Punakha Festival (7 days)

Punakha Festival (7 days)

Punakha festival called Punakha Drubchen is an annual festival held in Punakha Dzong, formally called Pungthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss) built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637. It is strategically located at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chu (Male River) and the Mo Chu (Female River).

Punakha Drubchen recreates a battle scene in which Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal tricked the Tibetan invaders into believing that he had thrown into the river the most sacred relic which they had come crossing the treacherous Himalayas.

In 1639, the Tibetan forces came marching towards Punakha to invade and seize control of Bhutan’s most precious relic, Rangjung Kharsapani, a self-emanated image of Avalokiteśvara that Zhabdrung Rinpoche brought from Ralung when he fled Tibet. Zhabdrung Rinpoche enacted an elaborate procession which proceeded to the bank of Mo Chu and pretended to throw the sacred relic into the river. Thoroughly disappointed at what they thought was a silly act, the Tibetans instantly withdrew.

Punakha Drubchen reenacts this scene to commemorate the victory over Tibetan through this tactful means. A group of 136 people dressed in medieval battle garb (pazap) perform a dance, shout and whistle as they climb down the front stairs of the dzong. The group proceeds to the river bank. On the bank of the river, Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) throws a handful of oranges representing Rangjung Kharsapani into the river.

Highlights of the tour:

  • Punakha festival
  • Hike to Tiger’s Nest
  • Explore the remote villages of Punakha valley and the best views of the magnificent Punakha Dzong
  • Opportunity to meet and interact with the locals in the beautiful valleys of Thimphu and Paro
  • Visit the largest and the tallest statue of sitting Buddha in the world

Itinerary

  1. Arrive in Paro – Thimphu
  2. Arrive in Paro – Thimphu

The representatives from BCD-Bhutan Tours and Travels will receive you at the airport and drive you to Thimphu. Stop for a while on the way to visit Tamchog Lhakhang built by Thangtong Gyalpo. In the evening, take a stroll around Thimphu town, the only capital city without traffic lights.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Thimphu to Punakha

Drive to Punakha after breakfast. The first stop is at Dochula Pass (3,160 m). From Dochula, you can see the eastern Himalayan range if the weather fine. En-route, we will visit Chime Lhakhang, also known as the Temple of Fertility associated with Lam Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Punakha Festival

Attend the festival in the morning. In the afternoon, hike to the beautiful Khamsum Yulley Lhakhang.

Overnight stay in Punakha

  1. Punakha to Thimphu

Visit the longest suspension bridge in the country after the breakfast. Visit Rinchengang village opposite Wangdiphodrang Dzong. In the evening, drive to Thimphu. Enroute, we will visit Semtokha Dzong, the oldest dzong in the kingdom.

Overnight stay in Thimphu

  1. Thimphu to Paro

Today, we visit National Memorial Choeten, the National Institute of Zorig Chusum where students are trained in 13 traditional arts and crafts, Folk Heritage Museum, Takin Preserve to see Bhutan’s national animal, and Changzamtog weaving centre. Afternoon programme includes a visit to the largest and the tallest statue of sitting Buddha, a visit to Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery followed by a visit to Tashichho Dzong.

In the evening, we drive to Paro.

Overnight stay in Paro

  1. Paro sightseeing

Today’s exploration of Paro begins with a wonderful three-hour hike to the most sacred Buddhist temple in the Eastern Himalayas, Taktshang Monastery. The monastery clings to a cliff face 900 m above the valley floor. On the way back, visit Kyichu Lhakhang. Take a stroll around the town in the evening.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Departure

Drive to the airport and bid farewell

Black-necked Crane Festival (11 days)

The annual Black-necked Crane Festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes; to strengthen the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community.

Source: TCB

  • Highlights of the tour:
  • Witness the Crane Festival
  • Explore the Phobjikha glacial valley
  • Hike to Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest)
  • Visit Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan still without traffic lights in the 21st century.

Itinerary

  1. Arrive Paro to Thimphu

You will be received by the representatives from BCD-Bhutan Tours and Travels at the Paro International Airport and driven to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. On the way, stop to visit Tamchog Lhakhang.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Thimphu to Gangtey

After an early breakfast, drive to Gangtey. En-route, stop at Dochula Pass (3,160 m). You will enjoy a breathtaking view of the snow-capped eastern Himalayan ranges on a clear day. Drive further to Gangtey in Phobjikha, which is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare black-necked cranes. The cranes arrive in the months of October and January from Tibet.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Gangtey

Attend the Annual Black-necked Cranes Festival organized by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa in Phobjikha valley. The programmes include cultural programmes such as folk songs and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dance and environmental drama and songs by school students. The set up of this festival gives you a great atmosphere with smaller crowds, more variety of programmes and great opportunities for photography. After lunch, visit Gangtey Monastery.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Sightseeing in Gangtey

Explore Phobjikha valley after breakfast. Visit the Black-necked Crane Information Centre. Visit the nearby weaving centre in the valley.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Gangtey to Bumthang

After breakfast, drive to Trongsa. After lunch, visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower, and the remarkable Trongsa Dzong. Then, drive to Bumthang.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Sightseeing in Bumthang

After breakfast, visit Jakar Dzong, Jampa Lhakhang built in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet, Kurjey Lhakhang built in 1652 and named after the body imprint of Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, Tamzhing Lhakhang built in 1501 which is the most important Nyingma temple in Bhutan. In the afternoon, visit Mebar Tsho, Burning Lake, where Terton Pema Lingpa discovered treasures in the late 15th century.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Bumthang to Punakha

Today, we drive to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. The journey takes us across the awe-inspiring mountains and lush vegetation. We stop along the highway to take photographs.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Punakha to Thimphu

Visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong which is located at the confluence of the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). On the way to Thimphu, visit Chime Lhakhang located 20 minutes walk from the road head. The temple is associated with Lam Drukpa Kunley is known as the temple of fertility. In the evening, visit the National Memorial Choeten built in 1974 in memory of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This is a popular place where you can meet the locals doing their pious rounds.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Thimphu sightseeing

Today, we visit National Institute of Zorig Chusum (13 traditional arts and crafts) where we can meet the students undergoing training followed by Folk Heritage Museum which provides a glimpse into the traditional Bhutanese farmhouse, Textile Museum, and Takin Preserve (takin is Bhutan’s national animal).

After lunch, visit the Centenary Farmers’ Market (open from Friday to Sunday) where locals come from far and wide to sell a variety of vegetables and dairy products. Watch an archery match at Changlingmithang. We then visit Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery before visiting Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the central government and the Central Monastic Body.

  1. Thimphu to Paro & hike to Taktshang

Drive to Paro and hike to Taktshang.

Taktshang Monastery clings to sheer rock face almost 900 m above the valley floor. The uphill hike from the road point takes around 3 hours. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tigress and meditated for three months. On the way back, visit Kyichu Lhakhang built in 659 AD by Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

Dinner and overnight stay in a hotel

  1. Departure

Drive to the airport and bid farewell.