The Royal Highlander Festival is a two-day celebration for the nomadic people and their culture in the Northern part of Bhutan; located at a height of 3,800 meters. The festival was first started by the nomad residents of Laya for their distinctiveness; started by the fifth Bhutanese King- King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The northern areas of mountainous Bhutan have the least of festival calendar and public/ tourist attention. The celebration is held at some of the accessible towns in the county. To give a solution to this, his highness, King Jigme brought to light on this festival to show their appreciation for such unrecognized citizens.
Duration : 12 Nights/ 13 Days .
Destination Covered : Thimphu – Punakha - Gasa- Koina- Laya - Phobjikha- Trongsa- Bumthang - Paro . .
The flight into Bhutan takes you close to the great Himalayas, offering dazzling scenic views of some of the world’s highest glacial peaks. As you enter Paro valley, you will sweep past forested hills with the silvery Pa Chu (Paro river) meandering down the valley below. Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watchtower) on the hills above the town will be a fine sight.
Our representative will receive you and will drive to Thimphu with sightseeing along the way.
On your way to Thimphu, stop at invigorating Tachog Lhakhang located across Paro River in a medieval set up.
On arriving to Thimphu, visit the vibrant Buddha Dordenma statue at Kuenselphodrang and get an aerial view of the largest town of Bhutan. Discover the historic Tashichho Dzong and explore its exquisite architecture. Later explore the only city in the world without a single traffic light before returning to your hotel.
Duration of Drive: 1.5 hours (54Km)
Overnight: Hotel, Thimphu
After a healthy breakfast, journey to the ancient capital Punakha valley; on the way stop at Dochu La Mountain pass at 3,100 meters marked by colorful prayer flags and prominent 108 Buddhist Shrines. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all their glory. Hoist prayer flags on one of the highest points and make aspirations to benefit of all being.
On arriving at Punakha, walk through the traditional village of Sopsokha to reach the temple of the Divine Mad Monk or also known as Chimi Lhakhang.
A short drive through the valley floor leads to the grand Punakha Dzong, the palace of Great Bliss located between the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River).
Feast your eyes on the intricate sculptor and carving of the Dzong before exploring the village across the longest suspension bridge of Bhutan.
Duration of Drive: 3-4 hours (73Kms)
Overnight: Hotel in Punakha
After breakfast drive towards the North of the kingdom for approximately 4 hours to Gasa where the road ends. From there start your trek (4 hours) to Koina which, is your destination for tonight. Starting from the end of the road, trek for approximately four hours. The trail first winds with a gradual descend till Koina and then winds up with a gradual climb till your campsite past the small bride (Thongchu Zam). The Laya-Gasa Trek is considered one of the most scenic treks in Bhutan, offering amazing views of some of the most pristine and unspoiled landscapes in Bhutan.
Drive Duration: 4 Hours
Drive Distance: 73 Kms
Trekking Time to Koina: 4 Hours
Overnight: Camp at Koina
Start your trek today to the beautiful highland village of Laya. The trail winds up gradually and at times with steep climbs till you reach Laya. Arrive early at your camp and enjoy the scenic beauty and the landscape, you will also come across a lot of locals in their typical Laya costumes.
Overnight: Camp at Laya
Dress up in traditional Layap attire and be a part of the Royal Highland Festival.
The Royal Highland festival was first introduced in 2016 to mark the celebration of the birth of HRH the Gyalsey. The festival shares the beauty and the wonders of the Gasa district through its nature, history, and its age-old tradition and culture. And also share all the authenticity and the simplicity of the life of the Highlanders.
During the festival, visitors can witness the traditional offering of Buelwa (Gift offering) with Auley (traditional epic poem/song recitation tradition that begun during Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s reign.
A variety of cultural programs will be performed by Layaps; competition such as traditional songs and dances. The various competitions on highland animals including the Yaks, horses, and Mastiffs will be held.
The festival consists of series of stalls ranging from local-based yak produce to highland technology, highland agriculture technology, medicinal herbs & plants, and others. The whole setup will be a treat filming and photography.
Later we can explore Laya village, one of the most remote places on the planet by visiting local homes. The whole settlement has about 110 houses. The people of Laya have their own dialect, customs, and distinct dress. The women keep their hair long and wear conical bamboo hats with spike at the top. Cordyceps which is an insect parasite fungus with high commercial demand due to its high medicinal value is also found here.
Overnight: Camp at Laya
Trace your way back to Thongchu Zam today and capture some of the most beautiful sceneries and highlanders. After the trek, enjoy a relaxing natural hot spring at Gasa and rejuvenate your body. The water temperature varies in each of the pool and has different medicinal value, you can choose the pool that is most suitable for you. People believe that the hot spring/ Tsachu has curative effects with 128 varieties of medicines and minerals.
Overnight: Camp at Gasa.
Visit Tashi Thongmen Dzong in the morning before driving to Punakha valley
On arriving Punakha, wind your way up to Wolakha village before reaching the thriving Sangchen Nunnery participate in an intense butter lamping offering with the Nuns.
A little further from Laptsakha village takes you to Leki Wangmo Homestay, a traditional Bhutanese farm-house offering a grand view of Punakha valley. You can have authentic Bhutanese meals prepared by the hostess here for a pure Bhutanese experience. You can participate and try your skills in cooking Bhutanese dishes or learn the art of making butter tea or just relax by taking in the view of the Punakha valley.
Drive Duration: 73 kms/ 3 Hours)
Overnight: Leki Wangmo Homestay in Punakha
After an organic breakfast at the homestay, you can visit Talo monastery which is the home to the protective deity of the Queens Mothers before visiting the beautiful situated Nalanda Buddhist University.
Later discover Nobgang village which literally means Gem Hill. It is a charming village with traditional Bhutanese houses spread around with various tropical fruits. You can meet local people engaged in their daily activities with cattle and filed. If you are interested you can also participate in some of the farming activities with the locals farmers for fun. It is also the home to the ancestors of the Royal Queen mother.
Overnight: Leki Wangmo Home stay in Punakha
Take a scenic drive to the beautiful Phobjikha valley.
On arriving at Phobjikha valley visit Gangtey Monastery where you can take pictures of red robbed monks against the backdrop of the whitewashed Monastery walls. The architecture and sculptors of the monastery beautiful to capture
Gangtey Valley Exploration: The most beautiful and shortest of the existing nature trails in Bhutan. The trail hike starts from the Mani (like Chorten) stone wall to the north of the Gangtey Gonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang. The hike takes about 1 hour 30 minutes through the pine forest and small bamboo plants. You can see the Phobjikha valley so beautifully from this hike. It is one of the best hike places for Nature lovers. During the winter months, we can see the endangered species of birds – Black Neck Cranes.
The rest of the day soak in the tranquil environment of Phobjikha valley or take a relaxing hot stone bath.
Duration of Drive: 4-5 hours (130Km)
Overnight: Hotel in Phobjikha
Lungchutse Hike (Optional): Journey towards Paro by stopping at Dochu La (Pass) for another chance to catch the Snowcapped Mountain peaks before starting your hike to the mountaintop Lungchutse Temple. The Lungchutse hike takes you through an enchanting forest of Rhododendron and Hemlock; and in the spring season hikers will have the opportunity to witness gorgeous rhododendron flowers of red, pink, white, and yellow color blooming on the trail. From Lungchutse temple you will be able to get panoramic view of the entire mountain range beautifully. From there descend to Tashigang Goemba at Hongtsho through the forest of cypress and pine. Your vehicle will pick you up from there and head to Paro after a hot tea.
If you are not interested in long hours of hiking we can skip the Lungchutse hike and drive straight to Paro and do some sightseeing in Paro.
Try your taste pallets to different flavors of Bhutanese beer at Namgay Artisinal Brewery before taking a stroll in the typical Bhutanese street of Paro town.
Hike Duration: 4 hours
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Drive to Chele La Mountain Pass, one of the highest road points in Bhutan at 3,988 meters. It offers a breathtaking view of Haa Valley on one side and snowcapped Himalayan peaks like Jomolhari (7326meters) & Jichu Drake (6,714meters) on the other. The trail which goes down the pass introduces us to the lush valley, spruce, pine, primula, and Rhododendron forest and we can also get a good view of Paro Valley. However, if we hike through the trail going upwards from the pass, then we can even hunt for Blue Poppy, the rare & National flower of Bhutan.
If lucky we can also come across beautiful and exotic bird species like Himalayan Monal and Kalij Pheasant.
Close to Chele La Pass is the secluded Kila Goemba which means monastery on a Peaceful Mountain. This is a visually splendid nunnery located high on a cliff edge offering an amazing view of the valley and clouds floating below. We can drive to the nunnery and capture astonishing sceneries and incredible construction.
You also have the option to take a 3-4 hours hike to Kila Goemba from Chele La pass
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
The best of the last, the legendary Taktsang hike is the focus of today’s activities. Get your energy up at breakfast this morning for a hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Venture through the pristine surrounding of the monastery resting on a cliff.
Hike up to Tiger’s Nest - one of Bhutan’s most revered pilgrim sites; be rewarded to the overwhelming sight of the monastery perched on a cliff at 3,120 meters above sea level and 900 meters above Paro valley. Tiger’s Nest or Taktsang acquires its name from the legend of its foundation, when in the 8th Century Guru Rinpoche, widely revered as the second Buddha, arrived from Tibet flying across the mountains on the back of a tigress and meditated here for three months. He blessed and preached tantric Buddhism in Bhutan.
After the hike, we will stop at the ancient Kichu Lhakhang dating back to the 7th century and discover the myths related to the construction of this Lhakhang.
Relax your muscles with a healing traditional hot stone bath and game of local archery.
Duration: 4 to 6 hours
Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Our team will drop you at the airport and bid you farewell.
5.0 / 3 Reviews
We couldn’t have been more happy with the trip this tour company planned for us! Every driver, tour guide, resort, and experience far surpassed our expectations!!
I was a solo traveler and wanted to visit Bhutan manily to watch Royal Highland Festival.
Royal Highland Festival is a festival of its kind. Very rich in cultural heritage, they perform games which cannot be seen anywhere in the world . It was much more than what I expected
The highland women are beautiful , they were lot of ornaments , conical hat and their dress is also unique.
The trek was pretty difficult for me as I am not really a trekking person but the view of himalayas and landscape the trek offers is incomparable.
Other than Trek , did lot of cultural sightseeing which was also equally Fantastic.
Highly Recommend Bhutan Best Inbound Tour
The Royal Highland Festival is celebrated at one of the most beautiful and unique destinations of Bhutan. Our top highlights of the trip in addition to the awesome Tiger's Nest Monstery was the Highland Festival which is held at the beautiful village of Laya located at an altitude of 3,800 meters above the sea level. After two days of trekking from Gasa, we reached beautiful village of Laya surrounded by soaring high mountains which looked so sacred and magical, the view was just breathtaking.
The Layaps or the people of Laya have their own unique clothes which made us feel as if we were in a completely different world even inside of the distinctive kingdom of Bhutan. The atmosphere of the festival was joyous and vibrant. We spent two nights at Laya so we randomly visited local homes there and the people there were so welcoming and hospitable which was really touching.
We would highly recommend anyone visitng Bhutan to experience this UNIQUE PLACE (LAYA) and the Royal Highland Festival.
James & Michelle