The Punakha Tshechu, as all Tshechu festivals, honors Padma Sambhawa, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the precious yogi and saint who is credited with having introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas. The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colorful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The culmination of festival constitutes the unfolding of a huge cloth thangka, a sacred scroll, depicting Padma Smabhawa and imagery from Buddhist pantheon.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO & DRIVE TO THIMPHU
Fly from Kathmandu to Paro on Druk Air. From a window seat on clear days you can experience a spectacular view of Himalayan peaks as you approach Paro. On arrival you will be received by our representative and then drive to Thimphu the Capital City, the drive will take about 2 hours. If time permits we will visit places of interest. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 02: THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING
After a late breakfast you will start your sightseeing of Thimphu this will be followed by a visit to the Medicine Institute traditional medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. Then we head to The Painting School where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). The Bhutan heritage Museum, a nineteenth century house, preserved to present the visitors, how middle class Bhutanese lived in the past. Next we will visit the National Library and return to the hotel for lunch. After lunch, we visit Textile Museum, the traditional gold and silver smith workshop, weaving center and other places of interest. Overnight at Hotel.
DAY 03: THIMPHU-PUNAKHA
We start our fabulous drive to Punakha, leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350 meters/ 4,430 feet). Before proceeding further to Punakha town we will hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as “Divine madman” to the westerners. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility; it is about 40 minutes of round trip walk. We proceed to hotel, check in and rest of the day free, you can either take a walk uphill from the hotel which is spectacular.
DAY 04: DRIVE TO PUNAKHA
The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. We start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile valley of Punakha and enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang. We take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of Wangdue Dzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.) With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During the clear weather we can view the high snow capped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.). From here we continue our drive to Chendebji Chorten, where we will make a brief stop. This Chorten or Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge. We will have our packed lunch here. Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you will ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Arrive Trongsa and overnight at Yangkhil Resort, this resort offers a superb view of the soaring mountains and the majestic Trongsa Dzong.
DAY 05: TRONGSA – BUMTHANG
After breakfast we will drive to visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647, by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, this Dzong was the source of many important historical events in making of Modern Bhutan. Our car will drop you at the junction of the road to Bazaar and the dzong, you will walk from here to the Dzong. After the visit the car will pick you up at the Bazaar. We will than resume our drive to Bumthang crossing the Yotongla Pass and into the first four valley of Bumthang known as Chumey, we will visit Domkhar Palace, this palace was used as the summer residence of 2nd king Jigme Wangchuk. Lunch will be served here in the open ground. We will make another stop at Tsungney village, where we will observe the weavers weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra. Continue our drive for an hour and arrive at the Chokhor Valley, if time permits your car will drop you at the Chamkha Bazaar, from where you can walk back to the hotel on your own before dark. Overnight at Lodge.
DAY 06: BUMTHANG SIGHTSEEING
Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of four valleys-Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on the animal husbandry. Our first day in Bumthang will include driving to Ura village situated at 10,000 feet high above the sea. There is about 40-50 closely packed houses alongside cobblestone streets that give the village a medieval atmosphere. The drive to Ura takes about 2 hours, however we will stop at the Serthangla Pass, from where you can get the view of Ura Valley down below. We will start hiking downhill from here till we reach the Ura Temple. We will visit the temple and continue our walk through the clustered village of Ura making frequent stops to converse with the villagers, children and womenfolk that wear a ship skin on their back to protect from loads they carry. Our lunch will be served at a village house, after lunch we will walk towards the school and observe the young students of Ura engrossed in their lesson. We will then say goodbye to this beautiful village and drive back to Chamkhar for overnight.
DAY 07: BUMTHANG – TRONGSA
After breakfast we will drive to Trongsa which will take little more than 2 hours we will proceed south to Kungarabten. This small village had once served as the winter retreat for the Royal families. Before reaching Kungarabten, you will find a dirt road leading up to the nunnery, we take the dirt road until we arrive at the parking lot. From here we start our walk towards the nunnery; the view from here of the valley below is breathtaking. This monastery is the home to over 100 nuns, who study and meditate here. We will visit the shrine, hostel, and maybe join for lunch with the nuns. After the visit at the nunnery, we will continue our hike downhill to the Palace. We visit the small Palace and then start our drive back to Trongsa. Overnight at Yangkhil Resort.
DAY 08: TRONGSA – PUNAKHA
After breakfast we will start our drive back towards west taking the same lateral highway from where we drove in. From Pele Pass we will take the left hand road to beautiful glacial valley of Phobjikha. This valley is the designated winter home for 100s of endangered black-necked crane that migrate here from the Tibetan plateaus. This valley is also known for produce of best potatoes in Bhutan. From the Phobjikha Pass we will start walking downhill to Gangtey Monastery. If you enjoy the nature then this is a beautiful walk. If lucky you may encounter the precious Red Panda and many bird species. We will visit the magnificent Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the valley. This monastery has recently under gone a major renovation. We will resume our drive to Punakha / Wangdue Phodrang. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 09: ATTEND PUNAKHA FESTIVAL & DRIVE TO THIMPHU
After breakfast we will proceed to Punakha town to view the majestic Dzong (fortress), situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (male and Female River). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual head of Bhutan). In the past this Dzong was the capital seat of the Kingdom. We visit the dzong inside and attend the ongoing festival. We have whole day for witnessing the masked dances and the fair around the monastery ground. Meet the local people and exchange information or make a life long friend. Evening drive to Thimphu. Overnight at lodge.
DAY 10: THIMPHU SIGHTSEEING
Visit Thimphu weekend market, which is in a permanent set of stalls, vendors from throughout the region arrive on Friday afternoon and remain selling their goods until Sunday night. It’s an interesting place to visit, where village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and foodstuffs. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip. Continue your sightseeing to Zangdopelri temple, the Changlimithang where you can witness young Bhutanese practicing their favorite archery game. Return to hotel for lunch, rest of the day free for you to explore on your own. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 11: PARO SIGHTSEEING
After breakfast we will drive to Paro this will take about 2 hours, check into hotel and then we will start our sightseeing by visiting the Drukgyal Dzong built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal, the Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. On a clear day you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Chomolhari, alt. 7314 m / 23,990 ft. Go round the fortress, it is a 30 minutes leisurely hike, this is a beautiful walk. Drive south to Satsam Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rinpochey, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in seventh century by a Tibetan King, Songtsen Gonpo. After lunch we will visit the National Museum of Bhutan, (Ta Dzong) which contains works of art, handicrafts, costumes, armors and rare stamps. Take a leisurely hike down to Rimpung Dzong. You will walk through a traditional covered bridge across the river to your waiting car and drive to your hotel. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 12: DEPART FROM BHUTAN
Drive to Paro Airport and bid farewell.