• Masked Monks Dance at Festival

Textiles, Arts and Crafts of Bhutan
07-24 October 2021 Special Interest

Bhutan

Textiles, Arts and Crafts of Bhutan 07-24 October 2021 Special Interest

Bhutan’s textile, especially the intricate brocades and supplementary warp patterns, are unmatched anywhere in the world. They are prestige, commodity, wealth, forms of payment and capital, as well as expressions of religious devotion.“From the Land of the Thunder Dragon” edited by Diane K. Myers and Susan S.Bean.

Isolated from the outside world for centuries, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan measures its progress in Gross National Happiness and mass tourism is not welcome. Its Buddhist philosophy, ancient monasteries and pristine environment create a unique travel destination, which delights the mind, body and spirit. It is the last remaining Buddhist kingdom in the world and it has successfully developed its own cultural identity. This culture is unique in its characteristics and achievements in architecture, textiles and other crafts; and still remains distinct from other Himalayan areas.

This 18 night itinerary is designed to give the perfect introduction to this remarkable country and to learn more about its arts and crafts, but in particular its weaving tradition. After spending a night in Kolkata, we fly to Guwahati in Assam and drive to the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar and so we begin our journey in the east of the country where weaving started. We then travel gradually back to the west, meeting local weavers in their homes, visiting villages, temples and the great monastic fortresses of Punakha and Trongsa. One highlight of the tour is the Jakar Tsechu in the Bumthang area of Central Bhutan. A tsechu is a religious festival known for its colourful dances that are clearly defined in religious content. It is an occasion when the people from the surrounding area gather together to meet friends, to witness the spectacle and to gain merit. The Bhutanese wear their finest hand-woven robes and a colourful atmosphere of conviviality and good humour prevails.

We plan to follow this detailed itinerary, but events beyond our control – unpredictable weather, unruly rivers, blocked roads, cancelled flights, mechanical breakdown etc – may require changes and work-arounds at the last moment. Owing to present circumstances this tour may move to 06 - 23 April 2022 if the October departure does not go ahead, perfectly timed to experience the wonderful spring season and witness the Om Kora festival in Trashigang. 

 

Zara Fleming

You will be accompanied on this journey by Zara Fleming, who is a lecturer, independent arts consultant and experienced tour leader specialising in the arts and culture of the Buddhist Himalayas. She has been visiting Bhutan for over 40 years and will be able to show you the real Bhutan.

 

18 days from £3,998.00 per person
London - Kolkata - Samdrup Jonkar - Trashigang - Mongar - Bhumthang - Trongsa - Punakha - Thimphu - Paro - Kathmandu - London

Contact a
specialist consultant

020 8901 7320 Enquiry
Itinerary View Map
Soaring above the clouds a view from the airplane window

Day 1: To Kathmandu

Thursday 7 October

Depart from London in the evening flight to Kolkata (Qatar Airways).

Day 2: Kolkata

Friday 8 October

Arrive Doha and connect to Kolkata.

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 Kolkata. Overnight stay at Great Eastern Hotel. B

Day 3: To Samdrup Jongkar

Saturday 9 October

Fly from Kolkata to Guwahati (capital of Assam) and drive to Bhutan's India-like border town to Samdrup Jongkar, where we spend the night. B, L, D

Day 4: To Trashigang

Sunday 10 October

Drive northwards, leaveing behind the subtropical climes of Southern Bhutan and travelling through forested hills and valleys to Trashigang. En route, we may have the opportunity to stop at Khaling, a famous weaving centre. After about 6 hours, we arrive at the Lingkar Lodge, our destination for the night. A charming but small hotel looking out over orchards and terraced rice fields. At last we can begin to appreciate the peace and serenity that Bhutan is renowned for . B, L, D

Day 5: Trashigang

Monday 11 October

In the morning visit Tashigang, not often visited by tourists. There is a small bazaar where hand woven fabrics of wild silk and hand turned wooden bowls made in the surrounding hills are sold. If time allows visit a nearby monastery.

Day 6: To Mongar

Tuesday 12 October

A beautiful drive to Mongar, journeying for some of the time on a wonderful switchback road stopping at a lemon grass farm, as products made of lemon grass are the speciality of this area. We also stop at the village of Yadi, where we will see local women weaving on
backstrap looms. After lunch, we explore the dzong and the local bazaar.

Stay at Wangchuk Hotel or Hotel DrukZhongar. B, L, D

Colourful thread on bobbins

Day 7: Day trip to Lhuentse

Wednesday 13 October

Drive to the remote Lhuentse district situated high in the hills near Bhutan’s northern border. This is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family and renowned for its weaving traditions. The royal princesses popularised the kushutara textile, with its distinctive supplementary weft patternig, favoured by females for all formal and festive occasions in Bhutan. We visit Khoma, a small village of wood and stone houses, where we have lunch, meet the local weavers in their homes and learn about the weaving, dying and yarn spinning processes. There are many natural dyes found and used in Bhutan, these include lac, indigo, madder, onion skin, turmeric, rhododendron leaves and walnut.

Picnic Lunch will be served in Lhuntse. You will return to Mongar for the night. Stay at Wangchuk Hotel or hotel DrukZhongar. B, L, D

Day 8: To Bhumthang

Thursday 14 October

Today is a long but stunning drive of dramatic contrasts, moving from warmer, sub-tropical climes to a landscape of high alpine scenery and going over the Thrumshingla Pass (12465 ft) into Central Bhutan. We then drop down to the small village of Ura and continue on to Jakar, the capital of the Bumthang district. Bumthang is made up of four small valleys, which constitute the spiritual heartland of Bhutan (Chokor, Tang, Ura and Chhume) and each one is steeped in religious legends.

Overnight Gonkhar Guesthouse or Jakar Lodge. B, L, D

Day 9: Bumthang

Friday 15 October

Today we plan to visit Jakar Dzong, as the important annual Jakar tsechu is taking place in the courtyard. Tsechus are Bhutan’s Buddhist dance festivals held throughout the year in different dzongs and are one of the best ways to experience the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan. The dances are performed by monks in colourful and elaborate costumes and the Bhutanese people flock from far and wide to witness this spectacle. Not only does it impart Buddhist teachings, but it is also believed to shower the onlookers with auspicious blessings.
A wonderful opportunity to see many different types of costumes!

After lunch in a farmhouse sampling the local cuisine, we explore some of the sacred sites in the Choekhor Valley. These include Kurjey Lhakhang, a monastery that is the resting place of the first three kings of Bhutan; Jampa Lhakhang, said to be one of the 108 temples built by a Tibetan King in 659 AD on a single day, to pin down an ogress, and Tamshing, a monastery that is the seat of an incarnation of Pema Lingpa, who many regard as the most important lama in Bhutanese history. All three temples have some outstanding Buddhist treasures.

Stay at Gongkhar Guesthouse or Jakar Lodge. B, L, D

Day 10: Bumthang

Saturday 16 October

In the morning we drive north to the beautiful Tang Valley and visit the manor house of Ogyencholing. This was originally a monastery but then became an ancestral home, which is today preserved partly as a museum by a member of the original family, Kunzang Choden and her Swiss husband, Walter Roder. The museum gives a fascinating insight into the everyday life of the Bhutanese aristocracy. The production of cloth was a vital tradition of Ogyencholing and originally five to seven weavers worked in the house. The textiles produced were used as clothing, as gifts and to pay taxes. An interesting display illustrates the spinning, dying and weaving techniques. Kunzang is also a writer and was the first Bhutanese woman to write a novel in English The Circle of Karma, but has also produced several other books.

Overnight Gongkhar Guesthouse or Jakar Lodge. B, L, D

Day 11: To Trongsa

Sunday 17 October

We leave the Bumthang area and head westwards, stopping at Zugney to see yathra weaving.

Yathra are all purpose thick woollens woven with supplementary weft designs; woven in panels and sewn into squares or oblongs to be used as rain capes, blankets, rugs and more recently jackets. There may also be the opportunity here to see the dying process. Then continue to Trongsa, the gateway to Western Bhutan (10,000ft). . Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong commands the eye from miles away. This was built in its strategic position by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal (the unifier of Bhutan) in 1644, and then became the seat of the Wangchuck dynasty before they became monarchs of Bhutan in 1907. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan used to pass through the courtyard of the dzong, so at any time, the Penlop (Governor of the Dzong) could command that the doors could be shut, dividing the country in two! Visit the dzong.

Overnight Yangkhil Resort or Puenzhi Guest House. B, L, D

Day 12: To Punakha

Monday 18 October

Above the dzong is the watchtower (Ta Dzong),which today houses an impressive museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty. This is a wonderful and scenic spot to learn more of the history of Bhutan. Two British soldiers were imprisoned in the dungeon of the tower for several months during the Duar War (1864/5). Drive on for 5 hours towards Punakha, stopping in the late afternoon for a gentle walk through the rice paddies to the fertility temple of Chimi Lhakhang. This was built by Drukpa Kunley (known as ‘The Divine Madman’), who was renowned for his eccentric behaviour and is revered as a fertility god.

Overnight Meri Phuensum Hotel. B, L, D

Day 13: Punakha

Tuesday 19 October

Begin the day with a beautiful walk up to the three storey Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, standing majestically on a ridge above the Valley. It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s current artistic skills and was commissioned by the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck to promote peace and harmony throughout the kingdom. Then visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, known as the ‘Palace of Great Happiness’, it is the former winter Capital and today the administrative seat of the district. The fortress is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. It was built in 1637 and the Kings of Bhutan are crowned here. B, L, D

Day 14: To Thimphu

Wednesday 20 October

In the morning, drive on to Thimphu over the Dochu La Pass (3050m/over 10,000 ft). At the pass the party should have a spectacular view of the Eastern Himalayan ranges . This is the site of the 108 chortens (commissioned by Queen Ashi Dorje Wangmo, one of the 4th King’sfour wives) and a beautiful monastery. Proceed on to the capital of Thimphu, where we should have time to visit the dzong or have a wander around the town.

Overnight Galingkha Hotel or Namgay Heritage. B, L, D

Day 15: Thimphu

Thursday 21 October

In the morning, visit one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, the Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 15 th 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 which reflect the diversity of the weaving and embroidery traditions found in Bhutan. In the nearby Textile Academy, there should be the opportunity to see students weaving or carrying out conservation projects.

In the afternoon, visit the Choki Traditional Art School just outside Thimphu. This is a small but impressive privately-run establishment, where the pupils study woodcarving, thangka painting (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton), clay sculpture and weaving. And if there is time later, we may visit a contemporary weaving workshop run by an award winning weaver/designer from Eastern Bhutan.

Overnight Galingkha Hotel or Namgay Heritage. B, L, D

Day 16: To Paro

Friday 22 October

In the morning we leave Thimphu and drive 1.5 hours to Paro. In the afternoon, we visit the imposing Rinpung Dzong ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Housed in the Dzong’s ancient watchtower is the National Museum which not only contains works of art but also handcrafted objects of daily life, costumes, armour and even stamps. There is also a section devoted to Bhutanese dance and one on the flora and fauna. Continue over a charming cantilever bridge and return to Paro town, where there may be an opportunity to see an archery competition. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and involves skilled marksmanship; dancing and singing.

Overnight Gangtey Palace or Olathang Resort. B, L, D

Day 17: Paro

Saturday 23 October

This morning, enjoy a walk (optional!) up to the viewing point of Takstang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the Paro Valley. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress during the 8 th century, in order to subdue the local demons. Tragically damaged by fire in 1998, it has now been restored to its former glory. Those who wish can climb on up to the temple itself. Then a walk down, followed by a visit to the Kyichu Lhakhang. This temple was originally constructed in the 7 th century as a geomantic temple and is today one of the most sacred shrines in the kingdom. Finally, visit the Paro bazaar for a wander and to do any final shopping.

Overnight Gangtey Palace or Olathang Resort. B, L, D

Day 18: To London via Kathmandu

Sunday 24 October

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 Kashthamandap boutique hotel. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure.
Evening flight back home the UK. B

Itinerary map

Dates & Prices

Dates Price per person (Double/Twin share) Single room supplement
07-24 Oct 2021 £3,998.00 £548.00
Cost includes:
  • International flights in economy class on scheduled Qatar Airways flight.
  • International flights in economy class for Paro-Kathmandu on Druk Air.
  • Internal flights between Kolkata-Guwahati on Druk Air.
  • Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Meal Plan: Full board arrangements in Bhutan. Breakfast only in Kolkata & Kathmandu.
  • All transfers and sightseeing arrangements by a private vehicles.
  • 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 India.
  • Any expenses of a personal nature.
  • Tips and gratuities.
  • Travel Insurance*

We plan to follow this detailed itinerary, but events beyond our control – unpredictable weather, unruly rivers, blocked roads, cancelled flights, mechanical breakdown etc – may require changes and work-arounds at the last moment.

We aim to be as flexible as possible for new bookings  and have reduced holiday deposits to £250 per person until further notice, and made it possible to request a refund or postpone travel plans at no extra cost, in the event that a trip can’t go ahead due to Foreign Office advice or overseas government restrictions. All tour payments to Indus Experiences are 100% protected by our ATOL and ABTA Licences.

*Travel Insurance

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.

• Make sure it includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
• Make sure it provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
• Make sure 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 have any doubts about your cover, check with your insurer. Please note Covid-19 cover is now available.
For a competitive quotation please click here

020 8901 7320

What our clients say

I just wanted to thank you and your colleagues for arranging our holiday. All the transfers were accomplished quickly and easily. Everything went according to plan and all the reps and guides were brilliant and made our holiday stress free and relaxing. Khajuraho was an amazing experience and again our rep was waiting for us at the airport. The airport looks brand new and is…

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