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Autumn Passage to Central Bhutan - Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival
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Autumn Passage to Central Bhutan - Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 14 - 17 day(s)
Group Size: 2 - 15 people
Destination(s): Bhutan  
Specialty Categories: Festival Tours   Cultural Journey  
Season: February - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 3380 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 4100 US Dollar (USD)

Land of the Thunder Dragon, one of the most mysterious and unknown of all Himalayan kingdoms, hidden in isolation behind the high peaks of the Himalayas. For centuries forbidden to foreigners, this timeless Buddhist country has succeeded in preserving its enchanting traditions and ancestral way of life. This is an in-depth trip which brings you all the way to the central valley at Bumthang. Besides the natural beauty, the valley is bountifully blessed with numerous ancient temples and is the revered birthplace of many saints. And we have timed this trip to catch the most important festival Jambay Lhakhang Drup, held in Bumthang.

This is also the mysterious “Naked Monks Dance”, conducted at mid-night in the inner courtyard during the festival. Legend has it that long ago, demons came and destroyed the construction of a monastery every night. In order to prevent this, the monks came up with a cunning ruse and performed a naked dance every night to distract the demons and hence the monastery was successfully constructed. Since then, this tradition has continued.

Tour Dates: October 22 - 26.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Bangkok - Paro. Fly from Bangkok via Kolkata, if we are lucky, we will have glorious views of the snow capped Himalayas on the way to Paro (Try and get the left hand seat for better view of the Himalayas). The remarkable and steep descent into the Paro valley is an awe-inspiring beginning to our adventure. Already you can feel the pace of life slow down. Upon arrival, take short drive to the hotel and relax or visit market at Paro. Includes: (L), (D).

Day 2: Paro - Thimphu. After breakfast, take an hour drive to Thimphu. Although Thimphu is the capital in Bhutan, it is a village compared to other Asian countries. A visit to Takin Preserve to see Takin, Bhutan’s national animal, is a favorite along with the Bhutanese archery game (the national sport) at Changlingmithang National Stadium. Further up the valley, take in the view of the majestic Tashichoe Dzong, the seat of the government, visit the Memorial Chorten. And take a walk along the streets of Thimphu and enjoy some free shopping time in the handicraft emporiums. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 3: Thimphu - Punakha. After breakfast Leave to Punakha for about 2-3 hours, we climb up the mountain road to Dochu La at 3140m. On clear weather, the pass commands a wonderful panorama of the Eastern Himalayas. From the pass, we begin descending through varied forest and finally emerging into the highly cultivated valley of Punakha. Take a short hike to Chime Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, who as a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people is known affectionately as "the Divine Madman". The temple is on a hillside in the middle of rice fields and has become a pilgrimage site for childless couples. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 4: Punakha sightseeing. Morning, visit Punakha Dzong. Located at the confluence of the Pho-chu (male-river) and Mo-chu (female-river), the Dzong is arguably the most impressive in the country. In the afternoon, we will drive at the end of the road and take an hour hike to Khamsum Yuelly Namgyal chorten through a beautiful terrace and farm houses. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 5: Punakha - Trongsa. After breakfast, take a long but stunning scenic drive for about 7-8 hours to Trongsa. This is the road where the Bhutanese box office movie “Travelers and Magicians” was filmed. The road winds its way up and cross Pele-La pass (3390 m). After reaching Trongsa visit Trongsa Dzong – the ancestral home of the royal family and Ta-dzong the National museum. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 6: Trongsa - Bumthang. After leisure breakfast, drive to Kuenga Rabten palace, the winter palace for the 2nd King and enjoy the beautiful valley. After lunch at Trongsa drive for about 2 hours to Bumthang. The road winds its way up and cross Yotong-La (3425 m). Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 7: Bumthang sightseeing. Bumthang is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. After breakfast, we drive to Jambay Lhakhang, the venue for the religious festival of Jambay Lhakhang Drup. We spend the full morning participating in the festival. It’s an outstanding colorful occasion with brilliant performances and locals dressed in the best! The festival is also an occasion for seeing people and for being seen. Men and women joke and flirt and it is said that many marriages in central Bhutan occur during the festival, beneath a full moon in October. In the afternoon, we enjoy a hike starting from the impressive Kurjey Lhakhang on the western side of Bumthang chu (river) to Tamshing Monastery, founded in the 15th century and ends at a cheese farm. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 8: Bumthang sightseeing. Day excursion to Ura valley and visit burning lake (Mebar tsho), the name derive from the incident occurred during the time of Pema Lingpa, the great treasure revealer while discovering treasure from the river inside and came out with butter lamp still burning. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 9: Bumthang - Phobjikha. In the morning, drive about 7-8 hours to Phobjikha Valley. This valley is well known as one of the last winter grounds of the black necked cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau. The cranes are deeply revered as heavenly bird by the Bhutanese. When the cranes arrive, they appear in the sky above the valley and circle over the Goemba before landing in the marshy area of the valley floor. Visit Gangtey Goemba before enjoying a 1½ hours nature trail from the monastery through the jungle before emerging to the valley floor and ending at a local school. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 10: Phobjikha - Thimphu. After breakfast, re-trace our steps back to Thimphu. The journey would take around 4-5 hours. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 11: Thimphu - Paro. Drive back to Paro, after having leisure time at Thimphu. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 12: Paro sightseeing. We will visit National Museum (Closed on Sun/Mon) and Paro dzong, which means “the fortress of the heap of jewels.” This complex houses the administrative and religious headquarters for the Paro district. A part of Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie, “Little Buddha,” was filmed inside this dzong. From the dzong, we will enjoy a short and easy walk to the Pachu river and cross to the other side over a traditional cantilever (wooden covered) bridge. Just on the outskirts of Paro town, we visit Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Or day excursion to Haa valley (optional). Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 13: Paro (Taktshang hike). This morning, we make an excursion to Taktshang monastery – this has to be the monastery with the most outstanding setting in Bhutan. Set on a vertical cliff face at 3100m above sea level, it defies all engineering logic. For the energetic, hike 2 hours up to get a more dramatic view of the monastery. (The hike demands a certain level of fitness and a pony ride to the monastery can be arranged at additional cost). Upon descent, we enjoy a spectacular drive to the remote ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and on clear day, you would be rewarded with view of snow-capped Mt Jhomolhari. The rest of the afternoon is free at leisure. You may wish to take a stroll along the street of Paro or indulge in a hot-stone bath! Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 14: Paro - Bangkok. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight. Tashi delek. Includes: (B).

Note: During the festival, the town is full of tourists with limited accommodation. We will do our best to provide you in the best available local accommodation.

Notes:
Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- All hotel and guest houses accommodation
- All meals and sightseeing
- Specialist designed itineraries
- Services of knowledgeable, English-speaking local guides
- All ground transportation
- All entrance fees
- Pre-departure information and extras listed on trip itineraries.

Price Excludes:
- International airfare and en-route stopovers
- Druk Air airfare
- Travel Protection Insurance
- Luxury hotel accommodation option
- Excess baggage charges
- Transfers, expenses and services outside of Bhutan
- Personal expenses like Beverages (alcohol, soft drinks & bottled water), gratuities to guides & drivers as appropriate, and laundry, mail, phone calls and cable.

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