BHUTAN: EXPERIENCE THE PUNAKHA FESTIVAL!

March 2017

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 40's at night, and warm to 60's during the day. The impressive high altitude Phobjikha Valley with its wintering population of black necked cranes, and the colorful and exuberant Punakha Festival 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 the Phobjika Valley, before returning to Thimphu and Paro for our finale, an ascent to Tiger's Nest Monastery.

2 monks bridge to Punakha dzong chortens,d-la good image, Tiger's Nest snowy peaks, Bhutan

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Arrive Paro and check into the Gangtey Palace Hotel (3 star). Visit downtown Paro for walking tour, then enjoy your first Bhutanese meal in one of our favorite Paro, restaurants. Spend the late afternoon and evening relaxing at the hotel, a former palace as the name implies. Welcome dinner at hotel.

Morning visit to the National Museum and the Paro Dzong. The museum is in the former watchtower of the dzong and provides a good introduction to Bhutanese culture and history. Paro Dzong is just one of the many remarkable fortresses/monasteries still in use today, nearly 4 centuries after construction. Ninety-minute afternoon drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Overnight at the Druk Hotel (4 star).

Full day to explore Thimphu. We visit the 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 (4 star).

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, followed by a 2.5-hour drive over Dochu La, a 10,300-foot pass en route to Punakha. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort (3-4 star).

This morning we explore the lovely Punakha Dzong, architecturally and aesthetically one of the most beautiful dzongs. The tsechu, a festival 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. Optional afternoon hike to Chimi Lhakhang, also known as The Temple of the Divine Madman, built in 1499 and one of the most revered temples in Bhutan. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort (3-4 star).

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). Much of today devoted to the final day of tsechu. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort (3-4 star).

Today’s 4-hour drive brings us to the Phobjikha Valley, a broad glacial valley, considered one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. Famed as the wintering grounds for endangered black-necked cranes, these majestic birds breed in Tibet and winter in this valley where they are revered by locals. Overnight at Dewachen Lodge (3 star).

In the morning we drive to the village of Gangtey not far from the hotel, the impressive Gangtey Monastery is undergoing a years long renovation project, so it is likely we will see craftsman at work on the restoration. Afternoon optional hike to the valley floor. Overnight at Dewachen Lodge (3 star).

We depart Phobjikha  after breakfast for the 5-hour drive to Thimphu.  Lunch in Thimphu, then afternoon free to explore. Overnight at Druk Hotel (4 star).

Full day to explore Thimphu, visiting the Buddha Statue, Royal Textile Museum, and incense-making factory. Overnight at Druk Hotel (4 star).

Early afternoon departure for Paro. Afternoon free to explore Paro town or relax at hotel. Overnight at Gangtey Palace Hotel (3 star).

Today we explore Paro and Paro Valley, including the Kichu Lhaking and the ruins of the Drukyel Dzong at the end of the Paro Valley. Overnight at Gangtey Palace Hotel (3 star).

After breakfast we drive 20-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.  It is said that 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 our hotel, the Gangtey Palace Hotel (3 star).

Breakfast then prepare for 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.)


$6400. (Based on double occupancy)
$7400. (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, $915. ROUND TRIP, business class

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