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Bhutan:Sharing Happiness in the land of the Peaceful Dragon
Visit Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Wangdue and Bhumtang

April 10 to April 20, 2019 (11 days)

Bhutan: Sharing Happiness in the land of the Peaceful Dragon

Open dates (9 days)

We will visit Paro, Thimpu, Punakha and Bhumtang.

This journey begins and ends in Paro, Bhutan.

 

For futher information & registration please contact us at info@elevendirections.com

Itinerary

Bhutan Pilgrimage 2019: Sharing Happiness in the Land of the Peaceful Dragon: Visit Paro, Thimpu, Punakha, Trongsa, Wangdi and Bumthang (11 days, beginning and ending in Paro):

April 10 to April 20, 2019 – US$ 5985 (single suppliment US$ 2390)

April 10 to April 20, 2019 (11 days)

S.no.

Date

Day

Travel

Night's stay

1

10th April

Wednesday

Arrive in Paro

Paro

2

11th April

Thursday

Paro 

Paro

3

12th April

Friday

Paro - Punakha

Punakha

4

13th April

Saturday

Travel to Bumthang

Bumthang

5

14th April

Sunday

Bumthang

Bumthang

6

15th April

Monday

Bumthang

Bumthang

7

16th April

Tuesday

Bumthang - Gangtey

Gangtey

8

17th April

Wednesday

Gangtey

Gangtey

9

18th April

Thursday

Gangtey - Thimpu

Thimpu

10

19th April

Friday

Thimpu   (Rhododendron festival)

Thimpu

11

20th April

Saturday

Departure

 

TEACHER BIOGRAPHY:

Shantum Seth
Join Buddhist teacher Shantum Seth in this Buddhist kingdom on an exploration of a fascinating culture and landscape. We shall have daily meditations, teachings, walks and reflective periods, while visiting some of the most sacred sites in Bhutan. We shall meet monks, teachers, scholars and ordinary folk to get a deeper understanding of the religion, traditions and modes of living. Shantum has worked with artisans in Bhutan through the 1990s while he was with the United Nations, and is now on an International Expert Working Group, set up by the Prime Minister of Bhutan working on a New Development Paradigm based on the concept of Gross National Happiness. In his inimitable style, magic will unfold along the way, as we coalesce into a harmonious group. We will also have local expert guides with us. The details of the itinerary are open to change, depending on some of the special meetings that are being set up.

DETAILED ITINERARY

DAY 1: Wednesday April 10, 2019: Arrival in Paro
After arriving in the Paro Valley and completing visa formalities, you will be met by our local representative and driver and taken to your hotel.
On your flight to Paro, as you near Bhutan (and if the weather is clear), you can see the massive peaks of the eastern Himalayas, including Kanchenchunga (the third highest mountain in the world) and Bhutan's holy mountain, Chomolhari.

After lunch and a brief orientation session, we will take an optional short hike to Dzongdrakha (8,100 feet). This is an area in which Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th Century.  Situated on the cliffs just above the Bondey valley, it is not far from terraced fields.  Dzongdrakha is a tranquil village of about eight farmhouses built around four temples. This hike will also help one acclimatize for the trek.

The large temple on the extreme right and the furthermost temple are situated below the last farmhouse and are privately owned by a family from the village. The two temples at the center of the village are owned jointly by all the villagers of Dzongdrakha. It takes about a half-hour to hike to the first temple from the Chele La road; the trail goes along a wide dirt track. After about 20 minutes on the track, the path makes a steep climb up through oak trees. The entire village is set up over the cliffs, stretching horizontally over the ledge, with farmhouses and temples vying for the limited space. It has a beautiful view of the Bondey.
After returning to your hotel you will have a Welcome dinner.
Night’s stay in Paro

DAY 2: Thursday April 11, 2019: Paro
After breakfast, we drive to SatsamChorten to start our pilgrimage to Taktsang-The Tiger's Nest. This serene monastery clings to a steep granite cliff about 700 meters above the valley floor.  Legend has it that the Guru Padmasambhava flew to this rocky Craig in the 8th century to meditate. He flew here on the back of a tigress hence the name. Being one of the most revered pilgrim sites, many thousands of pilgrims come here every year, some walking for a month to reach here.
The surrounding area has many temples, monasteries and cells where many monks, nuns and lay people can meditate-some even for a life time Although we are not allowed inside the monastery we can hike up to the view point, where a cafeteria is situated. From here you can get a most spectacular and breathtaking view of Taktshang. It takes about 2 hours to get there and about 2 hours to return down
Night’s stay in Paro

DAY 3: Friday April 12, 2019: Paro to Punaka
We drive to Punakha via the capital of Bhutan - Thimphu. The winding road follows the Pa Chu as it winds downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu, then up-valley to Thimphu, the capital. As we enter the Thimphu Valley we will pass by Simtokha, the Dzong built in 1629 by ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal (the man who unified Bhutan). Simtokha is the oldest of the Dzongs, originally serving as a fortress to protect the region, an administrative center, and the center for the monks' religious activity. Its prayer wheel alcoves contain slate carvings of Buddhist deity that date from the construction of the Dzong. Simtokha now houses a language school where scholars of all ages study Dzongkha, the national language.

After lunch in Thimphu, we continue our journey eastwards crossing over the Dochu La (‘la’ means ‘pass’) at an altitude of 10,000ft where in good weather 300kms of the Bhutanese Himalayan summits are visible. After stopping for tea and the view, we continue traveling downhill to the Punakha and Wangdi valley below, at an altitude of 4,500ft. The valley is the richest agricultural region of Bhutan.

In Punakha, we will have an opportunity to go inside the courtyards of the PunakhaDzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung that is situated at the confluence of the `Pho' &`Mo' Chus (Father & Mother rivers) guards the Southern end of the Punakha valley. This huge fortress / monastery was the capital of Bhutan until 1966.The `Je Khenpo' (Head religious Abbot) of Bhutan and most of the monks in Thimphu occupy this Dzong throughout the winter, since the lower elevation of the Punakha valley provides more comfortable temperatures. In 1651, Zhabdrung went into retreat and passed away soon after. For fear of civil unrest his death was kept a secret for over 50 years, whereby the court ruled on his behalf. The bodily remains of the Zhabdrung are preserved to this day in this Dzong.  

Nights stay at Punakha

DAY 4: Saturday April 13, 2019: Punakha to Bumthang
We depart early this morning for our longest drive of the trip, crossing three Himalayan passes before reaching the sacred Bumthang Valley. We begin our journey by climbing to the Pele La (pass)(10,825ft).  We will stop to stretch our legs before continuing onward. On the way to Trongsa, we will stop at ChendibjiChorten, a shrine of ancient lineage built on the old walking path across the country, for n impromptu tea break.

VisitTrongsaDzong, the largest in Bhutan. If time permits we may also visit the art museum which was recently opened totourists.

We head back after lunch for our final two and a half hour drive (a total of 26 miles) to Bumthang. We cross two more mountain passes, Yutong La (11,155ft) and Kiki La (9,515ft).

As we enter Chumey Valley (the first of the four valleys which comprise the Bumthang Valley) we will visit the village of Zugney which is one of several centers of "yathra" weaving.  Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth.  Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colours enliven the fabric which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout Bhutan.

Night’s stay at Bumthang

DAY 5: Sunday April 14, 2019:Bumthang
This morning, we start with a walking to tour of the Bumthang Valley, noted as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. This valley has a history hallowed by the frequent visits of Padmasambhava when he was bringing the Buddha's message to Bhutan. He meditated in caves around the valley which now have temples and shrines associated with them. The valley is wide, filled with fields and village folk busy with their day's work.

JambayLhakhang (‘lhakhang’ means ‘temple’), along with KyichuLhakhang in the Paro Valley, is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built circa 750 by King SongtsenGampo of Tibet as a part of his pledge to build l08 temples to the Buddha during his lifetime. One of the most holy of Bhutan's religious sites, we will apply for the special permission necessary to visit this sacred temple.

We continue to Kurje, a 17th century temple next to which a spectacular new monastery is being built in traditional style. From Kurje, we begin our walk through the countryside, crossing a bridge over the rushing Chamkhar Chu (river) and through ripening paddy fields to Tamshing. This temple complex was founded in 1501 by one of Bhutan’s most famous saints, PemaLingpa - the treasure discoverer. It is a monastery with many young monks in training.  We continue past Tamshing and end our walk with a visit to the Swiss Project -- an industrious complex which produces cheese, beer, apple juice and honey!!           

Night’s stay Bumthang

DAY 6: Monday April 15, 2019:Bumthang
Today we will drive to the highest of the four valleys which make up the Bumthang Valley. From the Tang Valley, the road gradually climbs through the scenic countryside to Ura La pass (11,180ft) which is marked by a Chorten and Mani wall. Just before the pass, if the weather is clear, magnificent views of Bhutan's highest peak, GangkharPuensum (23,750ft) can be seen.

The village of Ura, unlike most Bhutanese villages, is made up of closely clustered houses centered around a new temple recently dedicated to Guru Rinpoche.  The people of this region are primarily sheep and yak herders.  Recently, the introduction of potato farming has helped to increase the prosperity of the local people.
We spend the day mingling with the villagers from the surrounding region. We will be free to watch the masked dances, the cultural programs by the students and also to explore the village and absorb the atmosphere of this remote Himalayan region.  Return to our guesthouse in the evening.                                                 
Night’s stay at Bumthang

DAY 7:Tuesday April 16, 2019:Bumthang to Gangtey
Depart for Gangtey. (10,000 ft) We travel this morning to the Phobjikha Valley.
This drive will take approximately 5-6 hours depending on the number of stops we make for photos etc. The Black Mountain National Park (of which Phobjikha Valley is a part) incorporates alpine, temperate and subtropical ecosystems alike because it links up with Royal Manas National Park to the south. The combined reserve provides pristine habitat for various species such as tiger, red panda, Himalayan black bear, gaur, leopard cat, wild pig and several bird species, including moral pheasant and four subspecies of hornbills. Just after Pele La (11,286feet), a detour onto a side road leads to the hidden valley of Phobjikha. Consideredone of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, it is encircled by majestic pine-covered mountains. When you enter the valley, rising from a small ridge stands one of the oldest and wealthiest private monasteries in Bhutan - GangteyGoenpa. This area is famous for being the winter home of the very rare black-necked crane. Experts estimate that fewer than 6000 cranes exist in the wild. Every year, approximately 800-1000 birds arrive in Phobjikha Valley around mid-November and stay through March. To protect the birds' winter nesting grounds, electric wires are not permitted in the valley. Instead, the residents of this valley depend on generators and solar power sources only.
Night’s stay at Gangtey 

DAY 8:Wednesday April 17, 2019:Gangtey
We have a full day to explore the pristine environment of the Phobjikha Valley, starting with a visit to the Crane Center to view some interesting exhibits put together by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) and to watch a brief film about the black-necked cranes. One of the highlights of a visit to Phobjikha is a chance to explore the impressive GangteyGoenpa.  The head lama of GangteyGoenpa is the ninth incarnation of the body of PemaLingpa, a famous 14thcentury blacksmith from Bumthang who is one of Bhutan's most famous Buddhist saints and teachers. GangteyGoenpa, Phobjikha. In the afternoon, a number of hiking options are available. The forests surrounding the valley are full of birds and mammals alike, and a hike is a wonderful way to experience this pristine ecosystem.
Night’s stay at Gangtey

DAY 9:Thursday April 18, 2019:Gangtey-Thimpu
Drive back over the Do Chula pass which gives you another chance to view the Himalayan peaks on a clear day. Once in Paro, we will visit the impressive Ta Dzong - the ancient watchtower above the ParoDzong, which now houses the National Museum. The museum has an interesting assortment of costumes from the different regions of Bhutan along with a wonderful collection of painted and appliquéd Thangkas. Time permitting, we will meet those involved in the Gross National Happiness Centre and the Centre for Bhutan Studies and will visit some of the following: School of Painting and traditional craft Painting School, National Institute of traditional medicine and Traditional Medicine Centre, Watch an Archery game, National Memorial Chorten (Stupa), National Library, National Textile museum, Mini zoo which houses the national animal of Bhutan – Takin, TashiChhoeDzong, Lungtenzampa to observe the royal smiths and Bhutanese paper factory at work, PangriZampa- two 16th Century buildings which now house a monastic training school for astrologers.
Night’s stay at Thimpu

DAY 10: Friday April 19, 2019:Thimpu

DAY 11: Saturday April 20, 2019:Thimpu

DEPARTURE FROM PARO AIRPORT

PILGRIMAGE REGISTRATION INFORMATION & TRAVEL FACTS
The cost for the 11-day Bhutan Pilgrimage 2019: Sharing Happiness in the Land of the Peaceful Dragon (April 10 to April 20, 2019) is US$ 5985 based on double occupancy.  The single room supplement isan additionalUS $2390. 

The tour price includes: Bhutan visa fees, airport transfers and escort services in Paro, Bhutan, guide services, transportation inside Bhutan, monument entrance fees, all meals, bottled water and lodging arrangements for the duration of the pilgrimage. All registration fees are payable in US dollars or the equivalent in GPB, Euro etc.

Please note that the cost does not cover:
International airfare to and from Paro, Bhutan, and other international arrangements, any extra days spent in Bhutan beyond the dates of the pilgrimage, excess baggage fees on the flights, phone calls and faxes during the pilgrimage, laundry during the pilgrimage or medical and other insurance coverage such as travel insurance. 

As the good hotels are limited, and sometimes a few groups arrive on the same day, it may be difficult for hotels to provide a single room, and in some very exceptional circumstances, even a twin-sharing basis is unavailable.  We ask for your understanding if this circumstance should arise.

TO REGISTER
A non-refundable deposit of $500 U.S. per person is required at the time of booking.  The remainder of the cost of the pilgrimage is due by January 30, 2019. 

CANCELLATION
For cancellations received up to eight weeks before the commencement of the journey, only the deposit will be forfeited.  The cancellation fee afterthat will be 100% of the total cost.

Travel Insurance:The range of coverage can vary significantly from policy to policy, and travelers are encouraged to speak with a travel agency to identify a policy that suits their needs.  Things to consider are travel delays, trip cancellation or interruption, medical coverage, and baggage loss or delay.  Before purchasing insurance, you may wish to check with your health insurance carrier to see if your policy includes medical care overseas.  Please note that many insurance carriers require that insurance be purchased at the time a deposit or final payment is made; check with your carrier for details. 

ARRIVAL
Arrival and departure are to and from Paro, Bhutan.  Participants are responsible for making their own round-trip flight arrangements from their point of origin to Paro, Bhutan and back.  For international flights, tickets should be booked as early as possible.  You may check with us before you confirm your flight bookings.

We will arrange a complimentary airport transfer on arrival.
The pilgrimage will begin at 12:00pm (noon) on …

DEPARTURE
We will do a complimentary airport transfer for your departure.

EXTRA NIGHTS
For those wishing an extra day or two to recover from air travel before the pilgrimage begins, or who wish to stay longer after the pilgrimage ends, we would be happy to do a hotel booking.  Please make your hotel bookings for Paro well in advance, as May is peak season.

SINGLE ROOM
Single rooms are available and there is a single room supplement.

For single travelers who do NOT want to opt for a single room, we will undertake to room them with someone suitable.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR THIS TRIP
You will need a valid passport and visa for Bhutan.  We will help you to obtain it.For the visa to Bhutan, you need to send us a scanned coloured copy of your Passport by email (the passport and your photograph on it have to be very clear on the scan).  Once the visa is processed we will send you a copy of the approved visa, a print out of which you should carry and produce at the point of entry when you arrive in Bhutan (Paro).

IMPORTANT DEADLINES
Each participant must provide the following details:  Name, gender, date of birth, passport number, date of issue of passport, date of expiry of passport, place of issue of passport, and emergency contact information. 

CURRENCY EXCHANGE, ACCEPTANCE OF CREDIT CARDS & TIPPING
The Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum (Nu). The Ngultrum is on par with the Indian Rupee (both the Nu and Indian Rupee can be used in Bhutan).  There are virtually no ATM machines in Bhutan. Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted in Bhutan but only at very few places. Therefore, we request you not to depend on them and carry cash instead. Ngultrum, US Dollars or Indian Rupees (only 100 Rupee notes) are accepted at most places.

Travelers often have questions about tipping. Tipping is officially discouraged in Bhutan, but it’s becoming a common practice and it’s OK to do so if you want to reward good service. In the last few years, Shantum has developed a system where he does all the tipping/donations during the pilgrimage and keeps a running tab of it.  At the end, the amount is divided among the pilgrims and repaid to him (contributing is optional).  Thus far, this has worked well. It usually works out to $5 per day, but this figure could vary.
Smoking is banned in Bhutan. International visitors may still do so, but the sale of tobacco in Bhutan is prohibited therefore buying cigarettes in Bhutan will be virtually impossible. We would recommend you carry your cigarettes with you, though they are subjected to separate custom charges.
We suggest that you pick up a local SIM card for your mobile phone on your arrival in Bhutan.

WEATHER & CLOTHING NEEDS
It’s spring time in Bhutan in April. The days are pleasant from temperatures ranging from 18oC to 29oC. The evenings are cooler with temperatures going down to 10oC. There is a small possibility of rain so please come equipped with wind-cheater, umbrella and warm clothes. We would also recommend you to carry ample protection from the sun in the form of a sunscreen lotion, sunglasses and hat/cap for the day. 

There is no need to bring formal clothing. 

Please bring comfortable sneakers or sandals (which you can wear with socks if it gets cold).  We will do some trekking (optional).  We also visit a number of temples where you will need to remove your shoes, so it is helpful to bring a pair of socks (the airline slip-ons are very convenient).  It is always useful to have a hat or cap to protect you from the sun.  The free baggage allowance is 20 kilos (44 lbs.) check-in baggage. Your cabin baggage limit is 5kgs and is part of the 20kgs free baggage allowance, so we recommend that you travel light.  Laundry facilities are available at all the places we stay, and laundry is usually returned within 24 hours.

HEALTH CONCERNS
We stay in clean, safe places, and the food in the places we stay will be clean, fresh and prepared to suit a delicate digestive system.  You will be provided bottled mineral water for drinking.

If you are coming from Africa or some parts of Latin America, a certificate of yellow fever inoculation is required by the Bhutan authorities.  There is no other medical restriction upon your entry into Bhutan.  We recommend a Hepatitis-A inoculation and a Tetanus shot.  If you prefer to be more careful, then please speak to your physician.  We do carry a first-aid kit with us, but many people prefer to bring their own supply of medicines.  We would recommend you get an insect/mosquito repellent and also a stomach medicine for both diarrhea and constipation as one’s stomach has its own way of adjusting to different foods.
If you have any special diet needs or medical needs, please do let us know.

ADDITIONAL TRAVEL SERVICES (e.g. shuttle buses, taxis)
We provide all the transport services during the pilgrimage, including having you met on arrival in Paro.  There is no extra charge for meeting people at the airport. 

DISCLAIMER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY
Shantum Seth and Seth Consultants Pvt. Ltd. while undertaking tours, transportation, hotel accommodation and other services only act on the clear understanding that they shall not be in any way responsible or liable for any accident, damage, loss, delay or inconvenience caused in connection with travel and other facilities arranged by the company, their employees or agents. All bookings are accepted and executed with utmost care, yet no responsibility is taken for any change or deviation on account of factors beyond their control.

By making a deposit for the tour, participants acknowledge that they have read and understood this document in its entirety, and have consented to all conditions herein, including the Disclaimer and Release of Liability.  For participants under age 18, their parent or legal guardian shall sign on their behalf and the same Disclaimer and Release shall apply.

REGISTRATION FORM
Each pilgrim must complete this form in full, and send (email is fine) with a non-refundable deposit of $500 per pilgrim to:
MsBinaAranha
Buddhapath/Eleven Directions
309-B, Sector 15A
Noida 201 301, India
Tel: +91-120-4334284; 2511633; 2512162; 2512162

Email: info@elevendirections.com

 

 

 

"Shantum's love of Buddha-dharma and in-depth historical understanding was a constant source of enrichment. For me the value of an 'outer' pilgrimage is the ability to nourish the 'inner' pilgrimage - travelling with Shantum did just that."

-Dr. Larry Rosenberg, Guide and Teacher, Cambridge Insight Meditation Centre, USA

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