11 day tour
Bhutan Festival Tour
- Witness a tsechu, a traditional Buddhist monastic festival
- Visit Trongsa Dzong, Punakha Dzong and the Tiger’s Nest Temple
- Travel through the idyllic valley of Bumthang
One of the highlights of visiting Bhutan is witnessing a traditional Buddhist monastic festival. In Bhutan, these festivals are called tsechus. There are many tsechus in Bhutan with the most well-known ones happening in Thimphu and Paro. These festivals attract thousands of Bhutanese as well as quite a lot of foreign tourists. It can also be rewarding to witness the smaller and remoter festivals. As the audience is much smaller here, you will be able to come closer to the dancers and have a real first-hand experience.
As with the Highlights of Bhutan tour, you’ll travel eastward from Paro and Thimphu to Bumthang, and return by domestic flight to Paro.
Please keep in mind that your starting date for this trip will be tied to specific festival dates. Have a look at the sample Bhutan festivals below for the best starting dates. There are also many other festival times and locations. Simply share your travel dates with Suchie and she will tell you if, and which, festivals coincide with your preferred dates.
Bhutan festival dates
(Delhi/Bangkok – Delhi/Bangkok)
|Domkhar Tshechu||Bumthang||April 25-27||April 19 – April 29|
|Padseling Kuchoed||Bumthang||June 2-4||May 27 – June 6|
|Nimalung Tshechu||Bumthang||June 21-23||June 15 – June 25|
|Mushroom Festival||Geneka, Thimphu||August 12-13||August 11 – August 21|
|Masutaki Mushroom Festival||Bumthang||August 24-26||August 17 – August 27|
|Thimphu Dromche||Thimphu||September 15||September 14 – September 24|
|Dorjitse Kuchoed & Tamshing Phala Choedpa||Bumthang||September 18-20||September 11 – September 21|
|Thimphu Tshechu||Thimphu||September 19-21||September 19 – September 29|
|Thangbi Mewang||Bumthang||September 23-26||September 17 – September 27|
|Jhomolhari Mountain Festival||Thimphu||October 4-5||October 3 – October 13|
|Shingkhar Rabdhey||Bumthang||October 15-18||October 9 – October 19|
|Jakar Tshechu||Bumthang||October 19||October 12 – October 22|
|Jambay Lhakang Drup||Bumthang||October 24-27||October 18 – October 28|
|Sumthrang Rabdhey||Bumthang||November 3-7||October 28 – November 7|
|Black necked Crane Festival||Phobjikha||November 11||November 5 – November 15|
|Tang Namkhar Rabdhey||Bumthang||November 16-17||November 10 – November 20|
|Chonam Rabdhey||Bumthang||November 22-26||November 16 – November 26|
|Pangkhar Choedpa||Bumthang||December 2-7||November 26 – December 6|
|Drukwangyel Tshechu||Dochula, Thimphu||December 13||December 6 – December 16|
|Nabji Lhakhang Drub & Korphu Lhakhang Drub||Trongsa||December 22||December 17 – December 27|
|Shinger Meto Choepda||Bumthang||December 22||December 15 – December 25|
11 day tour of Bhutan
Route: Delhi – Paro – Thimphu – Punakha – Trongsa – Bumthang – Paro – Delhi
Day 01 – Flight from Delhi/Bangkok to Paro
Upon arrival in Delhi or Bangkok, we can arrange your overnight stay in a hotel near the airport. In most cases this is required as flights to Bhutan generally leave in the morning. Early the next morning you will board the flight to Paro. Whether you arrive from Delhi or Bangkok, you are in for a remarkable flight. Especially when flying from Delhi, you get good views of the Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Everest and Kangchenjunga. The last part of the flight is spectacular, as the plane flies through the Paro Valley and ‘almost touches’ the houses on the slopes.
Outside the airport our guide and driver will be waiting. They will take you to your hotel in Paro. Depending on your time of arrival, there is time to see some of the sights of Paro.
Day 02 – Paro – Thimphu (55 km / 1 hr)
You have most of the day to explore the Paro Valley. A must-see is the dzong of Paro. Dzongs are unique Bhutanese structures that combine the function of monastery, district administration office and (previously) fortified army camp. The dzong of Paro dates from 1644 and has a certain allure, not only because of its strategic location high above the valley (with beautiful views of Paro), but also because of the massive utse (central tower), the impressive nail-less woodwork and the large prayer hall with frescoes. A brand new museum has been built nearby. It exhibits a large number of instructional panels, models and artwork. The Kyichu Lhakhang is also worthwhile to visit. Dating back to the middle of the seventh century, this is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan.
in the late afternoon, you’ll be driven to Thimphu where you check into a comfortable hotel in the centre of town.
Day 03 – Thimphu
Today will be spent exploring Bhutan’s capital. Despite the rapid growth that the city has undergone in the last decade, Thimpu is still the most relaxed capital in the world. The traffic is very controlled (a relief for those who have been in India) and there are no traffic lights. Instead, on the busiest intersection of Thimphu, a policeman directs traffic with theatrical, almost comical gestures.
There are many things to see in Thimphu, ranging from the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of Bhutan’s third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and the largest open-air Buddha in the world, to the Textile Museum and the Institute for Zorig Chusum where young people learn the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan that are essential to the construction and maintenance of temples and dzongs.
You can also visit the archery range or the animal park where you can see the takin. This remarkable animal – described as a cross between a cow, a goat and a moose – is the national animal of Bhutan.
Day 04 – Thimphu – Punakha (77 km / 2.5-3 hours)
Today, we drive east over the only road that connects the capital to the interior of Bhutan.
A few kilometers outside Thimphu you pass the dzong of Simthoka. Bhutanese dzongs are a unique phenomenon. They form a combination of a monastery and a district office, and in the past they also housed the military. The former defensive function explains their fortress-like building. The dzong of Simthoka was founded in 1629 and is the oldest of the existing dzongs in Bhutan.
A 45-minute drive from Simthoka will bring you to the Dochu La pass (3120m). A quick stop here is worthwhile because of the beautiful views of the Himalayas, including the highest mountain in Bhutan, the Gangkar Puensum (7497m).
Punakha is the former capital of Bhutan. The main attraction here is the dzong where the king and parliament resided until 1955. During the winter season most of the monks of Thimphu, as well as the Jhe Khempo, the highest abbot of Bhutan, stay here.
The enormous fortress-monastery is arguably the most beautiful and interesting dzong of Bhutan. Just its famous ‘hundred pillar temple’ alone warrants a long visit.
Day 05 – Punakha
Punakha has much more to offer that the dzong, such as the temple of the Divine Madman, and a recently constructed new nunnery where more than a hundred young women live a life of prayer and devotion. You can also follow the river upstream and walk for about an hour to the Khamsum Juley Namgyal Chorten.
Day 06 – Punakha – Trongsa (150 km/ 5-6 hours)
After breakfast you’ll first drive over the Pele La pass (3425 m) to Trongsa, the capital of Bhutan’s most centrally located dzongkhag (province). Trongsa has a very distinctive, elongated dzong, located high above the valley. In the past the penlops (district heads) who controlled the trade and traffic between eastern and western Bhutan resided here. A visit to the dzong is a must, and perhaps also to the interesting museum that is housed in the watchtower.
Day 07 – Trongsa – Bumthang (66km/ 3 hours)
Shortly after leaving Trongsa you will cross another pass – the Yori La (3420m). Then you will descend to the very picturesque Chumi Valley, one of the best parts of this road trip. Rather then just driving through the valley, we generally take time here to see and photograph the many picturesque houses and villages, and visit one of the small temples here that rarely receives foreign visitors.
By evening you will reach Jakar in Bumthang.
Day 08 & 09 – At Bumthang; attending the festival
Bumthang is culturally perhaps Bhutan’s most interesting area. The many temples here are associated with the early history of Buddhism in Bhutan. It was here that Padmasambhava (also called Guru Rimpoche) began its mission in Bhutan in the eighth century. This man is considered the most important apostles of Buddhism in Bhutan (but also in Tibet, Ladakh and Sikkim). He led a fierce battle against animistic and Bon ghosts and demons who dominated the area at the time. Bumthang consists of dozens of interesting temples and villages spread out over three valleys, each of which is very much worth exploring. Together with your guide you can work out a programme for the day.
On either day 9 or day 10, you can attend a Buddhist festival here, called tsechu. Tsechu means tenth day of the month in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. Every tenth day of the month is considered an auspicious day in Bhutan and most of the festivals are performed on this date to honour Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). To witness the costumes, dancing and singing of one of Bhutan’s tsechus is a treat! It will show you how strongly the Bhutanese hang on to their culture and customs.
Day 10 – Flight Bumthang to Paro (25 min flight)
On the 30-minute flight to Paro, you’ll get magnificent views of the Himalayan Range, as well the areas that you have traveled through in the last week – weather permitting, that is.
Outside the airport another driver and car will be waiting. A short drive to the northwest brings you to a wooded side valley. Here you begin the 2 – 2.5 hour hike to the world-famous Tigers Nest (Taktsang Goemba). This magnificent monastery clings like a dovecote against the rocks, some 900 metres above the valley. Padmasambhava, after completing his work in Bumthang, landed here after a flight on the back of a tiger to confront yet another local demon. In 1692, a temple was built around the cave where the Guru meditated. Inside, it is a maze of temples, niches and caves filled with Buddhist artwork. All beautifully crafted, and steeped in mystery and magic.
Day 11 – Flight Paro to Delhi or Bangkok
After breakfast, it is time for your departure to the airport for your flight to Delhi or Bangkok.