Bhutan March Nomad 2019
The Twin Jewels of the East: On the Footsteps of the Nomads
March 20 – April 5, 2019
Join Kutira on a 17-day exploration of Bhutan’s best kept secret the Twin Jewels of the East. We will explore the Eastern and central part of Bhutan and visit where the Nomadic people live. Long closed to outsiders, the beautiful regions of Merak and Sakteng present Bhutan travelers with the unique opportunity to see two of the least known valleys in the Kingdom. Experience the stark wilderness and the simple generosity of the Brokpa people, learn how their traditional garb is still fashioned from yak skin and listen to timeless tales of the yeti which form an inseparable part of Brokpa lore. This journey into the hidden valley lets us discover the exquisite eastern wilderness of Bhutan.
We are starting this sacred journey in Paro with it’s famous “Tshechu” a religious festival in honor of Guru Padmansambhava “One who was born from the Lotus”, popularly know as “Guru Rinpoche”.
On this journey we will visit cultural places, small villages, temples, including the famous Tiger’s Lair, monasteries, nunneries, dzongs (fortress) and Kutira’s special projects.
This will be a once in a lifetime experience that you don’t want to miss. On this journey you will meet like-minded friends and explore the magical and mystical land of the Thunder Dragon and National Gross Happiness as we also get to sample delicious and diverse local cuisine from fine dining to family prepared traditional food. This is truly the last jewel of the Himalayas and if spirit is calling you, then you will be immersed in the beauty of Bhutan.
Day 1 | Wednesday, March 20 | Arrival in Paro I On arrival at Paro Airport, you will be welcomed by Kutira’s friends and our representative. Kutira will be arriving with the group, who started their journey in Nepal about the same time when you fly in.
We will be checking into our hotel, have lunch and get ready to attend the annual Tschechu Dance Festival in the afternoon. What a magical beginning for all of us.
The Tschechu is a religious festival in honor of Gure Padmasambhava “One who was born from the Lotus”, popularly known as “Guru Rinpoche”, the Precious Teacher. The dances re performed by monks a well as by laymen. By attending this festival it is believed one gains merit and lifts obstacles. It is also an amazing social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery. This is definitely a highlight and gift to be able to attend such a memorable dance festival.
Evening: We gather and get to know each other and meet the group arriving from Nepal. We will be spending the time in Paro and Thimphu together till we embark on our journey to the East.
Overnight at the famous historical Olatung hotel built for the coronation of the 4th King in the late 70’s .
Day 2 | Thursday, March 21 | Tschechu Paro We will continue taking part in the Tschechu Festival. We will enjoy lunch in town and in the afternoon we will visit a nunnery located on top of a mountain with a beautiful view into two valleys or another nearby place in magic nature. This is the perfect place for a meditation and some reflection time.
Our evening is open for relaxation and daily recap with dinner at the hotel and checking in with each other.
Day 3 | Friday, March 22 | Para Thongdrel Final day of the Festival and the hanging of the 3 story tall Thanka of Guru Padmasambhava. After lunch we visit the Kyichu Lhakhang Temple: This is one of Bhutan’s oldest temples, dating back centuries. We will also be exploring the small village of Paro during our time here. We will have dinner in Paro at Kutira’s old friend’s restaurant. She makes the best fried ginger potatoes and is also known for her delicious momos. You are in for a culinary treat! After a stroll through the town and visit of the local Dzong we may still have time to stop by the tower museum.
Evening: Massages and hot stone baths are available at the historical Olatung hotel for those who wish.
Overnight: Olatung hotel
Day 4 | Saturday, March 23 | Paro: Pilgrimage to Tiger’s Nest: One of Bhutan’s Most Sacred Places Our journey in Paro culminates with a hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. Kutira has been visiting Tiger’s Nest for many years and each time it is a new breathtaking experience that will stay with you for rest of your life. Ponies or hiking sticks are available for those who wish to ride or walk up. This pilgrimage route invites us to explore with sitting and walking meditation our inner landscape and gives us solo reflection time.
Dinner at the hotel, optional massages/hot stone baths, and relax and pack.
Overnight: Olatung hotel
Day 5 | Sunday, March 24 | Para to Thimphu This is a short one hour drive from Paro to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
We will visit the site of the largest Buddha statue, overlooking the Thimphu Valley and surrounding historic sites. Evening open for whatever magic Bhutan provides
Day 6 | Monday, March 25 | Thimphu A perfect time to visit the Traditional School of Painting and the Arts to capture close-ups of students practicing the ancient arts of Bhutanese thanka painting, mask making, and wood carving. We will also visit the fabulous Textile museum, enjoy a delicious lunch at one of Kutira’s favorite restaurant in Thimphu, and then end our journey at the Tara temple nearby a monastery know as the University of Astrology.
Evening: Closing circle and celebration.
Day 7 | Tuesday, March 26 | Thimphu to East Bhutan, Radhi In the morning we will leave Thimphu early and fly to Yangphula near Trashigang via domestic 1 hour flight followed by a 3 hour drive to Radhi (Altitude 2000m 6700 feet). The village of Radhi is famous for its rice fields and the skill of its weavers. It is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ because of its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to the eastern parts of the country. The people make their living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons. All textiles produced in Radhi are made using the traditional back-strap loom and dyes.
We will have an overnight stay near Radhi at a farm house/home stay. A “home stay” is an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family. You will enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and the unparalleled hospitality of a Bhutanese host.
Overnight: Home stay
Day 8 | Wednesday, March 27 | Radhi to Merak ( Altitude 3500m) After a hearty Bhutanese breakfast we will visit the lovely village of Radhi the home of many wonderful artisans. We will witness the art of weaving and have the opportunity to gift ourselves with some of this truly amazing treasure. After lunch we will drive the new road (4-wheel drive) to the Nomad village. Here we will visit the local community, temples and introduce our group to the locals. In the evening we will hopefully get to experience some native dances of Merak and Sakteng known as Ache Lhamo. Ache Lhamo is a classical secular theatre of Tibet with music and dance that has been performed for centuries, whose nearest western equivalent is opera. Performances have a narrative and simple dialogue interspersed with comedy and satire; characters wear colorful masks. The core stories of these theatrical plays are drawn mostly from ancient Indian Buddhist folk tales, lives of important people, and historical events from Tibetan civilization. These rare dances are exclusive to the Brokpas and will be specially organized by our host for our group.
Overnight at local guest house/Farm house in Merak.
Day 9 | Thursday, March 28 | Merak to Radhi – Trashigang After a leisurely morning in the village we will drive back to Radhi and heading to the main town of the East, Trashigang.
Overnight Lingkhar Lodge
Day 10 | Friday, March 29 | Trashigang Exploring the town and its surrounding, the Dzong and other architectural interesting sites.
Overnight stay at Lingkhar Lodge
Day 11 | Saturday, March 30 | Trashigang On our route to Mongar, towards the central valley of Bhutan, we stop to visit the famous, mystical Gom Kora or Gomphu Kora about 23 km away from Tashigang. Mongar Gomphu means meditation cave and kora means circumambulation. The sight dates back to the century when Guru Padmasambava came from Samye (Tibet) to subjugate Myongkhapa who escaped from Tibet. Later Guru Padmasambava mediated for three days and transformed Myongkhapa into the protector of the Buddha dharma in Bhutan. This is a perfect place to deepen our sitting and walking meditation with Mindful movements to overcome our own obstacles.
Overnight at the Wangchuck Hotel
Day 12 | Sunday, March 31 | Mongar to Tang Valley In the morning we explore the small town with its Dzong and monastarie and get ready to drive over the highest pass in Bhutan to the heartland of this mountainous Kingdom. We will drive through the majestic landscape which provides us with plenty of beautiful photography opportunities towards Tang valley near Bumthang. We will overnight at the Ogyen Choling Palace Museum, the only private museum in Bhutan. Ashi Kunzang Choden (20th generation in the family that has lived here) does an excellent narration of the history of the place and her ancestors. The museum portrays the life and style of the people that lived there. Apparel and implements are displayed along with many priceless ancient writings. It truly gives an insight into life in Bhutan over the centuries.
Ashi Kunzang is also an accomplished and established writer – the first woman in Bhutan to have published a book in English. Kutira’s favorite book from Ashi is “Dawa the Dog”. A novel that shows Bhutanese values and causes you to fall in low with the barking dogs. Ashi Kuezang and her Swiss husband are friends of Kutira.
Overnight: Ogyen Choling Palace
Day 13 | Monday, April 1 | Tang Valley A great time to explore the beautiful Tang valley and take our time as we are only 2 hours away from Bumthang town, the heart of central Bhutan. We will take our time and stop wherever we feel called.
Overnight at Kaila’s Guesthouse one of Kutira’s favored places in Bumthang.
Day 14 | Tuesday, April 2 |
We will partake in a monastery tour of some of the most spiritual places of Bhutan – including the Pema Linka lake, which is called “burning lake”.
Our neighboring palace, Wangdichhoeling, a past home to the 2nd King, and now home to the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up valley, we will take in the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, considered one of Bhutan’s most grand monuments, that was once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche, and Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings.
Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, we will enjoy a visit to the sin alleviating Tamshing Monastery followed by quick visits to the valleys unique cottage industries – Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery, home to numerous distinctive spirits. We also will enjoy a Swiss Raclette dinner made from a combination of Yak cheese with Kutira’s friend, Fritz Maurer one of the earliest Swiss residents in Bhutan.
Overnight at Kaila’s Guest house
Day 15 | Wednesday, April 3 | We will visit the GNH center and deepen our understanding of the 4 pillars of GNH. Economists all over the world have argued that the key to happiness is obtaining and. enjoying. material development. Bhutan however, adheres to a very different belief and. advocates that. amassing material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness. Bhutan is. measuring the…progress not by the popular idea of Gross Domestic Product but through Gross National. Happiness.
The rest of the day we will leave open for letting the spirits guide us to other magical places including a walk through the small Bumthang town.
Overnight at Kaila’s Guesthouse
Day 16 | Thursday, April 4 | We will embark to the lovely small airport and fly to Paro early in the morning. If we are lucky and the sky is blue you will experience an amazing flight from the heartland the west of Bhutan. Upon arriving in Paro we will have different option to explore and spend our last time in celebration with a delicious farewell dinner and closing circle.
Overnight stay Olatung Hotel.
Day 17 | Friday, April 5 |
After Breakfast we are leaving for departure to the Paro Airport