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Western, Central and Eastern Bhutan Tour with Chorten Kora Festival
(Enter India Exit Paro - 17 Nights 18 Days)

- Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan

Dzongkhags covered: Paro, Thimphu, Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Trongsa, Punakha, Mongar, Lhuentse, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse

...those who carry the stone around the path will get their sins cleansed...

Duration: 17 Nights 18 Days
Tour starts: Paro in the west; Tour ends: Samdrup Jongkhar in the South-East
Trip Grade: Easy.

Itinerary Outline:

Day -1: Arrive Guwahati Airport. Move to Samdrup Jongkhar
Day -2: Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang
Day- 3: Depart Trashigang for Trashiyangtse.
Day-4: Trashiyangtse Sightseeing
Day- 5: Chorten Kora Festival in Trashiyangtse
Day- 6: Chorten Kora Festival in Trashiyangtse
Day- 7: Explore Bumdeling and nearby villages
Day- 8: Trashiyangtse to Mongar
Day- 9: Day Excursion to remote Lhuentse
Day- 10: Mongar- Bumthang
Day- 11: Bumthang Sightseeing:
Day- 12: Hike to Tang (Bumthang):
Day- 13: Bumthang to Trongsa: Sightseeing Trongsa
Day- 14: Trongsa to Punakha and Wangdue
Day- 15: Punakha to Thimphu
Day- 16: Thimphu to Paro & the Tiger's Nest
Day- 17: Paro Sightseeing
Day- 18: Depart Paro International Airport

The Legend of Chorten Kora:

Chorten Kora is an important stupa next to the Kulong Chhu River in Trashiyangtse in East Bhutan. Nearby is a town of the same name. The stupa was built in the 18th century by Lama Ngawang Lodrö, the nephew of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in order to subdue a harmful demon believed to have been living at the site where the chorten is now located. The stupa is modelled after the famous Boudhanath stupa in Nepal popularly known as Jarung Khashor.

Chorten Kora took twelve years to construct and was consecrated by Je Yonten Thaye. The demon that had harmed the people of the valley was apparently subdued and banished. Thereafter, it is said that the people of the valley continue to live in peace and harmony.

There is an annual Dakpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Dakpas) festival held on the 15th of the first lunar month, and a Drukpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Drukpas- Bhutanese) festival held at the end of the first lunar month to celebrate the stupa. These festivals are attended by the Dakpa people of the neighboring Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh in India, and Bhutanese from Tashiyangtse, Tashigang, and Kurtoe (Lhuentse).

A popular belief is that when the stupa was constructed a pious Dakini princess from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh in India entombed herself within, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings.

Day -1: Arrive Guwahati Airport. Move to Samdrup Jongkhar

After landing at Guwahati Airport in the Assam State of India you will be received by our representative. The road passes through some famous tea gardens between Kumrikata and Tamalpur, of Assam Tea Hall of Fame;) , and the rest of the journey is along the countryside of Assam interspersed with forest belts in places. You will have no problems because Bhutanese vehicles do not need permission to ply in India. The journey will take a little over 2 hours. In the company of your main Bhutanese guide, your journey will take you through the Indian towns of Guwahati, Rangiya, Tamalpu, and Kumrikata and then you enter Bhutan via the Eastern gateway of Samdrup Jongkhar. Joen Pai Leg So, Welcome!

Day -2: Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang

Along the way we will stop and visit Kanglung Temple, Yongphula Monastery near Kanglung and Zangtopelri temple in Wamrong. Kanglung is also the location of the first university/college of Bhutan- Sherubtse Colleg.

Day- 3: Depart Trashigang for Trashiyangtse.

Upon reaching Trashiyangtse free to walk around this small hillside town. One may even encounter Tawangpas (Dakpas) from the neighbouring state of Arunachal Pradesh. This dzongkhag is well known for the Chorten Kora and Gom Kora Techus and their wooden bowls which are made from a single piece of special wood and quite expensive. Overnight lodge.

Day-4: Trashiyangtse Sightseeing

Today we visit the traditional wood craft workshop where typical Bhutanese bowls (known as dappas) and other wooden items are made. (These products are very popular in Bhutan). We tour Zorig Chusum, the School of 13 Traditional Crafts; Tsenkhar ruins, which is a 20 minutes' walk from the Tsenkharla School. The tsenkhar ruins are the ruins of a fort said to have been built in the 9th Century by the Tibetan prince in exile, Lhasey Tsangma. We visit Doksum village, where most women sit weaving outside their house. Doksum is also the site of Bhutan’s only remaining 15th century iron chain bridge. (A day for a hike to Bumdeling to see yaks and trout fishing can be added for relaxation and leisure).

Day- 5: Chorten Kora Festival in Trashiyangtse

Today we attend a remote and rural festival at the popular Chorten Kora (left), one of the few stupas constructed in Nepali (Sherpa) style. It was built to mark the site where Guru Rinpoche subdued many malevolent beings. According to local tradition, the architectural model of the stupa was brought from Nepal, carved on a radish. Chorten Kora temple is in Trashiyangtse District in the East which adjoins the Trashigang District. The Chorten is three minutes drive from the Trashiyangtse town. Chorten Kora was built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday. The stupa is designed like the Swayumbhunath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. Locals believe that a 15 year old Tawangpa girl was sealed alive in the Stupa as an offering of the people of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Tawang people come for the festival in the first month on the Bhutanese calendar on the 15th day. The Trashiyangtse Dzong was built around 1656 AD in commemoration of a Drukpa victory and renovated in 1976. This valley was of great strategic importance in the old days because all travel to western and central Bhutan had to pass through here.

Day- 6: Chorten Kora Festival in Trashiyangtse

Rejoin the festival attended faithfully every year by Eastern Bhutanese and Dakpas (see right) from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in North-East India. Today, it is considered one of the most important historical Buddhist structures. The legend states that a young girl from Tawang, believed to have been a Khando (Dakini) agreed to be buried alive inside the Chorten. For this reason a ritual known as Dakpa Kora is organised every year where hundreds of people from Arunachal Pradesh known as the Dakpas make it to Chorten Kora to circumambulate. Dakpa Kora is held on the 15th day of the 3rd month corresponding to 28th February and Drukpa Kora (kora means circumbulation by the Bhutanese) is held on the 30th day corresponding to 15th March every year.

Day- 7: Explore Bumdeling and nearby villages famous for Wooden Bowls

The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is at elevations between 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) and 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The Sanctuary contains diverse flora, fauna, and scenery including alpine lakes and the Bumdeling Valley. The Sanctuary also contains several cultural and religious sites. It has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it supports Black-necked Cranes, of which it is one of the country’s only two wintering sites (the other being Phobjikha in Wangdue), Wood Snipes and Grey-crowned Prinias. As of 2007, there was a recent record of the White-tailed Eagle, a first for the sanctuary.

Day- 8: Trashiyangtse to Mongar

Mongar is the district headquarters but hardly more than a transit town. It is also the first town built on a slope instead of the usual valley. This is characteristic in eastern Bhutan where there are few valleys. Visit Mongar Dzong. Mongar Dzong is a new Dzong, completed recently. The original was built in the 19th century, restored in 1953 and again in 1990 after being destroyed by a fire. The administrative seat and the monk body reside in the Dzong. Overnight.

Day- 9: Day Excursion to remote Lhuentse

Lhuentse is also the ancestral home to the Bhutanese Royal Family and the present Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). The weaving handicraft 'industry' looms large in households here and the handlooms produced are very famous. This household industry is dominated by women folks who weave different types of textiles with intricate designs. The unique weaving activities involve embroidery, basket-making and Kishuthara, a brocade dress (above weaver and Kishuthara sample in Lhuentse). Kishutharas are very beautiful which women wear as kiras (the women's dress) on special occasions like Tsechus. They are also very expensive, almost impossible for most Bhutanese to afford, some pieces fetching over 80,000 Ngultrums/US$ 1500. Textiles products of Lhuentse are stated to be the best in the country. Return to Mongar.

Day - 10 Mongar- Bumthang

After an early breakfast, gear up for a fantastic drive to Bumthang. The journey is long and crosses Thrumshingla which at 3,800 metres is the highest pass in Bhutan. Bumthang is one of the most beautiful towns made up of five valleys. Check in at hotel/guest house.

Day – 11: Bumthang Sightseeing

Morning: Visit the historical Jakar Dzong, built in 1646 A.D. by Minjur Tenpa, the third Druk Desi (Temporal ruler). In 1683 A.D. it was extended by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth Desi. Visit several ancient and very sacred monasteries such as the Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang, Tamshing and Pema Samba Lhakhangs. Also visit Membartsho "The Flaming Lake," which is considered one of the most important pilgrimage spots. A trip to the Bumthang Swiss farm is also interesting. Bumthang is also a site for numerous Tibetan attacks, one which led to many Tibetans being killed in battle, thus called "Boedpalathang" Boed being the word for Tibet in Tibetan and Dzongkha. This near the Bumthang Swiss farm. Overnight lodge; enjoy tea and converse with local Bhutanese.

Day – 12 Hike to Tang (Bumthang)

We will drive to Tang Valley and hike to visit the Ugyenchholing Dzong. The Ugyenchholing Dzong was formerly the palace of Trongsa Penlop Tsokey Dorji. You will visit the Ugyenchholing Palace, now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport you to another world and time. There are permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan’s History unfolds. Continuing from Ugyenchholing, we reach the Rimochen Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, the Patron Saint of Bhutan. We also Visit Rimochen Temple, another temple blessed by Guru Rinpoche and where imprints of the Saint’s Foot and Body can be seen on the rock. In the evening we visit a farmhouse for local hospitality and conversation. Overnight at the River Lodge.

Day -13 Bumthang to Trongsa: Sightseeing Trongsa

Visit Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the Royal Family and its watch tower. A Crown Prince of Bhutan is usually made the Trongsa Penlop (Governor). Built in 1648 AD, it is presently the administrative seat of Trongsa district and the home of the monastic school. Built at split levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. The view from here extends for many kilometres and in the old days, it was a vigilance point for both the eastern and western routes. Thus, the strategic importance of this Dzong. The watch tower (Tag -Watch- Dzong, as in Paro), located directly above the Dzong is a most impressive structure, towering over the Dzong. Here we may watch archers at play outside the walls of the Dzong. Departing Trongsa, our journey takes about 3 hrs and goes along the scenic highway. Watch for yaks along the route.

Day -14 Trongsa to Punakha and Wangdue

After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha and Wangduephodrang. We check into our hotel, enjoy lunch and depart for Punakha Dzong. Being warmer than Thimphu, Punakha was the former winter capital of Bhutan. It is now the present administrative seat of Punakha district (dzongkhag). It is also the winter residence of the central monastic body- the Je Khenpo resides here in the winter while in the summer he resides in Thimphu. The Dzong (fortress) lies between two rivers, the Phochhu and Mochhu, meaning male and female rivers (picture on the Bhutan Rebirth welcome page). It was built in 1637 AD. Your senses will awake upon entering the impressive courtyard of the Punakha Dzong; “Palace of Great Happiness. It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first King was crowned. Return to our resort lodge for dinner and an evening visit to the ruins of Wangduphodrang Dzong, perched on a promontory hilltop overlooking Wangdue and Punakha. The Dzong was built in 1638 A.D and sadly razed by fire in 2012. Renovation, however, is under way from contributions of the people from all over the country. Overnight: Resort.

Day-15: Punakha to Thimphu

On the way, halt at Dochula Pass for a hot cup of tea/coffee and if it is a clear day view a most spectacular sight of the Eastern Himalayas. After checking into hotel we have a great day ahead of us, in the capital of Bhutan. We visit many historical sights in and around Thimphu: the Memorial Chorten, a large stupa built in memory of the Third King who reigned from 1952-1972 (on main Bhutan Rebirth page you can see a small video of people doing kora here); the Painting School, where traditional art is still preserved- Artists are taught to paint Thangkas here (sacred Buddhist scrolls); the Handicrafts Emporium where one can buy Bhutanese textiles and other arts and crafts; the Royal Textile Museum, displaying royal textiles and weavings of exceptional beauty and Bhutanese art forms; Semtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1629 A.D. by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the father of Modern Bhutan- it also houses the largest monastic school in the country. We also visit Tashichhodzong - the main Secretariat Building. It is from this Dzong that the King and other prominent civil servants run the country. The Head Abbot, the Je Khenpo, and the central monastic body also reside here during the summer. We also visit the Takin (National Animal of Bhutan) Zoo and the Paper-House of Incense. Overnight Thimphu hotel.

Day -16 Thimphu to Paro & the Tiger's Nest

Enjoy a hearty breakfast and depart on a scenic route to Paro. We take a side trip to a path for a hike up to the famous "Tiger's Nest Monastery", i.e. Taktsang Monastery; Taktsang meaning "Tiger's Nest". 'Ta' means Tiger, pronounced very similarly to "Tag" as in Watch and 'Ta' as in Horse. The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 4,000 feet. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), the saint who converted Bhutan to Buddhism, alighted here upon the back of a tigress (the human form was also his consort, Yeshey Tshogey). Spectacular such that I cannot describe in just words. We enjoy tea and snacks at the midpoint viewpoint. Back to Paro where you will have an opportunity to view and purchase elaborate and exquisite Bhutanese stamps; a must for any stamp collector and great gifts as well. Bhutanese stamps are very popular amongst stamp collectors or philatelists. Stroll around Paro Bhutan where parts of the Keanu Reeves movie "Little Buddha" was shot. I was standing next to him at the airport and did not know about him then :(

Day -17: Paro Sightseeing

We then visit the National museum (Tag Dzong), the watch tower for the Rinpung Dzong. Tag Dzong was converted into the National Museum in 1968, a most interesting museum comprised of several floors displaying Bhutanese historical art and medieval weapons. We then visit Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guard houses, to the Rinpung Dzong. Today, the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The Dzong was built in 1645 A.D. We follow up with a drive to Drugyal Dzong. The Dzong, although in ruins, holds great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. The name means "The Victorious Bhutanese." This spot offers a magnificent vista of Mount Jhomolhari, "Goddess of the Holy Mountain or “Goddess of the Mountain Pass" (Alt. 7329 m). Here is the spot many treks depart from.

Also visit a typical Bhutanese farm house on the way back and enjoy dinner in a cozy restaurant in Paro Village. Also reflect on your journey to this small Kingdom in the Himalayas which we hope you will forever treasure. For just as you might think of us, we will be thinking of you and the world beyond.

Day -18 Depart Paro International Airport

When we say hello we must one day say goodbye. Hope the flight back to your next destination is an enjoyable one with breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jhomolhari and Jichu Drakey in Bhutan. And of course, drum roll, the one and only, Mount Everest.
What can we say but Good Luck, God Bless and Trashi Delek.

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