Mushrooms, Mountains & Monasteries - August 18 to 31, 2018
The clouds lifted and allowed a peek at the most stunningly located Taktsang Goenba, the Tiger's Nest (3050m / 9970ft).
Cheri's wooden cantilever bridge decorated with Five elements prayer flags.
Itinerary Mushroaming Bhutan 2018
8/18 Sat - Arrival Paro & Thimphu
Arrive at Paro Airport (2240m / 10,900 ft) . Drive to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. On the way get first impressions of the stunning architecture, landscape and biodiversity in the little kingdom. Mushroom sellers might line the road. In Thimphu light sightseeing, e.g. drive to Buddha Dordenma statue towering over Thimphu, and relaxed evening with a Chanterelle dinner. Druk Hotel
8/19 Sun - Thimphu (2,400 m / 7,900 feet))
Hike up to Phajoding monastery, founded in the 13th Century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (1184-1251), who spread the Drukpa Kagyu teachings of Buddhism in Bhutan. The path leads through beautiful forest. Later selected sightseeing e.g. Takin reserve and Changangkha Lhakhang, Trashichoedzong, etc. Druk Hotel
8/20 Mon - Thimphu to Punakha or Wangdue
In the morning visit the mushroom center at Yusipang. Later drive to Dochula (3100 m / 10,200 ft) with stunning views in clear weather and mystical atmosphere if in the clouds. Optional forest walk around the pass in magical giant Rhododendron, hemlock & birch-forest covered by "Dakini hair" lichens or hike (4 hours, moderate climb to 3600m / 11,800ft) up to Lungchutse Lhakhang. Later drive to Punakha or Wangdue (both 1310 m / 4,300 ft).
8/21 Tue - Punakha
Visit the famous Punakha Dzong, an architectural gem. Walk through rice fields to Chime Lhakhang founded in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel. Earlier, the place was blessed by the famous and popular Saint Drukpa Kuenley. He is said to have subdued a demoness here who committed monstrous deeds, torturing travelers between Thimphu and Punakha. Later visit Gaselo village, take your lunch there and explore the forests with a local guide.
8/22 Wed - Punakha to Chumey
All day drive with sightseeing stops incl. Chendibje Chorten and Bhutan's biggest "castle" Trongsa Dzong (2075 m / 6,800 ft). After Trongsa we cross Yatong La Pass (3440 m / 11,260 ft) before entering the famous Bumthang Valley (2800 m / 9186 ft), where Chumey is located. Evening rest in a beautiful and quiet resort with a little temple in the courtyard.
8/23 Thu - Chumey to Ura - Matsutake Festival
For participants interested we will try to arrange a visit to Tharpaling Monastery which was founded by Longchenpa (1308-1363) and also used as place of meditation by Jigme Lingpa, Nyoshul Khenpo and Dilgo Khyentse. Drive to picturesque Ura village (3140 m / 10,300 ft) and enjoy the Matsutake Festival together with the village folks. Learn about their art and crafts, traditional lifestyle, folk songs and dances, regional food and drink, etc. Home stay
8/24 Fri - Ura - Matsutake Festival
Another day at the festival with many activities e.g. mushrooming in the forest, display of local products and crafts in little stalls, folk songs and dances and home cooked meals at village houses. Home stay
8/25 Sat - Ura to Tang
First hike up to Singmela pass on 4000m with breath taking view of snow mountains and stunning flora, fauna & funga. Later drive along the old highway to Tang’s Orgyen Choling guesthouse. The lady of the house authored the book "Chili & Cheese” which highlights the role of food in Bhutanese society. On the way we visit Mebartsho, the “burning lake”, out of which the yogi Terton Pema Lingpa in 1475 retrieved an important teaching cycle though his original intention was to search for mushrooms (details).
8/26 Sun - Tang
After breakfast visit the interesting museum at Orgyen Choling palace (2900 m / 9,500 ft). Later explore beautiful subalpine Tang valley together with locals Bhutanese. Pass through charming villages and take your lunch at a local home.
8/27 Mon - Tang to Choekor
Hike to adjacent valley of Choekhor and visit Tag Rimochen Lhakhang and Pema Choling nunnery on the way. It is a pleasant walk uphill through pastures and forest till you reach Choekhor (2600 m / 8,600 ft). Check out the little district town Jakar.
8/28 Tue - Choekhor
Today you can either visit the National Park office in Choekhortoe or hike up to Petsheling temple from where you have stunning views of Choekhor valley. The latter includes a steep climb through gorgeous forest. Later visit the most important temples in the valley: Tamshing-, Kurje- and Jampey lhakhang.
8/29 Wed - Flight to Paro
Morning flight from Bumthang airport in Jakar (2550 m / 8,500 ft) to Paro (2240m / 10,900 ft). Excursion to picturesque Pangbisa valley, a little gem in the otherwise rapidly developing Paro district. Walk to Guru Lhakhang and take your lunch in a heritage farmhouse. Later stroll through Paro town. Gangtey Palace Hotel
8/30 Thu - Paro Taktsang
Hike to Taktsang Monastery (3050m / 9,970 ft), the world famous Tiger’s nest monastery nestled into a sheer cliff high above the lush valley. Gangtey Palace Hotel
8/31 Fri - Departure day
Mushroaming fellowship disperses
Notes: The itinerary is not final. We might still need to do some changes and add a few more items, such as cultural events (music, textile etc.) and enjoying a traditional herbal hot bath. We are working with Bhutan Homestay, their web page gives a nice idea of the scope of possibilities. Regarding homestays, during our Kongpo Tibet tour I fell in love with integrating homestays in our trips. Many home owners are mushroom hunters themselves and accompany us into the woods. Once back we can cook with the hosts or use their kitchen, the perfect setting! And the quality of home stays seems to be much higher than in Tibet, I am very excited! In addition travel in Bhutan can be strenuous, one factor being altitude, furthermore the roads can be challenging, especially during mushroom season, which is of course during the summer monsoon. So rain coats and umbrellas are a good thing to bring along. Also, hunting for mushrooms can include walking up steep slopes with no trails and there are possibly bears in the woods.
Links: Druk Hotel Tashiyoedling Ecolodge Dhumra farm resort Chumey Nature Resort Bangpa Heritage farmstay Rinchenling lodge Dorjibi homestay lodge Paro village lodge Gangtey palace Mandala resort - Hotels can also be found on trip advisor
Land Costs: $3,950 - Price for 10 to 14 participants
[with 7-9 participants $4200, 4-6 participants: $4450]
includes all accommodation, meals, overland transport, entrance fees
Single room supplement: $450
for registration after Jan. 1, 2018 add late fee:$400
ticket needs to be purchased individually by participant, but we need to coordinate with which plane we are coming into Bhutan.
Into Paro, Bhutan: from Dakha $340 rt, Delhi $570 rt, Bangkok $700
Dances at the Ura matsutake festival. Note the food stands in the back!
Bhutan's inviting capital Thimphu is populated by about 100,000 people. In front Thimphu Chu running at 2250 m / 7400 ft.
A stone relief seen at Dochu La of Ngawang Namgyal or Zhabdrung Rinpoche (1594–1651) who unified Bhutan as a nation-state and also sought to create a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived.
Rinpong Dzong (Dzong =castle, seat of a "count" like administrator, hence also sometimes used for county) in Paro built in 1646.
Sese Shamu as Cantharellus cf cibarius is known in Dzongkha. The Chanterelle is highly esteemed and very popular in Bhutan.
The Buddha Mushroom - Tricholoma matsutake. We will participate in a matsutake Festival in Ura, Eastern Bhutan.
Yeshe Tsogyal's retreat house in Tiger's Nest / Tak Tsang.
Trongsa Dzong is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, located in the centre of the country. Built on a spur overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River, a temple was first built here in 1543 by Ngagi Wangchuk. In 1647, his great-grandson Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Shabdrung or Zhabdrung being his title) built the first dzong to replace the temple, which was added on through the Centuries. Photo: ©Bhutan Homestay.
It is an excellent edible, but is not often eaten in Bhutan because of its dark color. We cooked it up and it was wonderful.
Also visible in this picture in the lower center are "Ripongkar", a Lyophyllum.
A young sulfur shelf (Laetiporus sp.), a very tasty and unusual textured edible mushroom.
Farmhouses above rice fields near Paro.