Trashigang Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals in eastern Bhutan, which is held in November/December every year. Monks and laymen perform mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes. The nomadic tribes from Merak and Sakteng (Brokpas) can be seen in the crowd with their unique dress and appearance.
Trashigang Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals in eastern Bhutan, which is held in November/December every year. Monks and laymen perform mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes. The nomadic tribes from Merak and Sakteng (Brokpas) can be seen in the crowd with their unique dress and appearance. The highlight of the festival is the unfurling of the thongdrel (large tapestry) of Guru Tshengye (The Eight Manifestation of Guru Rinpoche) on the last day including another thongdrel of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats), which is also unfurled for the public.
Day 1: Arrive Samdrup Jongkhar via Guwahati, India
Day 2: Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang
Day 3: Trashigang – Trashiyangtse
Day 4: Bartsham–Bidung–Radhi Countryside Excursion
Day 5:Trashigang Tshechu Festival
Day 6: Trashigang – Mongar
Day 7: Lhuentse – Mongar
Day 8: Autsho (Lhuentse) – Bumthang
Day 9: Jakar Valley Gentle Walking
Day 10: Bumthang – Trongsa
Day 11: Trongsa – Punakha
Day 12: Punakha – Thimphu
Day 13: Thimphu
Day 14: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Day 15: End of Tour
On arrival your Bhutanese guide and our Indian ground operator (local representative) will meet you at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati in India after clearing your immigration and customs formalities. We drive (100-km) for 3 hours to India–Bhutan border town of Samdrup Jongkhar (250m) through the famous Assam tea garden and crossing the mighty Brahmaputra River. Samdrup Jongkhar is the port of entry and exit for tourists entering eastern Bhutan overland, which 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. The rest of the day is at leisure where you will have some time to explore the business hub for the eastern region. Tonight enjoy a welcome drink and dinner. Overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar.
This morning, we start the day early driving (180-km) about 7 hours to Trashigang (1,500m), the largest district of Bhutan. Enjoy a scenic journey and often see Langur monkeys, kingfishers, eagles and other birds by the roadside. Stop off at Dewathang (18-km) after crossing Pinchina checkpoint. Dewathang was the site where the father of Bhutan’s First King led the Bhutanese troops in a final battle against the British in 1884. In the past, many British Political Officers stationed in Sikkim took the route from Samdrup Jongkhar to enter into Bhutan. Admire the Mithun (Bos fontalis), the best breed of cattle in Bhutan at the Regional Mithun Breeding Farm, Orong. Continuing our scenic journey we arrive in Narphung (41-km), a popular stopover where shops sell a variety of local produce such as fresh vegetables, fruits, cereals, dairy products, bamboo crafts, etc. before passing Melong Bra (the highway cut through sheer cliffs). Stop for lunch in Wamrong (29), located midway between Samdrup Jongkhar–Trahigang and continue to Khaling (27-km) via Kharungla Pass (2,350m). Visit the National Handloom Development Centre in Khaling en route, where young women from remote rural areas get trained in weaving with supports from the National Women’s Association of Bhutan. The country’s only school for the visually impaired, Muenselling Institute in Khaling, established in 1973 is nearby. Afterwards, we pass by Bhutan’s first university, Sherubtse College in Kanglung (28-km), which was established in 1978. Arriving in Trashigang town, you may encounter the semi-nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng if you’re lucky, who come for shopping trips. Overnight in Trashigang.
Morning highlights include the Trashigang Dzong, built in 1659 by Trongsa Penlop Chhogyal Minjur Tempa. The fortress is located on a steep hill overlooking the Dangmechhu (Gamri) River and has been the political stronghold of eastern Bhutan for over 300 years. From here, we drive (54-km) about 2.5 hours to Trashiyangtse (1,750m), an ethnically and culturally diverse new district bifurcated from Trashigang in 1992. Two roads diverge from Chazam (10-km) downhill; take right turn for Trashiyangtse. Explore the Gomkora Lhakhang (temple), which is 22-km from Trashigang town. It is a sacred site in eastern Bhutan where Guru Rinpoche meditated in a rock adjoining the temple to subdue a demon. Over the next 2 hours (30-km) takes us to Trashiyangtse via Duksum, and en route explore the old Trashiyangtse Dzong, rebuilt in the 15th century by Terton Pema Linpa, which now houses the monastic body. Later, visit the College of Zorig Chusum, established in 1997, where students learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Final stop is at the dazzling white Chorten Kora (a stupa modelled like that of the famous Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal), located on the Kholongchhu riverbank. This stupa was built over a period of 12 years around 1740, and locals believe that an 8 year dakini girl was buried alive on her own free will in the stupa as an offering from the Dakpa tribe from Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh in India. In the evening, enjoy some leisure time exploring a small Trashiyangtse town. Overnight in Trashiyangtse.
Leaving Trashigang behind, this morning you’ll at first travel to the untouched Bartsham village (24-km) about 1.5 hours. Bartsham geographically shares its boundaries with Ramjar, Jamkhar, Yalang and Bidung villages. Today enjoy the countryside excursion walking through idyllic villages surrounded by forest hills. Visit the Chador Lhakhang Monastery (also known as Gonpa Ringbu), built in the 12th century. It is located atop a ridge with commanding views of the surrounding villages and mountains in north Trashigang. The main relic, statue Chana Dorji (also fondly called Memmay Chador), a precious treasure is the protecting deity in the locality. The monastery is a revered place of worship for the Bartsham community and devotees across Bhutan. Later, spend time to mingle with young monks in the Shedra (Buddhist College) adjoining the monastery. Next, we drive (10-km) via Bidung villages to the east of Bartsham. A scenic countryside journey (13-km) further takes us to Rangjung, a small commercial hub. Visit the Rangjung Woesel Choeling Monastery, located on a small hillock overlooking Rangjung town and the surrounding villages. The monastery, built in 1989 in the Tibetan-style architectural, has a monastic school to study Buddha dharma for the benefit of the Buddhist community around the world. Here you may spot the nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng again, who come to the lower valleys on a shopping trip. Enjoy a leisurely stroll in the delightful countryside of Radhi villages, known as the “Rice Bowl of the East” and famous for skilled-weaving of the raw silk textiles and dyeing. Break for authentic traditional Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse. Get to know the farmers and engage in village activities such as milk cows, brew ara (local wine), weaving, learn to cook and eat together, etc. In the evening, we head back to Trashigang town (16-km) about 45 minutes or so. Overnight in Trashigang.
Attend the Trashigang Tshechu festival for a full day inside the Trashigang Dzong. Tshechu viewers dressed in the finest traditional clothes and jewellery flock to the courtyard of the dzong to witness the festival. Monks and laymen perform mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes. For the Bhutanese tshechus are not just religiously important for praying and receive blessings but also a great opportunity for locals to get together, dressed in the finest traditional clothes and jewellery. The tribal community from Merak and Sakten with their unique costumes can be seen during the festival. Overnight in Trashigang.
After breakfast, we travel (91-km) about 3-4 hours to Mongar (1,600m). Two roads diverge from Chazam (10-km) downhill; take left turn for Mongar. Stop in places to view scenery, meet local people, villages, and farm for photography. Afterwards, take a detour (18-km) to the 16th century Drametse Lhakhang en route, perched atop a steep ridge. This is the place of origin of the famous and sacred Drametse Nga Chham (the Mask Dance of the Drums) was born. The dance is ubiquitous feature of many festivals and is inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2005. Stop in places to view scenery, meet local people, villages, and farm for photography. Arrive in Sherichhu (35-km), a stretch of the East–West highway called the Yadi bends (17-km) zigzag uphill a series of hairpin turns before reaching Korila Pass (2,289m), which is 22-km from Yadi and (17-km) to Mongar town. There will be time to visit the Mongar Dzong, built in 1930 (which is not located strategically unlike the other dzongs of Bhutan). Mongar town is small and traditional in its outlook, traditionally painted and decorated shops lining the main streets. You'll see rows of large eucalyptus trees in the town. Overnight in Mongar.
We set out for a scenic drive (75-km) about 3 hours to Lhuentse (1,400m), the ancestral home of our Kings. Stop off at the Gangola junction (12-km) where local farmers sell packets of cornflakes, fruits, peanuts, vegetables, etc. Enjoy a scenic journey via Autsho (920m), a small town located by the Kurichhu River and then navigate through Tangmachhu (10-km) paddy fields and traditional houses. Sightseeing includes the 154ft tall Guru Padma Sambhava statue (Guru Nangsa Zelnen), built in 2008-2015, sits atop a hill in Takila. Next, visit the Khoma village (about 11-km) from Lhuentse town, notably famous for its signature hand woven, intricately patterned textiles and fabrics called “Kishuthara.” The kishuthara is highly regarded and most expensive textiles of Bhutan, worn by women in every special occasion, even the Royal Family places their order for clothes here. We drive back to Lhuentse town and visit the Lhuentse Dzong (also known as Lhundup Rinchentse Dzong), located on a hilltop overlooking the Kurichhu River. It was built in 1654 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa and houses many sacred artefacts installed by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgay. In the evening, we return to Autsho (40-km) for overnight, situated by the riverside offering a relaxed vibe and fine rural atmosphere.
Today is a long but rewarding journey (206-km) about 7 hours to Bumthang (2,650m). Soak up the scenic views of the rushing rivers, cascading waterfalls, imposing cliffs and snow-capped peaks along the East–West highway. We cross the Kurichhu River, where the hydro power plant (60 MW) generates sufficient power for the eight eastern districts. Yonkola area is the hotspot for birding after passing Lingmithang (17-km) with rich sub-tropical rainforest. If lucky enough you may encounter Satyr Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon and Rufous-necked Hornbill. Notice the scenery changes as you enter from Yonkola to Bumthang, a haven for nature, bird and wildlife watchers. Stop in Namling (3,000m), Bhutan’s most sought-after birding area where many avid bird watchers spend many days here. Lunch in a local restaurant at Sengor (3,500m), which is about 102-km from Autsho and also home to the most special mountain bird, Himalayan Monal. Continue to Bumthang via Thumshingla Pass (3,880m), which is the highest point of the journey (20-km from Sengor), shrouded in thick hemlock and rhododendron forests. Later, we arrive at Ura (3,100m), located about 49-km from Bumthang town. If taken the new Nangar–Ura bypass (32-km), it is faster to reach Bumthang. Ura is a quaint and beautiful village, home to Bhutan’s largest clustered settlement. Overnight in Bumthang.
We explore the pristine Bumthang Valley (also known as Jakar), the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. From your hotel, we drive 10 to 15 minutes to the Jambay Lhakhang (Temple of Maitreya), said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). This temple was built to subdue evil spirits of the demoness causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism. Continue onto a farm track along the valley floor walking about 15 to 20 minutes towards the Kurjey Lhakhang complex, which consists of three temples. A 108-chorten walls surround these impressive temples with a huge front yard on the side of a hill. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave in the 8th century to subdue the local demon (Phola Shelging Karpo) to fight off ill health of the King of Bumthang, Sindhu Raja. Of the three temples, the oldest and holiest Guru Lhakhang was built in 1652, and hence the temple was named after Guru’s body imprint left on a rock. Next, we cross a suspension bridge over the rushing Chamkharchhu River on foot to the Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa founded this temple in 1501 for the teachings of Nyingma Buddhism in central Bhutan, who was prolific treasure finder and one of the influential religious figures in Bhutanese history. From here, your transport will pick you up and head to the Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery, situated on a sacred hill just above Bumthang town. The monastery was built in 1982 offering three main streams of dharma studies: shedra (college), drupdra (meditation) and monastic rituals. Here about 400 monks or so are busy reading, recitation of daily prayers, meditation, chantings, dharma dances, beating drums & use of ceremonial, mandala drawings, etc. in the backdrop. Overnight in Bumthang.
After breakfast, our journey (68-km) about 2 hours takes us to Trongsa (2,200m) via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). En route stop off at the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Historically, Trongsa is one of the important districts of Bhutan. Trongsa was once the headquarters for the central and eastern regions and has been the seat of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). All the Kings of Bhutan first invest as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Discover the massive and majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1648, overlooking the gorge of the Mangdichhu River. You’ll also have time to explore the Tower of Trongsa (known as Ta Dzong), an ancient watchtower rising five storeys above Trongsa town. It was built in 1652 and has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon. Today the tower houses a state-of-the-art National Museum with insights into the significance of Trongsa Dzong and the Wangchuck dynasty (kings) of Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax or explore the idyllic Trongsa town and its surroundings. Overnight in Trongsa.
Depart Trongsa this morning for Punakha (142-km) about 5 hours via Chelela Pass (3,390m) and Nobding, a small town. From the viewpoint (Thumangdra) opposite to the Trongsa Dzong, you can take photos of the beautiful landscapes and dzong. On the way take a stroll along the Chendebji Chorten below the road. A nice stop to stretch your legs and walk around the stupa! This 18th century monument resembles the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu (Nepal) with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It is not uncommon to encounter grazing yaks by the roadside along the East–West highway. Our journey takes us past the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) constructed the dzong in 1638, resembling that of a sleeping elephant. The fortress was gutted by fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Punakha (1,350m) was once the winter capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south, and also a popular tourist destination. Arriving in Punakha, visit the fertility Chimi Lhakhang en route, nestled on a round hillock near a village called Sopsokha, built in 1499 by Saint Drukpa Kunley (known as the Divine Madman). The temple is about 10-km from Punakha Dzong and takes 20-minutes walk through agriculture fields. Legend has it that the childless couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting this mysterious temple.
Morning highlights include the Punakha Dzong, strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) Rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) built the dzong in 1637, which is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. Jacaranda trees beautifully cover the dzong with the purple bloom of flowers in the spring. Then we travel (71-km) about 3 hours to Thimphu (2,300m), the capital of Bhutan. En route stop off at Dochula Pass (3,050m), where the picturesque Druk Wangyal Chortens (108 stupas) stand. Soak up the panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m). There are 11 man-made hidden “Igloos – Caves” with 11 different paintings of gods and goddesses? People seeking inner peace from modern day stress come to Dochula Pass for meditation. Buddhists pursue meditation as a path towards enlightenment and nirvana. Continue to Thimphu city (2,300m), home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Bhutan’s capital is not a concrete jungle that you see in other parts of the world. It is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and buildings built in the traditional Bhutanese style. No traffic lights in Bhutan yet! Marvel at the police directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals at the main intersections. Arriving in Thimphu, visit the Centenary Farmers Market (Thimphu’s weekend market) en route, a platform for Bhutanese farmers to sell farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc. Another must see place to tick off on your list is Kuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world), built in 2006 and sits atop a hill, overlooking the Southern entrance to Thimphu city. Use your free time to relax or explore the streets of Thimphu city. Overnight in Thimphu.
Today we explore the best attractions of Thimphu city at 2,300m, home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Thimphu is a small city but has many attractive places. Morning begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (Stupa), built in 1974 in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (1928-1972). This stupa is a prominent monument for Bhutanese daily worship in the city with its golden spires and bells. Another must see place to tick off on your list is Kuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world), built in 2006 and sits atop a hill, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu city. Our next stop is at the the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, established in 1971 where students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. After lunch, continue onto the National Library of Bhutan nearby established in 1967, which is located in the cultural centre of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Here you’ll see the world's largest book “Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom.” It weighs over 60 kg, is 1.52 metres high and 2.13 metres wide and its pages are turned once per month. We explore the Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar (also known as Thimphu Handicraft Market) built using the eco-friendly bamboo structures. It is a perfect place to get a glimpse of authentic Bhutan-made art and craft products sourced mostly from rural areas. This afternoon ends with a tour by visiting the Tashichhodzong, first constructed in 1216 AD and re-built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan), which now houses some ministries, the office and throne room of His Majesty the King and the Central Monk Body. Overnight in Thimphu.
Depart early morning for Paro (54-km) about an hour drive via Chhuzom (30--km) where the Pachhu and Wangchhu Rivers join. Chhuzom (confluence) is a major road junction connecting Haa (82-km) to the southwest, Phuentsholing (141-km) to the south and Paro (24-km) to the southeast. Bhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is an unforgettable sight. No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Paro Taktshang (3,120m). It is stunning in its beauty and location. Today is a real highlight as you take a short hike to the Taktshang Monastery, clinging on a rock cliff at 900m above the Paro Valley floor. The monastery is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in Bhutan because Guru Rinpoche (one the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) is believed to have flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century. An 11-km (round-trip) hike starts from the base of the mountain from the road point (Ramthangkha), which is 2-km drive from Paro town. Enjoy your rewarding hike about 4 hours (round-trip) with extra one hour to tour the monastery at a leisurely pace. There is a small teahouse halfway through from where a view of the spectacular monastery to enjoy! Gentle horse/pony rides are permitted till the viewpoint. Afterwards, there will be time to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang en route, one of the oldest and 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). Overnight in Paro.
Your tour ends this morning after breakfast. We transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Our guide and driver from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck!)
Peak Season – Land Only (Prices in USD Per Person)
|Start Date Thursdays
|5 Dec 2024
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