Visit Bhutan 2017

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FESTIVAL OF URA YAKCHOE (12 days/11 nights)

FESTIVAL OF URA YAKCHOE

The word “tshechu” in the Bhutanese language means literally “an annual religious Bhutanese festival” held in each district on the 10th day of a month of the Bhutanese calendar. The dates and duration of the tshechu vary from one district to another but always take place on or around the 10th day of a month. Such festivals are mostly held in the dzong (fortress) or local monastery in honour of Guru Rimpoche, one who was born from a lotus flower and brought the tantric Buddhism in Bhutan in the 8th century. By attending such festivals, it is believed that one gains merits by seeking forgiveness for their sins in life. During the tshechu, mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes are performed by monks and laymen including the Atsaras (Clowns), who amuse the audience with their antics. It is believed that it is very important to know the name of the dances and its significance. Tshechu is also considered as an occasion for social gatherings; to get together with families and kith & kin dressed in their finest traditional clothes and jewellery. The Ura Valley in Bumthang is well known for its famous dance called Ura Yakchoe. Myth has it that one day an old woman was sitting outside her house and had a visitor (saint or lama) who asked her for a glass of water. While the woman came out with a glass of water, the lama had disappeared leaving behind a sack. Filled with curiosity, she carefully opened the bag and found a statue that is now being displayed annually. This relic has been passed on from generation to generation and it is now in the hands of the descendants of the woman. So plan your visit to Bhutan to coincide with this festival held in May annually. This tour gives you a real appreciation of both the Buddhist faith and the Bhutanese way of life but also included in the package are other places of interest.

Day 1: Paro – Punakha

On arrival, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel in Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan for two nights. Before heading to Punakha, visit the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower) which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan and continue to the Paro Dzong (also known as the Rinpung Dzong), built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. We then drive a distance of 124-km for about four hours journey to Punakha and en route stop off at Dochula Pass at an altitude of 3,050m. On a clear day, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the snow capped eastern Himalaya ranges and also a magnificent distant view of the Gasa Dzong from this spot. Your first overnight in Punakha.

Day 2: Sighseeing in Punakha

Punakha, at an altitude of 1,200m, was once the old capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955. After breakfast, visit the Punakha Dzong (also known as the Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong) built in 1637, which is strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) rivers. Today the dzong serves as the administrative centre of Punakha district and the central monastic body. Later, we have included a short walking tour to the fascinating temple (Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten) built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace in this world. It is majestically located on a ridge with stunning views of the country side. There is no temple in Bhutan built as elaborately as this, which took 9 years to build it. A 30-minute drive from the Punakha Dzong takes us to the base of the hill and then cross a suspension bridge and walk through rice fields before climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees for about 1 hour from the car park. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 3: Punakha – Gangtey via Wangdue Phodrang

After breakfast, we drive a distance of 78-km for about 3 hours via Wangdue Phodrang to Gangtey at an altitude of 3,000m. Phobjikha valley is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare Black-necked Cranes, where they come in hundreds after spending their summer in Tibet and then migrates to the Himalayas of Bhutan to spend their winter – they arrive in the months of September and October and fly back to Tibet between February and March. En route visit the Chimi Lhakhang, which is dedicated to the legendary Lama Drukpa Kinley (also known as the Divine Madman). The monastery is also revered as a sanctum of fertility. Legend has it that the couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting the temple – Japanese and several American couples visited this temple and were blessed miraculously with children. Along the highway, you’ll photo stops as there are loads of breathtaking views during the journey. Overnight in Gangtey.

Day 4: Gangtey – Trongsa

This morning you will visit the picturesque Gangtey Gonpa (monastery). Enjoy the breathtaking views of the remote Phobjikha glacial valley and the black mountain ranges. After lunch, we travel a distance of 120-km for about 5 hours to Trongsa via Pele La Pass at an altitude of 3,300m. This pass is an important dividing range that separates the western from central and eastern Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax, enjoy and explore the Trongsa town at an altitude of 2,200m. Spend the night in Trongsa.

Day 5: Trongsa – Bumthang

Today morning you’ll visit the Trongsa Dzong or the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower), the ancestral home of the present Royal Family where the first two Kings ruled from this dzong. After lunch, you’ll continue the journey for a distance of 68-km for about 2 hours to Bumthang, the most beautiful valley and cultural heartland of Bhutan. En route we will stop off for a quick visit to the Yathra Weaving Centre at Chumey, where they use yak and sheep wools for yathra products with patterns unique to Bumthang. The evening is at leisure to relax, enjoy and explore the delightful surroundings of Bumthang valley at an altitude of 2,600m. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 6: Sightseeing in Bumthang

After breakfast, we set out for a full day sightseeing to experience more of this spiritual heartland of Bhutan. You will visit the following legendary monasteries, temples and dzong: the Jakar Dzong, the Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songsen Gampo of Tibet, the Kurjey Lhakhang, built in 1652 and named after the body imprint of Guru Rinpoche who introduced the Buddhism in Bhutan, the Tamshing Lhakhang, built in 1501 which is the most important Nyingma temple in Bhutan. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 7: Ura Yakchoe Festival

Today morning head to Ura to attend a full day festival of Ura Yakchoe. Your guide will explain the story or play of the mask dances in colour costumes performed by monks and laymen including Atsaras (playful clowns). En-route you’ll visit the Mebar Tsho (flaming lake) located along the way to Tang village, where the renowned treasure reveller, Terton Pema Lingpa, discovered treasures from the lake in the late 15th century. In the evening, return to Bumthang for overnight.

Day 8: Bumthang – Wangdue Phodrang

Today we drive for a distance of 197-km for about 6-7 hours to Wangdue Phodrang at an altitude of 1,300m. The journey passes through the awe-inspiring mountains and lush vegetation along the highway and will photo stops during the journey. In the evening, why not stroll the delightful surroundings of Wangdue Phodrang town in Bajo? Overnight in Wangdue Phodrang.

Day 9: Wangdue Phodrang – Thimphu

This morning we drive a distance of 70-km for about 3 hours journey to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Today afternoon we explore a fascinating tour to see the best of Thimphu city at an altitude of 2,300 m. First stop is at the National Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Next, visit the Changgangkha Monastery, the Folk Heritage Museum, a showcase of the Bhutanese artefacts used in rural households, the National Library, which houses ancient manuscripts or the Painting School. Enjoy some leisure time in Thimphu town in the evening. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 10: Thimphu – Paro

After breakfast, visit the Centenary Farmer’s Market on the banks of the Wangchhu River selling farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc. and if lucky, perhaps the archery matches, which is the national game of Bhutan!. In the afternoon, we head back to Paro for a distance of 65-km for about one hour journey. Today’s tour include a visit to the the ruined Drugyal Dzong (fortress), built in 1649 to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders or the Kichu Lhakhang, which is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan (7th century). Overnight in Paro.

Day 11: Hike to Paro Taktshang

Today morning we will begin a day hike to Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Taktshang. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900m above the Paro valley and takes about a 2-hour climb on a well-maintained trail through beautiful pine forest, trees festooned with Spanish Moss and fluttering prayer flags. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche flew to Paro Taktshang cliff in the form of Guru Dorji Drolo, mounted on a flaming tigress in the 8th century. Use the evening to explore the sights of Paro valley, go shopping or stroll in the Paro town. Your last overnight in Paro.

Day 12: End of Tour

Early morning drive to Paro Airport and your guide from Bhutan Green Travel will accompany you to bid farewell for your onward flight. Goodbye and Good Luck!

Services Included

  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Twin-sharing accommodation in 3-star hotels
  • Upgrades to 5-star luxury accommodation available on request
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Baggage handling at all hotels and camps
  • Licensed Bhutanese English-speaking guided tours
  • All entrance fees to museums and other attractions
  • Comfortable transport within Bhutan
  • All applicable internal taxes and service fees (including royalty)
  • Mineral water
  • Visa fees

Services Not Included

  • International airfare (round-trip from hometown departure gateway to destination)
  • Travel insurance
  • Discretionary gratuities to guides and driver (we provide suggested guidelines)
  • Single room supplement
  • Other personal expenses such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls, etc.

Prices and Dates

ON REQUEST

Pricing Policy

Prices are quoted and payable only in (US$ dollars). All prices published on our websites, brochures and marketing materials are set as low as possible. The guide prices may vary at any time subject to government actions, changes in exchange rates, increase in transportation costs or fuel prices before we have accepted your booking, however, we guarantee our prices who have already signed up for your tour.

Festival Dates

[7th to 10th May 2017: Ura Yakchoe Festival]

[It’s always advisable to contact us 3 or 4 months in advance. You decide dates depending on your plan of travel, however, time your arrival to coincide the festival dates indicated above]

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