** Festival dates are tentative as unexpected changes can occur. Contact us to confirm dates **
At one of the 108 oldest temples Jambay Lhakhang in Bhutan built to subdue the demoness residing in the Himalayas, the most spectacular display of fire and devotion ignites. As the clock strikes midnight, the festival is set aglow with fire as men clad in nothing but their bare skins performs the ritualistic sacred naked dance called Tercham. Inside the temple is the Dus Kyi Khorlo (‘Kalachakra’ or Wheel of Time) built by the First King of Bhutan when he won the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Legend has it that Tantric Buddhist Master Guru Rinpoche visited this very site several times, declaring it to be exceptionally sacred. Join us on this otherworldy journey into the spiritual center of Bhutan and set your heart on fire!
9 Nov – Paro; 10 Nov – Thimphu; 11 Nov – Thimphu, Punakha; 12 Nov – Punakha; 13 Nov – Punakha, Bumthang; 15-17 Nov – Jambay Lhakhang Drub; 18 Nov – Bumthang, Gangtey; 19 Nov – Gantey, Paro; 18 Nov – Paro; 20 Nov – Paro
USD 2,613 (approx. AUD 4,442)BOOK NOW PAY FOR TRIP
Prices based on twin share. Single supplement USD 446
*AUD estimate based on USD/AUD 1=0.7
Inclusions: accommodation, meals, dedicated transport, entry fees to museums and attractions, licensed guide and driver, visa processing fees, all administrative costs.
Exclusions: international airfares (contact us to arrange), comprehensive travel insurance, personal expenses and tips.
9 Nov – Paro
Arrive into Paro International Airport. During the flight to Paro, look out for the breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Paro is a beautiful fertile valley encapsulating a rich vibrant culture, scenic beauty and plenty of myths and legends. The sacred Mount Jomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunges through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). You’ll be picked up at the airport and checked into the hotel. spend the afternoon exploring the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) – originally the watchtower for the Paro Dzong on the hillock overlooking the Paro valley, and Rinpung Dzong. The museum is a treasure trove of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thangka paintings, natural history artefacts, and Bhutan’s exquisite stamps, coins, and handicrafts collection. A short visit here will give you an idea of the cultural and ecological richness of Bhutan. Head to the 16th century Rinpung Dzong, ‘fortress of the heap of jewels’, and see where some of scenes from the film ‘Little Buddha’ by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1995 was filmed. Overnight in Paro.
10 Nov – Thimphu
Morning drive to Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan. Thimphu is the seat of government, religion and commerce in Bhutan. It’s a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Thimphu was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became Bhutan’s official national capital. With an estimated population of 100,000 people, explore this unique city filled with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Spend the afternoon soaking up the local atmosphere at the National Memorial Chorten and 13th century Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Thimphu and the spiritual home of all children born in the Chang valley. Head to the Folk Heritage Museum for a glimpse into how life is in Bhutanese villages. See the vibrant designs of Bhutanese weaving at the National Textile Museum. Browse the Arts and Crafts bazaar nearby for a wide selection of Bhutanese antiques, wood carving, weavings and paintings, or learn about how Daphne tree barks are turned into handmade paper at the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory. Along the Thimphu Chuu riverside, you’ll find VAST Gallery which features modern Bhutanese art and sculpture. If you happen to be here on a weekend, the Centenary Weekend Market offers a range of local and regional organic fruits, vegetables and snacks. Further along is Children’s Park – a popular botanical garden playground for children, and young Bhutanese alike. From here, follow the sound of cheering and singing to the National Stadium archery field across the road to watch Bhutanese men best each other at their national sport.As the sun starts to set, visit the magnificent Tashichhodzong – the 500 years old fortress in the grandeur of traditional Bhutanese architecture that houses the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations, as well as headquarters for the central monastic body of Bhutan. Overnight in Thimphu.
11 Nov – Thimphu, Punakha
After breakfast drive to the beautiful valley of Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan. After a dramatic one hour drive, the winding road brings you to Dochula (alt 3,140 m), a beautiful mountain pass framed with fluttering prayer flags and a spectacular set of 108 miniature chortens. On a clear fine day, you will also get awe-inspiring glimpses of the towering Himalayan peaks around. The remaining part of the drive is mostly a gradual descent into Punakha valley. On arrival to Thinleygang/Menchuna village you can visit to some of the farm land where our people produce locally grown vegetables and fruits. You will get chance to mingle with local people. Also in some of the hotels they have started producing their own vegetables and fruits, which they used to serve to the guests. Overnight in Punakha.
12 Nov – Punakha
In the morning, visit Chimi Lhakhang in Lobesa which was built in 1499. Located on a hillock in the center of the valley it is a half hour walk across a local village and rice fields. The temple is dedicated to the famous and unorthodox Buddhist master, Drukpa Kinley (endearing referred to by the Bhutanese as the ‘Divine Madman’), who is associated with the phallic symbols you would have seen on your travels in Bhutan so far. Learn about the master’s deeds painted on the walls and ask the locals you meet about his stories. You may be surprised by what you find out! The temple is also frequented by couples who are praying for children and families who come to be blessed. Babies whose parents have brought them here to be named will bear the first name of ‘Kinley’ or ‘Chimmie’. Next, go to arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful fortresses in Bhutan – Punakha Dzong is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers). 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. If you feel up to it there’s a 45 minute hike to Khamsum Yule Namgyel Chorten built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace in this world. From here you will get a birds-eye view of Punakha valley and the meanders of Punakha river. Overnight Hotel in Punakha.
13 Nov – Punakha, Bumthang
Depart for Bumthang via Pele La Pass. You will cross the villages of Rukubji and enroute to Trongsa is the 18th century Chendebji Chorten, patterned after Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built by Lama Zhida to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. Legend has it that the evil spirit manifested as a gigantic snake. On arrival into Trongsa (‘New Village’ in the local dialect), visit the Trongsa dzong and Trongsa Royal Heritage Museum and learn how the first two hereditary kings of Bhutan ruled from this old seat of power. All kings are to be appointed as Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne. Overnight in Bumthang.
14-16 Nov – Bumthang: Jambay Lhakhang Drub
After breakfast, visit Jakar Dzong (the “Castle of the White Bird”) which dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Constructed in 1549 by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the whole eastern Dzongkhag. It also became the seat of the First King of Bhutan. A special feature of the Dzong is the approximately fifty meters high ‘Utse’ or the Central tower, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. The other unique feature of the Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day. Visit Chakhar (“Iron Castle”) and Kurje Lhakhang. In the evening attend the Jambay Lhakhang Festival and let the visual feast begin! This evening is one of the most spectacular in the Kingdom, you’ll see many dances all of which have unique costumes and bear imagination rousing names – the Dances of the Black Hat, Fire Dance, Dance of the Lords of Cremation Grounds and so on. At midnight, the festival is aglow with the flickering lights of fire naked men rush out from the door, swirling and twirling in the air, to the rhythmic accompaniment of traditional mask dance drums and cymbals. They are known as the sacred naked dancer or Tercham of Jambay Lhakhang Tshechu. Enjoy the evening and spend the next few night in Bumthang.
17 Nov – Bumthang, Phobjikha/Gangtey
With your head likely still spinning with dizzing colours and fire and festivities, drive towards Phobjikha/Gangtey via the Yathra Weaving Center (yathras are brightly colored wool fabrics that is special to the region) to see how some of the beautiful clothing you’ve seen are made. Continue to Phobjikha/Gangtey valley – the winter roosting ground of the endangered Black Necked Cranes which migrates here every year in November from the Tibetan plateau, flying over the mighty Himalayan peaks including Mt Everest. The valley also provides rich pastureland for cattle and the district is famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Visit the 17th century Gangtey Goemba and Phobjikha village. Overnight in Phobjikha.
Day 10 – Gangtey, Paro
This morning explore the valley on the easy Gangtey Nature Trail and learn about the cranes’ habitat at the Black Necked Cranes Information Centre then make your way to Paro.On the way you will stop at the Tachog Lhakhang view point, located at the base of the valley carved out by Paro chu (river), Tachog Lhakhang is a ‘must-visit’ temple as it houses some very unique statues. To get to the temple, walk over the irons chains suspender bridge over Paro chu. Then visit Dungtse Lhakhang, the unusual temple conceived as a ‘mandala’ with the different floors corresponding to different levels of initiation and contains a remarkable collection of some of Bhutan’s most interesting paintings. Stroll through the small town of Paro and visit some of the local establishments. Overnight in Paro.
Day 11 – Paro
Today you’ll hike up Bhutan’s most iconic and awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang) Monastery. Perched seemingly perilously on the edge of a sheer cliff face, Taktshang is one of Bhutan’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche miraculously flew here on the back of a tigress, meditated in a cave here for three months and converted the whole of Paro valley to Buddhism. Resting at an altitude of 900 meters above the valley, Taktshang is an architectural wonder and the spectacular four-hour walk will be sure to be one of your most overwhelming and unforgettable experiences. If there’s time in the afternoon, visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) which contains displays of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thangka paintings, natural history artefacts, and Bhutan’s exquisite stamps, coins, and handicrafts collection. Visit Drugyel Dzong, built in 1646 by the founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. Drukgyel means “the fortress of the victorious Drukpas”. The Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot and Mount Jumolhari (Alt 24,000 feet) appearing as a backdrop on a fine weather is an awe-inspiring sight. If there’s time, see the 16th century Rinpung Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Heap of Jewels’, where some of the scenes from the film ‘Little Buddha’ by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1995 was filmed, or the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang built by the famous Buddhist Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, the house next to the museum contains photographs and artifacts belonging to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche – the Vajrayana master, scholar, poet, teacher, and head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Relax in the evening with a traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath (optional) or explore the night life of Paro. Overnight in Paro.
Day 12 – Paro
After breakfast, you will be transported to Paro International Airport for your onward journey.