Festival Date: 6 November, 2014 – 10 November, 2014
Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Thimphu, Farmer’s Market, Town Stroll, o/n Thimphu
Day 2 Thimphu valley exploration, o/n Thimphu
Day 3 Transfer to Punakha. Dochula hike , Chimi Lhakhang, o/n Punakha
Day 4 Explore Punakha. Punakha Dzong, Royal Temple, o/n Punakha
Day 5 Transfer to Bumthang, o/n Bumthang
Day 6 Bumthang exploration. Jambay Lhakhang Drub, o/n Bumthang
Day 7 Bumthang valley. Tang valley excursion, o/n Bumthang
Day 8 Transfer to Gangtey, Trongsa Dzong, Royal Museum, o/n Gangtey
Day 9 Gangtey exploration. Nature Trail Hike, Gangtey Goempa, o/n Gangtey
Day 10 Transfer to Paro, Paro Dzong, National Museum, o/n Paro
Day 11 Paro exploration. Tiger’s Nest Hike, shopping, o/n Paro
Day 12 International Departure
Day 1: Arrival in Paro. Transfer to Thimphu
On arrival at the Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall.
Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and lets have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sight-seeing, like the weekend market.
Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products.
We will head on to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan in the morning. The roads bring visitors through scented pine and cedar forests, festooned with hanging lichen.
Day 2: Thimphu exploration
Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan. Made up of just three main streets, it is only one of 2 capitals in the world without traffic lights. As the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu offers a rich cultural heritage with places of interest as listed below
Folk Heritage Museum – Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artifacts used in rural households.
Textile Museum – witness the art of traditional weaving.
Thimphu Dzong – the largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
National Memorial Chorten – which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Paper making factory – witness the art of paper making.
Simtokha Dzong – Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge, stands Simtokha Dzong the oldest fortress in the Kingdom.
Cheri Monastery – Option for today would be a short hike to the first monastery up north of Thimphu valley for those who like to stretch their legs.
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
Dochula Pass – at 3,050m, this beautiful pass with its 108 Bhutanese stupas is the memorial site of fallen Bhutanese soldiers in the 1990s.
Dochula Nature Hike
En route we will visit Chhimi Lhakhang – A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for couples wanting a child.
2 hours drive
Day 4: Punakha exploration
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten – Hike to Khamsum in the morning. Built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck this Chorten is a splendid example of the Bhutanese architecture and art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It has been built over eight and a half years and its details have been drawn from religious scripture.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Day 5: Punakha to Bumthang
We will pause to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Built in 1638, Wangdue Dzong is dramatically perched on the spur of a hill and overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
Drive time 7 hours
Day 6: Bumthang exploration – Jambay Lhakhang Drub
This is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is an area with a wide variety of fauna and flora. The Guru Rimpoche and his lineage of Tertons (treasure finders) making Bumthang their home have led to more than 40 temples being built in this peaceful valley. Witness the Festival today, a rich form of the oral history tradition where the Bhutanese pass on values, mythology and spiritual beliefs through the dance dramas.
Jambay Lhakhang Drub is very popular for its Tercham, naked dance which are performed every night of the festival by group of men around a fire.
We can visit the many sacred temples and monasteries of Bumthang in the afternoon.
Day 7: Bumthang – Tang valley excursion
Tang valley excursion and hike to Ugyen Choling Palace
Lunch at Ugyen Choling Palace
Me-Bar Tsho (Burning Lake) one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, the holylake is said to be one of the holiest lakes in Bhutan. Long time ago, Terton Pema Lingpa (Buddhist saint and treasure discoverer) dived into the lake while holding a burning butter lamp on one hand. Several hours later when he came out of the lake, he was holding some relics one one hand and the butter lamp on his other hand was still burning. Thus the lake was called Me-Bar Tsho (Me-bar=Burning Tsho=Lake)
Ugyen Choling Palace Our journey about 2hours drive, we stop at a roadside temple and a nunnery, ending in the Tang valley and the village of Kesum. From the road head we have a one-hour hike over a suspension footbridge, through farm fields and cluster villages, up a “hill” to the mystical Ugyen Choling Palace where we will spend nights in the owner’s guesthouse or in the Dzong.
Ugyen Choling Palace built 17th century by Deb Tsokey Dorji, a descendant of Buddhist Saint Dorje Lingpa. Ugyen Choling is a national treasure, privately owned by the same family for hundreds of years. Its remote location makes it one of the less frequently visited historical sites in Bhutan, hosting fewer than two hundred guests per year. One of the owners wrote a book on Bhutanese folk tales of the Yeti and her brother is the property’s caretaker.
The best part of the Palace is the quaint museum housing permanent exhibits on three floors in the main building and the Utse, the central tower. Traditional living quarters are recreated to capture the realistic ambiance of the ancient lifestyles and conditions of the households. Everyday kitchen and weaving utensils, war weapons–including petrified yak dung to make gunpowder–tools and farming implements are the main part of the exhibits In the evening, villagers (mostly single ladies looking to meet our guides and drivers) will come to the Palace for an evening of cultural entertainment. You’re invited to join in the singing and dancing.
Drive time one and half hours
Day 8: Bumthang to Gangtey
En route to Gangtey is Trongsa, the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty.
Trongsa, literally “New Town” in the Dzongkha language, is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. Each King in the line of succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before donning the Raven Crown.
Trongsa Dzong – The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by by Pema Lingpa. The Dzong flourished during the 17th century under Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. With its massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde Chu Valley, the Dzong commands the east-west road.
Taa Dzong – Built as a watchtower the Taa Dzong has since been turned into a Heritage Museum. A book on this prominent Dzong is written by Christian Schicklgruber entitled The Tower of Trongsa, Religion and Power in Bhutan.
Drive time 5 hours
Day 9: Gangtey exploration
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black-necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Goempa monastery. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Nature Trail Hike – beautiful hike in the valley of Phobjikha which allows a visit to the Black Necked Crane Centre.
Gangtey Goempa – 17th century monastery overlooking the valley.
Option for more adventurous travelers today would be Longtey Day Hike.
Day 10: Gangtey to Paro
Paro Valley- The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Jomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong – also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzongkhag.
Ta Dzong – Built as a watchtower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Drive time 4 hours
Day 11: Paro valley excursion
Taktshang Monastery- This morning will begin with a hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor.
Kyichu Lhakhang- After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
The balance of the day can be spend browsing shops in town
Day 12: International Departure