East and West Cultural Bhutan Tour with Day Hikes – 18 Days
The best way to explore the Flora and Fauna through East-West cultural Tour. The east region have diverse photography and natural geography where you will enjoy the beautiful landscapes and waterfalls.
Day 1: Arrive in Paro
The flight to Paro crosses the Himalaya Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. If you arrive via Kathmandu, which offers the most breathtaking view of the range, it’s possible to see Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga as well. On arrival you will be greeted by our representative and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon you can visit the Paro Dzong. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the dzongs (forts) currently. You’ll cross a traditional wooden bridge on the way to the dzong. Afterward you will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. From there you will be taken to the Drugyel Dzong (Bhutan Victory Fort), which was built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. On a clear day you can see Mount Jumolhari, Bhutan’s second-highest mountain at 7,329 meters, from the village below the dzong. In the evening you can stroll through the Paro market and town. Overnight in Paro.
Day 2: Paro – Thimphu
After breakfast hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuntse to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. It is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. The hike to reach the viewpoint to the monastery makes for a nice half-day excursion. In the afternoon you will drive to Thimphu. In the evening you can explore Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and absorb the lifestyle of the people. You can also visit some interesting handicraft shops. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu
After breakfast you will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), Changgangkha Monastery, the radio tower (for a great view of Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong), and the zoo, which contains the national animal of Bhutan: the takin. From there you will visit the nunnery temple, the National Library (which houses ancient manuscripts), and the School of Arts and Crafts (also known as the painting school). After a relaxing lunch, you will visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, a traditional paper factory, the majestic Tashichodzong, and Simtokha Dzong (the oldest fortress in the kingdom). Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimphu – Wangduephodrang, with afternoon excursion to Punakha
After breakfast you will drive to Wangduephodrang, with a stop en route for tea at Dochu La (3,100 meters), where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayas. After lunch you will drive to Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan, and visit Punakha Dzong, which is noteworthy both for being one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan and also for having been built by the first Shabdrung in 1637. On the way back from Punakha, you will stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lakhang, which is a fertility temple, where you may receive a special fertility blessing if you wish. Overnight in Wangduephodrang.
Day 5: Wangduephodrang – Trongsa, with stop in Gantey
You will begin the day by driving to Gantey. You’ll pass through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and arrive at Gantey village, where you’ll visit Gantey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. From Gantey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range as well as Phobjika Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. From there you’ll head to Trongsa, the ancestral home of the royal family. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300-meter-high Pele La, and at certain times of year it’s possible to see yaks. You can browse through the Trongsa shops and town in the afternoon. Overnight in Trongsa.
Day 6: Trongsa – Bumthang
In the morning you’ll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture, and you’ll also see Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this dzong. After lunch, you’ll proceed to Bumthang, the religious heartland of the nation, with lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way you will stop at a yethra (textile weaving) factory, where the yethras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. The afternoon will be spent sightseeing in the area, including Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley; the Udee woodcarving factory in Jakar; Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan; and Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating. You can spend the evening strolling through Bumthang town. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 7: Bumthang
Day excursion to Ura Valley. The road to Ura Valley is off the main road, and this enjoyable excursion will provide a nice view of the Jakar Dzong. You’ll make a stop in Ura village for lunch and will have a chance to visit the main temple and explore the village. Ura Village has a medieval look to it because of the cobblestone streets, and the typical clothing of the women includes a sheepskin shawl. On the way back to town, you will be taken to Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche’s treasures were found in the 15th century by the famous treasure discover Pema Lingpa. It’s a good place to meditate. You will also have a chance to tour Tamshing Lhakhang, a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings, and you will make a stop at the Swiss cheese factory. In the evening you can visit local shops. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 8: Bumthang
Bumthang consists of four valleys–Chumey, Choekhar, Tang, and Ura–with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000 meters. It is home to many prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries. Today you will hike to Tharpaling Monastery. You’ll begin the hike in the morning, since this is a fairly lengthy hike–about three hours to the monastery. It’s a picturesque trail through the forest. The monastery itself is somewhat large, with several temples, and about 100 monks live in the nearby huts. From the monastery, you will have a beautiful view of Chumey Valley, and you can have a relaxing lunch while you take in the scenery. In the evening you can relax in the town. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 9: Bumthang – Mongar
You will begin your journey to eastern Bhutan, which is different from western and central Bhutan in terms of development and lifestyle. The steepness of the region lends itself to some spectacular views, with rushing waterfalls and sheer drops. The drive on this day is an exhilarating 8 hours, particularly the Thrumshing La (pass), which peaks at 3,750 meters. You can wander around Mongar town in the evening and sit down to a relaxing dinner. Overnight in Mongar.
Day 10: Mongar – Trashigang
In the morning you will visit Mongar Dzong, which is more modern than most dzongs in Bhutan (though architecturally it looks the same), having been built at the request of the third king in 1953. You will then head to Trashigang, passing through several villages. In the afternoon, you can visit Trashigang Dzong and stroll through the town, absorbing the culture of eastern Bhutan. Overnight in Trashigang.
Day 11: Trashigang, with excursion to Tashiyangtse
Today you will visit Tashiyangtse, which is a small, pretty, quiet town. The people are known for making wooden bowls and containers, which are said to be the best in Bhutan. Just below the town is the Chorten Kora. Along the way to Tashiyangtse you will stop at the Gom Kora temple, behind which is a large black rock. It is said that Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave in the rock and that you can see the impression of his thumb, his hat, and his body on the rock. You will also visit the abandoned iron chain-link bridge behind the village of Duksum. It is said that this is the last remaining bridge of those built by a Tibetan bridge builder by the name of Thangtong Gyalpo in the 15th century. Later in the day you can relax in Trashigang and enjoy a nice dinner. Overnight in Trashigang.
Day 12: Trashigang – Mongar
In the morning you can visit the weaving center in Khaling (which is operated by the National Women’s Association of Bhutan), Sherubtse College in Kanglung (Bhutan’s first college), and Zangdopelri Monastery. From there you will head back to Mongar. Overnight in Mongar.
Day 13: Mongar – Bumthang
Drive the spectacular 8-hour route back to Bumthang, with stops for lunch and tea in nearby villages. Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 14: Bumthang – Wangduephodrang
You’ll begin the day at the Bumthang market, and then drive to Wangduephodrang, where you can stroll through the town and visit the shops. The nearby villages are known for their slate and stone carvings and bamboo work. Overnight in Wangduephodrang.
Day 15: Wangduephodrang – Thimphu
In the morning you will drive back to Thimphu. After lunch, you will tour the Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage Museum, and you can explore the interesting handicraft shops. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 16: Thimphu
In the morning you can hike to Tango Monastery, which was built by the “Divine Madman” in the 15th century. It’s a center of study for monks, and it affords a great view of the Thimphu Valley. On the grounds of the monastery is a “sin-testing” tunnel–it is said that if you have sinned, you will get stuck in the tunnel, and if you are without sin, you will go through with ease! After lunch, you can hike to Cheri Monastery, which was built in 1620 and housed the first monk body. The Shabdrung’s father’s ashes are contained inside the monastery. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 17: Thimphu – Paro
You can spend the morning shopping in Thimphu. If it’s the weekend, you can stroll through the market to see the variety of food of the country, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and mangoes. In addition, many stalls contain Bhutanese handicrafts and household items. It’s fun to wander the aisles, taking in the bustling atmosphere of the market. In the afternoon, you will drive to Paro. You will tour the National Museum, which was formerly the watchtower for the Paro Dzong. It now houses a collection of fine arts, paintings, thankas, statues, and antiques. In the evening you can visit a traditional farmhouse and, if you wish, enjoy a hot-stone bath and a typical Bhutanese dinner. Overnight in Paro.
Day 18: Depart Paro
Drive to the Airport for the departure.