Bhutan Explorer & Paro Tshechu Festival


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Book this tour through our partner: World Expeditions

Journey through the mystical kingdom of Bhutan during the Paro Tshechu festival


Arrive Paro

On your arrival at Paro airport you be met by your World Expeditions' leader who will transfer you to the hotel for a pre-trip briefing. The remainder of your afternoon will be at your leisure, offering an opportunity to explore one of the major cities of Bhutan and acclimatise to the higher elevations (Paro is 2280m above sea level).Overnight: Tenzinling Resort or similar

Paro Valley & Tshechu

After breakfast we make our way to the impressive Paro Rimpung Dzong and have a full day to immerse ourselves in the festivities. Tscechus are Buddhist religious festivals held around the Dzong (fortress monastery) and generally last several days. It is a bright, colourful affair with hundreds of people from the city and surrounding countryside filling the courtyards and temple grounds to watch and participate in the event. Masked dances are performed by trained Buddhist monks depicting life events of an historic Buddhist teacher, Padmasambhava. Other dances include that of the Nobleman and Ladies, where flirting princess are punished for their indiscretions. The stag dance tells the story of a hunter who gives up his profession and converts to Buddhism whereas the Barco dance reminds the Bhutanese that their past and present deeds are responsible for their future destiny. The costumes of the dancers are as bright and colourful as the clothes of the local people who have come dressed for this important occasion.Over the two days we spend time sightseeing in and around Paro and immersing ourselves in the Tshechu Festival. Further along the beautiful Paro Valley we come to the watch tower known locally as Ta-Dzong, which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. The seven-storey museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century; there are excellent displays of all facets of the country’s rich cultural history including traditional costumes and battle dress, priceless jewellery and specimens of the kingdom’s unique flora and fauna. We take a short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong which serves as the administrative centre and school for monks, before walking a little further and crossing the traditional bridge into Paro Town.Overnight: Tenzinling Resort or similar

Trek to Taktsang Monastery (walk approx. 5hrs return)

After breakfast we drive to the base of Taktsang, famously known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched on a vertical granite cliff 2000 feet above the valley floor of pine, oak and rhododendrons forests. The legend of Taktsang dates from 747 CE, when Guru Rinpoche, in the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Droloe, arrived here on the back of a tiger and subdued the evil spirits of the region. The walk is a sustained climb but the views are absolutely stunning and rewarding and is a "must-do" when visiting the land of the Thunder Dragon. Later in the evening if time permits, we visit one of the oldest Kyichu temple built in 7th century. This is one temple that truly feels ancient in the Himalayas.Overnight: Tenzinling Resort or similar

Cross Dochu La to Punakha(drive approx. 5hrs)

In the morning we will follow the course of Pachhu river and reach Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. We make a quick stop at the National Textile Museum, established in 2001 and home to a substantial collection of antique textiles and other works including the royal robes on display. Thimphu is one of the few capitals in the world without any traffic lights and you will observe the dancing policemen controlling traffics. We continue the drive gradually winding up across 10,223-foot Dochu La, which in good weather offers 360-degree vistas across 200 miles of Himalayan peaks including Bhutan’s tallest peak and some of the highest unclimbed mountains in the world! There are 108 stupas adorning the pass and the scenic spot for photographers. We drive through forests of rhododendrons and magnolias, before the road descends into the warmer lowlands around Punakha just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, we visitPunakha Dzong, which once served as the old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress was built in 1637 between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods and fire. Every February there is a procession known as the Punakha Serda to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans. Overnight: Hotel accomodation

To Gangtey Valley (drive approx. 3hrs)

Today we drive to Gangtey valley, the largest wetland in the country. This valley is a designated conservation area which borders the Black mountain ranges and home to rare Black Necked Cranes that migrate from the high Tibetan plateaus each winter. About 500 cranes flock to this valley and the numbers have been increasing each year due to conservation efforts. As we descend the valley, the presence of Gangtey Gompa is hard to ignore. The gompa has a central monastery, meditation hall, living quarters for monks and a courtyard. The surrounding villages, forests and farms are also home to monks from this gompa. We may get a chance to meet a senior monk and learn from his pursuit of enlightenment and Buddhist teachings.Later in the afternoon, we continue down the valley to the Crane Information Centre and learn of the elusive species and how locals are living harmoniously with them as their population slowly increases. Overnight: Hotel

In Gangtey Valley and scenic day hike (walk approx 2hours)

In the morning we drive to Gangtey Shedra (Buddhist College) where about 100 monks undergo 9 years of Buddhist Studies, philosophies and meditation. Shortly after visiting this college we begin our nature hike which beginning by the entrance to Gangtey monastery. The trail leads through rustic villages and their fields of potatoes and turnips. The trail meanders through rhodendron, pine and dwarf bamboo forests and it is hard not to immerse yourself in the crisp clean air and the tranquility of nature. Our hike ends ends at Khewang Lhakhang where a catered lunch welcomes us with expansive views of the valley and skies.We embark on a short drive to Khebethang, a traditional village where their main output is potatoes and cattle and sheep rearing. There are opportunity to visit one of the farmhouses and gain an insight into their lifestyle and to interact with locals. If time permits, the host will teach you how to make suja, local yak buttered tea with salt over puffed rice and snacks. The village is being connected with a farm road and further down, is also a nunnery where there are about scores nuns practicing Buddhism and meditation.Overnight: Hotel in Gangtey

To Bumthang (drive approx 4-5hrs)

Today will be a long drive crossing three passes over 3000 metres high along the way. The route offers magnificent views of the Himalayas and a beautiful landscape of scattered hamlets, and rhododendron and pine forests. Enroute we will stop in Trongsa, which once used to be the powerful district controlling the trade route between east and west. On the hillside above Trongsa Dzong is a watchtower (the Ta Dzong) which today houses the Royal Heritage Museum. Inside is a small chapel dedicated to King Gesar, an epic hero of Tibetan history, as well as an excellent museum. The Ta Dzong, an excellent example of the medieval fortresses that controlled Bhutan well into the mid-20th century, stimulates the senses with its intricate maze of buildings and temples and wondrous views of the valley. Afternoon climb up towards Yutongla Pass and gently descending down towards Bumthang, Bhutan's spiritual heartland, to stand as symbols of such ideals.

In Bumthang

Comprised of four smaller valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang in Central Bhutan is shrouded in religious legend. It is believed to be the first part of Bhutan to be inhabited and tales of Guru Padmasambhava (aka Guru Rinpoche), who lived here in the 8th century, and his reincarnation Tertons, still linger. Bumthang is also known for its hand-spun, hand-woven woollen cloth called “yathra”, which can be seen hanging for sale outside houses. Today we will explore the valley on foot visiting some of the ancient temples in the country; the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang, and the Kurjey, Tamshing and Kunchosum monasteries. End your day with Bhutan’s panda beer brewed in Swiss Factory.

To Tang Valley and drive to Trongsa (drive approx 4hrs)

In the morning, drive up to Tang valley, the most remote of Bumthang's valleys. Terton Pema Lingpa the famous saint responsible for discovering many treasures as prophesized by Guru Rimpoche was born in this valley. Tang Valley villagers her sheep and yaks, at higher elevation. Tang combines immense natural beauty with the mystique of playing host to the greatest collection of eminent spiritual practitioners. One such person, Longchen Rabjam and his descendants have built the Ogyenchholing, Ogyencholing Museum in Tang valley was restored in the 19th century. Today it houses the Family Museum, a place that will transport visitors to another world and time. The museum houses exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) Tshokye Dorji and his household. It also serves as retreat for those engaged in religious history. Bhutan's history truly unfolds here. We visit a local school and understand the modern educations system of Bhutan. All schools follow English medium. The students are always curious to test out their spoken English and also will nursery rhymes and songs for you. You are expected to return the favor with a nursery rhyme. Drive back for an hour and reach Pema Choling Nunnery where nuns undergoes several years of religious studies and living life of celibacies. We may be lucky enough to meet and interact with some of the nuns or even sit in the shrine and hear them chant mantras with bells and drums. Towards the late afternoon we drive to Trongsa for the night

Drive to Thimphu via Lobesa (drive approx 6hrs)

Our return drive to Western Bhutan will be about 6 hrs. We begin early to enable us to spend some time at the capital. There will be stops on the way for photography opportunities. We stroll and explore the city on foot. Thimphu is one of the few capitals in the world without any traffic lights and you will observe the dancing policemen controlling traffics. We can spend the evening walking the Norzin Lam and shopping for Souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home before enjoying a farwell dinner with your guide and driver.Overnight Thimphu.

Trip concludes in Paro

Our trip officially ends after breakfast with a transfer to the airport.

Additional Information

The remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is well known for it's untouched wilderness, rich Buddhist culture and a history steeped in mystique and legend. Our journey encompasses all that Bhutan has to offer taking in the 'must see' highlights of both western and central Bhutan. Our tour begins in the picturesque Paro Valley, home to the Tigers Nest (Taktsang) monastery. Here we attend the famous Paro Tshechu festival before driving across the dramatic Dochu La into central Bhutan, to Bumthang. It is widely regarded that Bhutanese Buddhism first took hold here and the legacies are the many ancient and magnificent monasteries which we will explore.

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