Bhutan, a small country between India and China, is recognized as the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom. The country’s iconic dzongs, temples and monasteries, with the traditional architecture, are synonymous with its Buddhist heritage. Perching on high mountain cliffs and overlooking the stunning landscape, these religious sites are the place of daily worship and also where the most important festivals of Bhutan – Tshechus are held.
The most celebrated Tshechus in Bhutan are Thimphu Tshechu festival, Paro Tshechu festival, Punakha Tshechu festival, Gangtey Tshechu festival, Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival and Jakar festival. Tshechus are the grand ceremonies held on the tenth day of a month (lunar calendar) to honour Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Yet the month of celebration will depend on the region and the temple that the Tshechu will take place at.
The highlight performance of Tshechus is the mask dances of monks, wearing colourful brocade attire and reading Buddhist scripts. And the laity will also join in the dance. Each dance has its own meaning and story behind, and many tales are based on the stories from the 8th century, the time of Guru Rinpoche. By telling the ancient stories through the mask dances, Tshechu is the oral traditional way of Bhutanese to pass on the history, the values, and beliefs from generation to generation.
Tshechu is also a social gathering for the locals to take a break from their work and simply enjoy the excitement of the festival. Bhutanese believe that by witnessing the performances, they will receive blessings.
Tour duration – 11 days/ 10 nights.
Tour destination – Paro, Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, and Punakha.
Tour overview – The festival is held in Bumthang, from November 13 to November 16, 2019. It is celebrated at Jambay Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche had visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual, crowds will gather in the evening to witness the ritualistic naked dance. During the tour, you will have the chance to discover many interesting places in Bhutan, Thimphu, Punakha and Paro. These destinations are home to many museums, Dzongs and other sacred sites that are must visit when travelling to Bhutan.
Day 01: Thimphu.
The flight to Bhutan provides the most spectacular view of The Himalayas. As the plane approaches to the airport, you will see the beautiful snow peaks of Himalaya range. The first gift from Bhutan will be cool, clean fresh air as you step out of the plane. Our representative will meet you and drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan at 2320m, also the only capital in the world that does not use traffic lights.
On arrival in Thimphu, check in the hotel. After a brief rest we will head to the National Memorial Chorten, which was the idea of Bhutan’s Third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk who had wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his Majesty’s untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace. You will see a lot of Bhutanese people circumambulating, reading mantras in murmuring and spinning their prayer wheels the chorten throughout the day.
Afterwards we will drive up to Motithang, north-western suburb of Thimphu to have Wangditse Gomeba hike, it will take 2 hours. Wangditse Gomeba is a monastery lies on the hill. On the way, we will visit The Motithang Takin Reserve to see the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin that has the body of a cow and head of a goat. The legend says that attribute the creation of these animals in Bhutan by a 15th century saint name Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the Divine Madman.
On the trail hike to the Wangditse Gomeba are yellow, green, red, white and blue prayer flags that are draped from trees, fluttering in wind. In our physical world these manifest as earth, water, fire, air or wind and space. Wind houses together the garuda, the dragon, the tiger, the snow lion and various mantras or a short sutras text in prayer flags contact with the natural energy of the wind impartially increase the life, fortune, health and wealth among all living beings. When you reach Wangditse Gomeba, overlook from here is view of Tashicho Dzong, Buddha statue and Thimphu valley.
In the late afternoon, we take a walk around to explore Thimphu town and soak in the atmosphere of this charming capital with crowded shops, bazaars and hospitality local in national dress.
Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu sightseeing
We will begin our day‘s sightseeing of the following sites:
The Folk Heritage Museum, restored three-storey, rammed mud and timber house replicates a rural household and is furnished as it would have been in the mid-19th century to provide an interesting glimpse into rural Bhutanese life.
The National Textile Museum, is the place to learn about Bhutan’s living national art of thagzo (weaving). Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. It displays Royal ghos and Kiras and introduces the major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and type of textiles made by women and men.
The Jungshi Handmade Paper factory, a small factory produces traditional Bhutanese paper from the bark of two tree species, the Daphne and Dhekap tree. You can observe the entire process of producing handmade paper. It is named Deh sho paper, was originally used by monasteries for woodblock and manuscript books and also for writing prayer books.
In the afternoon we will visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the Arts And Crafts School or the Painting School, operates four to six- year courses on the thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. You will be able to see students doing painting (thangkas- painted religious pictures, walls, and statues to the decorations on furniture and window-frames), embroidery (hangings, boots, clothes) or clay arts (religious statues, pottery), wood carving (masks, statues).
Then we head to the Buddha Point, the massive statue of Shakyamuni Buddha measures at a height of 51,5 meters is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park .You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in Bhutan and then walk around to enjoy the great view of Thimphu valley .
In the late afternoon visit the Tashichho Dzong, fortress of The Glorious Religion. It has been the seat of the government since 1952, after the Third King, His Majesty Jigme Dorje Wangchuck made this dzong to be a symbol of the new capital of Bhutan. It houses secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu to Gangtey
- Altitude in Gangtey: 2900m
- Distance: 160km
- Estimated time: 6hrs
Today we will drive to Gangtey. On the way we will stop and take a short hike to the Hongtsho Goemba, a monastery built in 1525 by Lam Ngawang Chogyal, the older brother of Drukpa Kuenlay. The trail leads up passing farm lands Apple orchards, potato fields, and vegetable gardens. The Hungtsho Goemba stands overlooking the village below and serves as the Buddhist community centre.
Then we will stop for lunch and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges at Dochula pass, high on top of a mountain (3050 metres), overlooking the Himalayas with 108 chortens (stupas) known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” and Druk Wangyal Lhakhang, built in memory of Bhutanese soldiers killed in the 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India. The Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, commissioned the monument the Fourth King, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was victorious in the struggle to dislodge the rebels who were using Bhutan as a base to raid India. Continue on the highway follows the scenic Dang Chhu before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak.
Overnight at the hotel in Gangtey
Day 04: Gangtey to Bumthang
- Altitude in Bumthang: 2800m
- Distance: 158km
- Estimated time: 6hrs
In the morning we will visit the Gangtey Goemba, the only Nyingmapa monastery in this region, sits at the head of Gangtey valley and take a walk to Phobjikha valley.
Afterwards we drive to Bumthang – small Switzerland of Asia with sightseeing en-route. We will stop at certain places for tea/refreshments and drive slowly towards Bumthang.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
Day 05: Jamba Lhakhang Drup Festival
Today we join Jamba Lhakhang Drup Festival. It is celebrated at Jambay Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in the 7 in Bhutan. Legend says that Guru Rinpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritualistic naked dance.
If you would like to visit the Kurjey Lhakhang where Guru Rinpoche meditated here, subdued demonen and left his body imprint on a rock or the Tamshing Lhakhang, established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingma monastery in Bhutan, tell you guide what takes your interest.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
Day 06: Discover Bumthang
In the morning we drive to Tang valley, on the way we visit to the Mebar Tsho – The Flaming Lake which located along the way to the Tang village over the feeder road under Bumthang valley. It takes approximately thirty minute drive to the Mebar Tsho from Chamkhar town. Mebar Tsho is considered one of the most sacred sites in the region as it is related to the renowned religious treasure reveler (Terton) Terton Pema Lingpa. Pema Lingpa is considered an incarnated disciple of Padmasambhava who discovered treasure within the lake in late 15th century. Nowadays is a sacred pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese with bright multicolored prayer flags surrounding it and a small altar dedicated to Terton Pema Lingpa has also been set up. On auspicious day people offer butter lamps at the lake.
Afterwards our journey continues pass through many villages and farms. Our starting point from the school of upper Tang valley. It will take about 2 hours to hike to Ogyen Choling museum. This museum is located on the hill overlooking the valley, was originally constructed in the 16th century, but was partially rebuilt after being damaged in the 1897 earthquake. The Palace also has links with the great Buddhist saint Lonchen Rabjam. At the moment the building serves as a museum, conserving the rich religious and cultural history of Tang and Bumthang.
On the way back we visit the Pema Choling Nunnery, a monastic school for nuns that in the 15th century, a prophesy was made by Pema Lingpa, known as the patron saint of Bhutan, that one day in the future there would be a great center of learning for women in the center of the sacred Tang Valley in Bumthang.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang to Punakha
- Altitude in Punakha: 1300m
- Distance: 212km
- Estimated time: 8hrs
Today we drive to Punakha, on the way we visit the Trongsa Dzong, the most spectacularly sited dzong in Bhutan, high above the roaring Mangde Chhu with a sheer drop to the south that often just disappears into cloud and mist. Then head to the Ta Dzong, which was once a watchtower which guarded the Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion. This magnificent watch tower sits on a spur overlooking the Trongsa Dzong and has now been converted into a state-of-the Art Museum (National Museum).
We also stop at certain places for tea/refreshments and drive slowly towards Punakha valley.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 08: Discover Punakha
In the morning we take a hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, stands majestically on a strategic ridge above the Punakha valley. After crossing a suspension bridge, it is a pleasant hike through beautiful fields of rice and pine trees. It takes about an hour from the road point to hike up to the temple, and 30 minutes downhill.
Afterwards we visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, a temple plus nunnery perched on a ridge overlooking the valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang, comprises a double storied temple, a chorten resembling Nepal’s boudhanath stupa and a nunnery complex.
Then we head to the Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. It is an imposing structure and was built in 1637 at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu. It served as the capital and seat of government until the early 1950s. The dzong is still the winter residence of the monk body.
In the evening we will take a walk to explore Punakha village located right on the bank of river.
Overnight at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 09: Punakha to Paro
Today we drive back to Paro. In the morning we will take a pleasant hike to across hillock fields to the Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of Fertility and built in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kuenley –“Divine Madman”.
Then we visit the Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The dzong houses statues and paintings of various Buddhas, deities and religious figures including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattava of Wisdom, Shakya Gyalpo the Buddha of Compassion and others.
In the afternoon, you can start your your culture tour of Paro valley by visiting the National Museum of Bhutan (Ta Dzong), originally built as watchtower around 1649. It is on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong to defend Paro Rinpung Dzong and Paro valley during times of war, in an unusual circular construction resembling a conch shell. This dzong was converted into the National museum of Bhutan in 1968. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Then we visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, meaning the fortress of The Heap of Jewels, is one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. It was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal between 1642 and 1646. This dzong now houses monk body and administrative offices of Paro and is symbolic as the religious and secular center of all affairs of the valley. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.
Next we visit the Sangay Handmade Bowl and Cup Factory, nearby Paro Rinpung Dzong. You will see demonstration of traditional wood turning skills by local artisans who make traditional wooden bowls and cups. It calls Shagzo – the art of wood turning, one of thirteen traditional Bhutanese arts. You can try your hand as well if you wish.
Evening an explorative walk around main streets and market at Paro town.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 10: Paro sightseeing
Today we take a hike to the Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is one of the most holy sites in Bhutan, clings to a cliff more than 3000 metres above sea level and 900 metres above The Paro valley floor. The legend says that Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) arrived here on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. Subsequently, he meditated here for three months. Every Bhutanese person is expected to complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. You will have lunch at Taktshang cafeteria from where you get a spectacular view of the monastery.
Afterwards we head to the Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in The Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. This temples marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the 8th century the temple was visited by Guru Padmasambhava.
On the way come back the hotel, we visit The Dungtse Lhakhang was built in 1421 by famous Tibetan lama, Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464). This temple is remarkable primarily because it is in the form of a Chorten, one of the very few which exist in Bhutan, is conceived as a mandala, with the different storeys (three floors) corresponding to the different levels of initiation, leading progressively upwards towards the heart of the mandala.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 11: Depart Paro
After early breakfast at the hotel, your guide will accompany you to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck) and hope to see you again.
- Single traveler: US$ 2,874 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$ 2,774 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 2,474 per person
OFF PEAK SEASON
- Single traveler: US$ 2,374 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$ 2,274 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 1,974 per person
- If you are planning to travel Bhutan with a group of 4 people and more, please feel free to contact us to get the cost for your group.
|The cost includes||The cost excludes|
|Bhutan visa fee.||Laundry/beverages/telephone calls and any personal expenses.|
|3 star categories hotel/resort twin sharing room.||Travel insurance.|
|Accommodation in the best 3 star hotels/resorts in Bhutan.||Airfares.|
|All meals in day.||Airport taxes if any.|
|Bottled water on the trip.||Excess baggage charge.|
|A sustainable development fee.||Tips to guides and drivers.|
|Museum fees and other special entry fees.||Services not mentioned.|
|Internal transportation with experienced driver throughout the trip.|
|Sightseeing as per itinerary with English speaking guide.|