East Bhutan Textile Tour
1 - 16 November
16D / 15N
Textile is an embodiment of Bhutanese cultural heritage and a staple identity of the Kingdom. This Textile Tour takes you to the remote villages in east Bhutan where many guests do not travel and that is reason enough to go.
The centuries preserved art of weaving and embroidery are largely identified as Bhutan’s premier handicraft. The kishuthara (woven silk kira) with its origin traced back to Khoma village in Lhuentse is one such textile that is highly-priced in the market today for its meticulous production. You can see weavers in their loom in Khoma. The skills that weavers portray through these textiles are immaculate and justifies why weavers in the Royal court were hired from this remote village.
Similarly, bura or find raw silk textile is endemic to Radhi, a small remote village in Trashigang. You will see the production of bura textiles using the traditional back-strap loom along with the traditional art of dyeing, weaving, and stitching.
This tour covers west Bhutan, central Bhutan – Trongsa and Bumthang, and the east – Mongar, Lhuentse, and Trashigang, with a one-way domestic flight from Yonphula to Paro. If you have missed the views of the Himalayas on your flight from Kathmandu to Paro, here is another opportunity. The flight offers magnificent views of the northern Himalayan mountain ranges of Bhutan. You can also see the lateral highway and rivers flowing down the valleys. The flight is a sweet bonus to the trip.
Day 1 - Arrive Paro
If you are traveling to Paro from Delhi or Kathmandu, you will see the Himalayan Mountains from the flight including the famous Mount Everest in Nepal and the majestic Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks few minutes before reaching Paro valley . Make sure to book left side seats to get these amazing views. On arrival, you will be greeted by the guide. If your flight is in the morning you will visit the Rinpung Dzong meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. It has a long and fascinating history. This fortress is visible throughout the valley with its high walls, big stone-paved festival ground, and chapels with striking architecture. Along the wooden galleries lining the courtyard of the Rinpung Dzong are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore. You will walk downhill to the road point crossing a traditional wooden bridge. Your vehicle will be waiting here to take you to Kyichu Lhakhang, Bhutan’s oldest and most sacred temple in the country. The evening is at your leisure, you can explore Paro town on foot. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 2 - Paro to Thimphu
In Paro, the Chencho Handicraft is worth a visit. Also known as the Traditional Weaving house, this store has a collection of local handicrafts such as traditional attire, jewelry, artifacts, and other accessories. There are also weavers in action on-site. You will then drive to the capital, Thimphu. On arrival, visit the Memorial Chorten built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972 and the world’s tallest Buddha statue at Kuenselphodrang made of bronze measuring 169ft. Later in the afternoon, if it is the weekend, visit the Centenary Farmers Market where you will see the farmers selling their farm produce. Check in and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 - Thimphu
Today you will visit some Bhutanese textile gems in the capital city. The Bhutan Textile Museum has amassed a substantial collection of antique textile artefacts exclusive to the country. With the vision to promote local weavers, conduct research and textile studies as well as conserve the unique culture of the country, the museum is vital in preserving the Bhutanese textile. The museum also houses the Royal Collection including but not limited to the first rendition of the Raven Crown and clothes worn by the Kings of Bhutan. The museum embodies the evolution of Bhutanese textile from ancient styles to modern-day clothing.
Soon we will head over to the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre. The production of some of the most expensive, high-quality, and hand-woven textiles occur here. Watch the whole process of production from the preparation of materials to the weaving right here.
Soon after we can visit the Folk Heritage Museum and the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (Arts and Crafts School), students undergo a 6-year course to learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan from painting to calligraphy to sculpting and wood carving. Lastly, we will pay a visit to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. They collect medicinal plants from remote areas of the Himalayas, they produce and disperse ointments, pills, and medicinal teas to regional health centers. The small museum here exhibits 300 herbs, minerals, and animal parts used for healing such as the Yartsa Goenbub (cordyceps – “worm-root”) with unique functions and properties. The evening is a free time to explore Thimphu town of your own. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 4 - Thimphu to Punakha
After breakfast this morning, enjoy a scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at the Dochu La pass at 3140m, where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayan giants in the north. The pass is adorned with 108 chorten stupas making it one of the most photogenic pass in the country. From the pass, we drive downhill through forests of rhododendron, fir, and hemlock. You will arrive at Punakha after traveling through rice fields and along the banks of the Punakha River. On the way, you will stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple, dedicated to the Divine Madman, a man who was known for his earthly sense of humor and non-conventional methods of imparting teachings. After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 5 - Punakha to Trongsa
Today you will drive to Trongsa from Punakha. It is a beautiful drive passing several beautiful spots. As you drive on and cross the Punatsang Chhu River bridge you will get an amazing view of the Wangdue Dzong perched on the hilltop across the bridge. The township of Wangdue is also an endearing sight to see. Continuing on we will drive past the Pelela Pass at 3420m, an accumulation of prayer flags to mark the pass. Driving onwards we will also pass the village of Rukubji and Sephu and further down through Chendebji Chorten which imitates the architecture of the famous Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. You will make a toilet stop at the chorten and also spend time to take some pictures. Continue to drive to Trongsa. Check in and overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.
Day 6 - Trongsa to Bumthang
Before heading to Bumthang, you will visit the Trongsa Dzong, the biggest fortress in the country and next visit the Trongsa watchtower. The watchtower is an epitome of Bhutanese architecture, anciently used as an advantageous standpoint against internal rebellion now a national museum. From Trongsa, the road climbs rapidly through a series of hairpin bends and soon you arrive at Yotong La Pass at 3400m. From the pass, you will descend and come across the small village of Zhungney in the Chumey Valley. This village holds the well-known Yathra Factory and Weaving center. Yathra is yet another unique textile that is endemic to this village. The textile is made from yak and sheep wool and doesn’t imitate any other textile in the country and with patterns native to central Bhutan. Here you can watch the weavers in action and other processes of production. Continue from the village with a gradual ascent to Kiki La pass and after few turns you will reach Bumthang. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Day 7 - Bumthang
Bumthang, consisting of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang, and Ura, is home to several Buddhist temples and monasteries. We will visit Jambay Lhakhang which is believed to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century . You will also visit the Kurjey Lhakhang monastery complex, where Guru Padmasambhava, the great tantric master blessed and meditated. One can still see his body imprint on a rock created by his long retreat. From the temple you will take a short interesting walk towards the Tamshing Lhakhang crossing a small suspension bridge over the Chamkar Chhu River. The Tamshing Lhakhang holds some of the oldest Buddhist wall paintings in Bhutan. On the way to the town, you will visit the Red Panda local beer and Swiss cheese factory. Afterwards visit Jakar Dzong followed by a stroll in the Bumthang township visiting handicraft stores bringing your day to an end. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang.
Day 8 - Bumthang to Mongar
Your journey to eastern Bhutan commences today. Although the drive is long, it is an interesting one where you will go through high passes, scenic villages, rivers and vegetation. Driving along the east bank of Chamkhar Chhu from Jakar, and climbing up to Tangsibi Village, the route slowly descends into Ura Valley, a serene village. Then we will drive through the Thrumshingla National park, over cliffs and past camp areas to the Thrumshingla pass which sits at 3750m. On clear weather, the pass affords an amazing view of Gangkhar Phuensum (7540m). Then we descend to Sengkhor village and continue on to Kuri Chhu river valley, a very good area for bird watching and where lemon grass grows in abundance. 20 km from Sengkhor village you will reach Namling waterfall and 17km further is Yongkola Pass. From the pass descend till Lingmethang, then cross the Kuri Chhu river and gradually ascend passing terraced rice paddies and pine forests till we arrive at Mongar. Overnight at a hotel in Mongar.
Day 9 - Mongar to Lhuentse
Trace back 12km to Gangola road junction and drive 65km to Lhuentse following the upstream Kuri Chhu River. En route you will pass a small township of Autsho and several other villages. From Lhuentse, drive for another 40km on unpaved road to the historic Dungkhar village. One of the main sites in the region is the ancestral home of the Royal Family, Dungkhar Naktshang, which is a centuries-old traditionally built mansion. It is the birthplace of the first King’s father and from this house sprung the current Royal Family of Bhutan. You will explore some of the farmhouses and even lunch at a local farmhouse. Later you will drive to Takila for a night halt.
Day 10 - Lhuentse
After breakfast, you will explore Khoma Village, a unique village with an ancient cluster layout of traditional farmhouses. This village is renowned for its high-quality production of the handwoven silk textile — the kishuthara. It is high-priced not only because of the material but also because of its intricate and meticulous designs that fill up the entire textile. The kishuthara is highly celebrated by the Bhutanese, worn only on special occasions, celebrations and festivals. Weavers from Khoma village are praised for their nimble hands. This is how they make a living — weaving the whole day every day. Watch the women weave in their makeshift textile cottage. In the olden days, weavers from Khoma were hired in the court to weave for the Royal Family. Witness this ornate textile come to life as you walk in the streets of the village, and maybe even purchase one. Travel back to Takila for the night.
Day 11 - Lhuentse to Trashigang
You will trace your journey back to Mongar and continue to Trashigang. From Mongar, the road ascends for a while to Kori La pass at 2400m marked by a café and a few prayer flags. As you descend from the pass you will cross Yadi, a small town. Continue your drive to cross the Sherichhu river bridge at 600m. The road from here is almost flat till Dangme Chhu river bridge from where you ascend till Trashigang. You will notice that Trashigang is a compact and bustling town that acts as a business hub in eastern Bhutan. Overnight at a hotel in Trashigang.
Day 12 - Excursion to Khaling
After breakfast today we will go for a full day excursion to Khaling village in the Trashigang district. En route you will come across the village of Pam, Rongthung, Kanglung where you will spot the first college in the country and the road climbs through potato and maize fields till Yonphula pass. Descend from the pass till Khaling through Barshong and Gomchu village. After 5km, you will reach Khaling. In Khaling we will pay a visit to the National Handloom Center, a non-governmental organization, a pioneer of enforcing and preserving the weaving culture in Bhutan. Shop for authentic Bhutanese textiles produced using ancient indigenous dyeing and weaving techniques. Khaling also has the first and only school for the differently abled students, Muenselling Institute established in 1973. You will also get to explore the small town of Khaling. Later in the evening, head back to Trashigang. Overnight at a hotel in Trashigang.
Day 13 - Excursion to Radhi Village
A day excursion to the Radhi Village awaits you today. After the visit to Rangjung Monastery and an exploration of Rangjung, you will drive to Radhi and Phongmey villages. They are renowned for two things — their ample rice fields and for being pioneers of the production of “Bura” textile — made of fine raw silk. Almost all households in the Radhi village make their living from Bura textiles. Using traditional weaving and dyeing techniques the village residents are skilled in producing this famous textile. If lucky, you may come across a few Brokpas; semi-nomadic yak herders from Merak and Sakteng who have come to barter their Yak butter, cheese, and dried meat with other food commodities. Later in the evening, you will drive back to Trashigang for your night halt.
Day 14 - Trashigang to Yonphula — Domestic Flight to Paro
From Trashigang to Yonphula, the drive takes up to a little more than an hour. It is an uphill drive passing through the villages of Pam, Rongthung, Kanglung, and then finally to the airport. The airport is at 2750m almost equal to that of Lukla in Nepal. Both airports have tabletop landing and on clear weather from Yonphula airport, you can spot Mount Jumolhari in the distance. The 35-minute flight offers spectacular views. The stunning views of the northern Himalayan ranges of Bhutan and the lateral highway and rivers flowing down the valleys. In Paro, you may complete some last-minute shopping for souvenirs in Paro town. Then you will be driven to your hotel. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 15 - Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Today you will hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery and the most clicked sight situated at 3100m. The steep hike is worth it with beautiful views of Paro valley and southwest towards Drugyel Dzong. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up on the mountain. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. After having explored the monastery, you will hike down to Paro. This is a fantastic conclusion to your stay in Bhutan! Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 16 - Depart Paro
After breakfast, you will drive to the airport for departure. Our representative will bid you farewell.
We can also
customize a trip
Culture tour offers an array of activities that can be tailored to suit your whim and fancy. Whether you want a day-long excursion, a walk through the idyllic countryside, or a multi-day adventure, we can make it happen.
We can provide the opportunity to experience Buddhist festivals and celebrations such as traditional marriage, learn about traditional textiles, and any special landmarks. For the adventurous mind we can also offer rafting and other activities. If you have any specific interests, we can customize a tour just for you – please let us know.