Trongsa, the sacred and temporal heart of the country is a two day journey from Thimphu. Situated in central Bhutan, it was once the seat of power over central and eastern regions. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat and it is customary for the crown prince to serve as the Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne.
The dzong built in 1648, is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge upon which it is built. The dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between Eastern and Western Bhutan allowed the Trongsa Penlop to control travel and trade in the country effectively placing him in command of the whole of the Central and Eastern regions of the country.
Of the many festivals held in various parts of Trongsa, the grandest is the three day annual Tshechu. This festival brings together people from all walks of life and falls sometime in the month of December. In addition to traditional mask dances, visitors can witness the unfurling of the sacred Thongdrol and receive blessings from high ranking monks. People also receive blessings from the sacred Nangtens that is opened during the last day of the Tshechu.
Day 1 ARRIVAL IN PARO, BHUTAN
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall. Today, we will take it easy to acclimatise to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and let’s have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sightseeing in Thimphu if possible.
Buddha Point at Kuensel Phodrang, will be open to tourists once it is completed in 2012. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma , Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.
Day 2 TOUR OF THIMPHU
Heritage Museum – Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artefacts used in rural households.
Textile Museum – Witnesses the art of traditional weaving.
Paper making Factory – Witnesses the art of papermaking
Takin enclosure – On the way to the viewpoint over Thimphu is the home of Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin; a strange looking beast some say looks like a beestung moose.
Centenary Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products.
National Memorial Chorten – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Thimphu Dzong – The largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
Day 3 THIMPHU TO PUNAKHA
Dochu La Nature Hike – Hike through the deep forest of Rhododendrons, Magnolia and Juniper for more than 2 hours to the Botanical Garden at the bottom. Beautiful hike to see the flora that Dochu la has to offer.
Punakha Dzong- Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
Khansum Yulley Namgyal Chorten- Built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck this Chorten is a splendid example of Bhutanese architecture and art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It has been built over eight and a half years in its details have been drawn from religious scriptures.
Day 4 PUNAKHA TO TRONGSA
Trongsa, literally “New Town” in the Dzongkha language, is where the current monarchy had its origin in Bhutan. Each King in the line of succession has held the post of Trongsa Penlop or Governor before donning the Raven Crown.
Trongsa Dzong – The foundations of Trongsa Dzong were laid in the 16th century by by Pema Lingpa. The Dzong flourished during the 17th century under Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal. With its massive structure, its wall looming high above the winding Mangde Chu Valley, the Dzong commands the east-west road.
Taa Dzong – Built as a watch tower the Taa Dzong has since been turned into a Heritage Museum. A book on this prominent Dzong is written by Christian Schicklgruber entitled The Tower of Trongsa, Religion and Power in Bhutan.
Day 5 TRONGSA FESTIVAL, HEAD TO GANGTEY
The Trongsa 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.
Day 6 GANGTEY
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goempa. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Nature Hike along the valley of Phobjikha
Black-Necked Crane Information Centre, which has informative displays about the cranes and the valley environment. You can use the centre’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet ’Field Guide to Crane Behaviour’. If the weather’s iffy you can browse the library and handicraft shop, and watch videos at 10am and 3pm (Nu 200). This is also the centre of the valley’s fledgling ecotourism initiative and they can arrange mountain-bike hire (Nu 700 per day), a local guide (Nu 300), an overnight stay in a local farmhouse (Nu 500) or lectures on the local ecosystem.
Day 7 GANGTEY TO PARO
Paro Valley – The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong – Also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag.
Ta Dzong – Built as a watch tower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Day 8 PARO
Taktsang Monastery – A one hour hike to the cafeteria is also a vantage view whereby you can enjoy the stunning view of the monastery. Prayer flags adorn the cliffs and this is also where Guru Padmasambhava landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century.
Drukgyal Dzong – A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate.Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Kyichu Lhakhang – After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
Day 9 DEPART PARO
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! Tashi Delek!
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