12 Nights 13 Days
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The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche. However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.
Tshechu are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. In addition to the mask dances tshechu also include colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment.
It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessing and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 08th century, during the life of Guru Rinpoche.
The mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men.
The Flight into Paro (2,200mtrs/7,800ft.) on the Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines is a befitting introduction to the magnificent beauty of Bhutan. From a window seat on a clear day, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Bhutan’s snow-capped peaks as you approach Paro International Airport.
On your arrival, you will be received by our company representative and then drive to the Hotel. After refreshing yourself, visit National Museum-which contains works of arts, handicrafts, costumes, armor and rare stamps. Have an evening walk around the Paro town. Overnight hotel.
In the morning drive (03hrs) westwards to the pristine and remote Haa valley, which was recently open to tourists.
The valley is dotted with fields of Millets, barely and potatoes and full of ancient shrines. Haa valley is the western most state in Bhutan. It borders the Indian state of Sikkim and Tibet.
We drive Haa valley via Chele le Pass (3849mtrs/13,000ft.) through blue pine and rhododendron forests. On a clear day there are superb views from the pass of two of Bhutan’s highest and the best known peaks-Mt. Jumolhari and Jichu Drakey. We will stop here briefly to enjoy the lovely mountain scenery and then continue drive to Haa valley (2,670mtrs/8,811 ft.).
The drive will give you an insight into a medieval way of life that has changed little over the centuries. Modern development has brought better education, health care and electricity to these remote areas but the local small farm-based economy that has kept the local people self sufficient over the years is largely unchanged.
Upon arrival at the valley, visit Haa Dzong (fortress) and two most famous 07th century temple Lhakhang Karpo (white temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (black temple). Lhakhang Karpo is also called Chundu Gompa, dedicated to rhe chief protector-deity of the valley. The central shrine in Lhakhang Nagpo is said to be almost identical to that of the Jowo temple in Lhasa,Tibet. Overnight hotel.
After breakfast, depart Haa for Thimphu- a capital of Bhutan via a forest of pine and cedar with panoramic views of the Himalaya. Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital (2,320mtrs/7,609 ft.) is situated on a broad green valley surrounded by terraced rice fields. Thimphu has a population about 100,000 people and you will notice lot more vehicles and concrete buildings. The main street of Thimphu, Norzin Lam, is lined with shops of all descriptions mainly stocking goods imported from India and Thailand. This is the only capital in the world, where there are no traffic lights, only few roundabouts. A policeman regulates the flow of traffic gesturing/hand signals!
Enjoy the lunch in a local restaurant. After a lunch, visit National Memorial Stupa built in the memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Drive to Sangay gang (BBS tower) for a bird’s eye view of the capital city. Mini preserved our national animal-Takin! It is a unique creature resembling of a Cow body and goat’s head. 15th century Changangkha Lhakhang and drive to Drubthop Nunnery Lhakhang, Zilukha and crafts market opposite to the Hotel Taj. Overnight hotel.
In the morning drive to the simtokha Dzong, the oldest in the country (built in 1629 A.D). You will have an opportunity to visit with some of the monks and observe life within the monastery. In the old days, the oldest son of every family was offered to a monastery where the child grew up as a monk. Even now, it is not uncommon for some families to continue the practice.
Next, return to Thimphu and visit the Textile Museum, folk Heritage Museum, National Library, Arts and crafts school, traditional handmade paper factory, Buddha point, weaving center at Changzamtog and Thimphu Dzong-where you can get to see the throne of our current king.
In the evening you can walk around Thimphu town for shopping or western dinner at a popular local restaurant. Overnight hotel.
After a good night’s rest in the bustling city, we can leave Thimphu and head eastwards towards Punakha. The road climbs steeply through a forest of Pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula Pass (3,050mts/10,000ft.). This pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, as we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350mtr/4,430ft).
Before proceeding further to Punakha, we will hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang (temple) on a small hilltop. It is pleasant 30 minutes hike through the paddy fields and the small villages. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi Drukpa Kuenly-“Divine Madman”.
After lunch, continue drive towards Punakha Dzong, situated between the two rivers Pho Chhu (Male River) and Mo Chhu (Female River). This fortress is now used as the winter seat of the Je khenpo (the spiritual head of Bhutan). This Dzong had served as the capital seat of the kingdom for more than three years. Overnight hotel.
The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 06 hours. Drive early morning for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile valley of Punakha and enter into the valley of Wangdue Phodrang, we take opportunity to photograph the Majestic Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, currently which is ruined by fire.
We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pelela pass (3,300mtrs/10,989ft). With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan.
During the clear weather, we can view the high snow-capped peaks especially the Mt. Jumolhari (7,314mtrs/24,355ft). As we descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo we will reach at Chendebji Stupa. This Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama knowan as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge. We will have lunch here.
Continue drive towards the Tongsa. As you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa dominates the entire landscape. No wonder, it is the largest Dzong in the country. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles and in ancient times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Overnight hotel.
Attend the Trongsa Tshechu (festival) for whole day. The tshechu (festival) are rich form of the oral history tradition where the Bhutanese pass on values, mythology and spiritual beliefs through the dance dramas. Many of the tshechu (festival) culminate with a rare display of a giant silk appliqué thangka (painting) depicting Guru Padmasambava or some other important Buddhist deity.
You can also witness the colorful masked dances and cultural festivities of the Trongsa Festival, joined by the local villagers and gathered in their finest clothes for an exciting tradition of music, dancing and religious blessings. Overnight hotel.
In the morning drive to Gangtey, about 03 hrs drive from Trongsa. After crossing the Pele La pass, we will make a left turn on another road that will lead us to the broad and beautiful valley Phobjikha. This valley also serves as the winter home for the rare black-necked cranes that migrate from the plateau of Tibet when it gets extremely cold. The birds migrate in late October and they return to Tibet in March/April. The villagers celebrate their arrival.
There will also be a visit to Gangtey Gompa, one of the oldest Nyingmapa monasteries, that resembles a Dzong. Hike down to the nature trail (4.3 km) –where you can enjoy the beautiful landscape and continue hike to Kilkorthang valley with stunning view of the villages around. Overnight hotel.
We begin our journey towards Paro from Phobjikha. Enroute stop at Dochula Pass and visit Druk Wangyel Lhakhang, built by our queen mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk.
Upon arrival in Paro visit Paro Rimpong Dzong (Fortress on a Heap of Jewels), followed by the Ta Dzong, which was formerly a watchtower and now the country’s national museum.
Later, we visit 07th century Kyichu temple, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built by King Songtsen Gyempo of Tibet in 659AD. Legend has it that it is one of the 108 temples that the King built within a year around the Himalayan region. Overnight hotel.
The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
You can stop at cafeteria for a rest, refreshments and continue hike. As you reach Taktshang you will be struck by the architectural wonder of this most pious Buddhist shrine in Bhutan. Perched some 1000m, 3000ft on a cliff overlooking the valley, it would justifiably qualify as one of Bhutan’s wonders. Tragically wrecked in a fire early in 1998, it has been rebuilt to its original glory. It is said that the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tigress to tame five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 A.D. Hence the name, Taktshang, or the “Tiger’s Lair.” Overnight hotel.
Transfer to airport for departure.