Punakha Tsechu Festival – 9 Days
Punakha Tshechu is one of the most popular annual festivals in Bhutan. It is held right after the popular Punakha Drubchen. Experience the spectacular Punakha Tsechu (Festival), held on the grounds of the magnificent Punakha Dzong. A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honor of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The unfurling of the thongdrol (a large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche is the main attraction of the festival. It is believed that a mere sight of the thongdrol liberates an onlooker and cleanses him of his sins.
Day 1: ARRIVE PARO
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport.
After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the National Museum, Ta Dzong. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime.
DAY 2: PARO
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you high above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the valley floor is a spectacular sight.
In the afternoon drive to the almost fully reconstructed Drukgyel Dzong.
DAY 3: PARO – PUNAKHA
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 4 hrs total driving time).
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, drive to Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” to attend the festival.
DAY 4: PUNAKHA (Punakha Festival)
Morning at Punakha Dzong to witness Punakha Tsechu (festival). The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colorful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts.
After lunch takes a short walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman.
DAY 5: PUNAKHA – PHOBJIKHA VALLEY
Transfer to Phobjikha Valley (3 hrs) via the bustling market town of Wangduephodrang. Drive-up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forests, and over a high pass down into the picturesque Phobjikha Valley.
Phobjikha is one of Bhutan’s few glacial valleys and chosen winter home of black-necked cranes (November – March) migrating from the Tibetan plateau. After lunch visit the Phobjikha Sanctuary to view the majestic black necked cranes (Nov-Mar only) and Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), dating back to the 16th century.
DAY 6: PHOBJIKHA VALLEY – THIMPHU
Morning go for walk and meet the School children close to your hotel, who all walk for hours to reach their nearest school. Phobjikha is a paradise for nature lovers and hikers.
There are lots of great places for hikes around the valley. Visit Gangtey monastery, the richly renovated monastery offering rich architecture and paintings. Walk down to the valley through the village. After lunch drives back to Thimphu crossing over Dochula pass again.
DAY 7: THIMPHU
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, including a visit to the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. Continue on to the 12th-century Changangkha Temple and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery.
If there is time, you may visit the nursing pen for the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, and Tashichhodzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion’. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body.
DAY 8: THIMPHU – PARO
Continue sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the School for Arts and Crafts where students are taught the 13 types of Bhutanese art, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory displaying the Bhutanese paper making process, and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.
Late afternoon transfer to Paro. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 9: DEPART PARO
Breakfast in the hotel, then drive to the airport for a flight to your onward destination.