Bhutan has many indigenous celebrations and the most important ones are the Tshechu festivals.
Tshechu means “the tenth day” of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava), the patron saint of Bhutan. Yet the exact month of celebration can vary depending on each temple or place. During these grand ceremonies, the locals will all gather at the temple to enjoy the festival and to receive blessings. It is also time for them to take a break from work and to socialize.
Tshechus are a spectacular celebration and display of colours, people and culture. The most captivating part of Tshechus is the sacred mask dances. Performed by monks and sometimes joined by laity, each dance has a special meaning or a story behind it. Some of the stories may be as old as from the time of Guru Padmasambhava, in the 8th century. Moreover, there will be other dances and performances to keep the lively atmosphere. Some Tshechus will also display a gigantic thangkha of Guru Rinpoche and other Buddhist gods.
These festivals are one of the best ways to discover the rich heritage of Bhutan. Some of the biggest Tshechus in the country are Thimphu Tshechu Festival, Paro Tshechu Festival, Punakha Tshechu Festival, Gangtey Tshechu festival, and Bumthang Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival. Not only Bhutanese, but Tshechus are also an unforgettable for any visitors that have attended the ceremony in Bhutan!
Tour duration – 8 days/ 7 nights
Tour destination – Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha.
Tour overview – Punakha Tshechu (festival), celebrated from March 5 to March 7 2020, is one of the largest events in Bhutan. The festival is hold in honour of Guru Rinpoche (otherwise known as Padmasambhava), the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. During this time, locals will gather to enjoy the unique masked dances performed by monks, who clad in colorful brocade attires and permeate chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The climax of the Punakha Tshechu is the unfolding of a huge cloth thangka, portraying Smabhava and images from Buddhist pantheon. It is the time for Bhutanese to take a break from their hard-working daily life, to receive blessings and to socialize. This festival is one of the most exciting ways to discover the culture of 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.
Then we visit 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 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 National Library of Bhutan, was established in 1967 to preserve the rich cultural and religious heritage of Bhutan and The Himalayas. It holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and historic manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.
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.
Next place is 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).
In the late afternoon we 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 Punakha
- Altitude in Punakha: 1300m
- Distance: 75km
- Estimated time: 2.30hrs
Today we will drive to Punakha. 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.
Along the way, 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 will visit 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 stroll exploring Punakha village, located right on the bank of river
Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 04: Punakha festival
Today we will join Punakha festival. In the early morning hundreds of local people dressed in their finest clothes and jewellery who have walked from another region around to attend the festival. It is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.
Overnight at hotel in Punakha.
Day 05: Punakha to Paro
Today we drive back to Paro. On the way 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 culture tour of Paro valley by visiting 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.
Then we 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.
Afterwards 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.
Then we walk down to the hill and cross the cantilever bridge towards Paro Town. We will take an explorative stroll around main streets and market at Paro town.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 06: Paro sightseeing.
Today after breakfast 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.
Then we will visit 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.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 07: Haa valley excursion
In the morning we drive to Haa valley to visit the Lhakhang Karpo – the White Temple, built by the Tibetan saint and king, Songtsen Gampo and located in the tiny village of Dumchoe with its sparkling white wall is situated at the foothills of the three towering mountains venerated. Then we head to the Lhakhang Nagpo – the Black Temple that the legend says that King Songtsen Gampo released a black and a white pigeon to select sites to build the temples. The white pigeon landed on the foothills of the mountain Chenrizi of the towering Rigsum. The black pigeon landed on a little north of the white pigeon, indicating the preordained site of the present day Lhakhang Nagpo. The temple was named Nagpo (black) as it was built on the site where the black pigeon landed.
Afterwards we drive back to Paro, on the way we will stop and take a walk to visit the Juneydrak Hermitage. We will start the walk from the main bridge from Haa town, follow the stream past a main wall to a two legged archway chorten and cross rhododendron forest to get the hermitage. If there is no one meditating inside the temple at that time, you can go inside and take a look at the footprint of Machen Labdrom (1055-1132) on the Cliffside retreat. After the walk, our journey continue to drive to Chele La pass at about 3800 metres where you will have a great view of the Himalaya range on a clear day and visit the Kila Gompa.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro.
Day 08: 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$ 2,070 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$ 2,000 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 1,790 per person
OFF PEAK SEASON
- Single traveler: US$ 1,720 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$ 1,650 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 1,440 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.|