Festivals of Bhutan - Thimphu

Festivals of Bhutan - Thimphu

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11 Days
From

$7798

$7294

Festivals of Bhutan - Thimphu

11 Days Starting and ending in Kathmandu

Visiting: Kathmandu, Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey Lodge Bhutan, Wangdue Phodrang, Taktsang Gompa Tawang, Asia

Tour operator:

Exodus

Tour code:

AIBB

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 16

Physical rating:

Leisurely / Moderate

Age range:

16 to 99

Trip Styles:

Adventure Tours

Activities:

Hiking, Walking

From:
$7798
$7294 (USD) Operator discount: -$298 The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$206
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Tour Overview

Hidden away in a corner of the Himalaya, the secretive kingdom of Bhutan is an unforgettable destination with ancient traditions, spectacular mountain scenery and vibrant festivals. At these hundreds of people gather to see the monks, dressed in brightly coloured robes, perform ritual dances. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails. The spring departures visit Paro Festival, whilst the autumn departures take in Thimphu Festival.



Please note: This itinerary is valid for departures starting in Kathmandu on 22 September 2023 and 11 September 2024 attending Thimphu Festival.



Please refer to the alternative Paro Festival itinerary for departures starting in Kathmandu on 14 March 2024.

Highlights

  • Experience Bhutan's colourful, vibrant masked dance festivals

  • Visit the Paro Dzong and the incredible 'Tiger's Nest' monastery at Taktsang

  • Drive across the Dochu La and visit Punakha Dzong

  • Visit the impressive Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in Thimphu

  • Walk in the quiet Gangtey Valley

Itinerary

Expand All
Day 1 : Arrive Kathmandu
Location: Kathmandu

Welcome to Kathmandu, a brief stop enroute to Bhutan. On arrival you'll be met by a local representative for your transfer to our hotel. If you are not travelling on the group flight from London, please make sure you provide your flight details two weeks prior to departure to secure your return airport transfers.

The evening is free to relax.

Accommodation: Royal Singi Hotel (or similar)

Day 2 : Fly To Paro
Location: Paro
Meals Included: breakfastlunchdinner

Today we fly to Paro. The flight is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world and takes us over the eastern Himalayas. If the weather is clear, we should get a fantastic view of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya, including Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. The Paro Valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, with blue pine-covered hills and attractive solidly built houses among the paddy fields. If there is the time in the afternoon there will be a visit to visit the museum, Rinpung Dzong or the Kyichu Lakang; one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built by the 7th century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

Accommodation: Rema Resorts (or similar)

Day 3 : Full Day At Thimphu Festival
Location: Thimphu
Meals Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

We have an early start today, driving one hour from Paro to Thimphu to find our spot to enjoy the festival entertainment from.

Thimphu is considered the most popular festivals in Bhutan and plays an important part in the Bhutanese lives.

We spend the whole day experiencing this vibrant festival, watching the Bhutanese gather to see monks and lay dancers dressed in colourful brocade and silk costumes, wearing painted masks re-enacting the stories of the religious and lay history of Bhutan through music and dance. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails as many villagers arrive to meet old friends. The Bhutanese all dress in their finest national dress for the festival and one of the highlights is the riot of colours of the magnificent silks on display.

Thimphu accommodation: Pedling Hotel / Ghakyil Hotel (or similar)

Day 4 : Thimphu
Location: Thimphu
Meals Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Today we will take a break from festivities and marvel in the sights and history of the relatively “new” Kingdom of Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. The ancient city of Punakha was replaced with Thimphu as the country’s capital in 1961 by the 3rd King, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The main sights include Kuensel Phodrang, known locally as Buddha Point, where there is a huge statue of Buddha overlooking the whole of the valley. Simtokha Dzong, the oldest dzong in Bhutan, built in 1629 now serves as the Institute of Language and cultural studies. It houses numerous statues and paintings of various religious figures and deities. You will also be able to view Takin Reserve from above on your journey into Thimphu and visit a paper factory and weaving centre to see authentic local weaving techniques, plus the local market is interesting to explore.

Accommodation: Pedling Hotel / Ghakyil Hotel (or similar)

Day 5 : Drive To Punakha; Visit Chimmi Lhakhang And Punakha Dzong
Location: Punakha
Meals Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

We leave Thimphu in the morning and drive east to Punakha (approximately a three hour drive). The route climbs its way steadily on a good road to the Dochula Pass, where there are 108 chortens. At 3050m (10,000ft) the views over the eastern Himalaya are magnificent although this is most definitely weather dependent! We then descend to the valley floor and continue to sub-tropical Punakha.

En-route we visit the Chimmi Lhakhang, built in 1499 to honour one of the more folkloric saints of Bhutan, Drukpa Kuenley. Nicknamed the Divine Madman or Mad Saint, he was a maverick lama, who subdued a demon who controlled the Dochu La. He built a chorten where the monastery stands, and he was reputed to have unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by suggesting outrageous behaviour and he was a great womaniser! He advocated the use of the phallus as a symbol to be painted on walls and houses, which were intended to drive away the evil eye. Most of the houses in this area are decorated with highly ornate phallic paintings. We walk through the village to the monastery with a chance to see the traditional Bhutanese style of farmhouses.

We continue on to Punakha, which, at an altitude of 1200m is warmer than Paro or Thimphu. Punakha was once the capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter residence of the monastic body. We visit the dzong, one of the most beautiful in Bhutan and the second one to be built in 1637. This remarkable fortress is situated between the Mo and Po Chhu Rivers and it has survived many fires, an earthquake and several floods. Over the years it has been repaired and added to and has several interesting features to protect it against invasion.

Accommodation: Sonamgang Hotel (or similar)

Day 6 : Drive To Gangtey (Phobjikha); Afternoon Hike
Location: Gangtey Lodge Bhutan
Meals Included: breakfastlunchdinner

Today we leave the main road and drive up to the Lawala Pass and into the beautiful Gangtey Valley (approximately two – three hours). If it is possible, enroute we can visit the newly reconstructed Wangdiphirdrang Dzong built in 1638 on a ridge, overlooking the convergence of Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers.

After lunch, there is plenty of time to explore one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Often called the Phobjikha Valley, this U-shaped glacial valley is wide with hardly any trees and gives the impression of a vast space. There is some of the best marshland in Bhutan and the valley is rich in flora and fauna. Look out for barking deer, sambar deer and wild boar. Himalayan Black bears have been spotted in the valley an there is a wealth of birdlife. It is also where the graceful Black-necked cranes come from Tibet during the winter season to roost. The cranes usually arrive towards the end of October and upon arrival, they fly around the monastery three times! They spend the winter in the valley and in spring they again fly three times around the monastery and fly back to Tibet for the summer. We can also visit the black crane information centre and the Gangteng Monastery.

Accommodation: Dewachen Hotel (or similar)

Day 7 : Morning Hike In Gangtey; Drive To Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha
Location: Gangtey Lodge Bhutan, Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha
Meals Included: breakfastlunchdinner

This morning we will set off on foot from our hotel and go on a walk through the Gangtey Valley (approximately 5km/two - three hours) - the climb up to the monastery involves around 500m ascent. This glacial valley is made up of farmlands, pastures and blue-pine forests. We will encounter herders caring for their herds, which graze on the dwarf bamboo of the area. After lunch, we drive for approximately two to three hours to Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha.

Accommodation: Sonamgang Hotel (or similar)

Day 8 : Drive To Paro; Sightseeing In Thimphu Enroute
Location: Thimphu, Paro
Meals Included: breakfastlunchdinner

This morning we drive back to Paro (approximately three hours). We will stop at Thimphu enroute to visit places of interest we may not have had time to see on day four. Visit the oldest Dzong, Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 and now served as the Institute for Culture Studies. It houses numerous significant statues and paintings of various religious figures and deities. The National Institute of for Zorig Chosum (Painting school) is also worth a trip which shows paintings, embroidery, sculptures and wood carvings.

This afternoon, continue onto Paro.

Accommodation: Rema Resorts (or similar)

Day 9 Day Walk To Taktsang, Tiger's Nest Monastery
Location: Taktsang Gompa Tawang
Meals Included: breakfastlunchdinner

Today we hike (approximately 9km in total for the round trip) to Takstang Monastery, also known as the 'Tiger’s Nest'. This spectacular building is perched on the ledge of a cliff high above the Paro Valley. Partly destroyed by fire in 1998, it has now been completely restored to its former magnificence. From the car park to the cafeteria viewpoint is about 2 hours uphill walk through the forest. From here we have incredible views of the monastic buildings which cling impossibly to the cliff wall. For the energetic there is the chance to walk even higher to the actual monastery. This will take another 2 hours and involves walking up and down stone steps. We highly recommend a trekking pole or you can buy a wooden stick at the car park. There are horses available up to the cafeteria for those who do not want to do the hike but please note that this is an unregulated activity and helmets are not available. We spend about an hour at the monastery looking around the temples (photography is not allowed inside) before descending to the cafeteria for lunch.

After lunch we return to the car park and drive back to our hotel. There should be some time to have a look round Paro before dinner

Accommodation: Rema Resorts (or similar)

Day 10 : Fly To Kathmandu
Location: Kathmandu
Meals Included: breakfast

We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. You may want to visit the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city, the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, the largest Buddhist stupa on earth at Boudhanath or the Hindu temple at Pashupathinath. Another option is to take a taxi to Bhaktapur, the mediaeval city 17km east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital.

he Exodus representative in Kathmandu will be able to give you more information on what there is to see.

Accommodation: Royal Singi Hotel (or similar)

Day 11 : End Kathmandu
Location: Kathmandu
Meals Included: breakfast

Your journey ends Kathmandu after breakfast.

For those on group flights, these depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the same day. If you are not on a group flight, please ensure you have provided your flight details two weeks before your trips departure to secure your airport transfer.

What's Included

  • Meals
    10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 8 dinners.

What's Not Included

  • Travel insurance

  • Kathmandu visas or vaccinations

  • Single accommodation (available on request)

Food

Breakfast is included throughout the trip plus eight lunches and eight dinners whilst in Bhutan.



The meals in Bhutan are usually buffet style and include Bhutanese and Western food. Bhutanese food can sometimes be considered a little bland - this is generally because chilies are frequently used in traditional dishes, and these are often omitted to adapt to foreigners' tastes. We will find an assortment of meat, vegetable, rice and potato dishes and many examples of the infamous 'Ema Datshi' (chilies and cheese). If you are finding the food either too bland and want to try more local food, or too spicy please talk to your leader and they will do what they can to accommodate your requests.



Breakfasts are an assortment of cereals, eggs, toast, fruit and often some Bhutanese dishes. Lunches will be taken in a restaurant and dinners are either taken in the hotel or at a local restaurant.



Please allow approximately £25-30 ($30-40) per day for other main meals in Kathmandu.

Accommodation

We spend 10 nights in tourist-class hotels. They are simple, local-style accommodations. All rooms have attached bathrooms and heaters. All food is included at the hotels and local restaurants and is usually a buffet – it is simple and a mixture of Bhutanese, continental and Chinese.

Check out our Q&As

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    If you wish to make any changes to your booking, particularly if you need to alter any flights booked through us, please let us know as soon as possible. There is a booking or flight amendment fee of £40 per change and flight amendments often incur extra airline costs depending on the changes to be made and if the ticket has been issued or not.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Exodus has been trading since 1974

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Your final joining instructions and flight details, if booked with us, will then be sent out 2 to 3 weeks before departure. If you would like a hard copy posted, or if you require these any earlier, please contact the customer operations team. We advise that if you are booking connecting travel before receiving these, please ensure you leave plenty of time.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Travellers are welcome to opt to share a room with a tour member of the same gender for no additional charge. If you'd like your own room, we can request a single supplement so that you will have your own room throughout.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    You are welcome to meet the group after the tour has departed however there is no reduction in rate for joining a tour after the departure date.

Reviews from Travellers on this Tour

Joan

A great trip to a country opening up to Tourism.

Great trip

Great trip, and worth a visit to experience Bhutan and the festivals

Festivals of Bhutan

A long awaited trip became a reality and the reality is now a memory. But not just a normal travel memory, moreso something out of the ordinary, as I had probably anticipated. Unusual architecture. People with a different outlook on life. Different pursuits. Simpler pleasures. Happy people. Clean air. Wholesome food - spicy if desired. A lifestyle in flux as the county and the people join the 21st. Century. A tinge of regret that what makes Bhutan unique will not last. I'm glad to have experienced this unusual place before it disappears into the "Global Village".

Breathtaking Bhutan

This is a trip of a lifetime to the most beautiful place on the earth. Such beauty from the people, the environment, the culture and from the expert care of the team who show you their fantastic country.

Beautiful Bhutan

This trip provides a fascinating insight into a little known destination. We loved it!

FESTIVALS OF BHUTAN

A fascinating place to visit - a really interesting "hidden" corner of the world that is well worth exploring.

Wonderful Exploration of a unique country

A unique adventure exploring a Buddhist country who embrace their monarchy and the importance of happiness. Great monasteries, beautiful scenery, festivals, and some hikes all make this a great trip. Hotels higher quality than I expected, adequate food with pretty good beer, and a great guide who spoke excellent English. Well organized tour.

Wonderful Bhutan

Wonderful buildings, incredible Bhuddist traditions, lovely scenery, friendly people - a really peaceful, largely unspoilt and unique country - and a photographer's paradise. The only down side is the dangerous road from Wangdue to Gantey.

Festivals of Bhutan

Beautiful country Calm happy people

Read all 9 reviews

Dates & Availability

tourhub Discount Available - Sign In

Thimphu Festival - (Trip code: AIBA)

Friday - Monday

Sep 06, 2024 - Sep 16, 2024
$7798 $7294 (USD)

Operator discount: -$298 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$206 (USD)

Paro Festival (Trip code: AIBA)

Wednesday - Saturday

Apr 02, 2025 - Apr 12, 2025
$8550 $8315 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$235 (USD)

Thimphu Festival - (Trip code: AIBB)

Tuesday - Friday

Sep 30, 2025 - Oct 10, 2025
$8700 $8461 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$239 (USD)

Book with Confidence

  • Transfer as credit to Future Tours

    Exodus allows you to transfer existing payments to a future tour to avoid cancellation fees if you can't travel and inform exodus, 43 days before departure.

  • Low Deposit

    Exodus requires a minimum deposit of 25% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 90 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of exodus charges.

    Up to 70 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

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