Cultural Bhutan and Ura Valley Festival
April 14 to April 29, 2008
Day: 1 April 14 Mon: Arrive Paro Airport and once baggage is collected and visa documentation is complete, you will meet your tour representative and your Bhutan adventure begins! We now drive into the quaint village of Paro to enjoy a hearty lunch at a local Bhutanese cozy restaurant. You will then proceed to visit Paro Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and is abutted by two guardhouses, to the Dzong. Today, the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, offers superb woodwork and is one of the most beautiful in the nation. The Dzong was built in 1645 A .D.
We will tour Dumtse Lhakhang prior to our departure for Thimphu, capitol of Bhutan. (2 hour scenic drive) We check into our Thimphu hotel and later enjoy a reception dinner with our host in Bhutan.
Day 2: April 15 Tue: This morning following breakfast we visit the Bank of Bhutan and post office to exchange money and have an opportunity to purchase collector item Bhutan stamps. Bird stamps are extremely beautiful and a must for your birding adventure. Depart Thimphu and enjoy a spectacular and beautiful drive over Dochula Pass (10,500 ft.) Spectacular high Himalayan mountain views are offered from the visa point which is surrounded by chortens and prayer flags fluttering on high. We stop for tea and here in Dochula and Menchola areas have a good chance to see Tragopans, Monals and different varieties of Pheasants, as well as Wood Peckers, Tree Creepers and varieties of Doves. We continue onwards toward Punakha/Wangdu and stop to see the beautiful Punakha Dzong, the former winter capital and present administrative seat of the district. It is also the winter residence of the central monastic body. The Dzong (fortress) lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, uncaring male and female rivers. It was built in 1637 A. D. Punakha is a true work of Bhutanese art; it stands proud, preserved by the ages. Over night Wangdu Resort.
Day 3: April 16 Wed: Wangdue to Bumthang: Today we drive a good distance to arrive in Bumthang tonight. The drive is absolutely spectacular, meandering along a high Himalayan highway that will take your breath away. Our expert drivers and guides and small vans make the drive so pleasant. We enjoy many stops along the route for photo opportunity. We enjoy lunch in Trongsa town and tour Trongsa Dzong; you will see the yellow rooftop of this massive medieval structure from afar. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the royal family, 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 strategic location of this Dzong. The medieval Watchtower, located over the Trongsa Dzong is most impressive in design. The Watchtower is located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong. We continue eastward reaching Bumthang to check into our wonderful Bhutanese lodge greeted by our Bhutanese host. Tomorrow we enjoy full day of Bumthang sightseeing.
Day 4: April 17 Thu: Bumthang sightseeing; today we sightsee and tour in Bumthang. Visit Jakar Dzong, Jambay Lhakhang, 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 lodge and prepare for your full day outing to the remote village of Ura for Ura Yakchoe Festival, where we will set up camp and prepare for Bird Tour departure after festival day.
Day 5: April 18 Fri: Departing our lodge early we drive to the remote village of Ura Yakchoe to attend a full day at festival. 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. Camp in Ura; tonight go over your itinerary with your Birding Expert Guide and prepare for the beginning of your Exotic Bhutan Bird tour. Overnight Camp in Ura.
Day 6: April 19 Sat: BIRD TOUR BEGINS: Depart Bumthang towards Sengor, crossing Thumshingla pass. Near Sengor, one can see Yellow-bill Magpies, Fire-tail Mizoros and Jungle fowl. This area is a HOT SPOT for Satyr Tragopan which is on the endangered species List. This pristine countryside is rich in foliage and forest, making it ideal for Nutcrackers, Warbblers, Fork-tails and Robins. Set up camp in Sengor.
Day 9: April 22 Tue: Yongkola – Trongsa .Today we will arrive
in Trongsa to overnight at the Trongsa hotel. Rest well.
Day 10: April 23 Wed: Depart Trongsa to Shamgang. We will spend the
next few days birding and camping in the Shamgang/Punakha area of Bhutan.
Beauty is rich here and the opportunity to view wildlife is ample.
Birding in this area is rewarded by sightings of White Bellied Heron,
Tawny Fish Owl, Phallas Fish Eagle and Crested Kingfisher. Sightings
of the Satyr Tragopan, an endangered species, have been made here.
Camp at Tingtibi 600m.
Day 12: April 25 Fri: Zhemgang - Punakha Drive to Punakha through Trongsa. Camp at Tashithang: Alt 1700 m
Day 13: April 26 Sat: Tashithang – Punakha – Thimphu. Early Morning birding in Tashithang in Jigme Dorji National Park Arrive at your vehicle and you are transported from Punakha to Thimphu in time for the famous week-end market. Thimphu market is an exciting time in Bhutan. Here is wonderful opportunity to mingle with local Bhutanese folks out to market and marvel at the handicrafts and fresh organic produce. You will have ample Kodak opportunity at market, please ask first. You will find Bhutanese folks most pleasant and willing to please. You now enjoy leisure time after hotel check in. Stroll Thimphu village, arrange a hot-stone Bhutanese bath, and inquire with your guide on any special interest items you wish to purchase. (Textile museum, Incense house, traditional Paper factory, Takin Zoo or relaxation time!)
Day 14: April 27 Sun: Thimphu – Paro. Today we depart Thimphu towards the village of Paro. Along our route we visit the famous Tigers Nest Monastery. We 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 will enjoy a picnic lunch and return to vehicle and drive to our hotel In Paro for the evening.
Day 15: April 28 Mon: Paro drive to Chelela for Birding. We spend a full day today birding around Chilela - Drugyel Dzong. This area is good for alpine-zone species, Ibis Bill, Himalayan Griffon, Golden Eagle, White-throated Dipper, Grandala, White-bellied Redstart, Brown dippers, , Shrikes, Fantails, Sun-birds, Wag tails, different varieties of dippers. Return to your hotel for a farewell dinner. Evening: birding by the Paro River.
Day 16: April 29 Sun: Departs Bhutan; Transfer to Airport for Departure.