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Bhutan: Trekking » Punakha Festival Tour

PUNAKHA FESTIVAL CULTURAL TOUR

Punakha Festival Tour

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Your senses will awake upon entering the impressive courtyard of the Punakha Dzong; " Palace of Great Happiness ". The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female rivers. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colorful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step". Masks of glorious demonic demons and animals arouse your senses as you watch the purification take place. You will also visit Trongsa, Bumthang, Ura, and the only national capitol without traffic lights, Thimphu . If you have ever wanted to go to Bhutan this is as a good a deal you will ever find. Treat yourself to a deal.

Bhutan ranks as the top hot spot in the world for bio-diversity. Bhutan is home to 600 species of wild orchids, 50 different species of Rhododendrons, the Blue Poppy is the national flower, medicinal plants, alpine plants and tropical trees. Over 60% of Bhutan is still blanketed in virgin forests with pristine rivers cascading alongside terraced rice fields. Land-locked and surrounded by the high Himalayans the essence of Bhutan is serenity and beauty distilled by the ages.

Itinerary

Day 1:- Arrive Paro International Airport .
During the flight we will experience breathtaking views of Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake in Bhutan . You are received at the airport by Nature Trail's Bhutan representative. After the processing of your visa, our representative will escort you to your hotel for lunch and check-in. After lunch we will visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong). Once the watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong, it was converted into the National Musuem in 1968. The "conch" shaped museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory. A unique and interesting museum unfolds to you. On the way back visit the Paro Rinpung Dzong. A Dzong in Bhutan is a fortress. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses. Today the Dzong is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. It was from this fortress hat the Bhutanese repelled many Tibetan invasions. Marvel at the central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork. In the evening we will visit quaint Paro town and enjoy dinner at a cozy restaurant and go over itinerary with your guide. Relax tonight at Olathang Hotel, a cluster of Bhutanese style cottages; welcome to Bhutan ! (7800 ft)

Day 2: Breakfast at the hotel and a drive to Taktsang Monastery to view an architectural wonder.

Taktsang means Tiger's Nest" and this spectacular building is perched on a rocky ledge with a sheer drop of 3,000 ft. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava, the second Buddha, alighted here upon the back of a tigress. Enjoy picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. We now return down our path to our awaiting van and then drive 2 hours into Thimphu , capitol of Bhutan . Once in Thimphu , we stop at the bank to exchange currency and visit the local post office for an opportunity to see and purchase collector item Bhutanese gorgeous stamps. We will make a visit to The Tarkin camp, which houses Bhutans ' National animal. A visit to the Folk Heritage and National Library, where ancient manuscripts are preserved is a wonderful educational experience. Tour Tashichho Dzong, which houses the throne room cnetral monastic body and government ministries. Overnight and dinner at the intriguing Hotel Yeedzin, whose decor displays wonderful wall frescoes.

Day 3:After a wholesome breakfast, we prepare for our day outing.
A visit to the house of incense and a wonderful hand made paper factory, as well as a stop to watch local archers at play. Bhutan now proudly holds an Olympics gold medal in archery, the national sport. A tour of the Textile Museum and back to the hotel to enjoy lunch. In the afternoon we depart for Tango Monastery. Embark on a vigorous 2- hour hike up the mountain to Tango Goemba Monastery, one of my favorite experiences in Bhutan . Tango is one of Bhutanese' most important Buddhist colleges. Its name, meaning 'horse's head', is derived from the horse-head shaped rock at the top. It is a beautiful dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the eight-year-old reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. Meet with monks for discussions. Overnight Yeedzin Hotel.

Day 4: After breakfast,
we depart Thimphu for central Bhutan , driving to Wangdue Phodrang, across Dochula Pass at 10,500 ft. Prayer flags send prayers on the wind. Enjoy spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountains . Stop for lunch at Lobesa. After lunch we will take a short hike to Chhi-Med Lhakhang in the picturesque Lobesa valley. We visit the temple of one of Bhutan 's foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the "Divine Madman", whom you are getting to know. Continuing our drive to Wangdi and a stop to visit the Fertility Temple Chimed Lhakhang. Check in our hotel, relax and enjoy views from our balcony room overlooking Wangduephodrang and the pristine river flowing through the valley. In the near distance you can see the Wangdu Dzong strategically located on a hilltop watching over. Overnight at Dragons Nest Resort. Hear "jackals" tonight.

Day 5:Breakfast and depart hotel.
Today we attend a FULL day at PUNAKHA FESTIVAL. Your senses will awake upon entering the impressive courtyard of the Punakha Dzong; " Palace of Great Happiness ". Punakha Dzong is the former winter Capital and at present day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also, the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and female rivers.the location is strategic. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907 , Bhutan 's first king was crowned. NOW, load your camera and with respect to the religious festival you witness, capture its essence. We are privileged to be here among Bhutanese locals from many different areas who gather to pay respect and to be blessed at this social gathering. Dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, all that attend this celebration of purification receive religious merit. Here we can truly appreciate the essence of Bhutanese people and a preserved steadfast culture. Arrays of colourful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the "thunderbolt step". Masks of glorious demonic demons and animals arouse your senses as you watch the purification take place. The intensity goes on. Your are transposed. Picnic lunch will be served. In the evening we return to Wangdue for dinner /overnight at Dragon's Nest Resort.

Day 6: Breakfast and return to Punakha FESTIVAL in the morning.
One more opportunity to revel in this glorious festival, full of colour, horns, drums, mystical dance, costumes, masks and intensity. Festival deities are invoked through benediction and luck is increased and misfortunate gone After lunch drive to Gangtey Valley , about a three-hour drive. Gangtey is the winter habitant of the famous black-necked-cranes, which migrate from Tibet and Siberia . Impressive and beautiful these large and graceful birds migrate each year from Tibet and Siberia to Gangtey Valley . Punishment imposed on anyone injuring a Black Neck Crane is lifetime imprisonment. Overnight at local guesthouse.

Day 7: Early breakfast

and depart for our visit to the roosting place of the black neck cranes and the famous Gangtey Monastery. We stop as well at a local handcrafted carpet factory and visit a farmhouse for local hospitality. Extremely enjoyable and fun. Continue our drive today to Trongsa, about 5 to 6 hours drive. Overnight Guest house.

Day 8: After breakfast we visit the Trongsa Dzong and its imposing watchtower.
Trongsa Dzong representsBhutan's link with its historical monarchy. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan 's monarch. This is also the investiture site for future kings ascending the Golden Throne of Bhutan. Trongsa Dzong represents the very best opportunity to capture the true essence of Bhutanese monastic and parliamentary architecture. Here, are 25 lhakhangs (small temples, among which is the oldest lhakhang in Bhutan - the Chorten Lhakhang built by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk in 1543.) Climb to the top of the watchtower amongst medieval weapons, ancient altars on a ladder cut from a tree. It is my favourite watchtower in Bhutan . After lunch we leave Trongsa and head to Jakar, in the central district of Bumthang, a 4-to5 hour drive eastward. We cross over Yotongla Pass at 11,300 ft. Here you get your first glimpse of the Black Mountains . You will also make numerous stops to photograph yaks and their herders, alpine flowers, lovely picturesque villages, and other roadside and panoramic scenes. This drive between Trongsa and Bumthang is the most scenic and exciting leg of the journey into the clouds, as you cross-rivers and streams and pass a chorten with water-driven prayer wheels and colourful rock carvings. An hour outside of Bumthang, just after crossing the Yotongla pass, you make the first sighting of the golden-roofed Jakar Dzong, the Castle of the White Bird, with the Chamkar river cascading in one continuous waterfall down through the valley beneath. Overnight: River Lodge

Day 9: Today we enjoy Bumthang sightseeing.
Beauty again overwhelms our senses. We will drive to Tang Valley and hike to visit the Ugyenchholing Dzong. The Ugyenchholing Dzong was formerly the palace of Trongsa Penlop Tsokey Dorji . You will visit the Ugyenchholing Palace , now housing the Family Museum , a place that will transport you to another world and time. You will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penelop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. Bhutan 's history unfolds. Continuing from Ugyenchholing, we reach the Rimochen Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Guru Rimpoche, the Patron Saint of Bhutan. We also visit Rimochen Temple , another temple blessed by Guru Rimpoche and where imprints of the Saint's foot and body can be seen on the rock. In the evening we visit a farmhouse for local hospitality and conversation. Overnight at the River Lodge Guest House enjoying a sumptuous dinner followed by Arak , a local drink. Tonight you sleep as a baby.

Day 10: After buckwheat breakfast,
we depart Bumthang, but not until we stop at the local merchant shops for fabulous textile and handmade items. Watch local weaver, experts with wooden looms, weave their magic fabric. Fun shops! We now depart for a day excursion to Ura Valley , one of the most beautiful of all valleys in central Bhutan . Medieval in its cobblestone streets and quaint farmhouses, Ura Valley is mystical. We explore Ura and meet with some of friendly locals, perhaps view the temple. We will overnight at Shingkher Lodge, and in the evening enjoy local dance and music and wine around bon-fire.

Day 11: We depart after breakfast driving to Wangdue- phodrang.
En route visit the Yatha Textile Centre in Chumey Valley ; exquisite fabric and textile. Tonight after a relaxing dinner, we will enjoy a drive and evening tour of the Wangdu Dzong courtyard. Overnight at Dragon's Nest

Day 12: Breakfast and continue on westward toward Thimphu .
Check in our hotel and enjoy lunch. We then visit the famous weekend market, a must in Bhutan . The marketplace is alive with fresh and organic fruits, rice, chilies, wonderful textiles, handicrafts, art, jewelry and so much fun! There are many kodak moments here. After the marketplace we experience shopping in Thimphu . This is your time to purchase special items you may want to bring home for your Bhutan treasure. Thankgas, fabric, masks and so much more. Your guide will assist you. We depart for our drive to Paro, check in our hotel and enjoy our farewell dinner at a local Paro restaurant. Overnight Olathang Hotel.

Day 13: Early breakfast and depart Bhutan for your return flight.

We hope you have enjoyed Bhutan and will visit us again. Tashi Delek!

I t is also possible to combine a tour with a  trek. E-mail or fax us for detailed itineraries, costs or other pre-departure information.

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