BHUTAN: PUNAKHA FESTIVAL AND MANAS NATIONAL PARK

February 2019

Winter in Bhutan is beautiful, the skies always blue and the distant snow capped Himalayan peaks easily seen during the winter dry season. Temperatures dip to the 30's and 40's at night, and warm to 60's during the day. The exuberant Punakha Tsechu (a colorful religious festival) and exploration of the seldom visited Royal Manas National Park, with its tropical forest (and pleasantly warm weather), rare birds and elephants and rhinoceros population are highlights of this journey, though all our stops promise to be interesting as we travel from Paro to Thimphu, onward to sub-tropical Punakha, and then to tropical Manas, then return to Paro for our finale, an ascent to Tiger's Nest Monastery. We are indeed fortunate to have one of the premier specialist guides in Royal Manas National Park, a friend of Champaca Journeys to accompany us on this portion of our journey. All the various places we visit are interesting and unique and this promises to be a memorable journey.

Bhutan Tashi Chhoe Dzong 4 Elephants Great Hornbill Bird Hd Latest Picture 3 women,improved monk with flowing robes Bhutan Punakha Valley And River Bhutan Roshik In T Shirt Bhutan Farmer With Cabbages Costume Adjustment Punakha Festival Peacock

Day-By-Day Itinerary

An early departure from Bangkok, Thailand makes for an early arrival in Paro, Bhutan. We'll stroll through downtown Paro and enjoy some of the sights of this small and charming town, then we drive 90 minutes to Bhutan's small capital of Thimphu. After we check into hotel and have lunch, we'll have a walking tour of Thimphu. Welcome dinner with Bhutanese friends.

Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Full day to explore Thimphu. We visit the National Memorial Chorten, School of Traditional Arts, paper making factory, and Folk Heritage Museum. Afternoon free to wander the town, on your own or with guides. 

Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Morning 2-hour hike to Cheri Monastery. Built in 1620 and perched above the Thimphu valley, surrounded by pine and rhododendron forest. Few foreigners visit this monastery, an important Buddhist teaching center. Return to Thimphu for lunch, afternoon free. Tonight (Friday) Thimphu is full of activity with great live music and dance venues, and our Bhutanese friends will join us and show us how they enjoy a night on the town.

Overnight at Druk Hotel.

This morning we drive 3 hours over the high pass at Dochu La (10,300 feet) to descend to sub-tropical Punakha (4,300 feet). After checking into our hotel we drive the short distance to the lovely Punakha Dzong, architecturally and aesthetically one of the most beautiful dzongs. The tsechu, which occurs in the courtyard of the dzong, with origins dating back to the 17th century is a colorful festival commemorating Bhutanese victory over invading Tibetan forces. Monks perform stylized dances re-enacting battles. 

Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

The Punakha Tsechu continues and this morning is the unfurling of the thongdrel, an enormous 3-story embroidered weaving; an impressive sight for those wishing to wake up early (for those not wishing to wake up early, we will collect you later at hotel). Afternoon optional hike to Talo Monastery.

Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

Depart Punakha for the 6-7 hour drive across the Black Mountain range. These impressive mountains are covered with virgin forest and along the way we see small villages, ancient temples and chortens, pass snowy peaks and finally arrive at Trongsa in central Bhutan. Check into hotel and time permitting take late afternoon walk into Trongsa town.

Overnight at Yangkhil Resort.

Morning visit to Trongsa Dzong, the largest of Bhutan's 4 century old fortified monasteries. Afternoon optional 2 hour hike through forest to valley floor, and then uphill to enter the Trongsa Dzong via the ancient trade route.

Overnight at Yangkhil Resort.

The 8-hour drive to Panbang is dramatically beautiful and brings us from high altitude Bhutan into tropical lowland Bhutan, passing interesting villages and scenery along the way. En route we stop to tour the splendid Winter Palace of the Third King. Our hosts in Panbang will be The River Guides of Panbang, an association of young Bhutanese naturalists who have developed an eco-tourism venture, and will serve as our guides the next few days. Their tented camp, Jungle Lodge is unique in Bhutan and has won international accolades for its comfort, aesthetics and commitment to environmental protection.

Overnight at Jungle Lodge.

Today we travel by raft, vehicle and elephant as we venture into different parts of the National Park. Manas is home to wild elephant, 3 species of deer, the very endangered Indian one horned rhinoceros, several species of monkey, buffalo, many beautiful birds, fresh water dolphins and Bengal tigers. We can expect to see deer, monkeys, wild elephant, hornbills and peacocks. The plant and animal life found here is not found elsewhere in Bhutan, and not common anywhere else in the world.

Overnight at Jungle Lodge.

Today we have another river raft expedition, the experience is gentle and exciting, and the views of the forest and park from the river unparalleled for beauty. We visit local villages, for demonstrations of food preparations and a glimpse into the way of life in this remote part of Bhutan.

Overnight at Jungle Lodge.

Today's journey to Gelephu is 8 hours. The newly constructed road passes through wilderness and takes us into seldom seen tropical southern Bhutan. Expect to find unique and interesting vistas along the way, and almost no other travelers. We reach Gelephu, on the border with India and halt here for the night.

Overnight at Tshendhen Hotel.

This morning we depart Gelephu and the tropics and drive through captivating and beautiful mountains to reach Punakha, and then continue onward to arrive Thimphu mid to late afternoon.

Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Morning in Thimphu, followed by hour drive to Paro. We'll visit downtown Paro and the Paro Dzong, have lunch in town and then move to our hotel, the award winning Zhiwa Ling Hotel. Named by National Geographic as one of the outstanding hotels of the world, this hotel is indeed a beauty and our home for the next 2 nights.

Overnight at Zhiwa Ling Hotel.

After breakfast we drive 10-minutes to base of mountain where Taksang Monastery is located. Also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and probably the most iconic building in all Bhutan, it is perched on a cliff 2,700 feet above the valley floor.  The Guru Rimpoche arrived here in the back of a flying tiger is 746 CE, and meditated in a mountain cave for 3 months. The site has since been sacred and a monastery has been constructed to commemorate his visit. It is a pilgrimage site for all Bhutanese who gain merit by making the ascent. You too can gain merit while by making the 3-hour ascent and visiting the monastery seemingly glued to the barest concavity of the cliff face. After descending we have lunch at hotel, then relax or you may opt for visit to spa for massage or Bhutanese Hot Stone bath. Farewell dinner at hotel.

Overnight at Zhiwa Ling Hotel.

Free morning at hotel, followed by early afternoon drive to airport for onward flight.

prices & registration information

(Inclusive of food, beverages, accommodations, ground transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed Bhutanese guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader, Bhutanese visa and airport taxes.)

$5800. (Based on double occupancy)
$6600. (Based on single occupancy)

NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages other than local beer with meals, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included.

General Information

INTERNATIONAL AIRFARE

Bhutan is accessed most easily from Bangkok, Thailand from where there are daily flights. Flights always depart in the early morning and participants should give themselves at least 24-hour layover in Bangkok in the event flight to Bangkok is delayed. Fares are subject to change without notice.

BANGKOK-PARO, BHUTAN-BANGKOK, $750. ROUND TRIP, economy class
BANGKOK-PARO, BHUTAN-BANGKOK, $850. ROUND TRIP, business class

Flights are with DRUKAIR, ROYAL BHUTAN AIRLINES, operating Airbus 319 jets.