- Trek: point-to-point
- Breakfast is included throughout the trip and all food is provided in Bhutan. The meals in the hotels in Bhutan are usually buffet style and include Bhutanese and Western food. The food in Bhutan can sometimes be a bit bland. The meals on trek are a mixture of Bhutanese, western and Chinese. Please allow approx. GBP20-25 per day for other main meals in Kathmandu.
- Guided Group
- Accom: camping
- Culture & Discovery
- Festival departures
- Accom: hotel/lodge
- Walking & Trekking
Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to relax.
Flight to Paro; drive to Thimpu; visit Semtokha and Trashichi Dzongs.
Today we fly to Paro. If the weather is clear we should get fantastic views of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya including Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and Chomolhari. Upon arrival we transfer to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan (approx 1hr). Thimpu is a fairly small town, with a population of around 90,000, and is easy to get around. There is a certain quaintness to it and all the houses and shops are painted in traditional Buddhist styles. Today we will visit Simtokha Dzong (fort) and Tashichho Dzong, which is the centre of the Bhutanese government..
Visit Memorial Chorten; drive to Punakha via Dochula, Chimi Lhakhang and Punakha Dzong.
This morning we spend some more time exploring the charms of Thimpu. We will visit the Memorial Chorten, which was built in 1974 in memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as well as a local art school and Buddha Point, the site of a 50m Shakyamuni Buddha statue overlooking the city. We then leave Thimpu and drive east to Punakha. The route climbs steeply in places to the Dochula Pass. At 3050m (10,000ft) the views over the eastern Himalaya are magnificent although the clouds may obscure this spectacle. We descend to the valley floor and continue to sub-tropical Punakha. At an altitude of 1350m the difference in temperature and flora is apparent. Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan and the dzong was the second one to be built in Bhutan. This remarkable fortress is built between two rivers and it has survived many fires, an earthquake and a glacial flood. Over time it has been repaired and added to and has several interesting features to protect it against invasion. En route we will also visit Chime Lhakhang, a 15th century monastery built to honour one of the more folkloric saints of Bhutanese tradition, Lama Drukpa Kuenley. The Lama was known for his foul-mouth, alcohol-smelling breath and insatiable lust towards women. Yet he is revered as a great saint by most Bhutanese who come from all corners of the country to visit Chime Lhakhang
Visit Wangdi Dzong en route to Bumthang.
A long day today so we will leave very early for the long drive to Bumthang, often referred to as the spiritual heart of Bhutan. En route we stop at the Chendebji Chorten and visit the weavers in Chumey where we can see women weaving yak wool into traditional Bhutanese textiles known as Yathra. Passing through Trongsa we will visit the imposing dzong and if there is time the museum set in an old watchtower (time permitting). It will be evening by the time we reach our hotel in Bumthang.
Domkhar Festival or Jambay Lakhang Festival.
Today we witness one of Bhutan’s famous festivals – either the Domkhar Festival (also known as the Bumthang Festival) or the Jambay Lakhang Festival. Spring departures feature Domkhar and Autumn departures feature Jambay Lakhang. Festivals in Bhutan are very colourful affairs and are a celebration of the country’s greatest Buddhist saint, Guru Rimpoche. Bhutanese come together during festivals to watch various dances such as the black hat dance or the treasure dance which normally have a long history and tradition going back centuries. Most of these are masked dances and the masks themselves have an important significance. Both of these festivals are more intimate and lesser-visited in comparison to those in Paro or Thimpu.
To Thangbi Lhakhang; trek to camp at Nglakang.
This morning we take a short walk (approx. 3km) around the town to visit several of the nearby temples. Tamshing Monastery was founded in 1501 and remains one of the most important of Bhutan’s religious buildings, and legend has it that Guru Rimpoche himself visited the site of Jambay Lhakhang and deemed it exceptionally sacred. (Visit Kenchosum, Tamshing, Kurjey & Jambay Lhakhang). Afterwards we will drive approximately 30/40 minutes and then start our hike from a small village at Kurjey. Our path will take us through dense blue-pine forests, meadows and bamboo shrubs. We follow the undulating trail all the way to the area called Ngang Yul, which directly translates as Swan Land after the swans which once inhabited the valley (but are, sadly, now gone). At the heart of the valley is Ngang Lhakhang (Swan Temple) at an elevation of 2,800m, which we will visit before returning to our campsite. The story goes that a Lama had a dream about how to build a temple, he shot an arrow into the air and where the arrow landed he built the temple. We will camp here overnight. Walk approx. 12 km; 6 hours.
Climb to Phelhe La; descend to Takung Valley.
Today we start a gradual ascent towards the Phephe La Pass (3,465m), the highest point on our trek. We will be passing through beautiful forested areas and will have plenty of opportunity to make stops and take in our surroundings. We have an easy descent through forest for about an hour before the valley opens out as we pass an old gateway chorten. The forest here is interspersed with clearings where animals graze on the lush grass pasture. As the valley widens we see cultivated land and herders huts. After another hour a large village comes into view – this is Takung and we camp just outside the village (2,900m). Walk approx. 16kms; 7hrs.
Walk to Gamling; drive via Mebar Tsho to Bumthang.
Today is the last day of our trek, we hike for about 45 mins (1.5 km) to the village of Gamling (2505m), and then further onto Ugyencholing. Here there is an opportunity to visit a local museum, learn about tradition and Bhutanese textiles and the trading history of the past. From here we will be descend down to the small village of Kizom and continue with our hike along the Tangchu down to Mesithang where we will be met by our vehicle and drive back to Bumthang. En route we will stop at Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) which is named after the legend of Pema Lingpa who entered the lake with a butter lamp and returned a long while later with treasures and holy books, and the lamp still alight. This holy site, with its bright prayer flags, is a pilgrimage place for many Bhutanese. Walk approx. 10 kms; 4 – 5 hrs.
Fly to Paro; city tour.
We take the short internal flight from Bumthang to the beautiful broad, fertile Paro Valley, with its famous dzong overlooking the rice fields and scattered houses. The Paro valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. Its blue pine-covered hills and attractive, solidly built farmhouses among the paddy fields are dominated by the massive Paro dzong also known as Rinpung dzong, which we will visit. We will have the opportunity to visit the National Museum which is housed in an ancient watchtower with a superb view over the valley, and contains many interesting historic and religious objects, as well as a fine collection of Bhutanese stamps.
Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery.
We drive to the car park below Taktsang monastery, where we set off walking. It is an uphill hike taking 2 - 3 hours to the viewpoint café and is steep in places. After a tea break we continue to the monastery itself. The famous 'Tiger's Nest' is only accessible on foot but is well worth the effort. The complex clings to a huge granite cliff 800 meters above the Paro valley. It is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. The demons who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism were subdued and he converted the Paro valley to Buddhism.At the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint meditated and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit once in their lifetime.
Fly to Kathmandu.
We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. You may want to visit the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city. Here is the old royal palace, with its intricate woodcarving and four fine towers. Or you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambhunath or take an optional trip to Bhaktapur, the mediaeval city a few miles east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital. Please note that due to the recent earthquake some of these places may be closed, your guide will be able to tell you more about this.
The trip ends after breakfast. For those on the group flight this will depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the same day.