Bhutan – Cultural & Festival Tour

Visit the World’s Only Carbon-Negative Country

This Buddhist nation is the only country in the world to have a negative carbon footprint and in 2016 was rated the “least corrupt country in the world”.

Perched high on the mighty Himalayan range, the Kingdom of Bhutan has defied globalization and chosen to remain a hidden paradise. This is a place that even seasoned travellers consider a privilege to visit. Bhutan, unlike its other Himalayan neighbors, considers all creation sacred, including trees, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Consequently, Himalayan species near extinction in the bordering countries of Nepal, India, and Tibet are doing well in Bhutan.

Bhutan is also the last bastion of vajrayana Buddhism, a spiritual practice that is known to be one of the most profound schools of teaching in the Buddhist world. The sacred monasteries, the fluttering prayer flags that line the high ridges, the red robed monks chanting their prayers — all give this kingdom an aura of another time. This is BHUTAN: Known to its inhabitants as Druk Yul — “the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
 

Paro Festival (Tsechu)

Paro Tsechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. Featuring dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes, Tsechus (festivals) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan.

A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honour of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.

A highlight of the Paro Tsechu is the unfurling of the silk Thangka – so large it covers the face of an entire building and is considered one of the most sacred blessings in the whole of Bhutan. The ‘Thangka, known in Bhutan as a ‘thongdroel’ is a religious picture scroll, and is only exhibited for a few hours at daybreak on the final day of the festival enabling the people to obtain its blessing.

This holy scroll “confers liberation by the mere sight of it” (the meaning of the word ‘thongdroel’ in Bhutanese).

Tour Type

Walking Tour

International Tour

7-12 Day Tour

Duration

11 days / 10 nights

Fitness

Price

NZ$8,500

Limited Availability!

  • 29 March to 9 April 2020

Tour Itinerary

Price: NZ$8,500

Day Pre Tour - 29 March, 2020

Bangkok - Novotel hotel at Suvarnabhumi Airport

Novotel hotel at Suvarnabhumi Airport

Meet in Bangkok at Novotel Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport)

This evening at 5pm we meet in the bar at the Novotel attached to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok where we get to know members of our group over a few drinks and nibbles.

We go over timings for the morning departure to Paro, Bhutan the next day.

Please make sure you arrive into Bangkok in time to make this meeting as we plan to go over important details for the trip.

Your Bangkok accommodation tonight is covered on a twin share/room only basis .

Day 1 - 30 March

Bangkok - Paro (2200m) overnight in Thimpu

Thimpu

Today we make the 4 hour flight to Paro and then drive on to Thimpu (about one hour drive) which will be our base for two nights.

Depending on the arrival time of our flight, this afternoon we will sightsee around Thimpu including a visit to the stunning Buddha Dordenma Statue, made of bronze and gilded in gold and is 51 metres high and Thimpu Dzong in the early evening as it is lit up like a fairytale.

Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan, but, its laid back feeling and easy going way of life makes it a great place to get acquainted with the country

We overnight at 3-4 star hotel in Thimpu – to be confirmed

Lunch and dinner are covered in the cost.

Day 2 - 31 March

Thimphu (2334m)

Thimphu

We depart after breakfast to visit the National Takin Preserve to acquaint ourselves with the odd looking national animal of Bhutan – half goat and half cow.

Morning is the best time to visit as the animals are more  active.

We then travel about 40 minutes (with stops) to the base of beautiful Cheri Monastery. We will then walk to the monastery and enjoy time our time walking around this idyllic spot.

After descending we eat a picnic lunch next to the river and may share a few moments with local pilgrims and families also visiting the site.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner all covered.

Day 3 - 1 April

Thimphu (2334m) - Punakha (1242m)

Punakha

We offer you a free morning and the chance to stroll around Thimpu at your leisure.

At 11:00am we head out of the city for the Dochula pass Alt:10142ft /3091m.

This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges.

The hill above the chorten is covered with prayer flags and it forms part of the royal botanical garden.

We lunch at a restaurant on the summit and then wind our way down to the lower elevations of the Punakha Valley.

Time permitting we will walk to Chimi Lhakang – the temple of the Divine Madman Drukpa Kinley.

Overnight Punkaha – Breakfast, lunch and dinner covered

Day 4 - 2 April

Punakha (1242m)

Punakha

In the morning we visit Punakha Dzong (palace of glorious happiness) built in between Pho Chu and MoChu (male & female rivers) the old capital and the winter palace of Jeo Khenpo, the country’s religious head.

After visiting the dzong we head further up the valley for a picnic and visit the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgayl Chorten reached via a one and a half hour walk.

Overnight Punakha – Breakfast, lunch and dinner covered

Day 5 - 3 April

Punakha (1242m) - Gangtey (3000m)

Phobjika

We have a leisurely start and then make the 2- 3 hour drive to Gangtey/black neck crane valley.

This valley is the winter home for black necked cranes and is also a wonderful place to enjoy the experience of rural Bhutanese life.

We drive through Lawala pass which is part of the Black Mountain range and represents  the boundary between west and east Bhutan.

We make a visit to the Gangtey Monastery and the Black Neck Crane visitor centre this afternoon.

Overnight Phobjika – breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Day 6 - 4 April

Gangtey (3000m)

Gangtey

Today with a picnic lunch we venture into the Gangtey Valley for a day hike.

There are plenty of wonderful walks to choose from in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and we select one that gives us a great appreciation of this beautiful landscape.

Today could also be a great opportunity to try out a famous Bhutanese hot stone bath.

Overnight Gangtey – breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Day 7 - 5 April

Gangtey (3000m) to Haa Valley (2670m)

Soenem Dzingka Heritage Lodge, Haa Valley

Haa overnight – driving day.

Today is a driving day as we retrace our steps towards Thimpu and then on to Paro and over to the stunning Haa Valley, and in the process crossing over the highest motorable road in Bhutan.

We overnight at a gorgeous restored farmhouse called Soenem Dzingka Heritage Lodge.

It is clean, cozy and more than very comfortable.

It is a restored family home and you will love it.

We arrive by about 4pm and can take a late afternoon stroll in the countryside straight out of the door of the lodge.

Overnight Haa Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Day 8 - 6 April

Haa Valley (2670m)

Soenem Dzingka Heritage Lodge, Haa Valley

After yesterday’s driving we spend today exploring the Haa Valley and Haa town.

There are so many options here and we will cater to everyone’s needs with short/medium or longer walks and excursions.

The lodge is simply spectacular and hospitable, a favourite of ours.

A hot stone bath is also on offer here.

Haa Valley – Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Day 9 - 7 April

Haa Valley (2670m) – Paro (2200m)

4 star Naksel Resort

We leave Haa Valley and drive back via a scenic route back to Paro in time to take part in the incredible Paro Festival for the afternoon.

This is one of the highlights in the Bhutanese cultural calendar and you wont be disappointed.

It is a visual display of song, dance, family gathering and joyous celebration.

We overnight at the 4 star Naksel Resort – your home for two nights.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided

Day 10 - 8 April

Paro (2200m)

4 star Naksel Resort

This morning after a hearty breakfast we hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Those of you not up for the hike can rent a pony to take you up to the restaurant which is approximately two thirds of the way to the monastery.

We return to the bus where we have lunch and then head back to the festival grounds in Paro for more people watching and celebrating.

A great way to finish our journey in Bhutan. We celebrate our final dinner with our guides and driver.

Overnight Paro, Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.

Day 11 - 9 April

Paro - Bangkok

Depending on our flight time back to Bangkok we will have either a leisurely or early start to the day.

We board the flight for the spectacular journey back to Thailand where the trip concludes at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Breakfast provided.

What's included?

Accommodation

We stay in modern 3 to 4 star hotels or resorts all the way.

Hotels in Bhutan are of a good standard and are comparable with hotels in more developed western countries. They are clean and tidy with modern facilities throughout. Rooms are double/ twin with ensuite facilities.

All rooms have coffee and tea making facilities. You will receive more comprehensive details of the accommodation on your tour at time of booking. oPst tour accommodation in Bangkok is not included in the tour cost. Your pre tour accommodation in Bangkok is included.

 

Food

All meals are included in the cost of your tour in Bhutan. Generally meals will be buffet style and taken in your hotel or guesthouse. Breakfast, lunches and dinners will generally include a selection of western, Chinese or Indian style dishes, with some local specialties on occasion.

Don’t forget to try the national dishes of emma datshe (chilli and cheese) and delicious red rice. Rice and vegetable dishes are always present for every meal. Vegetarians are well catered for and meat is the exception rather than the rule with most meals. Alcoholic drinks are not included with meals and are paid for separately. Filtered or bottled water is usually freely available in most hotels, restaurants and in the vehicle you will be travelling in.

Each meal will typically have three or four dishes to share. Choices are limited and feedback has suggested that the food isn’t the main reason to visit Bhutan. Meals may become a little monotonous with similar offerings at a lot of the restaurants. Please don’t be offended that your guide and driver do not eat with you. This is the custom in Bhutan and guides and drivers generally eat together in another section of the restaurant.

 

Guides

You will be accompanied by a New Zealand guide (host) who is experienced in travel to Bhutan. Your host will be with you from the time you leave Bangkok until you arrive back in Bangkok where your tour will end. We will also have a fully accredited Bhutanese, English speaking guide for the duration of the tour. Our guide is very well versed and qualified to comment on all that is Bhutanese. Our driver is also accredited by the Bhutanese government.

 

Visas

You will require a visa for Bhutan. Please talk to us at the time of booking as we arrange your Bhutan visa which is included in the tour cost.

 

Transport

All transport including your return flights from Bangkok to Paro in Bhutan are included in the cost of the tour. On arrival in Paro we will be met by our Bhutanese Government accredited guide and driver. You will be travelling in a well appointed small bus with very comfortable seating.

Whilst there are approximately 8000km of roads in Bhutan, the quality varies greatly depending on proximity to the major towns of Thimpu and Paro. As such, even short distances can take longer than expected. Bhutan is currently upgrading a lot of their road network and delays are common. Roads are narrow and speeds are slow.

 

Entry Fees

All entry fees to monasteries and other attractions when accompanied by our local guide.

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