The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or laypeople. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country.
Paro International Airport (Google Map)
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Your guide and driver will welcome you at the airport and will proceed to the capital of Bhutan which is an hour’s drive away. Take a brief stop at Tamchhu Lhakhang on the way. Built by Thangtong Gyalpo or the Iron Bridge Builder as he is known, this 14th-century saint introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is by one of his bridges.
The view over Thimpu from the big Buddha statue helps us to get our bearings before we plunge into this vibrant growing town struggling to blend the shock of the new with traditional aspects of life in the shadow of the Himalaya. Depending on opening hours, guest interests, and time, your guide may include some of the following in your private schedule: The school of Arts & crafts the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, the Folk Heritage Museum, Takin preserve (Bhutan’s National animal) or you may wish to just go window shopping.
The 12th century Chari Goemba is one of the most popular meditational retreat centres for the monks. The meditational sites are glued to the rocky cliff 300m above the river valley. Once the monks graduate from Tango Monastery most of them decide to sit for meditation around the holy temple of Chari from three years to nine years. Tango Chari is located 12km away from Thimphu city.
Visit the Bhutanese Paper Factory, This traditional handmade paper is still being widely used around the country followed by Memorial stupa, which was built in memory of our Late Third King. It now serves as a focal point of worship for people residing in Thimphu, especially for elderly people.
Later visit the Tashichhoe Dzong (fortress of the glorious religion), the main secretariat building, the office of the King and Throne room, and also the house of the State Monastic Body.
The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival started in the year 2011 and the festival takes place every year on December 13 at the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang’s Festival ground. The festival is related to important national landmarks while the date commemorates the commencement of the military expedition of 2003.
The Festival’s impressive modern Bhutanese monuments and both monuments were built as a tribute to the wise leadership of the Wangchuck dynasty in general, and the temple was built under the personal supervision of Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, a year after she built the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens. It was consecrated in June 2008, the wise leadership of His Majesty the Fourth King, in particular, the works on the powerful mural paintings, the temple took almost four years to build.
The Dochula pass is one of the most spectacular passes in Bhutan and is about 45 minutes drive (22km) from the capital city, Thimphu. The pass (3080) marks the watershed between the districts of Thimphu on the western side and Punakha on the eastern side. It presents a panoramic view of these districts and some others beyond them.
After lunch drive to Phobjikha enrouting Wangdue valley. It’s about 3 & a half hrs drive from here. Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the northwestern tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. Evening at leisure.
Early rise and take a walk out into the serene valley of Phobjikha to enjoy the sunrise & fresh air.
Visit Information Centre for the Blacked Necked Cranes. The Phobjikha valley is also one of the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its northern habitats in Tibet and Siberia to these grounds. Take a hike along the outskirts of the glacial valley & through the blue pine forest. This is the best way to explore the valley & the cranes. On arrival Visit Gantey Monastery. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Goenpa that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjikha valley. According to legend, the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson (the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613 & it is one of the oldest seats of Nyingma traditions.
Later drive to Punakha valley which is about 2 & half hours from here. Evening at leisure.
Walk or white watering rafting adventure for a full day to cover all the highlights of the valley. We start early with a short walk up through whitewashed homesteads and farmland to Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Chorten, a shrine built by the royal family. This temple is a startlingly ornate and elaborate structure boasting a rainbow of Guru Rinpoche images and superb views of the lush rice paddies and orange groves of the Punakha Valley.
Downstream the edifice of Punakha Dzong (Druk Pungthang Dechen Phodrang – the Palace of Great Happiness) awaits and we can either drive down or float to its gates on a rafting adventure. Built-in 1637 by Zhabdung Nawang Namgyal in a commanding position at the confluence of the Po Chhu and Mo Chhu (Father and Mother rivers).
Bhutan’s second oldest dzong served as the seat of the Kingdom’s government until the time of the second King and today is the winter home of the Je Khenpo, the head abbot of Bhutan, along with a retinue of about 1,000 monks. Some guests are so captivated by the murals, shrines, and general goings-on in the courtyards that they chose to spend a few hours in the dzong.
Evening, hike to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is called the Temple of Fertility as it is believed that childless couples who come here to pray for a child are usually blessed with a child. This is the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman.” The trail takes you through the Himalayan paddy fields and a typical village called Lobesa.
Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue.
It is time to retrace our steps back over the Dochu La for a second chance at that spectacular view of the Himalayan range. Returning to the Chunzom (or confluence) we catch a glimpse of the three shrines in Nepali, Tibetan, and Bhutanese style which were built to ward off evil spirits near the checkpoint.
On the final leg, the sinuous route follows the Pa Chhu River, through apple orchards and rice paddies, past quaint homesteads to our home in the Himalaya, Paro town.
On arrival visit National Museum (Ta-Dzong).Once the watchtower for the Rinpung Dzong (Fortress), it was converted into the National Museum in 1968 (one of the best museums in Asia). The museum stands on a promontory overlooking the Paro valley in all its glory.
Later visit the Rinpung Dzong. Today, this massive fortress built in 1645 AD is the seat of the district administration as well as the home for the monastic school. The central tower (Utse) of the Dzong, with its superb woodwork, is one of the most beautiful in the nation. A flagstone path descends gradually to the beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses to the Dzong.
Evening visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in the country which dates back to the 7th century.
Drive to Satsam Chorten and spend the day hiking up the forested path to Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s most famous and scenic icon. The climb is steep and takes about 4 hours round trip. An important place of pilgrimage and refuge for more than 1200 years, Taktsang Monastery clings to sheer cliffs 2000 ft above Paro Valley, and from your closest vantage point on a rocky ledge directly across from it, you will still need 200-300 mm lenses and a steady tripod to get tight photographs.
This sacred place got its name when Guru Rinpoche rode there on the back of a flying tiger and meditated in a cave behind the present-day monastery. Sadly, in 1998, the central temple was destroyed by fire, leaving the country in mourning for their holiest of spiritual places. But religious
Leaders and the King quickly developed a plan to rebuild Taktsang and donations started pouring in from Buddhist centers all over the world, and today, the magnificently rebuilt exterior is complete. Tiger’s Nest is once again the subject of cloud-shrouded posters that say, “Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Picnic lunch on the hillside cafeteria.
Evening, visit a typical village home for a traditional Bhutanese-style dinner accompanied by the local liquor called “Ara” (tastes somewhat like the Japanese Sake) & yak meat. Then luxuriate in the Bhutanese equivalent of a Jacuzzi called a “Chu Tse.” River rocks are heated and dunked into a large wooden tub with herbs. This type of bath is considered to have medicinal properties of healing.
Early morning your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off onto your flight and wish you Tashi Delek.