The Tsechus or Festivals are very important occasions for every Bhutanese or Buddhist to witness lightening the path after death. The Tsechu meaning tenth day of a month, this religious festival is celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar in honor of Guru Rinpoche (the Precious Master).
Paro: Rinpung dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang, Taktsang Monastery and Drukgyel Dzong
Thimphu: Takin Preserve, Zhilukha, Zorig Chusum or Painting School, Folk Heritage Museum, National Library, Textile Museum, National Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Lhakhang, Tashichoe dzong and Semtokha Dzong
Flight into Bhutan takes you close to the panoramic view of the snowcapped Himalayan Mountains and high hills with green patches and traditional architectural houses. Paro International Airport (2250m) is one of most smallest and beautiful airports in the world.
Paro gives one the first glimpse of the country’s landscape and cultural heritage, silvery Pa-Chu River meandering down the valley below the massive Rinpung Dzong (fortress) and Ta-dzong (watch tower) situated along the hill.
After completion of arrival formalities, our Himalayan Adventure Travel representatives will meet you at the exits of the airport. Drive (15 minutes) to the small town of Paro for refreshment and other personal activities. Drive to Thimphu takes about 1.5 hours along the Pa-chu River; visit Ta-choe Lhakhang and the Iron Bridge built in the 15 century by Iron Bridge builder en-route. Further takes you to Chu-zom, confluence, hub of road to south, west and capital city, Thimphu.
Lunch in a restaurant in Thimphu and explore the capital city in the afternoon, giving one the first impression of the country and rest.
Overnight in Hotel.
Day 2 Thimphu
Wide valley of Thimphu is home of government offices, King’s palace and embassies and commercial activities. Full day sightseeing after breakfast comprise of Takin Preserve, a captivity where the national animal, Takin is kept. The beast is a unique animal, believed to be created by Divine Madman in 15th century combing the head of a goat and body of a calf with his magical power. Continue further to Zhilukha Nunnery built in 15th century by Iron Bridge Builder. There live about 20-30 Buddhist nun, shaved heads chanting mantras. Visiting Zorig Chusum or Painting School gives one an impression of keeping traditions alive. This is a vocational training institute where your school dropouts learn thirteen arts and crafts in 4-6 years. In a walking distance is Folk Heritage Museum, hundred years old farm house depicting the way our forefathers lived. The three storied museum contains all the household items which cannot be seen now. National Library is comprised of volumes on Buddhism, Bhutan’s history and other national language literature. The library is not just an ordinary; it is also a temple with religious statues inside. Largest book on Bhutan lies majestically in the library. Textile Museum has wide variety of textiles of Bhutan. These hand-woven fabrics reflect the distinctive identity of the country. The museum has dresses and crowns used by the kings. National Memorial Chorten which was built by Royal Queen Mother, Ashi Phuntsho Choden in 1794 in memory of her son, the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The stupa now stands as a symbol of peace, where people of all age come to pray and circumambulate for merit. On top of a hill stands Changangkha Lhakhang built in 15th century by a descendant of Phajo Drugom Zhipo, the founder of Drukpa lineage in Bhutan. This is the oldest temple in the Thimphu valley. People of Thimphu believe that the deity of the temple looks after the valley and its people; therefore newly born babies should be brought here for name. Majestically standing along the Wang-chu River, Tashichoe dzong (fortress of the auspicious religion) built in 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is the office for the King and some ministries. This dzong served as summer residence until 1960s for the Royal family. Below the road to the entrance of the dzong, small cottage with wooden roof is the fifth King’s Palace.
Day 3 Thimphu – Punakha
The drive from Thimphu to Punakha is an interesting with lot of scenic spots on windy road takes about 3 hours. Towards south of the Thimphu valley is Semtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This serves as Institute for Language and Cultural Studies (ILCS) and monastery now. This school was the initiative of the Third King with 500 students in 1989, study religious scripture in ILCS. The drive through tropical forest includes spotting of Orchids, Rhododendrons, Magnolia and many other flowers.
Driving further takes you to Dochu-La Pass (3050m) marked with quantities of colorful prayer flags and 108 stupas built by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck in 2004 commemorating victory over Indian Militants. Dochula, a lookout point offers a spectacular view of the snow peak Himalayan Mountains on the clear days. Above the 108 stupas, lies Druk Wangyel Lhakhang built and consecrated in 2008, in dedication to the Fourth King by the queen.
After lunch in Punakha, short leisure hike to Chimi Lhakhang (no-dog temple) for about 1.5 hours through paddy field small clustered hamlet presents scenario of peasants’ daily life. The temple was built dedicating to the Divine Madman by his cousin Ngawang Chogyal in 1499. The temple is the pilgrimage for childless women in order to conceive one.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 4 – Punakha
Gigantic building standing between Pho-chu (male) River and Mo-chu (female) River is Punakha Dzong or Punthang Dechen Phodrang (palace of great happiness) built in 1637 after the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche in 8th century. The most impressive dzong of Bhutan is believed to be exact architecture of Zangtopelri (the Guru’s Paradise).
Enjoy full day festival in the Punakha Dzong. Mask dances, folk dances and blessing and prayers are the highlights. Witnessing a few days festival is believed to wash away ones sins and give an impression of life after death. Life after death is making one aware of what would happen to one’s soul after death.
Several day Tsechu ends with unfurling of large thangka as big as five storied building depicting eight manifestations of Guru Padmashambava. High lamas bless the long queue orally and visual of the huge thangka.
Punakha festival is different from other Tsechus in different districts. There is still a ceremony where His Holiness Je Khenpo, the chief abbot throws oranges and other fruits in the river as blessing. This tradition is since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal betrayed the Tibetan invaders trying to take away the relic, Rangjung Khasa Pani.
Day 5 – Punakha
There are two options; either go to the dzong to witness the festival or hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten. Further north of the valley, 30 minutes drive is Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten on a hillock. The hike to the temple takes about an hour from the road, through the rice field and shades of pine forest. This three storey temple was built and consecrated in 1999 by Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck for protection of the country. Beautiful setting of the temple gives a panoramic view of the Punkha valley.
We would have picnic lunch at the bank of Mo-chu (female) river and in the woods.
Later in the afternoon drive to Wangdue Phodrang takes about 45minutes, another district in the same valley. Along Punatsang-chu river stands Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, on the hilltop which was built in 1638 by Zhabdrung. Unfortunately, the dzong was burnt down to the ground in July 2012. The dzong is under restoration with the aid from Government of India and other agencies.
Drive back to Punakha. Overnight in hotel.
Day 6 Punakha – Paro
Driving same way back to Paro via Dochu-la takes about 4-5 hours. After lunch in Paro, visit Rinpung dzong (fortress on a heap of jewels) was founded in the 15th century by descendants of Pajo Drugom Zhipo, founder of Drukpa School in Bhutan. The dzong was handed over to Zhabdrung and reconstructed in 1646 into a massive building. It houses governor’s office of the Paro valley and monastic body. Five kilometers, north of Paro valley is one of the oldest Buddhist temples, Kyichu Lhakhang in Bhutan. Tibetan King, Songtsen Gempo built the temple in 7th century, in order to pin down an ogress, obstructing him in flourishing Buddhism in the Himalayas.
Day 7 Paro
Have big breakfast! The time has come to hike for 5 – 6 hours (to and fro) to the beautiful Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) clinging on a rocky cliff, 900m above the Paro valley. It is an incredible hike through the oak forest with small bushes of rhododendrons. Dating back to the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche flew from Tibet via Singye dzong in the east riding a tigress; hence the name Taktsang. He meditated in a cave there for three months. Lunch is at restaurant at the viewpoint. Back from the hike, drive north to Drukgyel Dzong, fortress of victory in ruins. The fortress was built to commemorate the victory over Tibetans in 1644. Strategic dzong was built in 1647 by Zhabdrung to prevent the Tibetan invaders of the time. Unfortunately, the dzong was burnt down in 1951. On the clear days, Mt Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a backdrop.
Day 8 Depart
After a few days of tour in Bhutan, hopefully you have enjoyed the trip. It is time to bid farewell.