THE LAND OF THE THUNDER DRAGON AND THE ONE HORNED RHINO

Destinations: The Land Of The Thunder Dragon And The One Horned Rhino(Bhutan)
Trip Duration: 14 days
Best Time: January to June and September to December

Trip Cost

ON REQUEST

 

  • Day 01: Arrive KolkataYou will be received on arrival and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon you proceed on a half day city tour. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 02: Kolkata - ParoYou will be transferred in time to the airport to board your flight for Paro. On arrival at Paro you will be received and transferred to your hotel. Later in the afternoon visit the National Museum, the museum is housed in Paro Dzong’s ancient watchtower. The museum is considered to be a temple because of the number of religious objects it contains, and that is why you must proceed in a clockwise direction. Thereafter visit Paro Dzong the full name of which is Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of the heap of jewels’. Besides being the administrative seat of the district of Pro it also contains a state monastic community of about 200 members. It is approached through a beautiful wooden bridge roofed with shingles and abutted by two guardhouses. The evening is free to take a down town stroll along Paro’s Main Street. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 03: In ParoAfter an early morning breakfast, drive for about 8 km to Satsam Chorten for a half-day hike to Taktsang Monastery. Reaching the monastery involves a 3-hour trek from the road head. From the road head far away and high up on the cliff top, the Taktsang Monastery can be seen. For a moment you may think that you cannot make it to the top but something draws you and you start your climb. The name Taktsang means "Tiger's Nest". This magical monastery clings to vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. Legend says that Guru Padmasambhava flew to a cave on this cliff riding a tiger-hence the name - to meditate. The tiger was actually his favorite consort, Yeshe Tsogyel, whom he transformed into a tiger for the purposes of this journey. They meditated in the cave, and when the Guru left he instructed for the monastery to be built. On our way back you can’t help but wonder as to how man could have ever made this impossible structure. Returning from the monastery visit the Drugyel Dzong built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount Jomolhari, which remains covered with snow throughout the year. Before reaching back to the town stop at Kyichu Lhakhang. It is composed of twin temples which are somewhat set back on the right of the road as one drive back to Paro. According to Bhutanese tradition, the first temple at Kyichu was built by the Buddhist Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, in the 7th century. In 1968, H M Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in the same style. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 04: Paro - ThimphuAfter a leisurely breakfast you take a drive to Thimphu. In the afternoon is at leisure to stroll around the main roads of this wondrous Himalayan Kingdom. The architecture of all the houses the people with everyone dressed in the traditional dresses and the discipline on the roads is quite eye-catching. On reaching Thimphu you check in to your hotel. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 05: In ThimphuToday you have a full day to take in the sights of Thimphu that will give you a fairly good exposure and understanding of the Bhutanese way of life, as well as their customs and traditions.
    The day begins with a visit to The Textile Museum. In Bhutan textiles are an art form integrated with all aspects of life. The Museum is a national center to collect, document, preserve, interpret and display Bhutan’s textile heritage. From here one can drive up to the Changangkha Lhakhang, which lies on top of the knoll that stands out above Thimphu from where the view of the valley is superb. This is one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu valley, having being built in the 15th century. The temple was restored in 1998-99. Around the knoll of Changangkha, the many Bhutanese houses with their little gardens give the neighborhood a rural charm. This is followed by a visit to The Folk Heritage Museum (Phelchey Toenkhyim). It is dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life. The principal exhibit in the museum is a restored three-story traditional rammed mud and timber house. The design and form of the house is that of an average household in the Wang area.
    In the afternoon one can visit The School of Traditional Arts where children learn traditional drawing and painting techniques. A visit here is very interesting not only to see how skillful the children are, but also to observe the traditional methods of teaching, which are very different from those used in the west. Those interested in traditional medicine can also visit the Hospital of Indigenous Medicine. Dominating the scene is Thimhpu’s Dzong, named Tashichoedzong, which delights the eye with its balanced proportions and air of majesty. It history dates back to the 13th century. Inside the Dzong, the majesty of the architecture, the beautiful proportions and lavish decorations are enough to take your breath away. This is the courtyard of the central administration and all around it are the ministries and the Royal Chamber. On the other side of the central tower, in which the temples are located, is the courtyard of the state clergy. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 06: Thimphu - Punakha - Wangdue PhodrangAfter breakfast you set off on your drive to Punakha. A little while after leaving Thimphu the road climbs rapidly and there are a number of sharp bends. The first hamlet is Oesepang, famous for its experimental potato farm. Further ahead is the village of Hongtso, where there is a check post for inspecting the travel permits of foreigners. The ancient village of Hongtso is set back from the road, and not far from it rises the large Hongtso Lhakhang which was founded in 1525 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch of Tibet, Ngawang Choegyel. The houses lining the road belong to Tibetans who have become Bhutanese citizens. 4 km beyond Hongtso you come to the majestic sight of the Dochu La Pass (3,050 m / 10,000 ft). A large Chorten amidst numerous others that are smaller in size marks the pass. Numerous prayer flags stretch across the road. The look out point 500 m below the pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the Eastern Himalayas (provided the weather is clear). Driving through swarms of prayer flags fluttering in the wind you cross the pass and descend into the sub-tropical Punakha valley. The road passes first through a temperate type of leafy forest where rhododendron and magnolia bloom in March and April, then a semi-tropical zone where orange trees, banana trees and cactuses are found in abundance. On arrival at Punakha you visit the Punakha Dzong, the winter seat of the Jhe Khenpo (Chief Abbot). The dzong is situated between the Pho-Chhu (male) and Mo-Chhu (female). A Dzong is a fortress that holds offices for civil officials and quarters for monastic authorities. After leaving Punakha you stop over at Lobesa for a lunch at a Bhutanese farm house. After lunch take a short hike to Chime Lhakhang (a special monastery for sterile women) which is about 30 minutes from the farm house. After the hiking trip, proceed to Wangdue Phodrang. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 07: Wangdue Phodrang - Trongsa - BumthangAfter breakfast you commence your drive for the day. The main road climbs the length of the spur and on the left, across the river, comes the first glimpse of the picturesque village of Rinchengang whose inhabitants are celebrated stonemasons. This kind of village with its house all attached to one another is rare in Bhutan. You stop en-route to visit the Wangdue Dzong built in the 17th century. The Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of Punakha-chhu and Tang-chhu river. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west roads.
    After your visit you continue on your drive to Trongsa, where the road climbs over the Black Mountains immediately after the bridge at Tikke. The valley is very narrow, with houses and fields perched on steep slopes. Little by little, habitation becomes sparser and the road starts to snake through the middle of a dense forest. Further along, on the way to a pass the forest is made up almost entirely of rhododendron and magnolia, which can be seen in April and May. You then cross over the Pele La (Pass) (3,300 m / 10,825 ft); marked by a large prayer flag ad the ground is covered with high-altitude dwarf bamboos. The Pele La is the traditional boundary between western and central Bhutan and in former times the jurisdiction of the Trongsa Penlop extended just to the pass. The landscape on the far side of the pass is completely different from the western side. On the eastern side a prominent plateau divided into large fields appears on the right of the road at the head of which is the large village of Rukubji. Along the way, also visit the Chendebji Chorten built in the 18th century. It is built in the Nepalese style, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. By the evening you would arrive at Trongsa. You see Trongsa Dzong at the end of the valley 20 km before reaching it.
    En-route you visit the Trongsa Dzong built in 1648. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and for miles on end the Dzong seems to tease you so that you wonder it you will ever reach it. Backing on to the mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many kilometers and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of the watchman. Further more the Dzong is built in such a way that no matter what direction a traveler came from, he was obliged to pass by the Dzong. This helped to augment its importance as it thus had complete control over all east-west traffic. It is the ancestral home of the Royal family. Both the first and second Kings ruled the country from this ancient seat. All the four kings held the post of Trongsa Penlop before being crowned the King of Bhutan. 
    After the visit you continue your drive to Bumthang. At a distance of 29 km from Trongsa, the road reaches the Yutong La Pass (3,400 m / 11,155 ft), and again he landscape ahead looks very different. The rhododendrons are still there, but a dense forest of conifers now stretches s far as the eye can see. Ahead the road comes out into a wide-open cultivated valley. This is the Chumey Valley, the first of Bumthang’s four valleys. Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys; Tang and Ura are given over more to yak – and sheep – breeding but potatoes are now an important cash crop. You drive to the Choekhor Valley to the village of Chamkar, which has grown up on flat ground at the base of its hill. The place is more normally referred to as Jakar. On arrival you check into River Lodge. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 08: In BumthangIn the morning you visit Kurjey Lhakhang. Kurjey’s site is one of the most sacred in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche meditated here and left the imprint (jey) of his body (ku) on a rock. The actual Kurjey complex is made up of three temples facing south. The first temple (on the right of the photograph) is the oldest and was built on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated by Minjur Tenpa in 1652 while he was the Trongsa Penlop and before he became the Third Desi of Bhutan. The second temple (in the middle of the photograph) was built in 1900 by Ugyen Wangchuck, the First King of Bhutan, while he was still the Penlop of Trongsa. The temple was built to house the monumental statue of Guru Rinpoche. The third temple (on the left of the photograph) was consecrated in June 1990. It was sponsored by H M Queen Mother of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang, who also commissioned 108 small stone chortens. These enclose the Kurjey complex as seen in the photograph.
    From here you hike to Shukdra Monastery, an ancient monastery wedged on a cliff like Taktsang Monastery in Paro. One way hike to Shukdra will take about 45 minutes. In the evening visit Jakar Dzong. The road to the Jakar Dzong bifurcates to the right from the main road just after the archery field and the primary school. The Dzong is perched on a spur overlooking the valley. The ‘dzong of the white bird’ is very elegant and more modest in size than the other Dzongs. Later stroll around the village. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 09: Bumthang - MongarAs you drive further eastwards you pass through the Ura Valley, the last and the highest of Bumthang valleys. To get there the road climbs through amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into a forest and then descends into Ura by long loops across fields and pastures. Villages in the region of Ura characteristically have very closely clustered houses, which is unusual in Bhutan. Ura’s main occupation is raising seep and yaks, but the introduction to potato farming has brought a certain degree of prosperity to people living in the harsh climate of the valley.
    At the far end of Ura Valley, the road starts climbing towards the highest pass in Bhutan, the Thumsing La (3,800 m / 12,465 ft). From the pass the road plunges down in a series of bends though dark coniferous forest. The whole descent is dizzying and takes a god three hours. Finally the road comes out on to a plateau where Sengor is situated. This is the last village where Bumthangkha is spoken. Finally by early evening you reach Mongar. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 10: Mongar - TrashigangAfter breakfast visit the Mongar Dzong. The present Dzong dates from 1953, when it was founded on orders from the Third King, Jigma Dorje Wangchuck. Besides its function as am administrative center, it houses he region’s monastic community. The Dzong’s central tower contains two temples. The main street is below the Dzong where the shops offer the usual products and the small bars are popular.
    After your visit you set off on your drive further eastwards. The first part of the journey is through a leafy forest filled with ferns. 18 km beyond Mongar you cross the Kori La (2,450 m / 8,000 ft). The pass is marked by a pretty chorten and a stonewall. After the pass cones the village of Nagtshang where one of the small kingdoms of eastern Bhutan was located before the Drukpa conquest in the 17th century and where, today, there is a small monastic school. The road descends rapidly through cornfields and banana groves and arrives at the famous zigzags of Yadi. The road descends to the Gamri River (the Manas River) and follows it northwards. The road continues to follow high above the right bank of the Gamri River and then enters Trashigang district, the most densely populated district in Bhutan.
    As soon as the road crosses the new bridge, which replaced the “iron bridge”, Trashigang Dzong comes into view at the top of a spur overlooking the river. The upper slopes of the mountains throughout Trashigang district are covered with little villages. After a steep 8 km climb the road reaches Trashigang. Trashigang is the center of a region where several international development projects have been implemented and is the largest mountain town in Bhutan after Thimphu. It has a true atmosphere of its own which helps it make it one of he most pleasant towns in Bhutan. The mild climate and the flowering bougainvillea contribute to this atmosphere: people chat on their doorsteps or in front of their stalls, women stop to gossip in the middle of the road, bistros are full until quite late at night, people form the Merak and Saktang valleys stroll about with their little yak-hair hats pulled down on heir heads; everybody comes to watch the arrival of a car or the evening bus in the small square in the middle of the town. 
    In the evening visit the Trashigang Dzong. It was built in 1659. The Dzong was called Trashigang, the ‘fortress of the auspicious mountain’. The Dzong stands at the extreme end of the spur; overhanging the Gamri River by more than 400 m. it commands a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside. Unlike most other Dzongs, it has only one courtyard. It serves as the administrative seat for the district. A Drukpa monastic community also occupies part of the Dzong. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 11: Trashigang Dzong - Samdrup JongkharToday you will be on your last day’s drive through the Land of the Thunder Dragon as you drive south to the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 12: Samdrup Jongkhar - Kaziranga National ParkFrom the border town of Samdrup Jonghkar you drive to Kaziranga National Park where, on arrival, you check in to a wildlife resort. Later in the evening you will drive to Kaziranga's Western Range for a jeep safari & to scan the wilderness from an observation tower. Kaziranga is a World Heritage site & with a population of well over 1000 rhinoceros is the best place in the world to see these beasts. There are also good populations of tiger, wild elephant, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, wild pig & many other species. Overnight stay at a wildlife resort.
  • Day 13: In Kaziranga National ParkYou embark on a pre-dawn elephant ride to Kaziranga’s Central Range, the best way to get really close to the Rhino & other animals. After breakfast at the lodge, you take a walk through a terraced tea garden & past a Karbi tribal village, and then drive to a Mising tribal village, with their distinctive house raised on piles. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 14: Kaziranga National Park - Dibrugarh - KolkataYou will be transferred in time to the airport to board your flight for Kolkatta / Delhi. At Kolkatta / Delhi you will be received. Later you will be transferred in time to the International Airport to board your fight back home.

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