Bhutan Trip Advisor is Now 1-derful Bhutan Tours
Best time: 2nd & 3rd WEEK OF AUGUST
Duration: 10N/ 11D
Festival dates: 23rd & 24th AUGUST, 2017
Fixed Date: 18th – 28th AUGUST, 2017
Entry: PARO, 18th AUGUST, 2017
Exit: PARO, 28th AUGUST, 2017
Matsutake, or Sangay Shamu (local name) is a mushroom that grows at altitudes above 3000m and has a very strong and distinct flavor, much liked by the Japanese especially. The festival takes place in Ura valley in Bumthang district and is a 2 day program. Guests can along get together with the locals and go mushroom hunting, all the collection is brought together and then prepared in different styles and tasted.
The festival was initiated by the previous Agriculture Minister, Lyonpo Dr. Pema Jamtsho with assistance from Dy. Minister of National Environment Commission, Lyonpo Nado Rinchen to promote eco-tourism, community tourism and cultural tourism. It was also initiated to alleviate poverty and rural income in remote communities through tourism.
BRIEF ITINERARY :-
DAY 1: (16th August): Arrive at Paro. Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
DAY 2: (17th August): Paro - Thimphu. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
DAY 3: (18th August): Thimphu sightseeing continued. Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
DAY 4: (19th August): Thimphu - Punakha. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
DAY 5: (20th August): Punakha sightseeing continued. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
DAY 6: (21st August): Punakha - Bumthang. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
DAY 7: (22nd August): Bumthang sightseeing continued. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
DAY 8: (23rd August): Bumthang, Matcutake Festival in Ura valley. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
DAY 9: (24th August): Bumthang sightseeing continued, excursion to Tang Valley. Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
DAY 10: (25th August): Bumthang - Phobjikha valley. Overnight at a hotel/ guest house in Phobjikha valley
DAY 11: (26th August): Phobjikha - Paro. Overnight at a hotel in Paro
DAY 12: (27th August): Paro sightseeing
DAY 13: (28th August): Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) hike. Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro.
DAY 14: , (29th August): DEPARTURE
Districts you will cover: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa, Bumthang and Haa
Day 1: Arrival: Paro – Thimphu
On arrival, guests will be received at the airport by 1-derful Bhutan Tours’s guide who will be your companion for the duration of your tour Bhutan.
Drive to Paro town for lunch and to freshen up. After lunch, visit the National Museum and Paro Rinpung Dzong, the District Administrations’ and Religious activities’ centre.
Start drive to Thimphu and check-in at your hotel and then go out in town to mingle with the locals. And then later in the evening, you can visit:-
Tashichho Dzong: The Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery cum fortress at the northern edge of Thimpu the capital city of Bhutan. The Dzong was built on the western bank of the river Wang Chu, and has historically served at the seat of the Druk Desi or the Dharma Raja of Bhutan‟s government. After the kings assumed power in 1907 this post was combined with that of the king and Thimphu severed as the summer caital of the kingdom before becoming the full time capital of Bhutan. The original Thimphu Dzong (the Dho-Ngyen Dzong) is said to have been constructed in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa. And was later taken over by Lama Phajo Drukgom Shigpo before the Dzong was conquered by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who found the Dzong to be too small and expanded it to what is now known as theTashichho dzong is also called the "fortress of glorious religion." It was erected in 1641 and was subsequently rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. The Dzong has been seat of the Royal government since 1952 and presently houses the Throne room and the Kings secretariat. 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. The monument welcomes visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu festival which is held in autumn each year. The Dzongs main structure is a two striped quadrangle with 3 storied towers on each of its four corners
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu sightseeing
Post breakfast you will visit the following places
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, it can be accessed by road and is about 15 minutes away from the city‟s center. The word Kuensel means everything is clear and from this place you will sure enjoy a great view of the Thimphu Valley on both sides. The statute will house a temple inside it, the statue and its adjoining car park and recreational center are currently under construction and is expected to be ready by December 2012. The statue is constructed out of bronze and is studded with many semi-precious stones. Since they are no factories in country that can make such a large bronze cast structure, statute is being manufactured in China and the pieces are brought to Bhutan and are assembled here. 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. A journalist once described the view as “seeing an osasis of light in the desert of darkness “as the city light of Thimphu shine very bright in an otherwise dark Thimphu valley.
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. Trenton Pema Lingpa also known as the Great Treasure National Institute for Zorig Chusum - Discoverer is credited to have introduced these art forms to the people of Bhutan. These traditional crafts are a representation of the centuries of knowledge and ability that was been handed down to master craftsmen and artisan through each generation. Bhutan‟s unique artistic tradition has played a vital role in shaping the countries distinct culture and heritage. It was realized that this unique and priceless heritage of the nation need to be protected and promoted with the strong patronage of the royal government. With this vision in mind the royal institute for Zoring Chusum was established in the year 1971 to train the youth in the 13 traditional Arts and Crafts of Bhutan. The institute now falls under the aegis of the National Technical Training Authority which was established in 1990 to ensure high quality vocational training for the people of the country. The institute has now been operational for almost 40 years and has taught students the arts of painting, embroidery, calligraphy, sculpting and wood carving.
Folk Heritage Museum: An old house renovated and maintained so that visitors can see exactly how the people used to live till the mid 20th century. The museum was one of the oldest houses in the capital (150yrs est.) and was chosen to be converted to a museum, it opened in 2001. Don't be surprised to know that many still live life this way in the remote parts of the country, except perhaps, with a little bit improvement on sanitation.
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. Many old people come here early in the morning to circumambulate and say their prayers in the hopes of garnering enough good karma for their afterlife; they are joined by the middle and the younger generation in the evenings who also come to do either the same thing or to just relax their mind. The doors of this stupa remain mostly closed except on holy days. Inside, there are three stories and on each floor are statues of protective deities.
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. It was originally a mini zoo, but it was converted in a preserve later on as the Takin. The mini zoo contained a small number of Takin but the King of Bhutan later decreed that it was improper for a Buddhist nation to keep an animal in captivity. The animals were set free and the zoo was shut down, but for some reason the Takin refused to leave the area for the forests nearby. Instead the animals were frequesntly found roaming around the streets of the capital city in search for food. As a result the government decided to demarcate an 8 acre fenced location as the Motithang Takin Preserve. 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. There are plans to expand the preserves collection to include other rarely seen animals that live in Bhutan, currently the preserve plans to add the Red Panda and the Himalayan Serow to the preserve.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha
Post early breakfast, drive to Punakha. On the way, stop at Dochula Pass (3,100 m), where on a sunny day, you can get stunning views of the Himalayan ranges. The Dochu La Pass is probably the best known mountain pass in Bhutan. Located at an altitude of 3150 meter above sea level, the Dochu La Pass is about 30 kilometer away from the capital city Thimphu and the road to Punakha. On a clear day the pass offers visitors a spectacular view of the majestic eastern Himalayan Ranges. A cup of hot coffee or tea at the pass has almost become part of tradition for people travelling to and fro from Punakha to the capital city.
There is a small cafeteria at the pass that offers a chance for travelers to enjoy a hot beverage or a snack, it is located just off the road and overlooks the pass and is an ideal place to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Another striking feature at the pass are the 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens, that were built for the well-being of all sentiment beings on earth. The 108 Chorten were built 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 King.
Continue drive towards Punakha, and visit Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility), it is dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley (Divine Mad Man) and is the place from where Phalluses originated as the symbol of fertility and protection and can be seen everywhere in Bhutan, on house walls and roofs and altars.
check-in at your hotel, have lunch and rest for a while before visiting the following
Punakha Dzong: The Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu River, combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu which in turn is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on the exact spot as prophesized by the Guru Rinpoche some 800 years ago. According to the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche “a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. Another legend associated with the Dzong is that of Zowe Palep, the architect of the Dzong received vision of the Dzong in his sleep. This vision got imprinted in the architects mind and enabled him to construct the Dzong without putting his plans to paper.
It is the second largest and the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan. The Dzong is home to some of the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism; it is also home to the sacred mortal remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa the great treasure discoverer of Bhutan. The 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) and the central monastic body and plays host to the annual Punakha Tshechu Festival which is very popular with the locals and tourists alike.
Overnight at a hotel in Punakha
Day 4: Punakha – Trongsa
Post breakfast drive towards Trongsa. You’ll cross your 2nd pass, Pelela (3300m)is about 2.5 - 3 hour’s drive away from Punakha. The road conditions are pretty bad due to widening process and some stretches have regular landslides, especially after crossing Pelela pass. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful drive with scenic views. Once in Trongsa, check-in at your hotel, rest for a while and 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.
(NOTE: The road between Punakha and Trongsa is under renovation process and will only be complete in about 2 years time. Rough drive is to be expected)
Overnight at a hotel in Trongsa
Day 5: Trongsa – Bumthang
Post breakfast, drive toward Bumthang. On the way you will cross your 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, Check-in at your hotel, rest for a while, have lunch and visit the following:
Jambey lhakhang was built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in 659 AD. The temple was blessed by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang. It is said that Guru Rimpoche was the one who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. 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 Rimpoche took refuge on several occasions.
Kurjey Lhakhang is a monastery located in the Bumthang Valley of Bhutan. The Kurjey Lakahng Temple Complex is a 20 minute hike from the Jambay Lhakhang. 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.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
Day 6: Bumthang: MATSUTAKE FESTIVAL in Ura Valley
Post early breakfast, drive to Ura Valley to attend the Matsutake Festival. Ura is about 50kms away and takes about 1.5 hours of drive with scenic views of pastures, valleys and mountains, and from a certain clearing about 45 minutes into the drive, Gangkar Puensum (7,550m), the highest mountain in Bhutan mountains are visible.
The festival is organised by the people of Ura community as a reason to celebrate and let people from other regions and abroad to experience their traditional way of life, their delicious cuisine and drinks, traditional arts and crafts, folk songs and dances. You can participate in all the activities at the festival, from going to collect mushrooms to assist in preparation of the dishes to the dances and songs.
Later in the afternoon, drive back to Chamkhar, on the way visit. 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 7: Bumthang – Tang valley excursion
Post leisurely breakfast, drive towards Tang valley, the smallest and the remotest among the 4 valleys of Bumthang. 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.
Go for a short hike to 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, rest for a while in the valley before driving back to Chamkhar town to your hotel.
Overnight at a hotel in Bumthang
Day 8: Bumthang – 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.
Check-in at your hotel and enjoy the beautiful scenic valley Gangtey Nature Trail 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.
Overnight at a hotel in Phobjikha
Day 9: Phobjikha – Paro
After breakfast, drive towards Wangdue Phodrang, stop at the bridge for photo op of the Wangdue Dzong ruins (destroyed by fire in June 2012), and then go for a short hike to Rinchengang village, one of the oldest continually inhabited villages in the country. The inhabitants of this village are said to be of Indian origin and very good craftsmen. Drive up to Dochula Pass and then down to Thimphu where you will have lunch.
Drive to Paro after that and check-in at your hotel.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 10: Paro: Taktsang hike
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.
Come down and visit the following if you have the energy -
Drugyal Dzong: Literally means 'Bhutan's victory fortress', it was built to in 1654 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders and it would also control and guard the trade between Bhutan and Tibet as it stood right on the trade trail. It stands atop a small hill with a commanding view of the valley up and below and on a clear one can get to see the beautiful Mount Jomolhari from here. It caught fire in 1951 and has been in ruins since, some renovation works have been carried out but has not been able to go full swing. Although in ruins, the dzong is still beautiful to look at and one can just walk about inside the ruins trying to imagine how things were before.
Kyichu Lhakhang: Considered 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. Inside the compound is an orange tree which always has oranges no matter what the season.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 11: Depart
JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP
MUSHROOM (MATSUTAKE) FESTIVAL
GOMPHU KORA TSHECHU
HAA SUMMER FESTIVAL
DOCHULA, DRUK WANGYEL TSHECHU