The highlight of the tour is the Jampa Lhakhang Drup, a unique festival unlike any other in Bhutan.
It is held within the Jampa Lhakhang complex built in 659 AD, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. The festival is known for its “Mewang” (Fire blessing ceremony) and Tercham (Dance of Treasures).
During the fire blessing, locals run underneath a gigantic flaming gate made out of dry grass. The Dance of Treasures is performed naked at night around a bonfire. Bhutanese believe that the Tercham can bless infertile women.
Lay monks also perform sacred mask dances during the festival that takes place from 14th – 17th November, 2016.
During the tour you will also visit villages, temples, monasteries, markets and attend festivals. You will have the opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their spiritual life of myth, legend, superstition and folklore.
DAY 1~ ARRIVAL IN PARO (2280m) & DRIVE TO THIMPHU: APPROX 1HR65KM Fly into Paro with Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines. The flight takes you over the great Himalayas, offering beautiful views of the world’s highest peaks. As you descend into Paro valley, you will see the Paro Dzong (fortress) on the hillside overlooking the Paro Chu (river), with Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now National Museum, above it.
Bokar Tours will be there to greet you at the airport and you will drive to Thimphu.
The first stop will view the beautiful Tacho lhakhang (temple), the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s Iron Bridge Builder. Further along you will reach Chuzom, the confluence of the Paro river and the Wangchu rivers. Opposite the confluence are three protecting chortens (stupas) each built in a different style.
In the evening stroll through Thimphu and mingle with the local people and visit shops. Overnight stay in hotel, Thimphu.LD
DAY 2~ EXPLORE IN THIMPHU (2320m) Today’s Exploration of Thimphu begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, a stupa dedicated to world peace and prosperity and built in the memory of the Third King of Bhutan in 1974. You will also visit the National Library and the National Institute where students undergo training in Bhutan’s thirteen traditional arts and crafts. The Folk Heritage Museum will provide insight into a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse and Bhutan’s rural past through exhibits and documentation of rural life.
After lunch visit Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple, perched on a ridge above Thimphu and the Takin Preserve to see the national animal of Bhutan. This animal is associated with the country’s religious history and mythology.
A further drive towards Sangaygang will provide a bird’s eye view of the capital. Next, you visit a nunnery temple followed by a visit to Tashichho Dzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” which is Bhutan’s administration and religious centre and houses the throne room of His Majesty the King and other Government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo or the Chief Abbot. Overnight stay in hotel, Thimphu.BLD
DAY 3~ THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (1300m) : 77KM/APPROX 3HR Today, the drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan, passes through some of the kingdom’s dramatic river valleys and paddy lands.
The first stop is at Dochu La pass (3050m). From Dochula you can see the eastern Himalayan range on a clear day. Once you cross the pass, you wind down to the warmer valleys of Punakha and Wangdue.
En-route you will stop at Mitsina village and visit Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the temple of fertility and dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, the 15th century saint, also known as the divine madman, for his outrageous methods of teaching the dharma.
It is a 20-minute walk through rice fields to the temple were you get blessed wooden phallus. Overnight stay in hotel, Punakha.BLD
DAY 4~ PUNAKHA – TRONGSA (2316): 142KM/APPROX 6HR Today, you will drive further east to Trongsa passing over Pele La pass at 3390m. Trongsa forms the central hub of the kingdom and is historically the place were unification of the country started. The magnificent Trongsa Dzong comes to view 13 kms to destination, straddling a ridge overlooking the Mangdechu river.
In the afternoon you will visit Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648. It was seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings ruled the country from this ancient seat.
Bhutan’s monarchs are invested as Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa) prior to ascending the throne. Presently it serves as the headquarters of the district’s religious and civil administration.
Perched above the Trongsa Dzong is the ancient watchtower, which has now been restored from ground up and converted into a state of the art museum presenting the historical and religious heritage of the fortress. Overnight stay in hotel, Trongsa.BLD
DAY 5~ TRONGSA – BUMTHANG(2600m-4000m): 68KM/APPROX 2HR After breakfast you will further drive to Bumthang going over Yotong La pass, (3425 m). Here you will get the first glimpse of the Black mountains and Himalayan peaks such as Jhomolhari.
Once over the pass, the journey proceeds through hilly forests into a broad valley. Along the way you will stop at a Yathra textile weaving hand loom centre. The yathra weave are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang. You can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Overnight stay in hotel, Bumthang. BLD
DAY 6~ BUMTHANG (2600m-4000m) Explore Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. Bumthang loosely means the valley of 100,000 spirits.
The visit to sacred places and monuments will include Jambay Lhakhang, built in 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo followed by Kurjey Lhakhang, which consists of three temples surrounded by 108 chortens (stupa) symbolically representing the joints of the human body.
A short hike across the suspension bridge will lead you to Tamshing Lhakhang built in 1501 and known for its ancient religious paintings of One Thousand Buddhas and Twenty One Taras (female form of Bodhisattavas). After lunch visit Jakar Dzong, known as the ‘Castle of the White Bird’. Overnight stay in hotel, Bumthang.BLD
DAY 7~ JAMPA LHAKHANG DRUP “FESTIVAL” (24th -26th October, 2018) The highlight of the Jampa Lhakhang Drup is a Mewang “fire dance” which takes place in the evening to bless the people who witness and participate.
The other distinct feature of this festival is the Ter Cham, “the naked dance”, performed at night. The dance was composed by Terton (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa in 15th century. Overnight stay in hotel, Bumthang.BLD
DAY 8~ BUMTHANG–PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (2982m):155KM/APPROX 5 ½ HR Today you drive to the glacier valley of Phobjikha, one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country. Hundreds of black-necked cranes roost here in winter. The valley also has a very interesting Nyingmapa monastery that dates back to the 17th century.
On the way we will stop at Chendebji Chorten, patterned on Katmandu’s Swayambhunath stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
After lunch we will continue drive to Phobjika valley. We can do short walk leading downhill from mani stone wall just north of Gangtey Goenpa to the Khewa Lhakhang. The trail descends to Semchubara village and keeps straight at the Chortens into the edge of the forest, before descending to a square Chorten and the Lhakhang. From here you can cross over the metal bridge to the community school. Overnight stay in hotel, Gangtey.BLD
DAY 9~ PHOBJIKHA VALLEY – THIMPHU: 135KM/APPROX 5 HR
Start your day with a visit to the Crane Observation and Information Center before driving back to Thimphu.
Enroute stop at Wangdue to briefly visit the Wangdue Dzong, which is being restored, and then hike to the nearby village of Rinchengang where the clustered settlement is made of mud and stone.
Stop at Dochu La pass for lunch and visit the Druk Wanggyal Lhakhang.
Continue drive to Thimphu, In the evening freely stroll through Thimphu and catch its sights and sounds. Overnight stay in hotel, Thimphu.BLD
DAY 10~ PARO In the morning you drive back to Paro valley and hike to Taktshang or “Tiger’s Nest” one of the holiest Buddhists sites in the Himalayan region. The monastery clings to a sheer rock face, almost 900 metres above the valley floor.
The uphill hike from the road point takes around 3 hours at a moderate pace. The trail passes through beautiful pine forests adorned with Spanish moss as you go further up. Stop for rest and light refreshments at the Taktshang cafeteria.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tigress and meditated for three months.
Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo. Then drive north to Drugyel Dzong, which kept at bay invasions from the north.
In the afternoon drive to the Ta-Dzong (watch tower), which now serves as the national museum. The museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century. A short walk downhill takes you to the imposing Rinpung Dzong which serves as the district’s administrative and religious centre. Walk further down and cross a traditional bridge into Paro town. Overnight stay in hotel, Paro.BLD
DAY 11~ PARO DEPARTURE You will drive to the Paro International Air port for your departure. B