This tour will take you right to the heart of Bhutan, Bumthang (the central region). It is a beautiful and picturesque valley. Witness and experience Bhutanese Folk Dances and Religious Mask Dances. Such religious festivals encourages both spiritual and social gatherings with utmost joy. You will get to experience the rural part of the country, visit important cultural sites, experience the unique tradition and culture and see beautiful landscapes.
Day 1: Arrive. Transfer to hotel, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 2: Transfer to Bumthang (30 mins flight).Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Bumthang.
Day 3: Explore Bumthang valley, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Bumthang.
Day 4: Transfer to Phobjikha, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 5: Explore Phobjikha valley, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 6: Transfer to Punakha valley, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Punakha.
Day 7: Explore Punakha valley, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Punakha.
Day 8: Transfer to Thimphu, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Thimphu.
Day 9: Transfer to Paro, Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 10: Trek Tiger nest monastery. Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 11: International Departure to your onward journey.
Day 1 : PARO (2300 m)
Our pilgrimage begins with a visit to the auspicious kyichu Lhakhang. The 7th century monastery is one of the oldest and most sacred temples in the Kingdom where the seed of Buddhism was won in Bhutan. The Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo ordered the establishment of monasteries in the Himalayan region to subdue evil spirits and to spread Buddhism. Of the 108 monasteries which were to be built, two major ones were built in Bhutan namely the Kyichu Lhakhang and the Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang.
We will drive down to the Paro Dzong and take in the amazing architecture of this 17th century monument, a premier example of Bhutan‟s architecture. Paro Dzong, built in 17th century to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong which means the ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district.
From the Dzong, a leisurely walk down crosses the scenic Nyamai zampa, a unique model of Bhutan’s traditional cantilever bridge.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 2 : BUMTHANG (2600 m)
PARO – BUMTHANG (30 Mins flight)
Bumthang is the most eastern point of your pilgrimage through the Land of the Thunder Dragon. It is considered by the Bhutanese as the spiritual hub of the country.
Lunch at Dorjibi Farmhouse. The family has cooked for the Royal family for generations. There the food is not just traditional Bhutanese food but serves Bumthang specialties made from local products such as buckwheat. By the time you arrive at their house, the lady of the house will have spent the entire afternoon preparing a range of local dishes, including some of the Royal family’s favorites for you to enjoy along with a taste of their home made local wine (ara).
After lunch the exploration of the Bumthang valley begins with visit to Tamshing Lhakhang (temple of good message) The monastery is located in a village across the river from Kurjey. It was built by Pema Lingpa in 1501 and is the most important Nyingma Lhakhang in the Kingdom. Being a skilled tantric master and an artist, Pema Lingpa sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in original state. He also created a 25 kg suit of chain-mail armor and it is believed that you will be freed from your sins if you carry it around the lhakhang three times.
Next we will visit the Jakar Dzong. The Dzong was founded by Ngagi Wangchuk as a small hermitage in 1549. It was expanded in 1646 to help consolidate the Zhabdrung’s expanding power into the eastern region. Scouting for a place for the dzong, a small white bird was seen perched on a hill, which was taken as an auspicious sign, and hence the name Jakar, meaning the “white bird”. The dzong is now the seat of district administration and monastic body of
We will then visit the auspicious Jampa Lhakhang. The monastery is believed to have been built in the year 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro, in order to subdue a Tibetan demoness. It was here that Guru Rinpoche conducted the first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sindhu Raja, the local ruler and his family. The place where Guru Rinpoche sat during the sermon can still be seen. Every year in October, the temple hosts a spectacular festival, the Jampa Lhakhang Drup. Two of the main attractions are the fire dance and the treasure dance or ‘naked dance’, and the fertility blessings for women.
And later if time permit we will visit Kurjey Lhakhang. The monastery is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche who was invited to meditate here in 746 AD to subdue evil spirits and demons. There are three temples; the oldest temple was built in 1652 on the rock face where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The body imprint of the great master can be seen distinctly in the rock cave enshrined in the temple. The second was built in 1900 by the first King when he was still the Governor of Trongsa. The third temple was built in 1990 with the support of the Queen Mother Ashi Kesang. A wall of 108 chortens surrounds the temple grounds and symbolizes Buddha’s victory over the evil spirits. The Cypress tree which is seen near the temple is believed to have grown from the Guru’s walking stick.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Bumthang.
Day 3 : BUMTHANG
Today we will take picnic lunch and spend our day witnessing the Thangbi Mani festival. This annual festival display the rich traditions and celebration of the cultural heritage of this ancient monastery.
The people from the three villages of Thangbi, Goling and Kharsath have been organizing the annual festival since its inception.
Thangbi monastery, located 25 minutes drive from the town is one of the historically significant temples in Bumthang. It is situated in the north valley at an altitude of 2730m and is surrounded by the beautiful village of Thangbi. The temple was built by the 4th Shamar Rimpoche called Chhoki Drakpa (great Buddhist master).
Festival day two Mewang (Fire Blessing)
The fire offering at the festival includes all four types of fire offerings (Peace, Increase, Power and Wrath). Therefore, it is thought to be highly effective when people participate, passing through the fire arch and offering as many prayers as possible while doing so. If we attain the fire blessing from the beginning itself then, it is believed that automatically the three qualities of life (longevity, luck and power). will substantially increase.
Zhana (Black Hat Dance)
This dance has a two meaning : it celebrates the assassination of the Tibetan King Langdarma in 842 A.D. by a Buddhist monk wearing a black robe. The monk hide the bow and arrows in the folds of his long sleeves. The Black Hat Dancers assume the appearance of yogis who have the power of taking and recreating life. They subdue and lead the unwilling to the field of Buddha. They accomplish this by manifesting external anger while being completely at peace within. Five fiendish enemies, which represent sins, disappear in the sphere of emptiness with the appearance of the Black Hat Tantrists. This dance can also be referred to as “Gar” dance. It is derived from a different tradition of the tantras.
Tshogcham (Dance of Offering)
This dance aims to help people navigate the Intermediate state (Bardo) and to achieve a higher rebirth by illustrating the different deities that appear during this intervening state Gonpo Bercham (Treasure Dance) This is a dance of a dharma protector know as Gonpo Bercham. The dancer have the half folded trouser which symbolize his immediate attention and hurry to rescue his master from Chinese.
Ngaging (Drum Dance)
A Drum Dance appear but this time wearing a blue wrathful mask and carrying hand drums in order to celebrate the victory over evil spirit through their subjugation. The blue mask represents the true nature of our pure mind which is stainless and spaciousness like the space beyond ordinary thought of cloud. The drum represents the celebration of victory over evil spirit and brings peace and happiness. Each beat brings liberation to all who are present in the dance courtyard and helps to remove suffering and its cause. Peaceful masks embody the limitless compassion of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Phole Mole (Dance of Prince & Princess)
It is a dance of the noble men and ladies (Pholay-men, Molay ladies).This dance is performed today in most tscheus for the reason that this dance is based on folk tale of king Norzang in Northern India. This dance is performed very eloquently and the performers wear rich cloths and jewelry. It is performed in a kind of drama like way unlike the other mask dances. Pholay and Molay speak to each other in significant dialogues..The incidence in the performance also means that love alone is not enough in the world. Everything in the world is fake, even beauty like love is not truth. Attractive wives and good looking man, who even cannot bear the temporary separation, have to fight and quarrel later because of the unbalanced nature of human mind and the changing bodies. The real meaning of our happiness lies in devoting to the Three Precious Jewel.
Atshara Dance, (Clown Dance)
The sacred dancers are accompanied by clowns, known as Atshara. This familiar stock characters are much appreciated by the crowd.
The function of the clown is also to entertain the spectators during the pauses in the dances. They also use their humorous roles in order to bring happiness and peace to the hearts of all the spectators.
Shazam (Dance of four Stag)
In the 8th century there was a Wind God who created so much of trouble and unhappiness to the people. Guru subdued this wind god, thereby restoring peace and happiness. The Stag dance portrays the subjugation of the Wind God by Guru Rimpoche. As to mark his victory, Guru Rimpoche rode the stag that happened to be the mount of the God of the Wind, when he subdued the wind god and appeased all beings by establishing peace and happiness. It was the first incarnations of the Nam Nying (Namkhe Ngingpo) who revealed the treasure of this dance. It is believed that he found the effigy of the stag and created the stag dance. During this dance, the appreciation of the virtuous people is demonstrated to all the beings destined to be converted in the future. After all the agitators of the world have been overcome, happiness and peace will reign supreme.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Bumthang.
Day 4 : PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (2900 m)
BUMTHANG – PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (5 hrs drive )
Phobjikha Valley is one of the most stunning areas in the country. The wide flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forest is an extremely rare experience in Bhutan. In contrast to some parts of Bhutan, where modern development is already very apparent, Phobjikha is a place with natural beauty, untouched scenery, local traditions and culture, and unconstrained peacefulness.
Today our pilgrimage takes us back to wards west Bhutan following the only east west highway over Yotong la Pass into Trongsa valley.
We will briefly visit the Trongsa Museum housed in the Ta Dzong (watch tower). This watch tower on the hill above the Dzong has been converted in to a state of art museum in 2008.
We will also visit the Trongsa Dzong. This commanding Dzong is perhaps the biggest and the most spectacular sited Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong’s strategic location gave it great power over this part of the country. The Dzong is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The first two hereditary kings ruled from this dzong.
After the visit we will continue driving thru the alpine forest of fir, juniper, hemlock and rhododendron. After roughly one hour drive we will arrive at a valley filled with dwarf bamboos. There we will briefly visit Chendebje Chorten. The chorten is at a lovely spot by the river side. The large chorten was built in the 19th century by a lama from tibet to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was killed there. Chendbji is considered as boundary between eastern and western Bhutan.
Our journey continues over Pelela pass and winding our way into glacier valley of Phobjikha filled with dwarf bamboos. The valley is one of the most important wildlife preserve in the country, because of the large flock of black necked cranes that migrates from Tibet in the winter.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 5 : PHOBJIKHA VALLEY
Today’s exploration of the Phobjikha valley begins with a visit to the famous 16th century Gangtey Goemba that overlooks the large green expanse of the valley. The monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly be the families of the Gomchens (lay monk) who take care of the monastery.
From there we will hike 2 hrs following the nature trail down to the Khewang monastery in the middle of the valley. The car will pick us up and drive back to the hotel for hot lunch.
After lunch we will visit the crane observation and education centre. There we can watch the short documentary on the magnificent black necked crane and also visit the cottage house producing local carpet.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Phobjikha.
Day 6 : PUNAKHA (1300 meters).
PHOBJIKHA VALLEY – PUNAKHA (2.5 hrs drive)
The sub-tropical valleys of Punakha and the surrounding mountain sides offer a large variety of attractive places to explore and discover monasteries and the most impressive Dzong in the country.
After leisure breakfast we will decent our way into the Punakha valley. In just 2 hrs drive we will decent 1700 m into the valley.
There we will have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the famous Chimi lhakhang (fertility monastery) before hiking there. The 30-minute walk from the road to the lhakhang is through open farmland and rice paddies.
It is believed that a demoness who had been terrorizing the valley transformed herself into a black dog to escape the wrath of Drukpa Kuenlay, the Divine Madman. However, he caught the dog and buried it under a pile of earth shaped like a woman’s breast. He then built a chorten on top of this mount and prophesied that a temple would one day be consecrated over it. True to the prophecy, his brother, Lam Ngawang Chogyal, built Chime Lhakhang in 1456. If you are wishing for a child, it is believed by the Bhutanese that a visit to the Divine Madman’s temple, Chime Lhakhang, might help increase your chances! Thousands of people visit this temple on pilgrimage and numerous couples visit the lhakhang to pray to become pregnant and receive a wang (blessing) from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. Many parents also bring their newborn children to receive the baby’s name from the local lama.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Punakha.
Day 7 : PUNAKHA
After breakfast we will travel up the valley north and cross the Mo Chhu to hike up and pay respect to the grand Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten.
The Chorten is 30 meters (100 feet) tall and can be seen in the distance when driving. The three-leveled chorten took eight and a half years to build and was consecrated in 1999. Dedicated to the Fifth King, it was built to remove negative forces and to provide peace, stability, and harmony in an ever- changing world. It is therefore filled with every form of colorful protector imaginable.
Heading back down the valley we will stop for lunch.
After the lunch we will visit the stunning Punakha Dzong.
The Dzong is considered one of the most important and also one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the Kingdom. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637, and was the seat of the government every winter until Thimphu was established as the permanent capital in 1955. It is still the winter residence of the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body). Take time to admire the impressive, colorful and detailed artistry of the surroundings, including huge statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, as well as paintings of one-thousand Buddhas.
If time permit we will drive roughly 30 minutes towards queens village to visit the Nunnery.
It was built by King Jigme’s maternal grandfather. Inside the monastery we can see very large statue of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) bodhisattva of compassion. The nunnery has stunning view of both Punakha and Wangdi Valley.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Punakha.
Day 8 : THIMPHU (2300 m)
PUNAKHA – THIMPHU (3 hrs drive)
Today we journey towards west into the booming metropolis of Thimphu. Situated at an altitude of 2,300 m, It is the home to 100,000 Bhutanese.
We will drive over Dochula pass (3000 m).
There if weather permits we will be able to see the extended eastern himalayas in Bhutan. We will stop to stretch and enjoy a cup of tea at the cafeteria.
We invite you to see the sights of the Kingdom’s capital with us. Below we have listed some of the experiences that we enjoy the most!
After lunch we will hike to the ancient Wangditse Goemba. It is an easy hike through pine forest and with good overview of King Jigme’s palace (1.5 – 2 hrs hike) Wangditse Goemba was founded in 1750 by the attendants of Bhutan’s 8th desi, temporal ruler). It was renovated after it suffered serious damage in a windstorm in 1995 and earthquake in 2011. The goemba houses the statues of the guardian deities.
On our way back we wil stop to visit the Mini Zoo. The zoo used to exhibit various indigenous wild animals, which were later released back into the wild by order of the 4th King who declared that such a facility was not in keeping with the Bhutan’s environmental and religious convictions. The zoo now only features the Takin, which is the national animal of Bhutan. The Takins were originally released with the rest of the animals, but had become so familiar with people that they were found wandering around Thimphu looking for food. The only solution was to put them back into captivity.
Towards evening we will visit Tashichhoe Dzong and have glimpse king Jigme’s Palace.
The Dzong is popularly known as Thimphu Dzong. It is the seat of the government and the centre of all religious affairs of the Kingdom. It houses the office and the throne room of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. Just below the dzong we can have a glimpse of King Jigmi’s palace.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Thimphu.
Day 9 : PARO
THIMPHU – PARO ( 1.5 hrs drive )
Today before heading to Paro we will spend our morning in Thimphu visiting important sights.
We will start the visit with the Biggest Buddha statue (50 m) built on a hill top down south of Thimphu.
Next we will spend some time circumambulating the sacred National memorial chorten.
This is a Tibetan-style chorten built in 1974 in memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk who passed away in 1972. It is one of the most visible religious structures in town and for many people it is the focus of daily worship. Remember to walk around the Chorten at least once to gain merit and good luck.
From the chorten we will drive to the National Post office for stamps. Bhutan is famous for producing unique and innovative stamps. After selling peculiar ‘CD-stamps’ Bhutan’s Post office now offers personalized stamps; we invite you to surprise your family and friends with your custom-made stamp made with one of your favorite holiday photographs!
We will have lunch at down town Thimphu and then continue our drive to Paro. There we will stop to stroll Paro town.
In the evening if time permit we can drive up north to take a walk around the Drukgyel Dzong (ruins).
The Dzong was built in 1649 to celebrate a decisive victory over Tibetan forces and to curtail further invasions. Under the leadership of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Bhutanese fought twelve battles with the Tibetans in different parts of the country, whereof one took place in Drukgyel Dzong. In the later years, the Dzong became an administrative centre under the Dzongpon (Lord of the Dzong) until gutted by a fire in 1951.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 10 : PARO
Today the exploration of Paro valley begins with a hike to Taktsang (Tiger’s nest monastery) 4-5 hrs hike. Tiger’s Nest or Taktshang Goempa is one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments. It literally hangs off the face of a cliff 900 meters (2952 feet) above the valley floor. The legend states that Guru Rinpoche flew into Bhutan on a mythical tigress and meditated in a cave before bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The Taktshang Goempa is built around the cave, which is opened to the public once a year at the end of August. The four-hour round trip hike offers spectacular views of the Goempa and the valley below.
Horses or mules can be arranged on request to help lighten the journey.
The hike to the famous Tiger nest monastery is a great finish to this day of cultural immersion and your festival tour to this ancient kingdom of BHUTAN.
Overnight at 3 stars hotel in Paro.
Day 11 : INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURE