|18 Sep - 01 Oct|
Bhutan sits at the eastern end of the Himalayas sandwiched between India and the Tibetan Plateau, boasting soaring views of rugged, snow-capped mountain ranges decorated with fluttering prayer flags and dotted with ancient monasteries that cling to the rock face. The country is home to a range of ecosystems from steep forested hills and fast flowing rivers to the vast mountainous landscapes of the high Himalaya and has been internationally acknowledged as a biodiversity hotspot.
Travel on our Regent exclusive small group tour and discover an untouched mountain paradise. Crystal clear glacier-fed rivers, jaw dropping mountain passes and soaring Buddhist temples festoon this remote Himalayan country. Discover the laidback capital of Thimphu, stroll rural villages and trek to the the symbol of Bhutan, the stunning Tigers Nest Monastery. The tour is arranged to coincide with two colourful and fast-paced festivals, or tsechus: Thimphu Tsechu located in the bustling capital of the country and the Thangbi Mani Tsechu located in the remote Bumthang Valley. Enjoy the freedom to experience a fascinating Bhutanese tradition and experience all the wonders of this little known Himalayan paradise.
Arrive Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. The rest of the day is at leisure. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner as a group at the hotel. (D)
Return to the airport and take the Druk Air flight to Paro, Bhutan. On a clear day the panoramic views of the Himalaya are sensational, including Everest (ask for a seat on the left of the plane).
On arrival you will be met and transferred to Thimphu, the least visited of all the Himalayan capitals. This is a 1 hour 15 minute drive through spectacular mountain scenery—the change in pace from Kathmandu is pronounced!
Thimphu is a small, charming capital city in the heart of the Himalayas—all the houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style. It is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. En-route enjoy a brief stop to visit Tachhogang Lhakhang, a traditional iron suspension bridge festooned with many colourful prayer flags. In the evening, there will be a lecture from a local guests speaker on the Bhutanese concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) after which there may be time to stroll around the capital city and explore the popular night markets which boasts a range of traditional handicrafts including colourful thangkhas, incense, atsara (clown masks) and throws. (B,L,D)
After breakfast attend the famous Thimphu Tsechu (festival). Tsechus are celebrated for several days, between three and five dependent on location, and include colourful masked dances performed by monks and laymen. Many of the dances have remained virtually unchanged since the 10th century and not only are these rites to expel spirits, but give moral lessons and re-enact famous past legends. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humour prevails. The sounds of Tibetan horns, reed trumpets, cymbals and drums added to the noise of the crowd, produce a truly unique atmosphere.
This afternoon discover the sights of the city. Time permitting, visits may include the King's Memorial Chorten, the handmade paper factory, Changangkha Lhakhang and Simply Bhutan, a fun, interactive museum where visitors can learn about Bhutanese life. (B,L,D)
Drive to Punakha, the former winter capital. This drive takes you over the fantastic Dochula Pass which on a clear day boasts the most spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan mountain range. Visit the 108 Namgyel Khangzang Chortens and further on stop at Messinha: stretch those legs with a walk through paddy fields and farm houses to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple dedicated to Bhutan’s popular saint Drukpa Kunley. After a picnic lunch overlooking imposing Punakha Dzong, drive further to visit dzong. There will also be a visit to Nalanda Buddhist College providing the opportunity to meet and interact with local monks. (B,L,D)
Drive from Punakha to the scenic Phobjikha Valley, passing through forests of oak trees and rhododendrons.
Phobjikha (also known as Gangtey) is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains and is a designated conservation area. It is one of the most important wildlfe preserves in the country because it is host to a large flcok of black-necked cranes that migrate here from Tibet in winter.
In Gangtey expore the Phobjikha Valley visiting Gangtey Monastery, the most important Nyingma Gomba in the country. The monastery is currently renovated so it is possible to look around the inner courtyards. Also visit the Crane Information Centre. (B,L,D)
This morning drive to Bumthang, a long day's drive of 8-9 hours but a journey you are not likely to forget, where you be immersed in stunning scenery. Leaving Gangtey the road winds its way to the Pele La Pass, standing at 3,300m and marks the boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large white chorten and prayer flags, and where you will notice the vegetation changing from mountain forest to high altitude dwarf bamboo.
After lunch at Trongsa have the chance to visit the Trongsa Dzong and the fine museum housed in the tower of Trongsa overlooking the main fort and time to wander around this pleasant township from which the present royal family emerged at the beginning of this century.
Continue your road journey to Bumthang, over the Yutong-la Pass at 3,400m. The road winds steeply up to the pass and then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley. Arrive Bumthang late evening and check into you hotel. Overnight in Bumthang. (B,L,D)
After breakfast drive to Thangbi Mani to attend the colourful and sacred festival held at the temple.
Thangbi Mani festival is one of the most popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Gewog in Bumthang. The highlight of the festival is the fire blessing (Mewang) ceremony, performed in an open ground. The lay monks perform purification rituals while people jump over flames to purify themselves. Several mask dances are also performed. It is believed that the festival would bring peace and prosperity and ensure better harvest for the entire community.
This afternoon you will be treated to a Bhutanese lunch at a traditional Bhutanese farm house, and the remainder of the day can be spent doing gentle walks in the valley visiting Jambay Lhakang dating back to the 7th century and housing a sanctuary dedicated to future Buddha Jampa, and Kurje Lhakhang named after the body print of Guru Rinpoche, preserved in a cave inside the oldest of the three building that make up the temple complex.
Overnight in Bumthang. (B,L,D)
This morning further explore the valley visiting the site of Tamshing Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The temple has several ancient religious paintings and was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Also visit the Dairy Farm, Swiss Cheese Factory and Apple Juice Factory on the way to the hotel for lunch. After lunch transfer to the airport for your onward flight to Paro.
On arrival at the airport in Paro you will be met and transferred to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Overnight Paro. (B,L,D)
This morning enjoy a scenic drive to the Chali La Pass, at 3,810m offering views to magnificent Mount Jhomolhari and the Haa Valley. Take in the scenery and partake of an offering of prayer flags, a Buddhist ritual to gain merit for your next life.
After the ritual there is an optional visit to the ancient nunnery Kila Goemba. An hour's walk through fir, rhododendron and pine forests leads us to the oldest nunnery in the kingdon. On a clear day Mount Jhomolhari soars into the bue sky and across the valley Jele Dzong perched atop a ridge can be viewed. Return to Paro for lunch.
Have the afternoon in Paro, visiting the fascinating national museum, housed in an old watchtower above the huge Paro Dzong. The museum holds a fantastic collection of Bhutanese national treasures ranging from ancient armour to textiles and thangkha paintings.
Next visit Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress of the heap of Jewels) which is the seat of the district administration and home to the monastic school. The central tower of the dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the country.
Overnight Paro. (B,L,D)
An early start today! Start the hike to Takstang, or iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery, which is perched high on a cliff overlooking the Paro Valley and is perhaps the best-known monastery in the world due to its stunning location. The hike to Taktsang is a steep walk taking 2-2 ½ hours climbing through beautiful pine forests with many trees festooned with fluttering prayer flags. Stop for light refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) and then walk a short distance until you gain an incredible view of the Monastery perched precariously on the edge of the sheer 800m cliff!
Enjoy lunch at the café, walk down and take a short drive to visit Drugyal Dzong which was built in a location chosen for its control over the route to Tibet. The remainder of today is at leisure to stroll around town for some last minute shopping. This evening enjoy a traditional hot stone bath to help soak your limbs after the hike. (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport and take the short flight to Kathmandu and transfer to the hotel. This afternoon enjoy a half day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu visiting Kathmandu Durbar Square and Swoyambhunath Stupa, established more than 2,500 years ago. It is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in parts of the temple.
Kathmandu Durbar Square is located in the heart of old city Kathmandu. There are around 50 temples in the vicinity. In this tour, visit the 17th Century Durbar complex, Hanuman Dhoka, Paravati temple, great Bell and Drum, Bhairav and Taleju Temple. All around the splendour of historical monuments is the hustle & bustle of the market place.
Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner as a group in a local restaurant: enjoy a Nepali dinner accompanied by a cultural show. Return to the hotel. (B,D)
18 Sep 2018
01 Oct 2018