Antarctica & Arctic
Experience the unique festivals and culture of Bhutan on this fascinating adventure.
a Destinations d > Bhutan > Festivals of Bhutan
10 nights accommodation, all breakfasts, 8 lunches & 8 dinners, all transport and listed activities, Exodus tour leader throughout and arrival and departure transfers.
04, 07 Apr, 24 & 29 Sep 2017.
Note: The spring departure visits the Paro festival, whilst the autumn departure takes in the Thimpu festival.
Hidden away in a corner of the Himalaya, the secretive kingdom of Bhutan is an unforgettable destination with ancient traditions, spectacular mountain scenery and vibrant festivals. At these festivals hundreds of people gather to see the monks, dressed in brightly coloured robes, perform ritual dances. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails.
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Visit the Paro Dzong and the incredible 'Tiger's Nest' monastery.
Visit the impressive Tashichho Dzong in Thimpu.
Experience Bhutan's colourful, vibrant festivals.
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Start in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to relax.
Today we fly to Paro. The flight is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world and takes us over the eastern Himalayas. If the weather is clear, we should get a fantastic view of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya, including Everest, Kanchenjunga and Chomolhari (Jhomolhari). In the afternoon we have time to visit Kyichu Lakang; one of the oldest temples in Bhuran.
We spend the whole day experiencing the vibrant Paro Festival. Hundreds gather to see the monks dressed in colourful brocade, silk costumes and wearing painted masks re-enacting the story of the gompa's divinity though music and dance. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails as many villagers arrive to meet old friends.
Today we will have a hike to Taktsang Monastery, also known as or 'Tiger’s Nest' Monastery.This spectacular building is perched on the ledge of a cliff high above the Paro Valley. Partly destroyed by fire in 1998, it has now been completely restored to its former magnificence. We drive a short distance from the hotel and then we hike to a viewpoint for the incredible views of the monastic buildings which cling impossibly to the cliff wall. For the energetic there is the chance to walk even higher to the actual monastery.
In the afternoon we have an hour’s drive to the capital, Thimpu, stopping at Kyichu Lakang en route. The Kyichu Lakhang was one of a series of temples built by the 7th century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. After being lost for a few centuries the temple was rediscovered in the 17th century and additions followed in the late 19th century and in the 1960s following the same style as the original temple. The Paro Valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, with blue pine-covered hills and attractive solidly built houses among the paddy fields.
We leave Thimphu in the morning 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 this is most definitely weather dependent! 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 situated between two rivers and it has survived many fires, an earthquake and a glacial flood. Over the years it has been repaired and added to and has several interesting features to protect it against invasion. Overnight in Punakha or Wangdi Phodrang. Today's drive is 130kms and takes about 3 hours 30 minutes.
This morning we hike up to the Chime Lakhang (monastery), 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. Women who cannot conceive believe that if they get blessed by the wooden phallus they will get pregnant. From here we continue across the Lawala Pass towards the Gangtey Valley, visiting the ruins of Wangdue Dzong, en route. Arriving at the Gangtey Valley, we will visit Gangtey monastery, the largest private monastery in Bhutan. Today's drive is approximately 84km and will take 2.5 to 3 hours.
This morning we will go on a hike through the Gangtey Valley. This glacial valley is made up of farmlands, pastures and blue-pine forests. We will encounter herders caring for their herds, which graze on the dwarf bamboo of the area. Gangtey is famous for sightings of the rare Black necked cranes, which fly from Tibet in late October and spend the winter here before returning to Tibet in spring. In the afternoon we drive for about 2 hours back to Wangdue Phodrang.
In the morning we drive for a couple of hours back to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, where we will have a chance to visit the Tashichho Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most stately and impressive buildings. It has been the seat of the government of Bhutan since 1952 and houses the throne room and offices of the king. We will also visit the impressive golden-spired Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 by the Royal Grandmother in memory of the Third King, H M Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. In the evening there will be time to explore the market.
We spend some time in Thimphu visiting the Zilukha Nunnery and a handicraft and painting school. In the afternoon we drive back to Paro (1 hours drive), visiting Simtokha Dzong en route.
We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back 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 be aware that due to the recent earthquake some of these places may be closed; your guide will be able to give you more information on what there is to see.
End Kathmandu after breakfast. For those on group flights, these depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the same day.
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9 Days / 8 Nights
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