Bhutan - Festival Tour


Bhutan - Festival Tour

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 12 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Itinerary

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 bridge ,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)

 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 - Bumthang

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. The highlight of the festival is the fire blessing (Mewang) ceremony with several mask dances also performed. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 7 – Gangtey

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. We will visit Gangtey Gompa, one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries which has recently been restored, and explore the valley where the villagers live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle.Overnight in Gangtey (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 Taktshang monastery which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. It is the birthplace of Buddhism 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)

Day 12 – Depart Bhutan

Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off onto your flight and wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck). (B)


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