Bhutan - Festival Tour
Bhutan - Festival Tour
Tucked away in a remote corner of the Himalayas, Bhutan is a nation unlike any other, a tranquil idyll where people still wear national dress and gross national happiness is more important that gross national product. Once closed to the outside world, Bhutan now allows a limited number of travellers to experience its charms. 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 the Tangbi Mani Festival including the fire blessing ceremony. This trip offers you a marvellous insight into the scenery and the way of life in this remote mountain kingdom.
Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ○○○○○
- The sacred Tiger’s Nest Monastery with its spectacular location
- The beautiful valleys and landscapes of Bhutan
- The opportunity to observe the enduring traditional landscapes and crafts of the local people.
- The Tangbi Mani Festival with its pageantry and colourful rituals
Accommodation: Mid-range comfortable small hotels
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Paro
End Point: Paro
Transport: Private car and bus
Tour Itinerary Notes
While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.
Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour you will generally have the same guide throughout your trip.
Day 1 – Paro
Arrive at Paro International Airport which is situated in a beautiful valley at 2280 metres and is a fitting introduction to this charming kingdom. Your guide will meet you and take you on a short one-hour drive along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. You can stop on the way to take in the magnificent Tamchhog Lhakhang,the hereditary place of worship for Thangtong Gyalpo, who organised the building of Bhutan’s iron bridges. Take a late afternoon walk around town and soak in the atmosphere of this magical capital with its busy shops and bazaars and photogenic citizens in national dress. Overnight at Galingkha Hotel or similar. (D)
Although Bhutan’s capital has developed over recent years and now exhibits many of the recognisable features of other cities, it still retains many of its traditional sites and attractions. While there are now vehicles, bars and restaurants, you will still mingle with local people in traditional dress and crimson clad monks, lending an enduring charm.
Day 2 - Thimphu
Today we will visit the weekly market, the revered Chorten Memorial and the Changangkha temple. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the town, devotees flock to the temple throughout the day to turn the prayer wheels. It also contains beautiful wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold. In the afternoon we will take in more of the sights and culture of the capital with the option of a trip to Simtokha Dzong which is one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan dating from 1629. The local market is a good source of handicrafts all made in Bhutan. Overnight at Galingkha Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 3 - Punakha
We drive approximately 3 hours to the old capital, Punakha, via Dochu La pass at 3050 metres, where we can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. You will notice the change of climate and vegetation as we approach low lying Punakha at 1250 metres. Take a pleasant walk of an hour or so across terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the “Divine Madman” (Lama Drukpa Kuenley). In the afternoon, we visit the imposing Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”; built in 1637, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. Overnight at Meri Puensum Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 4 - Trongsa
We begin the morning with an hour long hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten high on the hill across the hill. We continue with a drive of approximately 4.5 hours to Trongsa, the gateway to central Bhutan (2180 metres). Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, commands the eye from miles away. You can also visit Ta Dzong, the museum in the watchtower dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty, which tells the story of the Dzong and the valley it has watched over for centuries and features personal belongings of the Kings and Queens of Bhutan. Overnight at Yangkhil Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 5- Bumthang
This morning a drive of 2.5 hours takes us through some of Bhutan’s most beautiful scenery to Bumthang. The spiritual heartland of Bhutan with its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces, Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. Your guide will take you on a fascinating tour of a variety of sacred sites around the valleys. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 6 - Tangbi Mani Festival
Today we will join villagers from around the area to celebrate the Tangbi Mani Festival, which is one of the best attended of the festivals, said to bring peace and prosperity and a better harvest for all. The focus is on the sacred dances and rituals performed by both laymen and monks, adorned in colourful costumes. You can spend the entire day at the festival, but if you prefer a walk can also be arranged in the area. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD).
Day 7 – Gangtey
The highlight of the Tangbi Mani Festival is the fire blessing (Mewang) ceremony which takes place at 10am. It is an amazing sight as monks set fire to haystacks in the field and devotees run through the flames to cleanse themselves of their sins and ensure good luck for the coming year. Arrays of colourful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step". After the fire ceremony, we will drive approximately 5-6 hours to reach Gangtey at 2900 metres, stopping at the village of Zungney where we can watch the women weaving by hand traditional “yathras”- woollen strips used in the making of blankets, bedcovers and winter jackets. There are wonderful views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges. Overnight at Dewachen Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 8 – Nature Trail and local villages
Spend a full day walking in the Phobjikha Valley, pausing first at the village of Beta, where we may be able to visit the small school. We will continue along the Gangtey Nature Trail (approx 1.5 hrs), passing through forests of blue pine trees covered in lichen known as “old man’s beard”, and home to several species of birds At the end of the trail lies the village of Kingathang which is home to a temple built in honour of the Queen Mother. A 2 hour drive will take us to Wangdi. Overnight at Kichu Resort or similar. (BLD)
Day 9 – Wangdi and Paro
Wangdi (also known as Wangdue Phodrang) was originally considered Bhutan’s secondary capital due to its important central position. Sadly Wangdi Dzong was gutted by fire in June 2012, destroying in a few hours not only a magnificent building that had stood proudly for hundreds of years, but also the painstaking work that had been in progress for many months to repair recent earthquake damage using traditional construction methods. There is little now to see in Wangdi and after a brief stroll in the morning we will return to Paro, a drive of approx.. 5 hours. On arrival in Paro we will visit a local farmhouse for tea and may have the opportunity to try a hot stone bath. Overnight at Tenzinling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 10 – Paro
This morning we visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. We also visit the National Museum which was previously housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower), built on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong to defend it and the Paro valley during times of war, in an unusual circular construction resembling a conch shell. Unfortunately, an earthquake in September 2011 damaged the Ta Dzong and the contents of the museum were moved to a neighbouring building, although it is still possible to see a magnificent collection of Bhutanese artefacts – costumes, religious paintings, arms, textiles and a fascinating collection of Bhutan stamps. The National Museum is due to reopen in the Ta Dzong in 2017. Nearby we can also visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. There may be time to visit the archery ground to watch local people taking part in the national sport. Overnight at Tenzinling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
Day 11 – The Tiger’s Nest
Today we walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. It is the birthplace of Buddism in Bhutan and Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress and He subsequently meditated here for three months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. We can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria from where there is a spectacular view of the monastery. On the way back you may be interested to visit Dumtse Lhakhang, a temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, who was responsible for building many of the iron bridges in Bhutan. Overnight at Tenzinling Hotel or similar. (BLD)
The ascent to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is very steep and you should be sure that your level of fitness will allow you to make the hike.
Day 12 – Depart Bhutan
Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport and wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck). (B)
The tour which begins on 3rd November 2018 includes the Black Necked Crane Festival and the itinerary can be viewed in the Downloads section.
Arrival and departure transfers
Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary
Services of English speaking guide
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes
Items of a personal nature