’ means body and ‘jey’ is print – it is here that guru Padmasambhava meditated when he first arrived in the country, leaving an imprint of his body on the rock enshrined here.
- Walk half an hour to the 3rd temple Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the good message), was established in 1501 by Terton (treasure reveler) Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom. Tamzhing commands a very good view of Kurjey Lhakhang which is just located on the other side of the river.
- Evening free or visit Bumthang town.
- Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
Day 8: Bumthang
- Morning drive about 10 kms from Chamkhar town you can visit the site of some of Terton Pema Lingpa’s (Treasure Discoverer) greatest finds – Meybartsho or ‘Flaming Lake’ which is one of the popular pilgrim sites of Bhutan.
- After lunch visit Jakar Dzong, which literally means “The Castle of White Bird” was built in 1646. The building was damaged by fire and then again by earthquake of 1897 after which it was rebuilt by King Ugyen Wangchuck in 1905. Today it is the administrative Head Quarters of Bumthang district.
- Evening free to stroll around Bhumthang town.
- Over night at your hotel in Bumthang.
Day 9: Bumthang – Mongar
- En route to Trashigang from Bumthang is the biggest national park in Bhutan, the Thrumshingla National Park. The 768 sq.km of this national park is located within the boundaries of four districts: Bumthang, Lhuentse, Mongar and Zhemgang and it was established in 1998.
- On this long drive, enjoy the natural beauty of the undisturbed environment and take pics of some breath taking scenery like the Namling Bra (cliff) waterfall which falls down the deepest cliff in Eastern Bhutan.
- Over night hotel in Mongar
Day 10: Mongar – Trashiyangtse – Trashigang
- Drive to Gomkora. It is 22 km from Trashigang town. Gomkora is one of the most famous places where Guru Rimpoche meditated in order to subdue a demon that dwelt in the big rock. The small temple was built in the 17th century under the orders from Trongsa Penlop Minjur Tempa, contains statues of Guru Rimpoche, and Chenrezee.
- Chorten kora: he Chorten (Stupa) was built by Lama Ngawang Loday in 1740 on the site where a demon was subdued. The chorten was dedicated to the memory of his late uncle, Jungchu Pesan. It is believed to be a replica of the Boudhnath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal and was consecrated by the 13th chief Abbot of Bhutan Je Sherub Wangchuk. Today, it is considered one of the most important historical Buddhist structures.The chorten was built so that pilgrims could visit the temple in Trashiyangtse instead of making a trip to Nepal. Further, a popular belief is that when the stupa was constructed, a pious Khando (Dakini) princess from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh in India entombed herself within, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings. For this reason a ritual known as Dakpa Kora is organized every year where hundreds of people from Arunachal Pradesh known as the Dakpas make it to Chorten Kora to circumambulate.
- National Institute For Zorig Chusum (School of traditional arts & crafts), founded in 1997, to preserve, Arts and Crafts. Currently six forms of arts are taught in the school: Thangka painting, Wood carving, wood-turning, lacquere-work, embroidery and pottery.
- Over night at your hotel in Trashigang.
Day 11: Trashigang
- Visit Trashigang Dzong (fortress). Trashigang means ‘the fortress of the auspicious mountain’. The Dzong was built by Pekar Choepel in 1659. The fortress today is used as any other Dzongs in Bhutan as district head quaters and half of it is occupied by the Monk body.
- Drive toward Rangjung, it is 19 km from Tashigang town. Visit Rangjung Yoeselcholing Monastery founded in 1990’s by Lama Garab Rimpoche. There are about 200 monks in the monastery; it is one of the largest private monastery in Bhutan.
- Drive farther to Radhi village known as the rice bowl of Eastern Bhutan. If you visit the place in late Autumn or in winter, you can see women weavers in the rice field weaving raw silk cloths.
- Overnight hotel in Trashigang.
Day 12: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
- Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar is 180 km (6 to 7 hours drive). The high way was constructed in 1960s, opening eastern Bhutan to out side world. Samdrup Jongkhar is a border town to the Indian state of Assam.
- Visit a Private Monastic School at Barshon. The Monastic School is run by a High Monk providing free education to the monks from the surrounding areas who mostly are from modest families.
- On the way visit the School for disabled in Khaling and a weaving center.
- Overnight hotel in Samdrupjongkhar.
Day 13: Samdrup Jongkhar – Guwahati, Assam (India) (Depart)
- Your travel in Bhutan comes to an end.
- Guwahati (India) the capital city of Assam is 101 km from Samdrup Jongkhar and takes about three hours drive. Chen-Ray Travel & Tours’ representative will do all the exit and entry formalities and drop you to the Guwahati Airport.