• BHUTAN  Witness the spiritual heart of the Dragon Kingdom at the Paro Tsechu: 23–27th March 2013

Paro Tsechu Festival BhutanThe Paro Tsechu is the most spectacular and deeply symbolic of the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Bhutan. Devotees dressed in traditional finery flock to the Paro Dzong monastic fortress to bear witness to their Buddhist faith and receive blessings. The Paro Dzong, also know as Rinpung Dzong or ‘fortress that sits on a heap of jewels’, sits on the site of 16th Century monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. The tsechu festival is held in his honour, marking the tenth day of the lunar month when he was born.

Monks perform in the festival dances and act out dramas as a form of meditation to personify their deity. Masked and dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes, dancers demonstrate the triumph of good over evil and the power of compassion to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. Dances are interspersed with folk songs and clowning, while copious amounts of butter tea and potent barley alcohol are consumed. The dances, masks and costumes of Bhutan’s festivals have remained unchanged for a 1000 years. Each dance is said to be an exact re-enactment of visions seen by Bhutan’s great Buddhist saints and any changes would be sacrilegious. Today this sacred festival remains a wonderful manifestation of a faith that is the central part of Bhutanese culture.

Ampersand Travel offer a 12 day Bhutan trip including tickets for the Paro Tsechu from £2985 per person including international flights, car, driver & guide for duration of the tour, accommodation on full board basis and entrance fees. www.ampersandtravel.com / 020 7289 6100

  • INDIA Colours of Rajasthan’  Experience two of India’s most spectacular festivals in one trip: 11-28th March 2013

Elephant Festival Jaipur IndiaAmpersand Travel’s private tailor-made ‘Colors of Rajasthan’ trip is a kaleidoscopic tour of Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan, where guests take in the vibrant colours of saris, spices and fabrics in markets, the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and the ‘blue city’ of Jodphur. Guests who time their trip just right and depart London on the 11th March 2013 can experience even more during their trip, taking in two of India’s most vibrant festivals. The itinerary sees guests pass through Jaipur during the Elephant Festival (16th March 2013) where India’s royal and regal elephants are adorned with colourful paints, gold embroidered rugs, chunky elephant jewellery with even their tusks ringed with gold and silver bangles and rings. The riot of colour and the chance to see these majestic beasts up close is a celebration of the animals’ part in Indian life and also coincides with the beginning of India’s festival of colour and joy, Holi festival (27th March 2013). The itinerary ends in Udaipur during the Holi festival, a celebration of good over evil that sees people cover each other in vividly coloured paints and water.

Ampersand’s 17 day Colours of Rajasthan tour, departing on the 11th March 2013 from £2,935 per person including flights, accommodation in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodphur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur. www.ampersandtravel.com / 020 7289 6100holi festival India