21 Days Cross Country Bhutan Tour will take you from West to East, exploring from the modern city of Thimphu in the west to extreme East, Lhuntse- the least developed and rural Bhutan and ancestral home of the Monarch.
| Tour Highlights
(Day 1) - Paro International Airport – Your first glimpse of Bhutan
On arrival at the Paro International Airport you meet your tour guide and driver. Check into your hotel and after a brief rest, start your magical experience of Bhutan by first visiting the impressive Rinpung Dzong/Fortress of Heaped Jewels a fine example of the ostentatious Bhutanese art and architecture. The Dzong is located in the heart of the town and a few minutes walk through Nyimazam, one of the few last remaining traditional cantilever bridges in Bhutan. Dzongs serve as both monastic institutions and district administrative offices.
Located above the Dzong is the National Museum that houses various antiques and artifacts of Bhutan and provides a glimpse into Bhutan’s cultural and religious history.
Visit the 3 storied Dungtse Lhakhang/temple, built in the mid 1430’s by Thangtong Gyalpo, an iron bridge builder, to subdue a demon and the temple is firmly chained to the ground. The three floors of the temple represent hell, heaven and earth and houses some of the finest murals in Bhutan.In the evening visit a traditional farmhouse replete with paddy fields, vegetable garden and farm animals. Enjoy a hot stone bath in a wooden tub, get some cooking tips and help in preparing your dinner which you will eat in the traditional Bhutanese style with the whole family.
(Day 2) - Taktsang Monastery-Tiger’s Nest
Have a sumptuous breakfast for your hike to Taktsang Monastery / Tiger’s Nest which is about 3 hours uphill and 2 down. Riding ponies are also available if you think the hike is a bit daunting. Located around 900 meters above the Paro valley on a precarious almost vertical mountain cliff, Taktsang Monastery is truly a wonderful and spectacular sight in terms of its location, setting and history. In the 8th Century this was one of the major sites where Guru Padmasambhava – the patron saint of Buddhism in Bhutan meditated with his consort Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal. It is believed that Guru flew on a female tigress in pursuit of a demon which he subdued at the current site of the Monastery. It is one of the holiest site in the Buddhist arena and the most important cultural icon in Bhutan.
You can have your lunch, tea/snacks at the cafeteria midway.
Before you drive back to your hotel visit the Kyichu Lhakhang/temple, one of the oldest temple built in the 7th Century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gyembo.
If you wish you can go for a stroll through the valley or rest in hotel.
(Day 3) - Paro to Haa Valley Excursion
Drive on to Haa valley which is about 2 and half hours drive over the Chelela Pass at 3,988 meters (12,402 ft). From the top, the Pass also offers a spectacular view of both Haa and Paro valley on both sides. Your guide will also point out majestic Himalayan Mountains of Bhutan seen from here. The national flower of Bhutan, the Blue Poppy and other exotic highland flowers and orchids grow in the wild and are a beautiful sight in spring.
The Kila Gomba Nunnery below the Pass is also located on a cliffside and consists of several small temples and retreat huts. The nuns here live in a self imposed isolation either in meditation or chanting and reading the holy scriptures.
From the pass drive for an hour till you reach the picturesque and remote Haa valley. Excursion of Haa valley is truly an off the beaten path experience and has been only recently introduced into the coffers of tourism in Bhutan. Even though Haa is an exclusive destination excursion of Haa still remains on the fringes of mainstream tourism and is not much visited by tourists. Stroll through the valley, visit the few shops, interact with the locals and yet again enjoy your visit and stay at a traditional farmhouse with all modern facilities and amenities.
(Day 4) - Haa Valley Excursion to Thimphu
Visit the White and Black Temples and the Fortress before you drive to Thimphu via a different route.
The drive is about 5 -6 hours through many small beautiful villages and settlements. Enjoy the ride through the spectacular landscape and stop over for photography all the way to Thimphu.
(Day 5) - Thimphu Valley Excursion – Combination of the Ancient and the Modern
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan and is one of the last few capital cities without traffic lights and the traffic managed by traffic policemen. Thimphu is the most populated city with about 100,000 people and truly a combination of the ancient and the modern. While strictly maintaining the traditional style of architecture in modern building, there are also very old temples and numerous monasteries in and around the city, and few discotheques and Karaoke.
Soak in the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley from the site of the gigantic Lord Buddha, a 51 meter bronze Shakyamuni Buddha statue gilded in gold
The beautiful Memorial Chorten/stupa in town is another favorite with the tourists and a regular sight for congregation of devout Buddhists circumambulating the Chorten from dawn till dusk The main statue of the Buddha inside the Chorten is said to grant wishes for the earnest and honest hearted!
If you want to mingle with the Bhutanese people and jostle with local farmers amongst the aroma of organic fruits and vegetables, the Centenary Farmers Market is the place to be. Smiling tourists watch in awe as locals bargain with the vendors and you could even stock up on your organic fruits for the coming days.
Visit the Simply Bhutan Museum which is a living studio showcasing the age old culture and traditional heritage of Bhutan. Walk for a few minutes from the Museum to Changangkha Lhakhang the oldest temple in Thimphu. In the evening visit the Tashichho Dzong/fortress of the Auspicious Religion and office of the Golden throne of the Dragon King of Bhutan.Stroll through the market places and the craft bazaar.
(Day 6) - Excursion of Tango & Cheri Monastery
After breakfast, drive towards north of Thimphu till you reach the base of Tango and Cheri Monasteries. Built on adjacent hills both the monasteries are about one hour hike along well maintained pathways. You can visit the Tango Monastery which also serves as a university of Buddhist studies. If you want you can also hike upto Cheri Monastery or return back to Thimphu and continue exploring Thimphu valley.
In the evening walk through the main streets and visit the many shops selling local and imported good.
(Day 7) - Thimphu to Punakha Valley – Enjoy the ride through the mountain ranges – 3 hours drive
After breakfast check out of your hotel and drive for about three hours to Wangdue and Punakha valleys. Enroute stop over at the Dochulaa Pass (3150 meters) and enjoy the spectacular views of the snow capped Himalayan Mountains. The 108 small stupas built over a small hill is also a beautiful sight.The road from the Pass winds down to the warm and fertile valleys and after a brief rest visits the Fertility Temple / Chime Lhakhang. It is a pleasant 30 minutes walk through mustard and paddy fields. Standing on a picturesque hilltop the Lhakhang is famous for its fertility wish grants to couples. Inside the walls of the Lhakhang are beautiful frescoes depicting the colorful life of Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman regarded for his crazy methods of teaching which included blessing women in the form of copulation!
(Day 8) - Punakha Valley – The old capital of Bhutan to Paro (4 hours drive)
Punakha valley was the old capital city of Bhutan and the Punakha Dzong meaning the fortress of Great Bliss, was built by in 1673 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the first spiritual & political leader of Bhutan) to commemorate the final victory against numerous Tibetan invasions. Located on a piece of land between two rivers Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu (literally meaning male and female rivers), the Dzong is massive, huge and magnificent in all its architectural grandeur. Although ravaged by flood, fire and earthquakes many times, the Dzong was always rebuilt with its original pattern and design.
The first King of modern Bhutan was crowned in Punakha Dzong. Important religious ceremonies are still held in the Dzong. The Royal Wedding ceremony on 13th October 2011 of the Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema was conducted in Punakha Dzong.
After an early breakfast drive for a few minutes up north and walk for about an hour to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten stupa. The walk is beautiful through the pine trees, the stupa is beautiful and so is the view from there. Enroute you will also be walking through a suspension bridge over the Puna Tsang Chhu – Punakha River.
After visiting the Punakha Dzong/Fortress of Great Bliss, drive to the Nunnery and enjoy the spectacular views of Punakha and Wangdue valleys.
In the evening stroll through the town.
(Day 9) - Punakha to Gangtey and Phobjikha Valleys
Today you drive for about 3 hours to the serene and beautiful valleys of Gangtey and Phobjika. Gangtey, Phobjika and the surrounding villages are located in one of the most beautiful glacial valleys of Bhutan and a favorite with tourists. The valleys are also home to the endangered and graceful Black Necked Cranes in the winter and you can see them in the marshes in the middle of the valley. In the summer the cranes fly to Tibet.
Visit the Gangtey Monastery located atop a hill overlooking the valley. Gangtey Gonpa is an important Monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism.
Hike through the serene Gangtey Nature Trail for about an hour.
Excursion of Gangtey, Phobjika and neighboring villages, stroll through the valley and visit few traditional houses.
(Day 10) - Drive from Gangtey Goenpa to Trongsa
The 5 hour drive from Gangtey to Trongsa valley is scenic via the Pelela Pass at 3420 meters and across quaint little highland villages of Sephu, Rukubjee, Chendebjee, Tangsibjee and many other small rural settlements along the way.
The Stupa in Chendebjee is said to be a copy of the Boudanath Stupa of Nepal.
At the Trongsa viewpoint, enjoy the view of the majestic Trongsa Dzong/Fortress of the Vanguard of Warriors and the neighboring villages.
Stroll through the small one line of shops in the town.
(Day 11) - Visit Trongsa Dzong
Visit the spectacular Trongsa Dzong and the National Museum located above the Dzong. The National Musuem is dedicated to the Wangchuck Dynasty, the Dragon Kings of Bhutan.
From Trongsa it is another 2 hours to Bumthang via the Yotongla Pass at 3400 meters. Enroute stop over at the Yathra Weaving center in Chumey village where you can watch men and women weavers at their loom weaving yak and sheep wool products.
Check into your hotel and if you wish go for a stroll through the market place.
(Day 12) - Bumthang Valley Excursion – Spiritual Heartland of Bhutan
Bumthang is compared to Switzerland for its beautiful landscape and is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. In the ancient times the people of Bumthang used to be frequently disturbed by demons, wandering ghosts and negative forces. Starting from the 8th Century, Guru Padmasmbhava and numerous religious saints and monks visited Bumthang, subdued the demons and converted these demons into local protecting deities. Hence there are numerous temples and monasteries each with its own legend and significance.
After a typical Bumthang breakfast, walk at a leisurely pace to the three temples of Jambay Lhakhang/temple, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamzhing Lhakhang. All the monasteries are ancient and with their unique history and beauty.
After lunch visit the Jakar Dzong/fortress of the White Bird and the Swiss factory/farmhouse where you can taste and or buy local beer, honey wine, Swiss cheese, clover honey, apple cider, apple brandy and other products.
In the evening stroll through the town and have dinner at a local restaurant serving the unique Bumthang cuisine as compared to other parts of the country.
(Day 13) - Tang Valley Excursion
Tang valley is one of the most remote valleys in Bumthang and today you will spend the whole day at Tang visiting the traditional houses, the Main temples and monasteries and the Museum and enjoy your picnic lunch at the Eco park.
It is about 2 hours drive on rugged terrain from the main town in Bumthang and enroute you can stop over at the Mebar Tsho / Burning Lake. Legend has it that in 1475, a renowned Terton / Treasure Discoverer discovered spiritual treasures that were hidden by Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. The lake is a broad spot on the Tang river and is a a place of deep spiritual and religious significance.
In the evening drive back to Bumthang.
(Day 14) - Bumthang to Autsho
Today you will be driving further east towards Monggar. Places from hereon are very rural and you will notice the glaring difference between the Western and Eastern Bhutan. It is about 7 hours drive from Bumthang to Monggar through high mountain passes and rural villages. You will be driving thru Serthang La pass which is about 3506m and then descend down to Ura village. Ura is a clustered settlement and you can walk through the village and visit the main temple. The drive from Ura leads up to Thrumshing La Pass at 3,780 meters – the second highest driving point in Bhutan (the first being the Chelela Pass in Paro). Continue drive through Sengor village, Namling ridge, Yonkola, Thridangbi villages till you reach the warm village of Lingmithang. Located by the riverside Lingmithang is very warm so you can take a breather in the hot air after your cold drive till then.
From Lingmithang drive for another hour till you reach Autsho village also located by the riverside.
An evening stroll through the single line of shops with minimum road traffic will help your body relax after a long drive.
(Day 15) - Day Excursion to Lhuntse
Autsho at 980 meters is located near a Tibetan styled brick Chorten surrounded by 108 smaller Chorten to the riverside. Animals like the Rhesus monkey and black cormorants have been spotted in these areas. Drive for 2 hours to Tangmachu village where a huge statue of Guru Padmasambhava overlooks the entire valley. The golden154-ft tall statue of the patron saint of Buddhism Guru Rinpoche seated on a 38-ft high lotus-base has been only recently completed and consecrated. Drive on to Lhuentse Dzong located on a spur overlooking the small town of Lhuentse. Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the Wangchuck Dynasty. Finally visit Khoma village which is well known for its hand-woven textiles. These silk hand woven textiles are very beautiful and intricate in design and you will find both men and women working on their looms. Visit few of the traditional houses and interact with the villagers.
In the evening drive back to your hotel in Autsho
(Day 16) - Drive to Trashi Yangtse
After your breakfast you will drive to Trashi Yangtse which is a small quiet town well known for making one of the best wooden bowls and containers in the country.
Enroute take a detour to explore the 15th century “Drametse Lhakhang/temple” from which originated the “Drametse Nga Chham (the dance of the drums)”.This dance has been recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of oral and an intangible world Cultural Heritage. Furthermore Drametse has produced a lineage of famous religious personalities including the popular Bhutanese saint Pema Lingpa. From Drametse the view of the numerous surrounding villages located on adjacent and opposite hills are spectacular.
On the drive you will pass through pristine small villages of Yadhi, Sherichu Settlement, Trashigang chazam, Doksum and then you finally reach Trashi Yangtse.
(Day 17) - Bomdiling National Park Excursion
Today after breakfastyou will walk to the main office of the Bomdiling National Park which is about 2 hours hike through the villages and by the river banks. On the way you will also see men making the wooden cups and bowls for which Trashi yangtse is famous for. During the winter season (from late October – late March) you will also see a lot of the endangered Black Necked Cranes. Gangtey and Bomdeling are the 2 winter roosting grounds for the Cranes in Bhutan. In the summer they fly to the colder regions of Tibet.
The Park covers an area of 1545 sq.km spanning to the regions of Tibet in the north to India in the Northeast. It contains coniferous forests, glacial lakes, scrublands and alpine pastures. It has over 100 species of mammals including rare animals like the Himalayan Black bear, Snow leopard, Bengal Tiger and Red Panda. From Mid November to early March it is a paradise for Bird watchers & lovers. There you will get to see some of the rarest butterflies on earth besides the National Butterfly of Bhutan “The Swallowtail” which is said to have been rediscoved after 75years and more than 100 unknown species are expected to be thriving here. The Park’s sheer beauty is worth a visit and you will even find religious landmarks like the mystic Singye Dzong, Rigsum Gompa/temple and Dechenphodrang Lhakhang/temple.
(Day 18) - Visit Chorten Kora & Drive onto Trashigang
Right after your breakfast you will go to visit the famous Chorten Kora which was built in 1740; it starkly resembles the Bodhisattva temple of Nepal. The temple has beside it a black rock which has the imprint of Guru Padmasambhava’s thumb print, hat and his body, which is a sight you must visit. Pilgrims from all corners of Bhutan and from the Indian state of Arnachula Pradesh come to attend the famous annual Tsechu/festival where everyone circumambulate the Chorten all night long.
In the evening drive to Trashigang, the biggest district in Bhutan.
(Day 19) - Day excursion to Radi Valley-Rice bowl of the East
After an early breakfast your day begins with a visit to The Rangjung Woedselcholing Monastery. From there climb up to the beautiful valley of Radi which is amidst fields of rice paddy and corn fields, you will find women weaving raw silk textiles called the ‘Bura’. If you are lucky you will also come across the highland natives called the “Brokpas”. They are from the highlands they come to the Radi town to barter and sell yak products. They have their own unique culture and tradition and wear yak embroidered clothing along with spiked (downwards) hats made of yak hair.
In the evening return back to your hotel in Trashigang.
(Day 20) - Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar
Today’s drive is a 6-7 hour drive from the temperate Himalayas to the tropical foothills of the Himalayas. You will notice the sharp change in vegetation and climate. The drive is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drive with scenic landscape and it is a well known for sighting different species of exotic birds.
Samdrup Jongkhar also known as the gateway to eastern Bhutan holds the distinct honor of being the oldest town in Bhutan. You will come across Dewathang village which is a historical site as the Father of the First king Ugyen Wangchuk led the Bhutanese troops to battle with the British and finally signed the “Sinchula treaty” with the British in 1865 on a peace note.
(Day 21) - Departure
After breakfast you will drive for about 2 hours from Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati International Airport where your guide and driver will bid you farewell. We hope you enjoyed your holiday and hope to see you in Bhutan again.