Festivals and Hikes in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Overview

Emerald valleys rise up to pristine rhododendron forests, serene villages embrace a traditional way of life, festivals honor the guardian deities, and “gross national happiness” is one of the ways the kingdom measures its wealth—Bhutan is the perfect destination for a WT cultural hiking adventure. In this rare Himalayan world, we’ll discover Bhutan’s unique heritage as we explore from the ancient pilgrimage sites of the Bumthang Valley, the spiritual heartland, to the cliff-perched hermitage at Taktsang. Festivals are exuberant manifestations of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, and each journey will witness a tsechu festival, with its intricate dance-dramas depicting age-old tales of demons and deities. Lovely hotels and mountain lodges keep us cozy at night, and our Bhutanese Trip Leaders share their passion for their extraordinary country.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-5
Paro / Thimphu / Punakha and Phobjikha Valleys

From Paro, we head to Thimphu for a hike up to Cheri, a 17th century monastery and Buddhist university where we see monks carrying out their daily rituals. In the lush Punakha Valley, we hike through riverside villages to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to the Tibetan Buddhist saint known as “the divine madman” for his unconventional ways. After exploring the impressive Punakha Dzong, seat of the highest abbot of Bhutan, we head to scenic Phobjikha Valley for a hike in the pine-forested hills and a visit to gold-spired Gangtey, an important monastery of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.

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Days 6-12
Bumthang / Tsechu Festival / Paro

The tranquil Bumthang region of central Bhutan has an extraordinary concentration of venerated temples and monasteries. We hike to some of its most sacred sites, including 17th century Kurjey Lhakhang, whose three temples are the resting place of Bhutan’s first three kings. Flying back to Paro, our final hike is a spectacular one as we head up the pilgrim trail to reach Taktsang, known as the Tiger’s Nest, a centuries-old monastery clinging to a cliff 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley. Depart on Day 12.

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Highlights

Highlights

Hike and explore the ethereal Bumthang region, spiritual center of this Himalayan kingdom
Attend a wildly colorful Buddhist tsechu festival
Meet artisans, farmers, Buddhist pilgrims, and red-robed monks
Climb the ancient trail to the cliff-perched Tiger’s Nest monastery
Overnights in deluxe hotels and welcoming lodges

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $5795  
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights deluxe hotels, 7 nights lodges
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

7 hiking days on moderate trails, 2-6 hours a day, altitudes between 4,100-12,000 feet

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