One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities and this will be one of the best time to visit Bhutan.
Arrival in Bhutan (Paro) & transfer to Thimphu & Thimuphu Festival
As the plane approaches Paro you may be able to spot the beautiful snow peak of Jhomolhari (7314m) and the grey ridge-shaped peak of Jichu Drakye (6989m). The plane then descends, often through clouds, banking steeply into the wooded valleys of Bhutan. Depending on the approach pattern that day, you may see Taktshang Monastery and Paro Dzong as you descend. |
After clearing customs and visa control then you will meet our guide at the arrival gate. Then you will drive about 1 hour to Thimphu (2300M/7,710ft), Bhutan’s capital (population 100,000): still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
En-route visit Tachog Lhakhang which is located on the way to Paro valley, and one must cross one of Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo bridges to get to the Lhakhang.
As per biography of Thongtong Gyalpo, in 1433, he travelled to Bhutan where he built the Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang temple in the Paro Valley to subdue a serpentine force under the mountain. Later, while meditating along the Paro Chhu just downstream of Paro he had a vision of a spiritual horse that inspired him to build a temple as well his famous iron bridge that crosses the Paro Chhu. This temple, Tachog Lhakhang, meaning "temple of the hill of the excellent horse" is a private monastery currently run by the descendants of Thangtong Gyalpo. He was the builder of 58 iron bridges throughout Tibet and Bhutan as well as the founder of Ache Lhamo, the Tibetan Opera. Legend has it that his opera performances raised the money he needed to build his iron bridges.
It is also believe that Thangtong Gyalpo had planted a magical orange tree, bearing fruit all year round.
In the afternoon, We will drive to witnessed the ongoing Thimphu Tshechu which is held at Tendrel Thang (Festival Ground in front of Tashichhoedzong), the mask dances known as cham and folk dances are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil. It is believed that merit is gained by attending these festivals. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase good luck and grant personal wishes.
This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of whom travel from neighboring districts to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. Tshechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize.
Weekend Market - Every Friday evening, Saturday & Sunday, people from Thimphu valley & other parts of country congregate to sell and buy products. It is an opportunity to mix with local people and the products they sell.
Thimphu Sightseeing, Thimuphu Festival
Today after breakfast go to Tashichoedzong and witness and get blessing from the sacred Thongdrol of Guru Rinphoche which will be unfurled early in the morning on the last day of Thimphu Tshechu. It is believed that the Thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring blessings to all who view it.
Tashichoedzong - It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and reconstructed in 1962, third King moved capital from Punakha to Thimphu. The complex central tower is original. Tashichhodzong houses the main secretariat building, throne room of His Majesty the king of Bhutan. During summer time this dzong is summer residence of monk body. They stay 6 months and move to Punakha as winter residence.
After visiting the Thondrel, you will proceed to Tendrel Thang (festival ground) to witness the most spectacular last day of Thimphu Tsechu with religious dance performances mixed with folk dances and dance of Bhutanese warriors. People from all walks of life gather at the festival in their finest dresses and ornaments.
You will drive to Sangaygang (BBS Tower), then the hiking began. The trail goes along the tower fence before it passes a chorten and follows the contours along the mountainside until reaching Wangditse. Along the way there are great views of Tashichhoe Dzong & the Thimphu valley. Wangditse Goemba was founded in 1750 by the attendants of Bhutan’s 8th Desi, Yeshey Rabgye. It was renovated in 2002 after it suffered serious damage by a windstorm in 1995. The goemba houses the statues of the guardian deities Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala), Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) and Tsheringma (the Goddess of Longevity).
Then you will decent down to Dechen Phodrang Monastery: the site of Thimphu's original Trashi Chhoe Dzong. Since 1971 it has housed the state monastic school, and a long procession of monks often travels between here and the dzong. A team of 15 teachers provides an eight-year course to more than 450 students.
The 12th-century paintings in the goemba's Guru Lhakhang are being restored by a United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) project. The upper floor features a large figure of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as well as the goenkhang (chapel devoted to protective and terrifying deities).
The central figure in the downstairs chapel is the Buddha Sakyamuni.
Thimphu Sightseeing, Thimuphu Festival
Today you will visit Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory. The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
Changankha Lhakhang(temple): This temple situated atop a small hound overlooking the Thimphu valley was built in the 13th century by the illustrious Lam Phajo Dugom Zhigpo. The temple is considered the spiritual home of children born in the Chang valley.
Visit to National Memorial Chorten; continuously circumambulate by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Then continue your drive to Kuensel Phodrang also knows as Buddha point. It is a place where many Bhutanese frequent, especially on Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Seated Buddha(169 feet). The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
Thimphu to Punakha
Today we will take a drive to Punakha (02-3 hours) across Dochu La (3050m) from where one can have a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear. The pass is marked by 108 chortens (Stupa), which are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.
You will visit the new Druk Wangyel Monastery, which is the only of its kind in the country with elaborate paintings depicting the lineage of the present monarchy and their visionary works.
We will also hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.
Today bit early, we begin our hike by crossing the Mochu River and ascending a numerous switchbacks to the Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Chorten. Looking downstream, the viewpoint here affords grand views of the Mochu River Valley below. We descend from the temple and follow a well-worn path down the valley through rice fields and small villages. Along the way we are rewarded with stunning views, the terraced rice paddies providing an exotic backdrop to the river below.
Enjoy a day to photograph the Punakha Valley, beginning with the impressive Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Dzongkha has been inextricably linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of the most majestic structures in the country. Punakha Dzong has also countless monastery inside the Dzong.
Punakha Suspension Bridge: This is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, which is built on Po chu river. It connects to the nearby village. It allows villagers to cross the river to go to the other side. The view from the bridge is stunning and extremely scenic.
We will hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.
Punakha & Paro
The journey west takes us back to Paro valley following through Wang Chhu and Pa Chhu Rivers.
Paro Experiences: Paro Cultural Tour should always start with the visit to the Paro Dzong and take in the amazing architecture of this 17th century monument, a premier example of Bhutan"s architecture. Paro Dzong, built in 17th century to defend Paro from the Tibetan invasion, is also known as Rinpung Dzong, which means the 'fortress on a heap of jewels. This fine example of Bhutanese architecture now serves as a central monastic and administrative seat of the Paro district. From the Dzong, a leisurely walk back into Paro town crosses the scenic Nyamai zampa, a unique model of Bhutan"s traditional cantilever bridge.
We will set out for the ancient temple of Kyichu. It is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan dating back to the 8th century and one of the many temples built by King Songtse Gampo (the main temple being the Jokhang in Tibet, another sill surviving temple is Jampay in Bumthang). According to a legend, the Tibetan king sent 108 saints all over the Himalayan region to build replica temples of the Jokhang. The king drew a diagram of a devil over the map of the Himalayan Buddhist countries and a temple was to be built on every joint. The two knees of the devil fell on Bhutanese land, one in Kyichu and one in Bumthang. Of 108 temples built during that time, only 3 remain today.
Next to the temple is the house that is now turned into a museum dedicated to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. One can come across photographs and other artefacts belonging to Rinpoche.
Dungtse Lhakhang: The unusual and circular lhakhang, reminiscent of the Shanag, or the black hat worn by the Bhutanese Black Hat dancers was, built by the great “Builder of iron chain bridges,” Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. Experience a visit to this unique temple whose founder ws extended invitation by the two guardian deities of Ap Chundu and Jowo Drakey.
Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery) 4-5 hr Hike
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! It takes about two hours to reach the cafeteria, which gives a breathtaking view of the Tiger’s Nest. From Cafeteria it takes 1 hour to reach the main temple.
This day hike is not only historically and culturally interesting, but also incredibly scenic! This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort from Discovery Bhutan will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.