Paro – Thimphu (Two-hour drive)The flight into this spectacular part of the world is like no other. The green hills, known as dooars, are gateways to Bhutan from the plains; they climb continually higher as you fly north toward the Tibetan border. Silvery rivers thread the valleys, waterfalls plunge down the forested mountainsides and to the north, the great snowcapped peaks of the inner Himalayas rise up into the sky.At the Paro airport, Bhutan Creative Tours representative will receive you. After completing the airport formalities, you will experience an interesting two-hour drive along the winding highway to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan.Overnight – hotel in Thimphu.
ThimphuThimphu (2400m) is the only city in the world without traffic lights. It is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, civil servants, and foreign missions in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.In the morning, you will visit the National Library, which has an extensive collection of Buddhist literatures, with some works dating back several hundred years. You will also visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School), where a six-year training course is given on 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed.After lunch, you will visit the National Memorial Chorten. The third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who wanted to erect a monument for world peace and prosperity, originally planned the building of this landmark. After his untimely demise, the fourth king, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk completed the construction in 1974. It is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. You will also visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of local products, including the splendid thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles. Thereafter, we will take you to the Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums, opened in 2001.
Thimphu – Punakha – Wangduephodrang
After breakfast, drive to Punakha. The road from Thimphu to Punakha goes northeast and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La Pass (3050m), the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha. From here when the sky is clear, one can enjoy a spectacular and panoramic view of the snow-capped peaks to the north that are above 7000m. The pass has 108 chortens (Stupa), honoring those who laid down their lives while flushing out insurgents from the southern Bhutan in December 2003. Chortens are Buddhist reliquaries and memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes, stupas carry relics of the Buddha or revered monks. Whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.Punakha is in a low-lying subtropical valley at an altitude of 1400m. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 before the seat of government moved to Thimphu. It is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body. The original town is on the riverbank dominated by the towering walls of Punakha Dzong. After a massive flood in 1994, the town shifted to a safer site about a few kilometers from the dzong. At the same time, Punakha Dzong underwent extensive renovation, which now offers a breath-taking and glorious sight as you first glimpse it from the road. Although, four catastrophic fires and an earthquake in the past destroyed many historic documents, Punakha Dzong still houses many sacred and historic artifacts and the embalmed body of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.Also, visit the valley of Wangduephodrang situated at the junction of the Punakha Chu and Dangme Chu rivers.
Overnight – hotel in Punakha.
Punakha – GangteyThis valley also serves as the winter home for the rare black-necked crane that migrates from the plateau of Tibet. If your visit is from end of October then you will have ample opportunity to witness the rare black- necked crane feeding in the marshy meadow. Our car will drop us before arriving at the Gangtey Monastery; We will start our hike through the village to the monastery and then continue downhill into the Phobjikha valley. We will continue our hike to the hotel where we will be served with our lunch. Rest of the day will be spent exploring the village around or just observe the cranes.Overnight at the hotel.
Gantey – TrongsaWe will drive steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3300m/ 10989ft). With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During the clear weather we can view the high snow-capped peaks especially the Mount Jhomolhari (7314m/ 24355ft). As we descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo vegetation and quite often we find Yaks grazing. We reach at Chendebji Chorten. Lama Shida built this Chorten or Stupa in 18th century. Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you will ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west.Overnight at Lodge.
Trongsa – BumthangAfter breakfast we will visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647, by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. This Dzong was the source of many important historical events in making of Modern Bhutan. Next we will visit Taa Dzong, the ancient watchtower, overlooking the Dzong and the town. We will than resume our drive to Bumthang crossing the Yotongla Pass and into the first four valley of Bumthang known as Chumey, we will visit Domkhar Palace, this palace was used as the summer residence of 2nd king Jigme Wangchuk. Lunch will be served here in the open ground. We will make another stop at Tsungney village, where we will observe the weavers weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra. Continue our drive for an hour and arrive at the Chokhor Valley, if time permits we will have sightseeing around the valley.Overnight at Lodge.
Bumthang (Sightseeing)Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys-Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on the animal husbandry. Sightseeing in the valley of Chokhor will involve walking almost throughout the day. Begin your hike from your Lodge to the Temple of Jambay Lhakhang through scattered and clustered villages of Jakar. A Tibetan King, Songtsen Gonpo, built this temple in the 7th century. Your next stop will be Chakar Lhakhang, which was built in the 8th century. This House was a castle of the King Sindhu Raja who used to rule the Bumthang Valley. Continue your hike to Kurjey monastery, it is here that the great tantric saint Padmasambhava had meditated and subdued a local deity known as Shelging Karpo. Continue your hike north and cross the Chamkhar River you will arrive at Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pemalingpa built this temple in 1500s. Your final stop of the hike will be at Konchogsum Lhakhang, built in 7th century. From here you will drive to the Apple and Cheese factory. Your next stop will be the small town of Chamkhar. The car will drop you near the bridge from where you will stroll through the small half-kilometer town and return back to Lodge.
Bumthang (Chamkhar – Tang Valley)Today after the breakfast we will drive to Tang valley with packed lunch and visit one of the old palaces, which is now a museum. From Jakar, we will drive towards Ura in the east. After about 10kms, unpaved road on the left leads you to narrow gorge of Tang. After the turn off, there is a parking lot for short walk to Mebartso. The road climbs above the river for 7km before the Drangchel village. You will notice the monastic hermitage Kunzangdrak Goemba perched on the rocky cliff. It was founded in 1488 by Terton Pema Lingpa. The excursion to Knzangdrak takes about 2 hrs of steep uphill climb. We will continue along high feeder road for about 3km and pass through Jamzhong village. After short descent for about 2km, you will arrive at Misithang. Short distance away from misithang is a lhakhang known as Tag Rimochen (impression of tiger stripes) now known as Tang Rimochen, located below an enormous rock. Tang Rimochen was founded by Dorji Lingpa in 14th Century. The name of the place was derived from the marks on the rock that resemble tiger’s stripes. It is a sacred place where Guru Rimpoche meditated. The rock has body imprints of Guru Rimpoche and his two consorts. After Tang Rimochen, the road gets rougher till Kizum. From Kizum, we will cross the bridge over Tang Chu and climb up to the hill top of UgyenChholing Palace, built in 16th century by Deb Tsoki Dorji. The palace complex is now a museum for religious studies, research and solitude. The exhibits in the main building depict the life style and art works of a Bhutanese noble family.Overnight: lodge in Tang.
Bumthang – MonggarThe drive from Bumthang to Monggar will surely enchant you as it offers one of the most spectacular views of the country. Evergreen junipers and colorful Rhododendrons cover the hillsides, as fresh new scenery unfolds with every twist and turn of the winding road. Sound of the rushing streams and cascading waterfalls greets you as you look down at the valley looming in the distance below the precipitous rock face. You will be so captivated by its beauty that the seven hours journey will hardly be noticed.Overnight at Guest House.
Mongar (Excursion to Lhuntse)We will drive you to Lhuntse, which is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home to the royal family.We will visit the Dzong that sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Kurichu valley. Lhuntse Dzong is one of the most pleasing sites in Bhutan. After lunch, we will take a short drive to explore Menji village for its distinctive textiles before we start heading back to Monggar.Overnight at lodge in Monggar.
Mongar-Trashigang (Three-hour drive)
A 96km trip from Mongar to Trashigang takes about three hours. The first part of journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. After driving through the Korila pass (2450m/8040ft), marked by a pretty Chorten and a Mani wall, we descend rapidly through cornfields and banana groves to reach the famous road zigzags just below Yadi, a fairly recent but fast-growing settlement.After zigzagging down the hillside, the road to east runs along the Gamri River. A turnoff on the left leads up to Drametse. The temple, perched on top of a steep hill above the village, was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place of origin of the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums. About 30km onwards is the Trashigang (1100m/3610ft), which is on a steep hillside above the Gamri River. Trashigang is the principal township of the biggest and most populated district in the country.After lunch, you will visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of a rocky outcrop far above the river gorge. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the Dzong is occupied by the local monastic community.
Overnight at lodge in Trashigang.
Trashigang – Yangtsi excursion (Three-hour drive)
After the breakfast, drive to Yangtsi valley, visit the old stupa (chorten kora) and art and craft schoolOR
Morning work around the small town of Trashigang and later you can drive to Rangshing and visit the Rangshing monastery. At Rangshing, you will see the nomads from Merak and Sakting coming down for shopping. They wear a tropical dress made from the wool and animal skin.
Trashigang – Bumthang (9 hour drive)Most of the day will be spent driving through the different vegetation. It is the time to experience the change in vegetation if you have missed it on your earlier journey. There are chances you might see the great horn bill (bird) and the golden langur, one of the species of money and other wild life.
Bumthang – Punakha (7 hour drive)Today you will experience steep twists and turns before reaching Kikila Pass and gradually descend to Chumey valley. In summer, it is refreshing to find wild strawberries along the roadside near Kikila, adding beauty to the landscape. We gradually descend to Chumey valley only to find the road gradually going up to Yutong-la pass (3400m/11155ft) half an hour later. The steep descent from Yutong-La Pass to the small town of Trongsa is a good opportunity to see the vegetation change from Alpine to cool subtropical forests in less than an hour. We will stop for photographs at the viewpoint to capture the sight of majestic Dzong. As we drive away from Trongsa, the Dzong gradually disappears behind the mountains, leaving the lasting impression of a massive structure built in the 17th century. We will eat lunch at Chendibji.We will resume our journey and climb steadily through bamboo vegetation to Pele la Pass (3300m/ 10989ft) where you will find rhododendrons. If the sky is clear and you have missed the view of Mount Jhomolhari in your earlier journey, then this is the time to make up. We will drive down to the valley of Wangdue and to Punakha.Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Punakha – Thimphu (2 hour drive)Today after the breakfast we will resume our drive to Thimphu and stop at the dochula pass to use the facilities at the tea house and continue our drive to Thimphu for the lunch. We will do shopping in the afternoon.
Thimphu – Paro (1hour drive)
After breakfast we will drive to Paro and do the sightseeing in Paro. The Paro valley has attractive sites to visit. In the morning, you will visit Ta Dzong; once a watchtower, built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. Ta Dzong became the Bhutan’s National Museum in 1968.Next visit is Rinpung Dzong. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, built the dzong in 1646; the dzong continues its age-old function as the seat of the district administration, district court and the monastic body. The southern approach to the dzong has a traditionally roofed cantilever bridge called Nemi Zam. A walk across the bridge offers a spectacular view of dzong’s architecture and an opportunity to tread the same path as the ancient warriors. “Little Buddha”, the Hollywood movie has captured the beauty and splendour of Rinpung Dzong and Nemi Zam.After lunch, you will have 18km drive from Paro town towards the northern valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong (victory fortress). Drugyal Dzong is a well-known place from where the Bhutanese fought back several invading Tibetan armies in the 17th century. Unfortunately, the fire that started from a butter lamp destroyed the dzong in 1951. The ruins depict the past war strategies of Bhutanese army and the ancient lifestyle of a farming community and are still a tourist attraction.
You will also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of 108 lhakhangs built in 7th century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. Legend has it that king Songtsen Gampo built Kyichu Lhakhang on the right foot of a demon. It is now the oldest and most sacred shrine in the kingdom.
In the evening, you will visit traditional farmhouses for an opportunity to interact with the local families and learn more about their lifestyle. Later, you can take an evening stroll along the main street, and perhaps visit a few handicrafts shops, or take refreshments at a local café or bar.
Overnight at hotel in Paro.
Paro (Excursion to Tiger’s Lair)After breakfast your car will take you to the starting point of the hike to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike (if not tired) for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the breath-taking Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all.Overnight at hotel in Paro.
Depart ParoAfter breakfast, drive to the airport for your onward flight. Your escort from Bhutan Creative Tours will bid you farewell and soon you will see the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappear behind its guardian mountains.