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Bhutan has a lot of monastery and not-religious festivals to offer. It is difficult to choose among them all. Our advice: If you have the time/possibility, visit festivals in the off-season. They are very special because they have less foreign visitors. Also travelling in off-season is more cheap than in high season. If you want to travel in high season be prepared to book early as flights and hotelrooms are quickly sold out during that time. Anyhow: The monastery festivals are a special highlight and if you go to Bhutan you should see at least one. 

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Overview: Festivals from July 2016 onwards

Here you will find not only monastery festivals but also non-religious festivities taking place between july 2016 and december 2016.

5.-6. July 2016
Haa Summer Festival in Haa


2.-3. August 2016
Merak Tsechu (=Monastery festival) in Trashigang


13.-14. August 2016
Matsutake Festival in Bumthang (Infos about the “mushroom”-festival under this Link: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/activities/matsutake-festival)


15.-16. August 2016
Matsutake Festival in Genekha (see above)


15.-19. August 2016
Chha Festival in Lhuentse


25.-28. August 2016
Mountain Echoes in Thimphu (Literaturefestival – further Infos: http://mountainechoes.org/)


3. September 2016
Tour of the Dragon (Mountainbike-race over 268km – further infos: http://www.tourofthedragon.com/)


9.-11. September 2016
Khaling Tshechu in Trashigang


7. October 2016
Thimphu Drubchen in Thimphu


9.-11. October 2016
Wangdue Tshechu in Wangdue Phodrang


9.-11. October 2016
Haa Tshechu in Haa


9.-11. October 2016
Gangtey Tshechu in Wangdue Phodrang


10.-11. October 2016
Geling Tshechu in Chhukha


10.-13. October 2016
Thimphu Tshechu in Thimphu


11.-13. October 2016
Tamshing Phala Chhoepa in Bumthang


14.-17. October 2016
Thangbi Mani in Bumthang


22. October 2016
Dechenphu Tshechu in Thimphu


25.-16. October 2016
Jomolhari Mountain Festival in Paro (more infos: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/activities/jomolhari-mountain-festival)


6.-9. November 2016
Monggar Tshechu in Monggar


6-10. November 2016
Pemagatshel Tshechu in Pemagatshel


6.-9. November 2016
Shingkhar Rabney in Bumthang


7.-9. November 2016
Chhukha Tshechu in Chhukha


7.-10. November 2016
Trashigang Tshechu in Trashigang


7.-10. November 2016
Jakar Tshechu in Bumthang


11. November 2016
Black Necked Crane Festival in Wangduephodrang (further infos: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/activities/the-annual-black-necked-crane-festival-11th-november)


13.-15. November 2016
Nalakhar Tshechu in Bumthang


14.-17. November 2016
Jambay Lhakhang Drup in Bumthang


25.-29. November 2016
Sumthrang Kanssoel in Bumthang


6.-8. December 2016
Gelephu Tshechu in Sarpang


7.-9. December 2016
Dungkar Tshechu in Lhuentse


7.-9. December 2016
Samtse Tshechu in Samtse


7.-10. December 2016
Lhuentse Tshechu in Lhuentse


8.-9. December 2016
Tang Namkha Rabney in Bumthang


9.-10. December 2016
Trongsa Tshechu in Trongsa


10.-12. December 2016
Samdrup Jongkhar Tshechu in Samdrup Jongkhar


11.-14. December 2016
Kangso Tshechu in Monggar


11.-13. December 2016
Dremetse Tshechu in Monggar


12.-16. December 2016
Chojam Rabney Festival in Bumthang


12.-14. December 2016
Korphu Tshechu in Trongsa


12.-14. December 2016
Nabji Lhakhang Drup in Trongsa


13. December 2016
Druk Wangyel Tshechu in Thimphu


19.-23. December 2016
Dagana Tsechu in Dagana


24.-29. December 2016
Pangkhar Choepa in Bumthang


 

Attention: Please reconfirm all dates – it is possible there are typing mistakes 😉

 

 




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Expeditions in the Himalayas? The majority will automatically think about Nepal. And yes, Nepal has a much longer history when it comes to climbing tourism and they are truly experienced in that business and has the advantage of having the maximum mountains above 8000m.

And there is one more thing that makes expeditions in the indian parts of the Himalayas a little complicate – „The Great Indian bureaucracy“ which even did not spare the spirit of mountaineeering adventure. Although India has just one peak above 8000m, (the Khanchendzonga , the third highest peak in the world- see featured image above) this great country has the maximum numbers of peaks between 6000m to slightly below 8000m. India‘s Himalaya stretches from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to the Karakuram range in Ladakh (in the west) and covering a length above 2500 kilometers.
With the right approach you can climb quite some of them legally and officially.spacer

1. Note regional differences

It always depends, where you want to climb a mountain. The rules are different in Ladakh, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and so on. It is easier to climb a mountain in Ladakh than in Sikkim and the procederes are different as well. For example you can get your peak permit for many peaks in Ladakh directly in Leh – for Stok Kangri even at the base camp upon paying a minor penalty. For Sikkim and Uttarakhand on the other hand you have to approach the IMF (Indian Mountaineering Foundation) headquarter in Delhi.

Additionally you have to think about the location of the mountain to be climbed. If it is located close to the border, the regulations will be more complex than the ones away from the border. Permission for expeditions to peaks in the Karakorum range in the valley of Nubra (north and northwest of the river Shayok) are by far more difficult to get granted. No foreign expedition team is allowed to climb without an indian partner and the expedition leader has to be an indian national.

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On the way to Stok Kangri (c) Josef Reifenauer

 

2. Note the height

Peaks below 6.000 meter are usually not a problem and can be climbed without a permit from IMF. Then there are these so called trekking peaks, which are technically easier. For them you will need a permit which can be obtained without much hassles and comparatively at lower price. Unfortunately, at the moment a very few peaks (especially in Ladakh) fall into this category. The only trekking peak which we find in the IMF trekking peak list is Stok Kangri. Though permits for the Nimaling area (Kangyatse north shoulder, Regoni Mallai Ri, Dzo Jongo etc.) are still granted easily.

Additionally there are open Peaks and those which are banned. That matter is more complex. First of all the regulations are by far more complicate once you envisage a peak above 6.400m and the permits will get more expensive and have to be applied in Delhi. Secondly with any expedition to a peak that does not fall under trekking peak category has to be accompanied by a liasion officer of IMF. And of course you have to pay for him as well. This rule is relatively new and most travel agencies truly resent this for good reasons. So we are all hoping for some sensible changes.

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Mountains in Changthang (c) Josef Reienauer

 

3. Climbing without permit?

Of course there are many who simply carry their backpacks and head straight towards the peaks without a permit … Usually this will not be notified, since the mountain regions are vast and not all peaks can be controlled. But if you head towards the areas which are frequented by expeditions teams then better don’t try, if you are not the elusive snowleopard! Even around lesser climbed peaks you might be unlucky and come accross an expedition team accompanied with a liasion officer. The consequences depend on the person you are getting involved with.

 

4. Stay up to date

There are constance changes with IMF. That means you have to keep yourself informed again and again how things are evolving. An example: For a long time, the Chamser and Lungser peaks on the eastern shore of Tsomoriri Lake were open peaks and one could easily obtain permit and climb . But suddenly a new army battalion arrives and banned climbing these peaks probably due to fear of any potential spy among the climbers. In these situation, the gaint IMF is powerless for reasons not very clear. We are still waiting for the re-opening of these peak as many are interested to climb these Twin peaks above 6.600m. Best is to wait and drink a cup of tea.

Regularly have a look at the homepage of IMF – there you will find a list of open peaks. But take your time as the regulations are sometimes really confusing and the procedure for applying for permits is complicate.

If you need assistance, we hope you know with whom to get in touch with: Contact

Kangyatse

Kangyatse in Nimaling region

 

Some of our expeditions

Of course there is more possible. These are only a few possibilites. If you intend to climb another peak, simply write to us: daniela@gesar-travel.com or tashi@gesar-travel.comspacer


Two sixthousanders in a row
Expedition with climbing of two 6000ers
If you need a challenge and want to climb not one but two six-thousanders, this is exactly the right trip for you. You will cimb two mountains in the Mentok range at Tsomoriri lake.

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(c) Barbara Esser

Stok Kangri in 2 weeks
Expedition to a 6000er
We offer you a two-weeks tour with ideal preparation for the ascent of Stok Kangri (6.154m), you get acclimatized by daily hikes and a short trek before our endeavor starts. So we are perfectly prepared and our chances are higher to summit the six-thousander at the end of our trip!

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(c) Markus Brixle

Sky of the nomads
Trekking & Expedition in Changthang
On this tour we fly at higher game: the nine-day-trek leads you through the the Tibetan High Plateau. And then you even climb a six-thousander.

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Many people shy away from traveling to Ladakh (and other regions of the Himalayas), because they are afraid of the effects of high altitude. And yes, Ladakh is only in a few places below 3,000 meters above sea level. At that altitude the air is thin enough that keeping it inside requires some effort. But with just a few tips, all travelers, big and small alike, can learn to adjust faster and enjoy a safe stay.

acclimatization (c) Barbara Esser

The one who gets well acclimatized in Ladakh can easily reach altitudes over 6.000m (c) Barbara Esser

First of all, a disclaimer: Of the several thousand guests that we welcomed so far in Ladakh, less than 10 have had to leave due to altitude sickness. So that is really not much.

Some discomfort and height adjustment difficulties of course are more common, but also much easier to overcome with just a bit of patience and discipline.

The acclimatization starts in the mind

We are not trying to deny or dismiss the effects of altitude sickness, but our experience in the field for over ten years has allowed us to notice that most of the people that have trouble with the altitude worry too much in advance. Consequently, we believe that a positive approach and perhaps a slightly naïve “it will be all right” attitude are more successful than the headache of overthinking and preparing for the worst. By this we do not mean either a complete indifference: most people will definitely feel some of its effects. The goal should be a healthy balance between positive thinking and cautious respect.

acclimatization

Who keeps it low the first few days, can soon start hiking (up).

 

Stick to simple rules

There are some simple rules that you should always follow when you arrive at a high altitude location (such as Leh, at 3.500m). This begins with a first day of rest and relaxation. And it is hard to believe how many people nowadays have difficulty with simply doing nothing for a full day! Because your legs are already itching with anticipation, and you want to run and explore. After all, you didn’t come all this way to lie still! Ok, if things go well you certainly don’t need to spend the whole day lying in bed, you can go for a walk… just keep it easy and don’t try to go climbing any mountain! Listen to yourself and your body and you will know what is good for you.

What is even more important is to have plenty of fluids and oxygen. That means a lot of drinking (alcohol is excluded, and you should keep away of it at least at the start) and getting out in the open, sitting and breathing the fresh air in the hotel or guest house’s garden. When sleeping, try to do so in a relatively elevated position and, if possible, keep the windows open.

You can download the main tips for height adjustment as well as a PDF: PDF

Self-pity

“How are you?” Most people answer to this question automatically with a “Good, thank you!”, even though that may not be true. You don’t want to come off as self-pitying nor be a burden for anyone. But that’s what you should be in Ladakh. Ailments and discomfort should be notified before they become bigger problems. Especially when you are traveling in an organized tour, your guide will ask you this question not only out of politeness and interest for your mood, but because he wants to know how you’re doing in relation to the height. He is also the one who can give you valuable tips and, if necessary, bring in a doctor.

Unsurprisingly, by the way, doctors in Ladakh are very experienced with regard to the altitude sickness, and can be of a great help when things go awry.

acclimatisation

Children can also visit Ladakh. Our 8 year old son, at 4,500m.

 

Traveling with children?

Although long-distance travel with children is quickly (and happily) increasing in popularity, it is still a good idea to be cautious when traveling to higher altitudes. Obviously, you want to save your children as much trouble as possible. In our experience, though, the concern is not very justified, because children usually tolerated the height change better than adults. We believe that the child’s body adapts to the altitude more easily than the adult’s.

Teenagers are the exception: we have noticed, although at the moment we can’t explain scientifically, that pubescent kids often have a somewhat rougher time adjusting, compared to adults or children. This of course does not mean that all young people have difficulties, nor that they can’t normally adapt when appropriate measures are taken. Every year we welcome many young people who enjoy high altitude trekking (5,500m) or have even successfully climbed up to 6,000m.

Proper preparation

We are constantly being asked by our guests about how they can properly prepare for their visit to Ladakh and its mountains. Here are a few tips:

  1. Be healthy and fit! It is always important that you take care of yourself and are physically fit and healthy. This is especially true for people who trek in Ladakh or want to go mountain climbing. Whoever suffers from a heart condition or has a lung disease and still wants to take a trip to the roof of the world, should first have a long conversation with his/her doctor!People who arrive with a cold or are suffering other ongoing symptoms of illness, have usually a very hard time adjusting to the altitude. We have often seen how a common cold, caught just before the flight to India, developed in a bad flu after arriving to Ladakh.
  1. Up, up and away! Those who have enough time to prepare should definitely try to get used to the altitude already before leaving for Ladakh. This is of course easier if you live in Austria or other Alpine region, than if your home is in a flat one like Northern Germany. Things are fairly easy in Ladakh for people used to regularly hike over 2,500m or that slept repeatedly in high-altitude mountain huts before flying. However, this kaind of “training” is most effective the closer it happens to the departure day.
  1. Hypobaric chamber. A few of our guests were before departure even in a pressure chamber. They are nowadays easy to find in many major cities. In the past, they were mostly used by elite athletes and professional climbers (many Himalayan travelers use them these days). However, hypoxia training is relatively expensive. Again, the closer to the departure date, the better. (Just google for “hypoxia training” in your closest big city to find institutions that offer it).

Getting to Leh: should I travel by land or on a plane?

Again and again we hear or read that travelers are advised to arrive via Manali for a better acclimatization. But we consider this brutal shock treatment. After all, this journey entails crossing several 5,000m mountain passes, and in many cases sleeping at over 4,000m. This means that many will be ill for some time during the journey and then still a bit longer in Leh. After that, they are doing well, but was it really worth it? We recommend traveling by plane, enjoy a few lazy days in and around Leh and then, after the tour and if you want, go back by land. In that way you can really enjoy the ride and the scenery.




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It soars 8586 meters high: the Kangchenjunga. The third highest mountain in the world, the highest peak of Sikkim and India, and, since part of it lies on its territory, the second highest mountain in Nepal. There are so many different ways to write its name: Khangchendzonga (with or without “h”) in the original, Kangchenjunga when translated to English, or simply Kantsch (in German), as it’s commonly known by the more regular mountaineers. But the mountain is much more than just numbers, rankings and different spellings.

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Mighty Khanchendzonga

Mountain of treasures

Kangchenjunga translates as something like “the 5 treasures of God” – and with its 5 symbolic peaks this mighty giant of the Himalayas is more than just a mountain. The inhabitants of Sikkim believe that in these peaks five treasures are hidden: gold, silver, gems, grain and sacred scriptures. The Sikkimese believe, like most Himalayan people, in guardian spirits and deities who roam the mountains. Dzonga is the most important mountain spirit of Sikkim, and his throne is precisely the Khanchendzonga, where he sits and looks down over Sikkim and its people. Others swear that the Dzonga were (or are?) really Yeti, and it is not hard to find local stories, third-hand testimonies and written documents about the existence of these snow creatures, especially in the region around the Khanchendzonga.

Expeditions to the sacred mountain

The Khangchendzonga was climbed for the first time by Joe Brown and George Band (both part of a British expedition) on May 25th, 1955. Following the request of the Chogyal (King of Sikkim), who didn’t want to see the honor of the mountain stolen and lose the protection of the god Dzonga, they stopped short of the actual summit. Since then, this tradition has become the norm, and all expeditions end just a bit before the mountain’s top. At the moment, the Khangchendzonga can be climbed only on the Nepalese side; the Indians allow no climbing expeditions.

Sikkim (c) Roland Amon

(c) Roland Amon

Nevertheless, one can at least hike to the foot and/or the base camp of the mighty mountain giant. For this there are several access options:

  • Bakhim – Dzongri – Thangshing – Samuteng – Goechala
  • Thangsing – Lam Pokhari – Kasturi Orar – Lapdong – Tashiding
  • Yuksom – Tshoka – Dzongri
  • Dzongri Basislager – Rathong – Khangerteng
  • Lucanes Jakchen – Yabuk – Rest camp – Green lake
  • Lachen – Thangsu – Muguthang – Thay La – Khyoksa La – Rest Camp – Green Lake

But even those who just want to admire the mighty mountain from a distance can (and will) feel rewarded, because there are several places in Darjeeling, Pelling, Sandakhphu and Rinchenpong that offer fantastic views of the Khanchendzonga. Good photography equipment is here always a good investment!

Our Advice
Anyone who wants to enjoy a good mountain view should definitely arrive in autumn/winter, the season of clear skies. In spring, the view is not so good.

Check out our tour Sikkim in Wanderschuhen – this route focuses strongly on the Khanchendzonga.

 

This tour could be also interesting for you

Sikkim & Dzongri-Trek: In the shadow of the mountaingod
Dzongri-Trek to Goeche La; impressive trekking in the shadow of the Khanchendzonga; max. 10 participants

Date: 11.-27. November 2016
Price: 1.930 EUR




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Even though Ladakh is for the most part a high altitude desert and therefore very, very dry, it can surprise you with some really beautiful lakes. The best known are the Pangong Tso, the Tsomoriri & the Tsokar.

These three lakes have a lot in common: First of all their names contain the word “Tso”, the Ladakhi word for “lake”. Moreover they are all three also very beautiful. And: They are located over 4000 m in the Changthang – the highland steppes of the Tibetan Plateau, who spreads up all the way to Ladakh.

 

Pangong Tso: The Superstar of the Ladakhi lakes

Pangong-See

Lake Pangong

Lake Pangong is the most visited lake in Ladakh. However, only one-third of it lies on Indian territory. The rest of this extremely elongated lake lies on Tibet and therefore belongs to China. Since the relationship between these two countries is problematic, there are many soldiers stationed on both sides, always vigilant and suspicious.

Rumor has it that the Chinese use submarines regularly to infiltrate Indian waters. Due to the nearness of the border, foreigners are not allowed to move and explore absolutely freely. Currently, it is only possible to visit up to the village of Merak. So also hiking around the lake is not allowed by the authorities, but thanks to Google Earth it is possible to enjoy a little virtual trip along the banks. The lake itself is very long (134 km), but very narrow in comparison. At its widest point, the lake is just 8 km from shore to shore.

Pangong Tso became popular only a few years back, after it appeared in the Bollywood film “3 Idiots”, partly set in Ladakh. Since then, thousands of Indian tourists visit every year the high altitude lake, ready to shoot tons of selfies and photos in which they pose like their film hero Amir Khan.

 

 

 

Tsokar: A white lake for wildlife fans

Am Tsokar (c) Roland Amon

Black necked crane at Tsokar (c) Roland Amon

The Tsokar (literally “White Lake”) is further south and a good distance from the Chinese border. It is located at about 4500 m of altitude and is very salty. Crusts of salt form at the mostly turquoise-colored lake, giving it its name. Despite the variations in water depth and salinity, the lake is a haven for wildlife, in particular the feathered kind. Its most prominent inhabitants are the black-necked cranes, some of whom have found in the lake an ideal summer camp and hatchery. Additionally, it is possible to find here great crested grebes, brown-headed gulls, bar-headed geese, ruddy shelducks (called Brahminy ducks in India), terns, diverse types of plovers and of course the Tibetan sandgrouse. But the Tsokar and its adjacent plain also provides an ideal habitat for many mammals, like the Kiang (wild ass), and several Tibetan varieties of wolves, gazelles, foxes, marmots and pikas.

 


Trip from Leh: about 4 hours drive (an overnight stay is therefore suggested) via the 5.400m high Taglang La (La = mountain pass).
Spending the night: One possibility is the “Deluxe” camp Pangunagu on the North shore. Alternatively, Thukje also offers Homestays. Otherwise, there is always the option of camping, but beware: drinking water is scarce and hard to find around the lake. Camping on the adjacent Startsabuk Tso is not allowed.

 

Tsomoriri: A blue pearl in the southeast

Am Tsomoriri (c) Markus Brixle

At Tsomoriri (c) Markus Brixle

The Tsomoriri is located in the southeast of Ladakh – also in the Changthang – and is easily spotted from the air. It is located at about 4500 m of altitude and covers about 120 square kilometers (27 km long, 8 km wide). The lake, donning a magical deep blue color and flanked by the white tops of several majestic 6000 m peaks, possesses an unparalleled beauty.

As in Lake Pangong, you need a local permit to visit the Tsomoriri.

 

Trip from Leh: about 6-7 hours drive (an overnight stay is therefore suggested) through the Indus valley.

Spending the night: It is possible to spend the night in you own tent, in one of the several “Deluxe” camps, or at one homestay in Korzok. Korzok however is not a very beautiful settlement. Due to the lack of drinking water, it is not easy or advisable to camp away from Korzok by your own, unless you are part of a trekking tour – then Kiangdam in the south bank offers a wonderful opportunity.

Tip: The Tsomoriri can be combined very well with the Tsokar. At the same time, the arrival and departure do not share the same route

 

More lakes

There are many more, although much smaller lakes in Ladakh. For information about smaller and lesser-known alternatives, write us to: daniela@gesar-travel.com or tashi@gesar-travel.com