BHUTAN: EXPERIENCE THE THIMPHU FESTIVAL

September 2017

September in Bhutan and the Bhutanese celebrate their most poetically named holiday 'Blessed Rainy Day' signifying the end of the rainy season, leaving the countryside dazzling green and the fields ripe for harvest. Early October sees the beginning of the Thimphu Tsechu, a centuries old religious festival where monks re-enact ancient dances and all of Thimphu turns out in their finery to observe the pageantry and spectacle of Tsechu. These experiences and more will be ours to experience during this journey.

bridge to Punakha dzong green rice terraces 2 monks office workers

Day-By-Day Itinerary

Depart Bangkok at 4:30 a.m. for 3.5 hours flight to Paro, Bhutan. Arrive Paro. Lunch and orientation of Paro town, then drive 90 minutes to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan. Check into Druk Hotel. Late afternoon walk in Thimphu. Welcome dinner in evening.

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, an opportunity to see how the Bhutanese have adapted to the 21st century. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Morning 2-hour round trip hike to Cheri Monastery. Built in 1750 and perched above the Thimphu valley, surrounded by pine and rhododendron forest. Few foreigners visit this monastery with its many monks and Buddhist teaching center. Return to Thimphu for lunch, followed by a 2.5 hour drive over Dochu La, the 10,300-foot pass en route to Punakha. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

This morning we explore the lovely 4-century old Punakha Dzong, (fortress/monastery), architecturally and aesthetically one of the most beautiful dzongs. 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.

Today we drive 30 minutes to the put in site for rafting trip along the Mother River. The rafting trip is exciting and beautiful, (and safe; gentle rapids in some spots) as you experience Bhutan from an inflatable raft, passing villages and the Dzong, and 60-90 minutes later we land on a sandy beach, return to hotel for change of clothes and then go for lunch. Optional afternoon hike to monastery above Punakha, though forest and small villages, with interesting bird life to be seen along the trail. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

After breakfast we drive 4-hours to the remote high altitude Phobjikha Valley. This broad glacial formed valley is at 9,000’ altitude and renown for its beauty. Overnight at the Dewachen Lodge.

Exploration of the valley by vehicle and on foot. We will first drive to the ancient local monastery in the village of Gangtey, followed by a 2-hour hike through forest and field to the valley floor where will we be picked up and returned to the lodge for lunch. Afternoon free to explore on your own or with guides, or relax. Overnight at Dewachen Lodge.

Late morning we return to Punakha for late afternoon arrival. Cooking demonstration in hotel kitchen tonight. Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

Early morning visit to the ancient village of Richengang. This village is architecturally and culturally interesting as the ancestors of the inhabitants were brought from India centuries ago to assist in construction of the local dzong (fortress/monastery). Unique in Bhutan, the homes are built side by side, lending a different feel and appearance to Richengang. We depart after lunch for the 2.5-hour drive to Thimphu.  Overnight at Druk Hotel.

THIMPHU TSECHU. A ancient religious festival, tshechu is one of the most important yearly events in Thimphu. The venue is the impressive Thimphu Dzong, and the dancers are mostly costumed monks joined by laymen who reenact ancient dances. It appears that all of Thimphu comes to the tsechu and to witness this exuberant and colorful spectacle. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Again we visit the tsechu and also take in some of the other interesting sights of Thimphu: Buddha Point Statue, National Textile Museum, with time for wandering and shopping on your own. Overnight at Druk Hotel.

Late morning departure for Paro, check into hotel and lunch in downtown Paro. Afternoon exploration of Paro town and the nearby Kichu Lhakang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. Overnight at Gangtey Palace Hotel.

Today’s excursions will include Paro town and Paro Valley. We’ll first visit the dzong and the museum, then have time to enjoy wandering in Paro town. Lunch in local restaurant, then you are free to relax, wander or shop. Overnight at Gangtey Palace Hotel.

After breakfast a 20-minute drive takes us to the base of mountain where Taksang is located. Also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and probably the most iconic building in all Bhutan, 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, then relax or you may opt for massage or Bhutanese Hot Stone bath. Farewell dinner at hotel. Overnight at Gangtey Palace Hotel.

Breakfast at hotel, then 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.)

$6900 (Based on double occupancy) 

$7900 (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, $950. ROUND TRIP, business class

Other gateway cities are also possible.

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