The 10N/11D Bhutan Festival Trek lets you explore its natural beauty, attend one of its major festivals and explore some of its famous attractions. Bhutan is a place where the smile on people’s faces is as ubiquitous as the freshness in the air. It’s a culture which seems to have discovered the secret to true happiness. Away from the madness that is a part of our daily lives, here life carries itself at a leisurely pace, celebrating every passing second. The cheerfulness, enthusiasm, colors and vibrancy that mark the everyday life of a Bhutanese, is reflected clearly in its festivals. If you happen to attend one of these during your stay there, you are in for a real treat! Of course, the landscape, with its timeless beauty, plays a large part in imparting the feeling of contentment and infinite happiness to its people. This tour takes you to the most popular tourist places, from the oldest monasteries to museums. Ever dreamt of trekking in Bhutan and enjoying its scenic beauty up close? This religious, cultural, walking and hiking tour lets you do just that. If you have been looking to get the most from your trip to Bhutan, here it is!
After arriving in Kathmandu, get in touch with our representative who will assist you with a transfer to the Shangri-La hotel. Situated to the north of Thamel (a bustling commercial neighbourhood), it is a luxurious hotel equipped with a lovely garden, swimming pool and several restaurants. From here, you can easily visit Thamel by foot (which will take you about 20 minutes) or by taxi (which is a ride of 10 minutes).
Stay overnight at the hotel.
In the morning, you will be transferred to the airport to catch a flight to Bhutan. If it’s a clear day, you can expect to see the outstanding views of the Himalayas, with the peaks of Mt. Everest and Kanchenjunga in clear sight. However, the highlight of the flight is when it approaches through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing while negotiating a few steep turns before landing at the small airport in the city of Paro, which is also its only international airport. The beauty of the views from the airplane is enhanced if you sit on the left hand side of it.
After landing, you begin your drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. As you cross it, you pass one of the oldest monasteries in the region, Simtokha Dzong. Also known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang, it is an important historical monument and home to the premier institute of learning for Dzongkha. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, and is the oldest surviving monastery in its original form. A special attraction of the monastery is the cosmic mandala.
Stay overnight at Phuntsho Pelri Hotel.
There are several tourism places in Thimphu which make for some exciting sightseeing. On this day, you will have the opportunity of visiting and exploring the various popular tourist attractions in Thimphu. Some of the places which you will visit are Tashichhodzong (a Buddhist monastery which has traditionally been the seat of the head of Bhutan’s civil government), the Textile Museum, Heritage Museum, King Memorial Chorten (immediately recognisable with its enormous golden spire besides being one of the prominent landmarks in the country), National Library, School of painting and silversmith, and pottery workshops. Each of these attractions has something wonderful to offer and sheds light on the culture and heritage of the region.
After exploring these places, you will head to the Government Handicrafts Museum. If local handicrafts is what you are looking for, then this is the place to be. Here, you can also purchase the national dress. You will also visit the handmade paper workshop, where you can witness the processing of paper products along with a variety of items made from handmade paper. You can also visit the Post Office to collect stamps for your stamp collection. The post office also sells different kinds of tee shirts, and you can purchase them if you feel like it.
After this, your next destination is the zoo in Thimphu, which is also known as Motithang Takin Preserve. It is quite different from the kind of zoo you would expect in any country. It is an enormous wildlife reserve area which houses takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Takin is a rare animal found exclusively in Bhutan along with some parts of China. It is said that these delightful animals were once confined to a mini-zoo, as the then King of Bhutan thought it immoral for a country which called itself Buddhist to confine them in this manner. However, upon being released, they strayed into the streets and were in constant danger of being run over by the traffic. It was then that the idea of founding a wildlife reserve for them came up.
Come afternoon, and you will drive to Punakha. Unlike Thimphu, where the weather can get quite cold, it is usually hot here during the summers and moderately cold during the winters. Driving to Punakha is in itself quite an adventure, as the long winding roads offer splendid views of Dochula Pass (a famous mountain pass famous for its 108 stupas which are also a prominent landmark in this region), situated at an altitude of 3140m approx. If it is a sunny day, you will be able to see the marvellous views of the eastern Himalaya, which also includes the highest mountain in Bhutan, Gangkar Punsum, situated at an altitude of 7550m. The road, after ascending for a while, makes a graceful descent through the forest before opening itself again in the fertile Punakha Valley.
The other attraction in Punakha is Punakha Dzong, the second oldest and largest structure in all of Bhutan. Not just that, it is also one of the grandest buildings in the region. The building attracts tourists in large numbers. It is interesting to know that this structure served as the administrative center and seat of government until it was shifted to Thimphu in 1955. The monastery houses the remains of the original ruler of Bhutan, Nawang Namgyal, which is well preserved in a small room atop the highest tower. Apart from the king and head of monastic order, no one else is allowed to enter the room. Explore this historic structure and learn about its history, culture and heritage.
Stay overnight at the Damchen Resort.
Your day starts with a short trek. The first major challenge of the trek is the climb from the suspension bridge in Punakha. Although the climb is quite steep, the views which await you at the top more than makes up for the effort. Just stop and look around, it is not often that you come across scenic views like this. Now, it is time to enjoy lunch. Stop in a clearing by a prayer flag, enjoy your lunch in leisure and then resume your climb to the chorten (a Buddhist shrine which is meant to be a monument to the Buddha) at the top. After walking for an hour or so, you will reach the campsite on the far side of Limbukha. From here, you can enjoy the incredible views of the surroundings. Just enjoy them and take in all the beauty.
Stay overnight at the camp.
This day is also about trekking and enjoying the beautiful sights. You start your trek by making your way gradually through the forest, followed by a sharp climb up the hill. Keep climbing for about two hours until you reach a small pass called Dochen La, situated at an amazing height of 2645m almost. Spend some time and look around here. You will realize that it is moments like these that make this walking & hiking tour such a favorite among visitors. After absorbing the beauty to your heart’s delight, begin your way down at a leisurely yet steady pace. You will first cross the jungle, then the scrub, and then the paddy fields before you reach the campsite set up in front of the temple at Chungsakha.
Overnight stay at the camp.
As you may have realized by now, this is one of the best trekking holidays you may have had in a long time. Today, the route for the trek goes through small, deeply eroded gorges and a number of villages. Crossing such contrasting sceneries is a fun filled, exciting and adventurous affair. After a while you reach Samtengang High School. Reaching this school means you have reached the end of the climb for today. However, the adventure continues. Walk your way through a narrow gorge about 1000m wide. From here, as you look down below, your eyes meet the sight of Lutshokha, the holy lake. As you continue your walk along the same path however, you soon reach Chhuzomsa followed by your camp. This is located on the other side of the lake. In the afternoon, you can also decide to visit Samtengang Village. Stay overnight in the camp.
Your day starts with a delicious breakfast at the camp. After this, you will walk towards the road (this should take you about an hour) where a vehicle will be waiting for you. Get in the vehicle and begin your drive towards Paro over the Dochula Pass. Paro is also one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world and also has an enormous strategic importance attached to it. Besides this, this city has also been a historically important staging post on the trade routes with Tibet.
The skyline of Paro is dominated by Paro Dzong, which is gracefully positioned on an outcrop above Paro Dzu. Stand here, and you will be treated to exhilarating views of both sides of the valley. It was also one of Bhutan’s strongest and most strategic fortresses. Besides, this structure was once the seat of Bhutan’s National Assembly, before the Tashichho Dzong was built. You will also have the chance to participate in the celebrations at Paro Tsechu, one of the most famous festivals in Bhutan. Tsechu, a Buddhist festival is held in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the saint responsible for bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. One of the defining characteristics of the festival is the unfurling of the large Thangka. In fact, it is so large that it drapes the face of an entire building and witnessing it is believed to be one of the most sacred ways of obtaining blessings. The Thangka is only exhibited on the final day of the festival. The celebrations marking the festival promises to lift your spirits and mood, and provide you a brief insight into the culture and heritage of Bhutan.
Stay overnight at the hotel.
Today morning will be spent attending the Paro Tsechu festival, one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. This festival is accompanied by vigorous music and ceremonial dancing by people dressed in traditional attire. They are held to honor the great saint, Guru Rinpoche, who brought the Buddhist religion into this country. The festival is called Tsechu because it is on this day that all his noble deeds are remembered (since it is believed that he performed them on the tenth day of the month). Apart from the religious significance attached with the festival, the people also take this chance to socialize, enjoy and have a good time. Some of the highlights of the festival are the masked dances by people dressed in lavish costumes, with various kinds of masks to go along with them.
After enjoying your morning participating in the festival, you will walk to the Tiger’s Nest located at Taktsang Monastery. Known as Taktsang Palphug Monastery in the local language, it has become a cultural icon of Bhutan. Perched on the side of a cliff at a height of 600m, it is difficult not to be impressed by it. Just like other monasteries, there is a popular legend associated with it. It is believed that the monastery now stands on the same spot where Guru Padmasambhava flew from Tibet on the back of a tigress. The guru then immersed himself in deep meditation and emerged with eight manifestations, thereby making the place holy. To reach the monastery, you will have to undertake a steep climb through the woods (which would take you about two hours) until you reach a tea house. Here, you can rest, relax and help yourself to a cup of tea along with other refreshments. This is also one of those places which offers you amazing views of the monastery. People who decide against climbing any further often rest and relax here. However, entry to the monastery is subject to no religious gathering be held or VIP visit in progress.
Continue walking for about half an hour, and you will come across another viewpoint directly across the monastery. Continue further, and you will find the road going steeply downwards into a gorge which separates the monastery from the outside world. Once you reach this point, you will have to climb up again until you reach the monastery gate. Although this is one of the most arduous trekking trails you may have come across, there is no denying that that it is every inch worth the effort. The long winding path, interjected by steep climbs and descends, brings home the fact that the monastery was built in a way so as to keep it isolated from the outside world. It is a haven of ultimate peace and tranquility, away from the madness of our everyday lives.
After spending some time at the monastery and losing yourself in the tranquility enveloping you, begin your way down to the valley floor by taking the outward route. Once you have reached, get in the car for a drive back to Paro. It should be remembered that the walk to the monastery followed by a return requires you to climb almost 740m of ascent. Later, in Paro, you can also decide to visit the national museum of Bhutan. It was established in the year 1968 in an ancient building called Ta-dzong (which has since been renovated) and today houses more than 3000 works that display Bhutanese art. It also boasts among its collections rare bronze statues and paintings. Explore the museum and get an insight into the country’s culture and heritage.
Stay overnight at the hotel.
On this day of your trekking tour of Bhutan, you will be transferred to the airport to catch you flight to Kathmandu. Once again, you can enjoy the fabulous scenic views during the course of the flight as it flies past Chomolhari, the second highest peak in Bhutan. Sit back and feast your eyes to the snow-capped peaks of two of the highest mountain peaks in the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest. Arrive in Kathmandu and get transferred to the hotel.
Stay overnight at the hotel.
You have the entire day to yourself and can spend it at leisure. You can decide to head out for some exciting sightseeing or last minute shopping. If you want, you can decide to visit the temple of Pashupatinath. Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a sprawling temple complex which houses several temples and ashrams. It is built in the Nepalese Pagoda style of architecture with the Mukhalinga as its main deity. The temple hosts various festivals throughout the year, one of which is is Mahashivratri. This is attended by around a million devotees. If you feel like it, you can also book a taxi and set off to visit the two oldest towns in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur and Patan. Bhaktapur, an ancient city located in the eastern part of Kathmandu Valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its brilliantly preserved ancient palace courtyards along with the old city center. It houses the most popular temples in the country, from Bhairavnath to Changu Narayana. Patan, which is today known as Lalitpur Metropolitan City, is the third largest city in the country. Just like Bhaktapur, it is an ancient city dotted with temples and stupas. Its most famous landmark however, is the Patan Durbar Square, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just explore the various attractions of these cities at your own pace. If neither of these appeal to you, simply unwind in the well-manicured gardens of the hotel.
Stay overnight at the hotel.
Well, this is the last day of the trip. You will be transferred to the airport to catch a flight and resume with your onward journey. This has undoubtedly been the best adventure trekking tours of all time, with every adventure giving you lots to talk about.