GRACE (Paro-Thimpu-Punakha-Gangtey-Bhumtang-Mongar-Tashigang-Samdrupjongkar)

12 Nights | 13 Days

Day 01: Arrive Paro

Your journey to Bhutan begins with the most spectacular flight experience with views of major Himalayan peaks such as Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, all dressed in beautiful white snow. The final show of Bhutan’s own magnificent peaks awaits your arrival. The sight of marvellous mount Jomolhari along with Jichu Drake and Tserimgang greeting you is a must experience at all cost. You fly over the southern hills, known as ‘Duars’, or gateways into the Himalayas as they rise from the plains until they meet the great snow-capped peaks that rise up to the sky.

After landing at Paro airport and while completing of airport formalities, you will be received by your guide for the rest of your stay in Bhutan.

In the evening, take a stroll around Paro town. 

(Overnight at the hotel in Paro)

Day 02: Paro

Paro is a most picturesque valley, with quaint hamlets clustered amidst terraced paddy fields. This beautiful valley encapsulates a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends.  The valley is dotted with countless of ancient temple and monasteries. Known as the gateway to the world, it is also home to the country’s only international airport. The valley offers a plethora of attractions including the National Museum.  Mt. Jomolhari (7,300m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley, its glacial waters plunging through deep gorges to form the Pa Chu (Paro River). The Paro valley is one of the kingdom’s most fertile, producing the bulk of Bhutan’s famous red rice from its terraced fields.  The town still maintains tradition by way of its architecture and simple way of life.

National Museum: Originally built as a watch tower to protect the Paro Dzong, the museum has circular body structure like most of the watch towers. Later it was refurbished as a national museum to exhibit history to the visitors. The museum flaunts some of the rarest ancient Bhutanese art and artefacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection.

After a sumptuous lunch, you can drive up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong or “the fort of Drukpa victory”.  In former times, the Bhutanese used the fortress to fend off invaders by Tibet. Though relentlessly razed to the ground by fire in 1951, the ruins still stand with an imposing sight. On a clear day, there is a splendid view of Bhutan’s sacred mountain, Jomolhari from the road to Drukgyel Dzong.  You can also visit a traditional Bhutanese house in the village nestled below the dzong.  Then head back towards Paro town en route visiting Kyichu Lhakhang, established in the 7th century and one of the two oldest shrines in the kingdom, marking the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

(overnight at the hotel in Paro).

Day 03: Paro – Thimphu

After breakfast you will then be driven from Paro to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan and an exciting blend of tradition and modernity.

After the swift drive to Thimphu, you will be taken to you hotel to freshen up and after which you can take a leisure stroll around the town.

Afternoon sightseeing in Thimphu valley, visiting: Tashichhodzong, the seat of the government; the National Memorial Chorten, within which there are finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues which provide deep insight into Buddhist philosophy; and the Handicrafts Emporium, which displays a wide range of the traditional handicrafts for which Bhutan is renowned.  You may also be able to catch a game of archery in progress at the Changlimithang stadium, just below the main town.

Take an early evening stroll around the market area before dinner. 

(Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu)

Day 04: Thimphu – Punakha

In the morning you can visit the National Library, with its extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum commonly known as the Painting School where students undergo a six-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts; the National Institute of Traditional Medicine (outside only), where Bhutan’s famed traditional herbal medicines are compounded and dispensed.

After lunch you will proceed to Punakha across Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft).  The highest point on the road is marked by 108 chortens and prayer flags fluttering on the pass.  On a clear day, there is a breathtaking view of the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas from the pass.

Upon reaching you will check in to your hotel

Punakha valley is located in a sub-tropical region with warm summers and pleasant winters. Punakha also served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 after which the seat of government moved to Thimphu. Punakha still serves as the winter residence for the chief abbot and the central monk body. Later you can visit the Punakha Dzong.

Punakha Dzong: The fortress is strategically built at the junction of the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) river. After being damaged by 4 catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong/fortress has been fully restored to its former glory. Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful fortresses in Bhutan. The fortress is known to give immense joy to the person looking at it, hence its Dzongkha name Punthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang literally translates to; The palace of great bliss. The fortress plays a significant role in the history of Bhutan as most of the remarkable events occurred in the fortress which aided in shaping Bhutan as a nation.

Visiting hours: (Open 11am-1pm & 3pm-5 pm)

(Overnight at the hotel in Punakha)

Day 05: Punakha – Wangduephodrang – Gangtey (Phobjikha)

After breakfast, drive to Wangduephodrang and visit the Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers.  The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley.  Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slate which are mined up a valley a few kilometers from the town.

Then drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down into the Phobjikha valley, surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan.  Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys. The valley is also the winter roosting home for the endangered species of birds; the black-necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau.  Explore Phobjikha valley and also visit Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.

Stay overnight at the guesthouse, or camp under the stars.

Day 06: Gangtey (Phobjikha) – Trongsa

In the morning explore Phobjikha valley, hopefully sighting some black-necked cranes, if you are there at the right time of year.   Later, drive to Trongsa across Pele-la pass (3,300m/10,830ft).  This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan.  Further down the road, stop to visit Chendebji Chorten erected in the 18th century by a Tibetan lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.  It is built resembling the famous Nepalese stupa; Boudhanath stupa , with painted eyes at the four cardinal points.

The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular with its impressive Dzong, stretched along a ridge above a ravine, first comes into view about an hour before the winding road abruptly leading you to the town.  On arrival, check in at the lodge.

(Overnight at the lodge in Trongsa)

Day 07: Trongsa – Bumthang (Jakar)

Morning visit to Trongsa Dzong.  Built in 1647 by the Shabdrung, it is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan.  Then visit Ta Dzong on the hillside above the town, built as a watchtower to guard Trongsa.

After lunch proceed to Bumthang, one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the holy heartland of Buddhism.   The 68 km. journey takes about 3 hours.  The road winds steeply up to Yutong-la pass (3,400m/11,155ft). The road then runs down through dense coniferous forest to enter a wide open and cultivated valley known as Chumey valley.  From here it is about an hour to Bumthang, a most pleasant run in the soft, late afternoon light.

(Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang)

Day 08: Bumthang

Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura, with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000m/8,530 to 13,125ft.

In the morning we will visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint”, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here.  From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang.  This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro).

After lunch, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa.  It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings.  Later on we will visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to the lodge.

(Overnight at the lodge in Bumthang)

Day 09: Bumthang – Mongar

The journey continues eastwards, winding through more rugged terrain. The drive to Mongar takes about 6 hours, with spectacular views en route.  We will drive up into the hills above the valley and then past Ura village, before climbing stridently to the highest point on Bhutan’s motorable road network, Thrumsing-la pass (4,000m/13,125ft).

From here, the road gradually descends to the alpine valley of Sengor, with wonderful views of cascading waterfalls and the hills of eastern Bhutan along the way.  Vegetation changes from alpine to subtropical with the loss of height, and bamboos and luxuriant ferns overhang the road as we drop down to the valley floor.  The descent stops at 700m/2,300ft, where we cross the Kuri Chu (river). We ascend again through pine forests, maize fields and eastern hamlets to reach Mongar town, high on a gentle slope above the valley.

Picnic lunch at a scenic spot en route to Mongar.

At Mongar, we can visit Mongar Dzong, built in the 1930s and one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs, but constructed in the same way as all previous dzongs, without either plans or the use of nails. 

(Overnight at the lodge in Mongar)

Day 10: Mongar – Trashigang

This trip of about 96 km. takes only 3 hours.  The first part of journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns.  After driving through the Kori-la pass (2,450m/8,040ft), marked by a pretty chorten and a Mani wall, we descend rapidly through corn fields and banana groves to reach the famous road zigzags just below Yadi, a fairly recent and now fast-growing settlement.

After zigzagging down the hillside, the road east runs along the Gamri River.  A turnoff on the left leads up to Drametse.  The temple, perched on top of a steep hill above the village, was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan.  This is the place of origin of the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums.   Driving for about 30 km onwards, you will be in Trashigang (1,100m/3,610ft), which clings to a steep hillside above the Gamri River.  Trashigang is the principal township of the biggest and most populated district in the country.

After lunch, we will visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of a rocky outcrop far above the river gorge.  It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the dzong is occupied by the local monastic community.

(Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang)

Day 11: Trashigang (excursion to Trashiyangtse)

After breakfast we visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river, 24 km. from Trashigang.  Gom Kora is a famous place, as Guru Rinpoche is said to have subdued a demon here, trapping it in a rock.  We continue on down the road to Doksum village, where you can see women busily weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric, and a chain-link swing bridge dating back to the 15th century.  The road turns into the hills here, running up the side of a winding river valley to Trashiyangtse.

In former times, Trashiyangtse was an important center because it lies on one of the caravan routes leading from western and central Bhutan.  Trashiyangtse is now a rapidly growing town and the administrative center for this district.  The area is famous for its wooden containers and bowls, which make inexpensive, attractive and useful souvenirs of a visit to this remote region.

We will visit Trashiyangtse Dzong, which overlooks the town and was built in the late 1990s when the new district was created.  If time permits, we will also visit the dazzling white stupa of Chorten Kora on the riverbank below the town, and the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum, where students are trained in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts.

In the evening we return to Trashigang.

(Dinner and overnight at the lodge in Trashigang)

Day 12: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar

The Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar road was completed in 1965, and the journey down it to the Indian border takes about 6 hours.  Along the way, we pass by Sherubtse College in Kanglung, which was founded in 1978 and is a degree-granting institution affiliated to the University of Delhi.  We also visit the nearby Zangtho Pelri temple representing Guru Rinpoche’s paradise, built in 1978 by the late Minister of Home Affairs.   We then drive on to Khaling, home of the National Institute for the Disabled and the Weaving Centre.  Visits to these may be arranged by prior request only, before leaving Thimphu.  From here, it is a further 80 km. to Deothang, which is remembered in history as the site of a famous 19th century battle fought during the Duar Wars, in which the forces of Jigme Namgyal defeated the British.  The road then descends fairly rapidly to the plains through dense tropical forest with an abundance of teak, bamboo and ferns.

(Overnight at the lodge in Samdrup Jongkhar)

Day 13: Samdrup Jongkhar – Guwahati

After breakfast, drive to Guwahati, the capital town of the Indian northeastern state of Assam, for flight to Delhi/Kolkata or onward program in that region.

We cannot change the night halt at designated places but our sightseeing programs are completely flexible and upon arrival the guide can speak with the guests about any special interests they may have. Running day to day, the program remains open to what the guests would like to experience (hiking, Mt. biking, rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, etc.)We only offer a recommended program as a guideline and not a mandatory list to follow sternly.

The driving and hiking times mentioned are approximate times and do not include breaks in the journey for sightseeing, photo/tea/meal/rest or stops. During the treks/hikes, there may be delays or diversion of hiking trails due to trail conditions, inclement weather and other unforeseen natural circumstances.

Places of Interest

These are the most popular ones there plenty more to discover,hidden places but we can t put them all here