Tea, Rhinos & Land of The Thunder Dragons

20 NIGHTS | 21 DAYS

Region, State: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Trongsa, Bhumthang, Mongar, Trashigang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Guwahati, Jorhat

Itinerary at a Glance:

Day Days Activities
Day 1 Monday Arrival-Paro
Day 2 Tuesday Paro
Day 3 Wednesday Paro
Day 4 Thursday Paro - Thimphu
Day 5 Friday Thimphu
Day 6 Saturday Thimphu - Punakha
Day 7 Sunday Punakha – Trongsa - Bumthang          
Day 8 Monday Bumthang
Day 9 Tuesday Bumthang - Mongar
Day 10 Wednesday Mongar – Trashigang
Day 11 Thursday Trashigang
Day 12 Friday Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
Day 13 Saturday Samdrup Jongkhar - Guwahati
Day 14 Sunday Guwahati – MV Mahabaahu
Day 15 Monday MV Mahabaahu
Day 16 Tuesday MV Mahabaahu
Day 17 Wednesday MV Mahabaahu
Day 18 Thursday MV Mahabaahu
Day 19 Friday MV Mahabaahu
Day 20 Saturday MV Mahabaahu
Day 21 Sunday MV Mahabaahu – Jorhat - Departure

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1: Monday: Arrival - Paro

On arrival in Paro, our representative will meet you at the Airport and you will be taken to the hotel.

Paro valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom up to Mt. Jomolhari at the Tibetan border to the North. This picturesque region is one of the widest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and has a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley.

On arrival, check into your hotel. Rest of the day is free to acclimatize.

Overnight at hotel (D)

Day 2: Tuesday: Paro

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later drive north of Paro valley to the ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong. From this fort the Bhutanese repelled several invasions by Tibetan armies.

Later, visit nearby traditional Bhutanese Farm House which offers a good insight into the lifestyle of the local people. On our way back, we visit the Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom.

Rest of the day is free to explore the local market.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 3: Wednesday: Paro

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Late take an excursion to the Taktsang Monastery, the most famous of Bhutanese monasteries. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, hence it is called the "Tiger's Nest". Non Buddhists are not allowed inside the monastery. Therefore, view the monastery from a view point nearby. The trek/hike to the view point takes about 4-5 hours for a round trip.

Later visit the Ta Dzong, the National Museum of the Kingdom. Originally built as a Watch Tower, since 1967 it is serving as the National Museum of the country and holds a fascinating collection of art, artifacts, thangkha paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps. Thereafter walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong which has a long and fascinating history.

Evening free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 4: Thursday: Paro to Thimphu by drive: Approx. 50 Kms. / 32 Mi. / 1 Hr.

After breakfast check out from hotel and drive to Thimphu.

The Kingdom’s capital city is home to approximately 100,000 inhabitants including the Royal family. This bustling little city is the main centre of commerce, religion and government in the country. Thimphu is the most modern city in Bhutan with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centres. However, it still retains its’ cultural identity and values amidst the signs of modernization.

On arrival, check into your hotel.

Late visit Tashichho Dzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery that houses most of the Government's office and the King's Throne room. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot.
 

Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, D)

Day 5: Friday: Thimphu

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later embark on a sightseeing tour of Thimphu visiting the National Library which has a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts.

Later, drive to the Painting School, famous for traditional ‘Thangkha’ paintings. See students at work, producing intricate designs on cloth. Also, visit the Traditional Medicine Institute where centuries old healing methods are still practiced. Thereafter visit the Textile and Folk Heritage Museum, a fascinating testimony of the Bhutanese culture and living traditions.

After lunch, visit the Handicrafts Emporium which displays a wide assortment of beautifully handwoven and crafted products. From there drive to the Memorial Chorten, the stupa built in memory of Bhutan's Third King who is popularly regarded as Father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and statues inside this monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

Evening is free to explore the local market.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 6: Saturday: Thimphu to Punakha by road: Approx. 85 Kms. / 54 Mi. / 2.5 Hrs.

Morning have breakfast at hotel. Later check out from hotel and drive to Punakha.

Punakha Dzongkhag has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. Punakha Dzong is not only the second oldest and second largest Dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country.

On arrival, check into your hotel and relax.

Later visit Punakha Dzong, not only the second oldest and second largest dzong but it also has one of the most majestic structures in the country. October 13, 2011 marked an unforgettable wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema which was held at Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong was built at the confluence of two major rivers in Bhutan, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, which converge in this valley. It is an especially beautiful sight on sunny days with sunlight reflecting off the water onto its white-washed walls.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 7: Sunday: Punakha to Bumthang (en-route Trongsa) by road: Approx. 220 Kms. / 137 Mi. / 7-8 Hrs.

This morning check out from hotel and drive to Bumthang.

This region is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Bumthang Dzongkhag consists of four main valleys, Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. This dzongkhag is one of the most richly endowed districts in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Some of Bhutan’s oldest and most venerated temples are found in Bumthang, including Jambey Lhakhang. There are numerous other temples and shrines worth visiting in Bumthang and many of them are linked to Guru Rinpoche’s visit in 746 A.D.

On arrival, check into your hotel. Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 8: Monday: Bumthang

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later visit The Jakar Dzong or the “Castle of the White Bird” dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan.

The Burning Lake, Mebar Tsho is located along the way to the Tang village over the feeder road under Bumthang valley. It takes approximately thirty minutes’ drive to the Mebar Tsho from Chamkhar town. Mebar Tsho is considered one of the most sacred sites in the region as it is related to the renowned religious treasurer (Terton) Terton Pema Lingpa. Today, this small fresh water lake is a sacred pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese with bright multi-coloured prayer flags surrounding it and a small altar dedicated to Terton Pema Lingpa has also been set up.
 

Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 9: Tuesday: Bumthang to Mongar by road: Approx. 198 Kms. / 124 Mi. / 6-7 Hrs.

Morning have breakfast at hotel. Later check out from hotel and drive to Mongar.

The road approaching Mongar is one of the most spectacular journeys in the country. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. Travelers passing this route will have the opportunity to visit the Rhododendron garden and on clear days you can even catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541 m), a strong candidate for the world’s highest unclimbed mountain.

On arrival, check into your hotel. Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 10: Wednesday: Mongar to Trashigang by road: Approx. 91 Kms. / 57 Mi. / 3 Hrs.

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later visit Mongar Dzong, located on a small gently sloping area just above the town. A visit to Mongar Dzong demonstrates how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.

The ruin of Zhongar Dzong endures to this day as a testimony to the skill of its builders, most notably the renowned master craftsman, Zowo Balip. Constructed in the 17th century, the Dzong is believed to have been built at a site where the master architect Zow Balip saw a white bowl. A visit to the ruins can be a memorable experience and will give you a sense of medieval Bhutanese administration.

The Yagang Lhakhang is located in a small village next to the town is another sacred monument of the Dzongkhag. It was built in the 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Tertoen Pema Lingpa. It was built after the Kupijigtsam Lhakhang in Yangneer village in Trashigang was completed. Today, the lhakhang plays an important role in the religious life of the people.

Later drive to Trashigang.

Trashigang, "The Jewel of the East", spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000 m. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.

On arrival, check into your hotel. Evening free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 11: Thursday: Trashigang

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later visit Trashigang Dzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ was built in 1659 to defend against Tibetan invasions. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River. Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal, which translates to “Victory of Bhutanese over enemies in all directions”. It is accessible only from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location , Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola in 1936.

Radhi village is famous for two things, its rice fields and the skill of its weavers. It is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ because of its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to eastern parts of the country. The village has around 200 households, all of which the people make living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons. All textiles produced in Radhi are made using the traditional back-strap loom and traditional dyes. As a result, Radhi village produces some of the most authentic high quality raw silk textiles to be found anywhere in Bhutan.

Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B, L, D)

Day 12: Friday: Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar by road: Approx. 180 Kms. / 113 Mi. / 6-7 Hrs.

Morning have breakfast at hotel. Later check out from hotel and drive to Samdrup Jongkhar.

The gateway to eastern Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the southeastern region of the country and shares borders with the Indian state of Assam. Known for Samdrup Jonkhar Dzong, one of the newest Dzongs to have been built in the country. Unlike other Dzongs that are built on strategic locations atop mountains or between rivers, the Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong is built on a flat and fairly wide-open area.

On arrival, check into your hotel. Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B)

Day 13: Saturday: Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati by road: Approx. 325 Kms. / 202 Mi. / 7 Hrs.

Morning have breakfast at hotel.

Later visit Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong and Mithun Breeding Farm.  Mithuns are widely considered to be the best breed of cattle in Bhutan and this farm supplies farmers from the six eastern districts with this magnificent animal.
Later drive to Guwahati. On arrival, check into your hotel.
Evening is free at leisure.

Overnight at hotel (B)

Day 14: Sunday: Guwahati – MV Mahabaahu

Morning have breakfast at hotel. Later check out from hotel and drive through the busy streets to the Kamakhya Temple. This Temple is devoted to Kama Khya, the eternal Feminine- the goddess of desire. 

After the Temple visit, we drive towards Pandu Port and check into the Cruise and gather on the open deck to enjoy the first sail!!! 

A quick orientation and we de-board for a short visit of the picturesque Peacock Island, the smallest island on the Brahmaputra (flight time permitting) famous for the highly endangered Golden Langur.  It would be a good idea to have one’s binoculars and cameras at hand.

Proceed into the evening with a talk on ‘Kamakhya and the occult in Assam’. 

Soon MV Mahabaahu drops anchor and the evening follows into the welcome dinner.

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (Packed-L, D)

Day 15: Monday: MV Mahabaahu – Village visit & full day sail

MV Mahabaahu lifts anchor early. We enjoy Yoga on the deck for an hour and move on for breakfast. We enjoy a talk on 'Assam, its geographical location in the national and international context and how it is acclaiming recognition'. MV Mahabaahu heads on towards an island that is occupied predominantly by a ‘Bangla’ speaking Muslim community who are involved in extensive farming. After t visiting this village, we return to the ship for lunch and sail towards the Orang Point.

Evening sets in and over a cup of tea, we enjoy a talk on 'The River Brahmaputra and the tribal life’. We anchor at a deserted island for the evening and enjoy a bonfire and a barbeque.

NOTE: (Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions)

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 16: Tuesday: MV Mahabaahu – Silghat – Tea factory or Jute Mill

MV Mahabaahu sails early and we enjoy Yoga on the deck and move on for breakfast and for a talk on 'Wild life in Kaziranga with an overview of the wild life in India'.

We sail on for the next couple of hours and enjoy a relaxed lunch as we reach Silghat.  After a talk on ‘Tea, Jute & Silk in Assam’, we take a short drive to Kaliabore Tea Estate which is a vast undulating expanse with tea bushes. We proceed to the tea factory to see the processing of the Assam Tea and getting an insight into all that goes into preparing a cup-of-tea.

(The tea factory is not operational from mid-December to mid-February as it is time for pruning the tea bushes)

While returning to the ship, we visit a co-operative Jute Mill which is an interesting place to understand how the Jute fibre takes the form of very eco-friendly gunny bags.

We enjoy a cultural evening on the ship followed by an early dinner.

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 17: Wednesday: MV Mahabaahu – Kaziranga National Park & Bishwanath – weaver’s village

An early wake- up call with Tea/coffee and we set out towards the Kaziranga National Park.

The most prized inhabitant of Kaziranga is the Greater One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros, but the Park is home to as many as 180 different mammals including wild elephants, tiger, deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and a rich variety of birds. We reach the Kohora Mihimukh range of the National Park and are ready to start our morning adventure. An elephant-back safari is an experience, to search for the elusive rhinoceros, tigers, swamp deer and hog deer and more and a large number of very interesting birds.  The park never ceases to surprise its visitors!!!

After breakfast at a resort in Kaziranga, we drive on to Bagori, the Western Range of Kaziranga and get into the open jeeps for some more wildlife adventure and an extensive coverage of this magnificent park. We return to MV Mahabaahu, start sailing towards Bishwanath Ghat as we enjoy a leisurely lunch and a relaxed afternoon.

We get into the excursion boats to reach the shores of Bishwanath Ghat. We walk through the village and are struck by the simplicity of life while the weaver women surround us with their silk and cotton weaves. We enjoy some happy interaction with them. 

We return to the ship to enjoy an evening on a deserted island and then proceed for dinner.

NOTE: (Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions)

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 18: Thursday: MV Mahabaahu – Boat safari

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast over a talk on ‘The River Brahmaputra and the life that exists alongside’. 

We proceed for the boat safari viewing roof turtles on protruding drift wood, water lizards, otters, elephants, wild buffaloes, rhinos, darters, herons, pied kingfishers, white throated kingfishers, serpent eagles and many more. (The sightings are determined by the weather conditions).

We return to the ship for hot lunch. This evening, we enjoy the Chef’s Cooking Demonstration and sample the snacks.   The evening on a deserted island with bonfire is always exclusive! We enjoy dinner on-board.

NOTE: (Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions)

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 19: Friday: MV Mahabaahu – Mishing Village

After Yoga and breakfast, we enjoy the sail towards the Mishing Village.

The Mishings live on the bank of river in 'Chang Ghars' -houses with raised platforms.  All Mishing women are expert weavers. We can buy the ethnic colorful cotton weaves and indulge in a dhoti tying and Mekhela Chaadar wearing demonstration.

We return to the ship to enjoy a talk on ‘Sibsagar and the Ahom civilization’ and proceed to get ready for a Traditional Assamese evening.

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 20: Saturday: MV Mahabaahu – Majuli Island and Sibsagar

After breakfast, we enjoy a talk on ‘Majuli the seat of Neo –Vaishnav Culture’ and then proceed in our excursion boats to the mainland. Here on, a drive takes us to a scenic corner of a Satra (Monastery) for an interesting cultural performance by Satriya singers and dancers. 

Next, we proceed to Kamlabari Satra to witness the Vaishnavite priests dancing to the rhythm of cymbals, drums and chanting in the temple premise. The humble dwellings of the monks are a revelation of utmost simplicity.
We enjoy lunch on MV Mahabaahu as we sail towards Neamati Ghat.

Post lunch, we drive through the countryside to reach Sibsagar, the ancient city, built around a huge man made water tank ordered by the Ahom queen. A town that literally means 'the ocean of Lord Shiva’.  We notice the district is strewn with the tell-tale ruins of a powerful empire of the Ahoms.  Sibsagar was the capital of the Tai-speaking Ahoms who came in the 13th Century AD to the area from the north-east and were essentially of Tibeto-Burman origin. 

The Shiva Dol, constructed in the year 1734 is believed to be one of the highest Shiva temple in India. 

We visit Talatal or Kareng Ghar which was the palace of the Ahom Kings and after a leisurely stroll in and around the monument, we go on to Rang Ghar which was a place for hosting wrestling bouts and buffalo fights and other entertainment or important meetings of the Royals and their guests.

We return to MV Mahabaahu by sunset for the farewell dinner.

Overnight on-board on MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 21: Sunday: MV Mahabaahu – Neamati Ghat – Jorhat & Departure

Morning is at leisure to enjoy, Yoga/ bird-watching or perhaps an early morning indulgence in the spa.

A relaxed breakfast awaits all (Baggage down prior to breakfast is requested for easy de-boarding)

We drive to the Jorhat airport en-route stopping at a tea estate to enjoy a traditional Assamese early lunch.

Depart for the airport to board the flight to the onward destination.

(B, Packed-L)

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