Visit Bhutan 2017

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6. FESTIVAL OF PUNAKHA DRUBCHEN & TSHECHU (11 days/10 nights)

FESTIVAL OF PUNAKHA DRUBCHEN  & TSHECHU

The word “tshechu” in the Bhutanese language means literally “an annual religious Bhutanese festival” held in each district on the 10th day of a month of the Bhutanese calendar. The dates and duration of the tshechu vary from one district to another but always take place on or around the 10th day of a month. Such festivals are mostly held in the dzong (fortress) or local monastery in honour of Guru Rimpoche, one who was born from a lotus flower and brought the tantric Buddhism in Bhutan in the 8th century. By attending such festivals, it is believed that one gains merits by seeking forgiveness for their sins in life. During the tshechu, mask and historical folk dances in colourful costumes are performed by monks and laymen including the Atsaras (Clowns), who amuse the audience with their antics. It is believed that it is very important to know the name of the dances and its significance. Tshechu is also considered as an occasion for social gatherings; to get together with families and kith & kin dressed in their finest traditional clothes and jewellery. Punakha Dromchoe is the unique festival with a ‘serda’ procession that re-enacts the war against Tibetan in the 17th century. So plan your visit to Bhutan to coincide with this festival held in February/March annually. This tour gives you a real appreciation of both the Buddhist faith and the Bhutanese way of life but also included in the package are other places of interest.

Day 1: Arrive Paro

On arrival, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan for two nights. We will drive a distance of 65-km for about one hour journey to Thimphu and en route stop off at the 14th century Tachog Lhakhang on the base of a mountain across the Pa Chhu River on the Paro-Thimphu highway, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s great architect Drupthop Thangtong Gyalpo (builder of iron chain bridges). The evening is at leisure to relax – so why not stroll in the great atmospheric Thimphu town?

Day 2: Sightseeing in Thimphu

Today we explore a fascinating full day tour to see the best of Thimphu city at an altitude of 2,300m. First stop is at the National Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Next, visit the 13th century Changgangkha Temple and the Folk Heritage Museum, a showcase of the Bhutanese artefacts used in rural households. Later, drive up to the Sangaygang Hill (Radio Tower), visit the Mini Zoo for Takin (national animal of Bhutan) and the Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Point) offering a panoramic view of the Thimphu valley. Continue to the Centenary Farmer’s Market on the banks of the Wangchhu River selling farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha

After breakfast, today you’ll travel to Punakha for a distance of 77-km for about 3 hours journey and stop off at Dochu La Pass at an altitude of 3,050m. On a clear day, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the snow capped eastern Himalaya ranges and also a magnificent distant view of the Gasa Dzong from this spot. En route visit the Chimi Lhakhang, which is dedicated to the legendary Lama Drukpa Kinley (known as the Divine Madman). The monastery is also revered as a sanctum of fertility. Legend has it that the couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting the temple – Japanese and several American couples visited this temple and were blessed miraculously with children. Punakha, at an altitude of 1,300m, was once the old capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955. The Punakha Dzong (also known as the Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong) was built in 1637 and is strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) rivers. Now the dzong serves as the administrative centre of Punakha district and the Central Monastic Body. The evening is at leisure to relax – so why not stroll in the Punakha town? Overnight in Punakha.

Day 4: Punakha Dromchoe and Tshechu (Festival)

After breakfast, attend Punakha Dromchoe festival for a full day. Punakha Dromchoe is the unique festival with a ‘serda’ procession that re-enacts the war against Tibetan in the 17th century. This festival is dedicated to Yeshey Gempo (Mahakala) or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective deities of Drukpas (the people of Bhutan). The religious masked dances in the form of animals, fearsome deities, skulls or just simple human beings are performed during the festival wearing spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade, often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 5: Punakha – Trongsa

This morning we’ll travel a distance of 142-km for about 6 hours to Trongsa via Pele La Pass at an altitude of 3,300m. This pass is an important dividing range that separates the western from central and eastern Bhutan. En route stop off at Chendebji Chorten (stupa) located just below the road. The evening is at leisure to relax, enjoy and explore the Trongsa town at an altitude of 2,200m, ancestral home of the Bhutan’s royal family. Spend the night in Trongsa.

Day 6: Trongsa – Bumthang

Today morning you’ll visit the Trongsa Dzong or the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower), the ancestral home of the present Royal Family where the first two Kings ruled from this dzong. After lunch, you’ll continue the journey for a distance of 68-km for about 2 hours to Bumthang, the most beautiful valley and cultural heartland of Bhutan. En route we will stop for a quick visit to the Yathra Weaving Centre at Chumey, where they use yak and sheep wools for yathra products with patterns unique to Bumthang. The evening is at leisure to relax, enjoy and explore the delightful surroundings of Bumthang valley at an altitude of 2,600m. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 7: Sightseeing in Bumthang

After breakfast, we set out for a full day sightseeing to experience more of this spiritual heartland of Bhutan. You will visit the following legendary monasteries, temples and dzong: the Jakar Dzong, the Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songsen Gampo of Tibet, the Kurjey Lhakhang, built in 1652 and named after the body imprint of Guru Rimpoche who introduced the Buddhism in Bhutan, the Tamshing Lhakhang, built in 1501 which is the most important Nyingma temple in Bhutan. If time permits, you’ll visit the Mebar Tsho (flaming lake) located along the way to Tang village, where the renowned treasure reveller, Terton Pema Lingpa, discovered treasures from the lake in the late 15th century. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 8: Bumthang – Gangtey

This morning we will travel a distance of 188-km for about 5-6 hours to Gangtey via Trongsa. Phobjikha valley is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare Black-necked Cranes, where they come in hundreds after spending their summer in Tibet and then migrates to the Himalayas of Bhutan to spend their winter – they arrive in the months of September and October and fly back to Tibet between February and March. The evening is at leisure to relax and enjoy, we have allowed some time for this and also to explore the delightful surroundings of Gangtey in Phobjikha valley. Overnight in Gangtey.

Day 9: Gangtey – Paro

Today is a day-long journey heading back to Paro via Wangdue Phodrang. The journey passes through the awe-inspiring mountains and lush vegetation along the highway and will photo stops during the journey. Enjoy some leisure time in Paro town in the evening, one of the beautiful valleys in Bhutan and home to the famous Paro Taktshang (also known as Tiger’s Nest), National Museum and Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines). Spend the night in Paro.

Day 10: Hike to Paro Taktshang

This morning you’ll take a hike to Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Taktshang. The monastery is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900m above the Paro valley and takes about a 2-hour climb on a well-maintained trail through beautiful pine forest, trees festooned with Spanish Moss and fluttering prayer flags. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to Paro Taktshang cliff in the form of Guru Dorji Drolo, mounted on a flaming tigress in the 8th century. Afterwards, there may also be time to visit the ruined Drugyal Dzong (fortress), built in 1647 to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan invaders or visit the Kichu Lhakhang, which is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan (7th century). Your last overnight in Paro, Bhutan.

Day 11: End of Tour

Your tour ends in Bhutan with a departure transfer to the Paro Airport for your onward journey. Your guide from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Goodbye and Good Luck!

Services Included

  • Transfers to and from the airport
  • Twin-sharing accommodation in 3-star hotels
  • Upgrades to 5-star luxury accommodation available on request
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Baggage handling at all hotels and camps
  • Licensed Bhutanese English-speaking guided tours
  • All entrance fees to museums and other attractions
  • Comfortable transport within Bhutan
  • All applicable internal taxes and service fees (including royalty)
  • Mineral water
  • Visa fees

Services Not Included

  • International airfare (round-trip from hometown departure gateway to destination)
  • Travel insurance
  • Discretionary gratuities to guides and driver (we provide suggested guidelines)
  • Single room supplement
  • Other personal expenses such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls, etc.

Prices and Dates

ON REQUEST

Pricing Policy

Prices are quoted and payable only in (US$ dollars). All prices published on our websites, brochures and marketing materials are set as low as possible. The guide prices may vary at any time subject to government actions, changes in exchange rates, increase in transportation costs or fuel prices before we have accepted your booking, however, we guarantee our prices who have already signed up for your tour.

Festival Dates

[4th to 6th March 2017: Punakha Drubchen and 7th to 9th March 2017: Punakha Tshechu]

[It’s always advisable to contact us 3 or 4 months in advance. You decide dates depending on your plan of travel, however, time your arrival to coincide the festival dates indicated above]

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