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  • Matsutake Festival

    Celebrate the start of the wild Matsutake mushroom season at the Matsutake Festival alongside the people of the mystical Ura Valley, Bumthang. Ura is renowned for being one of the most picturesque valleys in the entire kingdom. Its inhabitants, the Uraps are a cheerful, hospitable people. Ura provides one of the most authentic experiences of traditional rural Bhutanese life available.

     

    At the festival, visitors will learn to identify these fabled mushrooms as they embark on mushroom picking excursions around the pristine forests and hills. Prized by gourmets in Japan, this fungi is native to the forests of Ura valley in central Bhutan. Sample delicious Matsutake recipes, engage in songs and dances together with the locals, hike through the stunning Himalayan landscape and even relax in traditional open-air mineral baths.


    HIGHLIGHTS & INCLUDE

    Bhutan provides a stunning array of photographic opportunities, pristine landscapes, sacred and ancient sites, colourful festivals and a fascinating people. This ‘Ultimate Bhutan Photography Tour’ visits the many cultural and wilderness highlights of the western valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and the central areas of Trongsa and Bumthang.

    • Experience the celebration of the beginning of the Masutake mushroom season at the Masutake Festival.
    • Gain a fascinating insight into the rural communities of the stunning Ura valley in central Bhutan.
    • Explore Bhutan’s central valleys, rich with ancient historical and sacred Buddhist sites.
    • Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalaya.
    • Encounter Bhutan’s unique culture up-close with farmhouse visits and village excursions.
    • Drive over high mountain passes affording sensational views of the Himalayan peaks.
    • Visit many cultural attractions including medieval fortresses (Dzongs), markets and museums.
    • Hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery, perched on a cliff 900m above the valley floor.
    • Marvel at the elaborate and ancient wall paintings and carvings in Dzongs and temples.
    • Traverse beautiful landscapes from lush valleys to dense forests.
    • Incorporate a Value-Added Option such as a cooking lesson or meditation session with a monk.

    DETAILED PROGRAM

    Day 1

    The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our Bhutan Senses Travel representative will meet you at Paro airport exit doors following customs formalities.

    After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rinpung Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Dzong’s are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which were once strategic forts. Afterwards, drive to the capital, Thimphu (1.5 hours) following the Pachu River. Before dinner at the hotel there will be an orientation on Bhutanese etiquette by your guide. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

     Paro Ta Dzong, Rinpung Dzong

    Recommended Thimphu Hotels:

    - Kisa Thimphu Hotel
    - Hotel Thimphu Towers


    Day 2

    After breakfast, drive to Tashichho Dzong to attend the Thimphu festival. You will see locals dressed in their finest clothes who have walked from miles around to attend the festivities. They come to watch masked dances, to pray, and to feast. While the underlying purpose of the festival is spiritual, dances are more often like plays, telling stories where good triumphs over evil, or depicting significant historical events, especially surrounding the life of Bhutan’s patron saint, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche). There is inevitably a great deal of socialising as well.

    Tashichho Dzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’. Initially erected in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

     Attend Thimphu Festival at Tashichho Dzong


    Day 3

    Drive from Thimphu to Trongsa (7-8 hrs) over the Dochu-La pass (3,100m) and Pele La pass (3,420m) on the Black Mountain range. Enroute visit beautiful Chendebji Chorten. The Chorten was erected in the 18th century. The imposing Trongsa Dzong can be viewed across a deep canyon to signal your approach to the town around a curving road. Trongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s ruling dynasty. Stroll around the town in the evening.

     Chendebji Chorten, Dochu La & Pele La pass

    Recommended Trongsa Hotels:

    - Puenzhi Guesthouse
    - Norling Hotel Trongsa


    Day 4

    Visit Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa is the largest Dzong in Bhutan. The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th Century and there are now 22 temples in the complex. The view from the Dzong is spectacular and one can see across the impressive landscape for many miles. In the old days, it was the vigilance point for both the eastern and western trade routes, thus a strategically important Dzong.

    Also the Ta Dzong museum located on the hill overlooking the Trongsa Dzong. The museums main focus is on the history of the monarchy, and is dedicated to the coronation and centenary celebrations of the Bhutanese monarchy with very rare and precious artefacts on display. These include statues built in the 17th century, to the first King’s Namza (dress), the Raven Crown and Sword of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal and the 3rd King.

    Afterwards, proceed to Bumthang (2.5 hrs), one the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the spiritual and historical heartland of the country. The road winds steeply up to Yo Yutung La Pass (3,400m) before descending down through dense coniferous forest to Chummey valley. From here it is about an hour to Jakar, Bumthang’s main township

    Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest Palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries. The valley’s barley fields, apple groves and meadows lay below huge hills which climb up towards the Himalayan mountain wall separating Bhutan from Tibet. The beautiful architecture unique to Bhutan is evident in the many large farmhouses and temples. Bumthang is associated with Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) and with Terton Pemalingpa.

    After lunch, visit Jakar Dzong, also known as ‘Fortress of the White Bird’. It was founded by the great grandfather of Shabdrung. The Dzong was initially built as a Monastery in 1549 but was upgraded after Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as the administration center for Bumthang valley.

     Trongsa Dzong, Trongs Dzong, Jakar Dzong...

    Recommended Hotels in Bumthang:

    - Jakar Village Lodge
    - River Lodge Bumthang


    Day 5

    Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Bumthang beginning with Jampey Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen in the 7th Century. It was here that Guru Rimpoche conducted his first sermon on Tantric Buddhism for his host King Sendha, the local ruler, his family and subjects. Continue on to Kurjey Lhakhang, famous for a rock within one of the temples that features a body imprint of the great master Guru Rimpoche. The big cypress tree in the temple grounds is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rimpoche.

    Afterwards visit Tamshing Lhakhang, the seat of Bumthang’s famous son, saint Pema Lingpa. He built it himself in 1501. A skilled tantric master and artist, he sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, some of Bhutan’s oldest which can still be seen even today, mostly in their original state. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumambulate the inner sanctum to cleanse sins. Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

     Jampey Lhakhang, Jurjey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang


    Day 6

    Visit the Masutake Festival heralding the start of the mushroom season, held in the beautiful Ura valley. The season brings the opportunity to sample some truly delicious masutake meals, songs and dances together with the locals and to develop a deeper understanding of the village life. Learn to identify the legendary mushrooms as you embark on mushroom picking excursions in one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan.

     Visit Masutake Festival...


    Day 7

    Start early today for Gangtey, about 6 hrs from Bumthang. Farmhouses and temples dot the landscape and you will see local farmers wearing the traditional woven bamboo hats of central Bhutan. The wide and picturesque Phobjikha valley is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Visit Gangtey Goempa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. Overnight at your hotel in Phobjikha.

     Phobjikha Valley, Gangtey Monastery

    Recommended Hotels in Gangtey:

    - Dewachen Gangtey Hotel
    - Wangdue Eco Lodge


    Day 8

    Morning visit to the Black-Necked Crane Centre before departing for Thimphu (approx 3 hrs). From Gangtey the road gradually descends into the balmy Punakha valley. Remainder of day at leisure. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

     Black Necked Crane


    Day 9

    Morning visit to Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. The inside walls are covered with elaborate murals depicting the teaching of the Buddha. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.

    After some lunch visit 15th century Chimi Lhakhang, temple of Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism of his time. He is considered a symbol of fertility and many childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Afterwards proceed to Paro. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

     Punakha Dzong, Punakha swing bridge

    Recommended Hotels in Paro:

    - Metta Resort & Spa
    - Bhutan Mandala Hotel


    Day 10

    After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 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 the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments.

    In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

    Alternatively, day 10 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterised by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

     Taktsang Lhakhang, Drukyel Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang


    Day 11

    Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for flight to your onward destination.

     

     

    WHEN TO GO?

      MORE TOURS HERE


    Notes:

    • Prices are in USD, per person, based on two people traveling together and sharing a room. At Bhutan Senses Travel, we carefully select all hotels to ensure that your accommodations match our standards of trip and service excellence.
    • Prices include the following:
      . All hotel accommodation including all taxes and breakfast
      . Internal economy flights as stated with airport taxes
      . All transfers & sightseeing transportation in private vehicle
      . Private services of local guides
      . All special events & private tours, guest experts
      . All entrance fees into historical sights & museums
      . Drinking water and refreshing towels for touring
      . 24/7 support from the Bhutan Senses Travel Team

     

    Location
    Accommodation

    THIMPHU
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    Kisa Thimphu Hotel

    • Kisa- “where peace prevails”. Located in the heart of Thimphu, Kisa Hotel has 34 well appointed guest rooms overlooking the national stadium – changlimithang.
    • Hotel staff are well trained to provide guests a most welcoming stay. Besides being socially and environmentally responsible, cleanliness is an important feature in the hotels.
    • Hotel will bring you it own unique experience but the same sense of comfort and friendly service.

    Hotel Thimphu Towers

    • Hotel Thimphu Tower offers accommodation in Thimphu. Free WiFi is available and free private parking is available on site.
    • Rooms have a flat-screen TV with cable channels. You will find a kettle in the room. Each room is fitted with a private bathroom fitted with a bath. Extras include free toiletries and a hairdryer.
    • The nearest airport is Paro Airport, 23 km from Hotel Thimphu Tower.

     BUMTHANG 
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    Jakar Village Lodge

    • Jakar Village Lodge (JVL) is a 4 star lodge and it is located just below the Jakar Dzong, commanding the most majestic view of the Chokor Valley of Bumthang.
    • The lodge is just one kilometer away from the Chamkhar Town,and five minutes walk from the Dzong.
    • Jakar Village Lodge has been slotted at rank #21 among the "Best Bed & Breakfast" establishment in Asia 2009 and ranked # 4 in Bhutan by Trivago Top Hotel, largest European travel community.

     

    River Lodge Bumthang

    • Set in an idyllic and strategic spot at the entrance of Bumthang’s Chamkhar town, River Lodge is justifiably the mythical district’s hospitality master.
    • Established in 1997, it has served guests from all corners of the globe. Renowned for its multi-facet services, including spa and sauna, River Lodge Bumthang is a synonym for Excellence, a haven for peace and bliss and an ideal holiday resort.
    • It is a perfect blend of the traditional and modern, with the Lodge’s stunning Bhutanese architecture moulded with the latest modern amenities.

    WANGDUE PHODRANG
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    Dewachen Gangtey Hotel

    • Dewachen Gangtey Hotel features sixteen double rooms with modern bathroom fittings, comfortable bedding. The restaurant is cozy with magnificent views and the meals prepared by a professional chef are delicious. The Luxury hotel or lodge is located in the pine forest with beautiful view of the valley and the surrounding mountains.
    • There is no electricity in the valley. The hotel has its own generator supplying electricity for two hours in the evening and two hours in the morning. It is then turned off after the dinner time. The rooms are heated by individual wooden stove (Bukhari). When the generator is not in use, a dim solar powered light or candles are used. At night, during the colder months, guests are provided with hot water bag. For hot shower, you have to ask for hot water in the bucket.

    PUNAKHA
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    Meri Puensum Resort

    • Lying approximately 5 kms from Punakha village and with good views of the valley area.
    • The 20 rooms are spacious and there are lovely views down across the river and the valley.
    • There is a large dining area and bar where you can relax after a day exploring the Puankha valley.

    PARO
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    Metta Resort & Spa

    • Metta Resort and Spa offers accommodation in Paro. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free private parking is available on site.
    • All rooms come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Some units include a seating area where you can relax. Every room includes a private bathroom fitted with a shower. Extras include bathrobes and slippers. Metta Resort and Spa features free WiFi .
    • There is a 24-hour front desk at the property.
    • The resort also offers car hire. The nearest airport is Paro Airport, 5 km from the property.