The Punakha Tshechu is one of the most popular Tshechus in the country. It is held right after the popular Punakha Drubchen. The unfurling of the thongdrol (a large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche is the main attraction of the festival.
Paro International Airport (Google Map)
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Your introduction to our enchanting kingdom begins on a flight over the Himalayas into the lush green valley of Paro; truly one of the world’s most spectacular sights. Flying into Paro, Bhutan is a unique experience altogether. You will view the world’s highest, most majestic peaks and enjoy the view of the approaching valley with its primeval alpine forest, monasteries, temples, and farmhouse nestled in splendid mountain isolation.
Welcome greeting in a Bhutanese style with Tashi Khada (white scarf) by our representative at the Airport. You will be driven to the hotel for refreshment and a brief discussion on your tour program. (Please note; your itinerary shall be flexible and your guide shall give you options based on your interest)
The 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. Visit the Rinpung Dzong. A flagstone path rises gradually from a beautiful wooden bridge with shingle roofing and abutted by two guardhouses to the 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.
Take a leisurely drive to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. This point offers a birds eye view of Mt. Chomolhari (7329m). On the way back visit the oldest temple of the kingdom, Kichu Lhakhang. This temple was built in 629AD by a Tibetan King to pin down a giant demon. There is a sacred orange tree that grew on its own in the courtyard which bears fruits in all the seasons. This tree is said to be 600 years old. In the evening walk around Paro town and interact with the local people.
After breakfast, drive to Punakha via the winding river of Paro Chu & Wangchu. Stop for a hot cup of coffee at Dochu La pass (3150m) where you can enjoy the spectacular views of the eastern Himalayan mountain range. Take a walk around the 108 stupas and also enter the Drukwangyel temple built by the four queens as a tribute to the fourth King of Bhutan.
En-route visit Royal Botanical Garden in Lamperi. The park features a variety of forest types, spectacular scenery, natural rhododendron groves, endangered wildlife, and a lake.
Punakha is the former capital of the kingdom 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 River. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
Afternoon, 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
Today attend the “Colorful Punakha Tsechu” (festival) which is held at the massive courtyard of the Punakha Dzong “Palace of Great Happiness”. Hundreds of villagers & locals attend this festival with their finest ghos & kiras (traditional dress). You can enjoy the traditional Bhutanese dances, folk music, the colorful mask dances, the funny clown (Atsara), the enthusiastic crowd, and more… Interact with the locals and take pictures. Villagers love when their picture is being taken. All the festivals around the kingdom have deep religious meaning & significance.
Numerous lively shops & entertainment gets displayed surrounding the fortress hence It’s common to see villagers & children buying many things to gift it to their family members & friends who couldn’t make it to the festival. It is believed by the locals, attending Tshechu brings blessing and purifies your life. The locals don’t go for the festival only to enjoy but also to show respect to all the great seekers of the past who eventually found enlightenment.
Afternoon hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten. It was built by the Queen mother for the king who was by then the crown prince. The walk takes along the paddy fields climbing up gradually to the chorten.
Today you drive to Phobjikha valley en routing Wangdue valley. 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. 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.
Early rise and take a walk out into the serene valley of Phobjikha to enjoy the sunrise & fresh air. Today you head back to Thimphu making some stops for mountain views along the road.
Thimphu the cultural heartland of the kingdom. Thimphu is a small, charming capital city nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. It is nothing like what a capital city is imagined to be. Most of the houses and buildings are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style. En route Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses of Bhutan built in 1629 and it houses the largest monastic schools in the country.
Afterward, check into the resort and get some rest but if you are not tired embark on a walking tour of the city.
In the morning take a drive to Buddha Gang which offers a beautiful city view of Thimphu. Astrologers & locals believe this spot is one of the central meeting points of the sacred energy vibe of the country hence the massive statue of Buddha facing the sun. On the way down, circumambulate around the Memorial Chorten (a huge stupa) built-in memory of the 3rd King of Bhutan. This is the favorite place for the locals to practice their devotions.
Later, drive to the animal sanctuary where the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, is found in captivity. Walk around the BBS tower which is also known as the “romantic point” and lovers often come here to look at the panoramic view of the Thimphu valley. En-route visit Nunnery temple. You can show your devotion here by praying with the Buddhist nuns.
Visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved. They also have on display the largest Picture Book on Bhutan in the world.
Visit the Folk Heritage Museum where the cultural lifestyle of ancient Bhutan has been preserved.
Visit the Traditional Medicine Centre which includes a hospital and herbal medicine manufacturing unit based on the Tibetan system of medicine. The center also trains indigenous medicine doctors known as “Dungtso”. Visit the Zorig Chuksum “School for Thirteen Traditional Arts and Crafts” followed by a visit to Textile Museum, Handicraft Emporium, and some local shops for antiques.
Visit the Tashichhoe Dzong, the main secretariat building, the office of the King and Throne room, and also the house of the State Monastic Body.
Visit the Bhutanese Paper Factory, This traditional handmade paper is still being widely used around the country.
After evening tea, witness an archery match played by the locals with lots of hue & cry! Archery is the national game of Bhutan and one of the best ways of expanding your public relation is by participating in it.
Embark on a day’s excursion to Tango & Chari. Tango monastery is situated on a solitary hill covered by forest and is one of the best places to study Buddhism. The monks take pride in being a part of this beautiful Dratsang and at present, there are also seven reincarnations studying here.
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.
The hike to Tango monastery takes about 1.5hrs round trip and the Chari Goemba takes about 2.5hrs round trip. A picnic lunch will be arranged amidst the nature trail. After visiting the holy shrines, you can spend some time meditating in the temple and the surrounding campus. It is believed, meditation happens own at this serene site. Later drive to Paro which is about an hour drive. Evening, time at your leisure…free to go shopping or roam around the city.
After a wholesome breakfast, 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 “Dho Tso.” 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.