Ura Yakchoe FestivalUra is a beautiful village set amidst a pristine highland meadow in Bumthang, the cultural and religious centre of Bhutan. Ura Yakoche festival is being celebrated to bring happiness, better harvest and prosperity of the villages and country as a whole. The various Mask dances are performed by the Monks wearing the Mask of the Yak in the courtyard of the Ura Temple.
Paro / Thimpu / Punakha / Trongsa / Bumthang
Day 01: Arrival in Paro & transfer to Thimphu ( 65km / 1hr)
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport exit doors following customs formalities.
After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centers, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hrs) following the Pachu River. Before dinner at the hotel there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide.Overnight hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing.
Once a rustic village sitting in a broad, fertile river valley, Thimphu is today the nation's bustling capital. Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, completed by the Royal Queen Mother as a memorial stupa for the third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and the Zilukha Nunnery. If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’ housing some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Overnight hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu to Punakha (1300m) (77km / 3hrs)
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley. The drive through the countryside offers a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdom. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring color.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the "Palace of Great Happiness" built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan's first king was crowned. Overnight at a hotel in Punakha / Wangduephodrang.
Day 04: Punakha Sightseeing.
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Enjoy a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before driving back into the Punakha valley for a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
Day 05: Punakha to Trongsa (2316m) (135km / 5hrs)
Explore the bustling market town of Wangdue phodrang before driving over the Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range which divides western and central Bhutan. White langur monkeys can often be spotted in the moss-draped forests in this area. Further on, in silent isolation surrounded by great forested hills is beautiful Chendibji Chorten, built in the 18th Century to commemorate the subjugation of a local demon. It is built in a style unusual for Bhutan, with painted eyes facing the four directions. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road.Overnight hotel in Trongsa.
Day 06: Trongsa to Bumthang (2600m – 4000m) (68km / 2 ½hrs)
After breakfast visit Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa has the largest Dzong in Bhutan and its foundations were laid in the 16th Century. There are now 22 temples in the complex. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the landscape for many miles. Also visit the Ta Dzong museum housing an incredible collection of historical artifacts of the Royal Family.
After light refreshments, begin the drive to Bumthang, one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the spiritual heartland of the kingdom. The road climbs rapidly up a series of hairpin turns out of Trongsa. After passing through cultivated fields and forested hillsides you will reach the Yutung La Pass (3400m). From here the road passes down through a dense, beautiful coniferous forest to a wide, cultivated valley known as Chummey valley before continuing on in the soft afternoon light to the town of Jakar.
After refreshing yourself at your lodge, visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom where Bhutan's patron saint Guru Rimpoche meditated and Jambay Lhakhang, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. It dates back to the origins of Buddhism in Bhutan and is one of the Kingdoms oldest temples.Overnight lodge in Jakar, Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang to Ura (3100m) and witness the Ura Festival.
Drive for an hour to the Ura valley to witness the colorful masked dances and cultural festivities of the Ura Festival. Join local villagers from the local area gathered in their finest clothes for an exciting tradition of music, dancing, color, and religious blessings. Ura valley in Bumthang is known for its famous dance known as the Ura Yakchoe. This festival that is held annually in the month of May is a festival where a sacred and an important relic is put on display for the people to receive blessings. Myth has it that one day an old woman while sitting outside her house had a visitor, a lama who asked her for a glass of water. When she came out with a glass of water, the lama had vanished leaving behind a sack. Out of curiosity, she checked the bag and found a statue that is now being displayed annually. This relic has been passed on from generation to generation and now the descendants of the woman own it. Overnight lodge in Bumthang.
Day 08: Excursion in Bumthang
Enjoy an excursion to Tang Valley, the most remote valley in the Bumthang district. Activities may include a 45 minute walk uphill to Ugyen Chholing Palace, built in the 16th century by the Trongsa Penlop Tshokey Dorji. The main building in the complex now features a fascinating museum offering a real insight into the lifestyle of a Bhutanese noble family. Highlights include a book of divination, a dakini dance costume made of bone. You may also visit 14th century Tang Rimochen Lhakhang where Guru Rinpoche meditated and Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche's treasures were found in the 15th century by the famous treasure discoverer Pema Lingpa. It's a good location to meditate. Overnight lodge in Bumthang.
Day 09: Bumthang to Punakha.
In the morning visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Terton Pemalingpa (founder of the Nyingmapa sect) and containing interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Pemalingpa's heavy coat of nails is kept in the Vestibule and people are permitted to try it on. It is said that if they can walk around the inner sanctuary three times while wearing it, some of their sins will be forgiven. Afterwards drive to Punakha with lunch enroute.
Overnight: hotel in Punakha.
Day 10: Punakha to Thimphu to Paro
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Take a picnic lunch on a picturesque riverside before exploring the Wangduephodrang Dzong. Built in 1639 the strategically located Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers.Drive back to Thimphu where you will have an opportunity to visit handicraft and souvenir stores. Afterwards proceed to Paro. Overnight hotel in Paro.
Day 11: Paro (2280m).
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
Alternatively, day 11 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterised by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight: hotel in Paro.
Day 12: Departure from Paro.
After early breakfast at the hotel, drive to Paro International Airport to board your flight home or your onward destination.