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

Dossier

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.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●●○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ○○○○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights

  • 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 opportunity to attend the Black Necked Crane Festival.

Tour Essentials

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
Countries: Bhutan

Bhutan – Black Necked Crane Festival

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. Arriving and departing from Paro one of the many highlights of this tour is the opportunity to see the returning Black Necked Cranes in Gangtey, and attend the annual Black Necked Crane Festival, which is held to encourage conservation among local people. Of course, any visit to Bhutan must also include the stunning Tiger’s Nest Monastery on a full day hike.

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.

Tour Guide

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- Thimphu

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 the 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)

Thimpu

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 you 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 you 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

Today drive approximately 3 hours to the old capital, Punakha, via Dochu La pass at 3050 metres, where you 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, you will 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

After breakfast begin the 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, with a 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 some of the sacred sites around the valleys including Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang.  You can also visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong (Jakar), with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley. You may be interested to see Bumthang’s famous Swiss cheese factory and dairy. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 6 – Tang Valley- Bumthang

Drive to Tang valley, the most remote of Bumthang's valleys, where the people raise sheep and yaks. You will see picturesque villages and temples and can walk up to visit Ugyenchholing Palace, which is now a museum and gives an interesting insight into the life of an aristocratic family in the last century. Return to Bumthang for the night. Overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 7 – Ura Valley

Today we will drive approximately 1.5 hours to the Ura Valley, stopping on the way at Membar Tsho (“Burning Lake”), which is one of Bhutan’s most important pilgrimage sites. Continue to Ura village, situated at 3100m and dominated by its temple. Ura is in the highest of Bumthang's valleys and is believed to be the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. The village has about 40 houses closely set along cobbled streets, giving it a medieval atmosphere. You can also visit Sumthrang Monastery, founded in the 13th century and currently undergoing renovation; there is a small collection of sacred arts and crafts on display.  Return to Bumthang and overnight at Ugyenling Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 8 – Gangtey

Drive approximately 5-6 hours to reach Gangtey situated at 2900 metres, stopping at the village of Zungney where you can watch the women weaving traditional “yathras” by hand- 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. You 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. This is the site where Black-Necked Cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet. Overnight at a local guesthouse. (BLD)

Day 9 – Gangtey

Today (which is also the birthday of the Fourth King) you will visit the annual Black Necked Crane Festival in Gangtey. The festival takes place in the courtyard of the monastery and provides the opportunity to share a local cultural experience; it is held to promote conservation among the local people.  There will be some official rituals, such as flag raising and welcome ceremonies, followed by folk culture displays, including dances performed by schoolchildren. There will be stalls offering local food. You will also visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centre, to learn more about these amazing migrating birds, with the opportunity to spot some of them. Overnight at a local guesthouse. (BLD)

Day 10 – Paro

Wangdi (also known as Wangdue Phodrang) was originally considered Bhutan’s secondary capital. 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 stop for lunch you will return to Paro, a drive of approx.5 hours. You will have some free time to visit the local handicraft shops to look for souvenirs. Overnight at Olathang Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 11- Paro

This morning you visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. You 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 you 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 Olathang Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 12 – The Tiger’s Nest

Today you hike 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..You 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 Olathang 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 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)

Inclusions:
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

Excluded:
International flights including those to and from Paro
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks - alcoholic and soft drinks
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)


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