Bhutan and the Remote East (15 days 14 Nights)

** All itineraries, including festivals, can be taken as a Motorcycle Touring journey. Contact us for more information **

Trip Overview

Go on an epic motorcycle journey from the lush Western valleys of Bhutan to the dramatic landscapes of the East. Immerse in the dynamic natural and vibrant cultural kaleidoscope of this stunningly beautiful country on the back of your metallic two-wheeler. See the rich cultural and ethnic traditions of the Bhutanese culture, and marvel at the depth of their spiritual faith rooted in Vajrayana Buddhism. Hike to the infamous Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) in Paro and visit Thimphu, the capital city with no traffic lights. Sit under a bodhi tree in the serene courtyard gardens of Punakha Dzong, and journey to the semi-nomadic villages and highland settlements of Merak and Sakteng in the far East. Visit the village of Khorm where the high-quality handover woven textile – the Kishuthara – are made by colourful hand-spun silk and wool, and see the world’s tallest statue of Guru Padmasambhava sitting on a jaw-dropping 30-feet high lion throne and a 17-feet high lotus seat in the slopes of Takila in Lhuntse.

Trip Summary

Day 1-2 – Paro; Day 3 – Thimphu; Day 4 – Punakha; Day 5-6 – Bumthang; Day 7 – Mongar; Day 8 – Mongar, Trashigang; Day 9 – Trashigang; Day 10 – Mongar; Day 11 – Bumthang; Day 12 -Trongsa; Day 13 – Trongsa, Phobjikha/Gangtey, Punakha; Day 14 – Punakha; Day 15 – Paro

Bhutan and the Remote East Map
Bhutan and the Remote East Map

Price

USD 4,008 (approx. AUD 6,813)

USD 3,984 (approx. AUD 6,773)

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Inclusions: accommodation, meals, motorcycle rental, museums and attractions fees, professional licensed guide, Bhutan visa processing fees, all administrative costs.

Exclusions: international airfares (contact us to arrange), USD 500 motorcycle security deposit (contact us for information), comprehensive travel insurance, tips and personal expenses.

Itinerary

Day 01 – Paro (Arrival)

Arrive into Paro International Airport. During the flight to Bhutan, look out for the breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Paro is a beautiful valley encapsulating a rich vibrant culture, scenic beauty and plenty of myths and legends. Paro is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum and the country’s only international airport. Mt. Jomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunges through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields. You’ll be picked up at the airport and checked into the hotel. After light refreshments, attend the safety briefing on your bikes and the riding itinerary for your journey. Overnight in Paro.

Day 02 – Paro

Today, take a four-hour hike up to Bhutan’s most iconic and awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang) Monastery. 900 meters above the valley and perched seemingly perilously on the edge of a sheer cliff face, Taktshang is one of Bhutan’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche – founder of Tibetan Buddhism – miraculously flew here on the back of a tigress and meditated in a cave here for three months before converting the whole of Paro valley to Buddhism. Taktshang is an architectural wonder and will be an unforgettable sight. If there’s time, explore the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) – originally the watchtower for the Paro Dzong on the hillock overlooking the Paro valley. The museum is a treasure trove of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thangka paintings, natural history artefacts, and Bhutan’s exquisite stamps, coins, and handicrafts collection. A short visit here will give you an idea of the cultural and ecological richness of Bhutan. Then head to the 16th century Rinpung Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Heap of Jewels’, and see where some of scenes from the film ‘Little Buddha’ by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1995 was filmed. Relax after the hike with a soak in the traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath. Overnight in Paro.

Day 03 – Thimphu

Ride to the capital city of Thimphu – the seat of government, religion and commerce. A unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions, Thimphu was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became the capital. With an estimated population of 100,000 people, this unique city is filled with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. The giant Buddha on the hill of  Wangduephodrang has a beautiful view of Thimphu valley. Soak up the local community atmosphere at the National Memorial Chorten, and see the vibrant designs of Bhutanese weaving at the National Textile Museum. Head to the arts and crafts bazaar nearby for a wide selection of Bhutanese antiques, wood carving, weaving and paintings. Along the Thimphu Chuu riverside, you’ll find VAST Gallery which features modern Bhutanese art and sculpture. If you happen to be here on a weekend, the Centenary Weekend Market offers a range of local and regional organic fruits, vegetables and snacks. Further along is Children’s Park – a popular botanical garden playground for children, and young Bhutanese alike. From here, follow the sound of cheering and singing to the National Stadium archery field across the road to watch Bhutanese men best each other at their national sport. As the sun sets, ride to the magnificent Tashichoe Dzong – the 500 years old fortress in the grandeur of traditional Bhutanese architecture that houses the office of the King, ministers and various government organisations, as well as headquarters for the central monastic body of Bhutan – as it opens its doors to visitors. Then ride or walk to Sangayang and enjoy watching the sky and Thimphu city turn into an evening of glittering stars. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 04 – Dochula Pass, Punakha

On your ride to Punakha this morning you will stop at Dochula pass (3,100 meters) – a beautiful mountain pass (alt 3,140 m) fluttering prayer flags and a spectacular set of 108 miniature chortens (stupas). On a clear day, you will see the stretch of towering, awe-inspiring Himalayan peaks in the distance. In Spring, tree size Rhododendron forests will be in full bloom covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colours. Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan and is home to one of the most famous festivals in the country, the springtime Punakha Domchoe, dedicated to the protector deity Yeshe Goenpo (Mahakala). Punakha Dzong is arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful in Bhutan. The fortress is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the monk body. If you thought Buddhism is all serious, a trip to the fertility temple Chimmi Lhakhang might just change your mind! The temple is dedicated to the famous and unorthodox Buddhist master, Drukpa Kinley (endearing referred to by the Bhutanese as the ‘Divine Madman’), who is associated with the phallic symbols you would have seen on your travels in Bhutan so far. Learn about the master’s deeds painted on the walls and ask the locals you meet about his stories. You may be surprised by what you find out! The temple is also frequented by couples who are praying for children and families who come to be blessed. Babies whose parents have brought them here to be named will bear the first name of ‘Kinley’ or ‘Chimmie’.

Day 05 –Punakha, Bumthang

Spend the morning  in Punakha then ride to Bumthang – the spiritual and geographic heart of Bhutan. Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys namely Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 06 – Bumthang

You will have the day to explore the many wonderful trails and monasteries in Bumthang valley. Visit the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang, one of 108 monasteries built  by Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Located further along the valley, the sacred Kurje Lhakhang is a monastery comprising of three temples and surrounded by 108 chorten wall dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava – the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and who the Bhutanese and Tibetans believe is the Buddha of our time. Across the river from Kurje Lhakhang is Tamshing Lhakhang, believed to be built by Guru Padmasambhava’s recinarnation Terton Pema Lingpa, and contains very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple which had been restored at the end of the 19th century. Have a peep of the Wangdicholing Palace as you head towards one of the most important pilgrimage sights of Bhutan- the Mebar Tsho (‘Burning Lake’). It was in Mebar Tsho that Terton Pema Lingpa discovered many holy relics hidden here by Guru Padmasambhava.  Naturally, the villagers at the time did not believe this man who claimed to be the incarnate of their beloved Guru. So to silence skeptical minds,Terton Pema Lingpa plunged in to the gorge with a burning lamp declaring, “If I am a demon, I shall die! If I am not, and am the true spiritual son of Guru Rinpoche, this lamp will continue to burn and I will recover hidden treasures!” Legend has it that he came out with the hidden relics and with the lamp still burning and hence, the name ‘Mebar Tsho’ came about. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 07 – Mongar

Ride to Mongar, the main trade and travel hub of Eastern Bhutan. The region is known for its weavers and textiles and fabrics produced here are considered some of the best in the country. Also famous are its exquisite wood carvings. The road approaching Mongar is one of the most spectacular scenic rides in the country. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. Countless varieties of rhododendrons will be in full bloom in Spring. You will cross the highest motor road passes in Bhutan called Thrumshingla passes (13,000ft), see if you can catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 meters), the world’s highest unclimbed mountain. Mongar township is situated atop a hill. The main street is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas. By the clock tower is a large prayer wheel which serves as the local gathering spot. The local restaurants offer a variety of Bhutanese and Indian cuisine. There’s a great restaurant on the main strip that does a great bathip, a Tibetan soup noodle dish. Overnight in Mongar.

Day 08 – Mongar, Trashigang

Visit Mongar Dzong, a relatively new fortress built in the 1930s but constructed in the fashion of traditional early Bhutanese dzongs – without plans or nails. Unlike the other Dzongs which are almost always located in strategic positions, Mongar Dzong is located on a small gently sloping area just above the town. Continue further East to Trashigang. Set on a scenic hillside, Trashigang town was once a bustling trade center for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, Trashigang is the market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng whose dress and culture is different to that of Western Bhutan. Overnight in Trashigang.

Day 09 – Trashiyangtse

Ride to one of the newest dzongkhags (districts) in the country, Trashiyangtse was established as a distinct district in 1992 and spans 1,437 sq km of sub-tropical and alpine forests. Visit Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary –  the wintering home of black-necked cranes, it also has the richest temperate Fir forests in the eastern Himalayas which provides an ideal protected habitat for big cats like Tigers and Leopards. See if you can spot the national butterfly of Bhutan, the Ludlow Swallowtail. The district is full of wildlife and religious sites. Rare animals such as the Barking Deer, Himalayan Black Bears, and Red Pandas can be found here.  Religious sites include Chorten Kora, Pemaling in the alpine area; Rigsum Gonpa, Dechenphodrang ney and Omba ney (the Taktshang of East Bhutan) between 2000 and 3000m, and Gongza ney and Gom Kora along the Drangme Chu (800-900m). Overnight in Trashiyantse.

Day 10 – Trashigang, Mongar

Ride back to Mongar. Overnight in Mongar.

Day 11 – Bumthang via Ura valley

Today you will head back West, riding to Bumthang via Ura Valley, a town known for the famous dance known as the Ura Yakchoe.

Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 12 – Trongsa

Ride to the 16th century Trongsa (‘New Village’ in the local dialect), the old seat of power for the first two hereditary kings of Bhutan. Trongsa has its humble origins as a lone tshamkhang (small meditation room) built by Ngagi Wangchuck (1517–54), the great grand-father of the founder of Bhutan Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, after he discovered self-manifested hoof prints belonging to the horse of the protector deity, Pelden Lhamo in 1541. Retreats, temples and hermit residences soon grew up around the tshamkhang which became the modern Trongsa. Overnight in Trongsa.

Day 13 – Trongsa, Phobjikha/Gangtey, Punakha

Continue West to Punakha via Phobjikha/Gangtey valleys. Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and chosen home of the endangered black necked cranes, which migrate from the central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. Watch the cranes roosting and dancing in the valley, and if time permits, explore Phobjikha valley on foot through the nature trail. The Gangtey/Phobjikha valley provides rich pastureland for cattle and the district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 14 – Punakha, Paro

Ride back to Paro. Relax your sore muscles after the long journey with a Bhutanese hot stone bath, and enjoy your last evening in Paro.

Day 15 – Paro (Departure)

After breakfast, you will be transported to Paro International Airport for your onward journey.