Festivals have a special place in the hearts of the Bhutanese people to such an extent that the Bhutanese culture itself is closely characterized by its religious celebrations. On your 9-day trip you will not only be participating in the grand Paro (Tshechu) festival, but will also be visiting popular landmarks like dzongs (fortress), monasteries scattered throughout the country. The trip also takes you hiking to some of the beautiful hiking destinations of the country including the famous Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, believed to be the epitome of the rich Bhutanese culture.
Please note that the following itinerary has been especially designed to cover the Paro Festival in the spring of 2015.
Hotels in Bhutan are approved and classified by the government as grade A, B and C. These government approved hotels are equivalent to 3-4 star hotels elsewhere. Based on availability at the time of booking, we will be accommodated in A grade hotels in Paro and Thimpu and B grade hotel in Punakha. We use Tashi Namgay Resort in Paro, Hotel Migmar in Thimpu and Meri Puensum Resort in Punakha. In Gangtey, you will be staying in a farmhouse. All accommodations are on a twin-shared basis. Single supplement will be served on request and will cost USD 560.
As our flight nears Bhutan, we can enjoy amazing views of the Himalayas including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks. At the airport, we will be greeted by a representative from Himalayan Glacier who will take us to our hotel. Today, we will visit Rinpung Dzong which was built in 1646 and now houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. We will also visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country and Drugyal Dzong, built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan's victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. Overnight in Paro.
We celebrate the Tshechu or Paro festival throughout the day today. It is a religious festival meaning "tenth day" celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpochhe (Guru Padmasambhava). However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple. The festival is a grand event where the entire Bhutanese communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. In addition to the mask dances, tshechus also include colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment. Overnight in paro.
After breakfast, we hike for 4 -5 hours to Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan's most famous monastery situated at 3,180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. After having explored the monastery, we hike down to the valley floor. This afternoon, we will drive to Thimphu and spend the night.
In the morning, we visit King's Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), nunnery temple, mini zoo to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan and the radio tower (for a great view of the Thimphu Valley and the Thimphu Dzong). After lunch, we visit other landmarks of Thimpu including the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Bhutanese traditional painting school, folk heritage museum, the majestic Tashichho Dzong and the traditional paper factory. However, some of the landmarks are closed in the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). Therefore, if we are in Thimpu during the weekends, we explore the Weekend Market instead. Overnight in Thimpu.
After breakfast, we enjoy the scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at Dochu La Pass (3,100 meters), where on a clear day we get spectacular views of the Himalayas. From the pass, we drive downhill through rhododendron, fir and hemlock forests. We then pass through rice fields along river banks and reach Punakha. After lunch, we visit Punakha Dzong. Built between 1637-1638, it is the second oldest and the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Overnight in Punakha.
In the morning, we explore the beautiful town of Wangduephodrang. This village and its nearby villages are knows for their slate and stone carvings. Then we drive through dense oak and rhododendron forests to Gangtey, a beautiful village surrounded by amazing snowcapped mountains. From here, we enjoy views of the picturesque Black Mountain ranges as well as the beautiful Phobjikha valley, the winter habitat of the black-necked cranes. Gangtey Monastery is perched atop a small hill that rises from the valley floor. Overnight in Gangtey.
In the morning, we visit Gangtey Gompa, the only Nyingmapa Monastery in western Bhutan; and RSPN Education Center. Next, we explore the beautiful Phobjikha valley. The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened Black-necked Cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species. After lunch, we will drive back to Punakha. Overnight in Punakha.
After breakfast, we drive 12 km north of Punakha valley and from the road point hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. The chorten is located on a beautiful hillock overlooking the villages and houses elaborate paintings dedicated to an Old sect of Buddhism. After exploring the beautiful chorten we will drive back to Paro to spend the night.
Today we bid farewell to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom and her friendly people. After early breakfast, we leave Thimpu for Paro airport which will take us around 1 hour. Druk Air generally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions. Therefore, after breakfast, we will be taken to the airport in the morning for final departure.