14 Nights 15 Days
- Visit one of the most remote country in the world
- Hoisting of Buddhist prayer Flags
- Learn how to cook ema datshi (chili cheese) with a local family at local home stay
- See and Experience century old fortresses called Dzongs and temples
- Stay in Typical Bhutanese Homestays and enjoy Local food at local home stay
- Visit to UNESCO World Heritage site Dramitse Lhakhang
- Guru Nangsey Zilneon statue one of the tallest statues in the world
- Experience pure Buddhist tradition and preserved Bhutanese culture
- Very special is a visit to the Cordyceps Tasting House, where you can learn more about the so-called ‘caterpillar mushroom’’, a traditional medicine valued more than gold
- Drive by highest road point and highest motor road
- Hike to Taktsang Goemba ‘Tiger’s Nest’ and thrilling cliffs
Day 01 Arrive Samdrup Jongkgar.
The gateway to eastern Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the southeastern region of the country and shares borders with the Indian state of Assam. It is by far the largest urban centre in eastern Bhutan. It lies at elevations ranging from 200 m to 3,500 m. Today, the road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar, completed in the 1960s, connects the eastern and southern regions of the country. This allows them to benefit from trade, especially through trade across the Indian border. Samdrup Jongkhar used to be the main trading centre for the people of Eastern Bhutan.
You will meet and greeted by Away Smile Travels Representative upon arrival at Bhutan gate. You will need to complete Bhutan Immigration formalities and will be escorted to the hotel.
Explore Samdrup Jongkhar Local Town. Welcome Dinner at hotel. Overnight Hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 02 Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang (Drive 6-7 hrs)
After breakfast drive to Trashigang. On arrival to Dewathang, located about 18km from Samdrup Jongkhar. Visit Chökyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) a Monastic College. Bhutan is unique in many ways. It started as a small temple built by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s maternal grandfather, the late Lama Sonam Zangpo. CGI is offering a thorough education in Buddhist philosophy to more than 140 monks. It is also an active monastery with a busy schedule upholding the practice lineage of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, including annual drubchos and drubchens, based on Khandro Sangdu, Pema Tseyi Nyingtik, Vima Ladrub, Minling Dorsem, and Phagma Nyingtik, as well as many other practices.
Drive to Trashigang. Trashigang, “The Jewel of the East”, spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000 m. Bhutan’s largest river, Dangme Chhu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, it is the junction of the East-West highway with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle marketplace for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
En-route visit the National Handloom Centre in Khaling. It is a good option for shopping authentic Bhutanese textiles created with age-old indigenious techniques of dying and weaving. Lying a few kilometers off the small Khaling town, this center is a good place to understand the overall production process of Bhutanese textiles. Overnight Hotel in Trashigang.
Day 03 Trashigang (Day excursion to Ranjung village)
After breakfast drive further east from Trashigang and will take you to another commercial hub in Trashigang, the Rangjung town. Visit Rangjung Woesel Chholing Monastery. The monastery is located on a small hillock overlooking the town. It was founded by His Eminence Dungsey Garab Dorje Rinpoche in 1989 with few monks and nuns. The temple built in the architectural style of the Tibetans has a monastic school supported by His Eminence.
Visit the Trashigang Dzong. Built in 1659, atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu river, Trashigang dzong or ‘the fortress of the auspicious hill’ has been the political stronghold of eastern Bhutan for over 300 years. Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.
Drive or hike to the quaint Rangshikhar Village. There is a little monastery presiding on the top of a small hillock in the village. The locals visit the monastery very frequently. It is quite pleasant to walk around the village and to the Goemba. It is founded by the Rangshikhar Rinpoche, Togdhen Jigme Chogyal. It has a huge Buddha Statue and others that tell the story of Buddha. Overnight: Hotel in Trashigang.
Explore Trashigang Town. Overnight Hotel in Trashigang.
Day 04 Trashigang-Trashiyangtse (Drive 3 hrs)
Trashiyangtse is of the newest dzongkhags in the country, Trashi yangtse was established as a distinct district in 1992 and spans 1,437 sq. km of subtropical and alpine forests. With its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources Trashi yangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget. At an elevation of 1750-1880 m, Trashi yangtse is an ethnically and culturally diverse district and the inhabitants include Yangtseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang, Kurtoeps from Lhuentse. This rich cultural tapestry has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region. Three major languages are spoken in Trashiyangtse.
On the way visit Gom Kora: Visit Gom Kora on the way. The temple of Gom Kora is set on a small alluvial plateau overlooking the Dangmechu river. Surrounded by rice fields and clumps of banana trees, it looks like an oasis in an arid landscape. It is one of the famous places where Guru Rinpoche meditated in order to subdue a demon which dwelt in a huge black rock.
Visit Chorten Kora: This dazzling white stupa is situated on the riverbank below the town. Constructed in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday, it is built in the same style as Bodnath Stupa in Nepal, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was consecrated by the 13th Chief Abbot Sherub Wangchuk. During the second month of the lunar calendar there is an interesting celebration here, known as ‘Kora’ during which it is frequented not just by the locals from eastern Bhutan but also by the people from Arunachal Pradesh.
Explore Trashiyangtse town. Overnight Hotel / Local Home Stay in Trashiyangtse.
Day 05 Trashiyangtse – Mongar (Drive 5-6 hrs)
After breakfast transfer to Mongar. On the way visit Dramitse Lhakhang. Dramitse Lhakhang built in the 16th century by Ani Cheten Zangmo, the daughter of the renowned terton Pema Lingpa is a very notable religious site in Bhutan. The Dramitse Ngacham or the “Dance of the Drums of Dramitse,” was born in this lhakhang in the 16th century. Today, it is a popular dance performed at all major festivals. It is also on the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage list.
Hoisting of Prayer Flags.
For centuries, prayer flags have been a major part of Bhutanese people’s tradition, symbolizing the reality and pervasiveness of their belief. Prayer flags are hoisted for happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and merit and to offer karmic merit to all sentient beings. Prayer flags are raised outside homes, hung on hilltops, bridges and places of spiritual importance. Hoisting a prayer flag is considered to bring in good luck and merit to all sentient beings.
Note: – Please check the auspicious date/day to hoist the prayer flags. The raising of a prayer flag is a complimentary service arranged by Away Smile Travels.
Later drive to Mongar. Mongar is situated on a hill overlooking the Kurichu valley and surrounding villages. It is one of the fastest growing town in eastern Bhutan.
Explore Mongar Town. Overnight Hotel in Mongar.
Day 06 Mongar-Lhuntse (Drive 3 hrs)
In the northeastern corner of Bhutan lies the ancient region of Kurtoe or Lhuntse as it is known today. It is the ancestral home of our Kings and hosts several of the sacred sites of pilgrimage in the country. It is located 77km from Mongar (3 hours’ drive) and 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 generally considered to be the best in the country. Kurtoep women are especially adept at weaving a textile called Kishuthara. Eastern Bhutanese culture is distinctive in its high alcohol consumption in relation to other parts of Bhutan. Ara, the traditional alcohol of Bhutan, is most often home made from rice or maize, either fermented or distilled.
Visit Takila Guru Statue. Visit the giant Guru Nangsey Zilneon bronze statue consecrated in November 2015. The 157 feet Guru Nangsey Zilneon statue is the one of the tallest statues in the world. Seated on a 38 feet lotus located on a hill in Takila overlooking Tangmachu village in Menbi gewog, the construction took more than seven years.
Visit Gangzur village is well known for pottery in Bhutan. The village is about two kilometers from the Lhuentse Dzong. The women from the village are skilled artisans and adept in the art of pottery. Pottery is a dying art in Bhutan and as such, the Government is now trying to revive the art by providing financial support. You can witness the women displaying their skills.
Visit Khoma Village and explore the village. This village is known throughout the country for its woven textile, the Kishuthara. A culture that has evolved over the years is a row of women in a makeshift textile cottage, weaving intricate designs and patterns. Overnight Home Stay Khoma Lhuntse
Day 07 Lhuntse – Ura Valley Bumthang (Drive 8-9 hours)
After an early breakfast, leave for Bumthang valley. You will officially be departing Eastern Bhutan and entering Central Bhutan after you cross Thrumshing La, Bhutan’s highest pass at 12,467 feet.
Ura is the highest of Bumthang valleys and is believed by some to have been the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. There are about 45 closely packed houses along cobblestone streets, giving the town a medieval atmosphere. The Geyden Lhakhang dominates the town. Overnight Home Stay Ura Valley.
Day 08 Ura-Bumthang sightseeing (Drive 2 hours)
After breakfast drive and discover Bhumtang Valley. Bumthang region span from 2,600-4,500 m is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.
Bumthang Dzongkhag consists of four main valleys, Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. Choekhor is the largest of the four and is widely considered as ‘Bumthang Valley’. The valleys are broad and gentle carved by the ancient glaciers. The wide and scenic valleys draws a large number of tourists each year.
This dzongkhag is one of the most richly endowed districts in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Some of Bhutan’s oldest and most venerated temples are found in Bumthang, including Jambey Lhakhang. There are numerous other temples and shrines worth visiting in Bumthang and many of them are linked to Guru Rinpoche’s visit in 746 A.D. The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered in fields of buckwheat and potatoes. Apple orchards and dairy farms are also common sights here. This serene region is one of the most peaceful places in the kingdom.
On the way visit Mebar Tsho. Mebar Tsho or the ‘Burning Lake’ is considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage spots in Bhutan. Mebar Tsho is more of a gorge than a lake. It is believed that the famous treasure hunter, Terton Pema Lingpa discovered many holy relics hidden here by Guru Rinpoche. To silence skeptical minds, he plunged in to the gorge with a burning lamp declaring, “If I am a demon, I shall die! If I am not, and am the true spiritual son of Guru Rinpoche, this lamp will continue to burn and I will recover hidden treasures!” Legend has it that he came out with the hidden relics and with the lamp still burning and hence, the name ‘Mebar Tsho’ came about.
Visit Jambay Lhakhang. This monastery was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries he built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.
Visit Kurjey Lhakhang. Located further along the valley, Kurje Lhakhang is comprised of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. The middle temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of the Guru’s body, and is therefore considered to be the holiest. The temple on the left was built in the 1990s by Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck, Royal Grandmother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108-chorten wall.
Visit Tamshing Lhakhang. Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Visit Kenchok Sum Lhakhang. Kenchok Sum Lhakhang dates back to the 8th century. The inscription on the large bell testifies to it being cast for the Tibetan Royal Family. You will find statues of the past, present and future Buddhas.
Visit Local Beer (Red panda) Factory. Overnight Hotel in Bumthang.
Day 09 Bumthang – Gangtey/Phobjikha valley (Drive 6 hours)
After breakfast drive to Gangtey Valley. The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lays the village of Phobjikha. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park.
On the way visit the Yathra weaving centre at Chhumey valley. Yathras are brightly colored wool fabrics, a specialty of the region. At the Center, you can watch women weaving these brightly colored fabrics. Enroute at Trongsa visit the Ta Dzong/Royal Heritage Museum. This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion, stands on a promontory above the town. It was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the 1st Governor of Trongsa in 1652. It has four observation points representing a tiger, lion, garuda, and dragon. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history. As of date, the Ta Dzong of Trongsa is the most fascinating museum in the kingdom.
Later in the evening savor specially organized cooking demonstration with local family where you will not only savor the local delicacy but also experience & exchange views on the Bhutan’s unique cultural and traditional values. You will be helping to cook Ema Detsi Chilli Cheese). This is organized at private family followed by dinner at local home. Overnight Hotel/Home Stay in Gangtey/Phobjikha.
Day 10 Gangtey Sightseeing transfer Punakha (Drive 2 hrs)
After breakfast visit the Black Necked Crane Center. The Center has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. You can use the Center’s powerful spotting scopes.
Gangtey Nature trail. This pleasurable hike from the small hilltop overlooking the Phobjikha valley to the community school gives you a nice feel of the valley. It is a gentle hike through flower meadows, beautiful forests and into the open valley.
Visit Gangtey Goemba. Gangtey Goemba, situated on the slopes of the valley was built in the 17th century. The village of Phobjikha lies on the floor of the valley, a few kilometers down from the monastery. This quiet, remote valley is the winter home of the famous black-necked cranes, who migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months in a milder climate.
Drive to Punakha. Punakha Dzongkhag has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the ancient capital of the country. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.
Visit Chhimi Lhakhang. This fertility temple is dedicated to the famous teacher, Drukpa Kinley (also known as the ‘Divine Madman’) with whom the phallic symbol is associated. The Divine Madman sits there though a statue this time. Do not miss the master’s deeds painted on the walls. Couples usually visit this temple to be blessed with children. Parents also take their babies here to get them named. Babies named here usually have ‘Kinley’ as their first name. Overnight Hotel in Punakha.
Day 11 Punakha Sightseeing-Thimphu (Drive 3 hrs)
After breakfast drive to north of Punakha Serigang Village. Hike to Khamsum Yule Namgyel Chorten. It is around 45 mins one-way hike. This fascinating temple was built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace in this world. The best of the spiritual art works are painted on the inner walls. There are also paintings of Buddhist teachers and tutelary deities of the country. This is a great temple to study the symbolic meanings from frescoes and sculptures.
Visit Punakha Dzong. Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, the first King Gongsr Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the Dzong, enrich your trip with the opportunity to see the highest standards in woodwork. Do not miss the massive Kuenray, the coronation hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong, and the cantilever bridge over the Mo Chu that has been recently renovated.
Drive to Thimphu. En-route stop at the Dochula pass. Dochu La is a beautiful mountain pass (alt 3,140 m) fluttering prayer flags and a spectacular set of 108 miniature chortens (stupas) called the Druk Wangyel Chortens. On a clear day, you will get awe-inspiring glimpses of the towering Himalayan peaks around.
Visit Tashichhodzong. Tashichhodzong means ‘the fortress of the glorious religion.’ It is a majestic fortress in all its grandeur and serves as the seat of Bhutan’s government. The Dzong houses the secretariat, the throne room, the offices of His Majesty the King and the ministries of home affairs and finance. The fortress was initially erected in 1641 and later rebuilt in the 1960s by the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
Explore Thimphu Town. Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu.
Day 12 Thimphu Sightseeing – Paro (Drive 1 hour)
After breakfast begin Thimphu City Tour. Visit Buddha Point (Giant Golden Buddha). Buddha Point has the largest statue of Buddha in the whole kingdom. You can get a very good view of Thimphu valley from here.
Visit National Memorial Chorten. The National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 in memory of the late Third Druk Gyalpo (King) of Bhutan. At the chorten, you will find an extraordinary depiction of Buddhist teachings in the form of paintings and sculptures.
Visit Weaving Center. You can watch weavers at work at the private weaving centre at Changzamtog. The centre produces hand woven textiles and has a selection of cloth and readymade Bhutanese garments for sale.
Visit Authentic Bhutanese Craft Bazzar/shop. A one stop shop place to witness Bhutanese rich Culture and buy Bhutan made art and craft products. The shop in its 80 small stall covers all aspect of traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The shops linked with the rural artisans aims to promote Bhutan’s craft industry by creating a viable market, which turn’s acts to preserve and promote Bhutan’s unique culture and bring about equitable socio-economic development in the country.
Visit Takin sanctuary dedicated to the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.
Visit Cordyceps Tasting House. Unique to the world, the Cordyceps Tasting Room offer a cosy tearoom to taste a range of Cordyceps-infused soups and drinks. Our hostess will also perform a Cordyceps Tea Ceremoney. You can learn more about the so-called ‘caterpillar mushroom’’, a traditional medicine valued more than gold.
Visit Traditional Paper Factory. At the paper factory, you can watch the workers make traditional paper from the daphne plant. Traditional Bhutanese paper (called ‘Desho’) is said to last longer than regular paper. The handmade paper making begins to find its place as the most important part of Bhutanese culture and tradition. The paper making first began as a domestic occupation and still preserved to till these days.
Later afternoon drive to Paro. Overnight: Hotel in Paro.
Day 13 Paro Sightseeing (Hike to Taktsang Monastery)
After breakfast, drive to Rumthngaka village and hike to Taktsang. The main highlight of the trip is the hike to one of Bhutan’s most venerated pilgrimage sites, the Taktsang Goemba, commonly referred to as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche miraculously flew here on the back of a tigress, meditated in a cave here for three months and converted the whole of Paro valley to Buddhism. Resting at an altitude of 900 m above the valley, Taktsang is an architectural wonder and the spectacular around 5 hours round trip walk will be your most overwhelming experience ever.
Visit Kyichu Lhakhang built in the 7th century by the famous Buddhist Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. This is one of the oldest and most holy temple in Bhutan. Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 14 Paro-Haa Valley (Day trip to Haa Valley)
After breakfast drive to Haa Valley. The drive to Haa from Paro is around 2 hrs /30 mins one way drive via Chelela Pass. Chelela Pass is a beautiful mountain pass (alt 3,800 M above) with a spectacular view of Mount Jumolhari and Jitchu Drake on a clear day. One can see beautiful rhododendrons and primulas blooming in spring.
Haa is one of the smallest Dzongkhag in the country. This tiny region is one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the kingdom, adorned with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks. Haa valley remains one of the least visited areas in the country and retains the air of an unspoiled, primeval forest. The wooded hills of Haa provides an ideal location for hiking and mountain biking. Biking around the valley to visit the dozen or so local temples is an enjoyable way to spend the day when visiting.
Haa is home to a number of nomadic herders and hosts an annual Summer Festival that showcases their unique lifestyle and culture. The festival is an ideal occasion to immerse yourself into the traditions and unchanged lifestyles of nomadic Bhutanese herders, as well as to sample some delectable Haapi cuisine.
Meri puensum: Meri puensum is a unique landmark of Haa valley and there is a great deal of folklore relating to these three hills.The three brother (sister) hills of Haa Dzongkhag present a breathtaking view, like heaps of flour in the middle of the valley. They appear equal in height, in a line, and upright in positions without touching eachother. It has been said that these three hills are embodiments of the lords of the “Three Families” with left hill representing Manjushiri (God of Knowledge), the central one representing Avalokiteshvara (God of Compassion), and the right one representing Vajrapani (God of Power).
Hike to Junidrak (2950m) An hour uphill hike from Katsho Village takes to you Juneydrak Hermitage, a cliffside retreat that contains the footprints of Maching Labdrom (1055 – 1132), a female Tibetan yogin, student of the famous Tibetan master Phadampa Sangye (1045 – 1117).
Explore Haa local Town. Later drive back to Paro. Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Day 15 Departure:
After breakfast drive to the Paro International Airport where our representatives will bid you goodbye!
Thank you (Kardrienchhey) for visiting Bhutan with Away Smile Travels “Smiles for Miles “