Spring festivals in the Bhutan Himalaya mark a time of great beauty, and cultural intensity. After nearly two decade of sending travellers to Bhutan, we can say with confidence - this is one great trip! Highlights include: fully guided tour, culture, nature, spectacular scenery, up front and personal interactions with local communities, and connections to authentic Mahayana Buddhism.
Punakha Teschu: tba (Feb - March)
Paro Teschu: tba (March - April)
Ura Lhakhang: tba ( April - May)
Tour cost from Paro: $ 2,950 USD per person ~ Single supplement: $ 540 USD
All meals included ~Early bookings are essential
Pre-tour or post-tour activities in Thailand, India and other neighbouring countries are possible and can be added on an individual basis. Kaziranga National Park in Assam makes a nice 3-day extension
Customizeable on an individual basis, and changeable based on festival
Day 1 : Arrive in Paro / Thimpu (D)
On arrival from your flight into Paro (from Bangkok or India), you can see breathtaking views of the Great Himalayas. You will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide. Lunch served in Paro. After lunch drive to Thimphu 2 - 3 hours. The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic with magnificent monasteries and stupas in the valleys and mountaintops. Overnight Thimphu. Welcome dinner.
Day 2 : Thimpu (B,L,D)
Full day of sightseeing. Some of the highlights of Thimphu includes:
- Weekend market
- Purchase world's most beautiful postage stamps from General Post Office
- Arts and Crafts school and the Traditional Medicine Institute
- Memorial Chorten Built in memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa that will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.
- Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia
- Visit Botanical garden (Zoo) where one can see Yak and Takin, the National wild animal of Bhutan
- Drive up to viewpoint to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley
- Downtown Thimphu on foot visiting Handicrafts Emporium and other Arts & Crafts stores. Buy stunning kiras which can be used and bed covers or wall decoration, jewelry and many more.
Day 3 : Thimpu / Gangtey & Phobjikha Valley (B,L,D)
After breakfast drive to Gangtey and Phobjikha valley. Phobjikha valley has been declared as the first eco-tourism destination of Bhutan by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). The valley falls under the Black Mountain Natural Park. Phobjikha valley is the winter home to rare and endangered black necked cranes (grus nigricllis), which migrate, in large flocks to Bhutan from Tibet, Sikang, Yunnan and Tonkin in eastern China. For centuries the cranes have captured the human imagination with their intelligence, poise, sociality, beauty and freedom, which have given rise to several myths, legends, folktales and songs. Cranes fly back to their summer homes in mid - late February. There are lots of other wild animals in the surrounding valleys like wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan black bear, red fox, leopard and many species of birds. Overnight Phobjikha.
Day 4 : Phobjikha (B,L,D)
Full day cultural sightseeing in and around Phobjikha Valley with some short hikes.
Day 5 : Phobkikha / Tongsa (B,L,D)
After breakfast, continue your journey towards Central Bhutan. Check in to your hotel and have lunch. After lunch, sightseeing in and around Trongsa. Tongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan's Royal Family. Both the First and Second King ruled the Kingdom from this ancient seat. All the Kings of Bhutan has to become Tongsa Penlop (Honorary post of Governor) prior to being crowned as the Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan). Tongsa Dzong (fort), one of the largest in the country was first built is 1648 and later enlarged many times. Because of being situated on a highly commanding position on the only connecting route between the eastern and western sectors (where trail actually runs through the Dzong), the Tongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of eastern region very effectively for many centuries. Visit the ancient watch tower (Ta Dzong), which is situated just above the town. Overnight at Tongsa.
Day 6: Tongsa / Bumthang (B,L,D)
After breakfast, drive to Bumthang. The drive to Bumthang takes 2-3 hrs. Tales of the great Guru Padmasambhava dominates this holy valley. View the Jakar Dzong "The Castle of White Bird". A stop will be made on the way in the Chumey Valley where one can see girls weaving Yatha the traditional woollen material used. Check in to your hotel and have lunch. After lunch, time at leisure. Overnight Bumthang.
Day 7: Bumthang (B,L,D)
Different from all the other valleys in Bhutan, Bumthang is very spacious and open ranging in altitude from 2,600m to 4,000m. Bumthang is a heaven for hikers and trekkers, not to mention the numerous beautiful and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites, making it the Cultural and Historic center of Bhutan. One could spend months exploring this fascinating valley. Almost every little valley or hill has a background of interesting myths and legends about Kings, Buddhist masters and Serpents. Bumthang is combined of four main valleys, Chumey, Tang, Ura and Choskhor (Jakar). Commonly known as Jakar valley where you can see a little bit of modern touch with Swiss Influences. Visits to the important cultural and historic sites in the special valley.
Sightseeing in and around Punakha including the magnificent Punakha Dzong. After lunch drive to Gangtey and Phobjikha Valley. The valley falls under the Black Mountain Natural Park. We will search for any black-necked cranes that have not yet flown to their summer homes in Tibet and China. There is lots of other wildlife in the surrounding valleys like wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan black bear, red fox, leopard and many species of birds. Overnight Gakling Guest House.
Day 8: Bumthang / Punakha (B,L,D)
Full day drive to Punakha with sightseeing en-route. Overnight Punakha.
Day 9: Punakha / Paro (B,L,D)
Punakha was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong, which dominates the whole area, was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body. Punakha Dzong is one of the most impressive Dzongs in the Kingdom. In the afternoon drive to Paro for 3 nights.
Day 10: Tiger's Nest (B,L,D)
Full day hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery and sightseeing in and around Paro. “Tiger's nest,” built around a cave in which Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhawa) meditated, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 3,000 feet above the valley floor. For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. Provisions will be made for those not up to the hike.
Day 11: Haa Valley (B,L,D)
We embark on a journey West to Chelala Pass, the highest pass in the country. Continue into the scenic Haa Valley. Lunch in a Farm House in Haa. Some time to explore the sights of Paro including the Paro Dzong and National Museum.
Day 12: Departure (B)
Departure transfer to the airport for the flight out.
What our clients say...
“ I felt well looked after…the food was better than I expected, I particularly liked the wonderful vegetable variety. This is unique country for anyone interested in visiting the Himalayas and learning how this small country enters the modern world and still retains it’s identity and the process.” - P. Charles, Vancouver, BC
“ All guides and drivers went above and beyond in making our stay a memorable one ....Tours of Exploration has done a wonderful job during our trip. After seeing the National History Museum in Paro I realized that we had first hand seeing with our own eyes most of the billboards on display. We did amazing things saw culture, nature, music, religion and most of the country from one end to the next. Everything was taken care of.” - M and B. Chesnik, Windsor, ON
“ The experience of this tour was due to the guides and drivers. The six of them all contributed to an amazing trip. The entire trip was an experience of a lifetime, thank you.” - P. Macdonald, San Francisco, CA
“ After our 1st day of looking down, I knew we were in good hands.” - K. Basher, Lancaster, NY
“ This trip was far above my expectations, I highly recommend Tours of Exploration to my friends.” - T. MacIntosh, Peterborough, ON
“ There was a good mix of cultural and sight seeing activities... Perhaps the food was a little too good, great that there were so many veggie options... You really look after us and all of your behind the scenes work is greatly appreciated. “ - K. Dawkins, Toronto, ON
“ I greatly appreciated having two buses so everyone could have a window seat. Felt it was a treasure to come here, and especially to visit eastern Bhutan.” - C. Longfield, Toronto, ON
“ I appreciated the driving skills that were apparent on those challenging roads. The bus was always clean and well taken care of mechanically.” - M. Leuschen
“ We first heard of Bhutan about ten years ago and it has been on our list of places to visit ever since... The people are all so friendly and curious... We did not experience the begging and peddlers so common in many of the other areas of Asia we have visited... The mountains are ablaze with colour, the red and whites are incredibly intense... At higher elevations we saw yaks and on occasion a pair of barking deer in the road.” - C and E. Jensen
“ Our guide was very good with respect to his language skills, knowledge and organisational ability... Our schedule was packed from dawn till dusk with sightseeing!. it was most stimulating and very interesting.” - J. Arnold, Christchurch, NZ
“ Thank you again for providing wonderful photo experiences in Bhutan. It is a beautiful, friendly destination.” - D and B. Wolf, Louisville Kentucky
“ Carmen, it was a delight to get to know you and to have you as a guiding light on our Bhutan trip, I loved it! Even though I was not a real photo buff, I did get hundreds of good shots. I have put them into an eleven minute show with music and zooming and panning. My post trips to Cambodia and Northern Thailand went well too.” - J. Johnson, Redondo Beach, CA