Bumthang is locally known as Jambay Lhakhang Drub. This festival is held in the picturesque valley of Bumthang in central Bhutan. It gained its popularity from the visits of tourists in the recent years due to favourable weather. In addition to the mask dances, Jambay Lhakhang built in the year 659 is known for its two special events that is “Mewang" (Fire blessing ceremony). During the fire blessing, locals run underneath a huge flaming gate made out of dry grasses with ambers and piles of burning grasses falling on their head.
Besides the festival, this trip allows you to enjoy the daily lives of friendly Bhutanese people by visiting villages, temples, monasteries, and gigantic fortresses. It gives you a chance to meet people, enjoy the pristine forest with rare glimpse of wildlife and observe the ancient old traditions of arts and crafts.
Begin your trip from Paro Valley and continue by road through the lush valley of Thimphu and to Punakha. Continue the overland journey to the enchanting valleys of Trongsa and Bumthang, which played a key role in influencing Bhutanese history, culture and religion. And then to Phobjikha valley, a winter habitat to the rare black-necked cranes that migrate from Tibetan plateaus in winter. This route will take you through the temperate zone with great biodiversity, ranging from lush forest of conifer, rhododendron and magnolia to orchid draped oaks, banana trees and cactus plants. During clear weather, the high passes you cross, provides spectacular views of high snow capped peaks that go up to 25,000 feet. There will be ample opportunities to interact with the friendly people of Bhutan and learn their philosophy of “GROSS NATIONAL HAPINESS”.
Day 01 Arrive Paro, transfer to Thimpu
Fly to Paro. From a window seat on clear days, you can see a spectacular view of Bhutan’s snow capped peaks as you approach Paro. Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide.
If time permits, sightseeing tour of 200-year-old Watch Tower that 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 and CD stamps issued as early as 1960 that are remarkable, and other galleries showcasing armor and silverware with the handsome Royal teapots. On the top floor there is a four-sided temple complex depicting the history of Buddhism and its propagation. Then visit the Dungtse Lakang on the same route.
Transfer to Thimphu, the capital city (2500 meter / 8200 ft), The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic. If you are taking this trip in spring, you will find nature in its festive mood with rushing turquoise rivers which can be heard from miles away, and mountains transformed into a master artist's palette-brilliant vermilion, yellows, purples, pink, oranges and reds to dazzle your senses. Wild cherry, mountain plum, cotton silk and forests of rhododendron trees bloom with astonishing beauty and abundance. Enjoy the magnificent monasteries and stupas in the valleys and mountain tops, along the way.
Day 02 Tour of Thimpu
Today you have a full day tour of Thimpu. Visit to the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang ( Monastery for the nuns), National Library and the painting school where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas ( sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Visit the traditional Medicine institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices.
Continue Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal traditional silver smiths and Bhutanese traditional paper factory. Drive south and visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It is now used as the Institute for study of traditional teachings Return to Thimpu, and overnight.
Day 03 Overland Thimpu - Punakha
Leaving Thimphu, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. Before proceeding further to Punakha, you can hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. Arrive in Punakha and check in at hotel.
After lunch, drive North of Punakha for sightseeing. Punakha was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong which dominates the whole area was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body.
Day 04 Punakha - Trongsa
The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. Start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As you cross the fertile valley of Punakha and enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of Wangdue Dzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
Climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.). With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. On a clear day, you can view the high snow capped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.).
As you descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo and quite often Yaks grazing we reach at Chendebji Chorten. This Chorten or Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge.
Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you woud ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles.
Arrive in Trongs and overnight.
Day 05 Trongsa - Bhumtang Jambey Lakhang Festival
Start through the densely forested winding road that rises rapidly through a series of hairpin bends until you arrive at Yotong La Pass (3400 meters / 11200 foot). From here the drive is downhill until you arrive at Chumey Valley (average alt. 2700m / 8800 foot).
Your first stop at Chumey will be to visit Domkhar Dzong. This small fortress overlooking the valley was once a summer Palace of the second King Jigme Wangchuk. As you continue our drive to Tsugney village, you will see the traditional weaving of woolen fabrics. And drive towards Choekhor crossing the Kiki La Pass (2900 meters / 9500foot).
Arrive at Choekhor Valley (Valley of Dharma Wheel) and check into a hotel.
Dress in warm clothes to attend the Mewang (fire blessing) ceremony in the evening. Bhutanese believe that by running under this pile of burning hay will bring blessings and burn away the sins you have created.
Day 06 Tour of Bhumtang - Jambay Lakhang Festival
Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys-Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on the animal husbandry.
Today's sightseeing tour will be followed in the style of Bhutanese tradition, which is in clock wise. Your car will drop you at the Kurjey Lhakhang, it is believed that in the eighth century guru Padmasambhava had meditated here and subdued the local deity known as Shelging Karpo.
Begin your hike from here crossing the suspension bridge and visit Padmasambhava Lhakhang. This is another Meditation site of Guru Padmasambhava. It was founded by Pema Lingpa in 15th century and was restored by the Grand Queen Mother of present King. Continue your hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in beginning of the 16th century by Saint Pema Lingpa. Next you will visit Konchogsum Lhakhang, built in the 8th century, the Temple is famous for its bell, which bears an inscription from the eighth century.
Evening visit Jambay Lakhang Festival. Overnight Bhumtang.
Day 07 Bhumtang - Phobjikha Valley
Today you will make your journey back through the same route , until reaching Nobding. A road branches off on the left and goes for 13 Kms (8 miles) through a forest of oak and rhododendron into the broad Phobjikha valley alias Gangtey valley. Alt. 3000 meters (9,840 feet) where Gangtey Monastery is located.
Phobjikha is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and the valley floor is quite marshy in places. Phobjikha is also the chosen home of the rare back-necked cranes which migrates from the Central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. The other side of the pass that overlooks the valley is a realm of high-altitude dwarf bamboo, the favorite food of yaks. The Gangtey Monastery, is perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. A large village inhabited mainly by the families of the monk surrounds the monastery.
Day 08 Phobjikha - Thimpu
After Breakfast, continue to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. On the way back, stop at Dochula Pass and enjoy the breath taking panoramic views of the Himalayas.
Day 09 Thimpu- Hike Takshang Monastery
After breakfast, drive to Paro, your car will drop you at the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
Stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the remains of Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below.
The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
Back to Paro, and overnight.
Day 10 Paro - U.S. or an extension
Trasnfer to airport and fly back home, or extend your trip to India, Nepal or Myanmar.