DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU The ritual dances of the three-day Thimphu Tsechu, one of Bhutan’s biggest festivals, are always feasts for the eyes. In one, three monks gather in the center of the sunlit square, dressed in huge silk robes, decked with sashes and scarves and crowned with crests of jewel-like peacock feathers fluttering from their distinctive hats. Slowly, mesmerizingly, each begins to whirl, their robes filling with air like brocade parachutes. Every year on the 10th day of the 8th lunar month, richly dressed crowds descend on Tashichho Dzong in northern Thimphu for the festival. . In preparation for their ritual dances, Thimphu’s monks will have spent whole days and nights locked in prayer, invoking a colorful pantheon of deities to lend their spiritual power to the chham. As the expectant crowds gather, they are entertained by atsaras, or jesters, whose antics entrance any evil spirits lurking nearby, preventing them from causing harm during the tsechu. Each of the three days brings a different selection of age-old chham — you might see the Dance of the Black Hats or the Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground or the dramatic Dance of the Stags, where lay monks don fearsome wooden masks and dance barefoot with wild energy.
DAY 02: THIMPHU FESTIVAL
DAY 03: THIMPHU FESTIVAL
DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
DAY 05: PUNAKHA –PARO
DAY 06: HIKE TO TIGER’S NEST
DAY 07: DEPART PARO
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The ritual dances of the three-day Thimphu Tsechu, one of Bhutan’s biggest festivals, are always feasts for the eyes. In one, three monks gather in the center of the sunlit square, dressed in huge silk robes, decked with sashes and scarves and crowned with crests of jewel-like peacock feathers fluttering from their distinctive hats. Slowly, mesmerizingly, each begins to whirl, their robes filling with air like brocade parachutes.
Every year on the 10th day of the 8th lunar month, richly dressed crowds descend on Tashichho Dzong in northern Thimphu for the festival. . In preparation for their ritual dances, Thimphu’s monks will have spent whole days and nights locked in prayer, invoking a colorful pantheon of deities to lend their spiritual power to the chham.
As the expectant crowds gather, they are entertained by atsaras, or jesters, whose antics entrance any evil spirits lurking nearby, preventing them from causing harm during the tsechu. Each of the three days brings a different selection of age-old chham — you might see the Dance of the Black Hats or the Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground or the dramatic Dance of the Stags, where lay monks don fearsome wooden masks and dance barefoot with wild energy.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Arrive at Paro and drive to Thimphu. Upon arrival check in hotel and visit Memorial Stupa built in 1974 in the memory of Bhutan‘s third King, His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Later visit Trashi chhodzong fortress of the glorious religion” Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Over night at hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU
After breakfast, drive to Tashichhodzong to attend the Thimphu festival. You will see locals dressed in their finest clothes who have walked from miles around to attend the festivities. They come to watch masked dances, to pray, and to feast. While the underlying purpose of the festival is spiritual, dances are more often like plays, telling stories where good triumphs over evil, or depicting significant historical events, especially surrounding the life of Bhutan’s patron saint, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche). There is inevitably a great deal of socialising as well.
Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’. Initially erected in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 03: THIMPHU
After breakfast visit the world’s tallest sitting Buddha statue at Buddha point which is 169 feet tall and it’s the best place for photographers. . Next visit Folk heritage Museum or Simply Museum provides glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese life. The artifacts which are kept inside the house remind the visitors about how the rural Bhutanese live today
In the afternoon return to Tashichhodzong to further experience the colourful events of the Thimphu festival. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
DAY 05: PUNAKHA –PARO
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike to through ricefields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
After arriving paro, visit the National Museum known as Ta Dzong which was built as a watch tower and later converted to national museum. Visit Rimpung Dzong. Visit Kyichu temple, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan which was built in 7th centur and in the evening stroll around the Main Street for some interesting Himalayan artifacts or textiles or have a relaxing stay in the hotel.. Over night at hotel in Paro
DAY 06: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments.
In the afternoon drive to the ruins of the 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, an historic monument built by the Shabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
DAY 07: DEPART PARO
Depart Paro for your onward journey
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Some of the sights/itinerary may change due to season, weather, national holidays, and special events. We maintain the rights to alter the itinerary since tours are made in advance and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve your overall travel experience in Bhutan
The driving and hiking times mentioned are approximate times and do not include breaks in the journey for sightseeing, photo/tea/meal/rest stops. There may be delays in transfer time due road conditions, road repair/widening works, inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. During the treks/hikes, there may be delays or diversion of hiking trails due to trail conditions, inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Please note that at the moment there are numerous areas where road conditions are not very good due to road widening/repair works and you may experience rough and bumpy drives.
WHAT WE INCLUDE IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TOURS:
• Passport (with at least 6 months’ validity from the date of your exit from Bhutan)
• Print out copy of the visa & International air tickets.
• Temperatures will fluctuate greatly depending on elevation and time of day. You should be prepared for a minimum temperature of 04 degrees and a maximum of 30 degrees. You have to plan for layered clothing to be prepared for such a wide-ranging temperature fluctuations.
• Drink only bottled water, sodas, beer, etc.
• Stay away from any cold salad! These are normally rinsed in tap water before or after being sliced and are a major cause of traveler’s gastro-intestinal distress.
• All tipping is optional and by no means mandatory, however if you feel that your staff and drivers have performed at a good or excellent level, it is a great way to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
A few reminders:
• Accept or offer items with the right hand or, more politely, with both hands. Using both hands to give or receive signifies that you honor the offering and the recipient or giver.
• When you visit Buddhist shrines or temples, it is appropriate and a sign of respect to walk around the building in a clockwise direction (so that the structure is to your right side). This is also true for mani walls (walls built of stone tablets with Buddhist mantras carved on them) and Chorten (small Buddhist shrines.)
• Your guide will give you additional tips along the way, when in doubt, check in with them. You will be travelling into areas that have had relatively few foreign visitors. Your positive attitude and interaction is needed and welcomed to maximize this adventure.
What should I bring with me for the trip?
• Good walking shoes
• Sunscreen (highest possible)
• Headgear for sunny days
• Bug/Insect repellent
• Cotton clothing for summer days, light woolen clothes for evenings. Heavy woolens for winter.
• Shorts for hiking and walking around town are fine. Out of respect, please don’t wear shorts in public buildings or monasteries. Have a pair of long pants or longer skirt for these locations.