Duration: 13 days
Entry: Paro, western Bhutan
Exit: Guwahati, Assam, India
Best seasons: March-May, September-November
The highlights of this tour are nothing less than nature’s wondrous manifestations showcased through landscape, culture, people, flora and fauna, spectacular views of the world’s highest mountains, mind-boggling gorges, waterfalls and others.
Among thousands of flowers which carpet the mountain sides in spring, Bhutan has more than 55 different varieties of rhododendron alone and about 500 species of orchids. This tiny country has over 700 species of birds, more than the whole of North America.
Day 1: Bangkok/New Delhi/Kathmandu-Paro
Get a seat on the left side of the aircraft; keep your camera ready and follow the instructions of the pilot as he/she guides you through the world’s highest mountains, one after another – Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse, etc. On a clear day, the views are nothing short of spectacular.
Get a bird’s view of Paro international airport, a black strip in a narrow valley that is considered to be among the world’s 10 most challenging airports. Here on, you have entered the “dreamland”, so to speak, for photography.
Day 2: Paro
While at Paro, visit the Rinpung dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels), National Museum, 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, among several other ancient religious monuments and sites. You can also appreciate the ruins of Drukgyel dzong and Taktsang (Tiger’s Lair) Monastery, famed for its religious significance and architectural wonder.
Day 3 & 4: Thimphu
Thimphu is Bhutan in a miniature. There are places that no photographer should miss. These include: Tashichhodzong-the magnificent 500-year old seat of Bhutan’s governance and the office of the king; Parliament Building-an epitome of modern Bhutanese architecture combined with traditional grandeur; Buddha Statue-the world’s tallest sitting Buddha built on the breast of a hillock which commands a spectacular view of the capital city; Sangaygang-the perfect viewpoint for Thimphu city; National Memorial Chorten-the most beautiful stupa in Bhutan built in memory of the father of modern Bhutan, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck; Vegetable Market-for people and culture; Norzin Lam (street)-the busiest place in the capital;
Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, School of Art and Craft
Day 5: Thimphu-Punakha/Wangdue
Visit Semtokha dzong enroute, the oldest monastery fortress of Bhutan and an architectural masterpiece. At Dochula pass (3,116m), you get to shoot breathtaking scenes of the higher Himalayas along with the 108 stupas built on a mound. This part is also home to rare and endangered species of flora and fauna and constitutes vegetations ranging from alpine to the sub-tropical. Other than the beautiful farms and villages, you could also visit Chimi Lhakhang (the Temple of Fertility).
While at Punakha, you cannot miss the grandeur of Punakha dzong, built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel and the country’s most prized asset. Pass by the ruins of Wangduephodrang dzong which was gutted by a tragic fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Look out for the world’s rarest bird, White-bellied Heron along the banks of Punatsangchhu (River).
Day 6: Punakha/Wangdue – Trongsa
This region is home to verdant forests along with rare birds and beautiful alpine flowers. Phobjikha valley enroute is habitat to the endangered Black-necked Cranes and offers a panoramic view of Bhutan’s harmony with nature.
Once atop the Pelela Pass (3,390m), you can sight the Black Mountain ranges. Small hamlets along the way will feast your eyes while the mountain/road side greets you with Yaks. You will also come across an 18th century stupa at Chendebji.
The quaint Trongsa town welcomes you with its traditional houses and the majestic Trongsa dzong, one of the biggest in Bhutan and traditionally the power centre of central-east Bhutan. You can also visit the Ta dzong (Watch Tower) which now houses as a museum.
Day 7: Trongsa – Bumthang
The Mangde valley offers you with picturesque views as you drive on to your next destination through Yotongla Pass (3,400m). The road downhill opens you into an expansive and wide valley, giving you a hint about how Bumthang will look like.
Bumthang valley is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan, filled with old palaces, historical and religious monuments.
Day 8: Bumthang
Check out Jakar dzong (Castle of the White Bird), the Wangdicholing Palace and Domkhar Palace, the famous Kurje Lhakhang and 7th century Jambay Lhakhang, Tamzhing Monastery overlooking Bumthang town, and the legendary Mebartsho (Burning Lake). Other than this, the valley in itself is a photographer’s paradise.
Day 9: Bumthang – Mongar
This route passes through one of the 10 protected areas in Bhutan, Thrumshingla National Park, and the Thrumshingla Pass (3,780 meters). Sengor-Yongkala-Lingmithang area, which is known as the Birding Capital of the World, has the world’s highest density of birds, including some of the most rare and exotic. On the way, sight the ruins of Zhongar dzong, the Kurichhu hydroelectric powerhouse and dam, Lingmethang and Mongar towns.
Day 10: Mongar-Trashigang
Enroute Trashigang, you will catch a nice glimpse of the landscape surrounding eastern Bhutan from the Korila Pass. Then comes the famous Yadi zig (the road zigzags as you drive downhill), and shots of the valley carved by Dangmechhu (the biggest river of Bhutan).
Then comes Gomphu Kora (a great site of pilgrimage for Buddhists),
Trashigang dzong (historically the powerhouse of the regional ruler), and Trashigang and Rangjung towns: the photos of which you don’t want to miss shooting.
Day 11: Trashigang
Note that north Trashigang is the most populated area of Bhutan and holds onto the local culture, customs, traditions and lifestyle.
Folk festival, dance and music are the epitomes of everyday life.
Day 12: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
Dotted with dozens of villages along the way, you will pass via Sherubtse College at Kanglung, Yonphula airstrip and the adjoining views.
Along with numerous ancient temples and monasteries enroute, there is an ancient iron smithy at Barshong and a bird watching area at Moshi after reaching Dewathang.
Day 13: Samdrup Jongkhar – Guwahati airport for onward flight.
A three hour drive will take you to Guwahati airport where you will be seen off by our representatives.