Festival Dates: 09th January 2014 – 11th January 2014
Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Thimphu, o/n Thimphu
Day 2 Thimphu valley Exploration. Farmer’s Market, o/n Thimphu
Day 3 Transfer to Punakha. Dochula, Punakha Dzong, o/n Punakha
Day 4 Transfer to Trongsa. Chimi Lhakhang, Taa Dzong, o/n Trongsa
Day 5 Trongsa Tshechu. Transfer to Gangtey, o/n Gangtey
Day 6 Gangtey valley Exploration. Nature Trail Hike and Gangtey Gombpa, o/n Gangtey
Day 7 Transfer to Paro. Paro Dzong and Taa Dzong, o/n Paro
Day 8 Tiger’s Nest Hike, Farmhouse lunch, Town Stroll, o/n Paro
Day 9 International Departure
Day 1: Arrival in Paro. Transfer to Thimphu.
Touching down at 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.
Attractions around Thimphu
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.
Day 2: Thimphu valley exploration
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.
Centenary 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.
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
Dochula Pass – the 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the lives lost.
Dochula Nature Hike – Hike through the deep forest of Rhododendrons, Magnolia and Juniper for more than 2 hours to the Botanical Garden at the bottom. Beautiful hike to see the flora that Dochula has to offer.
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.
Drive Time 2 hours
Day 4: Punakha to Trongsa
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 barren women.
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 Shabdrung Ngwang 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 watch tower 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 4 hours
Day 5: Trongsa Tshechu. Transfer to Gangtey
The Trongsa Tshechu, as all Tshechu festivals, honors Padma Sambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the precious yogi and saint who is credited with having introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas. The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colorful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The culmination of festival constitutes the unfolding of a huge cloth thangka, a sacred scroll, depicting Padma Sambhava and imagery from Buddhist pantheon.
In the evening, we drive to Gangtey
Drive time two and a half hours
Day 6: Gangtey valley 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. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goempa. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Nature Trail Hike along the valley of Phobjikha
Black-Necked Crane Information Centre Black-Necked Crane Information Centre, which has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. You can use the centre’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet ’Field Guide to Crane Behaviour’. If the weather’s iffy you can browse the library and handicraft shop, and watch videos at 10am and 3pm. This is also the centre of the valley’s fledgling ecotourism initiative and they can arrange mountain-bike hire (Nu 700 per day), a local guide (Nu 300), an overnight stay in a local farmhouse (Nu 500) or lectures on the local ecosystem.
Day 7: 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 watch tower 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 8: Paro valley exploration – Hike to Tiger’s Nest
Drukgyal Dzong – A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Taktshang Monastery – 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 ending with Shopping and stroll through quaint Paro town.
Day 9: International Departure
After breakfast, transfer to Paro airport for international Departure.