PARO TSHECHU (09 DAYS)
Paro Tsechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. Featuring dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes, Tsechus (festivals) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan.
A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honour of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. A highlight of the Paro Tsechu is the unfurling of the silk Thangka – so large it covers the face of an entire building and is considered one of the most sacred blessings in the whole of Bhutan.
The ‘Thangka, known in Bhutan as a ‘thongdroel’ is a religious picture scroll, and is only exhibited for a few hours at daybreak on the final day of the festival enabling the people to obtain its blessing.
This holy scroll “confers liberation by the mere sight of it” (the meaning of the word ‘thongdroel’ in Bhutanese). This tour also takes advantage of the beautiful spring time. The growth with stunning hikes through the countryside to a Rhododendron forest in Phobjikha, as well as a visit to the Lamperi a Rhododendron Festival near Dochu La Pass. The sacred sites of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha are also featured.
DAY 1 ARRIVAL IN PARO, BHUTAN
When you first arrive at Paro International Airport, you will be met by one of our delightful tour guides just outside the arrival hall. At 7,333 feet above sea level, the first thing you will likely notice is the effect of the high altitudes, so we will give you time to acclimate as we take a short drive to Thimphu and check into your hotel.
DAY 2 TOUR OF THIMPHU
After breakfast, our first stop will be at the National Folk Heritage Museum, dedicated to preserving Bhutanese folk arts. This renovated 19th-century building is laid out like a traditional, rural household with three stories of traditional arts Es, cultural relics, and artifacts. Demonstrations are performed throughout the day to show how the Bhutanese people have lived over the centuries.
At the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, you will see the ancient practice of natural papermaking. Using the bark of two local tree species (Daphne and Dhekap), craftsmen demonstrate how to make the traditional paper Deh-sho. You can even try making your own paper for a special souvenir. Handmade papers were used by monks for writing prayers and woodblock printing.
Weaving is considered the national art of Bhutan, so at The National Textile Museum, you will learn all about the brightly colored and beautifully designed fabrics that are worn by the Bhutanese people. Thanks in part to our queen Jetsun Pema, the fabrics of Bhutan are widely considered high fashion around the world. Due to the importance of this living art form, the Royal Government of Bhutan works to preserve and promote these traditional weaving methods.
We then take a drive to Motithang Takin Preserve, home to one of the strangest looking creatures on earth. The takin is a gentle moose-like animal that is described as looking like is was stung by a bee. Originally a small zoo, the king decreed that it was not in alignment with Buddhist practices to pen up animals, and they were released into the wild. The takin; however, refused to leave and began wandering the city streets in search of food. The preserve was established, and Bhutan’s national animal is now taken care of by royal decree.
We end the day with a visit to Simtokah Dzong. Built in 1629, it was the first fortress of its kind in Bhutan and features beautifully painted Buddhist murals and carvings inside. Simtokha means “demon stone” and legend has it that the fortress was used to contain a demon inside a rock which was terrorizing the region. Today, it is home to one of the premier monk-taught Dzongkha learning centers, the national language of Bhutan.
DAY 3 THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA
Today we travel to Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan until 1955, and will stop off at Dochula Pass along the way. This popular tourist spot provides stunning 360-degree views of the Himalayas. It is also home to the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens that were built on a small hill to memorialize the Bhutanese soldiers killed in a 2003 battle with Assamese insurgents from India.
The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang temple was completed in 2008, built to commemorate 100 years of monarchy and His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king, and leader of the raid that removed the Indian rebels. We will tour what is considered one of the most beautiful site in Bhutan, Punakha Dzong. Sitting at the fork of two rivers, it is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture. Built in 1637, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. Jacaranda trees surround the structure that produce stunning lavender blooms in the spring. The massive structure is six stories with a central utse (tower) that stands 3,900 feet tall. Inside the fortress, there are three large courtyards, one of which houses the well-preserved body of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th-century father of unified Bhutan. It was also the location of the royal wedding of Bhutan’s current king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to Jetsun Pema in 2011.
We will also visit Khamsum Yullay Namgyal Chorten, which is a splendid example of Bhutanese art meets architecture, and the only one of its kind. At the direction of the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, the site took nine years to build because architects, painters, sculptors, and carpenters only used holy scriptures rather than engineering manuals to construct this four-story temple. Only reachable on foot, the hour trek includes an exhilarating walk across a colorful prayer flag adorned suspended footbridge that crosses the Mo Chhu. In 1999, the temple was consecrated to remove negative energies and promote peace, harmony, and stability around the world. It is a stunning building with splendid views of the valley that are well worth the walk.
DAY 4 PUNAKHA TO GANGTEY
Following an overnight stay in Punakha, we head toward the remote glacial valley area of Gangtey. We will stop near Sopsokha for a short walk across terraced rice fields to the temple of Chimmi Lhakhang. Located on a hillock, this temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenlay, an eccentric religious teacher of the late 15th-century who used humor, songs, and outrageous behavior to share his teachings, earning him the title of Devine Madman. Also known as a fertility temple, women travel there to pray, and it is rumored that many become pregnant shortly after. Chimi Lhakhang has a very peculiar design aesthetic, as you will find colorful phallus symbols painted on the buildings throughout.
We pass through Wangdue, the last town before entering the isolated areas of central Bhutan. Dramatically perched on the side of a hill, we will see Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Unfortunately, a 2012 fire gutted the building, so we are only able to view it from the outside as reconstruction is underway. Wangdue has a small market and the area is known for its fine bamboo work and stone carvings. We will also see the Buddha face, a natural phenomenon that has seemingly formed out of natural rock.
Traveling through the pristine mountains of central Bhutan, we enter the Phobjikha Valley, also known as the Gangtey Valley. This bowl-shaped valley borders the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, and the entire area is a wildlife preserve. Here you may see the black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) that migrate here from November to March. You might also see other native animals, such as muntjac, sambar, serow, leopard, red fox, or yak.
On a hill overlooking the entire valley is the Gangtey Goempa, a large 17th-century monastery. The tshokhang (prayer hall) was built in Tibetan style and has eight great pillars. A five-day teschu (festival) is held here every fall where locals and monks perform traditional dances with colorful masks and swords to ward off evil spirits and celebrate the harvest.
Here you have the option to stay in a hotel or take the rare opportunity to room with a local family. Typically staying in a modest farmhouse, you will immerse yourself in family culture and share in their gracious hospitality.
DAY 5 GANGTEY TO PARO
Today we head back to Paro and the scenic beauty of the Paro Valley. This area has many monasteries, temples, dzongs, and natural wonders that make Bhutan such a breathtaking country. Located on the northwestern border of Bhutan and Tibet is Chomolhari (Jomolhari) Mountain.
At 24,035 feet it is Bhutan’s third tallest mountain peak and is often referred to as the wife of Kangchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world. Glacial waters flowing from the mountainous region feed the Paro Chhu and Amo Chhu rivers. The Rinchen Pung Rinchen Pung Dzong, usually called Rinpung Dzong, means Fortress on a Heap of Jewels as it was built with stones rather than clay. It is considered one of the most impressive dzongs in the country and the finest example of both 15th and 17th-century Bhutanese construction.
Located on the Paro Chhu just north of the airport, the fort was used to protect against Tibetan invasions. In 1907, it was damaged by fire and in 1969, the cantilever bridge was washed away by a flood. The restored dzong now houses monastic, government, and judicial offices. Nearby is Ta Dzong, a cylindrical seven-story watchtower built in 1649 that is now the National Museum of Bhutan. This museum houses artifacts, weapons, textiles, and fine Bhutanese art from 4000 BCE to the present. The building is a conch shape with spiral construction inside and out.
DAY 6 PARO TSHECHU
On our final tour day, we take an exhilarating one-hour hike to Taktseng Monastrey (or Tiger’s Nest), one of the most recognizable sites in Bhutan. Built precariously on a hillside cliff, it sits more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Accessible only by foot, we follow a trail decorated with colorful prayer flags along the way to protect travelers from evil spirits. Built over the caves that Guru Padmasambhava meditated in for three years, this eighth-century father of Bhutan Buddhism is said to have been brought there on the back of a tigress. One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan it offers breathtaking views to those energetic enough to make it to the top.
The Paro Tshechu, as all Tshechu festivals, honors Padma Sambhawa, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the precious yogi and saint who is credited with having introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas. The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colorful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The culmination of festival constitutes the unfolding of a huge cloth thanka, a sacred scroll, depicting Padma Smabhawa and imagery from Buddhist pantheon.
Bhutanese people can be seen wearing their best and colorful national dress making the already colorful festival even more colorful.
Today we will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and take an early flight back to Singapore. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments!
Private guided tour
Visas for Bhutan
Daily 3 meals
3 star accommodation
A qualified & licensed English-speaking guide
An experienced driver
A tour vehicle
Entry fess & road permits
Taxes & surcharges
Set of traditional costume (to be return at the end of your stay)
Flight into Bhutan via Drukair (can be arranged with us)
Flight on other airline to catch Drukair Flight
Meals at 4-5 stars restaurants
Hotel stay outside of Bhutan
Expenditure of personal nature
Travel Insurance (can be arranged with us)
Tips for the guide and driver