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An insight into the ancient living culture of Bhutan with an intrepid festival tour

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What's Included

  • This tour is date dependant and takes place over October and November
  • Exclusive, tailored tours including a hike to Tiger's Nest
  • Private tour options in Paro, Bumthang, Punakha, Thimphu and Gangtey
  • Luxury accommodation throughout with all meals included
  • Meet and greet service
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

Experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan with this intrepid festival tour, and we’re certain that you’ll fall in love with the beauty, culture and people of the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

We begin and end this tour in Paro, where we discover the town’s architectural charms with impressive fortresses, ancient ruins and the awesome ‘Tiger’s Nest’ monastery, perched high on a cliff face. Next up is Bhutan’s spiritual heartland, Bumthang, where we’ll attend the Jambay Lhakhang Festival. Watch athletic masked dances and colorful celebrations and you’ll experience the vitality of the Bhutanese first hand.

We then move on to Gangtey and Punakha where we visit the ‘The Divine Madman Temple’ and have tea at the Wolokha Nunnery. Thimphu, Bhutan‘s capital city, is our next destination. It’s here that we’ll attend the Coronation Day Festival, celebrated with games, singing and performances each year in honour of the 5th King’s coronation.

Expect color, movement, atmosphere and excitement. Complete with luxury accommodation and our signature specialized attention throughout, naturally.

 

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-2

Paro

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Paro hotel

Accommodation in Paro

One day in Paro One day in Paro

The pretty valley of Paro with its town of the same name is one of the kingdom's widest and is covered in fertile rice fields crisscrossed by a beautiful meandering river. The main street of the town was only built in 1985 but it's lined with cheerfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants in a classic Bhutanese style.

Half Day Tour of Paro with National Museum, Rinpung Dzong and Drugyal Dzong Half Day Tour of Paro with National Museum, Rinpung Dzong and Drugyal Dzong

Today you will enjoy a tour of the town of Paro. Your day begins with a short 30 minute drive in a private vehicle to the National Museum, which lends itself to spectacular bird’s eye views of the main Paro Valley. The museum houses over 3000 pieces of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage. It has a formidable collection of antiques from Buddhist temples, and artefacts once used by both the nobility and common folk. Highlights include masks, armour, paintings, prehistoric items and natural history exhibits.

A short drive from the museum takes you to the Rinpung Dzong, a large Buddhist monastery and fortress that's regarded as one of Bhutan's most impressive and well-known dzongs - and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. From the 17th to the late 19th century, dzongs served as defending fortresses and were built with strong walls, false doors, reservoirs for water and food and hidden armouries. Dzongs were also headquarters for the religious and the political administrations. Once you've seen inside the Rinpung Dzong, enjoy the short walk across a wooden cantilever bridge on the dzong grounds.

If time permits we will take a tour around the ancient ruins of Drugyal Dzong in the upper part of Paro. The name of the dzong means "Victory" and it is a testimony to the valour of Bhutanese fighters against invaders from the north. A walk around the ruins and a visit inside gives an insight into the building techniques of Bhutanese dzongs.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Paro Airport

Flight

Flight from Paro to Bumthang

Days 2-4

Bumthang

Accommodation in Bumthang

Three days in Bumthang Three days in Bumthang

Spend your days in Bhutan's rural and most historic region, Bumthang, exploring the vast number of ancient temples and sacred sites among the farming lands. Comprised of four mountain valleys, Bumthang means 'beautiful land' and is home to quaint farming villages, an intricate and imposing dzong and two national parks where you can see the Bengal tiger, snow leopard and Himalayan black bear.

jambay-lhakhang-festival-bhutan
Tour of Temples and Jambay Lhakhang Festival Tour of Temples and Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Today, you will be brought to see two of the oldest temples in the kingdom, Jambay Lhakhang and the Kurje Lhakhang. The Jambay Lhakhang temple was built in the 7th century AD by a Tibetan King named Songtsen Gampo. According to legend, he was tasked to build 108 temples in a day to subdue a demoness in the Himalayas. Guru Rimpoche was said to have visited the temple several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang, renovated the temple in the 8th century AD. The main relic of the temple is the statue of the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa, from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. Also housed in the temple is the Kala Chakra ("The Wheel of Time") which was built by the first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, to commemorate victory over his rivals in 1885.

We'll then continue to Kurje Lhakhang temple, whose name means 'the temple where body image has been engraved'. According to legend, the 8th century Buddhist Master Guru Rimpoche, often referred to as the Second Buddha, meditated here and left an imprint of his body on the rocks. After the temples visit, we will walk up to a farmhouse for a good rural lunch. Once we've eaten, we'll visit the Tamshing Temple which houses un-restored paintings from the 15th century by the great master Terton Pema Lingpa. If time permits we will visit the monastery of Kharchhu where 300 plus monks live and practice Buddhism.

The festival of Jambay begins tonight with rich pageantry and atmosphere. Bhutanese Buddhist festivals are known as 'tsechus' and celebrate Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Jambay lhakhang Drup is renowned as one of the most spectacular festivals in the country. The festival lasts for five days, during which local villagers will gather around the temple in a spirit of festivity, celebration and deep faith to witness unique masked dances and celebrations performed by monks and laymen in colourful costumes. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritualistic naked dance, thought to purify sins and augur a good harvest.

Tour of Wangdicholing Palace and Jambay Festival Excursion Tour of Wangdicholing Palace and Jambay Festival Excursion

Today, you'll enjoy a guided tour of the old place of Wangdicholing. The palace can be found in Amankora’s backyard as the buildings were built to share the palace courtyards. Built in 1857, the palace served as the principal summer residence of the first and second kings of Bhutan and is now being turned into a museum. To the north of the palace, you'll see five giant water-driven prayer wheels. For those who are interested, we can arrange a very special tea or dinner with some of the courtiers of the Second King who ruled Bhutan from 1926-1952. You'll be accompanied by a guide who can translate.

We will then attend the Jambay Festival, which will be in full swing as the people of Bumthang enjoy the autumn festivities. From a spiritual point of view the festival is all about the teachings of Buddhism, but it has a social importance too. Festivals are important gatherings for locals and farmers who dress in their best attire and use the occasion to arrange marriages. Masked dancers enact the vanquishing of evil spirits in lively performances which are considered important for the well-being of society.

Days 4-5

Gangtey

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private scenic transfer to Gangtey via Tower of Trongsa

Accommodation in Gangtey

One day in Gangtey One day in Gangtey

The Gangteng Valley, also known as the Phobjikhii Valley, is a glacial basin populated with an alluring mix of forests. Visit the impressive 17th century Gangteng Goempa - Bhutan's largest Nyingmapa monastery - and its surrounding quaint village. You'll have our list of recommended tours, restaurants and attractions to make sure you make the most of your time here.

Days 5-6

Punakha

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Transfer to Punakha with stops at Wangdue Dzong, Chhimi Lhakhang and Punakha Dzong

Accommodation in Punakha

One day in Punakha One day in Punakha

Capital of Bhutan and seat of the government until 1955, the little town of Punakha still enjoys a serene and regal ambience left over from its stately days. Found in a fertile valley at a relatively low 12,000 metres above sea level, visitors come here for warm, sultry days filled with plenty of activities such as mountain biking, trekking and river rafting. Then step into the area's history with a visit to the town's show-stopping Punakha Dzong.

Evening tea at Wolokha Nunnery Evening tea at Wolokha Nunnery

This evening, enjoy tea with nuns at the local Wolokha Nunnery.

Days 6-8

Thimphu

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private scenic transfer to Thimphu via Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochhula Pass and Druk Wangyel Temple

Accommodation in Thimphu

2 Days in Thimphu 2 Days in Thimphu

Spend your time in Bhutan's capital exploring the market, Taschichho Dzong and small, chock-a-block shops. A wander around this relaxed and friendly city gives a look at a more urban side of Bhutan which accompanies a wide display of traditional art, architecture and Buddhist sights steeped in ritual. A visit to the Arts and Crafts School, the Textile Museum and the Traditional Medicine Hospital are recommended. Your Travel Designer can help you to plan your stay here according to your interests.

coronation-day-games-bhutan
Coronation Day Festival Coronation Day Festival

Today, you will be brought to attend the celebrations marking the coronation of His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the 5th and current Druk Gyalpo in 2008. Educated in Oxford, Jigme became king after his father stepped down from office and became the world's youngest reigning monarch. His original coronation took place at the Chang-Lime-Thang National Stadium in Thimphu. Held annually, Coronation Day is a public holiday in Bhutan and celebrations to mark it usually last for three days. The festival begins with the offering of a spiritual lamp before the portrait of the King and the singing of the national anthem. Then follows dancing, games and cultural activities performed by monks and laymen in colorful costumes and mask.

Days 8-10

Paro

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Paro with lunch

Accommodation in Paro

Two days in Paro Two days in Paro

While Bhutan is famous for its splendid monuments and monasteries, perhaps the most impressive can be found here. You'll encounter the "Tiger's Nest" Monastery, medieval style-bridges, imposing dzongs and a town filled with traditional architecture. Facing up the mountain, you'll be awed by the 8th-century Taktsang or "Tiger's Nest" Monastery, perched high on the sheer cliff face. Just outside of the town, lie both the dominating Paro Dzong - a prime example of Bhutanese architecture, and the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang which was one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country.

Full day tour with hike to Tiger's Nest and a hot stone bath Full day tour with hike to Tiger's Nest and a hot stone bath

Today you’ll experience Bhutan’s most valued attractions and one of the main reasons people come to Bhutan, the famous Taktshang monastery or "Tiger’s Nest". This spectacular temple clings to a 1,000 foot high cliff and was built in 1692 by a prominent historical figure named Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. We hike for about three hours to reach the Tiger's Nest, climbing steeply uphill from the valley floor with a break at a tea house along the way. The Tiger’s Nest is one of the most sacred sites for the Buddhists. It's said that in the 8th century, Guru Padma meditated here for three months. Guru Padma, also known as the 2nd Buddha, first initiated Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong and built this temple as a result. For Buddhists, the story of the temple is an important lesson about taming the inherent forces of Anger, Ignorance and Greed.

We then hike for approximately two hours back downhill. On your return, treat your weary limbs to an indulgent soak in a hot stone bath.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Paro Airport

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Festivals, Culture and Beauty: A Luxury Tour through Bhutan

10-Day Example Trip
 
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