Bhutan Festival Tour – a 13 day Small Group Tour.
Journey through one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas to explore medieval monasteries and get to grips with Bhutan’s fascinating living traditions and complex religious heritage.
Starting and ending in Paro one of the many highlights of this tour is the opportunity to attend one of the interesting cultural Bhutanese festivals where you will be able to interact with the local people and experience age old customs and traditions.
Of course, any visit to Bhutan must also include the stunning Tiger’s Nest Monastery and we have a full day here.
Our tour to this beautiful nation allows a glimpse of some of its most spectacular sights, from the amazing Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery in its dramatic cliff face location to the imposing Punakha Dzong, an incredible fortress with a turbulent past.
We travel through spectacular Himalayan scenery and have the opportunity to visit traditional Buddhist temples.
The highlight of this trip is the chance to celebrate at one of the many festivals held throughout the year in Bhutan.
The tours in February/March include the Punakha Festival (Tsechu). The tours in April/May include the small and local Ura Festival in the Bumthang region.
The tours in September include the Tangbi Mani Festival in the Bumthang region. The tours in November include the Black Necked Crane Festival in the stunning Phobjikha Valley.
Please contact us for the full details and tour dossier of the tour you wish to take.
Day 1 – Paro- Thimphu
(Approximate driving time: one-hour)
Arrival at Paro International Airport, situated in a beautiful 2,280m valley, is a fitting introduction to the Kingdom of Bhutan. After meeting your guide and driver, travel along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. En route stop to take in views of the magnificent Tamchhog Lhakhang monastery, the hereditary place of worship for 14th century maverick, Thangtong Gyalpo, responsible for the construction of Bhutan’s iron bridges. In Thimphu take a late afternoon walk around town, soaking in the atmosphere of the city’s busy shops, bazaars, populated by Bhutanese citizens wearing national dress. Later, visit the archery ground where local teams demonstrate their skills in the national sport of Bhutan. Overnight at Gakyil Hotel or similar. (D)
Day 2 – Thimphu
Today, visit the weekend market, the revered Memorial Chorten and the Changangkha temple. The temple is perched on the hilltop overlooking the town and welcomes devotees throughout the day to turn its prayer wheels. Inside, there’s a wealth of ornate wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures inscribed in gold. Later, take an easy stroll along the valley and through a beautiful pine forest, enjoying wide ranging views. In the afternoon, there’s time to peruse the city centre’s many handicraft stalls, all displaying products entirely made in Bhutan. There’s also an option to visit Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, dating from 1629. Overnight at Gakyil Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Please Note: The walk along the valley should take around one-and-a-half-hours and follows a good trail.
Day 3 – Thimphu – Punakha via Dochu La
(Approximate driving time: three-hours)
After breakfast, drive to the old capital of Punakha, via the 3,050m Dochu La Pass. On a clear day you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Eastern Himalayan peaks well over 7,000m. Descending through cool forest, the climate and vegetation change as we approach low lying Punakha, situated at 1,250m in a fertile valley. We take a pleasant walk across terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’, Lama Drukpa Kuenley. Later we visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, ‘Palace of Great Happiness’, built in 1637 and strategically placed at the confluence of the Po Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Close to the dzong a spectacular suspension footbridge crosses the Po Chu. It’s worth taking a short detour to cross it for the thrill and for excellent views of the river. Overnight at Hotel Lobesa or similar. (BLD)
Please Note: The walk to the Temple of Fertility is easy and takes around one-and-a-half-hours, there and back. The last approach to the temple is uphill with steps, but it’s not steep.
Day 4 – Punakha Valley
After breakfast we visit Chorten Ningpo, dating from the 17th century. The chorten is a little-known spot with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. Legend has it that the area was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits. The magnificent oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown from a blazing log thrown by the ‘Divine Madman’ – the tree’s bark is still black from where it was burnt. In 2005 the monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village and founded a small Buddhist educational institution. We take a hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten via the village of Yebisa. The walk starts at the suspension bridge below Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten and passes through the rice paddies of Yebisa village to the temple. The temple is 30m tall and dedicated to the fifth King. From the top there are excellent views of the valley and surrounding villages. Descending to the bridge, we’ll meet our vehicle, and rest of the afternoon is free to relax. Overnight Hotel Lobesa or similar. (BLD)
Please Note: There is an optional rafting expedition this morning instead of the hike to Chorten Ningpo. Rafting on the Mo Chu (Mother River) is a low grade of difficulty with some gentle rapids. The majority of the ride down the valley is calm with plenty of time to soak up the views and watch the many species of birds on the riverbanks. The journey takes about one-and-half-hours and latterly passes the impressive Punakha Dzong, offering a unique perspective on this historic building. Please let us know when booking if you wish to join raft expedition. It’s likely you’ll get wet so dress accordingly. Lifejackets and helmets are provided.
Day 5 - Punakha – Trongsa – Bumthang
(Approximate driving time: eight-hours)
An early start today sees us arriving in Trongsa, at 2,180m the gateway to central Bhutan, at around midday. We visit Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family set amid spectacular surroundings and commanding the eye from miles away. Afterwards we drive through some of Bhutan’s most beautiful scenery to the legendary monasteries, temples and palaces of Bumthang. Bumthang is a collective name for four valleys, Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume, together the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 6 – Bumthang
Today enjoy exploring Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, with its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces. We take a fascinating tour of a variety of sacred sites in the valley including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang. Later visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong (Jakar), with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley. You may also be able to visit the weekly market. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 7 - Tang Valley- Bumthang
(Approximate driving time: three-hours)
Tang is the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys, its inhabitants mostly involved in the raising of sheep and yaks. We’ll see picturesque villages and temples, and take a short walk to visit Ugyenchholing Palace, now a museum that offers interesting insights on the life of an aristocratic family in the last century. We return to Bumthang’s Chokhor valley for the night. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Please Note – the walk to the palace should take around 30 minutes.
Day 8 – Bumthang – Gangtey
(Approximate driving time: six-hours)
We leave early again this morning in order to reach Gangtey, situated at 2,900m, by early afternoon. We stop on the way at the village of Zungney where women hand weave traditional ‘yathras’, the woollen strips used in the making of blankets, bedcovers and winter jackets. We continue to Ta Dzong watchtower were the museum is dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty. Displays tell stories of the dzong and the valley it has watched over for centuries and feature personal artefacts belongings of the Kings and Queens of Bhutan. [Note: May be closed in winter]. On the approach to Gangtey we have remarkable views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the Black Mountain ranges beyond. On arrival in Gangtey we visit Gangtey Gompa, one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries, subject of recent restoration. We spend time exploring the valley where villagers maintain a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. Later we take a gentle nature walk starting from the monastery, through the forest to the valley floor. Here, black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds during November each year after spending summer in Tibet. Overnight Dewachen Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Please Note: The nature walk should take around one-and-a-half-hours and is an easy stroll along a good trail.
Day 9 – Phobjikha Valley and the Black Necked Crane Festival
Today we visit the annual Black Necked Crane Festival in Gangtey. The festival takes place in the courtyard of the monastery is held to promote the cause of conservation among the local people. After flag raising and welcome ceremonies there will be dances performed by schoolchildren, and stalls offering local food. At the black-necked crane information centre it’s possible to learn more about these amazing birds and spot some of them through the centre’s fieldscopes. Overnight Dewachen Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 10 – Gangtey to Paro
(Driving time approximately 7 hours)
This morning we leave the Phobjikha Valley and travel to Wangdi (also known as Wangdue Phodrang), once considered Bhutan’s secondary capital. Sadly, Wangdi Dzong caught fire in June 2012. The ensuing blaze destroyed in a few hours a magnificent building that had stood proudly for 370 years, and negated months of painstaking restoration work following previous earthquake damage. There is little now to see in Wangdi after a brief stop for lunch we’ll return to Paro where there’s some free time to visit the local handicraft shops. Overnight at Olathang Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 11- Paro
This morning we explore the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. Later we visit the National Museum, previously housed in the unusual circular, conch shell-designed Ta Dzong, on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong. The Ta Dzong was damaged during a 2011 earthquake and its contents moved to a neighbouring building. However, it’s still possible to see the magnificent collection of Bhutanese artefacts, including costumes, religious paintings, arms, textiles and a fascinating collection of Bhutanese stamps. Nearby, we visit 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of great historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. Overnight at Olathang Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 12 –The Tiger’s Nest Monastery
This morning we embark on an amazing hike to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, the sacred Paro Taktsang monastery which clings impossibly to the rock face 900m above the valley floor. The monastery is the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan, and Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding upon a tigress. He subsequently meditated there for three months – it must have been a helluva ride. Paro Taktsang is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims from Bhutan and neighbouring Buddhist countries. We’ll have lunch at the monastery cafeteria which offers spectacular views. On the way back there’s time to visit Dumtse Lhakhang, the temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the famous 14th century bridge builder. Overnight at Olathang Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Please note: The ascent to the Tiger’s Nest monastery is very steep and you should be sure that your level of fitness allows you to make the hike. Expect the entire hike, including stops the cafeteria, to take six-hours. Speak to our team who have personal experience of the hike.
Day 13 – Depart Bhutan
Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport and wish you Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck). (B)
Dates & Price.
Dates and Festivals
Please contact us for the exact itinerary for each festival.
2024 dates are provisional and may change when official dates for the festivals have been released.
The tours in Februay/March include the Punakha Festival (Tsechu). Please see the downloads section for the itinerary.
The tours in April include the small and local Ura Festival in the Bumthang region. Please see the downloads section for the itinerary.
The tours in September include the Tangbi Mani Festival in the Bumthang region. Please see the downloads section for the itinerary.
The tours in November include the Black Necked Crane Festival in the stunning Phobjikha Valley. This the main itinerary featured on the website.
Flights to Paro in Bhutan are accessed through a number of Asia hub cities such as Delhi, Calcutta, Kathmandu or Bangkok. The flights are usually on Druk Air and prices range from £350 return to £800 return from these cities. We highly recommend booking your tour places early for Bhutan as during the festivals the flights to Paro can be in short supply.
Flights to Kathmandu , Delhi, Calcutta and Bangkok start from around £500 per person subject to availability.
Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.
Combination tour - Nepal
Our Highlights of Nepal tour can be taken before our Bhutan Festival tour so that you can combine both of these countries!
Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?
Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.
For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA
- Arrival and departure transfers
- Transport throughout
- All accommodation
- Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary
- Services of English speaking guide
- Mineral water in the vehicles
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
- Bhutan Entry Visa
- International flights including those to and from Paro
- Any airport taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Drinks – alcoholic and soft drinks
- Items of a personal nature
- Tips (discretionary)