Duration: 6 days
Entry and Exit: Paro
One of the biggest festivals in the Bhutanese calendar, the Punakha Tshechu is held every year, sometime in February or March. The most important display during the five-day festival is the re-enactment of the Tibetan invasion of Bhutan in 1639. In this theatrical display, a mock throwing of a relic to the Mochu River is dramatized along with a group performance by more than a hundred people dressed as warriors, popularly known as “Pazaps”.
This performance tells the story of 17th century Bhutan, when the Bhutanese were under siege by Tibetan forces. Devoid of a standing army of its own, the duty to hold the fort fell on the local militiamen called Pazaps, from the eight great villages (Tshogchens) of Thimphu. The invaders were routed.
To celebrate the victory, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel introduced the Punakha Drubchen.
During the journey to Paro, one will experience a breathtaking view of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s own sacred Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jichu Drake. Particularly exciting is the section through the Bhutanese foothills and the thrilling landing.
On arrival at Paro international airport, you will be received by our representative, who will escort you for sightseeing, such as the National Museum of Bhutan and Paro Rinpung dzong.
After lunch at Paro town, we will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest temples built in 659 AD, believed to have been built on a place that resembled a knee of a giant ogress.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 2: Excursion to Taktsang
After early breakfast, we will drive up to the Ramthangka (base camp) of Taktsang and then hike to Taktsang, the Tiger’s nest.
The five-hour round trip follows an ancient but oft-trodden footpath flanked by water-driven prayer wheels.
The temple, precariously perched on a hair-raising ravine about 1000 metres above the valley floor, is considered sacrosanct as it was in a cave within this temple that the eight century tantric saint, Guru Padmasambhava, subdued the evils who obstructed the teachings of the Buddha. The saint is believed to have come to Taktshang in a fiery wrathful form riding a tigress. Over the years, many Buddhist saints have meditated in and around the temple and discovered numerous hidden treasure teachings.
Visit the ruins of Drukgyel dzong enroute. The fortress known as the “Castle of the Victorious Drukpa” is a symbol of Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. We can also get a view of the sacred Mount Jumolhari along the way.
Day 3: Paro-Punakha
After breakfast, drive to Punakha, approximately four hour drive through picturesque valleys and mountain slopes dotted with typical Bhutanese villages. We will pass the famous Dochula pass (3100m) where on a clear day we can see the entire eastern Himalayan range, teeming with 6000m to 7554m snow-capped mountains. The pass also known for its abundant species of extremely beautiful flowers has 108 Buddhist stupas exquisitely built around a mound, adding to the natural splendour of the place.
From the pass we descend to the sub-tropical valley of Punakha. Punakha served as the ancient capital of capital and still possesses the country’s main treasures in the form of Buddhist relics inside the Punakha dzong. Resembling a gigantic ship on an ocean floor from afar, and girdled by two (Male and Female) rivers, the castle-fortress also represents the best specimen of Bhutanese architecture.
En-route, visit the Temple of Fertility-Chhimi Lhakhang. This temple, built in the 15th century to honour the “Divine Madman”, a saint iconoclast who is also associated with phallus worship, attracts barren couples from all over to receive fertility blessings from an anointed phallus.
Halt at hotel.
Day 4: Punakha festival
One of the Kingdom’s most popular Tsechus and held in the Majestic Punakha dzong, the highlight of this festival is the Drubchen, which precedes the Tshechu.
Punakha Drubchen tells the story of 17th century Bhutan, when the Bhutanese were under siege by Tibetan forces. Devoid of a standing army of its own, the duty to hold the fort fell on the local militiamen called “Pazaps”, from the eight great villages (Tshogchens) of Thimphu. The invaders were routed.
To celebrate the victory, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel introduced the Punakha Drubchen. The 17th century scene is re-enacted during the Drubchen with local men dressed as Pazaps.
The Tshechu follows the Drubchen.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 5: Punakha-Thimphu
After breakfast, we will drive to Thimphu and witness the capital city’s historical and significant places.
Thimphu has lots to offer and the pick for you will firstly be the Memorial Chorten, one of Bhutan’s most beautiful stupas built in memory of the Third King, Late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. A short drive from there will take you to Buddha Point, where the statue of the world’s largest future Buddha (Maitreya) will be seen.
From there we will move to the Handicraft’s Emporium, Weaving Centre and the 12th century Changangkha Lhakhang. There will also be visits to the Takin zoo, Sangaygang, which offers a view point of Thimphu valley and a Nunnery.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant, after which we visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved and the Wood Craft Centre and Painting school.
In the evening, we will visit Tashichhodzong, the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses part of the government ministries, the office of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the State Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 6: Departure from Bhutan
After breakfast, we will drive to Paro international airport for your onward flight. Our representative will see you off.