Rhododendron Festival Charms - 10 Days

3 Link Image of Rhodo Tshechu

This festival takes place at Lampelri Botanical Park, about 35-km from the capital city of Thimphu. It marks the spring season and you will see species that are in full bloom at this time of year, together with the lush green forest, their natural habitat. It showcases the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural programmes, guided walks and activities. Of the 46 rhododendron species recorded in the country, 29 are found in Lampelri Park.

Day 1: Arrive Paro
Day 2: Thimphu
Day 3: Rhododendron Festival
Day 4: Punakha – Phobjikha
Day 5: Phobjikha – Bumthang
Day 6: Jakar Valley Gentle Walking
Day 7: Back to Trongsa
Day 8: Trongsa – Thimphu
Day 9: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Day 10: End of Tour

Day 1
Arrive Paro

Flying into Bhutan offers the most spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges, including Mt. Everest (8,848m/29,028ft), Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m/28,169ft) and Mt. Gangkar Puensum (7,564m/24,836ft). On arrival we meet you at Paro International Airport after clearing your immigration and customs formalities. Today we travel to Thimphu (54-km) for an hour, the capital of Bhutan and transfer to your hotel for check-in. Stop off at the 13th century Tachog Lhakhang (temple) en route, built by Saint Dupthop Thangtong Gyalpo (the iron bridge builder). Continue travelling via Chhuzom (24-km) where the Pachhu and Wangchhu Rivers join. Chhuzom (confluence) is a major road junction connecting Thimphu (30-km) to the northeast, Haa (82-km) to the southwest and Phuentsholing (141-km) to the south. Enjoy a welcome drink and dinner with authentic traditional Bhutanese meals in the evening. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 2
Thimphu

Today we explore the best attractions of Thimphu city (2,300m), home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Thimphu is a small city but has many attractive places. Morning begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten (Stupa), built in 1974 in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (1928-1972). This stupa is a prominent monument for Bhutanese daily worship in the city with its golden spires and bells. Another must see place to tick off on your list is Kuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world), built in 2006 and sits atop a hill, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu city. Our next stop is at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, established in 1971 where students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Continue onto the Folk Heritage Museum nearby, located in Kawajangsa, in the heart of the capital city, Thimphu. It is more than 150 years old and showcases the Bhutanese rural life in the olden days through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs and documentation. We explore the Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar (also known as Thimphu Handicraft Market) built using the eco-friendly bamboo structures. Tt is a perfect place to get a glimpse of authentic Bhutan-made art and craft products sourced mostly from rural areas. This afternoon ends with a tour by visiting the Tashichodzong, first constructed in 1216 AD and re-built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan), which now houses some ministries, the office and throne room of His Majesty the King and the Central Monk Body. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 3
Rhododendron Festival

We leave Thimphu behind after breakfast to attend the charming Rhododendron Festival at Lampelri Botanical Park, which is around 1 hour drive (35-km) from the capital city of Thimphu. Stop off at Druk Wangyal Chortens (108 Stupas) before crossing over Dochula Pass (3,050m). On a clear day, we can enjoy panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m). The festival celebrates the spring season with full bloom flowers and lush green forest in Bhutan, featuring the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural program, guided walks and other activities. The park is a great learning destination for the students, researchers and nature lovers. It features a variety of forest types: alpine, cool temperate broadleaf forest, old growth of broadleaf and conifer forests, etc. Of the 46 rhododendron species recorded in the country, 29 are found in the park, preserved as part of ecotourism attractions by the Nature Recreation and Eco-tourism Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Afterwards, we travel out to Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang Valley for overnight. Punakha (1,350m) is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south. It was once the winter capital of Bhutan until 1955 and also a popular tourist destination. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 4
Punakha – Phobjikha

This morning, you’ll at first drive (7-km) about 30-minutes to the parking by the Mochhu River before climbing up the majestic Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. The Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk built this 100ft tall temple in 1994, located on a strategic ridge overlooking terraced fields and countryside of Punakha Valley. From the parking, cross a suspension bridge over the Mochhu River and walk up through paddy fields to the base of the hill before climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. It takes about 45-minutes to hike up to the top. In the afternoon, sightseeing includes the Punakha Dzong, strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) Rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) built the dzong in 1637. Jacaranda trees beautifully cover the dzong with the purple bloom of flowers in the spring. After lunch, our journey covers (78-km) over 2 hours of driving into the countryside of Phobjikha (2,900m), and takes us past the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) constructed the dzong in 1638, resembling that of a sleeping elephant. The fortress was gutted by fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Phobjikha Valley is a must visit for nature enthusiasts and is also well-known for the winter home to the rare Black-Necked Cranes that migrate from the Tibetan plateau from late October to mid-March. the 17th century picturesque Gangtey Gonpa (monastery) on the hillock with amazing views of the valley. This monastery is the only Nyingmapa School of Buddhism taught here in western Bhutan. Overnight in Phobjikha.

Day 5
Gangtey – Bumthang

Today we drive to Bumthang, the furthest you’ll go on this trip. You’ll at first travel to Trongsa (120-km) about 3 hours via Chelela Pass (3,390m). It is not uncommon to encounter grazing yaks by the roadside along the East–West highway. On the way take a stroll along the Chendebji Chorten below the road. A nice stop to stretch your legs and walk around the stupa! This 18th century monument resembles the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. Enjoy a scenic journey, changing landscapes from the awe-inspiring mountains to lush vegetation. From the viewpoint (Thumangdra) opposite to the Trongsa Dzong, you can take photos of the beautiful landscapes and dzong. Lunchtime is at Trongsa, the ancestral home to the present Royal Family of Bhutan (where the Institutional Monarchy of Bhutan was born). Continue your journey to Bumthang (68-km) about 2.5 hours via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). You have an option to explore the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village en route, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Evening is at leisure where you’ll have some time to stroll along the streets of a small Jakar (Bumthang) town. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 6
Jakar Valley Gentle Walking

We explore the pristine Bumthang Valley (also known as Jakar), the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. From your hotel, we drive 10 to 15 minutes to the Jambay Lhakhang (Temple of Maitreya), said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). This temple was built to subdue evil spirits of the demoness causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism. Continue onto a farm track along the valley floor walking about 15 to 20 minutes towards the Kurjey Lhakhang complex, which consists of three temples. A 108-chorten walls surround these impressive temples with a huge front yard on the side of a hill. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave in the 8th century to subdue the local demon (Phola Shelging Karpo) to fight off ill health of the King of Bumthang, Sindhu Raja. Of the three temples, the oldest and holiest Guru Lhakhang was built in 1652, and hence the temple was named after Guru’s body imprint left on a rock. Next, we cross a suspension bridge over the rushing Chamkharchhu River on foot to the Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa founded this temple in 1501 for the teachings of Nyingma Buddhism in central Bhutan, who was prolific treasure finder and one of the influential religious figures in Bhutanese history. From here, your transport will pick you up and head to the Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery, situated on a sacred hill just above Bumthang town. The monastery was built in 1982 offering three main streams of dharma studies: shedra (college), drupdra (meditation) and monastic rituals. Here about 400 monks or so are busy reading, recitation of daily prayers, meditation, chantings, dharma dances, beating drums & use of ceremonial, mandala drawings, etc. in the backdrop. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 7
Back to Trongsa

After breakfast, our return journey takes us to Trongsa to Trongsa (2,200m) via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). Historically, Trongsa is one of the important districts of Bhutan. Trongsa was once the headquarters for the central and eastern regions and has been the seat of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). All the Kings of Bhutan first invest as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Discover the massive and majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1648, overlooking the gorge of the Mangdichhu River. You’ll also have time to explore the Tower of Trongsa (known as Ta Dzong), an ancient watchtower rising five storeys above Trongsa town. It was built in 1652 and has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon. Today the tower houses a state-of-the-art National Museum with insights into the significance of Trongsa Dzong and the Wangchuck dynasty (kings) of Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax or explore the idyllic Trongsa town and its surroundings. Overnight in Trongsa.

Day 8
Trongsa – Thimphu

We rise early this morning, as it is a long but rewarding day driving (approximately 199-km) over 7 hours back to Thimphu (capital of Bhutan) via Chelela Pass (3,390m) and Nobding, a small town and Wangdue Phodrang, pausing en route at Dochula Pass (3,050m). Today you’ll have the photography opportunities again of the fascinating sites you missed or didn’t get time earlier. Perhaps why not take a chance to meditate awhile in the 11 man-made hidden “Igloos – Caves” with 11 different paintings of gods and goddesses? People seeking inner peace from modern day stress come to Dochula Pass for meditation. Buddhists pursue meditation as a path towards enlightenment and nirvana. Continue to Thimphu city (2,300m), home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Bhutan’s capital is not a concrete jungle that you see in other parts of the world. It is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and buildings built in the traditional Bhutanese style. No traffic lights in Bhutan yet! Marvel at the police directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals at the main intersections. If you are feeling energetic, you may have time to relax or explore the streets of Thimphu city in the evening. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 9
Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Depart early morning for Paro (1-hour drive) after breakfast. Bhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is an unforgettable sight. No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Paro Taktshang (3,120m). It is stunning in its beauty and location. Today is a real highlight as you take a short hike to the Taktshang Monastery, clinging on a rock cliff at 900m above the Paro Valley floor. The monastery is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in Bhutan because Guru Rinpoche (one the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) is believed to have flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century. An 11-km (round-trip) hike starts from the base of the mountain from the road point (Ramthangkha), which is 2-km drive from Paro town. Enjoy your rewarding hike about 4 hours (round-trip) with extra one hour to tour the monastery at a leisurely pace. There is a small teahouse halfway through from where a view of the spectacular monastery to enjoy! Gentle horse/pony rides are permitted till the viewpoint. Afterwards, there will be time to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang en route, one of the oldest and 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). Overnight in Paro.

Day 10
End of Tour

Your tour ends this morning after breakfast. We transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Our guide and driver from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck!)

Peak Season – Land Only (Prices in USD Per Person)

Start Date Thursdays1 person 2 people3-10 people11-15 people16-20 people
15 Apr 2021$2735$2600$2310$2210$2170

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