Bhutan Trip Advisor is Now 1-derful Bhutan Tours
Best time: 3rd WEEK OF MARCH – 1st WEEK OF APRIL
Duration: 12N/ 13D
Festival dates: 4th – 6th APRIL, 2017
Fixed Date: 23rd March – 7th April, 2017
Entry: PARO, 23rd March, 2017
Exit: SAMDRUP JONGKHAR, 7th April, 2017
Gomphu means “Meditation Cave” and Kora means “Circumambulation”. is one of the most popular in Eastern Bhutan. People from all around the country and from as far as North-Eastern Indian states come to see the festival. They come in the best dresses as it was once one of the places to find one’s future partners. Sacred dances are performed during the festival and one of the main activities for the people is to circumambulate the temple.
It is believed that the fire blessing and the naked dance will cleanse us of our bad karma.
BRIEF ITINERARY :-
DAY 1: Arrival at Paro
DAY 2: Paro: Taktsang hike – Drive to Thimphu
DAY 3: Thimphu Sightseeing
DAY 4: Thimphu – Punakha
DAY 5: Punakha Sightseeing
DAY 6: Punakha – Phobjikha
DAY 7: Phobjikha – Bumthang
DAY 8: Bumthang Sightseeing
DAY 9: Bumthang Sightseeing
DAY 10: Bumthang – Mongar
DAY 11: Mongar – Lhuentse excursion and back
DAY 12: Mongar – Trashi Yangtse
DAY 13: Trashi Yangtse – Trashigang
DAY 14: Gomphu Kora Festival
DAY 15: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
DAY 16: Depart
Districts you will cover: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa, Bumthang and Haa
Day 1: Arrival at Paro
On arrival, guests will be received at the airport by 1-derful Bhutan Tour's representative who will be your tour guide and companion for the whole duration of your tour in Bhutan.
Drive to your hotel, check-in, refresh yourself and then visit the following places.
Ta Dzong (National Museum): The name Ta Dzong translates to ‘watch tower’ and it served the function of watch tower for the Paro Rinpung Dzong. Back in the day, similar look-out points were built for other dzongs (fortresses) to counter any approaching hostilities, for those were the days of frequent strife. These towers were specifically built high atop hills and other vantage points during the old days. Presently serving as the national museum (since late 60’s), it houses an array of antiquities such as ancient thangka (exquisite scroll painting), mural paintings and other forms of art done by great personalities of those days, original textiles of the kingdom which represent the culture that still flourishes, weapons & armour used back in the day, household objects typical to the Bhutanese people’s way of life back then and even now, and other natural and historical artifacts.
Paro Rinpung Dzong: (‘fortress of a heap of jewels’). It was built in the mid 17th century to protect and to gain control over the region, many invasions were averted from this dzong. It now serves as seat of the Paro district administration and residence for the monastic school. Rinpung dzong like all other dzongs in Bhutan is adorned with wall murals that symbolize the lives of the Bodhisattvas and other prominent saints, drawings from Buddhist parables within which the country’s culture and traditional life is intricately represented and holy symbols that signify their own individual religious meanings.
Dumtse Lhakhang: It is a private temple built by Lam Chazampa (Thangthong Gyalpo) in the 13-14 century. This is a special temple with 3 floors representing Hell, Earth and Heaven. All the paintings and artifacts in the temples are as old as the temple itself. The pillars inside were installed by the different villages in Paro valley, almost in a competition like way, even today the names villages are engraved in the pillars. Though the temple is situated very close to town, the lighting is powered by Solar power but is not lit very much as the owners fear the lights will fade the colors in the paintings, so it is essential to take a torch.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 2: Paro: Taktsang hike – Drive to Thimphu
Have early breakfast and drive up to the base of Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The most famous and sacred site among all the places in Bhutan. Guru Padmasambhava is said to have come riding on a flying tigress to this place and meditated in a cave for 3 months, it wasn’t until Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to this place and meditated that it gained the popularity that it has now. The present structure is said to be built in the 15th century but was destroyed by fire in 1998 and has been restored.
The walk is about 2 hours till the top through wide pathways which was built during the restoration works. One hour into the climb there is a tea point from where you get a very good view of the monastery, they also serve lunch here. From there it’s about another 45 minutes climb to the 2nd view point and the highest point in the hike. All in all it takes around 5-6 hours for an average person to hike up and then back down to the base.
While going back to your hotel, stop on the way to visit Kyichu Lhakhang: Considered one of the oldest temple along with Jampa and Kenchosum Lhakhang in Bumthang, it dates back to the 7th century when a Tibetan King ordered 108 temples to be built in a single night to subdue a huge ogress. It was later renovated in the mid 19th century and in the late 1960's by the Grand Queen Mother. It is also considered by many to be one of the holiest places in the country.
Drive to Thimphu, check-in at your hotel and rest
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 3: Thimphu sightseeing
Post breakfast, visit the Immigration to extend your permits to go to Punakha and beyond and then visit the following places
Folk Heritage Museum: The folk heritage museum was open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. Its treasure troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. The tour of this almost living museum will also give you a glimpse onto how many rural folk of the country live today following the ancient Bhutanese ways.
National institute of zorig chusum: The art and crafts currently taught in Bhutan, were introduced to the country in the 15th century by Trenton Pema Lingpa. The institute has now been operational for almost 30 years and has taught students the arts of painting, embroidery, calligraphy, sculpting and wood carving.
Have lunch in town and then visit the following
Memorial Chorten: Referred to as the Memorial Chorten, it’s actual name is Gongzo Chorten or Gyaldren Chorten. The Chorten (Stupa) is a chief landmark in the Capital city and is also a very sacred place of worship for the local eople. The idea of the chorten was conceptualized by the 3rd King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to ward off negative energies. After His Majesty’s demise, the Chorten was built in his memory by the 4th King and the Queen Mother in 1972.
Kuensel phodrang: The Kuensel Phodrang or the Buddha point is the world’s largest sitting Buddha statue, the statue is 167 feet high. The statue is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Timphu, The statue is constructed out of bronze and is studded with many semi-precious stones. On the drive to the statue the steep winding hill road offers an unparalleled view of the city of Thimphu and is an excellent place to capture a view of the city especially after dark.
Motithang Takin preserve: The Motithang Takin Preserve also known as the Thimphu Zoo by many is a small natural preserve for the Takin Bhutan’s national animal. The preserve is a forested preserve that mimics the Takin’s natural habitat, in addition to the Takin there are a few musk deer and barking deer that live inside the preserve.
Tashichho Dzong: The Dzong is a Buddhist monastery cum fortress at the northern edge of Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan. It has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room, the Kings secretariat and the Chief Abbot’s office. The Tashichho dzong is also home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country's main spiritual order.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha
Have breakfast and drive to Punakha. On the way stop at Dochula Pass (3,100 m): The Pass is probably the best known mountain pass in Bhutan. It’s about 30 kilometres away from the capital city Thimphu on the road to Punakha. On a clear day the pass offers visitors a spectacular view of the majestic eastern Himalayan Ranges. The pass is also marked by the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens.
108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens: Located on Dochula pass, they were built for the well-being of all sentiment beings on earth and as a tribute to the Kings of Bhutan for their selfless service and leadership they offer to the people of Bhutan. These Stupas or Chortens also represent the peoples love, appreciation and loyalty towards the country’s Kings.
At Lobesa, hike to
Chimi Lhakhang: Also known as the ‘Temple of Fertility’, it sits on the top of a small round hill surrounded by rice fields. The temple is dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley, also known as ‘The Divine Madman’. He was an accomplished master but he is remembered more for the outrageous nature of his teachings, often using sexual inclinations. It is a pilgrimage site especially for couples without children and many swear that one will be blessed with children after visiting this place.
Post lunch check-in at your hotel, rest a while and visit -
Punakha Dzong: Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu River, and is the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong is home to some of the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism. Punakha Dzong has also served as the capital Bhutan till 1955 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. The Dzong is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot).
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha/ Wangdue Phodrang
Day 5: Punakha sightseeing
Post breakfast, drive to -
KHAMSUM YUELLEY NAMGYAL CHORTEN: Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a temple that stands majestically on a strategic ridge above Punakha valley. The temple was built by the Queen Mothers to ward off negative energies, promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world after it was prophesied in the scriptures by Thragthung Dudjom Lingpa. The hike takes about 45 minutes one way through relatively easy path through paddy fields and thin pine forest. Once at the top, you can enter the stupa and climb all the way to the top for a breath taking view of the valley below.
After coming down from the hike, take a detour to visit the village nearby and then continue further to go on the -
Yebisa – Sonagasa Hike: This is a great hike anytime of the year. It starts from Yebisa village, going through it and the paddy field surrounding it while following the river downstream. The trail goes along a small patch of trees (mostly pine trees) before coming to a suspension bridge and after that, to an open valley where there is the Royal horse ranch/ stable and some sheep which is kept there. You’ll reach a well manicured lawn which is actually a small ‘practice’ golf course of the Royal family and there’s a Royal Guest house close by. Your vehicle will pick you up at the end of the garden just outside the gate. All in all, this hike will take about 2 hours from the village till the pick-up point.
Post lunch, visit -
Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery: Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang is the magnificent stupa like temple built by the 5th King’s Maternal Grandfather to encourage females to pursue Buddhist studies. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns, where, apart from religious trainings, also provides life skills trainings such as tailoring, embroidery, statue sculpting and thankas (scroll) painting.
Go for a drive around the beautiful villages of Talo and Nubgang before finally going back to your hotel to rest.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
Day 6: Punakha – Phobjikha
Have breakfast and drive to Phobjikha, the valley of the Black Necked Cranes. This is the winter nesting grounds for the endangered Black Necked Cranes, they start arriving by October end and leave for the Tibetan plateau by February. The valley is believed to have been created by glaciers and is shaped like a bowl, hence the name ‘Phob’ meaning bowl. Once there stop at Gangtey monastery, a privately funded Buddhist college of Nyingmapa sect. It’s worth going in for a short visit to see the beautiful carvings inside.
After that, take a trail that goes down the hill, it’s called the Gangtey Nature Trail and is a beautiful hike around the valley through lightly covered pine and juniper forests. This is also the closest you will come to the cranes (during winters) as it’s prohibited to go away from the trail and down to the marshes in the valley. Your car will pick you up at the end of the marshes in the valley to take you to your hotel.
Overnight at a hotel/ guest house in Phojikha
(Note: Road condition is quite bad, rough drive is to be expected)
Day 7: Phobjikha – Bumthang
Post breakfast, drive toward Bumthang. On the way you will cross 2 passes, the first one Pelela (3300m)is less than an hour’s drive away. From the pass you will start descending and come across many villages, each with its own charm and beauty. Stop at Trongsa view point to take in the view of Trongsa Dzong.
In Trongsa, visit the following:
Trongsa Dzong: Originally named Chokor Rabtense Dzong it’s commonly referred to as Trongsa Dzong. This Dzong has played a very important role in the unification of Bhutan. The old East-West highway passed right through the Dzong making the Governor a very powerful man. The first and the second Kings ruled the country from here.
Ta Dzong (Museum): Ta Dzong means Wach tower and used to function as such for the main Dzong below. The structure has now been converted into a museum with the assistance from the Austrain Government, the museum features old artefacts from the Dzong which tells about the history of the region and of Bhutan.
The road starts ascending up to the third pass, Yotungla at 34oom. The air is much cooler and from there you will descend towards the valleys of Bumthang, the hills are much gentler and the valley wider, Bumthang is known as the ‘Switzerland in Bhutan’. Bumthang has 4 distinct valleys, Chumey, Chamkhar, Tang and Ura, your hotel is located in the first valley which is about 25kms away from town (Chamkhar valley) but is set in a picturesque location with views of open valleys of fields and meadows.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
(Note: Road condition is quite bad, very rough drive is to be expected)
Day 8: Bumthang Sightseeing
You will spend most of the day visiting local places of interest.
Jambey lhakhang: It was built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in 659 AD and is one of the oldest temples in the country. The temple was blessed by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang. It was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life with his magical powers. Many believe that there is a natural lake under the temple in which Guru took refuge on several occasions.
Kurjey Lhakhang: The temple complex, according to legend, Guru meditated in a cave there to subdue an evil spirit and left an imprint of his body in the cave to serve as a reminder to all evil beings of his wrath. A cypress tree stands behind the temples, it is believed to have grown from Guru Rinpochhe’s staff. The Kurjey Lhakhang Temple complex consists of 3 major temples and surrounding Chortens. The first one dates back to the 17th Century, second one was built by the first King in the 1900’s and the last one was built by the Queen Grandmother in the 1980’s.
Tamshing Lhakahng: The temple was constructed in 1501 by the great Pema Lingpa himself. Before 1960 Tamshing was privately owned. The core mission of the Tamshing monastery is to teach the Dharma, perform religious service for the community and educate the young monks under its care. Since the monastery is not state run the monks find it a challenge to support the operation of this monastery and survive off donations from the devout. Most of the young monks in the monastery are under the age of 15 and are either orphans or come from very poor families who can’t afford to send their children to even the state run schools.
Mebartsho (The Burning Lake): It is not a lake as such but a small stream instead which gets collected into a small pool. This is the place where Pema Lingpa discovered his first treasure. The villagers didn’t believe that he found the treasures there. So, to prove that he was not lying he jumped in the lake with a burning butter lamp in his hand, when he came out he had some more treasures in his hand and the lamp was still burning.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
Day 9: Bumthang Sightseeing
Post breakfast, drive to Tang Valley: It’s the birth place of Bhutan’s most famous treasure discoverer, Terton Pema Lingpa, and is also the smallest and narrowest among the 4 valleys of Bumthang. The people raise sheep and cows and yak at a little higher elevation. The valley is not so fertile but has been subject to experimental farming to improve organic agricultural products. It’s about an hour to hour and half long drive from Chamkhar town till the valley center from where one can see Ugyencholing Palace Museum perched on a hill overlooking the valley.
In Tang, visit Ugyenchholing Palace Museum: It used to be a residence of the ruler of the valley in the medieval days. It has now been converted into a museum and is managed by the descendants of the old family, most of the times the great grand-daughter stays there and gives tours to visitors. IT takes about 30-45 minutes of hiking to reach the Museum located on top of a small hill in the valley.
Have lunch there and drive back to Chamkhar town.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
Day 10: Bumthang – Mongar
After early breakfast, drive towards Mongar. It’s a long day of drive and will be spending the whole day on the road only.
Once in Mongar, check-in at your hotel and rest
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 11: Mongar – Lhuentse excursion and back
Post early breakfast, drive to Lhuentshe. In Lhuentshe visit the following before driving back to Mongar Guru Nangsi Zilnoen Statue: The statue of Guru Padmasambhava is located in Takila, overlooking the river valleys below; It was originally supposed to be 148ft but later changed to its current height of 173ft, and is one of the biggest of Guru and was built to bring peace and prosperity and to benefit all the sentient beings in the world. Due to environmental constraints machines were not used in the construction of this statue.
Lhuentshe Dzong: The Dzong was founded by Lam Ngagi Wangchuk when he built a temple in the place the dzong stands today, it was, however, Trongsa Penlop, Chogyal Minjur Tempa who built a formal Dzong in 1654 after winning a battle against the Chokhor Deb of Bumthang and also to consolidate the Drukpa power hold in the East.
If time permits then you can also visit Khoma village: This village is known as the textile center of Bhutan and is famous for the silk textiles the women weave. One of the most sought after designs, the Kishuthara intricate and each Kira takes about 6months to 1year to complete.
Overnight at a hotel in Mongar
Day 12: Mongar – Trashi Yangtse
Post early breakfast, start driving towards Trashi Yangtse. and there you can visit the following before driving back to Trashigang
Chorten Kora: This chorten is similar to Chendebji chorten. Every year, ths place hosts 2 religious festivals and people from Arunachal Pradesh in India also come for the festival. The chorten is surrounded by many small prayer wheels and is lovated on the banks of the river below Trashi Yangtse town. National Institute of Zorig Chusum: This institute was opened in 1997 to provide opportunities in vocational training. Just like its counterpart in Thimphu, this institute also trains students in the 13 traditional arts and crafts. The institute is located just above the hospital.
Overnight at a hotel in Trashigang
Day 13: Trashi Yangtse – Trashigang
Post breakfast, drive to Bomdelling Wildlife Sanctuary, this is the other valley where the Black Necked Cranes migrate from Tibet during winters apart from Phobjikha valley. Drive back to town and visit the School of 13 Arts and Crafts, it’s the 2nd branch of the School in Thimphu which was setup here to provide the skills to people of Eastern Bhutan who are not able to travel to Thimphu.
Post early lunch, drive to Trashigang and on the way, visit -
Trashiyangtse Dongdi Dzong: This Dzong was built in the 9th century making it one of the oldest Dzongs in Bhutan. It was destroyed during a Tibetan invasion and was rebuilt during a Tibetan invasion by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century. He renamed it as Trashiyangtse Dzong, ‘Fortress of Auspicious Ofrtune’. The Dzong was used as a sub-district administration office until 1992. Today it is used by the monastic body. When Trashiyangtse became a separate Dzongkhag, a new Dzong was built further up the valley near the main town. Ruins of Taa Dzong and Chhu Dzong (water storage tower) can be seen nearby.
Once in Trashigang, you can check-in at your hotel and then after resting for a while, visit -
Trashigang Dzong: The ‘Fortress of the Auspicious Mound’ is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in the country and is accessible only from the North. It is also referred to as the ‘Sky Dzong’ due to its strategic and high location. Built in1659 by the 3rd Desi, Minjur Tempa, it acted as a power stronghold of eastern Bhutan. It was later reconstructed by the 4th Desi, Tenzin Rabgye in the 1680s.
Overnight at a hotel in Trashigang
Day 14: Gomphu Kora Festival
Post early breakfast, drive down to Gomphu Kora Lhakhang to see the Gomphu Kora Festival. The festival is one of the most popular in Eastern Bhutan. People from all around the country and from as far as North-Eastern Indian states come to see the festival. They come in the best dresses as it was once one of the places to find one’s future partners. Sacred dances are performed during the festival and one of the main activities for the people is to circumambulate the temple.
Gomphu-Kora Lhakhang: Name literally means, “Circumambulation of the Meditation Cave”, the famous lhakhang is located on the way to Trashi Yangtse and was visited by Guru Padmasambhava, where he subdued evil spirits. You will find a small meditating cave of Guru on a large rock beside the temple. There is a whole lot of myth surrounding this place and is worth visiting, especially during the Gom-Kora Tsechu which takes place around March-April every year and people from all over the country and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India come to see.
Day 15: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar
Post a leisurely breakfast drive towards Samdrup Jongkhar. The roads are winding and most of the 180km stretch has been widened, which makes the drive comfortable and enjoyable as we meander along the mountain slopes to the Himalayan foothills and down towards the Indian plains, where Samdrup Jongkhar is located right at the base of the hills.
Overnight at a hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 16: Depart
Post breakfast, you will be dropped off till Guwahati in an Indian taxi from where you can catch your flight
JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP
MUSHROOM (MATSUTAKE) FESTIVAL
GOMPHU KORA TSHECHU
HAA SUMMER FESTIVAL
DOCHULA, DRUK WANGYEL TSHECHU