Colourful Festival of Bhutan

Start: Thimphu Finish: Paro

Visiting: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Phobjikha, Jakar, Trongsa


Duration: 10 Nights

Physical rating: Easy

Tour Operator: Bhutan Green Travel

Group size: 1 - 16

Age range: 0-99

Tour operated in: English


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Tour Overview

Many Tshechus (festivals) take place in various temples, monasteries and dzongs (fortresses) throughout Bhutan annually. The most popular festivals are Paro (Spring), Rhododendron (Spring), Thimphu (Autumn), Dochula (Winter) Punakha (Winter/Spring), Haa (Summer), Bumthang (Spring/Summer/Autumn), Mongar (Autumn/Winter) and Trashigang (Autumn/Winter). So plan your visit to Bhutan to coincide with one of the colourful festivals. The dates and duration of the tshechu vary from one place to another but always take place on or around the 10th day of a Bhutanese lunar month in honour of Guru Rimpoche, one who was born from a lotus flower and brought the tantric Buddhism in Bhutan in the 8th century. Monks and laymen perform mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes including atsaras (clowns), who also amuse the audiences with their antics.

Highlights

  • iconBhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
  • icon Jakar Valley Gentle Walking in the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country
  • iconDochula Pass (3,050m)offering panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m) on a clear day
  • iconKuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world)
  • icon Majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof
  • iconCentenary Farmers Market (Thimphu’s weekend market), a platform for Bhutanese farmers to sell farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc.
  • icon A must-visit tour when the Bhutanese culture comes to life with colourful festivals

Places You'll See

Countries:
Cities & Attractions:

Itinerary

Map Image
icon Day 1 : Arrive Paro

Location: Paro

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Flying into Bhutan offers the most spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges, including Mt. Everest (8,848m/29,028ft), Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m/28,169ft) and Mt. Gangkar Puensum (7,564m/24,836ft). On arrival we meet you at Paro International Airport after clearing your immigration and customs formalities. Today we travel to Thimphu (54-km) for an hour, the capital of Bhutan and transfer to your hotel for check-in. Stop off at the 13th century Tachog Lhakhang (temple) en route, built by Saint Dupthop Thangtong Gyalpo (the iron bridge builder). Continue travelling via Chhuzom (24-km) where the Pachhu and Wangchhu Rivers join. Chhuzom (confluence) is a major road junction connecting Thimphu (30-km) to the northeast, Haa (82-km) to the southwest and Phuentsholing (141-km) to the south. Afterwards, explore the Centenary Farmers Market (Thimphu’s weekend market), a platform for Bhutanese farmers to sell farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc. Enjoy a welcome drink and dinner with authentic traditional Bhutanese meals in the evening. Overnight in Thimphu.

icon Day 2 : Thimphu – Punakha

Location: Thimphu

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we explore the best attractions of Thimphu city (2,300m), home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Thimphu is a small city but has many attractive places. Morning begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (Stupa), built in 1974 in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (1928-1972). This stupa is a prominent monument for Bhutanese daily worship in the city with its golden spires and bells. Another must see place to tick off on your list is Kuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world), built in 2006 and sits atop a hill, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu city. Our next stop is at the the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, established in 1971 where students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. After lunch, continue onto the National Library of Bhutan nearby established in 1967, which is located in the cultural centre of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Here you’ll see the world’s largest book “Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom.” It weighs over 60 kg, is 1.52 metres high and 2.13 metres wide and its pages are turned once per month. We explore the Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar (also known as Thimphu Handicraft Market) built using the eco-friendly bamboo structures. It is a perfect place to get a glimpse of authentic Bhutan-made art and craft products sourced mostly from rural areas. This afternoon ends with a tour by visiting the Tashichhodzong, first constructed in 1216 AD and re-built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan), which now houses some ministries, the office and throne room of His Majesty the King and the Central Monk Body. Overnight in Thimphu.

icon Day 3 : Festival of Bhutan

Location: Thimphu

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Experience the day filled with traditional masked dances, depicting demons, heroes, animals and wearing brightly coloured brocade outfits. A tshechu (festival) draws hundreds of Bhutanese people together as well as tourists, and is one of the best ways to discover the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan. For the Bhutanese the festivals are religiously important and also a great opportunity for locals to get together, dressed in their finest traditional clothes and jewellery and remember to pack your camera! Most Tsechus date back to medieval times and literally translates to the tenth day of the lunar calendar. The dates and duration of the tshechu vary from one district to another but always take place on or around the 10th day of a month in honour of Guru Rimpoche, one who introduced the tantric Buddhism in the 8th century in Bhutan. Such festivals are mostly held in the dzong (fortress) or local monastery. We have a unique selection of suggested festival tours and are completely tailor-made. If the idea of a festival captures your imagination let us know and we can help you plan your trip around it.

icon Day 4 : Thimphu – Punakha

Location: Punakha

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, we travel (71-km) about 3 hours to Punakha, once the winter capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south, and also a popular tourist destination. Stop off at Druk Wangyal Chortens (108 Stupas) before crossing over Dochula Pass (3,050m). On a clear day, you can enjoy panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m). Continue our scenic journey (52-km) to Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang Valley. Arriving in Punakha (1,350m), visit the fertility Chimi Lhakhang (temple) en route, nestled on a round hillock near a village called Sopsokha, built in 1499 by Saint Drukpa Kunley (known as the Divine Madman). The temple is about 10-km from Punakha Dzong and takes 20-minutes walk through agriculture fields. Legend has it that the childless couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting this mysterious temple. We also visit the Punakha Dzong, which is strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) Rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) built the dzong in 1637. Jacaranda trees beautifully cover the dzong with the purple bloom of flowers in the spring. Overnight in Punakha.

icon Day 5 : Gangtey Nature Trail Walking

Location: Phobjikha

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, our journey covers (78-km) over 2 hours of driving into the countryside of Phobjikha (2,900m), and takes us past the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) constructed the dzong in 1638, resembling that of a sleeping elephant. The fortress was gutted by fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Phobjikha Valley is a must visit for nature enthusiasts and is also well-known for the winter home to the rare Black-Necked Cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau from late October to mid-March. Take the opportunity to visit the 17th century picturesque Gangtey Gonpa (monastery) on the hillock with amazing views of the valley. This monastery is the only Nyingmapa School of Buddhism taught here in western Bhutan. Afternoon is set aside for a short and gentle nature hike (4-km) about 2 hours. The best way to soak up this magnificent valley is to head downhill from the start point (nearby the monastery) to Semchubara village. This trail takes you through beautiful forests, flower meadows and into vast plains of Phobjikha Valley, ideal for spotting some birds, grazing cows, farmhouses, people and the local life. After passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang through gentle grassy slopes carpeted with purple primluas, your hike ends at the local community school. Overnight in Phobjikha.

icon Day 6 : Phobjikha – Bumthang

Location: Jakar

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we drive to Bumthang, the furthest you’ll go on this trip. You’ll at first travel to Trongsa (120-km) about 3 hours via Chelela Pass (3,390m). It is not uncommon to encounter grazing yaks by the roadside along the East–West highway. On the way take a stroll along the Chendebji Chorten below the road. A nice stop to stretch your legs and walk around the stupa! This 18th century monument resembles the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. Enjoy a scenic journey, changing landscapes from the awe-inspiring mountains to lush vegetation. From the viewpoint (Thumangdra) opposite to the Trongsa Dzong, you can take photos of the beautiful landscapes and dzong. Lunchtime is at Trongsa, the ancestral home to the present Royal Family of Bhutan (where the Institutional Monarchy of Bhutan was born). Continue your journey to Bumthang (68-km) about 2.5 hours via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). You have an option to explore the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village en route, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Evening is at leisure where you’ll have some time to stroll along the streets of a small Jakar (Bumthang) town. Overnight in Bumthang.

icon Day 7 : Jakar Valley Gentle Walking

Location: Jakar

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We explore the pristine Bumthang Valley (also known as Jakar), the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. From your hotel, we drive 10 to 15 minutes to the Jambay Lhakhang (Temple of Maitreya), said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). This temple was built to subdue evil spirits of the demoness causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism. Continue onto a farm track along the valley floor walking about 15 to 20 minutes towards the Kurjey Lhakhang complex, which consists of three temples. A 108-chorten walls surround these impressive temples with a huge front yard on the side of a hill. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave in the 8th century to subdue the local demon (Phola Shelging Karpo) to fight off ill health of the King of Bumthang, Sindhu Raja. Of the three temples, the oldest and holiest Guru Lhakhang was built in 1652, and hence the temple was named after Guru’s body imprint left on a rock. Next, we cross a suspension bridge over the rushing Chamkharchhu River on foot to the Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa founded this temple in 1501 for the teachings of Nyingma Buddhism in central Bhutan, who was prolific treasure finder and one of the influential religious figures in Bhutanese history. From here, your transport will pick you up and head to the Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery, situated on a sacred hill just above Bumthang town. The monastery was built in 1982 offering three main streams of dharma studies: shedra (college), drupdra (meditation) and monastic rituals. Here about 400 monks or so are busy reading, recitation of daily prayers, meditation, chantings, dharma dances, beating drums & use of ceremonial, mandala drawings, etc. in the backdrop. Overnight in Bumthang.

icon Day 8 : Bumthang – Trongsa

Location: Trongsa

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, our journey (68-km) about 2 hours takes us to Trongsa (2,200m) via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). En route stop off at the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Historically, Trongsa is one of the important districts of Bhutan. Trongsa was once the headquarters for the central and eastern regions and has been the seat of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). All the Kings of Bhutan first invest as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Discover the massive and majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1648, overlooking the gorge of the Mangdichhu River. You’ll also have time to explore the Tower of Trongsa (known as Ta Dzong), an ancient watchtower rising five storeys above Trongsa town. It was built in 1652 and has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon. Today the tower houses a state-of-the-art National Museum with insights into the significance of Trongsa Dzong and the Wangchuck dynasty (kings) of Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax or explore the idyllic Trongsa town and its surroundings. Overnight in Trongsa.

icon Day 9 : Back to Thimphu

Location: Thimphu

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We rise early this morning, as it is a long but rewarding day driving (approximately 199-km) over 7 hours back to Thimphu (capital of Bhutan) via Chelela Pass (3,390m) and Nobding, a small town and Wangdue Phodrang, pausing en route at Dochula Pass (3,050m). Today you’ll have the photography opportunities again of the fascinating sites you missed or didn’t get time earlier. Perhaps why not take a chance to meditate awhile in the 11 man-made hidden “Igloos – Caves” with 11 different paintings of gods and goddesses? People seeking inner peace from modern day stress come to Dochula Pass for meditation. Buddhists pursue meditation as a path towards enlightenment and nirvana. Continue to Thimphu city (2,300m), home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Bhutan’s capital is not a concrete jungle that you see in other parts of the world. It is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and buildings built in the traditional Bhutanese style. No traffic lights in Bhutan yet! Marvel at the police directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals at the main intersections. If you are feeling energetic, you may have time to relax or explore the streets of Thimphu city in the evening. Overnight in Thimphu.

icon Day 10 : Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Location: Paro

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart early morning for Paro (1-hour drive) after breakfast. Bhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is an unforgettable sight. No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Paro Taktshang (3,120m). It is stunning in its beauty and location. Today is a real highlight as you take a short hike to the Taktshang Monastery, clinging on a rock cliff at 900m above the Paro Valley floor. The monastery is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in Bhutan because Guru Rinpoche (one the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) is believed to have flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century. An 11-km (round-trip) hike starts from the base of the mountain from the road point (Ramthangkha), which is 2-km drive from Paro town. Enjoy your rewarding hike about 4 hours (round-trip) with extra one hour to tour the monastery at a leisurely pace. There is a small teahouse halfway through from where a view of the spectacular monastery to enjoy! Gentle horse/pony rides are permitted till the viewpoint. Afterwards, there will be time to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang en route, one of the oldest and 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). Overnight in Paro.

icon Day 11 : End of Tour

Location: Paro

Meals: Breakfast

Your tour ends this morning after breakfast. We transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Our guide and driver from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck!)

What's Included

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    Pickups and drops from airports and hotels

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    Camping facilities and haulage for trekking tours

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    Licensed English-speaking guide & driver

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    All applicable internal taxes and service fees

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    Best accommodation in 3 star hotels with private bathrooms based on 2 adults sharing a twin/double bed (single supplements apply)

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    All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and bottled water daily

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    Bhutan visa fees

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    Comfortable farmhouse/home stay/heritage house can also be arranged

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    Baggage handling at all hotels and camps

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    All sightseeing & hiking (entrance fees to museums and other attractions)

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    Comfortable transport (private vehicle) throughout your trip

What's Not Included

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    Single room supplement from $50 per night

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    Travel insurance

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    International and domestic flights

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    Other personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks & beverages, laundry, telephone calls, etc.

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    Upgrade to 4 star and 5 star luxury hotels

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    Optional activities & additional services

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    Discretionary tips to guides and drivers

Your Peace of Mind Options

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    Low Deposit

    Bhutan Green Travel requires a deposit of 10% to secure a place on this tour, and the final balance is not due till 60 days before departure..

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    Secure payments

    All payments to TourHub are deposited into an externally regulated Trust account.


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Reviews

The tour was well organized
Ugyen C. was a superb guide in all respects. He was clear, helpful, informative, respectful and friendly. We could not have asked for more. He was more like a friend ....more Ugyen C.

was a superb guide in all respects.

He was clear, helpful, informative, respectful and friendly.

We could not have asked for more.

He was more like a friend than a contractor.

I cannot recommend him highly enough.

His driver, Kensho, was also skilled and helpful.

The tour was well organized and Ugyen was willing to adapt his schedule to our needs.

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The accommodations in Punakha were superb.

The others were satisfactory.

We found the tour online.

We selected the 'Festival of Paro' tour mainly because the dates aligned with our needs and the festival sounded interesting.

The visits to Thimphu and Punakha were interesting and offered a chance to see more of the landscape.

We had a limited time in-country and this tour worked well for us.

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Carol and Peter, British Columbia, Canada

26-Mar-2019

Very professional, very friendly, fully involved to our satisfaction
The first point we would like to point out is the quality of the team who accompanied us during our stay: very professional, very friendly, fully involved in our satisfaction, ....more The first point we would like to point out is the quality of the team who accompanied us during our stay: very professional, very friendly, fully involved in our satisfaction, always takeing care of us.

We have travelled all over the world and would have liked to find such a team in the other countries we visited! The selection of hotels was good by mixing very comfortable ones with more simple guesthouses but always with a very good quality of service and relationship.

The food was rather good but may be not very varied from 1 day to the other, although well adapted to tourists taste, not too spicy.

The selection of sites to visit was good also.

We feel having visited the best parts in Bhutan.

The only point upon which were little disappointed is the festivals.

This was supposed to be the high point of our travel and finally we attended shows with local people, not professionals and among a lot of tourists.

May be the information should be better delivered so that people do not expect too much about them.

No over promises! However, globally we spent a very nice time in Bhutan and will really recommend to visit your wonderful country.

We will also write to guide books about agency.

We thank you very much for all the experiences you allowed us to live and wish you a good success for the future.

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Jacques & Group, Veyrier du Lac, France

25-Oct-2013

One of the favorite places in the world
We had the most spectacular trip to Bhutan. Ugyen, the owner of local agency, was wonderful to work with. His communication was timely and exceptional. He adjusted the itinerary on ....more We had the most spectacular trip to Bhutan.

Ugyen, the owner of local agency, was wonderful to work with.

His communication was timely and exceptional.

He adjusted the itinerary on several occasions to meet our requests.

Our guide and driver were top quality.

We cannot speak highly enough about our guide, Ugyen Chophel Dorji.

He made the trip for us! He was professional, considerate, kind, thoughtful and planned all of our activities specific to our fitness level and interests.

He was a delight to work with and I had tears when we had to say our good byes.

Our driver Tanzien was also top quality.

He drove a Land Cruiser that was high quality and was extremely safe, despite some poor quality roads.

The itinerary was perfect.

We really liked ending the trip with the Tiger's Nest hike.

It was ideal to save the best for last.

Another highlight was the Black Crane Festival.

We fell in love with Bhutan.

It is one of our favorite places in the world.

We were very happy to get to the central part of Bhutan.

We felt blessed to experience the Black Crane Festival, an authentic Bhutanese ceremony.

We started with 2 nights in Panaka and we were happy with this accommodation.

We then stayed 2 nights in Bumthang, and we also loved this accommodation.

Then, we stayed 1 night at Gangtey.

Then, we stayed 2 nights in Thimpu and 2 nights in Paro, and we again loved both of our hotel choices.

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Jeff & Julie, California, USA

17-11-2018

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Thursday Apr 15, 2021

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Thursday, Apr 15, 2021

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Wednesday, Sep 15, 2021

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