16 days from £ 5135 per person
Places Visited: Delhi, Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bhumtang, Trashigang, Guwahati
Explore the more remote, rural east of the country on this two-week tour starting in Delhi. Grandiose, forested valleys ringed by shining ice peaks, pretty, typically Bhutanese farmsteads, and the most spectacular dzongs in the country provide ample incentive to make the journey east, which crosses the highest motorable road in the region to reach a corner of the Himalayas visited by few outsiders.
Fly overnight from London Heathrow to Delhi.
On arrival in the morning, you’ll transfer to a connecting flight to Paro, where you’ll stay for two nights.
Shops, restaurants and offices in richly carved traditional buildings line the main street of Paro, where two of eastern Bhutan’s main rivers meet. The town is best known locally for the splendid Rinpung Dzong, overlooking the river, whose most valuable possession is a giant embroidered tapestry, or thondrol (thangka), depicting the dzong’s founding father, Guru Rincpoche; the treasure is unrolled only once a year on the morning of the annual tsechu (festival). On the hill behind rests the National Museum in a beautifully restored watchtower, the Ta Dzong, built in the 1650s to guard Paro’s dzong.
Sightseeing in and around Paro town today includes a trip out to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
Bhutan’s most photographed monument, the Taktshang Monastery, commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, is wedged into a lofty cliff nearly a vertical kilometre above a forested valley. Rock-cut steps and rickety bridges connect its four wings, whose golden pagoda roofs, fluttering prayer flags and distempered walls are dwarfed by the vista of forested hills and snow-capped mountains unfolding on all sides – a spectacle worth the journey to Bhutan alone!
Drive to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan, for a two-night stay.
Thimpu became the nation’s capital in 1961, since when it’s swollen to a town of around 80,000 people – the perfect place to get to grips with life in modern Bhutan.
A full day’s sightseeing in and around Thimphu today starts with a visit to its famous dzongs..
During the fifth day of your trip you’ll tour the Bhutanese capital’s impressive dzongs (fortress-monasteries), the King’s Memorial chorten, Buddhist painting school and national folk museum, made of rammed earth to resemble a traditional farmstead. In the city’s market, your guide will point out local delicacies such as jellied cow skin and fried fern, and don’t miss the chance to touch a takin, Bhutan’s national animal, which looks like a cross between a cow and a goat and survives in the nearby Mothitang Reserve.
Drive east to Punakha for a one-night stay, visiting the local Dzong (fortified monastery) in the afternoon.
Around 25km east of Thimphu, Punakha is the home of one of the country’s most beautiful monasteries, built around 1638 at the confluence of two rivers. The complex is a showcase of Bhutanese craftsmanship, with a particularly impressive assembly hall featuring fine clay statues and intricate murals. The dzong also hosts a well-known festival, during which an enormous thondrol ‒ an extraordinary appliquéd sacred banner ‒ is unfurled, conferring merit on all who see it.
Drive to Gangtey today for a two-night stay.
The 17th century dzong at Gangtey is this awesome valley’s prime religious monument, although most visitors come in search of black-necked cranes. A festival in which local children wear specially made crane masks is held in the monastery each November to welcome their arrival. The other major event here is tsechu, which usually falls in October, when monks perform traditional Cham dances in the monastery courtyard. Preserved in one of Gangteng’s inner shrines is one of the country’s more gruesome relics: the hands of a British army officer killed in a battle with Bhutanese forces in 1864.
Drive to the Phobjikha Valley today to visit the black-neck crane centre.
Surrounded by snow peaks and old-growth forest, the beautiful Phobjikha Valley is home to a unique conservation initiative, where migratory black-neck cranes, which pass through here in the winter months between October and March, are protected by local wardens and volunteers. The centre provides information about the birds and their migration, and if your visit coincides with their stay in the village you’ll be able to observe them grazing on the valley floor through telescopes.
Visit local sights around Trongsa and its dzong today en route to the Bhumtang Valley.
Built on a mountain spur high above the gorge created by the Mangde Chu River, Trongsa is a site rich in Bhutanese history and culture. Its great dzong – the largest in the country – traditionally controlled east-west trade through the kingdom, and was the ceremonial seat of the dynasty that now rules the modern state. The complex contains a wealth of Buddhist art and antiquities, and affords a sublime view over the valley to the surrounding peaks, invariably draped in mist.
Explore the Bhumtang Valley today in the company of your guide.
Situated in the heart of the country, a crossroads-like alignment of four valleys is collectively known as Bumthang. Until the 1970s when a road was finally constructed through it, this region remained isolated and relatively undeveloped. Today, with its many stories and legends, religious associations, abundant temples and monasteries, it’s regarded as a kind of cultural heartland and a great place to leave your car parked up for a couple of days and take to the footpaths. A succession of picture-book villages line its lower reaches, home to some of Bhutan’s oldest and most revered monasteries.
Today’s drive to Mongar, where you’ll spend the night, follows the country’s highest motorable road over the Trumshingla Pass (3,780m).
Often snow-dusted in early summer and autumn, Trumshingla is marked with a huge collection of multi-coloured prayer flags and whitewashed shrines intended to bring good fortune to passing travellers.
Mongar town, situated on the valley floor, marks the gateway to eastern Bhutan and is the site of two dzong – one ruined, the other more modern and functioning. There’s little much else to see.
Drive to Trashigang for a two-night stay.
A pretty town at the bottom of steep, wooded valley, Trashigang nestles on the banks of the Gamri Chhu River and was once the hub of the region’s busy trade with Tibet. Today, it serves as a popular stopover on the journey to or from Samdrup Jongkhar and the Indian border. If you’re lucky, you may encounter the local nomadic people, the Merak and Sakteng, who come to Trashigang on shopping trips periodically. A fine view over the town and environs is to be had from its yellow-roofed dzong, which dates from the 17th century.
Explore the local market today and go for a drive around outlying areas to viewpoints over the valley.
Drive to the border down of Samdrup Jongkar today, where you’ll enter India. Continue on to Guwahati, capital of Assam, for an overnight stay.
Fly to Delhi on an afternoon service. Stay overnight.
Transfer to New Delhi airport to catch your flight back to the UK.
16 days from £ 5135 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 14 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Delhi, India’s capital, is where most new arrivals alight – a megacity whose fast pace and jarring contrasts are guaranteed to induce a degree of wide-eyed amazement, no matter ho...
Shops, restaurants and offices in richly carved traditional buildings line the main street of Paro, a couple of hours’ drive from Thimpu, where two of eastern Bhutan’s main rivers...
Thimphu became the capital of Bhutan in 1961, since when it has swollen to a town of around 80,000 people. TransIndus tours typically pause a couple of nights here – long enough t...
Around 15.5 miles (25 km) east of Thimphu, Punakha and its gorgeous valley typically offers visitors their first real taste of rural Bhutan. Built in around 1638 and beautifully s...
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