Bhutan's Hidden East

Bhutan

Culture | Festivals | Activity

Hidden villages, rural walks & dramatic scenery

Dates & Prices

Intro

This tour can be scheduled to coincide with a festival.

Your journey starts in India, driving from Guwahati (Assam) across the Brahmaputra to the India-Bhutan border. Start your ascent into the Himalayas via Trashigang to the picturesque town of Trashiyangtse in the north east. Visit the unique Nepali-style Chorten Kora and Bomdeling National Park, known for its bird life and rare migratory black-necked cranes. Wind your way through Mongar and up to Lhuntse. There, you will see the remote weaving village of Khoma that produces the finest textiles in Bhutan. Travel through rugged mountain passes to the magnificent Bumthang and spend a few days soaking in the splendour of spectacular valleys, sleepy villages and colourful monasteries. Finally, fly across to Paro and enjoy a free day to take in the local sights or climb up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery. With so few tourists venturing into the east you are likely to have this part of Bhutan all to yourself.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Flora and fauna of Bomdeling National Park
  • Textile weavers of Khoma
  • Explore Bumthang's valleys by foot
  • Admire majestic views of the Himalayas
  • Hike up to the iconic Tiger Nest monastery
  • Sacred sites in Paro valley

Places Visited

Guwahati - Samdrup Jongkhar - Trashigang - Trashiyangtse - Bomdeling National Park - Khoma - Mongar - Lhuntse - Bumthang - Paro

What's Included

Visa for Bhutan
​Arrival and departure transfers
Escorted English-speaking guide
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (full board)
Entrance fees to sites and parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Guwahati - Samdrup Jongkhar

Fly into Guwahati airport (India) where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative. Set off for the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan. Complete immigration formalities (our representative will have your Bhutan visa). Check into hotel. Evening free. Overnight in Samdrup Jongkhar.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Bordering Assam (India), Samdrup Jongkhar is a busy town and one the largest in eastern Bhutan. It is very clean (in stark contrast to the more frenetic Indian side), with an eclectic mix of Bhutanese and Indian shops, eateries and hotels. It is a convenient place to stay and stock up on essentials before venturing further into Bhutan. 

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Day 2 : Samdrup Jongkhar - Trashigang

In the morning, start driving through Bhutan's mountain roads to Trashigang. You will pass through the traditional villages of Wamrong and Khaling. Visit the Khaling Blind School and the Hand Loom Centre on the way. Arrive early afternoon in Trashigang and take lunch in a local restaurant. Check into hotel. Rest of day free to wander around local area. Overnight in Trashigang. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Trashigang ('Auspicious Mountain') in eastern Bhutan is a picturesque town with 2,000 inhabitants. It is located above a river and scattered on the steep hills of a wooded mountain. Today, it is the junction of the east-to-west highway and road connecting Samdrup Jongkhar to the Indian state of Assam. The town is also the site of the market place for the semi-nomadic people from Merak and Sakteng whose costumes are unique in Bhutan. Quite off-the-beaten track, Trashigang is also a good base for excursions to Trashiyangtse and other towns and villages in north east Bhutan. 

The Khaling Blind School was opened in 1973 on the initiative of HRH Prince Namgyel Wangchuck, with the help of Norwegian teacher Einar Kippenes. It was most difficult to battle with the prevailing idea that blind people were cursed for life. Nowadays, it is a thriving academic institute that has succeeded against many odds.

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Day 3 : Trashigang - Trashiyangtse

After breakfast drive north towards the town of Trashiyangtse. After exploring the quaint town, visit the unique Chorten Kora stupa close to the Kulong Chu river and the imposing Trashiyangtse Dzong. Check into hotel and evening free at leisure. Overnight in Trashiyangtse.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Trashiyangtse is a rapidly growing town that is the administrative centre of its district. Situated in a small river valley, it is a lovely spot from which to take walks into the surrounding countryside. Trashiyangtse is famous for its wooden crafts, particularly containers and bowls.

The Chorten Kora is a dazzling stupa (dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) that is very different from others in Bhutan, as it is modelled on the larger Bodhnath stupa in Nepal. The recreation is based on a carving the Lama made into a radish when he visited Nepal in 1740. Typical of Nepali stupas, it has eyes painted on its four cardinal points. There are two important festivals here: one for the Dakpa community residing in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh (India), and a second for the eastern Bhutanese. 

The Trashiyangtse Dzong ('Fortress of Auspicious Fortune') is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan. The main relic here is the statue of Chuchizey, the 11-faced Bodhisattva of Compassion, which is surrounded by many legends.

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Day 4 : Trashiyangtse - Bomdeling NP - Trashigang

You will have a free morning and afterwards, drive to Bomdeling National Park. Spend a couple of hours in the park, which is a scenic bird sanctuary that is one of the annual migration places of endangered black-necked cranes coming from Tibet in the winter. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the park and then drive back to Trashigang. Evening free. Overnight in Trashigang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Bomdeling National Park is located in north east Bhutan and is 1500 sq km of raw wilderness. Given that few people visit this part of Bhutan and the park's dense forest, it can difficult to spot some of the rare wildlife that inhabits this park, like the blue sheep, red pandas, snow leopards and Himalayan black bears. It is a great place for bird watching with many diverse species of birds.

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Day 5 : Trashigang - Mongar - Khoma

Set off on the 3 hour journey west towards the small town of Mongar. Break for lunch and then head north to the district of Lhuntse. The region is one of the least developed in Bhutan and famous for its textiles. Drive to the nearby village Khoma, known for its signature woven textile, the kishuthara. Spend the night at a local farmhouse. Overnight in Khoma.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Khoma is a small village located in the remote north east of Bhutan and is known throughout the country for its production of the 'kishuthara', an extremely intricately patterned silk textile. The production of these textiles is the primary occupation and source of income for the women of the village who are skilled weavers.

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Day 6 : Khoma - Mongar

Gentle two-hour walk from Khoma to Lhuntse Dzong surrounded by pine trees. After visiting the dzong have lunch and then drive back to Mongar. Optional visit to Mongar Dzong. Evening free to rest. Overnight in Mongar.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Lhuntse Dzong is the administrative and religious centre of the district. It sits on a hill overlooking the Kurichu river and has near-vertical drops on all sides. The resident monks are very friendly and don't see many tourists, which means that visitors have more freedom in exploring this dzong compared to others in Bhutan.

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Day 7 : Mongar - Bumthang

Early breakfast then set off for Bumthang, which is located in central Bhutan. Bumthang is known for its magnificent four valleys and is perhaps one of the most scenic places in Bhutan. You will cross beautiful landscapes that transition from subtropical vegetation (bananas, oranges and giant ferns) to the alpine zone with coniferous forests and mountain villages. The road winds through Thrumsing La (3,900m) and descends down to Ura valley, within which a traditional mountain village is grouped around a recently rebuilt monastery. Take a short walk in scenic Ura valley. Afterwards drive via Shelthang Pass (3,600m), from where you may be able to see the highest peak in Bhutan, Kangkar Puensum (7,541m). Take a short stop at the impressively run hazelnut cooperative situated spectacularly at the side of the mountain (time-permitting). Continue on to Bumthang (30 mins) and check into accommodation. Evening to rest. Overnight in Bumthang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Located in central Bhutan, Bumthang is considered the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This district is dotted with many temples and monasteries, among which are some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. This beautiful valley of buckwheat and apples has a mysterious history as an abode of gods and is one of the richest cultural places in the country.

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Day 8 : Bumthang (Jakar Tshechu)

Spend the full day experiencing the amazing Jakar Tshechu at the Jakar Dzong. Overnight in Bumthang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Jakar Dzong was originally built in 1549 by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, who came to spread the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyupa order in Bhutan. He saw a  white bird perched on the construction site and considered it a good omen, naming the dzong to mean 'White Bird Fortress'.

Situated in the picturesque Bumthang valley, Jakar plays host to the Jakar Tshechu at its Jakar Dzong. The main highlights are the monks' masked dances which were developed according to specific instructions given by past Buddhist masters. According to Buddhist philosophy, experiences leave a lasting impression in the mind which produce a corresponding result in the future. So viewing dances that are imbued with sacred symbolism is considered to be a very auspicious and sanctifying experience. While the event is not held in a solemn atmosphere and there is much merriment, visitors are reminded that it is still a religious festival that holds great significance in the lives of the Bhutanese people.

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Day 9 : Bumthang

Enjoy a full day of walking through the stunning valleys of Bumthang. Walk through villages and small farm holdings visiting various monasteries along the way. Sights include Jakar Dzong, Thamshing monastery (home of beautiful murals), Kurje Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang and Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake). Return to lodge. Evening free. Overnight in Bumthang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Jakar Dzong was originally built in 1549 by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, who came to spread the teachings of the Drukpa Kagyupa order in Bhutan. He saw a  white bird perched on the construction site and considered it a good omen, naming the dzong to mean 'White Bird Fortress'.

The Jambay Lhakhang monastery is one of the oldest in Bhutan. It was built in the 7th century on the orders of Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. A small paved courtyard in front of the main temple every year hosts the Jambay Lhakhang festival that is very popular with tourists.

The Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) is a very sacred site, named after an instance in the life of famous treasure-hunter, Pema Lingpa. In 1745, he became convinced that there was a centuries-old treasure hidden in the lake, but his contemporaries didn't believe him. To silence them, Lingpa jumped deep into the lake with a burning lamp, saying that if he was lying, the flame would burn out. However, if he was telling the truth, his lamp would continue burning and he would find the hidden treasures. As it turned out, the flame on his lamp did not burn out and he did find his treasure. From then on, the lake has been known as the Burning Lake and devout Bhutanese often come to this site to make a wish and set down a small floating lantern. Near the entrance to the lake area, there is a stone carving depicting Pema Linga and his two sons.

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Day 10 : Bumthang

Free morning to explore more of Bumthang on foot. In the afternoon visit a traditional farmhouse, taste local cheese and visit the quaint micro brewery which produces Red Panda beer sold throughout the country. Visit the Wangdichholing Palace to see a prayer session. Optional cooking demo at hotel. Evening free. Overnight in Bumthang.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 11 : Bumthang - Paro

Transfer at appropriate time to airport for flight to Paro. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel. You will have rest of the day free to explore Paro town on your own. Overnight in Paro.

Note: Occasionally flights between Bumthang to Paro are cancelled. If this is the case, we have built in a buffer day in Paro, so you would drive from Bumthang to Punakha (overnight), then drive the following day to Paro.  

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in the Himalayas. The journey offers dramatic views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be its cool, clean and fresh mountain air. 

Paro is the second largest town in Bhutan although small in size and population. Its main street is lined with buildings richly decorated in traditional architecture that house a scattering of shops and restaurants. Paro is an ideal base for exploring the surrounding attractions, such as Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). After Bumthang, the valley is amongst the most beautiful in Bhutan. Altitude: 2,280m.

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Day 12 : Paro

After breakfast, optional hike up to the iconic Taktshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), which is a strenuous 2 - 2.5 hour walk uphill (you can ride a donkey up to the halfway point). Spend up to an hour visiting the monastery, then walk back down. This visit is definitely recommended if you have not visited before. After lunch watch an archery demonstration, the national sport of Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Paro is the second largest town in Bhutan although small in size and population. Its main street is lined with buildings richly decorated in traditional architecture that house a scattering of shops and restaurants. Paro is an ideal base for exploring the surrounding attractions, such as Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). After Bumthang, the valley is amongst the most beautiful in Bhutan. Altitude: 2,280m.

Also known as the Tiger’s Nest, the Taktshang Monastery is perhaps the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries and is perched precariously on the side of a cliff, 900m above the Paro Valley. It is said that Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and the Buddha of our time, came here on the back of a tigress to meditate, hence the name. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and was even visited by the Tibetan Buddhist Lama, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, in 1646. All Bhutanese people visit this monastery at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building, but it has now been restored to its original splendour. 

The hike to the monastery is a 2-2.5 hour strenuous walk uphill. This can be broken down into three stages and a donkey can be used to ride up to two-thirds of the way. The first stage is trekking to the 
rocky outcrop across a ravine from the monastery, which takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Lunch will be served here later today.  The second stage is walking from the cafeteria to the lookout opposite the monastery, which takes close to one hour. The third stage is climbing down 475 steps in the cliff face to the bottom of the ravine, crossing over a stream and waterfall and climbing up another 300 steps to the entrance of the monastery. You will spend up to an hour here and view the cave where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal meditated. 

Cameras are not allowed inside the monastery. 


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Day 13 : Departure

Transfer to Paro airport at the appropriate time for your onward flight.

Contact us for extension options by road into West Bengal (India) - visiting Darjeeling and Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential Nepal & Bhutan (16 days)

Traditional cultures and majestic Himalayan scenery

Best of Bhutan (15 days)

Travel the breadth of Bhutan, hike to Tiger's Nest and witness a festival

Bhutan's Hidden East (13 days)

Hidden villages, rural walks & dramatic scenery

Essential Bhutan (11 days)

Magnificent scenery, welcoming people & ancient dzongs

Reviews

Travel the Unknown and its in-country counterparts in both India and Bhutan were outstanding. The guides were experts on our destinations, friendly and personable, and tried their best to meet all our requests not on the itinerary. Received several calls throughout the trip asking about the tours and if we needed anything. Can't ask for more than that. All hotels and services were excellent I will definitely be traveling with Travel the Unknown again..

Richard Reilly (USA) , Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise, India & Bhutan

I traveled solo with Travel The Unknown to Bhutan, the trip was very well planned and managed. Accommodation was top class for the region and the local guide and driver made me feel at home at all stages. I enjoyed being introduced to the local people and trying to understand their culture.

Tom Gallery , Tailormade Bhutan
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