Textiles, Arts and Crafts of Bhutan
Appreciate the intangible cultural heritage of the Land of the Thunder Dragon
A small group tour led by Zara Fleming
Wednesday 30 October - Friday 15 November 2019
You will be accompanied on this journey by Zara Fleming, a lecturer, independent art consultant and experienced tour leader. Zara specialises in the art and culture of the Buddhist Himalayas and has been visiting Bhutan for over 40 years. She will be able to show you the real Bhutan.
On this expert-led tour with Zara Fleming, you will see first- hand Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage and learn more about the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Textiles are considered to be one of the highest forms of art and spiritual expression and the weaving skills are passed down from generation to generation. You will appreciate the nuances communicated through garments which are worn every day as part of the national dress, together with the costumes and masks worn at festival time. In Bhutan, you will be able to step beyond the picturesque and immerse yourselves in the living traditions of this tiny kingdom.
London • Kathmandu • Thimphu • Punakha • Trongsa • Bhumthang • Mongar • Lhuntse • Trashigang • Paro • Kathmandu • London
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Wednesday 30 October
Depart from London Heathrow by Qatar Airways QR2 to Doha at 20:30 Arrive Doha at 06:10.
Thursday 31 October
Connect Qatar Airways QR646 08:15 arrive Kathmandu at 15:25
You will be met on arrival and transferred by air-conditioned vehicle to check in and rest at the hotel. In the afternoon, you will have a guided city tour of Kathmandu, taking in such highlights as the Durbar Square and the Swayambhunath Temple complex. You will have time to soak up the Hindu culture of Nepal today; although the country has officially been secular since 2006, its religious identity is one of the things which sets it apart from Bhutan. Overnight stay at Kashthamandap boutique hotel.
Friday 1 November
Fly from Katmandhu to Paro by Drukair at 11:40, Arriving in Paro you will check in to the hotel.
The rest of your day will be at leisure in Paro. We do, however, recommend that you venture out to visit the Rinpung Dzong built in 1646 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Nearby is the National Museum which not only contains works of art, but also costumes and information on dance together with an excellent display of flora and fauna.
Stay at Olathang hotel or Gangtey Palace.
Saturday 2 November
On your Second day in Bhutan, there will be the opportunity to walk up to Takstang (or the Tiger’s Nest), an iconic monastery perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the Paro Valley. The legend of Takstang dates back to the 8th century, when Guru Rinpoche in his manifestation as Dorje Drolo arrived here on the back of a tiger to subdue the evil spirits in the area. You either walk (or ride) for about an hour and a half up to the tea house, from where there are excellent views of this spectacular monastery; or those who are more energetic can walk up to visit the monastery itself.
In the afternoon, we can visit the beautiful 7th century temple of Kyichu Lhakhang or possibly visit a farmhouse. Finally, we return to Paro to wander through the bazaar and hopefully see an archery contest, before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Stay at Olathang hotel or Gangtey Palace.
Sunday 3 November
Leaving Paro behind, it is time to explore Eastern Bhutan to discover its many wonders. You will fly from Paro to Youngphula, so will have the opportunity to admire the marvellous mountain scenery from the air. Arriving in Youngphula drive to your hotel in Trashigang.
You will spend the night in Trashigang, which has a small bazaar where locally produced hand-woven silk fabrics, pottery and turned wooden bowls are sold.
Stay at Druk Deothjung resort or Lingkhar resort.
Monday 4 November
To Mongar- 3 ½ hours
After breakfast drive along the scenic mountain highway towards alpine highland of eastern Bhutan. This trip of about 96 km takes 3 hours passing through Kori la pass (2,450m), the place marked by a pretty chorten and a stone wall. The road ascends rapidly through corn fields and banana groves arriving the famous ziazags of Yadi, which is a recent settlement.
Mongar (alt. 1600m/5250ft) &Lhuntse(alt. 2323m/7621ft) Monggar District is one of the 20 dzongkhags (districts) comprising Bhutan. Monggar is the fastest-developing dzongkhag in eastern Bhutan. A regional hospital has been constructed and the region is bustling with many economic activities. Monggar is noted for its lemon grass, a plant that can be used to produce an essential oil. It also has a hydro power plant on the Kuri Chhu river.
After checking into hotel proceed on to visit Mongar Dzong, one of Bhutan’s newest Dzong built in the1930s. Yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs; no architectural drawings or nails have been used. A visit gives an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Stay at Wangchuk Hotel or hotel Druk Zhongar.
Tuesday 5 November
Lhuntse- 3 hours each way
Our destination today is the remote area of Lhuntse, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s Royal Family. The landscape is spectacular, with its scattered villages and small farms high up above the steep river valley.
The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. It is renowned for the weaving of kushuthara, a very distinctive style of weaving using extra-weft patterning and usually made into the most elegant of dresses, popular for formal and festive occasions in Bhutan. There will be time to see firsthand how weaving is a major source of income for many women, who sell their textiles to private clients in Thimphu.
Picnic Lunch will be served in Lhuntse.
You will return to Mongar for the night at Wangchuk Hotel or hotel Druk Zhongar.
Wednesday 6 November
The journey continues winding through rugged terrain with spectacular views from the road. The 7 hour journey passes through Ura village in Bumthang across the highest motor able pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass — 4000m. .
Bumthang or Jakar valley (alt. 2600m-4500m / 8530ft-14765ft)
Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys namely Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious legend. Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.
After checking into the hotel explore around the town.
Stay at Gongkhar Guest House or Swiss Guest house.
Thursday 7 November
Today we will visit important monasteries in the surrounding area, most notably the Jampa Lhakang, built in the 8thcentury and Bhutan’s most revered site; followed by a gentle half hour walk to Kurjey Monastery, which is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche who is regarded in Bhutan as the Second Buddha. He is believed to have meditated here and it is possible to see his body imprint on a rock. Finally, Tamshing Lhakhang - founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, but the temple was restored at the end of the 19th century. However, it contains some very important early murals which are being restored with assistance from the Courtauld Institute in London.
Lunch will probably be served in a local farmhouse and then later we will visit a weaver in their home. Here we will see how the handloom weaving is done and be able to ask questions about their weaving techniques and also about their way of life.
Stay at Gongkhar Guest House or Swiss Guest house.
Friday 8 November
Every dzong in Bhutan has its own annual dance festival (tsechu), and your visit happily coincides with a tsechu held in the courtyard of JakarDzong (the dzong of the white bird). Here monks will perform cham (sacred dance) adorned in elaborate costumes and masks, to the sound of music played on trumpets and drums. These tsechu last for several days and on the day we visit, we will see several different dances of both historical and religious significance.
This is where you will see Bhutanese culture come alive and be celebrated. The Bhutanese people wear their finest clothes and flock from far and wide to attend the tsechu. It is said that witnessing the spectacle not only imparts Buddhist teachings, but also showers all those who watch with auspicious blessings. Attending the Jakar Teschu will be a spectacular and unforgettable experience.
Stay at Gongkhar Guest House or Swiss Guest house.
Saturday 9 November
To Trongsa- 3 hours
After breakfast drive towards Trongsa .Enroute In Zugney, you will visit the Yathra Weaving Centre, where you will interact with local weavers and see some of the indigenous dyes. Yathra is a colourful handwoven fabric made from yak and sheep wool, which is incredibly warm. Yathra cloths were originally used as blankets and to keep off the rain, but today they are turned into coats, jackets and shawls.
On arrival, visit the Trongsa Dzong, built in 1648 it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (‘governer’) prior to ascending the throne, and the present Crown Prince now holds the post. The Dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built.
In the afternoon visit the Ta Dzong : The Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising five storeys, was built in 1652 by ChogyalMinjurTempa, a task entrusted to him by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. After more than 350 years, it has been resurrected into a beautiful but small museum, that represents a tasteful blend of tradition and modernity. There are 224 items on display including a sacred image of Sung Joenma Dorji Chang (self spokenVajradharna), a bronze statue of Pema Lingpa, made by himself, and a number of centuries-old treasures like dance and ritual costumes and objects, ancient prayer books, paintings and scrolls, and textiles.
You will stay overnight at Yangkhil resort.
Sunday 10 November
To Punakha - 4 to 5 hours including tea break
After breakfast drive to Punakha crossing the Pele La pass (3300m/10825ft). We will stop several times en route at places of interest, such as the Chendebji Chorten. This was built in Nepalese style during the 18th century, to pin down a demoness who had been terrorizing the valley.
Before reaching Punakha, we have a gentle walk across the paddy fields near Lobesa to the fertility temple of Chime Lhakhang. This was built by the 15th century Lama Drukpa Kunley (known as “The Divine Madman”), who was renowned for his eccentric behaviour.
Hotel: Meri Phuensum Resort, Zangdo Pelri (cottages).
Monday 11 November
In the morning we will visit the spectacular Punakha Dzong known as the “Palace of Great Happiness", built in 1637, it is the former winter Capital and the administrative seat of the district. The fortress is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. The coronations of all the Bhutanese monarchs have taken place within this dzong .
Drive to Thimphu across Dochu La (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkarpuensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
In Thimphu visit the National Memorial Chorten, honouring Bhutan’s third king, which Bhutanese circumnavigate at this time of day whilst chanting their prayers. Finally, we visit Trashichhoedzong (Fortress of Glorious Religion) before returning to the hotel in time for dinner.
Finally, we may go on a sunset drive to Khunsel Phodrang, a vast Buddha statue and temple built on the hillside overlooking Thimphu.the Memorial Chorten, honouring Bhutan’s third king, which Bhutanese circumnavigate at this time of day whilst chanting their prayers.
Return to the hotel for overnight stay at Hotel Galingka or Tashi Yoedling.
Tuesday 12 November
In the morning we visit one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, the Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 15th century, perched on a hilltop overlooking the town. This will be followed by the Textile Museum, which houses an outstanding display of Bhutanese textiles and costumes unparalleled elsewhere in the world. These reflect the diversity of the weaving and embroidery traditions found in Bhutan and include many costumes owned by the Royal family. Nearby is the Royal Textile Academy, where we will be able to see weaving in progress and talk to some of the weavers.
Then we drive out of Thimphu to visit the Choki Traditional Art School. This is a small but impressive privately-run establishment, where they study weaving, woodcarving, thangka painting and clay sculpture.
We then go to VAST (Voluntary Artists Studio, Thimphu) which is a not-for-profit organization with the primary aim to provide an opportunity for Bhutanese youth to participate and develop their potential artistic talents, particularly in contemporary art. Here the young people also learn to develop a sense of social responsibility through community service and to explore art as a vocation
Further Drive towards Paro en route we will stop at the 15th century Tamchog Lhakhang (temple), built by Thang Thong Gyelpo, a skilled blacksmith who is known as “the great iron-bridge builder.” Stay at
Olathang hotel or Gangtey Palace.
Wednesday 13 November
Sadly it is now time to leave Bhutan and begin your journey home. You will board Druk air flight at 07:00 from Paro for the short hop over the Himalayas to Kathmandu, arrive at 08:05 and then check into the Kashthamandap boutique hotel. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure.
Thursday 14 November
To London via Doha
You will return home to the UK, departing from Kathmandu in the morning by Qatar Airways QR653 at 11:25, arrive Doha at 14:35, connect Qatar Airways QR15 at 15:50 and arrive Heathrow at 20:25.
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
International flights in economy class on scheduled Oman Air via Muscat.
International flights between Kathmandu-Paro-Kathmandu on Druk Air.
Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
Meal Plan: Full board arrangements in Bhutan. Breakfast only in Kathmandu
All transfers and sightseeing arrangements by a private small coach.
Entry fee for monuments and places of interest.
Bhutan visa fee and Tourism Development fee
Services of a local English speaking guide.
- Services of Zara Fleming as Tour Leader
Full ATOL Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa fee for Nepal. Nepal visa is available on arrival at Kathmandu airport.
Travel Insurance. You can obtain a competitive price for travel insurance from
Travel & General see link to Travel Insurance
Any expenses of a personal nature.
- Tips and gratuities
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.