Bhutan – Haa Valley and Tiger’s Nest Bumdra Trek With Talo Festival

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  • Duration: 10 Days
  • Grading: 1B
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Bhutan – the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ – perched among the peaks of Eastern Himalayas has been described as the last Shangri-La. The tiny kingdom, second least populous nation in South Asia, shrouded in centuries of mystery, is only beginning to open up in recent years to welcome more visitors. Landlocked, it is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. Being a Buddhist kingdom, it is well known for its monasteries and fortresses (known as dzongs) and offers a fascinating insight into Buddhist culture. Coupled with its dramatic Himalayan landscapes range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys, Bhutan feels like a tranquil place, where time has stood still amidst landscapes of astounding and untouched beauty.

One of the best ways to experience Bhutan is to trek through one of its ancient routes or picturesque Himalayan mountain ranges. The first road in Bhutan was built only in the early 70s. Until then, people travelled along trails for over hundreds of years. Till today, some remote parts of Bhutan are still days away from the nearest road.

About Talo Festival

Talo Tshechu is a yearly 3-day festival that takes place at the Talo Monastery in the beautiful valley of Punakha.

Tshechu is a religious festival meaning “tenth day” held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country. It is held on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar, the exact month of which varies from place to place and temple to temple. It commemorates the birthday and deeds of Guru Rimpoche, the second Buddha. Tshechu is the grandest celebration and an important occasion for family reunion in each district. Villagers take time off from work and relatives living far away return home to be a part of the celebration. It is also a time for the local families to visit the monastery together, to offer prayers and receive blessings from the gods and local deities for a successful year.

During the festival, there are mask dances by the buddhist monks, as well as melodies and dances from the local villagers. Villagers deck out in their best to attend the festival at the monastery creating a colourful and jovial atmosphere that is highly infectious.

About The Trek

We have combined two short and scenic treks – Haa Valley and Tiger’s Nest Bumdra Trek with Talo Festival to be included in our Start Trekking programme. The trek and festival itinerary is a unique way of experiencing the beautiful nature and rich culture of Bhutan.

Haa Valley and Tiger’s Nest Bumdra Trek are two short and scenic treks suitable for beginners. Both treks are drastically different in scenery with camping in wide beautiful meadow and yak pasture, at above 3000m. The Haa Valley Trek offers more greenery and nature, whereas the Bumdra Trek is a more cultural trek to high altitude monasteries and several temples.

For better acclimatisation, we trek in Haa Valley first, before Bumdra Trek. Bumdra Trek is a higher elevation trek than Haa Valley, with the highest point at 3900m. The daily trekking duration for both treks is between 3-6 hours.

Haa Valley with its close proximity to Paro, is fast gaining popularity with tourists. Most tourists visit Haa Valley on a day trip and miss out on the scenic mountain trek.

Our Haa Valley Trek is part of the “Haa Planters’ Trail”. In ancient times, this trail was used by the rice planters of Haa Valley to travel to Paro, on foot, to help the people of Paro plant and harvest rice.

The 2-day beautiful short trek follows part of the undulating mountain trail undulating mountain trail used by the ancient rice planters between the  Haa and Paro Valleys. It goes over Sagala Pass (3550m) and ends at Drukgyel (2510m).  The trail starts slightly above Haa Valley (2670m), at Talung village (2740m) and traverses through beautiful meadows, across virgin forests rich in flora and fauna, with picturesque views of the Haa Valley and quaint villages. The main highlights of the trek is the absolutely stunning panoramic view of Mt Jhomolhari (7314m) and Jitchu Drake (6989m) on Sagala Pass (3550m).

Also called the ‘Trek of the Thousand Dakinis’ (celestial female beings), the 2-day Bumdra Trek covers 2 spectacular high altitude monasteries and several temples. It not only includes a visit to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taktshang Goemba/3120m), but also offers views of the iconic monastery from the top, away from the usual tourist route. The next monastery is the more remote and less visited Bumdra Monastery (Cave of a Thousand Prayers/3900m). The trek starts at Sang Choekor Buddhist College (2800m) and ends at Ramthangkha. Rather than an undulating mountain terrain, it is mostly an uphill climb to Chhoe Chhoe Tse Lhakhang temple (3640m) and Bumdrak Lhakhang (3900m) on Day 1. The next day is mostly downhill through a few temples like Ugyen Tshemo Lhakhang (3300m), Zangto Pelri Lhakhang (3280m) and the not-to-be-missed Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taktshang Goemba/3120m) to the end point at Ramthangkha.

Trekking Seasons

There are four seasons in Bhutan. The best seasons to visit Bhutan for trekking are spring (mid-March to June) and autumn (mid-September to early December). In winter, the temperature in higher altitudes becomes very low and snowfall starts. July to early September is the monsoon season when gloomy sky and heavy rain form the typical daily weather pattern.

Autumn (mid-September to early December): This is the most popular time for trekking in Bhutan. The sky is often clear blue with barely a wisp of cloud. Though the temperatures can be cold in the higher areas of the mountains, there is little or no snow in most places yet.

Spring (mid-March to June): While the spring season may not yet be ideal for trekking in the higher mountains (above 5000m), it is the perfect time for the lower altitude treks, such as the Druk Path Trek. The spring conditions are pleasant for trekking, with cool temperatures and rhododendrons blooming across the hillsides.

Experience Required

This trek is graded 1A and part of our Start Trekking programme. It is a fully supported camping trek.

No trekking experience is required. Anyone with a good level of fitness can complete this trek. The trek covers 2 scenic short treks in Bhutan in 4 days. Haa Valley Trek is with undulating mountain terrain that brings you to the highest point at Sagala Pass (3550m). Bumdra Trek is a mostly uphill climb on day 1 and downhill hike on day 2 with the highest point at Bumdra Lhakhang (3900m). You will be trekking for 4 days with a 5-6kg backpack load in undulating mountain terrain and sleeping for 2 nights at above 3000m. The shortest day is around 3-4 hours and the longest day is around 5-6 hours.

Equipment and Gear

You will need thermal base layers, a fleece jacket and an outer shell jacket. When at the campsite and after sundown, a down jacket will help keep you warm. A down sleeping bag is also needed and provided.

A packing list will be provided to all our participants. Please refer to our Resource Centre page for information on the layering system and how to choose the right gear/equipment for your trek.

 

DAY DESCRIPTION MEALS
1

Arrive Paro.

Overnight: Paro hotel (2200m)

-/-/D
2

Acclimatisation day with visit to Chele La pass (3800m). Transfer to Haa Valley.

Overnight: Haa Valley homestay (2320m)

B/L/D
3-4

Haa Valley Trek. Day 4 transfer to Paro.

Overnight: Tent at Khadey Gom (3400m), Paro hotel (2200m)

B/L/D
5-6

Bumdra Trek. Day 6 transfer to Thimphu.

Overnight: Tent at Bumdra (3800m), Thimphu hotel (2330m)

B/L/D
7-8

Transfer to Punakha. Talo Festival

Overnight: Punakha hotel (1250m)

B/L/D
9

Transfer to Paro.

Overnight: Paro hotel (2200m)

B/L/D
10 Depart Paro B/-/-
DATES PRICE
Mar 2021 (with a trek leader) $4,950.00 (SGD) / person
  • The Haa Valley and Tiger’s Nest Bumdra Trek With Talo Festival is part of our Start Trekking programme. Through Start Trekking, we hope to encourage more people to take up trekking as a way to keep fit and embrace the great outdoors.
  • Price above is for group size: 10-16 people
  • Price for group size 7-9 people: $5500 (SGD) / person
  • You can also form a private group. For enquiry, send an email to us at contact@aceadventure.com.sg.
Inclusions
  • Return SIN/PRO/SIN air ticket, airline taxes and fuel surcharge
  • Bhutan tourist visa fee
  • Return airport transfer and all land transfer as in itinerary
  • All sightseeing and entrance fees as in itinerary
  • Meals as in itinerary
  • Boiled drinking water, tea and coffee during meals on trek.
  • Accommodation: Standard local hotels in Paro, Thimphu and Punakha (twin/triple sharing); homestay in Haa Valley; sleeping tents during trek (twin sharing)
  • Camping equipment: Sleeping mats and bags, sleeping tents, dining tents with tables and chairs, and toilet tents
  • Trek support: Trekking guide, assistant trekking guide and horses for portage support
  • Permits & fees: Trekking permit fee
  • Emergency support: Comprehensive first aid kit carried by guide
Exclusions
  • International air tickets for other routes, except SIN/PRO/SIN
  • Single supplement
  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • All tipping
  • Personal porters
  • Personal travel insurance (mandatory to cover travel agent insolvency and trekking up to 4500m)
  • Personal expenses like shopping, laundry, etc.
  • Personal travel & trekking gear
  • Compensation for damaged or lost of personal items (e.g. climbing/trekking gear and equipment, cameras and any valuable items, etc.)
  • Emergency evacuation and medical expenses
  • Any expenses including accommodation, meals & transfer outside the stipulated trek/climb itinerary – i.e. any person leaving the group for personal travel, illness/injury or any form of extension of stay
Pre-trip Support

1. Trip briefing and information kit
2. Gear list and gear discount from selected Singapore outdoor outfitters
3. Complimentary group training sessions
4. Rope skill workshop (For climbs that require rope up and/or fixed rope skill)

Local Support

We carefully select and establish strong working relationship with our local trek operator to ensure safe participation by everyone.

Our local climbing guides have extensive experience in guiding treks in all regions in Bhutan, possess  intimate knowledge of the local surroundings, conditions and culture. They carry a comprehensive first aid kit for emergency purpose.

Visa

Participants for Ace Adventure Expeditions’ organised trips, you will be assisted with your visa application.

With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all visitors travelling to Bhutan need a visa. 

Indian, Bangladeshis and  Maldivian nationals can obtain a permit at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).  

All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior the travel to Bhutan. Visas are processed through an online system by our licensed Bhutanese partner directly.

You are required to send the photo-page of your passport to us and we will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received, the visa clearance will be processed within 1 month prior to your travel date.

At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.

For latest updates and details of visa application, please visit https://www.mfa.gov.bt/?page_id=220.

Money

The Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu) is pegged to the Indian rupee and not available outside Bhutan.

You can spend Indian Rupees in Bhutan. Bring US dollars, as they are the easiest currency to change. You receive better exchange rates for high value (USD100) notes and also in some of the luxury hotels. Euros and GBP are also accepted throughout. ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard.

Major hotels, restaurants and handicrafts shops in Bhutan accept credit cards. Otherwise, in smaller shops, and in rural areas, it is best to use cash.

Electricity

Bhutan’s electricity is 230V and 50HZ. There are mainly 2 types of plugs used in Bhutan. Two narrow round pins (Type F) is the most common, useable with most European plugs; and three-pronged thick round pins (Type D).

Language

The national language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Dzongkha literally means the language spoken in the Dzongs, massive fortresses that serve as the administrative centres and monasteries. Besides this, Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken, differentiated by the geographical locations of the various ethnic groups.

English is the medium of instruction in schools so it is widely spoken, especially those working in the tourist service industry.

Drinking Water

It is not advisable to drink untreated water in Bhutan. Bottled water is provided in the car during the day of your travel. You can also buy bottled water for consumption in your hotel room. On the trek, boiled drinking water is provided at camp.

Tipping

Tipping is not traditionally a culture in Bhutan. However, with the growth of tourism, tipping in Bhutan has become an expected thing among guides and drivers.

Your meals are included in the tour package, except drinks. You can tip a 10% to the drink bill (if any), or do not have to tip if there is a 10% service charge, along with 10% Bhutan sales tax added to your bill.

Culture and Customs 

The Bhutanese are generally tolerant of Westerners and don’t expect that they will necessarily follow, or understand local customs, so they are not quick to take offence, but it is worth bearing in mind the following:

  • Visitors are expected to dress modestly and respectfully especially on a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
  • Follow your guide’s lead on this – it is customary to remove your shoes on entering the important rooms of temples (and indeed private houses).
  • Don’t point at people or religious objects or pictures. If you are indicating something in a painting, use your whole hand, palm upwards, pointing the tips of your fingers in the relevant direction. If you are waving someone towards you use your hand palm downwards.
  • Remember that you should always turn prayer wheels or navigate round a chorten, religious monument or temple in a clockwise direction. 

  • Photography and filming inside temples is not allowed. Please ask if they mind before taking pictures of local people.
  • It is polite to take any items offered to you (or to hold something out to another person) with two hands. This is also often done when shaking hands. If you only use one hand to take something from someone make sure it is the right hand.
  • Don’t touch people on the head or feet (although this rule does not apply to small children), and don’t point your feet at anyone. If you are sitting on the floor try to sit cross-legged or kneel with your feet behind you.
  • Don’t give money or candy to local children. It will encourage them to beg whenever they see foreigners. Instead you could leave small donations to schools or the village development fund so that the money can be used to benefit the whole community.
  • In an effort to become the first smoke free nation, Bhutan has prohibited the sale of tobacco and smoking in public areas. However, tourists are allowed to bring a limited quantity of tobacco products for their personal consumptions & subject to payment of 100% custom duty and 100% sales tax. Any excess quantity is subject to confiscation. Further, tourists are permitted to smoke at designated smoking areas only.
 
Travel Safety Advice

With evolving world situations that may occur unexpectedly due to natural disasters, pandemics/epidemics, conflicts and unrests, it is best to read up and keep tabs on news and developments at your destination country and region before the trip. Check on the country’s official website and/or your own foreign ministry website for any travel advisory or safety precautions to be taken while abroad.

As with traveling in anywhere in the world, regardless of the local crime rate, stay vigilant and take care of personal safety. Good to read up on any possible exposure in the country prior to departure.

It is a good practice to register with your respective foreign ministry if there is such a service provided to citizens, to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and, if need be, assist you should an emergency (e.g. natural disasters, civil unrest, etc.) occur when you are overseas.

For Singaporeans, this is the link to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ eRegister:
https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg/eregisterportal/common/preLoginEregisterView.action.

 

Travel Insurance

It is highly recommended to purchase comprehensive travel insurance(s), upon payment of your trip, to cover adverse situations that may occur while you are overseas or even before departure. Ensure that the coverage is suitable for your destination and the activities that you are participating in. Be familiar with the terms and conditions before purchasing and travelling abroad.

 
Travel Immunization Advice 

There is no compulsory vaccine to be taken to enter Bhutan. You should, however, be up to date on routine vaccinations, especially vaccines against water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (examples: hepatitis, typhoid and tuberculosis) while traveling to any destination. You are encouraged to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition.

Recommended routine vaccinations for travellers in general:

Hepatitis A

Spread through consuming contaminated food and water or person to person through the faecal-oral route. Risk is higher where personal hygiene and sanitation are poor.

Hepatitis B

Spread through infected blood and blood products, contaminated needles and medical instruments and sexual intercourse. Risk is higher for those at occupational risk, long stays or frequent travel, children (exposed through cuts and scratches) and individuals who may need, or request, surgical procedures abroad.

Rabies

 

Spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite, scratch or lick on broken skin. Particularly dogs and related species, but also bats. Risk is higher for those going to remote areas (who may not be able to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite), long stays, those at higher risk of contact with animals and bats, and children. Even when pre-exposure vaccine has been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal or bat bite.

Tetanus

 

Spread through contamination of cuts, burns and wounds with tetanus spores. Spores are found in soil worldwide. A primary series of 5 doses of tetanus vaccine is recommended for life. Boosters are usually recommended in a country or situation where the correct treatment of an injury may not be readily available.

Typhoid Fever

Spread mainly through consumption of contaminated food and drink. Risk is higher where access to adequate sanitation and safe water is limited.

Influenza

A vaccine specific for a given year to protect against the highly variable influenza virus.

For more information and professional advice on travel vaccinations, please consult your doctor or travel clinic.

For people residing in Singapore, you may visit The Travellers’ Health and Vaccination Clinic (THVC) at Tan Tock Seng Hospital:

Travellers’ Health & Vaccination Clinic
Address: Level 4, Clinic 4B, Tan Tock Seng Hospital Medical Centre
Contact number: 6357 2222
Website : https://www.ttsh.com.sg/Patients-and-Visitors/Medical-Services/Travellers-Health-and-Vaccination-Clinic/Pages/default.aspx.