Preserving and promoting culture is one of the vital aspects of GNH goals. The small Himalayan country is rich in its culture and tradition, which you will experience with one of the most unique local festivals called Ura Yakchoe. Ura valley is in Bumthang known for its famous dance known as the Ura Yakchoe. The dance is performed during the festival that is held every spring when the cherry blossom colors the beautiful valley. During the festival a sacred and important relic is put on display so that the people can receive blessings from it. The legend has it that when an old woman was basking in the sun, she was visited by a lama asking her to quench his thirst. When she came out of her house with water, the lama had disappeared leaving behind his sack. With curiosity, she opened the sack and found the statue which is now displayed annually. The relic has been passed on from generation to generation and is still owned by the descendants of the woman.
24 April 2018 -Paro International Airport- Discover the first valley.
The GNH excursion will begin the moment you step into the airline taking you to Bhutan. Adorned in the traditional Bhutanese dress, the airline’s crew, essence of the innate and inheritated Bhutanese hospitality and humility, will welcome and greet you in the traditional Bhutanese way. You will notice how friendly Bhutanese are and if you are seated next to a Bhutanese, do not hesitate to ask any questions. Bhutanese are by nature very friendly and will answer to all your queries. This is because of the strong social fabric and network that have bonded the Bhutanese people for years.
In what is described as one of the most enthralling flights, you will see the jewels of the mighty Himalayas, including Mt.Everest, Mt. Jomolhari (Goddess Mountain), Mt. Jichu Drakey and others. The scenic view of Paro valley before you land is another beauty and the landing is thrilling.
At the airport, our representatives will welcome you in the traditional Bhutanese custom, with a khata(white scarf), wishing you good luck during your stay here.
After introduction, you will drive towards Thimphu which is the capital city of Bhutan and only city in the world to have traffic manned by traffic police instead of traffic light. The drive along the Pachu (Paro River) and Thimchu (Thimphu River) will give you the glimpse of the mountains covered with pristine pine trees.
After checking into your hotel and a quick lunch, we will visit some of the Thimphu’s most significant historical places such as the Memorial Chorten built in the memory of our 3rdking, Changangkha Lhakhang the oldest temple in Thimphu valley which was built in 13thcentury and the 15thcentury Zilukha Nunnery.
During these visits, you will see how Bhutanese culture, one of the core tenets of GNH, has been preserved. Apart from the structures and relics, the formal dresses that people wear is another epitome of how Bhutanese culture has been preserved over the years along with the modernization.
In the evening, we will visit the Tashicho Dzong (The Fortress of the Auspicious Religion) which houses the office of the Dragon King (Dharma Raja). You will have some time to stroll around the Thimphu town to explore the traditional city and dinner at one of finest restaurants in Thimphu.
Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu
25 April 2018 - Thimphu – Punakha – The valley of couple River.
After your breakfast, we will have an early morning drive to Punakha which is about 2 hours away from Thimphu. After about 45 minutes drive, we will reach Dochula Pass (3,150m), which offers the first glimpse of the eastern snow capped Himalayan Ranges. The pass is exotic and the 108 stupas built around a mound add to the grandeur of the place. The Druk Wangyel Lhakhang (Temple) at Dochula is one of the latest additions to Bhutan’s glorious architectural and cultural masterpieces, built in honor of the 4thking. Dochula is also a haven to Bhutanese flora and fauna.
After a few miles drive, we will reach the Lamperi Botanical Garden, where different types of Rhododendron species will be found abundant. Lunch will be served at Lamperi and we will then continue the journey to Punakha.
Before reaching Punakha, we will drive to Chimi Lhakhang, a 15thcentury temple dedicated to Lam Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the Divine Mad Man. The temple is called the Temple of Fertility, where it is said that women can conceive after they receive the blessing from the phallus which is the main relic of the temple.
You will then drive towards your hotel and have an overnight in Punakha.
26 April 2018 - Punakha – Trongsa- The Vanguard of the Warriors
After an early and healthy breakfast, we will begin our journey further east to Trongsa. En-route, we will visit ruins of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, built in 1638 by the Zhabdrung, which was tragically razed to ground in 2012. Leaving this behind, you will reach the Sha valley which is also called as the store house of rice. It is known for growing abundant rice and it used to be one of the biggest contributors of rice tax during the early and medieval times in Bhutan.
Our drive will be through the landscapes covered by pristine forest on all sides and take the route to Nobding valley.
We will then move further crossing Pelela Pass (3,420m) the traditional boundary between western and central Bhutan. We will have our lunch at a restaurant nearby a Nepali style Stupa built by king Zhida at Chendebji.
We will arrive at Trongsa after an hour’s drive. Trongsa Dzong (Fortress of the Vanguard of the Warriors) was built in 1647 and is the biggest Dzong in Bhutan. It is very historic and has a huge significance for Bhutan’s unification begun from this Fortress, which was the seat of Jigme Namgyel, the First King’s father. Even today, the crown prince has to become the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) before ascending the Throne.
Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa
27 April 2018 - Trongsa – Bumthang- The land of Golden Vase
After breakfast we will visit Trongsa Dzong (Fortress of the Vanguard of the Warriors) and the Ta Dzong (the Watch Tower). We will then move towards Bumthang, crossing yet another pass ( Yotongla) which is 4,000 m. We can sight different species of birds like Brown Parrotbill, Chestnut-Tailed Minla, Gold naped finch and Darjelling Wood pecker.
We will have our lunch at Chumey valley. Chumey valley in Bumthang is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. We will visit some of the Yathra (cloth made from sheep’s wool) weaving centers where different attire is made.
After an hour’s drive, we will reach Bumthang, Bhutan’s mythical and one of the most spiritual valleys, flanked by prayer flags, stupas and monasteries. We will drive further towards Ura. Ura is one of the finest examples of nucleated settlement in the geography of Bhutan and its view will surely mesmerize you.
Night halt at Ura Farm House/ or hotel in Bumthang with a traditional Bhutanese cuisine.
28 April 2018 - Ura Yakchoe Festival
After breakfast you will travel to the beautiful village of Ura to attend the Festival. This intriguing village will delight you with its narrow cobble stoned streets and ancient houses. The people of this region are mostly Yak herders and the women wears the head scarves and apron made out of wool.
The first day of the festival is quite fascinating as you will see many local people wearing their best local attires. The masked and the folk dances are performed and also the sacred relic is put on display so that the people can receive blessings from it. Enjoy your picnic lunch in the beautiful valley.
After the festival you will drive back to your Farm House/ hotel.
29 April 2018 - Bumthang Valley Excursion
The dawn of the new day will bring you happiness in this country, already blessed by the sacred relic of Ura Yakchoe.
After a healthy breakfast, you will explore the Bumthang valley. The hike to kurjee from Tamzhing Lhakhang will give you some beautiful scintillating scenery along the Chamkhar Chhu. Tamzhing Lhakhang/Temple was built in 15thcentury by Pema Lingpa, the treasure discoverer. After the hike you can refresh yourself with a local beer branded as Red Panda from the brewery.
You will have your lunch in the beautiful Bumthang town.
After lunch, you will visit Jakar Dzong, the Castle of the White Bird which was built in 1667. The establishment of offices within the Dzongs (Fortress) is also very much a GNH insignia, for this tradition was passed down from the 17thcentury.
In the evening you will stroll around the Chamkhar town.
Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang
30 April 2018 - Bumthang - Phobjikha- The beautiful Glacier Vallley
With a proper diet, we will head back through the same route but to a different destination. You will be visiting Gangtey and Phobjikha valleys, which is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha valley also symbolizes GNH, especially the aspect in which development and conservation has been balanced. You can interact with the people, who will tell you the need to sacrifice material gains for conservation of the Black Necked Cranes.
We will drive back through the shrubs of dwarf bamboo and Rhododendron with cool wind sweeping along the Mangde Chhu River.
You will have your lunch on top of hill where the restaurant can give you the bird eye view of the Pelela Pass.
Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha
1 May 2018 - Gangtey & Phobjikha Valley Excursion.
Rise early to hear the chirping of different species of birds and to see the beautiful Glacier Valley and the cloud slowly swallowed by the morning sun.
Gangtey Gonpa is the seat of the Peling Tradition of Buddhism while the Phobjikha valley is the winter roosting valley of Black Necked Crane, who flies into the area in winter from Tibet and Mongolia.
After breakfast, we will visit the Crane Observation Center where you will find a lone Black Necked crane called, Karma at this time of the year. You can start your Gangtey Nature Trail Hike from the plain meadow to the woods where lichens are hanging like an old men’s beard and slowly climb upward to the hill where magnificent Gangtey Monastery is situated.
Gangtey Gonpa Monastery is the present seat for the 9thGangtey Trulku who is the head of the only Nyingma School in Bhutan.
Visiting the Monastery will give you the best example of architecture of our country and you will come across the young monks smiling bashfully at you to capture their best pictures from your camera.
Lunch will be served in one of the restaurants in Gangtey Valley and then you will be driving towards Punakha valley.
Overnight at your hotel in Punakha
2 May 2018 - Punakha – Paro (Punakha Valley Excursion)
After sumptuous breakfast, you will hike up to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten which was built for the longevity of our Present King. The slightly strenuous hike will take you from the green paddy fields through the cool and serene pine trees to the top of the Monastery where the panoramic view of the Mochu Valley and the neighboring valleys will give you a thrilling experience. The almost 2 hour up and down hike will give you immense pleasure and relaxation.
Later, you will be visiting Punakha Dzong, built strategically at the confluence of the two rivers, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. All of Bhutan’s Kings are crowned here. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King. Lunch will be served at Dochula Pass where you can have an extra treat of the spectacular Himalayan Ranges.
After that, you will be driving to Paro via Thimphu valley and have a glimpse of the first Fortress known as Simtokha Dzong- Fortress Atop a Demon built in 1627 by Zhabdrung, the unifier of the country.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro
3 May 2018 - Paro Valley Excursion
The beautiful traditional valley of Paro is one of the good examples in the country to preserve and promote the culture and tradition of Bhutan show casting one of the pillars of the Gross National Happiness.
After breakfast, we will drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, the Fortress of the Glorious Drukpa. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Just behind the Drugyel Dzong and the valley you will see the Mt. Jomolhari, the Goddess Mountain floating above the cloud which gives the majestic background to the Fortress.
After you treat yourself to the spectacular view of the Mountains, you will then be visiting the oldest Temple, Kyichu Lhakhang built by King Songtsen Gonpo in 7thcentury to subdue the evil demoness who was thwarting Buddhist doctrine in Himalayan Ranges.
After you drive back to town you will be visiting the National Museum where artifacts date back to as far as 2,000BC.
We will then be visiting Paro’s historically significant monument, the Rinpung Dzong (“Fortress on a Heaped Jewels”), which was built in 1645 by Zhabdrung. This is where the famous Hollywood movie “Little Buddha” was shot. Lunch will be served in a fine restaurant suggested by your Guide.
In the evening, you will have leisurely stroll around the Paro town through many souvenir shops which will provide you with different types of handicrafts brought from different remote districts of the country.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro
4 May 2018 - Hike to Tiger’s Nest
After a sumptuous breakfast, your driver and guide will be waiting for you the early next morning. The excursion to monastery will take around 3 hours uphill and 2 hours downhill. Riding ponies are available if you are unable to walk.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of the most awaiting and the highlights of your tour. It is another epitome of Gross National Happiness. Hundreds of people, who visit the monastery, reflect on the spiritual aspect of Bhutanese life and GNH, which propounds that the material and spiritual in unison will bring forth happiness. The Tiger’s Lair also reflects pristine Bhutanese culture, especially the architecture.
Following an ancient footpath flanked by water-driven prayer wheels, you will reach Taktsang Monastery, precariously perched on a hair-raising ravine about 3,000 meters above the valley floor.
Legend has it that the eight century Buddhist Tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the cave to subdue evil forces that was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. It is believed that he came to Taktsang, in a fiery wrathful form, riding a Tigress. The monastery has also seen many Buddhist saints meditating in and around the temple.
In the evening, you will be treated to a hot stone bath at Taktsang Boutique Resort and Spa.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro
5 May 2018 - Depart
Your guide and driver will accompany you to the airport and on behalf of Bhutan Swallowtail Company, will bid you farewell and Tashi Delek.