GOMKORA TSHECHU – 13 DAYS
A festival like none other in Bhutan, GomKora Festival is of prime importance to the locals of Eastern Bhutan. The word Ghomphu means Meditation cave and Kora means circumambulation. The name is derived from a cave formed out of a rock-face next to a temple that has been built as a tribute to this sacred site. The biggest attraction of Gomphu Kora is the circumambulation. “Go around Gomphu Kora today, for tomorrow may be too late”, advises a local song that entices devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. ” The place comes alive, once every year, when people all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in their finery, to partake in the festivity, to worship and to reaffirm their connection with the past. During the festival, the devotees take a trip around the cave and the festival marks the victory of good over evil.
Day 1: Arrive Paro-Thimphu
The flight to Paro crosses the Himalayan Mountains, affording spectacular views of the awesome peaks, including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks in Bhutan. If you arrive via Kathmandu, which offers the most breathtaking view of the range, it’s possible to see Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga as well. Upon arrival in Paro, you will be greeted by our representative and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon you can visit the Paro Dzong. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do all the Dzongs (forts) currently. You’ll cross a traditional wooden bridge on the way to the Dzong. You can then tour the National Museum, formerly the watchtower for the Dzong. It now houses a collection of fine arts, paintings, thangkas, statues, and antiques. Afterward you will visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country. Later drive to Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu
After breakfast you will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972),Buddha Point, Changgangkha Monastery, the radio tower (for a great view of Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong), and the zoo, which contains the national animal of Bhutan: the takin. From there you will visit the nunnery temple, the National Library (which houses ancient manuscripts), and the School of Arts and Crafts (also known as the painting school). After a relaxing lunch, you will visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, a traditional paper factory, the majestic Tashichodzong. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time).
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. After Lunch, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’ as predicted by the great Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). And drive for about 12 km and from the road point take a walk across the rice fields and a river to reach the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which is located on a beautiful hillock called Ngezergang. It houses the paintings and statues belonging to the Nyingmapa tradition. Visit Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chime Lhakhang, which is a fertility temple, where you may receive a special fertility blessing if you wish. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 04: Punakha to Gangtey
After breakfast drive to Gangtey(Phobjikha) enroute sightseeing Wangdue, Visit Wangdue Dzong, Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Drive further to Gangtey. You’ll pass through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and arrive at Gangtey village, where you’ll visit Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
From Gangtey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range as well as Phobjikha Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. The village of Phobjikha lies in a few kilometers down from the monastery, on the valley floor. This quite, remote valley is the chosen winter home of rare black necked cranes, who migrate here annually from the Tibetan plateau.If you want to you can do a small hike of 1hr.Many visitors refer to this place as heaven on Earth. Over Night hotel in Gangtey.
Day 5: Gangtey – Trongsa – Bumthang
After an early breakfast, drive to Bumthang, Visit Trongsa Dzong on the way, the impressive Trongsa Dzong. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family and first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong. Then drive to Bumthang via Yotongla pass (3,400 metres). Enroute visit the joint Australian/Bhutanese wool project at Chumey valley. Watch the single loom weaving process and buy yak wool rugs or scarves if you wish. There is also a wonderful selection of textiles from all over Bhutan on display and for sale at this roadside stop. You will probably see Yaks on the high passes on the way to Bumthang. Eventually the road winds down into the beautiful Bumthang valley, the cultural heart of Bhutan. Overnight Hotel In Bumthang
Day 6: Bumthang Sightseeing
After breakfast, visit Jakar Dzong, which literally means “The Castle of White Bird”. The current structure was built in 1667 and then visit Lamey Goemba, a large palace and monastery built in 18th century by Dasho Phuntsho Wangdi. Visit Jambay Lhakhang, built by King Srongsen Gampo of Tibet in the year 659 on the same day as Kichu Lhakhang in Paro. The temple was visited by Guru Rimpoche during his visit to Bumthang and was renovated by Sindhu Raja after Guru Rimpoche restored his life force. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here. After lunch, Visit Chakhar (Iron Castle) Lhakhang, it is the site of the palace of the Indian King, the Sindhu Raja who invited Guru Rimpoche to Bumthang. Visit Tamshing Lhakhang (Temple of the good message), established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom. In the evening, visit Membarstho which literally means, “The burning Lake”. Over night: overnight Hotel in Bumthang.
Day 7: Bumthang – Mongar
After breakfast drive to Mongar. Packed lunch will be served on the way. There you can see the typical Bhutanese farm houses. Later visit Mongar Dzong, This Dzong was rebuilt in 1953 and is quite small. There are around 50 to 60 monks in the Dzong, many of them young boys eight to ten years. Overnight Hotel in Mongar.
Day 8: Mongar – Trashiyangtse
After break fast drive to Trashiyangtse , visit Chorten Kora and Trashiyangtse Dzong. Overnight hotel in Trashiyangtse.
Day 9: Gom Kora Festival
Drive to Gom Kora, Enjoy the festival, Drive to Trashigang in the afternoon and visit Trashigang Dzong and local market. Overnight hotel in Trashigang.
Day 10: Trashigang –Bumthang
After breakfast, Drive to Bumthang through the lush environment. Overnight hotel in Bumthang.
Day 11: Bumthang-Thimphu
Early breakfast, drive to Thimphu. In the evening visit to the Handicraft shops. Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu.
Day 12: Thimphu-Paro Hike Paro Taksang
After breakfast drive to Paro and hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to cafeteria).
In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong. The original monument (destroyed by fire in 1951) was built by Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In the evening you can stroll through the Paro market and town. Overnight hotel in Paro. Farewell dinner with traditional dance and overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 13: Depart Paro
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.