Sign up with Linda Fessette, seasoned tour leader, for an extraordinary journey into Bhutan, the fabled Land of the Thunder Dragon. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan ranks among the top ten hot spots in the world for biodiversity. In the month of May, nature spreads a feast to delight your senses. Bhutan hosts 600 species of wild orchids, 50 different types of Rhododendrons, Blue Poppy (the national flower), medicinal plants, high-altitude plants and tropical trees. Over 70% of Bhutan is blanketed in virgin forests of richly diverse flora, with rippling pristine rivers meandering alongside terraced rice fields. Land-locked and surrounded by high Himalayan Mountains the essence of Bhutan is serenity and beauty distilled through the ages of time. This unique and custom itinerary gives you the best of Bhutan. Cultural hikes to ancient century-old dzongs, (forts), Temple and Buddhist monasteries. Week-end markets, remote villages and Bhutanese hospitality at its finest. Rewarding treks and over night campouts.
Highlighting our trek and tour is the Ura Valley Tsechu Festival; invocations of local blessing and religious purification. Tsechus are spiritual, exotic arrays of color, medieval and breathtaking. The four valleys of Bumthang, Ura, Tang, Chumey, and Choekhor defy words with their beauty. To appreciate you must go. Please be in good physical and spiritual condition.
Day 1: Your flight descending over the final Himalayan ridge brings you to Paro International Airport, elevation 7500 feet. Your Druk Air experience has been highlighted with breathtaking views of Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jumolhari and Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Your excitement mounts and you are received at Paro Airport by representative; visas are now processed. Your ‘Adventure into the Land of the Thunder Dragon begins’ Departing Paro airport in our small vans, we enjoy conversation with our expert English speaking Bhutanese guide and marvel at the beauty of the Paro Valley. Check into our Bhutanese cottages overlooking the beautiful Paro Valley. Enjoy lunch and depart for our first day of the Sights of Bhutan! We visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong). Once the watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The conch shaped museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. "Fortress of the heap of Jewels". A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses. Today the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. This evening we visit Paro town, built in traditional architecture with rows of shops lining the main street. We enjoy our dinner in cozy local restaurant. Overnight at Hotel Oltahang.
Day 2: We leave our hotel in Paro going east towards Thimphu, capitol of Bhutan. Along our route we will drive to a path for our hike (3 hour) leading us upwards towards the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). The monastery is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of nearly 800 meters. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava, the saint who converted Bhutan to Buddhism enlighten here upon the back of a tigress. We enjoy picnic lunch at the cafeteria. Our next stop is at Drugyel Dzong, ruined fortress. The dzong although in ruins, holds great historical significance. It was from this fortress that the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. On a clear day this spot offers a magnificent view of Mt Jumolhari, The Goddess Peak (26,000 ft).This is as well the beginning point for many treks. We then continue onward east to Thimphu for hotel check in and dinner at Hotel Druk.
Day 3: After breakfast we depart to tour the Textile Museum of Bhutan.
This exceptional Textile Museum features masterpieces from the Royal
Family of Bhutan and splendid fabric and exquisite Thangkas. Perhaps
a visit to the Takin Zoo to see the National animal of Bhutan; or the
House of Paper and Home of Incense; always a special treat! Archery
matches can be viewed as well. We will visit the Three Memorial Chortens
and Bhutan’s National Library with hundreds of ancient manuscript
Day 4: Drive to Wangduephodrang (3 hour) across Dochula Pass (10,500ft). Prayer flags send prayers on the wind. Enjoy spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains. Stop at Lobesa for lunch. Early afternoon visit the Punakha Dong, "Palace of Great Happiness". Punakha Dzong is the former winter Capital and at present day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female rivers; the location is strategic. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan's first king was crowned. We will visit the Fertility Temple Chimi Lhakhang and in the evening tour the Wangdu Dzong courtyard. Overnight at Dragons Nest Resort.
Day 5: After an early breakfast we depart for Bumthang, Central Bhutan a long drive on a scenic and breathtaking highway rewarded by a stop at the Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. An architectural wonder built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, in 1648 it is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. Views from here are extensive creating the strategic location of this Dzong. Enjoy lunch in Trongsa town. Continue to Bumthang; from Jakar and the lodge visit the village of Domkkar to attend Domkhar Festival. Domkhar festival Chumey was established by Lama Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 16th century. He was a Tibetan Lama who came to Bumthang to establish the religious teaching of his sect. The festival is observed every year on 3rd month of the 10th-12th of Bhutanese calendar at Domkhar village Temple. Overnight River Lodge and enjoy enchanting Bhutanese hospitality.
Day 6: Today we sightsee and tour in Bumthang. Visit Jakar Dzong, Jambay Khakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, and Flaming Lake, (Membar Tsho). Shopping is a delight in Bumthang. Textile weaving prevails in this area and we visit weavers utilizing the back and toe strap looms. Here you will find the best price for textile purchase. After lunch we will visit a Bhutanese schoolhouse and be entertained and delighted by wonderful Bhutanese children; this is a favorite experience for many guests in Bhutan. Overnight at River Lodge.
Day 7: Today is our first day of URA Yakchoe in Bumthang. Load the camera! Ura is considered one of the holiest valleys in Bhutan. Today Bhutanese from many different areas will gather to pay respect and to be blessed at this social gathering. Bhutanese dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry attend this celebration of purification and religious blessings. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colorful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the “thunderbolt step”. Masks of glorious demonic demons and animals arouse your senses as you watch the purification take place. The intensity goes on. Overnight Hotel Shingkher in Shingkher village of Ura.
Day 8: Returning to URA Festival Meet with Ura Head Lama. Watch for the Atsara (clown) This dancer, unique in his own style, mimics dancers and entertains onlookers. Festival deities are invoked through benediction and luck is increased and misfortunate gone. Tashi Delek! Overnight at River Lodge Guest House.
Day 9: "Visit the Ugyenchholing Palace; a Family Museum, located on a hill top in beautiful and remote Tang Valley. Enjoy a scenic hike through a beautiful meadow dotted with Bhutanese farmhouse and water turned flour grist mills. Here you will experience time that will transport you back into medieval Bhutan. You will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan's history unfolds. This is a most interesting and unique museum and the location of the museum and architecture at this site are most intriguing. We will visit a local farmhouse for tea and conversation while in Tang Valley. Return to Jakar Valley for overnight at River Lodge.
Day 10: Departing central Bhutan we begin our drive toward the west. Stopping once again in Trongsa we will now visit the medieval Watchtower. This ancient structure gives unobstructed views of the valley, and its winding river and roads. The Watch Tower is located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong. It is a treat to climb the ancient ladders to the top, as you view warrior armor and aging altars, immersing yourself in the presence unchanged within its walls. Look for archers at the Trongsa Dzong archers field; a favorite archery field for Bhutanese archers; Olympic Gold holders. Overnight at Dragons Nest; listen for the jackals tonight.
Day 11: Return to Thimphu for lunch. Check into your hotel. The afternoon is yours to explore Thimphu and its many unique shops; bookstores are amongst the most popular stores, as well as thangka, glorious mask and textile woven handicraft items. You guide will be glad to assist you in your shopping. Tonight attend a reception dinner with your host in Bhutan, Sonam. Overnight at your Thimphu hotel.
Day 12: Enjoy leisure breakfast and begin our exciting day with a
most delightful shopping experience at the famous “weekend” market;
not to be missed in Bhutan. Here you will find friendly Bhutanese locals
displaying in their stalls fresh produce, rice, chilies, jewelry and
local art; converse with enchanting local shoppers. Kodak moments here
abound! Make sure to ask permission first. After lunch at our hotel,
we are ready to depart for Tango Monastery. Embark on a vigorous 2-hour
hike up to the mountain top where an ancient Buddhist college and Monastery
is perched hill on top. Here is one of my favorite experiences in Bhutan.
Tango is one of the most important Buddhist colleges in Bhutan and
its name means “horse head”; derived from the horse-head
rock near by. An 18th century dzong built by the 8th Desi Druk Rabgye.
Today Tango is the home of the 10 year old reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse
Tenzin Rabgye. Perhaps you will be honored to meet and be blessed by
the young lama. Here you will meet with monks for discussions. Tonight
we depart for Paro and overnight at Hotel Olathang.
Day 14: Today we drive to Paro airport and say farewell to Bhutan. We hope you have enjoyed your visit with us.