The Paro Tshechu is an annual event held every spring and is by far the most popular pageantry in Bhutan with the unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka or Thongdrel. During the festival, mask dances to commemorate the deeds of the great saint Guru Rinpoche are performed.
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.
After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha via the winding river of Paro Chu & Wangchu from Paro (128km/ 4hr). Stop for a hot cup of coffee at Dochu La pass (3150m) where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountain ranges. Walk around the 108 stupas which decorate the pass and enter Druk Wangyel temple built by the four Queens and as a tribute to the beloved fourth King of Bhutan.
After lunch, visit the Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. Punakha Dzong is the former winter Capital and in present-day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, the male and female rivers.
Evening, hike to Chimi Lhakhang to visit the temple of Bhutan’s foremost saint, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman”. 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.
Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue.
On the rise, after your breakfast drive to Phobjikha en routing Wangdue valley. It’s about 3hrs drive from here.
Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the north western tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. 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 the legend that the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson (the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613. 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.
Visit Information Centre for the Blacked Necked Cranes. Evening, take a hike through the Blue Pine forest to the village farmhouse. Try traditional Bhutanese snacks made from corn and rice with a glass of homemade wine.
The journey will take you across Pele La pass (3,300m), which is marked by a Chorten and an array of prayer flags. On a clear day, you can get spectacular views of the highest peaks of the kingdom and it’s quite common to spot some yaks and yak herders on this pass. This point marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. You’ll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa.
The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. As you drive down through rhododendron trees and ferns, you’ll reach Chendebji village. This was a night halt for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reign of the 2nd King of Bhutan. Just below Chendebji village is the Chendebji Chorten, a large white structure beside a stream. This Chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.
The last village before you reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which provides a full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive red roof. Visit the ancient Watch Tower which has been now turned into a historical museum. The top part of the tower provides a great view of the fortress and its surrounding villages.
Drive to Bumthang from Trongsa (68km/ 3hr), the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This journey will take you over one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan via the Yotong La pass (3425m), which is also the habitat for the Satyr peasant. Good for photography. As you enter the Chhume Valley (the first of the four valleys that comprise the Bumthang Valley) you can visit a center of Yathra weaving. Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout the country.
On the rise, visit the historical Jakar Dzong (Fortress of the White Bird) situated on the hilltop overlooking Bumthang valley & the river. It is probably one of the biggest Dzongs in Bhutan with the surrounding walls about 1 km in circumference
Here on, take a leisurely hike through several ancient and important monasteries such as Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang, Tamshing & Pema Samba Lhakhang. (These temples have many mythical stories linked to their origin and some of them date back as early as the 7th century. Your guide will unfold its mystery as you visit these holy sites.
In the evening, drive to Menbar Tsho (the burning lake). This holy lake is located about 20km from the town. When the locals visit this lake they tie a coin inside a white scarf, make a wish and offer it to the lake. It is believed someday your wish will be fulfilled.
Retrace your journey back to Wangdue crossing over the high passes enjoying breath-taking scenery.
Trongsa Dzong, built-in 1645, is a vast, white fortress that appears to grow directly up from the narrow green ridge on which it is constructed. It is one of the most powerful Dzongs and even today the crown prince of Bhutan must first become its Trongsa Penlop (governor) before he can become Bhutan’s King. On arrival visit Trongsa Dzong and walk around the sloppy town of Trongsa.
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.
Evening visit Kichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in the country which dates back to the 7th century.
Festivals or tshechu are held every year in various temples, monasteries and dzongs (fortresses) across Bhutan. It is mainly a religious event celebrated on the 10th day of the month of the Lunar Calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, an 8th century Buddhist teacher.
The Paro Tshechu is held every spring and is one of the most colorful and biggest festivals in the Paro district. It’s has held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the state of Bhutan, and Penlop Rigzin Nyingpo initiated the festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong in 1644. The festival is observed in three parts – the pre-festival rituals on the first day, ceremonies on the second day inside the Paro Dzong, and the main festival at the festival ground for three days. Bhutanese from all walks of life in their finery come to attend the five-day festival.
Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration, the monks display a gigantic thangka (embroidered tapestry) of the Guru Throngdol inside the dzong. Thongdols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze viewers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdol is said to cleanse the viewer from sins and bad lucks.
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.