WEST TO EAST
PARO I TRASHIGANG I MERAK I MONGAR I LHUENTSE I BUMTHANG I GANGTEY I PUNAKHA I THIMPHU
WHEN TO GO
OCTOBER – DECEMBER
22 HOURS 17 MINUTES FROM AUCKLAND
Discover authentic Bhutan with our expert guides on this exclusive thirteen-night trip. You are in for experiencing and enjoying colourful festivals, chats with the locals and visits to villages far removed from western life. If you have travelled Asia and looking for something that little bit different, Bhutan is your answer. This is a more authentic experience of the last Kingdom in the Himalayas. Meeting local communities along the way, this promises you an authentic connection with Bhutan that you will never shake off. Throughout your stay you will be staying at some of the most charming hotels in Asia, experiencing gracious hospitality and rural living for an unforgettable insight into this magical kingdom.
MAKE THIS ITINERARY YOURS
Inspired by what you see? Remember we design each itinerary around you, so this suggested itinerary is a starting point that we can tweak or transform into something that is entirely you. If we need to start from scratch, lets start with a conversation.
AWAKEN YOUR SPIRIT
Beginning in Paro, you will have plenty of cultural encounters on our privately guided tour. Visit ancient dzongs, temples and museums and take part in a local village festival to experience the alluring way of Bhutanese life. Then, venture further into the country with a short flight to Merak. Home to the semi nomadic indigenous people known as the Brokpas and sitting at 3500 metres above sea level. Stroll down the valley for a visit to the bustling market where locals from surrounding villages come to trade their local goods. Taste some of the local delights on offer such as Fermented Yak cheese, a real treat for your taste buds. Then its time to be immersed in some local Brokpas nomadic lifestyle as they move their herds of Yaks and barter amongst each other to procure their needs. For culture and food lovers the village is truly magical. A settlement of approximately 30 traditionally built houses often covered in the mist. Continue your cultural exploration with a hearty breakfast served with a yak butter salted tea. This experience is a true getaway from the modern world. Spending the evening in Merak, you will be met by the warm embrace of the Brokpas. You will instantly feel how far removed Merak is from the rest of Bhutan. Famous for their own dialect and their unique clothing. The men wear a thick red wool coats, with further adornments of animal skins and the ladies wear a red and white striped dress. Their warm hospitality and customs mean you’re free to walk in and out of houses without an invitation but be prepared to be showered with cups of buttery tea and pints of locally brewed beer if you do.
It is time to bid a friendly farewell to your host and enjoy a leisurely morning in Merak before making the way back to Tashigang. On the way, stopping to see silk weavers at work and an exclusive tour of Rangjung Monastery, where you can meet and interact with the young monks. Enjoy strolling along the streets in the main town centre of Trashigang, have a long lunch while taking time to reflect on all you have seen.
Next, visit the charming historical Trashigang Dzong on a mountain ledge overlooking Dangmechhu. Rich in culture and beauty, Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan because it is only accessible from the north. From Trashigang continue onto Mongar, one of the oldest educational hubs of the country.
Wake up refreshed the next day and take a drive to the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. It is a district of talented textile weavers and Ara the traditional alcohol, which are woven together by centuries of tradition.
Drive along the scenic roads towards central Bhutan, as the next leg of your journey sees you making your way to Bumthang. Along the way pass Chir-pine forests, cultivated fields, terraced rice fields and spectacular rock cliffs. Upon arrival in Bumthang, stroll through the charming little town of Jakar.
Located on the far side of the Black Mountains, Bumthang is a region home to the four valleys of Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura and which until the 1970s was only accessible by mule and foot trails. The beauty of the area is renowned. Rich and fertile high lands covered mostly in pine forests, are known for their abundant buckwheat and apple production, sturdy stone houses and plethora of monasteries. Besides natural beauty the four valleys are blessed with some of the oldest Buddhist temples in the kingdom. The Bumthang district is where Buddhism was first introduced and where the legendary saint Pema Lingpa was born. Visit the nearby monasteries and maybe stop to taste one of their famous cheeses, finishing your day exploring Ugyencholling Palace and Museum.
The following morning, we leave Bumthang and head to Phobjikha Valley in central Bhutan, en-route stopping at interesting points along the beautiful mountain roads. Gangtey is the winter home of the rare black-necked crane, which migrate from the Tibetan Plateau to avoid the extremely cold winters. Phobjikha is part of the Black Mountains National Park wildlife reserve, and with a wide and gently sloping glacial valley the area boasts various nature trails perfect for any keen hiker. Keep your eyes peeled for a spotted barking deer, wild boar, Himalayan black bears, and leopards in the surrounding hills.
Punakha is a 3 hours’ drive east of the capital Thimphu. It is blessed with a temperate climate and is home to one of the country’s most important dzongs (Buddhist monastery). Punakha Dzong is placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers. Enjoy a casual picnic lunch by the river before making our way to the river’s longest suspension bridge. Featuring striking Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions, spend the day exploring treks as you hike up to the temple, and from the temple you will enjoy the magnificent view of Mo-Chu valley below.
After a light lunch it’s off to visit the Memorial Chorten built in the memory of the late 3rd King where you’ll see local villagers who gather here in the morning spending all day chanting and chatting to friends. Your guide will then show you round Changangkha Lhakhang (the oldest temple in the region) with sweeping views of the valley at every turn. While gazing at the views, keep your eyes peeled for Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin Goat that roams naturally throughout the valley. After all this excitement, rest your head at one of our favourite hideaways for one night, a peaceful retreat that is set close to the capitals’ shops and main sights. Thimphu is also the only capital city in the world which functions without traffic lights; look out instead for the charismatic ‘dancing policemen’.
REACH NEW HEIGHTS AT THE TIGERS NEST
An early start tomorrow will then see you off on one of the country’s most iconic treks. Saving the best till last we will take you on a tour to view the iconic Tiger’s Nest. Balanced on a cliff-edge, past cascading waterfalls and Buddhist holy sites. Take some time exploring this unique monastery before heading back down to where a traditional hot stone bath and cup of local butter tea will be waiting.
We think this is one of the most spectacular spots around and the perfect way to end your trip.