Bhutan West to East Adventure
THE TOUR AT THE GLANCE
A two weeks road adventure that commences in Paro in western Bhutan, concluding in the eastern frontier town of Samdrup Dzongkhar from where you exit to the north-east Indian city of Guwahati!
Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha in western Bhutan, due to the proximity of the Paro International Airport, are the most visited areas in the country. While central Bhutan also receives some foreign tourists during the season, eastern Bhutan is mostly unexplored. As you cross the high passes and traverse through Trongsa and Bumthang in central Bhutan and advance to the remote eastern towns of Mongar, Tashigang, and Trashiyangtse, you will experience significant changes in the vegetation, scenery, culture, and the languages; what remains unchanged is the friendliness of the people! As you cross into the eastern side, you will feel that you are taken back in time as you witness everything here is so pure, natural and authentic. This intricate tapestry of adventures offers a rich experience of the last Himalayan kingdom.
EXPERIENCES AND VISITS IN THIS TOUR JOURNEY
- Walk thru / Cycle Rickshaw Asia’s largest Spice Market and explore narrow lane in Old Delhi
- Take a guided tour of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha to explore and immerse into the happy living of Bhutanese people and enjoy the natural beauty there
- Evening take an exploratory leisure walk around Thimphu Main Street.
- Visit a traditional farm house and meet a village family where tea / coffee will also be served in Paro
- Explore the historic dzongs (fortresses), Lakhangs (Temples), and Goembas (monasteries) built with rich Bhutanese architecture.
- Hike to the ridge top monasteries, engage in a chit-chat with monks over a cup of tea, learn some Bhutanese phrases and in return teach them some English.
- Trips are timed with the tsechu festivals of Bhutan. It is an excellent opportunity to witness the centuries-old traditions and culture.
- Attend the local weekend markets and archery matches.
- Experience the traditional hot stone bath and the ancient Singing Bowl Massage Therapy and meditation practice.
- Visit the arts and craft school, traditional handmade paper factory, incense factory, etc.
- Hike to the remote villages where you will visit farmhouses and meet textile weavers.
- Enjoy the spectacular views of the valleys and the snowcapped mountains from the high passes.
VIEW FULL ITINERARY
Arrive Delhi, After completing immigration and custom formalities, meet our representative at the arrival gate. After introductions, you will be transferred to the hotel.
DELHI, the capital of India, is home to 16 million people, making it the third largest city in India. The strategic location of the city made it an attractive location for invading armies, and it served as the capital for many great empires that ruled India. Many of these Empires built significant monuments, and whilst the Mughal and the British are the most visible, while driving through the city you will see ruins from previous capitals, the earliest dating back to the 12th century.
Morning your tour will begin with a visit to Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. He is also famously known as the “father of the nation”. Continue your tour to Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. People stream in and out of the mosque continuously and the presence of a nearby bazaar means that the area is rarely quiet. Enjoy the rickshaw ride at Old Delhi peddling through the narrow by lanes of Chandani Chowk and visit spices market is one of the largest wholesale spice markets in Asia, It is well worth a visit for the intensity of its sights and smells alone. Along with fresh spices of all shapes, sizes, and colors, this market sells myriad nuts, herbs, dry fruits, and grains.
In the afternoon visit the Qutb Minar complex which dominates the historic site where Qutb-ud-Din-Aibak laid the foundation of Delhi Sultanate. Its sandstone minaret, 72.5 m high, has a staircase of 379 steps to reach the summit. It is the tallest stone tower in India and one of the most successful Muslim buildings. You will then discover the Humayun Mausoleum, the 2nd Mughal emperor. Built in the middle of the 16th century at the request of Hamida Banu Begum (the widow of Emperor Humayun), the mausoleum is a fine example of early Mughal architecture.
Drive past British Architect by Edward Lutyens, with the task of building the new capital in Delhi. Lutyen’s Delhi primarily consists of the administrative area of the capital, India Gate and the Viceroy’s House (which is now known as Rashtrapati Bhawan). A visit to Delhi is incomplete without going to Lutyen’s Delhi which one can say, is the place where the Central Government of India currently resides and works from.
Transfer to airport to board flight for Paro. Upon arrival at Paro, you will be greeted by our guide / Representative, who will make us discover all the riches of the kingdom of Bhutan. Transfer to Hotel
You will have time to settle into your room and take some rest. After lunch, meet your guide and driver will take you for an introductory tour of Paro. Tour begin from a small but significant Dungtsey Temple situated atop a hillock that's believed to resemble with a turtle head shaped hillock. The legend goes that the temple was built there to pin down the head of a demon!. The next stop will be at the National Museum housed at Ta Dzong. The Ta Dzong was the former watch tower for Paro Ringpung Dzong. The museum’s collection includes a range of holy scriptures, paintings, textiles, crafts, arms, utensils, stuffed animals, insects, and a gallery of philatelic (stamp) collection.
From here, you will descend to the impressive Rinpung Dzong. Rinpung Dzong is the district headquarter and also the seat of the district monastic body. The fortress is believed to stand on the heap of jewels!
If you are interested in hiking, you can hike to Zuri Dzong that lies just above the National Museum. It's a short and pleasant hike of thirty minutes or a little more. This 14th-century fortress is the home to the valley's guardian deity. It has a beautiful collection of ancient murals and a meditation cave. The location provides a bird-eye view over the valley. You can backtrack same way down and meet your driver and transfer to the hotel.
In the evening you will get to take a stroll through the tranquil township of Paro.
This morning, you will hike to the legendary Taktsang Monastery also known as the Tiger's Nest. Takstang Monastery dramatically sits on the edge of a 4000 ft high cliff above the valley floor. It creates an impressive sight and is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. A two-hour steep uphill hike brings us to a cafeteria located on a ridge across from the Monastery. It provides us the first welcome view of the Monastery and an opportunity to take a rest and purchase refreshments and snacks. You may ride a pony up to this point but, onward (forty five or an hour) the trail is narrow and also for the return trip down, we do not recommend pony ride.
Once down, meet your driver and visit the historic Drukgyel Dzong which was built in the 16th century to mark the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invaders.
Late afternoon, we will visit a farm family to learn about the local lifestyle. Bhutanese farmhouses are colorful, attractive, and built in a traditional architectural style without the use of any nail. All houses follow more or less the same architectural plan.
Optional: Experience the traditional hot stone bath.
With advance notice, you can experience a traditional hot stone bath in the farmhouse. Hot stone bath is purely a conventional Bhutanese method of curing arthritis, skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other minor diseases. Even you don’t have any of these issues, after a strenuous hike of the day, you will feel relaxed, soaking into the hot water.
Today, travel by road to Thimpu with a side trip to Chele-la pass and Kila Nunnery. Shortly before the road forks out to Chelila Pass, we stop in Bondey and visit a family-run Tshenden Incense Factory. Here you can see the boiling, dyeing, and drying processes of traditional incense making.
Continue drive on the highway (one hour and little more) brings you to the Chele-la pass at 3810m (12, 497 ft.). The pass offers panoramic views of the snowcapped mountains including Mount Jhomolhari and the serene Haa Valley down the hill. From the pass, we take a hike to the Kila Gompa nunnery, situated on a cliff below Chele-la pass. There are seven small temples and several retreat huts built into a dizzying sheer cliff-side. Currently, there are about 70 nuns who live in self-imposed isolation. It can take about one hour to get here and about 10-minutes down to the parking.
Late afternoon, we arrive in Thimphu- the capital city of Bhutan. Check into your hotel and rest of the day is at leisure.
Today, after early breakfast, begin exploration of Thimphu-perhaps the only capital city in the world without traffic lights! With luck, you are in Thimphu during the weekend and you will have the opportunity to visit the colorful weekend market. Farmers from the nearby villages come to sell fresh produces as well as dried fish, herbs, yak butter, fermented cheese, arts and crafts that include fabrics and wooden bowls. Usually, there will be archery matches in the nearby stadium that you don't want to miss. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and is played by Bhutanese men with pride.
Then stop at the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center that produces traditional hand-woven textiles on site and has a selection of cloth and ready-made garments for sale.. On a week-day, we can visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum that offers a six years degree course on thirteen Bhutanese arts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making.
Other attractions of Thimpu includes Simply Bhutan Museum, a living museum and a studio that preserves and promotes the culture with the involvement of youth of the country who are the future leaders of the country. Here, you can wear traditional Bhutanese dress for a picture. If you have an interest in traditional medicines, there is National Institute of Traditional Medicine that prepares and dispenses traditional herbal and other drugs. There are quite a few other attractions that you can visit depending on your interests and time available-Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, National Memorial Chorten, National Library, Textile Academy, Motithang Takin Preserve, etc.
For hiking enthusiasts, Thimpu has many short hiking destinations. The one we recommend is Tango Goemba Monastery, which is about one hour long easy hike. The monastery functions as a college for some 280 monks and is the residence of Gyalse Rinpoche- an important reincarnated Lama. If the monks are at recess, we may have chance to join them over tea.
On the way back, stop to visit the impressive Trasichoe Dzong. This remarkable fortress is the administrative and religious center of Bhutan. The fort houses the Royal Throne and Bhutan's National Assembly but, you will only have access to the religious section only. This Dzong is also the venue for Thimpu's Tsechu festivals that are in September or October.
Today, travel by road to Punakha- the former winter capital of Bhutan. Punakha, we will stop to visit the Simtokha Dzong which is believed to be the oldest monastery in Bhutan. The monastery now serves as the Institute for Language and Culture Studies; students here are both monks and lay people.
Then leave for Simtokha Dzong, the road climbs through apple orchards and blue pine forests, past a small village to the Dochula pass (Alt. 3010m/9,872 ft.). On the contour of the pass are a group of 108 small and colorful shrines,, the pass offers a beautiful panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains. We stop here briefly to enjoy the scenery and then continue on our travel to Punakha. Now, the road drops down gradually with changing vegetation from alpine to subtropical as we enter the lowland of Punakha.
Settled into your room and re-energized, proceed for the exploration of the valley. We drive through the town of Khuruthang and continue along the banks of the Mo Chu River, passing the Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family. At the upper end of the valley, a 30-minute pleasant hike across a suspension bridge through terraces of rice, chilies, and cabbage, leads you to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten.
On the way back, we stop to visit the Punakha Dzong which is among the most impressive fort architectures of Bhutan. All Bhutan monarchs are crowned in this Dzong first before they ascend the throne in Thimphu.
If you wish, with advance notice, you can experience a 30-minutes long rafting trip down the Mochu River. The river is grade III and offers scenic float down, with views of the Dzong and aquatic birds. ($ 150 for up to 6 people)
Time permitting, we may take another short hike to Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the fertility temple. Local childless women pay a visit to the temple for the fertility blessing.
Shortly after Punakha, we stop to visit Rinchengang Village which is less than 20-minutes hike from the road. It's a picturesque village of about 45 compact mud-houses and is one of the oldest communities in Bhutan. Unlike other parts of the country, here, multiple families may own and share a home.
We hike back down and continue to Phobjikha. Now, the road winds up through oak and rhododendron forests, over the Lowa-la pass (3,360 m or 11, 020 ft.) and down into the picturesque Phobjikha Valley. We stop to visit the Gangtey Gompa monastery, which is the only Nyingmapa Monastery in this region.
Now, while your luggage goes with the vehicle, you hike on Gangtey Nature Trail that covers the distance of 2.5 miles in 1.5 hours or little more.. It's an easy hike through the pine forests, and bamboo bushes and the trail offers views over the broad Phobjikha valley. The beautiful glacial valley bowl contains quaint villages, potato fields, and temples. Phobjikha Valley is also the winter home of black-necked-cranes that come all the way from Mongolia and Central Asia for nesting. We finish the hike in Khewa Lhakhang village where we meet our driver and transfer to our lodge. Time permitting, we stop at the Black-Necked Crane Information Center.
Today, travel by road to Jakar & you cross the Pelela pass (3,420m/11, 218 ft.) which is marked by a Chorten and an array of prayer flags. The pass divides Western Bhutan with the rest of the country. The road drops through hillsides with bamboo bushes, and then goes through rhododendrons, blue pines, spruces, oaks, and dwarf bamboos and arrives in Chendebji village. You take a brief stop at the Chendebji chorten-a large white chorten patterned after Swayambhunath Stupa of Kathmandu.
Above the Chendebji Chorten, the valley widens up, and the road enters to the broad Mangde Chhu Valley. We may stop at the Potala Lakhang in Tashiling and a viewpoint about 10 miles before Trongsa. Trongsa is a sleepy and pleasant town, lined with whitewashed shops decorated with pot plants and boasts an impressive Dzong-the ancestral home of the Royal Family of Bhutan.
The road now winds up to the Youtongla pass (3,425m/11,234 ft.) and then descends through blue pine, firs, and bamboo to Chumey valley which was the first of the four Bumthang valleys. You stop at the roadside village of Zugney to see the weaving of Yathra (deep colored wool textile, a pattern typical to these parts of the country). A few miles before Jakar town, you can go for a 10-minute hike to Prakhar Goemba, and if you want to go a further 20 minutes on a steep walk, you will reach Nimalung Goemba.
Upon arrival in Jakar town, check into the Hotel /lodge and balance of the day is at leisure.
Today, you explore the cultural attractions of Bumthang- the cultural hub of Bhutan. Start from the Jambay Lhakhang-the first Buddhist temple built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, even before the arrival of Guru Padmasambhava. Nearby is an interesting Chakar temple (iron castle) at the site of the palace of the Indian King Sindhu Raja who first invited Guru Rinpoche to Bumthang. A little further drive brings us to the Kurjey Lhakhang that covers a cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated and left the imprint of his body on a rock! Kurjey Lhakhang is among the holiest places in Bhutan.
This afternoon, enjoy your lunch in a farm-house. After lunch, you take a gentle leveled walk across the suspension bridge over the Chamkhar Chu River to Tamshing Lhakhang. It is one of the essential Nyingma Goemba and is a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. Just 400m below Tamshing is a small but rural looking temple called Kunchoksum temple that has some interesting stories. You will continue walking through the farmlands to a Swiss cheese farm area
There are more to see: The new monastery of Namhai Nyingpo, the traditional hospital, Jakar Dzong, Lamay Gompa and other sights as per available time and your interests.
Late afternoon, take a relaxed stroll in the town. The town of Jakar is a bustling one-street town with a goldsmith, tailors, butchers, cafes, restaurants, and handicraft stores. It's worth taking a stroll around town in the evening.
Today, you will take a short detour of Membar Tsho- the burning lake in Tang Valley where some of Guru Rimpoche’s treasures were found in the 15th century by famous Pema Lingpa. On the way, you will enjoy the scenery, the beauty of snow-capped mountains, flowers, grazing yaks, and the dense forest. Our next stop will be in Ura valley where we visit a picturesque village and its temple. Ura Village has a medieval look with houses compactly lined up alongside the cobblestone streets and is known for the women's typical sheepskin shawls.
Then the road climbs to the Trumshing La pass (3,750m/12,300 ft.) that officially divides central Bhutan with the eastern part. We will see some cascading waterfalls along the way as we descend to Sengor. Once we cross the bridge over the Kurichu, the highway begins to climb again and goes through pines, maize fields, and eastern hamlets to Mongar town.
Arriving in Mongar marks the beginning of our eastern Bhutan experience. Mongar was the first town built on a mountainside instead of in a valley. Enjoy an evening by taking a stroll through quaint Mongar village.
Today, drive on a mountainous road alongside cliffs, above the river valley to Lhuentse in the remote and ancient region of Kurtoe and stop briefly to visit the Lhuentse Dzong, built in the 1600s and then continue further on to the Khurbazam Village from where we begin a hike to the Khoma Village. Almost all 30 houses in the village have black-strap looms for “kushutara” or brocaded dress. Motifs are created by four supplementary wefts inter-worked around the warp elements so that they appear to ride the surface of the cloth like embroidery.
Then the landscape of Khoma is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. We also travel to Takilia to visit the 154 ft tall statue of Guru Nangsa Zelnan, situated 15 km or 9.4 miles from Tagmochhu Chazam (bridge) on a hill above Tangmachhu village. Late afternoon, you retrace our drive to Mongar.
Today, crosses the Korila pass (2,450 m/8,036 ft.) and follows a river valley and then climbs to Trashigang town. Upon arrival, check into your accommodation and soon we embark on a bumpy ride to some picturesque weaver's villages. Our first stop will be at Rangjung Village where you visit Yeozerchholing, a large Nyingma Monastery.
Continue further east on a gravel road and dirt track, absorbing the rich culture of eastern Bhutan, to Radi village, the rice basket of eastern Bhutan. It is also famous for beautiful supplementary warp patterned fabrics or aikapur (textile patterns) and raw silk bura the most popular and prestigious textiles made in eastern Bhutan. In the past, these textiles, woven of cotton, wild silk, or cultivated silk in five color combinations had such a value that the noble households retained the weavers who knew this technique. Prized for generations aikapur cloth has been saved for special occasions. You will have opportunity to experiment with vegetable dyes with the help of weavers.
Afternoon, you drive back to the hotel in Trashigang. After wash and change, you may take a stroll through the town and visit its Dzong.
The road winds down to the Samdrup Jongkhar which is the southeastern border town of India. At Kanglung (13 miles from Trashigang, 45 minutes), you may want to stop to visit the Sherubtse College which was the only college in Bhutan in the 70s. The road then climbs through fields of corn, potatoes, it crosses Yongphula pass (2190m/7184 ft.) offering the last glimpse of the Himalayas, and then enters the broad valley of Khaling. Here you will stop to visit the National Institute for the Disabled.
Further, 2 miles down is National Hand-loom Development Project which is one of several royal government initiatives to stimulate weaving as a national art and a source of livelihood for women. Wild silk yarn imported from Assam is dyed with vegetable colors and synthetic dyes. Khaling silk is sought after by Thimphu women for their own weaving. From here, it's a further 3-4 hrs. drive and there are a few small temples and villages but not largely significant.
Upon arrival in the town, check into the hotel and take rest for the day. Samdrup Jongkhar is largely a frontier town and has very little cultural importance.
You will pick-up from noarder and transfer to Guwahati. It will take almost four hours to get to the airport. From Guwahati, you can fly to New Delhi or any other major cities in India.
WHAT YOU WILL RECEIVE IN YOUR TOUR COST
- Accommodation for (total 14 nights) sharing double / twin room as per program
- Meals: as per mentioned in program
- Transfers, sightseeing/excursions as per the program by air-conditioned vehicle.
- English speaking local guide in Delhi as per program
- English speaking accompanying guide in Bhutan
- Monument entrance fees as per the itinerary.
- Bhutan, Government royalty and taxes.
- All visa fees for Bhutan
- meet a village family where tea / coffee will also be served in Paro
- Company representative for assistance on all arrival and departure transfers.
- All presently applicable taxes including the GST charges levied recently by the Government.
- Two bottles of mineral water each day during sightseeing.
TOUR COST WILL NOT INCLUDE FOLLOWING EXPENSES
- International / Domestic Airfare
- Any new admission fees / taxes / fuel surcharges
- Meals not mentioned
- Travel and medical insurance.
- All personal expenses such as beverages, laundry, trip cancellation and personal insurance, gratuities, excess baggage fees
- Early check-in/late check-out (except as noted)
- Camera/video fees at monuments
- Evacuation charges, damage of any nature.
- Communication costs
- Any additional expenses due to unforeseen problems like natural disaster, war or strikes, cancellation or misconnection of flights or last-minute change of timings etc.
- Any other service, which has not been specified as "included".
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