East to West Bhutan Itinerary

16 Days 15 Nights

Itinerary Overview

This exciting 15 – night Bhutan itinerary traverses Bhutan from east to west allowing the traveler a diverse view of Bhutan. The itinerary begins in Guwahati, India and finishes in Paro, Bhutan. Not only will you see dzongs, monasteries, nunneries, and museums but will hike and be immersed into the culture.

Day 1 Bangkok or Delhi – Guwahati – Samdrup Jongkhar

Fly from Bangkok or Delhi to Guwahati, India. Upon arrival, you will be received by a representative after the formalities at the airport are completed. Transfer to Sandrup Jongkhar, Bhutan that is 110 km and about 3 hours.

Upon arrival in Samdrup Jongkhar, check into the hotel and enjoy lunch. Afterwards, explore Samdrup Jongkhar.

Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the south eastern region of the country and shares a border with the Indian state of Assam. It is the largest urban center in eastern Bhutan. In the past, many British political officers stationed in Sikkim took the route from Samdrup Jongkhar to enter into Bhutan.

Hotel: Tashi Gasel Lodge
Day 2 Trashigang

After an early breakfast, drive to Trashigang. The driving distance is roughly 7 hours covering around 180 km. See different vegetation as you drive towards Trashigang.

En route, stop at Khaling and visit the National Handloom Development Project operated by the National Women Association of Bhutan. The weaving center uses only natural dyes for the exquisite traditional textiles that are produced here. Depending on time and interest, visit the National Institute for the Disabled. The Institute assimilates students from all over Bhutan who are blind or handicapped into the local educational system and provides special resources and training.

Trashigang is the country’s largest district with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade center for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Trashigang is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dress stands out from the regular Bhutanese gho and kira. Trashigang has areas where certain shaman practices still exist and many age – old traditions and practices thrive in the rural areas here.

Hotel: Lingkhar Lodge
Day 3 Trashigang

After breakfast, enjoy a day excursion to visit Trashiyangtse. It is 54 km and is a 2 – 2 ½ hour drive. Trashiyangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget.

On the way to Trashiyangtse, visit Gom Kora or Gomphu Kora (Gomphu means a mediation place and kora means circumambulation). It is believed that Guru Rimpoche subdued an evil dragon here crushing it into the rock leaving impressions of the dragon’s body and his hat. Guru Rimpoche also hid a tshebum or vase containing the water of immortality inside the rock. Pilgrims may be fortunate to have an opportunity to taste the water if it trickles out of the rock when they visit. The religious festival which falls during the month of March/April is quite unique from other festivals (tshechu) around Bhutan. Pilgrims circumambulate the goemba around the large rock throughout the night during the festival. Many nomadic tribes from Merak and Sakten come here during this period and for many of whom, the evening event results in marriages.

The Chorten Kora is a dazzling stupa (dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) that is very different from others in Bhutan, as it is modeled on the larger Bodhnath stupa in Nepal. This stupa is based on a carving the Lama made into a radish when he visited Nepal in 1740. Typical of Nepali stupas, it has eyes painted on its four cardinal points.

The people of the region have developed incredible skills at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. An Institute for 13 Arts and Crafts (Zorig Chusum) has been established in the region leading to a great number of skilled artisans.

In the afternoon, visit Trashigang Dzong. Trashigang Dzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ was built in 1659, to defend against Tibetan invasions. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River. It is accessible only from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location, Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed dzongs in Bhutan. The present dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.

Hotel: Lingkhar Lodge
Day 4 Mongar

After breakfast, drive for Mongar. The drive is 92 km and is about a 3 ½ hour drive. The road approaching Mongar is one of the most spectacular journeys in the country. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. Travelers passing this way will have the opportunity to visit the Rhododendron garden. There are countless varieties of rhododendrons here and on clear days you can even catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 meters), the world’s highest unclimbed mountain.

In the afternoon, visit the Mongar Dzong which is the center of the district administration. Although it was built in the 1930s and is one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs, it was constructed in the same way as all other dzongs without any nails. A visit to Mongar Dzong demonstrates how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.

Hotel: Wangchuk Hotel
Day 5 Bumthang

Rise early and after breakfast, drive to Bumthang. The drive is 192 km and takes 7 to 8 hours. The road to Bumthang from Mongar gradually descends past sub-tropical forests and is among the most spectacular nature drives in the country. You will pass through extensive cornfields, wayside farm outlets and descend down through the rice terraces until the vegetation becomes tropical near the valley floor of Limithang.

From Limithang, climb to Thrumshingla Pass (3,750 m) which is the highest motorable road in the country. The pass offers a wonderful view of Gangkhar Puensum (7,541 m), the highest unclimbed peak in the world. From the pass, the road gradually descends down to Ura and to Choekhor Valley into Bumthang.

Hotel: Yugharling Resort
Day 6 Bumthang

After breakfast, the day will be spent sightseeing in the valley. Visit Jambay Lhakhang (monastery), one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. Visit Kurje Lhakhang. Of the 3 temples, two of them were built by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, Mother of the Fourth King. Guru Rinpoche, the Indian Saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan, meditated here.
Also visit Lhoddrakharchu Gompa, a Buddhist school, that was established by a reincarnate monk, His Holiness Namkhenyingpo.

Late afternoon can be spent walking around the town.

Hotel: Yugharling Resort
Day 7 Bumthang

After breakfast, drive to Tang Valley. On the way, visit Mebar Tsho or the Burning Lake. This sacred site is not quite a lake but rather a pool along a river. It is believed that Terton Pema Lingpa, one of Bhutan’s important religious figures, uncovered holy treasure through divination.

Visit the Ogyen Choling Museum and explore Tang Valley.

Hotel: Yugharling Resort
Day 8 Gangtey, Phobjikha

After breakfast, drive to Phobjikha. The drive is 188 km and takes about 6 hours. En route, stop at Trongsa to visit Trongsa Dzong (fortress) and the beautiful museum of Trongsa.

Hotel: Dewachen Lodge
Day 9 Gangtey, Phobjikha

Phobjikha valley is one of the most beautiful glaciated valleys in central Bhutan. It is also home to the rare and endangered black-necked cranes. They migrate from their summer residence in Tibet and elsewhere in China to Phobjikha during winter months.

After breakfast, visit the Black Neck Crane Center and Gangtey Monastery, the one and only Nyingmapa monastery in the western part of Bhutan.

After lunch, take a nature walk to explore the valley. On the way back, visit the Khewang Lhakhang (temple) and see the incense manufactured by the monks.

In the evening, visit a farmhouse. See how rural people live and enjoy a home cooked meal with the family.

Hotel: Dewachen Lodge
Day 10 Punakha

After breakfast, leave for Punakha. The drive is about 80 km and takes about 3 hours.

After lunch, hike to Chime Lhakhang that sits on a round hillock, a walking distance from the road. This Lhakhang (temple) was blessed, particularly for fertility, by the famous divine madman, Drukpa Kunlay. It is a very popular pilgrimage site, particularly for women, who are unable to bear children. There are many testimonials of couples, who could not conceive earlier, but did conceive after visiting and praying at this temple.

Afterwards, visit Punakha Dzong, which is interestingly situated at the confluence of two rivers known as Pho-Chu (Male River) and Mo-Chu (Female River). Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu. It is still the winter residence of Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Kingdom, and the Central Monk Body.

Hotel: Lobesa Hotel
Day 11 Punakha

After breakfast, take a leisurely hike to Khamsum Yueling Namgyel Choeten. It is considered as one of the best examples of modern – day architecture. It was built under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, the Mother of the 5th King.

After you get back to the valley, enjoy white water rafting. The rafting program is about two hours covering around fourteen kilometers. A picnic lunch will be served.

Afterwards, visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery, perched on a hilltop overlooking Punakha and Wangdiphodrang Valley. This nunnery was built by Late Yab Dasho Ugyen Dorji, father of the Royal Grandmothers as a Buddhist College for nuns. If you want, buy some offerings for the temple and for the nuns and attend their evening prayers. The view of the valley from the temple is worth a visit.

Hotel: Lobesa Hotel
Day 12 Thimphu

After breakfast, leave for Thimphu. The drive is about 76 km amd takes about 4 hours. En route, stop at Dochu-La (3,150 m) that offers a beautiful and panoramic view of the snow-covered mountain ranges of Bhutan and Tibet. See 108 chortens (stupas) that were built under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Grandmother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to honor and to express gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth King and the people for the victory in the war fought in 2003 in the southeastern region of the country that was occupied by the militants from the neighboring country.

After checking into the hotel, either take a stroll in the streets of Thimphu, the capital city, or start your sightseeing of the valley.

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan, and it is the most populous city in the country with a population over 120,000 people. By Bhutan’s standards, it is a melting pot of different ethnic groups but also of international communities, made up of mainly expatriates. There are many places of interests, including museums, the zoo, cultural sites, restaurants, and more.

Hotel: Zhiwa Ling Ascent
Day 13 Thimphu

After breakfast, enjoy sightseeing of the valley.

Places of interest are listed below:

Dupthop Lhakhang is better known as Zilukha Nunnery. This place is located on the face of a hill. From here you can get a panoramic view of the Royal Secretariat, Royal Thimphu Golf Course, Parliamentary building, and the northern part of Thimphu valley. This is a good place to take photographs.

Memorial Choeten (stūpa) was built by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother in 1974 in memory of His Majesty the Third King who passed away in 1972. This stūpa is the most circumambulated monument in the country by people from all walks of life.

The Statue of Seated Buddha at Kuenselphodrang is perhaps the largest seated Buddha in the world.

The Royal Textile Academy and Museum is well known for its finest hand-woven textiles with intricate designs. This academy was established under the royal patronage of Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Queen Mother.

The School of Fine Arts is the school where artisans are trained in different skills. You will see students at work trying to perfect their skills.

The Folk Heritage Museum is a typical farmhouse setting, exhibiting how Bhutanese people live in the remote villages. This museum is established with a view to connecting people with Bhutanese folk heritage and rural history through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs, and documentation of Bhutanese rural life.

After the visit to the Folk Heritage Museum, you will have about an hour to walk around and visit the handicraft shops in the area to shop for souvenirs.

The Institute of Traditional Medicine abounds with medicinal herbs. Traditional medicine is practiced in close collaboration with the allopathic medicine.

Visit a traditional handmade paper factory and other art galleries in the vicinity. Bhutan is well known for handmade paper.

The Tashichhodzong is the Royal Secretariat which houses the Golden Throne Room, Office of His Majesty the King, seat of the Royal Government and the summer residence of His Holiness the Je Khenpo and Monk Body.

Hotel: Zhiwa Ling Ascent
Day 14 Paro

After breakfast, finish up whatever you have missed of sightseeing and drive to Paro. The drive is 60 km and takes about 1 hour. After arrival in Paro, check into your hotel and start sightseeing of the valley.

Rinpung Dzong is popularly known as Paro Dzong. It is the seat of the local government and the monk body of Paro.

Kyichu Lhakhang (temple) was built by the Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, this Lhakhang has been restored to its former glory like many other similar monasteries in the country.

Ruins of Drukgyel Dzong (fortress) is located in the north of Paro valley. See and feel the sense of defense, valor, courage, and determination of the Bhutanese warriors in the ancient times.

Visit Tshering Farm House to try out traditional archery using bamboo bows and arrows.

Hotel: Zhiwa Ling Hotel
Day 15 Paro

After an early breakfast, hike to the famous Taktshang (Tiger’s Lair or Nest). It takes 3 hours up and 2 hours down. Taktshang Temple clings on to a sheer cliff of 3,000 feet above the valley. Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, the great Indian Saint, who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan, came on a flying Tigress and meditated here in a cave that is now concealed behind a carved wooden grille in the inner sanctum of the temple. This is opened only once a year.

Lunch will be served at the cafeteria there before descending back to the valley or at a local restaurant in Paro town.

After your return from Taktshang, and if you are still up to it, you can visit the handicraft shops or finish up the sightseeing,

Hotel: Zhiwa Ling Hotel
Day 16 Paro – Airport

After breakfast, transfer to the airport. Our tour representative will see you off at the airport. You will be assisted with departure formalities in case any help is needed. Our Representative will bid you farewell “Lok Jeygay – See You Again”