Bhutan-West to East Cultural-
Day -1 Arrive Paro International Airport: During the flight to Paro, one will experience breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. At Paro airport you are received by your tour representative. Check into your Bhutanese style resort, enjoy lunch and depart to tour Paro village and historical Dzongs and museums in Paro. Visit the National museum (Ta-Dzong), the watch tower for the Rinpung Dzong which was converted into the National Museum in 1968. A most interesting museum comprised of several floors displaying Bhutanese historical art and medieval weapons. We then visit Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guard houses, to the Dzong. Today, the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The Dzong was built in 1645 A.D. We follow up with a drive to Drugyal Dzong; the Dzong, although in ruins, holds great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means "The Victorious Bhutanese." This spot offers a magnificent vista of Mount Chomolhari, "Mountain of Goddess" (Alt. 7329 m). Here is the spot many treks depart from; Visit a typical Bhutanese farm house on the way back and enjoy dinner in a cozy restaurant in Paro Village. Overnight Paro Hotel.
Day-3: Today we visit many historical sights in Thimphu location: Memorial Chorten, a large stupa built in memory of the third King who reigned from 1952-1972. Painting School, where traditional art is still preserved. Artists are taught to paint Thankas here (sacred Buddhist scroll). Visit the Handicrafts Emporium where one can buy Bhutanese textiles and other arts and crafts. Royal Textile Museum; displaying royal textiles and weavings of exceptional beauty and Bhutanese art form of the weave.
Simtokha Dzong. This is the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, built in 1629 A.D. by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It also houses the largest monastic school in the country.
Tashichho Dzong - the main Secretariat Building. It is from here that the King and other prominent civil servants run the country. The Head Abbot and the central monastic body also reside here during the summer. Tarkin Zoo and House of Paper-House of Incense. Overnight Thimphu hotel.
Day -4 Thimphu – “Punakha Festival” & Wangdi Phodrang: After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha and Wangdiphodrang. On the way, halt at Dochula Pass for a hot cup of tea/coffee and on a clear day; view the most spectacular view of the Eastern Himalayas. We check into our hotel, enjoy lunch and depart for Punakha Dzong and Punakha festival afternoon! Punakha Dzong was the former winter capital and present administrative seat of the district. It is also the winter residence of the central monastic body. The Dzong (fortress) lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, meaning male and female rivers. It was built in 1637 AD. Your senses will awake upon entering the impressive courtyard of the Punakha Dzong; “Palace of Great Happiness. It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned. NOW, load your camera and with respect to the Religious festival you witness, capture its essence. We are privileged to be here among Bhutanese locals from many different areas who gather to pay respect and to be blessed at this social gathering. Dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, all that attend this celebration of purification receives religious merit. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese People and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colorful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the “thunderbolt step”. Masks of glorious demonic demons and animals arouse your Senses as you watch the purification take place. The intensity goes on; you are transposed. Return to our resort lodge for dinner and an evening visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong, perched on a promontory hilltop overlooking Wangdi and Punakha. The Dzong was built in 1638 A.D. Overnight: Resort
Day -5 Punakha – Trongsa: This morning we return for a few hours of festival at Punakha Dzong and then depart for a six hour scenic drive to reach Trongsa. This is a most spectacular drive! Watch for monkeys along the way. Your drive takes you along the high Himalayan highway with long climbs up and down; breathtaking and exhilarating! Look down on Trongsa Dzong for miles away from your Himalayan HIGHway!. Check in at the hotel, owned mostly by Tibetans’ small but clean and homely with excellent food.
Day -6 Sightseeing Trongsa - Drive to Bumthang: Visit Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family and its watch tower. Built in 1648 AD, it is presently the administrative seat of the district and the home of the monastic school. Built at split levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. The view from here extends for many kilometers and in the old days, it was a vigilance point for both the eastern and western routes. Thus, the strategic importance of this Dzong. The watch tower, located directly above the Dzong is a most impressive structure, towering over the Dzong. Here we may watch archers at play outside the walls of the Dzong.
Departing Trongsa, our journey takes about 3 hrs and goes along the scenic highway. Watch for yaks along the route. Arriving Bumthang you check into your friendly and hospitable lodge.
Day – 7 Bumthang Sightseeing: Morning: Visit the historical Jakar Dzong, built in 1646 A.D. by MinjurTenpa, the third Druk Desi (Tetnporal ruler). In 1683 A.D. it was extended by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth Desi. Visit several ancient and sacred monasteries such as the Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang, Tamshing and Pema Samba Lhakhangs. Also visit Member Tso "The flaming Lake," which is considered one of the most important pilgrimage spots. A trip to the Bumthang Swiss farm is also interesting. Overnight lodge; enjoy a local drink; Arak and converse with your Bhutanese host.
Day – 8 Hike to Tang: We will drive to Tang Valley and hike to visit the Ugyenchholing Dzong. The Ugyenchholing Dzong was formerly the palace of Trongsa Penlop Tsokey Dorji. You will visit the Ugyenchholing Palace, now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport you to another world and time. You will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan’s History unfolds. Continuing from Ugyenchholing, we reach the Rimochen Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Guru Rimpoche, the Patron Saint of Bhutan. We also Visit Rimochen Temple, another temple blessed by Guru Rimpoche and where imprints of the Saint’s foot and Body can be seen on the rock. In the evening we visit a farmhouse for local hospitality and conversation. Overnight at the River Lodge.
Day - 9 Bumthang – Mongar: After an early breakfast, gear up for a fantastic drive to Mongar. The journey is long and crosses Thrumshing La, which at 3,800 mtrs, is the highest pass. Check in at hotel/guest house. Mongar is the district headquarters but hardly more than a transit town. It is also the first town built on a slope instead of the usual valley. This is characteristic in eastern Bhutan where there are few valleys. The true homeland of Eastern People, Sharchogpas, begins in Mongar.
Day - 10 Mongar to Trashiyangtse: Morning visit at Mongar Dzong. Mongar Dzong is a new Dzong, completed recently. It was built in the 19th century, restored in 1953 and again in 1990 after being destroyed by a fire. The administrative scat and the monk body reside in the Dzong. Lunch at the hotel/guest house. Depart for Trashi Yangtse,which lies to the North West of Trashigang. Overnight.
Day - 11: “Chorten Kora Festival” in TrashiYangtse. Today we attend a remote and rural festival at the popular Chorten Kora; one of few stupas constructed in Nepali (Sherpa) style. It was built to mark the site where Guru Rimpoche subdued many malevolent beings. According to local tradition, the architectural model of the stupa was brought from Nepal, carved on a radish. Chorten Kora temple is in Trashiyangtse District in the East which adjoins the Trashigang District. The chorten is 3 minutes drive from the town. Chorten Kora was built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday. The stupa is shaped like the Swayumbhunath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Locals believe that a 15 –year old girl was sealed alive in the Stupa as an offering of the people of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang people come for the festival in the first month on the Bhutanese calendar on the 15th day. The Trashi Yangtse Dzong was built around 1656 AD in commemoration of a Drukpa victory and renovated in 1976. This valley was of great strategic importance in the old days because all travel to western and central Bhutan had to pass through here.
Day - 12: Today we visit the traditional wood craft workshop where typical Bhutanese bowls and other wooden items are made. (These products are very popular in Bhutan) We tour Zorig Chusum, the School of 13 Traditional Crafts; Tsenkhar ruins, which is a 20 minutes walk from the Tsenkharla School. This is the ruins of a fort said to have been built in the 9th Century by the Tibetan prince in exile, Lhasey Tsangma. We visit at Doksum village, where most women sit weaving outside their house. Doksum is also the site of Bhutan’s only remaining 15th century iron chain bridge.
(A day for a hike to Bumdeling to see yaks and trout fishing can be added for relaxation and leisure)
Day-13: Depart TrashiYangtse for Trashigang. Overnight lodge.
Day -14: Travel day to India border - Trashigang to Samdrupjongkhar: This is our last full day in Bhutan and we spend it mostly driving to Samdrupjongkhar, towards the southern border where we exit into India. Along the way we will stop and visit the following places: Kanglung Temple; Yonphula Monastery near Kanglung; Zangtopelri temple in Wamrong.
Day -15: : Samdrupjongkhar to Guwahati Airport After breakfast depart Samdrupjongkhar for Guwahati Airport in the Assam State of India. Your Indian Immigration formalities will be processed at the Indian Immigration checkpoint at Kalanadi in the Nalbari district of Assam, just south of Samgdrupjongkhar. Still in the company of your main Bhutanese guide, your journey will take you through the Indian towns of Kumrikata, Tamalpu, Rangiya and end at Guwahati. The road passes through some tea gardens between Kumrikata and Tamalpur and the rest of the journey is along the country side of Assam interspersed with forest belts in places. The bus journey will take a little over 2 hours.