13 Days Black Neck Crane Festival

Day 1 (Paro)

During the flight on a clear day, you will get to enjoy breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjungha, and other famous Himalayan peaks including sacred Mount Jumolhari and Jichu Drake Peaks in Bhutan. Upon arrival at Paro Airport, you will be greeted by the representative from Bhutan Best Travel and transferred to your hotel.  The drive to Thimphu is about an hour.  On route, enjoy the view of the valley of Thimphu and river through a rather arid and Rocky landscape.

Alter lunch you will visit the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), the radio tower (for a great view of Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong), and the Takin reserve, which contains the national animal of Bhutan. From there you will visit the nunnery temple, Evening visit Thimphu Tashichoedzong. Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.

Day 2 (Thimpu, Punakha)

After breakfast take a drive that climbs for an hour till you reach Dochula Pass at an altitude of 3150m dotted with colorful prayer flags and 108 Stupa.  Weather permits, this pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the Eastern Himalayans. You may enjoy a hot cup of tea/coffee at Dochula resort.  Continue to descend en route to Punakha & Wangdue through the temperate forest of rhododendron & magnolia bloom in spring, then a semi-tropical zone where orange trees, banana trees and cactuses are found in abundance.  Have lunch in the town.  After lunch take a walk to the temple on a hill rock called Nyizergang, HM the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangden had built three stored chorten called Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten consecrated in December 1999. Situated in idyllic rural countryside, 45minutes climb from the road is well worth to see the paintings, which are beautiful and present an incredibly complex iconography and the statues. Drive back to the Dzong and walk in the Dzong by crossing the cantilever bridge. The Dzong was built in the year 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Overnight in a hotel in Punakha.

Day 3 (Punakha, Gangtey)

You will begin the day by driving to Gantey. You’ll pass through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons and arrive at Gantey village, where you’ll visit Gantey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. From Gantey, you can see the picturesque Black Mountain range as well as Phobjika Valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. After lunch take a leisure walk in the valley to see the black necked cranes. Overnight in a hotel at Gangtey.

Day 4 (Gangtey)

After breakfast drive to Gangtey Goenpa, in Phobijkha valley to watch the festival. This Annual Black-necked Crane festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of the heavenly bird which becomes part of their daily lives during the winter months.  In the evening, take a leisurely walk back to the hotel following the Gangtey nature trail. Overnight in same hotel.

Day 5 (Gangtey, Trongsa)

Drive to Trongsa via Pele la pass at an altitude of 3,400 metres, a wonderful opportunity for photographs. Commanding the Mangde Chu at an altitude of 2,200 metres Trongsa Dzong is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1644 by the Shabdrung, the dzong is an architectural masterpiece. Overnight in a hotel in Trongsa.

Day 6 (Trongsa, Bumthang)

In the morning you’ll visit Trongsa Dzong, the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture, and you’ll also see Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend this dzong. Alter lunch, you’ll proceed to Bumthang, the religious heartland of the nation, with lush valleys and hilly forests. Along the way you will stop at a yethra (textile weaving) factory, where the yethras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and you can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. You can spend the evening strolling through Bumthang town. Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.

Day 7 (Bumthang)

Bumthang consists of four valleys-Chumey, Choekhar, Tang, and Ura-with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000 meters. It is home to many prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries. Today you will hike to Petsheling Monastery; it is located about three hours‘hiking distance above the Swiss Guesthouse on a steep incline. It offers fine panoramic views of the central Bumthang valley. You can also hike beyond the monastery across the ridge and feel the spirit of the mountains and monastery. In the evening you can relax in the town. Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.

Day 8 (Bumthang)

Today’s sightseeing includes visit to the following:

Jambay Lhakhang: This monastery was built in the 7th century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century.

Kurje Lhakhang: Situated before Jambay Lhakhang, Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru’s body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall.

Jakar Dzong: “castle of the white bird”. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on a spur of a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a monastery and for Jakar Dzong. The fortress is now used as an administrative center of the valley and summer residence of Trongsa monks. In the evening have a leisure walk in the town. Overnight in Bumthang.

Tamshing Lhakhang: Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, this temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.

Konchogsum Lhakhang: It was built in the 6th century but was renovated in 1995, which accounts for its fresh look. It contained a large bell and it is said that when this bell was rung it could be heard all the way in Lhasa in Tibet. During the 17th century a Tibetan Army tried to steal this bell but was too heavy and they dropped it and cracked it. It is now displayed at the National Museum in Paro. Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.

Day 9 (Bumthang, Wangduephodrang)

You’ll begin the day at the Bumthang market, and then drive to Wangduephodrang, where you can stroll through the town and visit the shops. The nearby villages are known for their slate and stone carvings and bamboo work. Overnight in a hotel in Wangduephodrang.

Day 10 (Wangduephodrang, Thimpu)

After breakfast, take a drive to Paro following the road crossing Dochula pass. The drive to Thimphu takes around three hours. Make a stop at Dochu la Pass, the pass is a popular location among tourists as it offers a stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquility of the 108 chortens gracing the mountain pass known as the Druk Wangyal Chortens- the construction of these108 chortens was commissioned by the eldest Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. The pass is also popular spiritual destination for both locals and tourists because an important temple is located on the crest of Dochula pass. The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang was built in honor of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appears to merge in the details of the lhakhang (temple) and its structure tells the story of a supreme warrior figure, whose vision pierces the distant future in a fine blend of history and mythology. After lunch in town, visit the National Library (which houses ancient manuscripts), and the School of Arts and Crafts (also known as the painting school). Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.

Day 11 (Thimpu, Paro)

After breakfast drive towards the northern part of Thimphu for an hour and start your hike to Tango Monastery, the hike takes about 45 minutes up hill on the right of the motor road, at the same level as Chagri meditation center but out of sight. Tango dates originally from 13th century as it was the residence of Phajo Drugom Shigpo who introduces the Drukpa Kagyupa School in Bhutan. It was rebuilt in its present form in 1688 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the 4th Temporal Ruler in the 18th century. The monastery was restored in the mid-1990s and is now used as an upper –education-level monastic school.

On the way back visit Pangri Zampa Temple, it is situated just beyond Dechenphodrang, two imposing structures are set in the middle of a meadow, not far from the river, this was the residences of Shabdrung Ngaywang Namgyal when he arrive in Bhutan in the year 1616 AD. The temple was built during the first quarter of the 16th century, a prayer wall covered with carved and painted stones, and huge cypress trees combine to give this place an almost magical charm. It is now the seat of the monastic school of astrology.  Evening drive to Paro for Overnight.

Day 12 (Tiger's Nest)

After breakfast, you will hike up to the most famous Taktsang Monastery.  The trail is through the meadow of pines, rhododendrons and oaks. It takes about 2 hours to reach the viewpoint.   Visitors can take a short break along the way at the Café to have tea or coffee and for a good view of Monastery.  It is believed that Guru Rimpoche flew here on the back of a tigress and mediated here for 3 months and subdued the local deity called singye samdrup and converted him to Buddhism. Later in the 17th century, the 4th Desi or temporal ruler of Bhutan, Tenzin Rabgye built a temple in 1692 in its present form, thus fulfilling the wishes of Zhabdrung Rinpoche who died before he built this temple. (Horse ride to the cafe is available and can be arranged at additional cost). Overnight in a hotel in Paro.

Day 13 (Depart)