15 DAYS JEWEL OF THE EAST
Kindly be at the check-in counter 2 hours ahead of your flight departure time. Your check-in luggage limit is 30kg on Economy Class / 40kg on Business Class, and hand luggage must not exceed 5kg.
DAY 1: PARO ARRIVAL (-/L/D)
On arrival at Paro international airport you will be received by a representative of Bhutan Raewa Travels who will be waiting outside the arrival terminal of the Airport holding a placard with your name on it. The representative will be your guide for the duration of the tour and will welcome you in a traditional manner by offering a khadar (greeting scarf). Thereafter, you will be escorted to your hotel for check in.
After freshening up you will be taken for a short sightseeing tour around Paro town. During this tour you will visit:
- Drive to see the Rinpung dzong, built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now used as an administration center and school for monks.
- Get a glimpse of the Ugyen Pelri Palace in a secluded wooden compound south of the river which was built by the Paro Penlop, Tshering Penjor, in the early 1900s. It is designed after the Second Buddha’s celestial paradise, Zangtopelri and one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.
- Visit The National Museum: rated as one of the finest natural history museums in South Asia which is a repository of not only precious work of art but also costumes, armor and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provide a good snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. Of special interest is the gallery of thangkhas which exhibits exquisite pieces of different vintages – those depicting Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first Je Khempo and first Druk desi are of particular significance.
- Drukgyal Dzong, now in ruins, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders, led by Mongolian Warlord, Gushri Khan. Strategically built over the only passage into Paro valley, the Dzong helped to repel numerous invasions all through the course of Bhutanese history. It so impressed the early English visitors in 1914 that the Dzong was featured on the cover of the National Geographic Magazine.
Free time to relax in the evening.
Overnight at hotel – Paro.
DAY 2: PARO INSIGHT-THIMPHU (B/L/D) (65km, about 1 hour)
After an early breakfast take a short drive to road point from where the hike begins to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) which clings precariously to a cliff 800 m / 2,600 ft above the Paro valley. The climb up to the view point will take around three hours (depending on one’s fitness). In the second half of the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, alighted here upon the back of a tigress, and upon meditating for three months in a cave, assumed the form of Dorje Droloe, the Terrifying Thunderbolt and subjugated the Eight Evil Spirits who hindered the propagation of Buddhism. Thereafter, the Buddhist Dharma was introduced to Paro valley and soon spread to the rest of Bhutan. Taktsang is one of the holiest sites in the country and one of the most venerated Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas.
Lunch will be served during the return hike back to the road point.
Visit Kyichu temple one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness.
After that drive towards Thimphu. On the way see Tachogang Temple or the “Temple of the Hill of Excellent Horse” which rises in austere surroundings on the left bank of the river, a few km before Chhuzom at the confluence of the Paro and Thimphu rivers. A Tibetan Saint had a vision of the excellent Horse Balaha – an emanation of Avalokiteshwara while he was meditating there. He decided thereupon to build a temple at this spot in addition to one of his famous iron bridges (later carried away by floods in 1969). The exact date of the temple’s construction is not certain, but it was probably around the year 1433.
Further proceed to Thimphu valley, at an elevation of 2,350 m / 7700 ft. Urbanization began here when Thimphu was proclaimed as a national capital in 1952 and the Dechenchoeling Palace was built at this time. Even today the city retains its ethnic architectural style and is the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. Yet unlike other capital cities in the world, Thimphu remains essentially pastoral in character and changes its demeanor with the seasons.
Check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Thimphu.
DAY 3: THIMPHU INSIGHT (B/L/D)
Today the day in Thimphu will begin with the following sight seeing’s;
- Visit Changangkha temple, built in the 15 century by Lama Phajo Drigom. It lies on a hilltop commanding the Thimpu valley. The temple has very old scriptures and Thankas. The main deity of the temple is Avalokiteshvara, God of compassion.
- Visit the National Library, a treasure trove of priceless Buddhist manuscripts. The National Library of Bhutan (NLB) was established in 1967 with the primary objective of collecting and preserving mainly ancient Bhutanese written and printed resources. The multi-functional library can now pride itself on being a modern library with a number of service and research facilities. It accommodates a large and steadily growing collection of manuscripts, books, scriptures and written documents as well as a large number of hand carved wooden blocks for printing traditional religious books.
- Then move to The National Folk Heritage Museum to get an insight into the typical Bhutanese way of life. Folk Heritage Museum at Thimphu provides you a glimpse of the lifestyle, items and artifacts of Bhutanese villages and rural households. Besides the display, the museum also organizes demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, habits and customs, educational programs for children and research and documentation on the rural life of Bhutan. The museum building itself is one of the star exhibits of the library. It is a restored three-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house that resembles the average rural household in the Wang area during the mid-19th century, complete with typical household objects, domestic tools and equipments that were used by rural families of that period.
- Visit the Jungshi paper factory. It is located approximately 1 km from Thimphu City. The factory uses the bark of two tree species, the Daphne tree and Dhekap tree in the manufacture of traditional paper. Visitors can observe the entire process of producing handmade paper using ancient traditional methods that have been practiced for generations. You can even try your hand at this ancient craft and make some paper of your very own as a souvenir. Deh-sho paper was originally used by monasteries for woodblock and manuscript books and also for writing prayer books. The Jungshi paper factory continues to preserve and promote this age-old Bhutanese tradition. It also produces various other products, such as stationery and greeting cards.
- See the Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as the Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school.
- Drive to see the Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal, the Takin.
- Further, drive up to BBS tower to get a view of the Thimphu valley.
Overnight at hotel – Thimphu.
DAY 4: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (B/L/D) (77km, about 3 hours)
Drive toward Punakha valley (the old capital of the country) via the Dochula Mountain pass (3,140 m). On a clear day Dochu La offers a stunning view of the snow capped Himalayan ranges:
- Kang Bum (6,526 m)
- Gangchhenta (6,840 m)
- Masang Gang (7,165 m)
- Tsenda Gang (7,100 m)
- Teri Gang (7,300 m)
- Jejekangphu Gang (7,100 m)
- Zongophu Gang (Table Mt) (7,100 m)
- Gangkhar Puensum (7,541 m)
Visit Druk Wangyel Chhorten, built by the Queen Mother for the peace and stability of the country. The 108 Khangzang Namgyal Chhortens are a new landmark for travellers as they cross Dochula, the first mountain pass into the interior of the country.
On the way visit Chimi Lhakhang, located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. There is a short 20 minute walk through the village of Sopsokha en-route to the temple wherein you will cross paddy fields and get a feel for rural Bhutan. The temple was built by Ngawang Chogyel in the 15th century after the ‘divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. The temple is believed to bless couples unable to have children and many people from around the world visit this holly site to seek its blessings.
Drive to see the impressive Punakha Dzong, one of the most beautiful dzongs of Bhutan. For many years until the time of the second King, it served as the seat of the government. It is the winter residence of the monastic body, and was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Inside the Dzong is the set of the 108 volumes of Kanjur – holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, written in gold. The Dzong also safe guards Bhutan’s most treasured possession: the Rangjung Kharsapani, a self created image of Chenrigzig which is described by Shabdrung as a treasure as vast as the sky.
Overnight at hotel – Punakha.
DAY 5: PUNAKHA – BUMTHANG (212km, about 8 hours)
After an early breakfast, begin the journey towards Bumthang. Drive through the Pele La Pass, crossing the Black Mountains, which divide western and central Bhutan. It is a wonderful opportunity to take photographs of the beautiful scenic views. Continue driving through rich rhododendron and Magnolias and yak settlements. After cross the Nikarchu Bridge, one enters the Trongsa district regions.
Along the way visit the following sites:
- Chendebji Chhorten: This large chhorten (stone Buddhist monument often containing relics) sits quietly by the side of the road, few miles from the small village of Chendebji and far from any large town. Built by a Tibetan lama in the 19th century to cover the remains of an evil spirit who was killed on the spot, the chhorten, in Nepalese style, is modeled after the Swayambhunath in Kathmandu
- The beautiful Trongsa Dzong built in 1648, the ancestral home of the Royal Family. Both the second and third King ruled the country from this ancient seat. Due to its highly strategic position as the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of the eastern region effectively.
- Ta Dzong which is situated strategically above the Trongsa Dzong served as the watch tower for Centuries. It was built by Choeje Minjur Tempa in 1652. Today it is a state of the art museum dedicated to the Monarchs of Bhutan. The museum focuses on the history of the monarchy, which had its cradle in Trongsa and the history of the Trongsa Dzong. It has a total of eleven galleries styled along the National Museum in Paro with one gallery fully dedicated to the history of the Kings of the Wangchuck dynasty. The museum includes a media room where visitors can watch a documentary program on the history of the monarchy.
Continue the journey towards Bumthang, which is approx a journey of two-hours from Trongsa. This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers mediated and left in their wake many sacred grounds.
On arrival in Bumthang, check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel –Bumthang.
DAY 6: BUMTHANG INSIGHT (B/L/D)
Today’s day in Bumthang will begin with the following sight seeing’s;
- Visit to Jakar Dzong, “castle of the white bird”. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a monastery and for Jakar Dzong. The fortress is now used as an administrative centre of the valley and summer residence of Trongsa monks.
- Jambay Lhakhang: built in the 17th century during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal – 1st Religious and Political King of Bhutan.
- Kurjey Lhakhang: This temple is located above Jambay Lhakhang and consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. The second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is considered the most holy. The present Royal Queen Mother recently built the third temple. These three temples are surrounded by 108 chhorten wall symbolic of each joint of the human body.
- Tamshing temple: The temple is a short walk north from Kurjey temple across a footbridge, then uphill to a trail on the opposite side. Downstream of the bridge you can see a natural formation named DO Zam. This is the remains of a stone bridge that was built by a goddess who was trying to meet Guru Rimpoche, but the bridge was destroyed by a demon.
The Tamshing Temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava and contains very interesting religious paintings like 11000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Bohhisatava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Overnight at hotel – Bumthang.
DAY 7: BUMTHANG – MONGAR (B/L/D) (198km, about 8 hours)
Today after early breakfast we will drive to Mongar. The journey continues eastwards, winding through more rugged terrain. The drive, with spectacular views, will take about seven hours. Pass through Ura village in Bumthang before climbing sharply to the highest motor road pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla Pass.
As you approach the Thrumshingla the highest point at 3750 m and on a clear day; you can get a good view of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 m).
Thrumshingla National Park is home to many animals especially the Red Panda. The Bengal Tiger has also been sighted in this park. This park has different kinds of rhododendron flowers and a variety of bird species. One can stop by while traveling and walk around the paths created especially for visitors but one cannot be expected to see all the animals at one given day.Watch cascading waterfalls along the way. The descent stops at 2,130 ft on a bridge over the Kurichu. Climb again through pine forest, maize fileds and eastern hamlets to Mongar town.
On arrival in Mongar check into hotel.
Then drive to visit the Mongar Dzong, albeit built not too long ago, still maintains the architectural traditions of the old Dzongs.
Overnight at hotel – Mongar.
DAY 8: MONGAR – LHUNTSE (B/L/D) (76km, about 3 hours)
Today we will drive to Lhuntse. After running for a few kilometers through open countryside of the mountains, the road turns north and goes down into the gorge of the river, following its left bank at an altitude of 1100m. The landscape is spectacular with cliffs and coniferous forest from which turpentine is extracted. Lemon grass also grows in abundance. Visit the Lhuntse Dzong, which was built in the year 1962 but was restored several times.
Check into Hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Lhuntse.
DAY 9: LHUNTSE EXCURSION – MONGAR (B/L/D) (76km, about 3 hours)
In the morning, visit the village of Gompa Karpo, which is four-hour walk east of the Dzong. This village is renowned for the fine quality of the fabrics they produce. After that drive back to Mongar.
Check in hotel. Free time to relax.
Overnight at hotel – Mongar.
DAY 10: MONGAR – TRASHIGANG (B/L/D) (91km, about 4 hours)
After breakfast drive to Trashigang. The road from Mongar to Trashigang, the eastern most regions, begins through lush forests and ferns passing over the Kori La at 8,000 ft.
After about an hour’s journey you reach the village of Ngatshang, the site of one of the fiefdoms before unification of the nation. Descending rapidly through corn fields and banana groves, you reach Yadi village.
Follow the Gamri River until the bifurcation to Drametsi. This temple, perched atop a steep hill, was founded by Nun Choden Zangmo in the 16th century. This is the place where Kunga Nyingpa had his vision of the famous Drametsi Nga Chham, or Drums from Drametsi.
About 30 kilometers onwards lies Trashigang, at 3,775 ft. Trashigang is the center of the biggest and most populated district in the nation. View the Dzong, built strategically on a spur going out towards the Gamri Chu.
Check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Trashigang.
DAY 11: DAY EXCURSION TO TRASHIYANGTSE (B/L/D)
Today’s day excursion is to Trashiyangtse. Drive onto Gom Kora temple which is a sacred meditation site of Guru Rimpoche (Second Buddha) and kora means circumambulation. The Guru meditated here for three days in a rock cave adjacent to the temple and left a body impression on a rock similar to that in Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang.
On a shelf under the statue of Guru Rimpoche are numerous sacred objects that either miraculously appeared here or were brought by Guru himself. The largest item is a dragon’s egg, which is a very heavy, perfectly shaped stone like egg. There is also a hoof of Guru Rimpoche’s horse and the footprint of a khandroma (female celestial being).
While Guru was meditating in the small cave near the bottom of the rock, a demon in the form of a cobra appeared from the side of the river which alarmed Guru and he stood up quickly and left an impression of his pointed hat at the top of the cave. Guru then made an agreement with the demon to stay away until the end of his meditation. The contract was sealed with thumb prints, which are still visible on the rock.
A small sin – testing passageway leads from the cave to an exit below the rock. Only virtuous people can get through this passage. Visitors are welcome to try but will get dirty as one must move like a snake to get through the cave.
Drive onto Duksum where there are many shops and eating places. Many of the shops sell colorful patterned cloth that is woven by the women of the village using back strap looms. Behind the village is an iron chain link bridge which is of historical importance as it is the last surviving bridge built by Thangtong Gyalpo “The Iron Bridge Builder”.
The story of Chorten Kora dates back to over 300 years when the people of Yangtse lived in fears of demons. Fireside tales of ghosts and demons were whispered. It is said that a place called Duerong was extremely dangerous for poor travelers. People who travel alone or with two companions seldom returned home.
If they ever did, they suddenly fell into a coma and soon died. Such incidents were narrated repeatedly intensifying people’s fear of demons. The need to subdue them was strongly felt. The people finally sought protection from Lama Ngawang loday, the third Lama of Rigsum Gonpa.
Lama Ngawang Loday depicted to construct a replica of the Bodnath stupa of Nepal in Kholongchu valley in memory of his late uncle Lama Jangchub Gyeltshen and to subdue a demon dwelling at the site where the Chorten stands today.
A popular myth has it that an eight-year old girl believed to be an emanation of a dakini from Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in India was entombed alive rather voluntarily inside Chorten Kora in Trashi Yangtse. Another version of the story has it that the girl was forcefully entombed. She wasn’t even a princess and didn’t have heather as depicted elsewhere. Of course the reason as to why she was entombed or if she was ever entombed remains a question researchers and scholars debate till today. However, Chorten Kora Tshechu remains one of the most famous festivals in eastern Bhutan. Shedi is a village of Yangtse. Drive = 25 min. Traditional village life where agriculture is their main occupation.
Walk to see the ruins of Tshenkarla Dzong behind the Junior High School which was built in the first half of the 9th century by Tsangma eldest son of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen. Visit and see the old settlement of Shali where there are farms and houses.
After that drive back to Trashigang for an overnight stay.
Overnight at hotel – Trashigang.
Day 12: TRASHIGANG – BUMTHANG (B/L/D) (298km, 11 hours)
After an early breakfast we will drive back to Bumthang.
On arrival check into hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Bumthang.
DAY 13: BUMTHANG – GANGTEY (B/L/D) (188km, about 6 hours)
The day begins with a drive to Gangtey which is also the winter home to the rare black necked cranes (Grus Nicorocolis) which migrate from remote parts of Tibet, China and Siberia to winter in this valley. The Black Necked Cranes is the least known of the 15 species of cranes in the world. It was first discovered in 1876 by a Russian naturalist, Prjezhwalsky in Lake Koko-nor in the northeast corner of the Tibetan Plateau. Endemic to the Himalayan region, it has been listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as globally threatened with a total count of 5,000-6,000 numbers worldwide.
Every year the birds arrive on their wintering grounds between mid-October and early December and remain until March through mid- April. The local people say that when the cranes first arrive they circle over the Goemba (Monastery) as though they are paying homage before descending into land in the marshy area of the valley.
Then again when the cranes decide to leave, they gather together and fly towards the Goemba (Monastery), circle the building and then head out of the valley, flying north to their breeding grounds. Gangtey is declared as a conservation ground for Black necked cranes and borders the Black Mountain National Park. The valley lies at the altitude of 2,900m and is also inhabited by muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox.
On arrival visit the Crane information and observation centre to view the exotic birds.
On completion of local sightseeing, check into the hotel.
Overnight at hotel – Gangtay.
DAY 14: GANGTEY – PARO (B/L/D) (228km, about 7 hours)
After breakfast begin the drive back to Paro.
On arrival, check into the hotel.
In the afternoon visit Dungtse Lhakhang which is situated just across the river. Dungtse Lhakhang is possibly the only ancient temple built in the shape of a chhorten.
The lhakhang is literally chained down since local belief holds that it will otherwise fly off to heaven! It was constructed in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo who came to Bhutan in search of iron ore to be used for constructing bridges in his homeland of Tibet.
The evening has been kept free for leisurely visit to Paro town.
Overnight at hotel – Paro.
DAY 15: PARO – DEPARTURE (B/-/-)
After breakfast your guide will escort you to the airport for your flight onward.