The Eastern Odyssey
** flights not included
Eastern Bhutan Travel
You will start your trip from Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast, a small town bordering the Indian state of Assam. As you ascend from the southern foothills through the sub-tropical forests you will come across Dewathang which once was a battleground for the Bhutanese and British-India. Continue driving through different villages and landscapes to reach Trashigang, the largest district in Bhutan. The highlight in Trashigang will be the visit to the Radhi village renowned for the textiles made of high priced raw silk. You will get the opportunity to observe the dying processes and weaving of this textile.
After Trashigang you will drive to Trashi Yangtse, famous for the Chorten Kora stupa resembling that of Boudhanath in Nepal. There is a cultural influx here from Arunachal Pradesh, India, as a result of an ancient tradition where people from Arunachal Pradesh visit this district to circumambulate the stupa. As you head to Lhuentse you enter the last leg of your journey in the East. You will visit the Khoma village here, where you can partake in the age-old tradition of women weaving the endemic high-priced textile Kishu Thara. The drive from Trashi Yangtse to central Bhutan, Bumthang, is long but intriguing with high passes and scenic views.
After central Bhutan, you will embark on your journey to the west where some of the highlights include the iconic Punakha fortress and a visit to Chimi Lhakhang area which was the stronghold of Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the Divine Madman. He was famous for his earthly sense of humor and non-conventional ways of imparting teachings. You will get to tour Thimphu city, the capital, modern with a traditional touch. During your brief stay in Paro, you will hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery situated at 3150m. The next day you will depart from Paro for your onward journey.
Our representative will receive you at the Guwahati airport to transfer to Samdrup Jongkhar. The drive to Samdrup Jongkhar is through tea gardens, transparent rivers, interspersed villages, and small townships of vibrant Indian culture. After driving for 3 hours and 110km you will arrive Samdrup Jongkhar. In the evening, you can take an exploratory walk in the town. Overnight hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
After breakfast, you will begin your journey to Trashigang, the major commercial hub of eastern Bhutan. This is going to be a stunning journey passing through varied tropical and broadleaved forests, villages and varied vegetation zones. You will stop for picnic lunch on the way. After lunch, continue drive to Trashigang. You will stop at Khaling to see the National Institute for the Disabled (School for the blind). Few kilometers further is Sherubtse, the first college established in the country. The impressive clock tower and the green surrounding it gives this college the feel of a Himalayan hill station. From here, drive downhill till Trashigang, passing through the villages of Rongthong and Pam. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.
After breakfast, you will visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at an extreme end of the spur overhanging the Gamri River. You will drive to explore Rangjung, located on the bank of the river. Visit the Rangjung Monastery, which is founded by His Eminence Garab Rinpoche. You will then drive to Radhi and Phongmey Villages, which are renowned for “bura” gho and kira, a textile made from raw silk. You can even see women weaving this textile in their homes. You can have your picnic lunch in one of the farmhouses. If lucky, you will see a few Brokpas, semi-nomadic yak herders from Merak and Sakteng who have come to barter their Yak butter, cheese and dried meat with other food commodities. Later in the evening, you will drive back to Trashigang for your night halt.
Following breakfast, you will drive to Trashiyangtse, a small and quiet town bordering the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Few kilometers below the town is the Chazam Bridge from which you will take a diversion road to Trashiyangtse. After crossing, Gom Kora temple and Duksum, a small town located on the Drangmechu River and its tributary, you will arrive Trashiyangtse. This district is known for carving wooden bowls and you will see some craftsmen making them. You will also visit the Choten Kora which is one of the few in the country that resembles the Boudanath Stupa in Nepal. Overnight farmhouse in Trashiyangtse.
After an early breakfast you will drive for about 40 minutes to Bomdeling, a winter roosting place for black necked cranes and a protected wildlife sanctuary. From here you will embark on your hike to Rigsum Goenpa. It is a 3 hours hike from Dungzam bridge. As you climb further up the ridge the views of the Bomdeling valley and Trashi Yangtse Dzong get more and more spectacular. The Monastery has around 40 monks and you can interact with them as you have your picnic lunch. Later, you will hike back to Bomdeling valley and drive back to Trashi Yangtse.
Today you will drive to Mongar. The road follows the Gamri River through cornfields and banana grooves and then ascends gradually to arrive Yadi. Stop here for a while for a cup of tea. Then drive further up till Kori La Pass (2450m) a famous spot for the avid birders. You will then descend till you reach Mongar. In the evening, you can wander around Mongar town and sit down to a relaxing dinner. Overnight hotel in Mongar.
After breakfast, you will drive to Lhuentse. It is among the few remote districts of Bhutan and is famed for its intricate and colorful weavings. Drive upstream along Kuri Chhu river passing Autsho, a small township, and after crossing several shops and villages you arrive Lhuentse. Formerly known as Kurtoe, the region is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs, gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers and their distinctive textiles are generally considered the best in the country. From the road head you will make a diversion crossing beautiful Tangmachu village to Taki La where you will spend your night at the Guest House.
Today you will spend a full day exploring the historic Dungkhar village. After breakfast, you will drive 40km to this small village through unpaved road. You will visit one of the main sites in the region, the ancestral home of the Royal Family, Dungkhar Naktshang, which is a centuries-old traditionally built mansion . It is the birth place of the first King’s father and from this house sprung the current Royal Family of Bhutan. You will explore some of the farmhouses and even lunch at a local farmhouse. Later you will drive back to Takila for night halt.
After breakfast you will set off to explore Khoma Village, a unique cluster of traditional farmhouses. Khoma village is famous for the high-priced silk-made textile with intricate patterns called Kishu Thara. It is highly celebrated by the Bhutanese. This glamorous textile is worn by people during important occasions, celebrations and festivals. Weavers from Khoma village are meticulous and praised for their nimble hands and in the olden days weavers from Khoma were hired in the court to weave for the Royal Family. After lunch, explore the village on your own to observe women weaving this beautiful textile and witness this ornate textile come to live. Travel back to TakiLa for the night.
You will begin your journey to central Bhutan, which is different from eastern Bhutan in terms of development and lifestyle. The drive on this day is an exhilarating 5 hours, particularly the Thrumshing La (pass), which peaks at 3,750 meters. Stop for your picnic lunch at the Pass enjoying the great sceneries around. You can walk on the certain stretches of road to relax your muscles while your car will be following behind you. Today, you’ll stay in Ura Village which has a medieval look because of the cobblestone streets, and the typical clothing of the women. Overnight at a farmhouse in Bumthang.
Sightseeing in Bumthang may include the historic Jakar Dzong, Kurjey Lhakhang, associated with Guru Rimpoche, who bought Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet. You will visit Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. After lunch, you will also have a chance to tour Tamshing Lhakhang, built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. In the evening, you can visit shops in Bumthang town. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.
Today you will drive to Gangtey. When you arrive at Chumey, you can visit the yathra (textile weaving) factory. Yathras are made from sheep wool and designed with patterns unique to Bumthang. Here you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. You will stop in Trongsa for lunch and also visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. The road from here descends to Chendebji Chorten and then climbs up to Pele la Pass (10,989 feet). With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the pass is the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During clear weather, you can view the high, snow-capped peaks. After short while, you will leave the highway and cross a small pass blanketed with dwarf bamboos and arrive at Gangtey village. From Gangtey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range as well as Phobjikha Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. Overnight hotel in Gangtey in Phobjikha.
Today you will travel to Punakha. The road initially ascends till Lawala Pass and from here it descends till Punakha. En route, you can spend some times in Wangdue Phodrang taking pictures of the Dzong, which is under reconstruction after it was destroyed by fire hazard in 2012. Little further from Wangdue is Metshina Village from where you can take 20 minutes hike through rice paddies up to Chimi Lhakhang Temple. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley, or the “Divine Madman,” who is believed to bless women who seek fertility. Overnight in Punakha.
Morning, visit the Punakha Dzong, the former capital of Bhutan, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. You will then drive to Thimphu via Dochula Pass (3,100 meters), where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas. From the pass, drive downhill to Thimphu. After lunch, few interesting cultural sites like Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), giant Buddha statue and the majestic Tashichhodzong. In the evening, you can stroll through Thimphu city and absorb the lifestyle of the people. Overnight in Thimphu.
If it is a weekend, you can visit the farmers centenary market. Local farmers from nearby villages as far as from Paro, Punakha and Wangdue come here to sell their farm produce. You can walk around the area to observe fresh produce like vegetables, dairy products, different kinds of wheat and fragrant incense sticks and powders. It is the perfect opportunity to photograph moments of interactions between the sellers and the city dwellers. Afternoon, you can be of your own to explore Thimphu City. You can even spend time visiting handicraft stores for souvenir shopping. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
You will visit the Rinpung Dzong meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. It has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the courtyard of the Rinpung Dzong are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore. You will walk downhill till the road point crossing the traditional wooden bridge. Then visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in 8th century. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Today you will hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up on the mountain. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. After having explored the monastery, you will hike down to Paro. Evening you will visit a farmhouse for a nice traditional Bhutanese meal. You can also enjoy the traditional hot stone bath. This is a fantastic conclusion to your stay in Bhutan! Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
After breakfast, you will drive to airport for departure. Our representative will bid you farewell.
Entry, Exit and Connecting Flights
The Road Journey
The drive to the East from western and central Bhutan long and exhilarating. Each moment of your drive will be a new experience because of changing landscapes, meeting people of different ethnicities and crossing over high passes and through varied vegetation.