Bhutan Grand Circle Tour – 21 Days

Trip Facts

  • Total Tour - 21
  • Sightseeing duration - 19 Days
  • Region - East Bhutan to West Bhutan
  • Entry point - Samdrup Jongkhar
  • Exit point - Phuntsholing
  • Highlights - Off the beaten path
  • Best Time - Spring / Autumn

Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the India and to the north by the People Republic of China. Bhutan is separated from the nearby country of Nepal to the west by the Indian state of Sikkim, and from Bangladesh to the south by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.

Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until the early 17th century, when the area was unified by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who fled religious persecution in Tibet and cultivated a separate Bhutanese identity. In the early 20th century, Bhutan came into contact with the British Empire, after which Bhutan continued strong bilateral relations with India upon its independence.

Bhutan’s landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7,000 metres (23,000 ft).  The population of 691,141 is predominantly Buddhist, with Hinduism the second-largest religion. The capital and largest city is Thimpu. The total area of the country has been reported as 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi) since 2002.

Day 01: Arrive in Guwahati, India & drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhutan
Day 02: Drive Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang
Day 03: Sightseeing in the Trashigang region
Day 04: Drive Trashigang to Mongar
Day 05: Excursion to Lhuntse (Khoma Village)
Day 06: Drive Mongar to Tang Valley, Bumthang Central Region
Day 07: Horse Riding Tours in the morning & Drive to Bumthang
Day 08: Sightseeing in the Bumthang Region
Day 09: Drive Chokhor Valley to Trongsa
Day 10: Drive Trongsa to Geylegphu
Day 11: Drive Geylegphu to Punakha Valley
Day 12: Sightseeing and Hiking in Punakha
Day 13: Drive Punakha Valley to Thimphu
Day 14: Sightseeing in Thimphu
Day 15: Sightseeing in Thimphu
Day 16: Drive Thimphu to Haa Valley
Day 17: Drive Haa to Paro
Day 18: Sightseeing in Paro
Day 19: Paro Valley Hiking & Sightseeing
Day 20: Drive Paro to Phuntsholing
Day 21: Departure

Day 1: Drive Guwahati (Assam India) Airport to Samdrup Jongkhar (2-3 hours): Today you will be greeted at Guwahati airport by your Bhutanese guide or our guide from Indian ground operator. Transfer to the India-Bhutan border and the bustling town of SamdrupJongkhar where you will spend your first night in Bhutan. Samdrup Jongkhar is your typical border town with little of interest, being slightly chaotic and generally lacking in the charms the rest of Bhutan will unfold to you. The remainder of the day is at leisure to wander about the small bazaar area. So please prepare for a ‘hard’ start and your rewards will come as your travel into Bhutan’s heartland. Please also note that the hotels in eastern Bhutan are generally little inferior than the hotels in the west; however from the Bumthang central region onwards you will notice a distinct improvement in hotel quality.
Overnight at hotel in SamdrupJongkhar.

Day 2: Drive SamdrupJongkhar to Trashigang (6-7 hrs)
An early morning departure from SamdrupJongkhar to Trashigang for your first of two long 7 hour drives on this journey. Enroute visit the small and relatively undeveloped village of Womrong which will offer your first view of a small Bhutanese Dzong and soon after the Zangto Pelri Lhakhang (temple). Next stop is Khaling, the site of an historic battlefield and location of the National Handloom Centre, where young girls from all over Bhutan are trained in traditional hand weaving and vegetable dyeing. Finally visit the university town of Kanglung with its clock tower and large Sherubtse College campus. Trashigang is a lively and interesting town and the bars are worth a visit this evening although they do close early at 8.00pm.
Overnight at hotel in Trashigang.

Day 3: Sightseeing in the Trashigang region.
Option 1:
Eastern Bhutan is the heartland of weaving in the Kingdom and Bhutanese weavings and textiles are generally acknowledged as amongst the finest in the world. You will have an excellent opportunity to both shop and interact with the weavers themselves on today’s excursion to the weaving village of Radi, approx 2.5 hours eastwards from Trashigang.
For those who wish to have the day at leisure you are welcome to spend time exploring Trashigang on your own or to take a short hike. The Dzong is worth visiting and offers excellent views from a high promontory overlooking the confluence of the DangmeChhu (river) and GamriChhu. Up until the beginning of the 20th century all of eastern Bhutan was governed from this Dzong.
Overnight at hotel in Trashigang.

Option 2:
Today, we drive to Trashiyangtse for about 1 & ½ hours to visit Chorten Kora, a stupa built in a typical Nepali architecture. It is believed that a young virgin Princess was concealed inside the stupa in the 18th century. Later you will be taken to visit Iron Chain Link Bridge, the last surviving bridge of those built by Thongtong Gyalpo in the 15th century. Enjoy picnic lunch at Trashigang and drive back to Trashigang. Enroute, stop at Gomkora and visit Gomkora temple. Total drive of about 3-4 hours.
Overnight at hotel, Trashigang

Day 4: Drive Trashigang to Mongar (3-4 hrs.)
Enjoy a leisurely start for your journey westwards to Mongar today. There are no major points of interest in Mongar however it is essential to stop here en-route to the central Bumthang valleys and avoid a tortuous 11.5 hour road trip. When you descend into the valley of the KuriChhu you pass extensive cornfields and at the valley floor rice terraces, and tropical fruits such as mango and pineapples, flourish. When travelling though eastern Bhutan the dominant language is Sharchop which is different enough from Dzongkha (the national language of Bhutan) that eastern and western Bhutanese usually have to use English or Nepali to communicate. The towns between west and east Bhutan also differ as in western Bhutan most towns are situated in valleys whereas in eastern Bhutan most towns, including Mongar, are situated at the tops of hills or ridges.
Overnight hotel in Mongar.

Day 5: Excursion to Lhuntse (Khoma Village)
Lhuntse is one of the most rural and isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and gorges, beautiful conifer and pine forests, and remote villages with rice, millet and corn fields. Kurtoe region of Lhuntse is the ancestral home of kingdom’s royal family. An hour’s brisk walk from the bridge on the main Lhuntse-Mongar road will bring us to Khoma, the best-known weaving village in the country.
Visit Khoma, the best-known weaving village in the country. This region is also famed for its weavers and special textiles, considered to be the best in the country. The living art of Bhutanese weaving done with the same technologies and applications as the weavers of earlier centuries, have the degree of sophistication to match any weaving tradition in the world. We will explore some of the very interesting small villages and ancient temples by foot. Enjoy picnic lunch in Lhuntse and drive back to Mongar for overnight halt.
Total drive for about 5-6 hours.
Overnight hotel in Mongar.

Day 6: Drive Mongar to Tang Valley, Bumthang Central Region (7 hours)
Early morning departure to Jakar, in the Choekhor Valley, for this second and final longer drive on your journey through the Kingdom. The route between Mongar & Jakar is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. When crossing the Thrumsing La (Bhutan’s highest pass at 12,467 feet) you are now officially departing eastern Bhutan & entering western Bhutan, albeit in the central region of the country. En-route visit the Ura valley, the highest valley in Bumthang, and believed by some to have been the home of Bhutan’s earliest inhabitants. The cobbled streets of the very traditional village of Ura give a medieval feel and the old women of this region still wear sheepskin shawls on their backs which double as a blanket and cushion.
Overnight at Ugentsholing Guest House Valley, Bumthang.

Day 7: Morning Horse Riding Tours and drive to Bumthang in the afternoon
Morning leisure on your own with optional horse riding programs. Later in the afternoon drive to Bumthang for overnight stay.

Day 8: Sightseeing in the Bumthang Region
Today your sightseeing includes visits to the Wangdicholing Palace and one or both of the Jambay & Kurjey Lhakhangs, these are the oldest two monasteries in the kingdom and all the Kings of Bhutan are cremated at KurjeyLhakhang. Time permitting, other options include the Tamshing Monastery where about 95 Monks reside, most being under 15 and from poorer families who cannot afford to send their children to state school; the Mebartsho (Burning Lake), a short walk from the roadside, and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites and/or the Swiss Farm to taste sweet cheese, apple brandy and locally brewed wine and beer. Alternatively enjoy one of the hikes available in this region or find a nice quiet spot at the hotel to catch up on some reading.
Overnight Choekhor Valley in Bumthang.

Day 9: Drive Choekhor Valley to Trongsa (2 hrs 30 mins)
Today transfer to Trongsa via the Chhume valley for the opportunity to shop for excellent local handicrafts and textiles. This region is renowned for its exceptionally high quality weavings. Traverse the Yotong La (pass) and continue on to Trongsa where the Dzong is the ancestral home of the Royal Family of Bhutan. The Dzong has recently added the excellent Tower Of Trongsa Museum into its ancient watchtower which you will visit this afternoon, followed by an excursion to the Dzong itself. There are excellent hikes in this region too. One worth considering traverses the valley below the Dzong and takes approx 2.5 hours.
Overnight Hotel in Trongsa.

Day 10: Drive Trongsa to Geylegphu (7 hours)
This is first time that any tourist in Bhutan can do. Since southern part of the regions was close to security reasons. However we still will get the permit to travel to this place. There aren’t much sights to visit but the drives are stunning through-out.
Overnight at local hotel, Geylegphu.

Day 11: Drive Geylegphu to Punakha Valley (6 hours)
Today too, the drive through new sights via district of Sarpang and Tshirang. You will ever see the change of vegetation and drive through gorges and rivers.
Overnight in Punakha.

Day 12: Sightseeing and Hiking in Punakha
This morning visit the dramatic Punakha Dzong, which formally served as the seat of the government and is still the winter residence of the Dratsheng (Central Monk Body). This is Bhutan’s most spectacular Dzong and an excellent example of how a medieval fortress, and a centre of both monastic and administrative functions, has adapted and evolved for modern day use. This afternoon travel up the valley & hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten along the river bank and through tiny villages surrounded by vegetable fields and rice paddies. This Chorten holds very special significance being consecrated in 1999 and dedicated to the protection of the former Crown Prince, today’s current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, by his mother who was one of the 4 former Queens.
Overnight hotel in Punakha Valley

Day 13: Drive Punakha Valley to Thimphu (3 hrs)
This morning transfer by road to Thimphu, Bhutan’s quirky capital, via Dochu La (Pass). At the pass view the 108 Stupas, commissioned by a former Queen, and a memorial to those who lost their lives during the low intensity conflict in late 2002 when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutan – Indian border. On a clear day you will witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalaya and depending on the time of the year the vista can vary from alpine snow (November – March) to a profusion of blossoms (March – May) splashed among the soft green of the wild herbs and forest trees. Pass the Semtokha Dzong built in 1629 and the oldest fortress of its kind that guarded Thimphu. Today it is a monastery.
Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 14: Sightseeing in Thimphu
Take an orientation tour of the major city of Thimphu features including the Golden Buddha, Takin Preserve (Bhutan’s crazy looking national mammal), BBS Tower for city views and National Memorial Stupa. Take time to wander Thimphu’s main streets which are safe and do consider a visit to a local bar this evening. Your guide will advise your options.

Day 15: Sightseeing in Thimphu
This morning we recommend an excursion up the valley to hike to Cheri or Tango Gomba’s through beautiful broadleaf forest with the chance to encounter mountain goats, deer and of course the local monks in the monasteries.
Thimphu has a wealth of important sights to consider in your schedule, depending on the day of the week you are there and your personal preferences. Late Friday to early Sunday sees the weekend markets in full swing; there’s the new Craft Bazaar on Norzin Lam (main street) open most days; the New National Textiles Museum is a must as is the Folk Heritage Museum. ZorigChusum is the Institute for the 13 Arts & Crafts of Bhutan where you can interact with the students (week days except holiday time and restricted hours) and PangriZampa is the College for Astronomers (astronomy is a very important feature in the lives of Bhutanese); a nice little 9 hole golf course is nearby and TrashiChhoeDzong, along with the Houses of Parliament, are an awesome sight. Then there’s the National Library featuring ancient Buddhist manuscripts, the Post Office where you can have a stamp produced with your image on it and the Handmade Paper Factory. Don’t forget the shopping for handicrafts and local jewelry (also good in Paro on your last day).
Overnight hotel in Thimphu.

Day 16: Drive Thimphu to Haa Valley
This morning a scenic drive of 1 & ½ hr will bring us to Chele La pass at an altitude of aprrox. 3900m/1300ft. On one side is the Paro and on the other side is Haa valley. Continue driving to the forbidden district of Haa and take a tour of karpo and nagpo temples.
Overnight at Rigsum Hotel, Haa.

Haa Valley is at 2,670m is another beautiful valley, quite like Paro but being higher, rice crops are not grown here. The main crops of the valley are wheat, barley, millet and Potatoes. In ancient times, this was an active trading post, through Amochu valley, which linked Bhutan with Dromo (Chumbi) valley of Tibet. Large areas are occupied by Indian Military training camp center, one of the reasons why this area was closed for tourists until 2001. In terms of the sights, there is not much to see here but the valley is quite beautiful and there are some large and interesting villages. Places you can visit here are Lhakang Karpo and Lakhang Nagpo and Yading Village. There are two roads connecting Haa, both of which are scenic. The road across Chele la pass to Paro is 61kms and takes about 2 ½ hour drive. The other road follows the gorge of Ha Chu and Wang Chu rivers for 2 hours to Chuzomsa, (river confluence and the road junction). From Chuzomsa, Thimphu is 1 hour north east, Paro is ½ hour drive north west and Phuntsholing is 4 hours to the south.

Day 17: Drive Haa to Paro (2 -3 hrs)
Lhakhang Karpo & Nakpo, These two temples/monasteries are probably the most important site in Ha valley. Lhakhang Karpo (white chapel) is the official residence of Ha monastic body (Rabdey). Lhakhang Nagpo (Black chapel) on the slopes nearby is a smaller chapel with a small lake inside the shrine. Both the temples are said to have been built by Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in 7th century in a single day.
Later in the afternoon drive to Paro.
Overnight at hotel in Paro.

Day 18: Sightseeing in Paro
Start the tour of Paro valley’s main sights including the Rinpung Dzong with its cantilever bridge; Kyichu Lhakang, a most revered temple boasting an Orange Tree that perpetually bears fruit and the ruins of the Drugyel Dzong. This Dzong is the site of the Fort of Drukpa Victory from which the Bhutanese effectively repelled constant attacks from Tibet and from where, on clear days, the 24,000 feet snow domed peak of awesome Mt Chomolhari can be seen.
Overnight hotel in Paro Valley.

Day 19: Paro Valley Hiking & Sightseeing
This morning end your Bhutan adventure on a high with a hike to the majestic Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tigers Nest’. Choose between a 1.5 to 2 hour hike to the monastery viewpoint, with a cafe offering excellent Bhutanese vegetarian food & refreshments, or be bold and take the 5 hour round trip hike into the monastery itself - recommended only for the fit and active as this can be quite a strenuous hike with many, many, steps to contend with. The result is well worth it all the same.
Time permitting we encourage a wander along Paro’s main streets for some final handicraft and jewellery shopping or just chill out and admire the scenery, or take a spa treatment, from your valley hotel.
Overnight hotel in Paro Valley.

Day 20: Drive Paro to Phuntsholing: (7 hours drive)
We will have scenic drive to border town of Phuntsholing.
Overnight at hotel in Phuntsholing

Day 21: Departure: need to go through visa formalities in Indian border and drive to Bagdogra to catch your onward flight.

The tour price includes:

  • Airport transfers (pick up at Guwahati, India / and departure drop at Bagdogra, India)
  • Bhutan Royalties, Tourist Visa & TDF Fees
  •  Accommodation in Twin Sharing / DBL Bedded Room
  •  All Meals in Bhutan (Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner)
  • All Transfers & Sightseeing with Entrance Fees
  • English Speaking Local Tour Guide
  • Bottled Water in Vehicle

The tour price does not include:

  • Visa For India (You will need to have multiple entry Indian visa)
  • International Flights (Delhi - Guwahati / Bagdogra - Delhi)
  • Travel / Medical Insurance – recommended
  • Use of Bar & Beverages in the Hotels
  • Tips & Gratuities to the Guides & Drivers
  • All Personal Gears
  • Personal Expenses


Average Temperature of Bhutan in different cities

Paro :

Mths Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. 9.4 13.4 14.5 17.6 23.5 25.4 26.8 25.3 23.4 18.7 13.9 11.2
Min. -5.8 1.5 0.6 4.6 10.6 13.1 14.9 14.7 11.7 7.4 1.4 -1.7

Thimphu :

Mths Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. 12.3 14.4 16.4 20.0 22.5 24.4 18.9 25.0 23.1 21.9 17.9 14.5
Min. -2.6 0.6 3.9 7.1 13.1 15.2 13.4 15.8 15.0 10.4 5.0 -1.1

Punakha :

Mths Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. 16.1 19.6 21.2 24.4 27.2 31.2 32.0 31.4 29.9 27.8 22.3 15.0
Min. 4.2 5.3 9.2 11.9 14.8 19.5 21.6 19.8 20.0 18.9 13.0 7.9

Bhumthang :

Mths Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. 10.8 10.0 16.2 18.7 21.3 22.5 14.1 23.0 21.6 19.5 16.1 12.3
Min. -5.1 -1.4 3.5 3.9 9.5 13.5 10.9 13.7 12.1 5.9 -0.5 -2.3

Luggage

  • Travel Pack / Suit case
  • Day pack

Clothing

  • Lightweight, low maintenance and versatile clothing
  • Shirt/t-shirt(s)
  • Convertible travel trousers
  • Lightweight fleece
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Comfortable shoes/boots
  • Sandals
  • Hat (sun/warm hat)
  • Warm clothes / Jackets / trousers (If travelling in early Spring / Autumn / Winter)

Accessories

  • wallet
  • Luggage locks
  • Head light (torch)
  • Wash bag
  • Travel towel
  • All purpose travel soap
  • Small repair kit (needle and thread)
  • First aid kit
  • Accessory bags
  • Guide book
  • Electrical adaptor
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun cream

Document

  • Valid passport
  • Print out of Airline tickets
  • Contact detail of Embassy / Tour agency
  • Travel insurance

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