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Bhutan: Spring Festivals - Paro & Punakha

Festivals of BhutanBhutan Paro festival (Teschu) tour is escorted in 2017 by company owner Catherine Evans.  Experience the magic of the masked dances, the scenic splendour of the mounatains and valleys, and the cultural richness of the land of Gross National Happiness.

Restrictions on the numbers of tourists allowed to visit Bhutan have helped preserve the country's natural assets and a way of life that has remained unchanged for millennia. Here are some details of the Paro & Punakha festivals. Visitors will see monasteries perched at the tops of mountain peaks, ancient Buddhist art and sculpture, dense forests and spectacular valleys. Much of Bhutan remains unexplored. Bhutan is a land filled with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, green terraced fields and flower-strewn valleys. The North is dominated by the high peaks of the Himalayas. The inner central region is filled with temperate valleys and the East is where the steamy tropical jungles and villages that lie above the clouds are found.

Our past trip participants have expressed an overwhelming pleasure from their journey to what is perhaps the world's most exclusive tourist destination - BHUTAN. The Royal Government's policy of environmental preservation has left a country unspoiled and pristine. Its severe restrictions on inbound visitors coupled with the honour of never being colonized has kept ancient lifestyle and traditions intact. The Bhutanese emit an inward and exterior peace that make visitors feel warm and welcome.


2018 Departure Dates and Costs

Panakha Festival:  (10 days)
$2,600 USD per person 

Paro Festival and Tour:  (12 days)
$2,990 USD per person 

Early bookings essential due to high demand at festival time
Add Single Supplement $ 50 per night
$ 40 Visa fee additional

Your tour cost includes:
Accommodation
All meals
Road transportation in comfortable vans or micro-buses
Travel with a licensed professional guide
Singtseeing tours with entrance fees
Camping equipment and haulage for treks
Royalty paid to support educational and social programsAirfare to Paro additional. Optionals available from Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi, Kolkata
Ask about International airfare from your home city! See Fall Festivals for other dates.

CUSTOMIZED TRIPS AVAILABLE ON A DAILY BASIS - ASK FOR DETAILS


PARO FESTIVAL TRIP: April 8 - 19, 2017

April 08 : Arrive in PARO
DRUK AIR: Flight from Bangkok TBA

Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Day at leisure and time to rest and acclimate to altitude.  3 nights accommodation at Tashi Namgay Resort. Welcome dinner.

April 09 : Paro Teschu (D)
Enjoy full day watching the most popular Paro festival of Mask and Folk Dances. Meet with the locals and make friends. Great opportunity for those who like to take pictures.

April 10 : Paro Teschu (B,L,D)
Paro’s sightseeing is full of gems such as the 200-year-old Watch Tower, which has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three-dimensional stamps issued as early as 1960. Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th Century. Take a look at the shops in Paro town. A return to the Paro Dzong can be included to watch more of the dances

April 11 : Paro  / Thimpu (B,L,D)
Morning arise early to see the unfurling of the great Thangka (the biggest embroidered sacred scroll).  Breakfast at the hotel and depart to Thimpu (2 hours) along a scenic highway. Thimpu, the capital and largest city of Bhutan. 2 nights at Gyelsa Boutique Inn. After an orientation to the town, some free time.

April 12:  Thimpu (B,L,D)
Full day cultural sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Some of the activities you will enjoy include:

Visit to the Takin Reserve (Bhutan’s National animal)
Purchase world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from general post office which is right next to 
Bhutan National Bank
Visit Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work
Visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.
Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory
Visit the Giant Buddha
Drive up to a viewpoint and take a hike beyond to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley

April 13 : Thimpu – Dochula Pass – Punakha (B,L,D)
Morning, sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Afternoon transfer to Punakha via the Dochula Pass. Enjoy great views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and 108 Buddhist stupas at the high pass. Punakha is the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. The town is located at the confluence of two rivers. Overnight at Hotel Vara

April 14 : Punakha – Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)
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.

April 15 : Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)
Nature walks in the Phobjika Valley.  Also included are visits to the Nature Education center, a local school and the Sacred Gangtey Monastery.

April 16 : Return to Paro (B,L,D)
Enjoy views of the Himalayas, the yak herders and magnificent scenery on the return to Paro. 

April 17 : 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.

April 18 : 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 Rimpoche (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.

April 19 : Tiger’s Nest (B) 
Departure transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangkok.


Punakha Festival: February 28, 2017 (10 days)

FEBRUARY 28 (Tues): Arrive Paro (L,D)
Fly into Paro Bhutan from Bangkok, Kolkata or Singapore. As you start approaching into Bhutan, you can see breathtaking views of the Great Himalayas. Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide who will accompany you throughout your trip. Check into the hotel and rest for the day. 

MARCH 01 (Wed): THIMPU (B,L,D)
Transfer to Thimphu, the capital city. Approximately two hour drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic with magnificent monasteries and stupas in the valleys and on the mountain tops. Check in to hotel and have lunch.  Afternoon, time at leisure to relax or explore Thimphu city on your own. 2 nig
hts.

MARCH 02 (Thu): THIMPU (B,L,D)
Visit the BIG Buddha, the largest Bronze Buddha in the world. Visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa that will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism. Stop in at the General Post Office and purchase world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value. Visit Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work. Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Visit Takin Zoo, to see many of the National animals of Bhutan. Walk through Downtown Thimphu visiting Handicrafts Emporium and other Arts & Crafts stores. Buy stunning kiras which can be used and bed covers or wall decoration, jewelries and many more.

MARCH 03 (Fri): THIMPHU to PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (B,L,D)
After breakfast a 5-6 hour drive will take you across Dochula Pass (10,200-Ft/3111-M) to the beautiful valleys of Gangtey and Phobjikha with sightseeing stops en-route. Overnight Phobjikha

MARCH 04 (Sat): GANGTEY & PHOBJIKHA (B,L,D)
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. Also included are visits to the Nature Education center, the carpet factory and the Sacred Gangtey Monastery, which dominates the valley. Overnight Phobjikha.

MARCH 05 (Sun): PHOBJIKHA – WANGDUE (B,L,D)
Morning, enjoy nature hike and bird watching around Phobjikha Valley. Have lunch and continue to the Wangdue valley for Overnight.

MARCH 06 (Mon): WANGDUE/PUNAKHA FESTIVAL/WANGDI (B,L,D)
Full day Punakha Festival and cultural sightseeing.

Punakha, located in the western part of Bhutan is the winter home of the Je Khenpo (the Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and Central Monastic Body. Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity distinguishing Bhutan from the rest of the world.

During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.  The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dressed in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.

In 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.

These two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan. Overnight Wangdi.

MARCH 07 (Tue): WANGDUE/PUNAKHA/PARO (B,L,D)
Morning, enjoy Punakha Festival. Afternoon, transfer to Paro for Overnight.

MARCH 08 (Wed): PARO – Taktsang (B,L,D)
Full day hike to Taktsang Monastery. Taktsang, meaning “Tiger’s nest,” is built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhawa) mediated, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 3,000 feet above the valley floor. For those who follow Mahayana Buddhism, it’s a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. The legend has it that Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress from Tibet and meditated in the cave there for three months. Although the largest temple on site was destroyed by fire on 19 April 1998, it has now been restored back to its former glory. Overnight Paro.

MARCH 09 (Thu): DEPART (B)
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for the departure flight. Tashi Delek!


Additional Information

Extension in Bhutan and other areas of Asia are possible. Please ask us for details. A deposit of $ 800 is required to secure this trip.


What our clients say...

“ You were right. It does all seem like a dream, a good one! We can’t thank you enough for the great job you did making the tour so enjoyable. It was everything we anticipated and more. The breathtaking beauty of the country and the welcome shown to us by the people, particularly the children, was what impressed us the most. ... A time away, just the four of us, will probably never happen again and I think we all four will remember is as a very special time.” - The Kirwan family, Ontario Canada

“ 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 Fransico, 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 of 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 expierence 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 expierences in Bhutan it is a beautiful, friendly destination.” - D and B. Wolf, Louisville, KY

“ 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 zooming and panning... My post trips to Cambodia and northern Thailand went well too.” - J. Johnson, Redondo Beach, CA

PARO FESTIVAL TRIP: April 8 - 19, 2017

April 08 : Arrive in PARO

DRUK AIR: Flight from Bangkok TBA

Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Day at leisure and time to rest and acclimate to altitude.  3 nights accommodation at Tashi Namgay Resort. Welcome dinner.

April 09 : Paro Teschu (D)

Enjoy full day watching the most popular Paro festival of Mask and Folk Dances. Meet with the locals and make friends. Great opportunity for those who like to take pictures.

 April 10 : Paro Teschu (B,L,D)

Paro’s sightseeing is full of gems such as the 200-year-old Watch Tower, which has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three-dimensional stamps issued as early as 1960. Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th Century. Take a look at the shops in Paro town. A return to the Paro Dzong can be included to watch more of the dances

April 11 : Paro  / Thimpu (B,L,D)

Morning arise early to see the unfurling of the great Thangka (the biggest embroidered sacred scroll).  Breakfast at the hotel and depart to Thimpu (2 hours) along a scenic highway. Thimpu, the capital and largest city of Bhutan. 2 nights at Gyelsa Boutique Inn. After an orientation to the town, some free time.

April 12:  Thimpu (B,L,D)

Full day cultural sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Some of the activities you will enjoy include:

Visit to the Takin Reserve (Bhutan’s National animal)

Purchase world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from general post office which is right next to Bhutan National Bank

Visit Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work

Visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.

Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory

Visit the Giant Buddha

Drive up to a viewpoint and take a hike beyond to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley

April 13 : Thimpu – Dochula Pass – Punakha (B,L,D)

Morning, sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Afternoon transfer to Punakha via the Dochula Pass. Enjoy great views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and 108 Buddhist stupas at the high pass. Punakha is the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. The town is located at the confluence of two rivers. Overnight at Hotel Vara

April 14 : Punakha – Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)

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.

April 15 : Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)

Nature walks in the Phobjika Valley.  Also included are visits to the Nature Education center, a local school and the Sacred Gangtey Monastery.

April 16 : Return to Paro (B,L,D)

Enjoy views of the Himalayas, the yak herders and magnificent scenery on the return to Paro. 

April 17 : 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.

April 18 : 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 Rimpoche (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.

April 19 : Tiger’s Nest (B)

Departure transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangkok. 

PARO FESTIVAL TRIP: April 8 - 19, 2017

April 08 : Arrive in PARO

DRUK AIR: Flight from Bangkok TBA

Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Day at leisure and time to rest and acclimate to altitude.  3 nights accommodation at Tashi Namgay Resort. Welcome dinner.

April 09 : Paro Teschu (D)

Enjoy full day watching the most popular Paro festival of Mask and Folk Dances. Meet with the locals and make friends. Great opportunity for those who like to take pictures.

 April 10 : Paro Teschu (B,L,D)

Paro’s sightseeing is full of gems such as the 200-year-old Watch Tower, which has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three-dimensional stamps issued as early as 1960. Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th Century. Take a look at the shops in Paro town. A return to the Paro Dzong can be included to watch more of the dances

April 11 : Paro  / Thimpu (B,L,D)

Morning arise early to see the unfurling of the great Thangka (the biggest embroidered sacred scroll).  Breakfast at the hotel and depart to Thimpu (2 hours) along a scenic highway. Thimpu, the capital and largest city of Bhutan. 2 nights at Gyelsa Boutique Inn. After an orientation to the town, some free time.

April 12:  Thimpu (B,L,D)

Full day cultural sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Some of the activities you will enjoy include:

Visit to the Takin Reserve (Bhutan’s National animal)

Purchase world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from general post office which is right next to Bhutan National Bank

Visit Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work

Visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.

Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory

Visit the Giant Buddha

Drive up to a viewpoint and take a hike beyond to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley

April 13 : Thimpu – Dochula Pass – Punakha (B,L,D)

Morning, sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Afternoon transfer to Punakha via the Dochula Pass. Enjoy great views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and 108 Buddhist stupas at the high pass. Punakha is the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. The town is located at the confluence of two rivers. Overnight at Hotel Vara

April 14 : Punakha – Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)

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.

April 15 : Phobjikha Valley Gantey (B,L,D)

Nature walks in the Phobjika Valley.  Also included are visits to the Nature Education center, a local school and the Sacred Gangtey Monastery.

April 16 : Return to Paro (B,L,D)

Enjoy views of the Himalayas, the yak herders and magnificent scenery on the return to Paro. 

April 17 : 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.

April 18 : 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 Rimpoche (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.

April 19 : Tiger’s Nest (B)

Departure transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangkok.