One of the biggest festivals is the Thimphu Tshechu, held in the capital city for three days starting from 10th
day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Before the actual tshechu that is being witnessed by thousands of
people from the capital city and the nearby Dzongkhags, days and nights of prayers and rituals are conducted
to invoke the gods.
It was first initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867. It had only a few dances being performed and
that too strictly by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (dances of the 21 black hats),
Durdag (dance of the lords of the cremation ground), and the Tungam chham (dance of the terrifying deities).
Thimphu tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced
numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). The additions has added color without
compromising the spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (eight manifestations of Guru), Shaw
shachi (dance of the stags) are enjoyed because they are like stage theater.
Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas),
who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to have entranced the evil forces and
prevented them from causing harm during tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health
and social awareness messages.
Distance: 55 km
Estimated travel time: 1 hour
Arrival at Paro. You will be welcome by your Bhutan Aries Tours & Treks at the Paro Airport and travel to Thimphu, the Capital if Bhutan. On arrival to Thimphu, check into hotel and after a refreshment visit Kuensel Phodrang where world’s largest Buddha statue is newly placed and also visit the Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans across the Kingdom bring their own products to display and sale at the Centenary Farmers market. Overnight at Thimphu
Thimphu tour includes the following depending on your interest and time availability:
National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old Bhutanese textiles which are rich in colors and designs. You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
The National Institute of Traditional Medicine where medicinal herbs are compounded and dispensed, and traditional medical practitioners trained.
The folk heritage museum, an outdoor museum that gives an insight into rural life.
The School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six – year course on the 13th traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan which includes painting, embroidery works, wood carving etc.
The Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory, the handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
Tashichhodzong, the fortress of the glorious religion”. This is the centre of government and religion, site of the monarch’s throne room and seat of the Je Khenpho or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in the 1960s in traditional
Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.
National Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by the faithful, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (The father of modern Bhutan) who had wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts shops, to browse through examples of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, and other interesting items made from local materials. Overnight at Thimphu
Attend first day Thimphu festival. Venue – Tashichhodzong courtyard. This is the perfect occasions to witness the Bhutanese unique culture, religion and history. Overnight at Thimphu
After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Cheri Monastery and hike up to the Monastery. The walk up to the Monastery is through the forest filled with Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during March/April. This is the place where monks undergo spiritual retreat with a duration ranging from 4 months to 3 years. The hike up will take approximately 45 minutes. At this place you will experience complete serenity. Visit the Monastery and enjoy the breathtaking view from the Monastery. Walk down and if interested or time permits hike up to Tango Monastery. Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The hike up will take approximately 45 minutes. The view from Tango Monastery is Breathtaking.
Overnight at Thimphu
Day 05: Thimphu – Punakha/ Wangduephodrang Travel & tour
Distance 77 km
Estimated Travel time: 2 ½
After early breakfast, travel to Punakha through Dochula Pass (3,088m/10130ft). if you have clear sky, the view of the Himalayan ranges is spectacular. Visit the beautiful 108 Chortens built on the hill by Her majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. Also visit Druk Wangyel Temple and enjoy refreshment at Dochula Pass Resort. Then travel on to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan and presently the winter residence of the central monk body. Check into your hotel and afternoon visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Po Chu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River)
After that travel to Wangdue (Punakha & Wangdue is about 25 minutes drive apart) on the way visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery- Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine), where one can receive a special fertility blessing. Then visit Wangdue Dzong, situated on a ridge overlooking a river junction. I the 17th century, Wangdue plated a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern regions of the country.
Overnight at Wangdue/Punakha
Distance 132 km
Estimated travel time: 3 ½
After breakfast, drive to upper punakha valley passing through farmhouses and walk to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten (50 Mins) temple built by the Queen of Bhutan for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. After lunch travel back to Paro, visiting Simtokha Dzong en route. This Dzong, built in 1627, is the oldest in Bhutan. It now houses the Institute for Language and Culture Studies. Overnight at Paro
Ta Dzong rated as one of the finest natural Museum in South Asia and is filled with antique thanka paintings, textiles, weapons and Aemour
Paro Rinpung Dzong (in the same location) built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now used as an administration center and school for monks. Then walk down to Rinpung Dzong Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Bhutan.
After lunch, drive up the valley to view the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, 18 km from Paro town on the north side of the valley. It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled several invading Tibetan armies during the 17th century. Evening at leisure to visit local shops. Overnight at Paro
After breakfast, drive up to the base camp of Taktsang and then hike up to the most famous Monastery in the entire kingdom of Bhutan perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro valley. The hike up to the viewpoint will take about an hour and it will take 2 hours to the Monastery. Lunch at the view point, walk back to the road and drive back to your hotel on the way visiting Kichu temple one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of the Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demons. Overnight at Paro
After breakfast, your tour guide from Bhutan Aries Tours & Treks will see you off at Paro International Airport for your onward journey.