Eastern Bhutan is one of the least explored regions of the kingdom and offers one of most authentic experiences for adventure-oriented tourists. The entire region is awash in unspoiled natural beauty, towering cliffs and pristine forests with great variations in altitude and climatic conditions.
In addition to the regular Buddhist festivals, travellers to Eastern Bhutan will be able to experience some of the country’s most ancient spiritual practices while observing Animistic and Bon religious rituals.
The lush, breathtaking environments of the eastern region make it a perfect location for day hikes or longer treks. Accommodations in this rural area are a bit more Spartan than other parts of country but with the option to either camp out beneath an ocean of stars or experience the unbridled warmth and hospitality of the locals during a homestay you’ll never miss the comforts of your hotel room.
The Eastern circuit includes the districts of Mongar, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Tashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar.
Tour duration : 13 Nights/ 14 days .
Day 01: Arrive Paro
The flight to Paro on a clear day is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. One can see Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and other peaks in Bhutan such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Tsering ghang.
The first gift from Bhutan will be cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the aircraft. On arrival at Paro airport, received by our representative and transfer to the hotel. Evening take a stroll around Paro market and town. Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 02: Paro
Paro is a picturesque valley with quaint clusters of hamlets amidst terraced paddy fields. The town still maintains traditions by way of its architecture and the simple way of life.
Morning trip to Ta Dzong or National Museum, which is among the best natural history museums in Asia. Ta Dzong offers a unique and varied collections ranging from ancient armor to textiles, thangkha paintings and natural life. Then walk down the trail to visit Paro Dzong (Rinpung Dzong), built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. It now houses the Paro monastic school and office of the civil administration. Also Rinpung Dzong is the venue of Paro Tshechu, held once a year in spring.
Afternoon drive up the valley to the Drukgyel Dzong or the Fort of Drukpa victory. From this fortress Bhutanese repelled invasion by Tibetans throughout the course of history. Looming above the smoldered ruins is the snowcapped peak of Mt. Chomolhari. Also visit traditional Bhutanese Farm House, nestled below the dzong. Then drive towards Paro town en route visiting Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries of the Kingdom reflecting introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 03 : Paro – Thimphu (55 km, 2 hours)
After breakfast excursion to Taktsang Monastery view point. It is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.
Later drive to Thimphu, the capital town passing via idyllic countryside, through villages and paddy fields. En route visit the Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses of the country which now houses the School for religious and cultural studies. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04 : Thimphu
Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley includes, visit to ;
National Library; it holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts, manuscripts, modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags.
Arts & Crafts School or Painting School; famous for traditional thangkha paintings.
Textile and Folk Heritage Museum; the fascinating testimony of the Bhutanese material culture and living traditions.
Memorial Chorten; the beautiful stupa built in the memory of Bhutan’s third King. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
Trashichhodzong; the beautiful fortress/monastery which houses Secretariat building, King’s Throne room and other government’s offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot.
Handicrafts Emporium; it displays wide assortment of beautifully hand-woven and crafted products.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 05: Thimphu – Punakha (75 km, 3 hours)
Morning, in Thimphu visit to local market and town.
Then proceed to Punakha across Dochula pass (3,O8Om). In Bhutan, the passes are marked by a large Bhutanese Chorten and prayer flag. Dochula pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas on a clear day.
Arrive Punakha and check into the hotel. Untill 1955, Punakha served as the capital town of Bhutan and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. Visit to Punakha Dzong, built by Shabdrung Ngawang, Namgyal in 17th century and situated at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 06: Punakha – Wangduephodrang -Gangtey (Phobjikha) (70 km, 3 hours)
After breakfast drive to Wangduephodrang and visit the Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west. Wangdue district is also famous for its bamboo work, slate & stone carving.
The approach to Phobjikha valley is through a forest of oak and rhododendron. Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and chosen home of black necked cranes, which migrate from the central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. Explore Phojikha valley and also visit to Gangtey Monastery; the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Overnight Guest House/Camp.
Day 07: Gangtey (Phobjikha) – Trongsa (128 km, 4.1/2 hours)
Morning explore Phobjikha valley for Black Neck Cranes and later drive to Tongsa across Pelela pass (3,300m). This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. Further ahead stop en route at Chendbji Chorten, built in 18th century in Nepalese style.
The landscape around Tongsa is spectacular and for miles on end the dzong seems to tease you so that you wonder if you will ever reach it. On arrival, check into the lodge. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Tongsa.
Day 08: Tongsa – Bumthang (Jakar) (68 km, 3 hours)
Morning visit to Tongsa Dzong, situated at the alt. of 2,200m and built in 1647 by the Shabdrung, it is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Then visit the Ta Dzong, standing on the side of the mountain and built to guard Trongsa.
After lunch proceed to Bumthang, one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. 29 kms ahead of Trongsa cross Yutongla pass (3,400m) and from here again the landscape looks different and dense forests of conifers stretches. The arrival of Bumthang begins with wide, open cultivated Chumey valley. Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 09: Bumthang
Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with alt, varying from 2,600m to 4,000m.
Visit to Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche meditated here. From Kurje monastery; a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to the Jambey Lhakhang. Like Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro valley, this temple is said to be the first that King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet constructed in 7th century.
Afternoon visit to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist paintings. Later see the Jakar Dzong, “the dzong of the white bird”.
Evening take a stroll through Bumthang market area. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Bumthang.
Day 10 : Bumthang – Mongar (198 km, 7 hours)
The journey continues eastwards winding through more rugged terrain. The drive, with spectacular views will take about 7 hours. Pass through Ura village in Bumthang before climbing sharply to the highest motorable pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass – 4000m. Gradually drop down to Sengor, watching cascading water falls on the way. The descent stops at 700m on a bridge over the Kurichu. Ascent again through pine forests, maize fields and eastern hamlets to Mongar town. Visit Mongar Dzong; built albeit quite recently, the dzong still maintains the architectural traditions of old dzongs. Overnight at the lodge in Mongar.
Day 11 : Mongar – Trashigang (96 km, 3 hours)
This trip of about 96 kms takes 3 hours passing through Kori la pass (2,450m), the place marked by a pretty chorten and a stone wall. The first part of journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. Later road descends rapidly through corn fields and banana groves arriving the famous zigzags of Yadi, which is a recent settlement. After that follows the Gamri River until the bifurcation to Dametsi, this temple perched on top of steep hill was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place from where the famous Naga Chham, masks dance with drums originated. About 30km onwards lies Tashigang at l000m. Trashigang is the centre of the biggest and most populated district in the country. Visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri River. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the dzong is occupied by the Drukpa monastic community. Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Day 12 : Trashigang (excursion to Trashiyangtse)
24 km from Trashigang, visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon. Further ahead reach to Doksum village where you can see women busy in weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric and a chain bridge dating of the 15th century.
Visit to Trashiyangtse Dzong, situated at the alt. of 1,850 m. In former times Trashiyangtse was important centre because it lies on one of the caraven routes leading from western and central Bhutan.The dzong is new and near by are the Art school and the famous chorten Kora.
Evening return to Trashigang. Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.
Day 13 : Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar (180 km, 6 hours)
Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar road completed in 1965 and the journey takes about 6 hours. Along the way, pass by Sherubtse College, the only college in country founded in 1978.
Also visit the Zangtho Pelri temple built in 1978 by the late Minister of Home Affairs. It represents Guru Rinpoche’s paradise. Driving ahead, reach to Khaling to visit the Blind School and Weaving Centre. Deothang, 80 kms from Khaling is the centre of Technical training college and road maintenance head quarters for the east. From here the road descends fairly rapidly to the plain through a dense tropical forest with an abundance of teak, bamboo and ferns. Overnight at the lodge in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 14 : Depart Samdrup Jongkhar
After breakfast transfer to Bhutan border where you will be picked up by Indian agent for onward program.