Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The conduct of the onlooker should be governed with this in mind. The dancers whether monks or layman, are in a state of meditation. They transform themselves into the deities, which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.
Day 01: Arrival in Paro, Bhutan; visit Kyichu Lhakhang and the Paro Dzong Fly from Kathmandu to Paro provides spectacular views of Bhutan’s landscape as we approach the airport in the Paro Valley. The valley is a green bowl surrounded by jagged Himalayan Mountains and forested hillsides, crossed by beautiful rivers, and dotted with medieval fortresses. The first thing that we notice as we disembark in Bhutan is the absence of noise and a feeling of peacefulness that is rare in most other Asian cities. The Paro Valley has kept its bucolic nature and is one of the most scenic valleys in Bhutan. The houses are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country, and Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.
A short drive through town then takes us to Kyichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang, meaning “twin temples,” is believed to have been built in 659 AD by King Songtsen of Tibet, and reflects the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan. The temple is one of 108 that were built throughout the Himalayas in one day in an effort to subdue a mighty ogress; it is still believed to hold her left foot in place today. From here an easy walk leads us through Paro countryside and to farm fields of rice, mustard, buckwheat, eggplant, and, of course, chilies. We cross the Paro River on our way to the valley’s magnificent Rinpung Dzong. If we are fortunate we may get the opportunity to explore within the dzong’s mighty walls; however, if the Administrative Body is in session, we must admire from the outside.
Day 02: Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery; visit Bhutan’s National Museum
This morning we enjoy a hike to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. Entry into the monastery is now permitted, and we may be allowed to visit this sacred site. We enjoy lunch and the views of the valley below at the Taktsang teahouse before descending to the valley floor.
From here, a short drive brings us to the National Museum, housed in the round multi-storied Ta Dzong, built in 1775. The Ta Dzong was once the watch tower for the massive Paro Dzong built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The museum’s collection includes ancient artifacts, weapons, and a collection of antique thangkha (painted or embroidered religious pictures), textiles, and stamps.
Day 03: Transfer to Punakha (approximately 5 hrs.); Temple of the Divine Madman
After an early breakfast, we take a five-hour drive to Punakha, our home for the next two nights. The road ascends the Dochu La ("la" is a mountain pass) at 10,230 feet and offers an unmatched vista of the eastern Himalaya Range. On the other side of the pass, the road descends through magnificent pine and rhododendron forest, meandering through some of Bhutan’s most picturesque countryside. The climate here makes a dramatic change from alpine to semi-tropical, where cacti, banana trees, and orange groves thrive. En route, we stop at a small village and take a short walk to Chime Lhakang, a temple dedicated to the Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the "Divine Madman" and one of Bhutan's favorite saints. Lama Kunley traveled throughout Bhutan and Tibet performing songs, using humor, and engaging in outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings. He believed social conventions and strict clergymen kept people from learning the heart of Buddhist teachings. This site is believed to hold fertility powers for women wanting to conceive.
Day 04: Khamsung Yueley Namgyel Chorten to Punakha Dzong
This morning we drive through the Punakha valley and begin our walk by ascending a series of switchbacks through rice paddies on our way to the Namgyel Khamsum Yueley Chorten. The chorten's (a type of temple) unique style was drawn from Buddhist scriptures and is believed to promote health and happiness. From the viewpoint at this modern temple, we witness the grand sight of the Mo Chhu valley below ("chhu" Means River.
Descending again to the valley through rice fields and small villages, we stop for a picnic lunch alongside the river before continuing our walk to the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, the dzong was the second one to be built in Bhutan, and for many years served as the seat of government. Today it is the winter home of Bhutan's spiritual leader, the chief abbot Je Khempo, who resides here with 1,000 monks. From this spectacular dzong, look back to see the Namgyel Khamsum Yueley Chorten perched on the hillside far in the distance. Later, return to our hotel for the evening.
Day 05: Thimphu Festival
Retracing our route back over the Dochu La, we drive to the capital city of Thimphu, home to Bhutan's royal family, the Wangchuks. Before becoming Bhutan's official capitol in 1961, Thimphu was a valley of farmers. Today it is Bhutan's largest city, though unlike any other world capital. The city is quiet, with few streets, no stoplights, and none of the traffic problems common to other Asian capitals. The afternoon is free for you to explore this small city on your own, or if time permits we may get our first introduction to the Thimphu festival. Dinner this evening will feature Asian-Bhutanese cuisine at one of our favorite city restaurants.
Day 06: Thimphu Festival
Today we attend the Thimphu Tsechu, which is held in the courtyard of the Tashichoe Dzong, situated along the Wang Chhu (river) below forested mountains. This fortress monastery of Bhutan's capital city houses the government ministries, the office of His Majesty the King, the throne room, and the living quarters of the monk body and its chief abbot. Like many of the country's more famous dzongs, this one was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the mid-17th century and has been the seat of Bhutan's government since 1952. As we enter its impressive courtyard, our senses awaken to be among the costumed Bhutanese people who have gathered from across the region to pay respect and be blessed. Dressed in their finest clothes and jewelry, the people come not only for religious merit but to join in joyful celebration and feasting. Watch this magical celebration unfold as we witness the dances, marvel at the elaborate masks and costumes, and immerse ourselves in the intense color and festive atmosphere amid horns, drums, and mystical dancers. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the festival grounds and mingle with some of the celebrants to learn more about this fascinating aspect of their culture.
Day 07: Thimphu Festival
We rise very early to visit the festival again and witness the thongdrel ceremony and procession of monks before the sun rises. On the last day of this festival, we’ll take in more masked dances as the costumed monks perform their chams to the clang of cymbals and the deep, resonating tones of brass horns.
Day 08: Morning at leisure in Thimphu; Transfer to Paro
This morning is free for independent explorations before our afternoon return to Paro. We have time to go walking, relax, or explore the markets. Beautiful textiles woven in wool, silk, and cotton, along with basketry, silver jewelry, thangkas, and other traditional crafts of the Kingdom are available in various shops. Tonight, we share one last dinner together, celebrating our journey through the magical Kingdom of Bhutan. Janka Resort, Paro
Day 09: Departure from Paro
An early morning departure from Paro returns us to Kathmandu or your Next Destination where we say farewell and journey home.
3 or 4 stars hotel with twin sharing basis in Thimpu on F/B on twin sharing basis
Sightseeing as per itinerary with English speaking guide
3 meals a day All meals during the tour
Entrance fees, visa and permit
Overland transportation by Jeep within Bhutan
Cost does not include:
International Air fare
Nepal re-entry visa fee
Drinks at hotels/lodges
Expense of personal nature such as laundry, insurance, tips etc.