"As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sight of the Himalaya"
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Bhumthang Valley

 

Overview

Tibetan Buddhism is the religion practised by the majority of people in Bhutan. This form puts emphasis on the role of teachers or Lamas and the importance of ritual, and is imbued with a rich visual ymbolism which shows up clearly during festivals. The main religious festivals are known as 'Tsechus' and many of the major monasteries throughout Bhutan have their own annual Tsechu. They are held in honour of the Guru Rinpoche, generally accepted as the great teacher who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, and typically they last for 3 to 5 days. Each of the Tsechus includes a number of dances involving large numbers of participants dressed in ornate silk costumes. Each of the dances has aparticular significance - some are intended to give moral instruction,others are designed to drive away evil spirits while still others simplycelebrate the Buddhist faith in its many guises. Festivals are not entertainment events or tourist attractions. They aremanifestations of religious traditions thousands of years old whichoutsiders are given the privilege of witnessing. We would like to see that privilege retained, without in any way impairing or infringing onthe beauty and sacredness of the ritual.The festival ground is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in effect, within the monastery. We do ask that you respect the people of Bhutan who allow you toattend these sacred events. Please dress appropriately. You should always wear a long sleeved shirt, long trousers or a long skirt, anddo not wear boots, trainers or open sandals. The Bhutanese dress intheir best clothes for the festival and we ask you to carry a smart set of clothes for the festival day. Please also be discreet when takingphotographs. Always ask before taking an individual's portrait, do not photograph the dancers from close to the edge of the audience and do not use a flash. 

 

 

Day 1: Arrival Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free.

 

 

Day 2: Fly to Paro, Drive to Thimpu
Today we fly to Paro. If the weather is clear we should get fantastic views of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya including Mts .Everest, Kanchenjunga and Chomolhari. Upon arrival we transfer to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan (approx 1hr). Thimpu is a fairly  small town, with a population of around 90,000, and is easy to get around. There is a certain quaintness to it and all the houses and shops are painted in traditional Buddhist styles. Today we will visit Simtokha Dzong (fort) and Tashichho Dzong, which is the centre of the Bhutanese government   

 

 

Day 3: Punakha
This morning we spend a bit more time exploring the charms of Thimbu. We will visit the Memorial Chorten, which was built in 1974 in memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as well as a local painting school. We leave Thimpu and drive east to Punakha.The route climbs steeply in places to the Dochula Pass. At 3050m (10,000ft) the views over the eastern Himalaya are magnificent although the clouds may obscure this spectacle. We descend to the valley floor and continue to sub-tropical Punakha. At an altitude of 1350m the difference in temperature and flora is apparent. Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan and the dzong was the second one to be built in Bhutan. This remarkable fortress is built between two rivers  and it has survived many fires, an earthquake and a glacial flood. Along the way it has been repaired and added to and has several  interesting features to protect it against invasion. En route we will also visit Chime Lhakhang, a 15th Century monastery built to honor one of the more folkloric saints of Bhutanese tradition, Lama Drukpa  Kuenley. The Lama was known for his foul-mouth, alcohol-smelling breath and insatiable lust towards women. Yet he is revered as a great saint by most Bhutanese who come from all corners of the country to visit Chime Lhakhang.

 

 

Day 4: Bumthang
A long day today so we will leave very early for the long drive to Bumthang, often referred to as the spiritual heart of Bhutan. En route we stop at the Chendebji Chorten and visit the weavers in  Chumey where we can see women weaving yak wool into traditional Bhutanese textiles known as Yathra. Passing through Trongsa we will visit the imposing Dzong and if there is time the museum set in anold watchtower. It will be evening by the time we reach our hotel in Bumthang and although not guaranteed the amazing fire dances which take place usually the evening before the festival starts may be taking place this evening. 

 

 

Day 5:Jambay Festival 
Today we witness one of Bhutan’s famous festivals – the Jambay  Festival. Festivals in Bhutan are very colourful affairs and are a celebration of the country’s greatest Buddhist saints, Guru Rimpoche. Bhutanese come together during festivals to watch various dances such as the black hat dance or the treasure dance which normally have a long history and tradition going back centuries. Most of these are masked dances and the masks themselves have an important significance. The Jambay Festival, in Central Bhutan, is more intimate and less touristy than some of the other bigger festivals. SH (B,L,D)

 

 

 Day 6: Trek to Ngalakang
Today we start our gentle 3-day trek. We drive to Kurje Lhakang, the starting point of our trek. There is time to look round the famous monastery before we start walking. Our path will take us through small villages, blue-pine forests, meadows and bamboo shrubs. Wecross the river by bridge and follow the undulating trail all the way to the area called Ngang Yul, which directly translates as Swan Land after the wans which once inhabited the valley (but are, sadly, now gone). At the heart of the valley is Ngang Lhakhang (Swan Temple) at an elevation of 2,800m. The story goes that a Lama had a dream about how to build a temple, he shot an arrow into the air and where the arrow landed he built the temple. We will camp here overnight. (Approx. 14kms, 4.5-5.5hrs walking) 

 

 

Day 7: Cross the Phephe La Pass to the Takung Valley  Today we start a gradual ascent towards the Phephe La Pass (3,465m), the highest point on our trek. We will be passing through beautiful forested areas and will have plenty of opportunity to make stops andtake in our surroundings. About 10 minutes before the top if it is clear we can see Gangar Punsum in the far distance. The top is a cleft in a forested ridge marked with a cairn and prayer flags. We have an easy  descent through forest for about an hour before the valley opens out  as we pass an old gateway chorten. The forest here is interspersed  with clearings where animals graze on the lush grass pasture. As the valley widens we see cultivated land and herders huts. A large village comes into view - this is Takung and we camp just outside the village (2,900m). Approximately 16kms, 7hrs walking) 

 

 

Day 8: Trek to Mesithang, drive to Bumthang
Today, the last day of our trek, we hike for 3-4 hours (10km), first up for a short while and then down all the way to Gamling (2505m) and further to Tang. From here we will be met by our vehicle and drive back to Bumthang. En route we will stop at Mebar Tsho (Flaming Lake) which gets its name from the legend of Pema Lingpa who entered the lake with a butter lamp and returned a long while later with treasures and holy books - today the lamp is still burning in the lake! This holy site, with its bright prayer flags, is a pilgrimage place for many Bhutanese.  

 

 

Day 9: Fly to Paro
We take the short internal flight from Bumthang to the beautiful  broad, fertile Paro Valley, with its famous dzong overlooking the rice fields and scattered houses. The Paro valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Bhutan. Its blue pine-covered hills and attractive, solidly built farmhouses among the paddy fields are dominated by the massive Paro Dzong also known as Rinpung Dzong, which we will visit. There will be an opportunity to visit the National Museum which is housed in an ancient watchtower with a superb view over the valley, and contains many interesting historic and religious objects, as wellas a fine collection of Bhutanese stamps. 

 

 

Day 10: Tiger’s Nest monastery
We drive to the car park below Taktsang monastery, where we set off walking. It is an uphill hike taking 2 - 3 hours to the viewpoint café  and is steep in places. The energetic can hike further to the monastery itself. The famous monastery, whose name means 'Tiger's Nest', is only accessible on foot but is well worth the effort. The monastery  clings to a huge granite cliff 800 meters above the Paro valley. It is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century  on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. The demons  who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism were subdued and he converted the Paro valley to Buddhism. During the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint meditated  and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit once in their lifetime.

 

 

Day 11: Kathmandu
We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. You may want to visit the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city. Here is the old royal palace, with its intricate woodcarving and four fine towers. Or you may wish to city a few miles east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital. 

 

 

Day  12: Kathmandu
 After breakfast. Depart  Transfer to Airport.

Profile
12days point-to-point walking with full porterage.

 


Accommodation
9 Nights hotels, 2 night Camping in 2 person tent.

 


Food
Breakfast is included in Kathmandu throughout the trip and all food is provided in Bhutan.

 


Transport
For all transfers and road journeys we use a private bus. For the flights between Kathmandu /Paro /Kathmandu.

 


Group size and age
Min. 5, max. 16, plus leader and appropriate local staff. Minimum age 18.

 


Challenging
Fitness is important and you may have to improve yours before departure. Previous trekking experience is desirable, but not vital if you are confident of your physical condition.

 

 

 

Which local foods should I try whilst in Kathmandu?
Momos

These Nepalese dumplings are a traditional delicacy and a must-have local dish during your time in Nepal. Momos are either steamed or fried with chicken, buff (water buffalo) or vegetables and are the most famous fast food amongst Nepalese. They can be found on menus in almost all restaurants in the city.
Kwanti soup
This mixed bean soup is usually served during festivals and gatherings and is now commonly featured on many restaurant menus. Often eaten with naan bread or roti.
Choela
This is a smoked meat typical in Newari cuisine, and is usually made from chicken, lamb or buff, tossed with spices and mustard oil. This dish is easily available in most Nepalese restaurants in Kathmandu, particularly around Hotel Royal Singi as well as in sightseeing spots.

 


How do I obtain a Bhutanese tourist visa?
We will organise this for you. The cost is payable on entry to Bhuta,n and is currently US$20 in cash. You will need to send us a clear copy of your passport when you book, so that we can organise the Bhutan visa. Please ensure sure that we have this at least 4 weeks before departure. In addition, you will also be required to take 2 passport photos with you, as these will be required locally when processing your visa.

 


What can I do in the free time in Bhutan?
Should you be in Thimpu during the weekend, it is definitely worth visiting the local weekend market at the end of town, beside the National Stadium. This is where residents come to buy their week’s supply of fresh food and vegetables from farmers. This is a great place for people-watching and souvenir shopping, as there are stalls selling a vast array of Bhutanese and Tibetan products. It’s also a great place to hone your bargaining skills, as there is no fixed price for any of the products on sale!

 


Any good local restaurants I should try in Bhutan?
Plums Café on the second floor of a building near the Clock Tower in Thimpu offers Continental, Chinese and Bhutanese food during its lunchtime buffet. Cheese momos (dumplings) and Keewa datsi (a cheese and chilli dish) with red rice are Bhutanese dishes that you must not miss out on. If you have a sweet tooth, you should try the Swiss Bakery over the road from this restaurant for delicious muffins and pastries.

 


What is the standard of hotels in Bhutan?
The hotels we use are good, reliable tourist class hotels, with twin rooms and en suite facilities, reliable electricity and water supply, good service and a variety of other amenities. Sometimes, depending on the location, the standard of hotels may be slightly lower, but we always do our best to find the most suitable option.

 


What is the weather like in Bhutan?
Bhutan has a varied climate. The south has mild, dry winters and hot, wet summers; here, the monsoon starts a little earlier and continues a little longer than further west in the Himalayas. Paro, Thimpu, and other temperate areas of Bhutan experience cold winters with sunny skies. Please note that while our departure dates do not fall within the normal monsoon season, there is always a chance of rain in Bhutan, and you should come prepared.
You will experience a range of temperatures during the trip, depending on the altitude. During the day temperatures will be approx 10°C-20°C. At night it may drop to single figures, but the temperature will normally stay above 10°C.

 


Will I need to take walking poles?
If you are familiar with walking with poles, then you can take them with you. However, they are not n essential item, and the walk is manageable without them. It is a matter of personal preference, but if you do wish to bring the, please remember to pack them as part of your main luggage to be stowed in the hold.

 


Should I get my Nepalese visa in advance or at the airport?
Most of our clients choose to get their visas at Kathmandu airport. This may mean some time spent queuing, but the transfer bus won't leave for the hotel until all our passengers are through Immigration and have collected their bags. So if you buy your visa in advance, you will avoid the queue, but you won’t get to the hotel any earlier! If you'd still like to get your visa before you travel, please contact the Nepalese embassy directly.
Please note that if you plan to remain in Nepal for longer than 15 days, you will need to ask for a 30 day visa.

 

A BRIEF PROFILE of your needs and expectations should ensure a personalised, detailed, yet concise email reply from us. Information such as the following is helpful:
  • Primary purpose(s) and highlights of visit, including regions of interest.
  • Duration of stay
  • Probable number of people and short profile and level of physical challenge sought
  • Any specific queries or concerns

Download the detailed trip notes to know about this trip,including detailed itinerary supplementary information of the relevant trip of Exodus Treks & Expeditions.

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Exodus Treks & Expeditions Nepal Pvt.Ltd.
Tel. No. 977-01-4442715, 977-01-4442716
Fax: No: 977-01-4442521
P.O.Box. No: 20058
Address: Dhumbarahi, Kathmandu, Nepal
E-mail Address: info@exodustrekking.com
etreks@mos.com.np
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