Duration: 10 days

The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of their daily lives during the winter months. The annual black-necked crane festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes; to strengthen the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community; to provide an avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conserve the black-necked cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills. The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by the school children. The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon. The festival is organized by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders (with a strong female component), Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) representative. The festival has become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley ever since it was first initiated by the RSPN in 1998.

 

Background

Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000 meters above sea level, Phobjikha is a wide alpine wetland valley that is considered the largest and the most significant wetland in the country. It is often cited for the harmonious co‐existence of its inhabitants with nature and the valley also holds great cultural significance. The valley is the most significant wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐necked cranes in Bhutan and has been protected since time immemorial by the local people’s traditional respect for all living beings. Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to Bhutan spend their winter months in this valley. Additionally, the highly revered Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the wetlands surrounded by subsistence farms and natural forest areas makes Phobjikha a stunningly beautiful and sacred valley. Today, this glacial valley is an attraction not just to tourists but also pilgrims. The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is an integral part of the Ecotourism (now Community based-sustainable tourism) initiative to promote local economic welfare through nature-based tourism programs. The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely upon the support and contributions of the visitors and well-wishers of conservation. Continued appreciation and corresponding support are essential in maintaining strong linkages between conservation and economic welfare of the local people. By viewing and participating in the festival you reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through the Black-necked crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community-owned bank account and managed by the committee for activities of common benefit to the community

Day O1 Fly To Paro / Thimphu 65 Km An Hour Drive…

With your flight bringing you to the Paro International Airport, you will be received by our guide. The guide will escort you to the capital city of Bhutan that is Thimphu. On arrival, you will be checked in at your hotel followed by refreshment and oriental talk on Bhutan. Depending on your schedule, if time permits, the guide will walk you through the city exploring the traditional texture and the market products, and to immerse into the evening air.

Overnight: Hotel Termalinca or similar.

 

Day 02 Thimphu Sightseeing

After your breakfast you will be visiting the following attracting in the Thimphu city:

  1. National Memorial Chorten: Memorial Chorten which was built on July 28, 1974, in the memory of the 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck is now presently seen to be visited by numbers of old aged people and portion of citizen scatter in Thimphu city. The stupa is a large white structure crowned with a golden spire. Serving as one of the most iconic monument, the historic figure is known for leading peoples to gain merit and is dedicated to world peace. Various rituals are performed on important occasions depending on the Buddhist calendar.
  2. Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Dordenma Point): The Buddha Dordenma statue is located at the Kuensel Phodrang Natural Park. The statue of Buddha Shakyamuni measures to a height of 51.5 metres, marking it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is said to fulfil an ancient prophecy dated back to 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Discoverer). The statue is said to spread an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. The statue of Buddha as a whole holds 125,000 smaller Buddha statues placed within the great statue.

A lunch will be served in one of the restaurant. After the meal, you will be going to the:

 

  1. Takin Preservation Centre: Taking being the national animal of Bhutan. The Takin Preservation centre makes sure that the ill takins that graze high up in the mountains brought in the preservation centre and well fed to keep them healthy and going. It is also known by the term “Takin Zoo” and is located in the Mothithang district of Thimphu. As the declaration of Takin as a national animal of Bhutan is attributed to a legend Lama Drukpa Kunley (also known as Divine Mad Man), the preservation centre is worth checking into.

Returning form Takin Preservation Centre, drive down to the town and leisure walk followed by dinner at the hotel.

Overnight at hotel.

 

Day 03 Thimphu /Punakha 70 Km 3 Hours

With an early breakfast over arising, you will be travelling to Punakha. It involves crossing Dochula Pass with is at an altitude of 3150 meters above the sea level. The car will stop by at Dochula Pass, for a walk around the Druk Wangyel Chortens built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother for the peace and stability of the kingdom.  From the stop point, depending on the weather condition a spectacular view of the eastern Himalayan ranges can be seen. Heading down from the pass, the road brings you to the Lamperlri Botanical Park where varieties of rhododendrons plants can be seen. Upon arriving at Lobesa, the lunchtime will be enjoyed over the scenic beauty of Sop Sokha village. Right after the meal, you will be visiting:

  1. Punakha Dzongkha: Standing at an elevation of 1200 metres Punakha dzong served as a capital of Bhutan from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted in the Punakha fortress in 1953. It is the second largest dzong in the country lies in between two flowing river Pho chhu and Mo chhu. The fortress marks the wedding of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema dated on October 13, 2011. The Dzong also contains the remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the unifier of Bhutan).
  2. Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery: The nunnery also serves as the temple to the local people in the village. It is a double storied structure, the temple was consecrated by His Holiness the Je Khenpo. The temple houses a statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig Chagtong Chetong) which heights to 14-foot tall, a statue of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of Longevity). It also houses the nunnery complex which consists of 70 rooms. The nunnery complex was initially started with 41 nuns. The Nunnery complex is known also for its meditation and the higher learning centre. For the nuns apart from religious training, they are also taught tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thanka paintings.

After the visit you will be taken back to the hotel followed by evening tea and dinner.

Overnight at Hotel in Punakha.

 

Day 04 Punakha /Phobjikha 61 Km 2 Hours

Followed by early breakfast you will be going to Phobjikha valley. An exciting drive through lush forest and crystal clear river shall be relaxing and worth enjoying the scenery. As you gradually ascent the height you can have an awesome view of the mountains. On arrival you will check-in at the hotel followed by lunch. After taking a hot locally made lunch, you will be walking through well-maintained nature trail offering an opportunity to spot the black-necked crane from the observatory. End the evening with a refreshing treat of tea /coffee at the hotel.

Overnight at hotel in Phobjikha

 

Day 05 Phobjikha Black Necked Crane Festival

Followed by early breakfast, you will be going to witness the Festival. Mask Dancers along with crane dances are as follows:

Zhana Cham: the black hat dance which is performed as a ground purification rite during the construction of Dzong, Temple and stupas.

Tungam cham: A terrifying mask dancer tame and subdue the spirit with the magic dagger.

Parham: The mask dancer leads the dead soul to the presence of Guru Rinpoche.

 

Black-necked Cranes Dances are performed by the students wearing a black-necked crane mask with a black and white flyer. The dancers depict the characteristics of the cranes. Local folk songs and dances are performed by the women from the community.

Overnight at hotel in Phobjikha

 

Day 06 Phobjikha To Bumthang 136 Km 4 Hours

Followed by breakfast, you will be having an exciting drive through the highest motor able mountain pass of Pelela at an elevation 3390 m above the sea level. Driving through this black mountain stretches offers stunning vista of natural beauty awestruck every traveller. The car will stop for short duration at Trongsa “an ancestral home of our royal family” you will take the grand visual of the Trongsa Dzong (Fortress) which holds historical importance. You will be continuing you journey towards Yatongla pass which is yet another the highest pass between Trongsa and Bumthang district. On arrival at Bumthang you will be checked in at the hotel followed by sumptuous dinner and retire.

Overnight at hotel in Bumthang

 

Day 07: Bumthang Sightseeing

Followed by the breakfast you will be seeing following site:

Jakar Dzong:  It is also known by the term “Castel of the White Bird”. It was constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuck. The Dzong played an important role as fortress of defence of the entire eastern region. It was the seat of the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck. The central tower of the fortress is approximately 50 metres high, which is quite rare among the fortress in Bhutan. The dzong has a unique feature, it is a sheltered passage with two parallel walls interconnected by fortified towers. The passage was known for giving the siege an access to water. The protected water supply can still be seen today.

Mebar Tsho – the burning lake:  The lake is located along the way to Tang village over the feeder road. It is a 30-minute drive from the Chamkhar town. The lake is considered as one of the most sacred site in the region. The lake is known for the legendary of Terton Pema Lingpa. Pema Lingpa is considered as the incarnated disciple of Lord Padmasambhava who discovered treasure within the lake in 15th century.

 

Day 08: Bumthang /Paro (Flight Back To Paro)

Following breakfast transfer to airport and fly back to Paro / it is about 25 min flight and on arrival at Paro, you will be receive by your tour guide and take your for sightseeing in and around Paro. Afternoon check in at hotel and relaxing. Overnight in Paro

 

Day 09: Day Hiking to Taktsang Monastery 6 Hours / 900m

With the early breakfast you will be hiking to the Taktsang monastery.

Also known as Tiger’s nest monastery. It takes 45 minutes to arrive at the tea house which is halfway to the destination. With another hour of hike, you will be reaching to the temple.

Note: There is an option for horse ride till the tea house for the individuals facing difficulty to walk.

Upon reaching the higher elevation, you will get the spectacular view of the monastery built right on the cliff. The history speaks, during the 8th century Guru Rinpoche landed on the cliff where the monastery is presently built today on a flaming female tiger in the form of Guru Dorji Droley (one of the 8 manifestation) to subdue the malicious being who was terrorizing the local residence. During that period Guru meditated for 4 months on the trance of Vajrakumara with his consort khandrom Yeshey Chogyel to overcome the spirit. It is said that a trip to Bhutan is never completed until the site is visited. The tiger’s nest, the air itself is known for spiritual blessing while it also provides a dramatic landscape for photographer and vloggers. The trip takes about 5 hours. Right after the visit, you will walk down to the tea house for a complete vegetarian lunch. After lunch, you will walk down to the base and drive to the hotel with a refreshing dinner.

Overnight at hotel in Paro.

 

Day 10: Departure………

You will be leaving for home today, so after breakfast our tour guide shall drop you at the airport and bid farewell!!!Tashi Delek!!!!