Duration: 15 Days / 14 Nights
Destination: Thimphu, Punakha & Paro
The changing season brings unique and a different cycle in nature. Come for the green season with blossoming flowers and a wonderful harvest of fruits. Your botanical trip begins from Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeastern part of Bhutan and takes you all the way through savoring the enchanting pristine natural beauty filled with abundant botanical flowers to truly enchanting Paro valley. By indulging your visual senses with some natural beauty, this 15 days botanical tour truly gives you some good time to relax and soak yourself in the undisturbed atmosphere. It route takes you through a spectacularly lovely forest that are ablaze with red, pink, white and yellow blooms.
Day 01: Arrival Guwahati (India) – Drive to Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan)
At your arrival at Guwahati airport, our representative from India will be there to welcome you and drive straight to Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan). The drive from Guwahati to border town of Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan) takes around 100km and it should not take more than two hours to negotiate the stretch. Reaching the border town complete the immigration and custom formalities and bid adieu to your one-day helpful guide from India, you then finally get into Bhutan. Drive straight to your hotel and rest day at leisure.
Day 02: Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang
Today after your early morning hotel checkout drive to Trashigang. Trashigang lies at an elevation ranging between 600m – 4000m above sea level and is the largest district in Bhutan lies in the Far East on the bank of river Gamri Chhu, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The region is once the centre of busy trade with Tibet. Your drive takes around 180km and can be negotiable within six hours taking you through rich natural forest possessing magnificent landscape, stunning vistas, untouched biodiversity and scenic valley. Apart from the stunning landscape, the unforgettable drive takes you through offering a glimpse of sacred religious sites, ancient golden roofed monasteries dotted throughout the landscape, scenic valleys with traditional farmhouses, settlements and terrace of rice fields. Arrival at Khaling village we suggest you to make a short stop at the weaving center that lies on the right side of the road. It offers glimpses into the traditional weaving, which the region’s women are famous for their weaving skills, which are pass down through generations. From here a nonstop drive takes you pass Yongphu La (8,200ft/2500m) and leads you all the way downhill until you reach your destination. En-route a short stop at Youngphu Lhakhang in Kanglung housing several sacred relics. From here your drive to Trashigang town is only 22km. En-route you will encounter flowers including Lantana camera, Bidens pilosia, Datura starmonium, Persicaria nepalensis, Tagetes minuta, Ipomoea purpurea, Osbeckia stellata, Persicaria nepalensis, Luculia gratissima, Mussaenda roxburgiiJusticia adhatoda, Leptodermis amoena, Cyanotis vaga, Mazus surculosus, Phytolaccaceae acinosa etc.
Day 03: Trashigang Sightseeing
Regarded as the farthest and the biggest district in the country, Trashigang is also a home to the minority ethnic groups of Merak and Sakteng region featuring unique culture and tradition. Under its vast landmass, diverse cultural attractions are distributed unevenly in different localities. Among many today your day excursion takes you to Radhi village which is a common feature tour for many of tourist as the village is very popular for the production of lacally woven silken garments in the country. The region’s women are well known for their weaving skills, which are pass down through generations. Radhi village is famous for Bura ghos and kiras which finds their way to markets in the capital and the biggest towns. Because of its vastness of localities your tour in Trashigang is customized accordingly and the other sightseeing one can enjoy is the Trashigang Dzong. It was built in 1959 on a very steep hill overlooking the river Drangme Chhu and now serves as the administrative seat for the district as well as home of the monk body. The dzong commands a remarkable view of the surrounding countryside. A 20km from Trashigang town following the Drangme Chhu River take you to Gom Kora which is a must visited historical site in Trashigang. This small goemba set in an undulating meadow along the river bank was established in the 17th century. It is believed that it was the sacred meditation sites of Guru Padmasambhava. The black rock adjacent to the temple amidst vibrant lush field is said to have been the meditation of Guru Padmasambhava and it bears the imprint of his body. According to the legend, he subdued a demon – a snake – that dwelt within by taking the form of Garuda, the revered griffon depicted everywhere as a protector. After the temple drive back to Trashigang. Rest day at leisure.
Day 04: Trashigang – Mongar
After your early morning hotel check out drive to Mongar. Mongar district is previously known as Zhongar and lies at an elevation ranging from 400m – 4,000m. The district headquarter is truly the trend in eastern Bhutan and the Mongar town is situated on the mountaintop instead of the valley. Your drive from Trashigang to Mongar is very interesting with rice and maize fields surrounding the roads. The winding roads makes your journey even fascinating because every curve takes you o a special experience. The landscape is spectacular with striking cliffs and gorges with dense conifer forests offering wonderful opportunity for nature lover and landscape photo enthusiasts. En-route you will encounter several wildflowers that are in bloom including Premus carmesina, Notholirion macrophyllum, Malus baccata, Colquhounia coccinea, Berberis asiatica, Bidens pilosa, Anemone rivularis, Datura starmonium, Pieris Formosa, Persicaria nepalensis, Impatiens cristata, Tagetes minuta, Artemisia absinthium, Ipomoea purpurea, Primula denticulate, Osbeckia stellata, Sambuacus adnata etc.
Day 05: Excursion to Lhuentse
Today after your early breakfast in the hotel, you ray excursion takes you to Lhuentse. The drive is 76km each way and is a comfortable 6 hours excursion at a relaxed pace. Geographically, Lhuentse is one of the remotest districts in Bhutan, with a population of about 15,400 scattered across its eight blocks. Wedged like an upside down tooth in the north-eastern corner of the kingdom, is considered the spiritual home of Bhutan’s beloved kings, and boast some of the most sacred sites of pilgrimage in the country. Carrying a picnic lunch your drive offers some great spots for a quite sojourn with nature, driving through swirling waters with sound and winds-tossed soothing your journey. You will travel initially through open landscape through sweeping down through tighter valley with a glimpse of fast flowing Kuri Chhu River. As you near a large village of Autsho with its cornfields en-route you pass a startling white chorten surrounded by a hundred and eight smaller ones laid out in a concentric circles. Marked by a series of narrow valleys and sinuous ravines, the villages here are perched on ridges offering many opportunities to stop and soak in the grand vista. As you near the small town of Lhuentse dominated by Lhuentse dzong perched at 5000ft/1524m, commanding a majestic view of the Kuri Chhu Valley make a quick visit to the dzong. The dzong was built by Lama Ngagi Wangchuk in 1552. The original structure was enlarged in 1656 by Trongsa Penlop Minjur Tenpa and renamed Lhundrup Rinchen Tse Dzong. The dzong is strategically positioned on a rocky outcrop with sheer vertical drops on all four sides plunging down to the rushing Kuri Chhu River. After a quick look, around 6km from Tangmachu takes you to an ideal spot for lunch. After well deserved lunch trace your way back to Mongar.
Day 06: Mongar – Bumthang
We suggest you to make an early start since this journey are a bit long covering 198km and takes around 7 hour drive. There is no separate sightseeing opportunities but the journey from Mongar to Bumthang is one of the most beautiful in the Himalaya. As you drive through rhododendron and conifer forest at high point of the day- Thrumshing La (12,000ft/ 3659m), which is usually wreathed in swirling vaporous mists offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding peaks and the landscape promising high drama as you plummet breathtakingly from tree line as you traverse trough high pass. Moreover, the ultimate journey offers a breathtaking vistas and unforgettable landscape offering something to all landscape photo enthusiasts. Cresting the pass you loop down gradually into a wide open countryside and finally pass through Ura village (10,168ft/3100m) on the left side. The people of Ura mostly live out of potato farming, mushroom business and daily farming. Once you leave Ura valley your drive to Bumthang takes only 37km and reaching Bumthang drive straight to your hotel.
Day 07: Bumthang Sightseeing
While in Bumthang, more than landscape photography the region is home to some of the kingdom’s most ancient and precious Buddhist temples. After few days savoring in enchanting pristine natural beauty, it is now time to steep in history and architectural splendor. Your day sightseeing in Bumthang begins with visit to the temple complex at Kurjey Lhakhang. It is an important place of pilgrimage for devout Bhutanese as it was built around the rock on which Guru Padmasambhava left an imprint of his body while meditating there in the 8th century. Coming up next is the historical and oldest temple in Bhutan, the Jambay Lhakhang. It was built in 659 AD by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to pin down the left knee of a giant ogress whose body lay across the Himalayas. The inner shrine of the temple houses an exquisite image of Jowo Jampa, the Buddha of the future, also known as Maitreya. Coming down one can make a short hike through crossing the Chamkhar Chhu to visit the Tamshing Lhakhang. The temple was founded on 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa who was personally involved in its construction. It is believed that he was assisted in his task by Khandrums who are female celestial beings. Just next to Jambay Lhakhang a short walk further takes you to Kencho Sum Lhakhang. The historical temple was originally built in 7th century but later restored by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century. The three sacred Buddha statues which grace the temple’s main shrine are said to have miraculously flown there from Khini in Kurtoe.
After lunch, it is only a short 11km drive to the Tang valley where you can visit the site of some of Terton Pema Lingpa’s greatest find – Membartsho or ‘Flaming Lake’ which is one of the great pilgrimage sites of Bhutan. Returning follow, the same road back to Chamkhar and visits the Jakar Dzong or ‘Castle of the White Bird’. It was initially built as a monastery by Zhabdrung’s great grandfather Ngagi Wangchuk and later converted to a dzong in 1677. Today the dzong functions as the administrative and the religious seat of the district. You will not need to spend much time here and can take a short 2km drive to visit the old Wangduechholing Palace built in 1857 by the Trongsa Penlop, Jigme Namgyel. It later became the primary palace of the first and the second king.
Day 08: Bumthang – Phobjikha Glacier Valley
With early hotel check out, drive to Phobjikha valley under Wangdue district. In the morning hour after crossing Chamkhar valley the road climbs steep above Gyetsa and gradually reach you to Yotong La at 11,000ft/3354m. As you ascend, the road passes through dense forest of blue pine and bamboo followed by fir, juniper and rhododendron. Crossing the pass it is all the way downhill until you reach Trongsa. If the weather is clear, you can stop at the way site for a photography session. Trongsa district in general has a significant place in Bhutanese history connected with the linage of Bhutan’s kings. In the recent past Trongsa played a pivotal role in the history of the country and in 19th century it was the de facto center of authority as the penlop controlled all of central and eastern Bhutan, including the rich fertile southern duars. The royal family has its antecedents here – the father of the first king, Jigme Namgyel, as the penlop of Trongsa exerted his authority across the country. In Trongsa visit, the impressive Trongsa Dzong lies atop a small ridge below the main downtown overlooking the Mangdue Chhu with its complete harmony with its surrounding. It was built in 1648 and of all its collection of buildings, the first, Chorten Lhakhang was built at this strategic location in the fifteenth century and lies at the southern end of the dzong. It was built by Zhabdrung’s great grandfather Lama Ngagi Wangchuk. After the dzong you can also climb up to the Ta Dzong or ‘Watch tower’, which sits as a promontory above the town. It was built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa in 1652. The tower has a four observation points resembling Tag (Tiger), Seng (Lion), Chung (Garuda) and Druk (Dragon). Today it serves as a National Museum, monastic residence and a place of meditation.
After you lunch in Trongsa continue your drive through crossing Mangdue Chhu and with a view point where you can stop for a short photography session of the Trongsa Dzong and Ta Dzong against the backdrop of breathtaking landscape. Driving further through rich forest and stunning landscape you will then reach the Chendebji Chorten, which marks the central end of Bhutan. The road from here slowly takes you ascend through beautiful landscape, farmhouse and farmland and finally takes you up to Pele La Pass (11,070ft/3375m), which is marked by small chorten surrounded by prayer flags. The surrounding pass offers a rich landscape of the western region and also if the weather is good one can spot some of the highest Himalayan peaks of Bhutan. The region is popularly known as the Black Mountains and a short drive further off the main road takes you to Lawala, a crested ridge at 10,800ft/3293m) you will then gradually descent into the glacier Phobjikha valley famed for the migratory black-necked Crane that makes it their winter home.
Day 09: Phobjikha Sightseeing
There are optional hiking trail available in Phobjikha with great view of the valley and surrounding mountains. If you are here in between the months of October to early March, the valley is famed for its migratory Black-necked Crane. As many as three hundreds of these visitors arrive here every winter.
Optional Hiking Trail Available
Shasila Natural Hike: This beautiful hike starts from Gangtay and continues through Tokha village and slowly up words through rhododendron forest. It takes cross open meadow and dwarf bamboo and finally leads to Shasi La Chorten offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. From the top the trail gradually drops downhill through stunning old-growth rhododendron forest and finally arrive at Khelekha village.
Longtey Hike: If you are looking for a picturesque hike through some of the beautiful part of Gangtay, this is the one taking you for more than 4 hours with rich forest of rhododendron and stunning view of Gangtay valley. To begin one has to drive to Longtay the first village after crossing Pelela and the trail takes you climbing uphill through fir and rhododendron forest.
Tongphushing Trail: A lovely and leisurely one hour walk takes you through rich forest of blue bine forest, farmland and surrounding village with scenic view of Phobjikha valley. The hike starts from near Gangtay Goemba and takes you downhill through Tokha village and continue all the way to Phobjikha valley. It provides an insight into the village and farm life and if you are here in the right time, the crane adds up an extra charm to visitors.
Day 10: Phobjikha Valley – Punakha
After you leisurely breakfast in the hotel, drive to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. Punakha is inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the history of Bhutan, and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. Today Punakha’s significance to the Bhutanese nation is emphasized by the fact that it remains the winter residence of the national clergy and His Holiness the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Buddhist Bhutan. The drive, albeit a short one (65km), is dramatic due to the range of scenic beauty that unfolds along its route. Undoubtedly, you will want to stop as photo-ops abound and if you are lucky, you will be rewarded with views of Jichu Drakey, Kang Bum and other peaks en-route. Reaching Wangdue with its dzong strategically positioned atop a hill, the road takes you cross the Punatsang Chhu and then gradually leads to Lobesa. As you near Lobesa en-route, you can stop at Chemi Lhakhang lies atop a small hillock. It is a pleasant 30-40 minute walk from the road head through cultivation field and farmhouse. The Chemi Lhakhang honors Lama Drukpa Kuenley, revered across the Himalayas as the ‘Divine Mad Man’. It dated back to 1499 and was built by Lama Ngawang Chogyel to honor his brother Lama Drukpa Kuenley. After the temple, drive to your hotel.
Day 11: Punakha Sightseeing
A 30-minute drive takes you to Kabji Serigang initially passing through terrace of rice fields and vibrant farmhouse. About two hours hike up to Chorten Ningpo offers a beautiful walk with lovely village, orange groves and the opportunity to experience the daily activities of the local people. The temple on the mountain top is revered by many of the local people and dated back to 15th century. Locally believe that when Lama Drukpa Kuenley was returning from Tibet when he rested at a hilltop called Jeligang. On arrival he tossed the partially burned wood he had carried with him during his journey. When it fell into the ground, it sprouted into a vigorous and leafy tree. The lama saw this as an auspicious sign and later decided to built a temple. Later in the 18th century lama Thripa (Gyelsey Tenzin Rabgyel), visited the site and built a temple that stands on the ground today. Way back take the trail below the temple that takes you all the way downhill until you reach the main road. Having picnic lunch near the Mo Chhu River taking the freshness of the breeze, sight and sound of the nature you then cross the suspension bridge above Mo Chhu to visit the impressive Khamsum Yueley Namgyel Temple. The temple was consecrated in 1999 and contain a sacred relics donated from Punakha. It also offers a scenic view of the valley below and the surrounding mountains adding stunning sights to your photo shot. Coming down from the temple you will then reach a big parking lot near the river and then drive to Punakha. In the evening hour visit the historical Punakha dzong saddled on the confluence of Mo Chhu (Female) and Pho Chhu (Male) river. This impressive fortress was built as far back as 1637 and was the second mightiest dzong built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The dzong served as the seat of government till the end of the reign of the second king.
Day 12: Punakha – Thimphu
In the morning hour before you depart to Thimphu, drive further north of your hotel to visit Nalandra Buddhist Studies. This historical site was founded by Je Gyelwa Shakya Rinchen where he had a clear vision of the clarifiers of the teaching of Buddha known as the Six Ornaments and the Two Supreme Ones of India, conducting religious discussions at this place. Returning back make a short stop at the Nunnery. It offers a great view of the landscape and the valley filled with paddy with white wall traditional building that contrast with the landscape. Coming down to the main road drive straight to Thimphu. En route stop at Dochu La pass and savor the enchanting pristine natural of the land. The pass lies at 10150ft/3100m and is possibly one of the best in the country and is unlike that of any other pass you will encounter here or for that matter anywhere in the world. Beside its magnificent 108 chortens in an amazing setting you will be able to spot some of the great Himalayan peaks including Masagang (23,515ft/7165m), Tsendagang (23,288ft/7100m), Terigang (23,944ft/7300m), Jejegangphugang, Kangphugang, Zongaphugang (all above 7100m) and Gangkhar Puensum (24,735ft/7541m). From this lofty spot, it is downhill till you reach Thimphu. In Thimphu visit the National Memorial Chorten. It was built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Bhutan. The complex is visited by people from all walks throughout the day. After the temple, drive further uphill to visit Kuenselphodrang (Buddha Point). The Buddha Dodrelma Statue is 169ft is the world’s tallest Buddha statue. One can have a clear view of the valley below including the capital city. In the evening, visit Trashichhoe dzong opened only after 5pm or office hour. Return back drive to your hotel.
Day 13: Thimphu – Paro
Today you will do the rest of the sightseeing in Thimphu and in the evening drive to Paro whicc takes only an hour drive. In the morning drive further north of Thimphu and visit the Cheri or Tango Goemba. A hike of 1.5 hour walk takes you to Cheri Goemab. This was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1620 and is the place where he first established the body of monks. If you are enthusiast – we recommend taking an hour walk up to Tango University. The goemba sits at the edge of a richly forested hill with its great wall appear stunning in contrast to the surrounding foliage and dominate the entire hillside. Return to Thimphu for lunch and after lunch visit the Institute of Zorig Chusum offering a six-year course on traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. If you are here in the weekend, visit the Centenary Farmers Market lies at the bank of Wang Chhu River. The market offers an opportunity to experience the villagers selling their local products and other goods. Five miles from the city, en-route Paro stop to visit the Simtokha Dzong on a lofty ridge. It is the oldest and first dzong built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. After the dzong drive to Paro.
Day 14: Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest
We suggest you to make an early start since the hike to Tiger’s Nest is quite an uphill task and takes around 3-4 hours walk at an average speed. This spectacular day hike to the magnificent Taktsang Goemba or monastery at 3140 meter, perched cliff side is an important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in all of Himalayas. According to the legend Guru Padmasambhava came to Taktsang in the eight century, flying from the east of the country on a back of a tigress (a form that one of his consorts is believed to have taken). He meditated in the cave for three months and then donning his terrifying form of Dorji Droloe subjugating the evil spirit residing in the region. After his departure to Tibet many permanent spiritual leaders visited the site including the very beloved disciple of Guru – Longchen Pelkyi Singye and other notable saints like Milarepa, Drubthop Thongtong Gyelpo, Phajo Drukgom Zhipo, Labdoenma, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. Later in 17th century the original temple was built by Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgyel. In 1998 a mysterious devastating fire burn down almost all the complete complex and in the same year it was rebuilt to its original structure that you see today. Coming down, drive further north of the valley to visit the ruin Drukgyel Dzong or the ‘Fortress of Victory’. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1647 at a strategic point where the route from Tibet enters the Paro valley. Returning back en-route visit the historical Kyechu Lhakhang and then finally turn back to Paro town for your last day shopping and buying gifts for your family and friends back at home.
Day 15: Hotel – Paro Airport