Bhutan – Untamed Eastern Bhutan

Druk Yul – Land of the Thunder Dragon

Come with us, bring an open mind and learn why so many have been touched by Bhutan’s wild and gentle beauty.

As a travel destination Bhutan remains unique, sandwiched between its heavily industrialised neighbours, China and India. This isolated nation only opened up to foreign visits in 1974 and allowed TVs in 1999.

Bhutan is about the same size as Switzerland with just one tenth the population (approximately 780,000). It has had a slow path to development—the first road was only built in the 1960s.

Bhutan is the World’s Only Carbon-Negative Country.

Eastern Bhutan remains largely unexplored by tourists and is the most densely populated region of Bhutan. However, it is more remote than the other regions.

There are roads reaching the major towns but most settlements lay hidden in the steep hillsides of remote and isolated valleys.

One highlight of this region is that it is home to minority ethnic groups, some comprising less than 1000 people. Sharchops are the predominant ethnic group in Eastern Bhutan and they are followers of the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism. “You are the first foreigner we have seen in 22 years,” exclaims a surprised monk welcoming an American tourist to his mist-shrouded outpost near Mongar. (2017)

The rugged east of Bhutan sees far fewer tourists than the western regions, which is reason enough in itself to visit. Travellers venturing east will be rewarded with no crowds, fascinating and gentle local people, beautiful silks and embroidery, and other handicrafts , as well as lush, bird-filled forests.

The east is opening up to tourism but it remains a frontier for travel in Bhutan. If you want to get off the beaten track and stay in 3 to 4 star comfort, this is your place.

And of course we also visit the west of Bhutan which in itself is also very exciting and includes visits to the Chelela Pass (13,000ft) and the Tigers Nest monastery.

Tour Type

Walking Tour

International Tour

7-12 Day Tour

Duration

17 days / 16 nights

Fitness

Price

NZ$11,750

Limited Availability!

  • Thursday 19 September to Saturday 5 October 2020

Tour Itinerary

Price: NZ$11,750

Day 1

Singapore - Guawhati (India) flight - Samdrup Jongkhar (Bhutan, elevation 173m)

Samdrup Jongkhar

An early morning flight (6:30am) from Singapore takes us to Guawhati, India, where our adventures begin. After checking in at the Druk Air counter at Changi Airport in Singapore we will meet as a group in the departure lounge one and a half hours before departure. We recommend group members arrive in Singapore by at least midday the day before departure.

Our flight arrives in Guawhati, India at 8:30am and after clearing Indian immigration we will be met by our Bhutanese guide and driver for the three hour journey to the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar where we overnight. There will be a chance to stretch the legs in this easy-going, low-lying border town this afternoon. A tour orientation meeting will be held this evening.

Day 2

Samdrup Jongkhar (172m) - Kanglung (1829m)

Kanglung

We depart Samdrup Jongkhar after breakfast for the 6-7 hour drive northwards into Eastern Bhutan. The drive climbs through thick vegetation passing by Deothang and many other small villages before a stop in Womrong for lunch. We continue on to the village Khaling (1829m) where we check out the national handloom weaving centre and then into the cooler environment of Kanglung for our overnight stop.

Day 3

Kanglung (1829m) - Trashigang (1070m)

Trashigang

This morning we drive from our beautiful hotel located amongst verdant terraced fields, through the town of Trashigang and up to the hilltop village of Ramjar where we immerse ourselves in genuine Bhutanese rural life. The views from Ramjar are incredible looking out towards Arunchal Pradesh in India and northwards towards the Trashiyangste Valley where we will spend the next two days.  It is approximately a 1.5 – 2 hour drive to Ramjar where we will disembark the bus for the 40 minute optional walk to our hosts home.  Here we have the opportunity to learn about the food and customs of rural Bhutanese people. Our lunch will be local fare and we even get the chance to make some ara (a corn-based alcoholic drink) and meet the locals. Mid afternoon we drive back to Trashigang where we stay tonight.

Day 4

Trashigang (1070m) - Trashiyangste (1700m)

Trashiyangste

Today we head north into one of the most remote valleys in Bhutan for a two night stay which gives us plenty of time to soak up and experience everything this incredible valley has to offer. We travel with a packed lunch, and we will do some sight-seeing en-route into the valley.

The road into the valley makes for a bumpy ride but the destination is totally worth it. Gom Kora is one of the must-see places en route to Trashiyangste, a remarkably located temple brimming with legends and lore that our local guide will regale you with.  Once we get to Trashiyangste we allow some free time to wander around this delightful town.  In the early evening we walk down to Chorten Kora to witness and take part in the evening circumambulation with locals around this remarkable Buddhist stupa.

Day 5

Trashiyangste (1700m)

Trashiyangste

We can sleep in this morning, and then go over the options for the day. Then we will head up to visit the national craft college where students learn Bhutanese traditional arts (the BEST place to shop for locally-made crafts).

Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is located about an hour’s drive up the road for those who want to go for a one or two hour walk.  Others may choose to stay back, and look around the town, visit a local school or just relax. We like to keep our options open.

Day 6

Trashiyangste (1700m) - Mongar (1600m)

Mongar

Approximately 4-5 hours of driving. We depart shortly after breakfast and retrace our drive to Gom Kora and then on to Mongar and our accommodation for the next two nights.  We will have lunch en route and should reach our destination mid-afternoon.  The rest of the afternoon is available for you to relax, catch up on washing, have a relaxing drink on the gorgeous terrace at our Hotel, explore the town or indulge in a massage.

Day 7

Mongar

Mongar

No driving today. We offer an optional walk through the countryside towards an idyllic ridge top monastery at Pangchu. Passing by local monasteries and walking through productive farmland we reach our destination after about two and a half hours. We enjoy a packed lunch on the tops gazing over the seemingly never-ending hillsides that march into the distance. For those of you who want to stay closer to the hotel, exploring the town is a great option or just relaxing and visiting a local monastery located about 20 minutes walk from the hotel.

Day 8

Mongar (1600m) - Autsho (920m)

Autsho

After breakfast we head back onto the road for an approximately 3-4 hour drive into the Lhuentse Valley which is renowned for its incredible weavers – some of the most sought after and expensive fabrics in the country are made here using a technique more akin to embroidery than weaving. Our destination today is the village of Khoma where many of the houses have traditional back strap looms set up on their porches. We take a packed lunch and after our visit we backtrack to the village of Autsho for an overnight at a resort alongside the river.

Day 9

Austsho (920m) – Trogon Lodge, halfway up the Thrumshingla Pass

Trogon Lodge

To break up an otherwise very long drive into central Bhutan we depart Autsho at a leisurely time and make our way up the Thrumshing La pass and overnight at Trogon Lodge, a facility built specifically for bird watchers. This drive takes us along some of the most spectacular sections of road in Bhutan. For those interested, a short bird watching excursion from the lodge will be on offer.

Day 10

Trogon Lodge – Bumthang (Jakar, 2580m)

Bumthang

After breakfast we continue driving up towards the summit of the 3750m Thrumshing La Pass where we make a brief stop in the thin air and then onwards towards the Ura Valley and Jakar/Bumthang – one of the most important and historically significant places in Bhutan where we spend two nights. We should arrive into Bumthang mid afternoon in time for you to stretch your legs checking out the pool halls and quaint shops of this lively town.

Day 11

Bumthang (2580m)

Bumthang

After breakfast we head out for a morning of sightseeing around Bumthang which includes a visit to Jhampey Lhakang (monastery), Kurjey Lhakang (monastery), the Jakar Dzong (fortress), the Swiss Cheese factory and the Red Panda Beer making facility. We get back to town in time for a late lunch, and those of you who want to try a traditional hot stone bath, later this afternoon is the time to try this out.

Day 12

Bumthang (2580m) – Punakha (1242m)

Punakha

We leave early for a big driving day that affords plenty of window sight-seeing opportunities. A stop at the Yartha shop outside Bumthang is a great place to buy some fabric souvenirs and on we go westwards past the incredible Trongsa Dzong (fortress) and in to the lower elevations of Punakha.  Our goal is to reach the quintessentially scenic Punakha Dzong (fortress) by 3:30-4pm to experience this iconic place during the magic hours of the late afternoon.

Day 13

Punakha (1242m) – Thimpu (2334m)

Thimpu

The roads get noticeably busier as we near the Bhutan capital of Thimpu. We stop at the scenic (and very popular!) Dochu La Pass and its 108 chortens for tea, coffee and photos and then in to bustling Thimpu city where we have lunch, some time to wander around before regrouping for a couple of hours of sightseeing. We visit the giant 51m Buddha statue that overlooks the city as the sun begins to dip behind the hills followed by a short drive to the magnificent Tashi Tso Dzong which is lit up early evening and resembles something out of a beautiful fairy tale.

Day 14

Thimpu (2334m) – Haa (2670m)

Haa

We depart after breakfast to visit the National Takin Preserve to acquaint ourselves with the odd looking national animal of Bhutan – half goat and half cow.  Morning is the best time to visit as the animals are more  active. We bid farewell to the busy city, head over the highest road pass in Bhutan (Chele La 3900m) and dip down into the stunningly beautiful Haa Valley for a late lunch at what might be the most beautiful boutique lodge in Bhutan. The lodge is a renovated farmhouse with some of the best food in the country.  You won’t be disappointed! Hot stone baths are on offer here, as are short walks and soaking up village life.

Day 15

Haa Valley (2670m) - Paro (2200m)

Paro

We are in no hurry to leave this morning! Sleep in, take a stroll in the surrounding countryside or  catch up on photo editing (trust us you will have a lot of photos!) We leave around 11:30am with a packed lunch for the two and a half hour return journey to Paro. We arrive in time for a leisurely stroll  down the main street and its abundance of shops. We then drive to the four star Resort which will be your home for two nights.  Tonight we prepare for the amazing hike tomorrow to the iconic Tigers Nest Monastery!

Day 16

Paro (2200m)

Paro

Today we walk to the world famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery.  We head off shortly after breakfast for the short drive to the trail head followed by a walk to this iconic temple that clings to the cliffside. It is all uphill but there is an option of a pony ride to the tea house which is located about two thirds of  the way up.
We may spend another hour in Paro town for last minute shopping and then back to our amazing hotel  to celebrate the end of incredible east to west traverse of this extraordinary country.
Day 17

Paro (2200m)

Our return flight to Singapore departs early morning so it’s an early wakeup for the  short drive to  the airport and on to Singapore where we bid you farewell.  We recommend you book your connecting flight for the following day and overnight in Singapore.

What's included?

Accommodation

We stay in modern 3 to 4 star hotels or resorts all the way.

Hotels in Bhutan are of a good standard and are comparable with hotels in more developed western countries. They are clean and tidy with modern facilities throughout. Rooms are double/ twin with ensuite facilities.

All rooms have coffee and tea making facilities. You will receive more comprehensive details of the accommodation on your tour at time of booking. Your pre and post tour accommodation in Singapore is not included in the tour cost.

 

Food

All meals are included in the cost of your trip in Bhutan. Generally meals will be buffet style and taken in your hotel or guesthouse. Breakfast, lunches and dinners will generally include a selection of western, Chinese or Indian style dishes, with some local specialties on occasion.

Dont forget to try the national dishes of emma datshe (chilli and cheese) and delicious red rice. Rice and vegetable dishes are always present for every meal. Vegetarians are well catered for and meat is the exception rather than the rule with most meals. Alcoholic drinks are not included with meals and are paid for separately. Filtered or bottled water is usually freely available in most hotels, restaurants and in the vehicle you will be travelling in.

Each meal will typically have three or four dishes to share. Choices are limited and feedback has suggested that the food isn’t the main reason to visit Bhutan. Meals may become a little monotonous with similar offerings at a lot of the restaurants. Please don’t be offended that your guide and driver do not eat with you. This is the custom in Bhutan and guides and drivers generally eat together in another section of the restaurant.

 

Guides

You will be accompanied by a New Zealand guide (host) who is experienced in travel to Bhutan. Your host will be with you from the time you leave Singapore until you arrive back in Singapore where your tour will end.

We will also have a fully accredited Bhutanese, English speaking guide for the duration of the tour. Our guide is very well versed and qualified to comment on all that is Bhutanese. Our driver is also accredited by the Bhutanese government.

 

Visas

You will require a visa for Bhutan. Please talk to us at the time of booking as we arrange your Bhutan visa which is included in the tour cost.

 

Transport

All transport including your return flights from Singapore to Bhutan are included in the cost of the tour. On arrival in Paro we will be met by our Bhutanese Government accredited guide and driver. You will be travelling in a well appointed small bus with very comfortable seating.

Whilst there are approximately 8000km of roads in Bhutan, the quality varies greatly depending on proximity to the major towns of Thimpu and Paro. As such, even short distances can take longer than expected. Bhutan is currently upgrading a lot of their road network and delays are common. Roads are narrow and speeds are slow.

 

Entry Fees

All entry fees to monasteries and other attractions when accompanied by our local guide.

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