[ Thimphu Festival Tour | Thangbi Mani Festival Tour | Jambay Lhakhang Drup Tsechu Festival Tour | Black Crane Festival Phobjikha Tour | Punakha Domchey Festival Eight Nights Tour | Punakha Domchey Festival Ten Nights Tour | Chorten Kora Tsechu (arrive Paro, Depart Paro) | Chorten Kora Tsechu (arrive Paro, exit India) | Chorten Kora Tsechu (arrive India, exit Paro) | Gom Kora Tsechu (enter Paro, exit Paro) | Gom Kora Tsechu (enter Paro, exit India) | Gom Kora Tsechu (enter India, exit Paro) | Paro Tsechu Festival Tour | Paro Tsechu Festival 7 Dzongkhags Tour | Paro Tsechu Festival Tour with Druk Path Trek | Ura Yakchoe Festival Tour ]
Black Necked Crane Festival Phobjikha Tour - 12 Nights 13 Days
Duration: 12 Nights
06 November 2013- Day 01: Arrive in
Bhutan, ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’, is the last independent Himalayan kingdom, a stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism, with a unique culture which has been protected over centuries both by the remote mountainous terrain and by a self-imposed policy of isolation from outside influences.
The opportunity to travel in Bhutan is undoubtedly a special privilege, restricted to a very small number of visitors annually. A magnificent panorama of Himalayan peaks form the backdrop to vast undisturbed forests of hemlock, rhododendron and magnolia, and traditional wooden and stone-built villages are dominated by strategically-sited dzongs, the great mediaeval monastery/fortresses which safeguard Bhutan’s heritage.
In autumn, clear skies bring superlative views of the Himalayan peaks forming the border with Tibet and we journey to the remote Bumthang and Gangtey provinces to witness the colourful festival celebrating the return of the black-necked cranes. We stay in comfortable, very atmospheric, traditional hotels, enjoy local cuisine (with an emphasis on vegetables, rice and noodles with mildly spicy sauces), and experience Bhutanese life in close-up on a series of forest, paddy field, riverside and mountain walks.
06 November 2013- Day 01: Arrive in Paro
Paro is the Gateway to Bhutan with Druk Air. A spectacular flight over the Himalayas on Druk (Dragon) Air brings us into Paro airport and a step back in time – Bhutanese in their national dress, oxen in the fields and archery, the national sport, is being played with bamboo bows on a grassy meadow in the middle of town. After settling into our beautifully decorated hotel, we set off to explore the imposing fortress of Rinpung Dzong, dating from 1645, and walk to the Ta Dzong, a huge mediaeval watchtower which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan.
We walk up the Pa Chhu river valley from Drugyal dzong (a ruined fortress built to guard the western borders from invaders and control the trade route to Tibet), passing through hamlets with richly decorated wooden farmhouses where birds such as red and yellow-billed choughs and blue whistling thrush are common, and following an old trekking trail towards Jomolhari. We retrace our steps and cross the river, passing rice terraces and fields of millet. After a picnic we visit Kyichu, one of the oldest (7C) and most atmospheric monasteries, where monks can often be seen chanting and drumming.
08 November 2013- Day 03: Paro to Punakha via Dochula
Following the sole, narrow paved road in Bhutan, we gradually ascend through chir pine forest to Dochula Pass (La means mountain pass) at 10,450 ft, with 108 chortens and a breathtaking vista of the Himalayan peaks. The forest becomes more luxuriant and the landscape wilder as we descend to Punakha (4,160 ft) on an afternoon walk (4 hours) down to the river, where white-capped water (can raft on this river ifyou are interested) darts across the clear water. Our modest hotel is set in pretty gardens and enjoys panoramic views.
09 November 2013- Day 04: Punakha and Wangdue Sightseeing
We cross a narrow suspension bridge on foot to visit the enormous Pungthang Dechen Dzong, with its golden spires and busy monastic life, then walk through paddyfields up to the 15C temple of Chime Lhakhang, encircled by small prayer wheels and dedicated to the legendary lama Drukpa Kun-le, known as ‘the Divine Madman’. Heading south and east, we pass the strategic junction at Wangduephodrang, guarded by the ruins of an impressive 17C dzong, destroyed by fire last year, en route to our charming riverside lodge, set in sub-tropical gardens, where we stay the night. Here we are at lower altitude (around 2,000 m), verging on the tropical zone, and there are many butterflies in the garden.
10 November 2013- Day 05: Wangdue
11 November 2013- Day 06: Day
6: Black Necked Crane Festival, Phobjikha
November 2013- Day 07: Phobjikha to Bumthang
13 November 2013- Day 08: Bumthang
14 November 2013- Day 09: Bumthang to Wangdue
Returning slowly back over the mountains
on a long day’s drive (7.5 hours), we break the journey with pauses
to look out for Himalayan griffon vultures and grey langur monkeys, to
photograph the many stands of prayer flags and chortens along the route,
and to walk especially scenic sections, before reaching our riverside
lodge in the valley by late afternoon.
We return over the high passes to the quiet capital, Thimphu (highest population approximately 100,000, and the only capital in the world with no traffic lights) where we visit the National Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts and Tashichhodzong, the grand seat of the Bhutan government, with a series of ornately carved courtyards decorated with striking murals and relief sculptures. There is time to shop for handicrafts, especially woven silk, tangkha scrolls and masks, before we have an invitation to a private performance of traditional Bhutanese classical music and dance.
16 November 2013- Day 11: Thimphu
17 November 2013- Day 12: Paro-Haa Sightseeing
Travelling west of Paro, we walk high in the yak pastures on the slopes of Chelela, enjoying views across the Haa valley towards the border with Sikkim (weather dependent). Returning to our hotel, we may try a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath before our farewell dinner.
18 November 2013- Day 13: Departure
Our representative will bid you farewell and see you again.
As festival times are the most popular times for visitors to come to Bhutan, flight seats and hotel rooms will be on high demand. Book early to avoid disappointment.