Eastern Bhutan Tour
Duration: 11 Days
You can fly to Paro either on Druk Air from Calcutta or from Bangkok. Whichever way you come, be it Calcutta, Bangkok or Kathmandu the view of Jhulmori peaks are just wonderful in more ways than one. Across picturesque sites you will land on the tiny airstrip in Paro.After a brief stop at Paro take an adventurous flight to Thimphu, the capital.
In the morning you can take a walk to the Memorial Chorten, a shrine built in the memory of the late king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The Bhutanese people come to this place and walk around the temple which a lot of devotion and constant prayers on their lips. After breakfast you can begin the sightseeing tour of Thimphu which includes; memorial chorten, Zilukha nunnery, textile museum, heritage museum one more stop at the weekend market during the noon . It is wonderful to see so many people in one place, where the high heeled residents of Thimphu jostle with village folks for fresh, cheapest food and vegetables. It is also interesting to see different vegetables and other food not commonly seen in the west.
In the early morning you will have to drive east towards Tongsa.On the way you can make a stop at Dochu LaPass, 10,000ft from where the view the eastern Himalayas is spectacular. Gangkar Punsum, 24,770ft the highest mountain in Bhutan can also be seen from here. The road from Dochula Pass descends through a forest and finally emerges into Punakha and the Wagdue valley which stand at an altitude of 1400m. From the town of Wangdiphodrang , the road again gradually winds its way up and crosses the black mountains over the Pele La Pass (11,152'), where we make stop for views of the snow clad peaks, including that of Bhutan 's sacred peak Mt. Chomolhari. In the afternoon, we arrive in the town of Trongsa . Trongsa, has one of the largest and certainly the most impressive Dzong in the country. Trongsa Dzong is a rambling collection of buildings that trail down the ridge, with remarkable street like corridors and wide stone stairs running down. It was from here that the present royal family emerged as the most powerful force at the beginning of this century. The first two hereditary kings ruled the country from here and it is still a tradition that the crown prince first serves as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. In the evening, stroll around the small town area and see some weavers.
From Trongsa the trail gradually ascends and crosses the Yotong La pass and then drops down into the Chume valley, which is the first of the four Bumthang valleys. You can stop at the road side village of Zugney to see the people and culture and then stroll for about 15 minutes to the Prakar temple. In the evening you will drive to Jakar, which takes about forty odd minutes. After tea and snacks at the hotel, visit Namhai Nyingpo monastery and stop at the Swiss farm, where you can buy cheese, Apple wine, brandy or ciders.
The Bumthang Valley
In the morning you will have to drive to the Kurjey lhakhang complex and then walk upon a suspension bridge into Tamshing Lhakang. Visit Tamshing lhakhang and walk through the village to the nearby Konchuksum. While you walk across the farmland to the Swiss farm area, you can visit other sights such as the indigenous hospital, Chakar ('iron castle), woodcraft workshop, dying workshop, and the five water wheels behind Wangdicholing palace, etc. You also have the option to attend half a day of the festival.
From the town of Jakar you will have to climb out of the Bumthang valleys on the twisting mountain road and towards Yotong La pass (11,000ft/3,353m). Near the pass there is an area of wild cane/bamboosehre the Red Panda thrives. The road then descends into Trongsa, where the group will make tea stop. Drive past Rukubji, Chendebji, and other villages and cross Pele La (11,000ft/3,353m). Just beyond the pass, follow the turn off gravel road from Lawala to Phobjika. It takes approximately one hour from the main road through the forests that brings into the hidden and stunningly beautiful glacial valley of Phobjikha . Phobjikha is famous for its ancient Gangtey Gompa monastery and also for the black necked cranes (locally called "Thrung Thrung Karmo') that migrate here around fall and stay through the winter. Just before the spring, they return to the higher Tibetan plateaus. Many myths and legends exist about this bird in Bhutanese society and it has inspired many folk songs and dances including the dances that you may see at the archery game.
Walk through the valley in the morning and you will be able to watch the a variety of birds. The you can drive for about 3 hours to Wangdiphodrang and later move to your hotel in Punakha. In the evening, take a pleasant 20 minutes walk through the fields and village to visit Chimi Lhakhang temple dedicated to Bhutan's popular saint Drukpa Kunley, also known as the "divine madman". He is veryfamousand his idols and paintings on the houses or temples come as a result his influence.
In the morning, move to the peaceful landscape, north of Punakha Dzong and ascend for about 20 minutes to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, which is suspended high on the hill. Visit this temple, which has some beautiful and incredibly abstract Buddhist paintings. It was recently completed in 1999 after taking almost 9 years to build. Return downhill and walk on the mostly leveled path along the east bank of the river. The transport will meet you and drive you to Punakha. Visit Punakha Dzong and the areas around Punakha. Visit the new town settlement and free afternoon for rest or to walk on your own to the nearby villages.
Climb up from the Dochula pass at which takes little more than 2 hours. Stop at the pass for the wonderful views of the peaks of the eastern Himalayas (weather permitting). Continue drive to Thimphu and upon arrival, visit the indigenous hospital, the school or traditional paintings and art, silver smiths etc. You can take a hike to Cheri Gompa monastery in the evening in you want.
Drive to the north end of Thimphu valley to Dodena. It is a pleasant ½ hour drive passing small villages and suburbs. From Dodena, after crossing the cantilevered bridge, it is about 45 minutes steep climb up hill to Cheri Dorji Dhen, built in 1620 by Shabdrung, the first ruler of Bhutan, who also established the first order of monks here. It is usually possible to enter Cheri courtyard, but may not be allowed to visit the shrines inside. Descend to the bottom of the hill, and drive back to Thimphu
Thimphu - Paro
Drive to Paro (2 hrs) where there are a lot of places that will interest you. You can visit Bhutan 's national museum, housed in an ancient watchtower. A visit to a school and other things will be included here or elsewhere in the country. After lunch, drive north to the trail-head of Chomolhari trek and visit the ruins of Drugyal Dzong. This fortress once played important role in protecting Bhutan against the invaders from the north. On a clear day, Mt. Chomolhari , the second highest peak in Bhutan can be seen against its back-drop. Visit 7 th century Kyichu temple, where there are usually some people circumnavigating the temple or turning the prayer wheels. Meet these folks and others at the nearby village and visit farm a typical farm house. Paro has one of the biggest farm houses in the region. In the evening, visit the magnificent Rinphung Dzong, which houses the office of district administration, legal court etc and the living quarters for the monks.