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Bhutan East to West and Trashigang Tshechu

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Bhutan 14 DAYS
SUN 22 NOV 2020 - SAT 5 DEC (UTC+06:00)
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A Cultural Journey Across The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

14-Day Easy Grade Trip

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This trip starts in beautiful eastern Bhutan, where traditional culture is well and truly alive, as seen when we visit the Trashigang tshechu or festival. From here we journey west through stunning mountain scenery to the relatively modern metropolis of Thimphu. We finish our trip with a walk to the most spectacular monastery in the the world, the Tiger's Nest.

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Trashigang Tshechu

Trashigang is an important town in eastern Bhutan and a major trading hub. The biggest social and spiritual engagement on the calendar is the Trashigang Tshechu, which draws crowds from all over the outlying farmlands. Although it is a big celebration, it is still on a more intimate scale than the bigger festivals at Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. It's a lovely way to interact with the locals, who lead a simpler and more traditional life, away from the urbanised western part of the country.
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Beautiful Eastern Bhutan

Immerse yourself in the traditional culture of eastern Bhutan. There are no big cities here and life runs at a gentler pace, with time to chat to the locals and absorb the magical landscape of endless rolling hills and terraced fields, dotted with charming farmhouses. Some of Bhutan's best temples can be found in the east and this is also the home of beautiful silk handwoven textiles.

 

 

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Gom Kora

The beautiful and serene Gom Kora is one of the most significant temples in eastern Bhutan. Its location beside a river, set among the mountains adds to its scenic charm. Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated here and left a body print in the large sacred black rock at the far end of the grounds. It can be bedlam here during the festival but at any other time you’ll likely have it all to yourself.

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Thrumshing La

Thrumshing La is almost 4,000 metres above sea level and offers superb views of the Eastern Himalaya. It is one of the highlights on the scenic road from Mongar to Bumthang, passing through the Thrumshing National Park en route.

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Traditional Village Life

Eastern Bhutan is full of small, quaint villages, set among the mountains, where traditional culture flourishes. They are great places to meet the locals and find out about their simple lifestyle.

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Punakha Dzong

Location : Punakha, Bhutan

The dzong or fortress at Punakha is considered the most beautiful in Bhutan. It is stunningly located on the confluence of two rivers and is built using traditional, ornate architecture, with beautiful carved wood and intricate painted decorations and symbols.

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Dochu La

Location : Dochula, Bhutan

The high passes in Bhutan are places where we usually pause in our journey and stop to take in the magnificent views. The Dochu La not only has great views of the mountains but is an impressive sight in itself, with 108 chortens spread over a small hill at its centre.

 

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Thimphu

Thimphu is one of the world's smallest capital cities but has seen rapid growth in the last few years. It has no traffic lights, just a white-gloved policeman to conduct traffic. Thankfully traffic jams are rare and the main centre is still small and easily negotiated. The city sits in the Thimphu Valley, fringed by forests and mountains, which means good walking trails are easy to find.

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The Tiger's Nest

The location of the Tiger's Nest makes it one of the world's most beautiful Buddhist temple, as it sits high on a clifftop above the Paro valley. As you climb up towards the monastery you gain stunning views of the valley and the Tiger's Nest itself. Bring your camera!

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Day 1: Arrival to Guwahati

Our exciting adventure will begin in Guwahati in India, where our guide and driver for the trip will meet us after we have cleared Indian Immigration. From here we will drive to Samdrup Jongkhar in eastern Bhutan. We will need to clear Bhutanese customs at the border and our guide will assist you with this.

Driving time: 3 hours.

Overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar. Altitude: 173 metres.

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Day 2: To Trashigang

Today we will drive to Trashigang, the traditional heartland of eastern Bhutan. The Trashigang Tshechu will be underway and we will spend the afternoon at this vibrant festival. The main attraction of Bhutanese festivals are the colourful masked dances, accompanied by musicians playing traditional and unfamiliar instruments.

Driving time: 6 to 7 hours.

Overnight in Trashigang. Altitude: 1,070 metres

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Day 3: Trashigang Tshechu

Today we will spend more time at the festival. It's a great spot to people watch. The Bhutanese wear their very best clothing to attend a tshechu and it is wonderful to see all ages dressed in their beautiful national dress, a gho for men and a kira for women.

Overnight in Trashigang. Altitude: 1,070 metres.

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Day 4: Day trip to Trashiyangste

Today we will take a day excursion to Trashiyangtse, a lovely scenic drive. We plan to visit the beautiful Gom Kora, a temple built in the 17th century by Mingyur Tenpa. The full name of the temple is Gomphu Kora, which comes from a mediation cave here that Guru Rinpoche is said to have practised in, called Gomphu. Kora means circumambulation.

We will also visit Chorten Kora, a large Nepalese style stupa built in 1740, fashioned after the Bodhnath stupa in Kathmandu.

Driving time: approximately 4 hours.

Overnight in Trashingang. Altitude: 1,070 metres.

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Day 5: To Mongar

Location : Mongar, Bhutan

Today we travel to the town of Mongar as we travel westwards. On the way we will drive through some breathtaking mountain scenery, crossing over the Kori La, a modest high pass at only 2,400 metres in altitude. All of the high passes in Bhutan are marked by the many garlands of prayer flags and the Kori La is no exception.

Driving time: approximately 4 hours.

Overnight in Mongar. Altitude: 1,700 metres.

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Day 6: To Bumthang

Location : Bumthang, Bhutan

There will be more dramatic mountain views as we drive towards Bumthang. We can also expect to see waterfalls and beautiful forest along the way. The road crosses two high passes, the first of which is the Thrumshing La, 3,750 metres above sea level. If the weather is clear you can expect to see brilliant vistas of the Eastern Himalayas but even in cloudy weather the views of the gorgeous valleys and the cypres and pine forests are pretty photogenic. There are also a couple of great stopping off points from where Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan's highest mountain at 7,541 metres, can be seen.

Driving time: approximately 8 hours.

Overnight in Jakar. Altitude: 2,580 metres.

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Day 7: In Bumthang

Location : Bumthang, Bhutan

Today we will explore the temples and monasteries around Jakar, mostly on foot as there is plenty of easy walking here. One of the most important sites is the Kurjey Lhakhang complex, which is made up of three temples, built in 1652, 1900 and 1984 respectively. All contain interesting relics and statues, mostly dedicated to Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche.

Jakar is also a good place to do some souvenir hunting at a couple of well stocked local shops. Bhutanese weavings are of superb quality, particularly the beautiful hand woven silk ones, usually from eastern Bhutan. There are also good scarves and bags made from yak wool.

Overnight in Jakar. Altitude: 2,580 metres.

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Day 8: To Trongsa

Location : Trongsa, Bhutan

Today we will be travelling to Trongsa, a remarkably steep village built on the side of a gorge. The dzong here is one of the most interesting in Bhutan and the views over the gorge from the end are simply wonderful. Dzongs were once used as fortresses and are almost always situated in magnificent locations so as have forewarning of an enemy's approach. Trongsa dzong has been added on to since its construction in 1543 and it now has a number of layered courtyards connected by stone staircases.

Nearby is the small but interesting Royal Heritage Museum, built in a tower above the dzong, housing a number of interesting artifacts, including a replica of the raven crown worn by all of the kings of Bhutan at their coronation. It also has a cafe and a small shop.

Driving time: 3 hours.

Overnight in Trongsa. Altitude: 2,180 metres.

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Day 9: To Gangtey and the Phobjikha Valley

Today we will take a detour from the main highway to the wonderful Phobjikha valley, home to a population of black necked cranes that fly from Tibet every November. These large birds can be seen feeding on the valley floor. To see one up close we will visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centres where Karma, an injured bird unable to fly, now lives. The centre has a wealth of information about these marvelous creatures as well as an interesting short film detailing efforts being made to protect them.

Nearby is the Gangtey monastery where we may be able to see the monks going about their everyday life.

Driving time: 4 hours.

Overnight in Phobjikha. Altitude: 2,900 metres.

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Day 10: To Punakha

Location : Punakha, Bhutan

Today we travel to the Punakha valley, home to what is considered the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. Punakha dzong has a number of serene courtyards surrounded by temples and monks quarters built in the intricate Bhutanese architectural style. It is reached by crossing a charming bridge from where you can see trout teeming in the river below. Look out for the enormous bee hives near the eaves of the dzong. From here we can take the short walk to one of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan.

Driving time: 3 hours.

Overnight in Punakha. Altitude: 1,310 metres.

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Day 11: To Thimphu

Location : Thimphu, Bhutan

Today we will travel to Thimphu, via the scenic Dochula. This high pass is a great stopping off point. On clear days there are wonderful views of the mountains but the main attraction here is the striking sight of the 108 chortens built on a gentle hill overlooking the valley.

Thimphu is one of the world's smallest capital cities, with just over a 100,000 inhabitants, and the only one with no traffic lights. The city's busiest intersection instead uses a white gloved policeman to direct traffic. There are plenty of things to see in Thimphu. The Buddha Dordenma is one of the highest seated Buddhas in the world, at over 51 metres high. The National Memorial Chorten is a great place to see locals in their daily worship. The National Institue for Zorig Chusum, or 'the painting school' as it known colloquially, shows students hard at work at Bhutan's thirteen national arts, which include painting, woodcarving, embroidery and statue-making. The post office, in the centre of town, is also worth a look to see Bhutan's highly sought after stamps. Thimphu also has an enclosure dedicated to the strange looking tarkin, Bhutan's national animal, which are extremely hard to spot in the wild. The textile workshop is a great place to buy some souvenirs.

Driving time: 3 hours.

Overnight in Thimphu. Altitude: 2,320 metres.

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Day 12: To Paro

Location : Paro, Bhutan

Today we travel to Paro, located in one of western Bhutan's beautiful wide valleys. A visit to the dzong is a must for its brilliant views over the Paro valley and the gorgeous architecture of its inner courtyards. From here we can also see the king's very modest Paro residence. We will also visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan's oldest temples, built in the 7th century. Many of the wall paintings are extremely faded now and are now covered to preserve them. The small courtyard is unique for its touches of bright blue in the traditional painting of its woodwork.

Driving time: 1½ hours.

Overnight in Paro. Altitude: 2,280 metres.

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Day 13: The Tiger's Nest

Today will be a hike to one of the world's most picturesque monasteries, the wonderful Tiger's Nest. There is the option to walk to the cafeteria, located 1 to 1½ hours walk uphill. There are excellent views of the Tiger's Nest from here but for the more spectacular sights we will need to walk for another hour or so. You will be rewarded with a visit to the complex, which is a series of small temples, connected by a number of steep staircases. En route you will also be treated to marvelous views of the Paro valley.

After today's walk might be a great time to indulge in one of Bhutan's pleasures, a hot stone bath, before a celebratory final night dinner.

Overnight in Paro. Altitude: 2,280 metres.

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Day 14: Departure from Paro

Location : Paro, Bhutan

Today we will be taken to the airport, where we say goodbye to our guide and driver. If you have any leftover Ngultrum the airport has cafes and an excellent small but well stocked bookshop, with books on all things Bhutanese. We recommend a window seat so that you can catch your last views of the mighty Himalayas as you take the scenic flight up through the valley.

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