Central Bhutan Odyssey

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Duration

11Days/10Nights

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Season

Jan – May & Sep - Dec

Mar-June & Sept-Nov

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Group Size

2-18 People

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Region

Central & West Bhutan

Mar-June & Sept-Nov

In addition to exploring western Bhutan, this tour extends to central Bhutan, encompassing the Trongsa and Bumthang regions, with a captivating side trip to the Phobjikha Valley—known as a wintering haven for rare black-necked cranes. Trongsa boasts the largest Dzong (fortress), while Bumthang serves as a cultural hotspot nestled across four expansive valleys.

Itinerary

The flight to Bhutan offers the most fascinating view of the Himalayan mountain ranges especially if you are flying in from either Kathmandu or Delhi. On arrival at Paro airport, you will be greeted by our representative with a Bhutanese traditional norm – a white scarf signifies fortune and good luck.  You will drive to Thimphu, the charming capital city of Bhutan.  An hour of drive to Thimphu will be through villages of Shaba, Bondey, Isuna, famous Confluence (road and river junction) called Chuzom.  Walk along the bridge with a sight of three distinct chortens at the river junction.  We then drive along the Thimphu River bank through vibrant landscapes to Thimphu.  Check into the hotel on arrival for overnight stay. 

Kick start the program today by visiting the King’s Memorial Chorten, dedicated to world peace and prosperity. This structure holds great religious significance and is the most visible landmark in Thimphu. Then drive to Kuenselphodrang where the169ft bronze Buddha statue is located overlooking Thimphu valley.

Next visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as Painting School) and the Traditional Medicinal Institute. In the afternoon, if it is the weekend, visit the weekend market where farmers gather to sell their farm produce. You can see the colourful display of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as local cheese and butter. The people mingling here is a scene not to be missed. In the evening, head Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress-monastery which houses most of the Government’s office and Kings’ Throne Room. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.

After breakfast this morning, enjoy a scenic drive to Punakha with a stop at Dochu La pass at 3100m dotted with 108 chortens, where on a clear day you can get spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges. After a brief photo stop, drive downhill through the forests of rhododendron, fir, and daphne. Punakha valley is situated at 1220m, lower than Thimphu and Paro. Owing to this subtropical vegetation, fruits such as banana, mangoes, mandarin and guava are grown here. En route, you will stop at Lobesa to hike through rice paddies up to the Chimi Lhakhang Temple. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley, or the “Divine Madman,” who is believed to bless women who seek fertility. Continue your drive.

You will arrive at Punakha after traversing through the rice field and along the bank of the Punakha River. 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.

Today’s sightseeing in Punakha will include – visit to the Dzong, walk on the longest suspension bridge, exploratory trip to Kabesa Village and afternoon hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.  After breakfast, we begin our activity by visiting the Punakha Dzong, which is stunningly situated in between the male and female rivers like an anchored ship.  Wooden cantilever bridge over the Mochu or the female river give as additional aura to this architecture. This Dzong has three courtyards each with an exquisite arts and design.  It was an ancient capital and now it functions as the summer home of state monk body.  We will then walk from the Dzong towards suspension bridge through the Crematorium.  Walking along this high suspension bridge will fling you into a state of euphoria.  On the other side of the bridge is the village of Kabesa – we will explore this village, talking and interacting with people about their ways of living.  If you wish, we can also visit any one of the farmhouses for a cuppa traditional tea.  We return to local restaurant in the town for a lunch. 

We drive about 12km north of Punakha Valley to embark on a hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.  Crossing a small bridge over Mochu River, walking along the sides of village on rice fields uphill for about 40 minutes we reach the Chorten.  Circumambulate the chorten and then climb over the staircase leading to an open terrace to see and photo shot the scene below.  You will have amazing views of Valley with Mochu River meandering through beautiful rice fields and farmhouses.  On our return to hotel, we explore town of Punakha.  Overnight at hotel in Punakha.

After early breakfast, we begin our journey to Trongsa.  Driving to the road junction of Lobesa, following the Punatsangchu River with view of newly built Wangdue Dzong on a hill we cross the bridge and follow easterly direction.  In about 20 minutes, we each Tekti Zampa from where road starts ascending all the way till Pelela Pass at 3420 m /11,220 feet.  The pass in considered dividing line between west and east Bhutan – visit interesting stands where people sell products most from yaks.  There are chances of spotting yaks grazing on the slopes of this pass.  Drive from the pass is all downhill passing several villages of Sephu.  En route you will stop at Chendebji Chorten, which is a huge white stupa resembling Boudhanath with eyes painted at four cardinal directions.  The periphery of this chorten was the site used for shooting Travellers and Magicians in 2003 by Khentse Norbu.  We then continue our drive, passing through Tshangkha Village and crossing Mangdichu River Bridge, we arrive Trongsa.  We check into hotel for lunch and a short rest before we go on to visit Trongsa Dzong.  This is the biggest Dzong in Bhutan, from where whole country was reigned in ancient days, by a notable figure called Jigme Namgyal who in subsequent years is to start the line of present king of Bhutan.  Explore the pretty small town of Trongsa and overnight at hotel in Trongsa. 

In the morning, we will visit the ‘Tower of Trongsa’ which was an ancient watch tower converted to a museum.  The tall circular building contains collection rare and exotic artefacts, old paintings and statues.  Drive from here is all ascent till Yotongla Pass at 3425m/10275 feet. In around 20 minutes of downhill drive from the Pass, we reach Tshangkha Village, which is the start of four broad valleys of Bumthang.  Bumthang is considered cultural heartland of Bhutan, and we will have our tour mostly within the valley.  Little further away is the famous store at Zhungney Village where they sell textiles woven from yak hair.  Continue drive through pine forests, crossing a small Kikila ridge and driving along the Chamkhar River you will arrive Bumthang.  Lunch will be served at local restaurant in Bumthang.  After lunch, you will visit 8th century old Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Lhakhang and on the way back you can also visit Swiss Cheese Factory.  Evening, you can explore pretty town of Chamkhar Valley.  Check into hotel and overnight hotel in Bumthang. 

Today our journey to Gangtey in Phobjikha Valley entails long hours’ drive.  After early breakfast, we retrace our journey back via Trongsa to Gangtey.  Our long exhilarating drive will be broken by intermittent stops for lunch and photo shots.  Just three kilometers below Pelela Pass, we make a detour from highway and descending after Lawala pass we reach Gangtey.  This is the largest glacier valley in Bhutan and also a wintering ground for rare Black Necked Cranes who comes from Tibetan plateau to escape harsh winters.  Cranes usually commence their arrival end of November.  Check into hotel on arrival.  Overnight at hotel in Gangtey.

Morning, we will visit the Crane Information Centre which is managed by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature.  If it happen to be the season for Cranes, you will observe many roosting on marshy lands and potato fields.  Drive to Wangdue is all downhill through forests of pine, hemlock, fir and rhododendron.  After crossing Punatsangchu Bridge and Lobesa, you will embark on uphill roads – crossing Thinleygang Village you will arrive at Dochula Pass where you will stop for a tea.  Descending further down for 40 minutes, we reach Thimphu again.  You will breathe with joy to come back to a bustling city life.  Evening is the time to explore town of your own.  Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.

After a breakfast, we begin our drive to Paro where we will be having full day sightseeing.  While in Paro, you will first visit Paro Dzong, a majestic fortress holding treasure artworks—murals, statues, and carvings. The massive fortress is a pinnacle of Bhutanese architecture with colourful paintings, intricate woodwork and large beams which present a scenic photographic landscape.  Above the Dzong is the national museum which is a repository of rich tradition and culture of Bhutan.  Have lunch at local restaurant in town.   Next, visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and sacred temples in the country dating back to the 7th century. It has a pleasant aura and elderly pilgrims can be seen chanting and circumambulating the temple.  Paro town is one of the best in Bhutan to explore on foot. At the end of the day, you may take a stroll along the streets of Paro town marked with colourfully painted wooden shop fronts. If you are willing to spare some extra time after dinner to add some good pictures to your album, we will guide you to the spot for the shot of the stunning night scene of the traditional bridge and Paro Dzong. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.

Today you will hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3100m.  The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley. Guru Padmasambhava, 8th century spiritual hero who was believed to have mediated in a cave to engage in a deep tantric practice to subdue forces opposing spread of Buddhism. After visiting the monastery, hike down to Cafeteria Restaurant for lunch. Later hike down to the valley floor. This is a fantastic conclusion to your stay in Bhutan! Overnight at a hotel in Paro.

After breakfast, drive to the airport for your departure. Our guide will bid you farewell.

Q: Who would find the Central Bhutan Odyssey Tour suitable or ideal?

This tour caters to individuals who have previously explored western Bhutan and are now seeking an opportunity to delve deeper into the heart of Bhutan, particularly in semi-remote locations.

Q: What trip extensions are available for this itinerary, and what recommendations are there for those with a few extra days on hand?

You have the option to extend your itinerary by a day or two for white-water rafting in Punakha and a captivating trip to Haa Valley, including a hike to Chelela Pass. Haa, a destination recently opened to visitors, and you can enhance your journey with traditional hot stone baths as well.

Q: Will the Company coordinate our visa and flight arrangements?

Yes! Your visa and flight arrangements are seamlessly included in your package, with no extra charges. We’ll take care of your internal flights, and if you require assistance with external flights, we can make special arrangements upon your request.

Q: What type of hotel accommodations can we expect throughout the trip in Bhutan?

As per government regulations, we ensure a minimum three-star accommodation for your stay. You can expect three-star hotels or even upgraded options with upscale amenities. Additionally, for those seeking a more luxurious experience, we can arrange accommodations in four or five-star hotels, with supplementary fees applicable.  Farmhouse stays can also be arranged upon request.

Q: What is the optimal season for this tour, and how flexible are the options for customizing the itinerary?

While Bhutan is often hailed as a year-round destination, we do exercise some caution. While Western Bhutan is suitable for travel throughout the year, we recommend exercising caution when planning to explore Central Bhutan. It’s advisable to limit travel to this region during July, August, and mid-September, as these months tend to be a bit wet, impacting the overall tour experience.

We offer the flexibility to tailor the trip according to your schedule and preferences. One unique customization option includes attending Tshechu, a vibrant Buddhist festival celebrated throughout the country at specific times. Whether you’re interested in archery, traditional attire, astrology, marriage ceremonies, authentic dinners, cooking experiences, traditional hot-stone bath, white water rafting, or sessions of yoga and meditation, we can arrange it all to suit your preferences.