Cross Culture Journeys with Festivals
- Duration: 9 Days, 8 Nights
Hike, Visit Dzongs (fortresses), Temples, and Mingle along with the locals at the Festivals.
Note: Festivals in Bhutan are wonderful opportunities to witness authentic centuries-old traditions. They are not held for tourists-we are simply welcome guests at a sacred Bhutanese celebration. Festivals are centered around dances held annually at important religious sites. They are performed by monks and locals dressed in brightly colored silk robes and masks. Dances are enactments of visions of ancient saints and dharma lessons that remind people of the frailty of life and the need for proper living to attain a higher realm of existence in future lives. Shops, games and food stalls are set up to create a country fair atmosphere.
Day 1. Arrive in Bhutan
On Arrival at the airport, after immigration and customs formalities, your guide-for the whole trip, will receive and escort you to a restaurant in town for lunch.
After lunch proceed to Thimphu, the capital city, 46 miles, 1.5 hours. With a population of about 100,000, it is like no other capital city- the valley is unique, displaying harmony of tradition and modernity. There are no traffic lights and policemen direct traffic at intersections. Yet it is the biggest city in the country and seat of the government as well as the main hub of commerce in the country.
- Other sights en route include 15th century Tamchog Lhakhang, three types of stupa s at Chunzom ( the confluence of the Pa Chhu and Wang Chhu, rivers from Paro and Thimphu).
- In the evening your guide will brief you on the upcoming days.
Day 2. Thimphu Halt.
Today is the second day of the annual festival of Thimphu, attend the festival performed at the courtyard of the Tashichoedzong.
The most popular religious festival are the dromche and tshechus (religious dance festival) which are held annually in different parts of the country. Thimphu’s annual festival and Paro Tshechu are the most popular festivals that attract thousands of crowds from the remotest of villages and tourists alike. It is believed by attending them one gains merit and blessings and at the same time take respite from the hard mountain life. It is a good time to see relatives in a jovial atmosphere outside their fields and offices. They rejoice and feast, and exhibit their best hand-woven dresses and precious jewelry.
- In the afternoon, visit the Tashichoedzong, the summer seat of the Je Khenpo- the head Abbot, and the central monastic body, the Golden Throne and the Office of the King.
- The Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third King, his Majesty Jigme Singye wangchuck, lovingly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is one of the few stupa’s that has an inner sanctum of temples.
Day 3. Thimphu Halt.
- Attend the festival in the morning until lunch.
- Later visit the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, where you can see the traditional way of making papers from the bark of Daphne plants. Bhutan in ancient days was the biggest supplier of paper in the Himalayan region for printing religious scripture and prayers.
- Drive to Kuenselphodrang to see the giant Buddha (169ft/51m) and enjoy the view with the scenic walk.
- Visit the Takin preserve, which showcases Bhutan’s National Animal, the Takin, along with some Deer species and Himalayan Goats.
- Then visit the Drubthob Nunnery, where you can see young and elder nuns practicing the dharma teachings.
Day 4. Thimphu to Punakha.
This morning we drive to the beautiful Punakha valley over the spectacular Dochula Pass (3,150m), beautifully decorated with the Druk wangyal Chortens (108 stupas), and the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang, situated on the hillock above. We stop for pictures and visit the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang, on a clear day the pass heralds the most enchanting view of Bhutan’s Himalaya peaks including the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Gangkar Puensum 24,835ft/7,5600m.
- Good part of the drive after Dochula Pass, in the right season offers vista of blooming giant magnolias, fields of rhododendrons, mountain lilies, primroses and many other flowers, it is also a paradise for bird lovers/watchers.
- Explore the Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri, to see the rhododendron garden and visit the Visitors Information Centre.
- An hour and half downhill from here will bring you to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, where we stop for lunch.
- Visit the Punakha Dzong, it is one of the most magnificent dzongs in the country, located on a strategic point at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (male) and the Mo Chhu (female) rivers connected by a traditional cantilever bridge over the Mo Chhu. Punakha played an important role in the history of Bhutan, it served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government.
Day 5. Punakha Halt.
Today we are attending the annual festival of Wangdiphodrang, the whole day at the festival. In the afternoon hike to Chimed Lhakhang, a popular destination for fertility blessings including foreigners.
Day 6. Punakha Halt.
Today is the last day of the Wangdiphodrang festival, attend the festival and if you think you had enough of the festival you can opt to drive to Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley and visit the Gangtey Sangnacholing monastery.
- Hike the Nature Trail maintained by the RSPN Centre, which is a good walk downhill through farmhouses, pine forest covering 4.1kms.
- In the evening drive back to Punakha.
Day 7. Punakha to Paro
After breakfast retrace the road back to Paro, once again over the Dochula Pass, another chance to see the mountains if you missed the last time. Stop for lunch at the Pass or in Thimphu, before continuing to Paro.
- In the evening witness some locals practicing archery near the Paro town.
Day 8. Paro Halt.
- Hike to Taktsang (literally translated as tiger’s Nest), built on an impossible perch in a cliff, it is a sight to behold. One of the most famous temples of Bhutan, especially to the outside world, is perched 900 metres above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche, the Tantric saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, is believed to have arrived here on the back of tigress and remained in meditation for about three months. Revered as one of the most sacred place, many saints from Tibet and India travelled here on pilgrimage.
- It is a 5 hour hike including visit to the lhakhang.
- On the way back visit the kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century Buddhist temple, founded by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to overcome a demoness who was trying to stop the spread of Buddhism in Tibet and the Himalayas.
Day 9. Depart.
Your tour to the Mystical Bhutan ends today, your guide will see you off at the Paro airport.