Locally known as Sangay Shamu or Matsutake mushrooms in Bhutan was discovered by Japanese some decades ago. Hence this mushroom has become a helping hand to most farmers. And if you are tired of the traditional mushroom hunt, head over to the region’s exquisite temples and monasteries, which rank among the most prized treasures of Bhutan.
Matsutake Festival gives the cheerful Uraps a reason to celebrate and have some fun with the festival spanning three days. After an exciting day of picking mushrooms with the people of Ura, learn about their art and crafts, their traditional lifestyle, folk songs and dances, regional food and drink. Sample freshly gathered mushrooms; try some wild honey or high altitude medicinal herbs and potions, along with other local dishes of wheat and barley. Here is a chance for you to experience hot steamy stone bath in a traditional Bhutanese style.
Day 1 ARRIVAL IN PARO, BHUTAN
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sightseeing in Thimphu if possible.
Heritage Museum – Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artefacts used in rural households.
Thimphu Dzong – The largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
National Memorial Chorten – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Day 2 THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA
Dochula Pass – The 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate of the souls lost.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Chhimi Lhakhang – A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for barren women.
Day 3 PUNAKHA TO BUMTHANG
Passing Wangdue Phodrang, one of the major towns and district capital of Western Bhutan. Located south of Punakha, Wangdue is the last town before central Bhutan. The district is famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate and stone carving. We will pause to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Built in 1638, Wangdue Dzong is dramatically perched on the spur of a hill and overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
In the morning, we will hike to the Tamshing Goemba, built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa. We will also visit Kurjey Lhakhang (left-bottom), one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses a rock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who had taken the form of a white lion.
We will also visit Jambay Lhakhang, built in 659 by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. Come October, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan.
Day 4 URA MATSUTAKE FESTIVAL
The Matsutake Festival gives the cheerful Uraps a reason for celebration and to have some fun. After an exciting day of picking mushrooms with the people of Ura, sampling some truly delicious meals, learning about their art and crafts, their traditional lifestyle, folk songs and dances, regional food and drink. Participate in the song and dance, glitter and gaiety as the villagers gather in the festival arena, in full costume to cultivate a deeper insight into the rhythms of Bhutanese village life. Sample freshly gathered mushrooms; try some wild honey or high altitude medicinal herbs and potions, along with other local dishes of wheat and barley. Shop for textiles, cane, bamboo and other regional products.
Day 5 BUMTHANG TO GANGTEY
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black Necked Crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black-necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goempa. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Gangtey Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa’s revelations and one of the two main centres of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country. The well-known Terton Pema Lingpa makes the Monastery in the late 15th century.
Day 6 GANGTEY TO THIMPHU
Thimphu the modern capital of Bhutan is made up of just three main streets. It is only one of 2 capitals in the world without traffic lights. As the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu offers a rich cultural heritage with places of interest as listed below.
Textile Museum – Witnesses the art of traditional weaving.
Tashichhodzong (Thimphu Dzong) – The largest Dzong, also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
Paper Making Factory – Witnesses the art of papermaking
Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge, stands Semtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in the Kingdom.
Day 7 THIMPHU TO PARO
Paro Valley – The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong – This 15th century massive fortress/monastery is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag. It is also known as Rinpung Dzong.
Ta dzong – Built as a watchtower the Ta Dzong has since been turned into the national museum.
Day 8 PARO TO HAA VIA CHELE LA
Drive to Haa through Chele La (3,988m). From the pass you can see Paro valley on one side and then Haa valley on the other. You can also have a picnic at Chele La if you like to. In Haa, some sightseeing and then going to katsho village and visiting the Katso Lhakhang.
The valley of Haa was only opened to Tourist in 2002 and Haa is the least visited valley in Bhutan due to the lack of Tourist infrastructure. This has helped in keeping Haa the way it has always been, with Bhutanese families living their traditional and simple life. There are no tourist standard hotels in Haa valley so we return back to Paro for the night.
Day 9 PARO
A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Beyond Satsam Chorten, we hike up to the Taktsang Monastery. The 1.5-hour hike to the cafeteria is also a vantage view whereby you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. Prayer flags adorn the cliffs and this is also where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
Day 10 DEPART PARO
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back to Singapore. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!
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