Cultural Bhutan with Punakha Festival
A seat-in-coach tour introducing you to Bhutan’s fortresses, monasteries, unique architecture and lifestyles.
A visa is required for all nationalities except Indian citizens. A&S Signature Journeys undertakes to handle your visa which will be issued on arrival.
- Paro Dzong – a 17th century fortress turned into a monastry.
- Chortens of Punakha.
- Festivities at Punakha.
- Black-necked cranes of Phobjikha valley.
- Tongsa Dzong – the ancestral home of the Royal Family.
- Tamshing lhakhang – oldest temple in Bhutan, built in 1501.
Sunday, March 9: Arrive Paro / Sightseeing
On your flight to Paro, the views of the Everest, Kanchen Junga and other Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Chomolhari and Jichu Drakey in Bhutan are awesome. On arrival in Paro our representatives will receive you and check you into your hotel.
After lunch, see the rich history of Bhutan exhibited in the 17th century National Museum. A tour of the beautiful Paro Dzong will introduce you to the unique aspects of the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom and its unique architectural buildings. A lovely stroll downhill from the Dzong over an old cantilever bridge wraps up an eventful first day in this magical kingdom. Overnight in Paro.
Monday, March 10: Punakha Drubchen
In the morning, head out of town for a spectacular drive to Punakha where you can see the 108 beautiful chortens built by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. From this pass, on a clear day, you can have a superb view of the highest peaks in Bhutan. After a hot cup of tea continue your drive to the Punakha Valley. In the afternoon, visit the 1637 Punakha Dzong, built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to witness the Punakha Drubchen. Tshechu’s are festive event in honor of Guru Rimpoche a great 8th century master. During the Festival you will get ample time to interact with the locals and take many colorful pictures of the fascinating mask dances and the happy face of the locals. The Dzong stands majestically at the junction of the two rivers – Pho Chu and Mo Chu(the Male and Female rivers). Overnight in Punakha.
Tuesday, March 11: Punakha Dromchen Festival
After breakfast, drive to Punakha Dzong to attend the Punakha Tshechu, a festival celebrated in honor of 2nd Buddha Guru Rimpoche, where the entire local people come in their best attire to witness the graceful event.
Later a 3 hour drive takes you to the beautiful Phobjikha valley and on the way hike on the Chimi Lhakhang the temple of the Devine mad man. It is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. The 17th century Nyingmapa monastry, Gangtey goemba sits prominently on a hill top. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders on the Black Mountain National Park. Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes(Grus nigricollis) that winter here, it is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country. Here you can use the centers powerful binoculars to observe the cranes in the valley and also get information about the cranes. Overnight in Punakha.
Wednesday, March 12: Phobjikha Valley to Trongsa
Today you will visit the 17th century Gangtey goemba monastery and continue to Trongsa crossing the pelela pass, the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large prayer flag and the ground is covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo. Stop enroute at Chendbji Chorten, which was built in 18th century by a lama named Shida, it is Nepalese in style with eyes painted at four cardinal points.
On arrival, check in to hotel to relax and for lunch. In the afternoon visit Tongsa Dzong, built in 1648, the ancestral home of the Royal Family. Both the first and the second king ruled the country from this ancient seat. Also, visit Ta Dzong, perched above the Trongsa dzong, a watch tower which once stood guard over the Trongsa dzong from internal rebellion. It is now begin turned into a museum and showcase the history of our monarchs and Bhutan at large. Overnight in Trongsa.
Thursday, March 13: Trongsa to Bumthang
Drive to Bumthang which is about 3 hours from Trongsa into a wide, open, cultivated valley known as Chumey valley. Enroute, stop to visit the Yathra factory where traditional Yathra fabric from sheep wool is made – this fabric is indigenous to the Bumthang valley.
Visit the 17th century fortress “The castle of the white bird”. In the evening visit the Swiss guest house for a special feast. Overnight in Bumthang
Friday, March 14: Bumthang Sightseeing
Visit a farmhouse to experience miking or cow and churning of butter and milk. Enjoy traditional Bhutanese breakfast at the farmhouse and interact with the host and the family members. Later, head out for sightseeing in the valley.
Bumthang valley is one of the most sacred valleys in the Kingdom and innumerable legends surround the area. It is here that the kings are cremated and the present royal family traces their ancestry back to the famous saint, Pemalingpa.
Visit the Kurje Lhakhang (where the saint Padsambhava subdued a local demon and left his body imprint on a rock), Jambay lhakhang which was built in 7th century and is one of the oldest temple in Bhutan, Tamshing lhakhang built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa and visit the Kharchu Dratshang, a Nyingmapa monastery where you can see the novice monks debating on subjects of Buddhism. In the evening take a leisurely stroll in the Jakar town. Overnight in Bumthang.
Saturday, March 15: Flight to Paro – Thimphu
Take the 30 minute domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro. The flight offers breath taking views of the Bhutanese mountains. Drive to Thimphu and visit the King’s Memorial Stupa built in 1974, the Folk heritage Museum founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. The museum is one of a kind that portrays the lifestyle of a genteel family in the Thimphu valley in the olden days. Visit the mothithang Takin reserve park. Later, visit the Tashichho Dzong. The ‘Fortress of the glorious religion’ houses the throne room of His Majesty the king, the main secretariat building and the central monk body. Its courtyard is open to visitors during the off-office hours. Overnight in Thimphu.
Sunday, March 16: Hike to Tango and Visit to CTAS
Drive north of Thimphu to Dodena. A one-hour hike brings you to Tango Monastery, a monastic school and retreat built in the 15th century – the residence of the Druk Desi Gyaltsen Tenzin Rabgye, a lama who is a reincarnation of the 16th century monk who founded Tango (tango means horse’s head; the monastery is named for a rock formation on the mountain it is built on). Tango’s inner courtyard is beautifully painted in bright colors, with lovely views stretching across the Thimphu Valley. Picnic lunch is organized.
After lunch visit the weekend market in Thimphu to experience local market and shop for arts and crafts on the other side of the river bank. Visit Authentic Craft Bazar and the Textile museum to understand about the traditional Bhutanese weaving and textiles. Evening at leisure. Overnight in Thimphu.
Monday, March 17: Paro Taktshang
Drive to Paro. Hike to the famous Taktshang Lhakhang “The Tigers Lair”. Clinging to a black rock face, above the valley floor, nestles Taktshang Lhakhang, one of the holiest and the most beautiful sites of Bhutan. Taktshang, the tiger’s lair, acquires its name from the legend of its foundation, when in the 8th Century Guru Rinpoche, widely revered as the second Buddha, arrived from Tibet flying across the mountains on the back of a tigress. He meditated at the site for three months, from where he used the religious cycle of the Kagye to subjugate the Eight Categories of Evil Spirits, and thus converted the region to Buddhism. The hike to the Monastery is a gradual climb of about 4-5 hours from the car park.
Towards evening, you will visit a typical farm house in the outskirt of Paro valley to get a glimpse into the lifestyle of a farming family in Bhutan. The family will arrange the traditional hot stone bath at the farm house. Today you have the option to experience the authentic local cuisine for dinner at the farm house and sample the locally brewed Ara (Rice Wine) and Butter Tea. Later transfer back to the Hotel. Overnight in Paro.
Tuesday, March 18: Departure
Drive to Paro International Airport for onward flight home.
Land cost per person on twin sharing basis.
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