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Paro Tsechu

The show-stopper at the Paro Tsechu is the unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka of Guru Padmasambhava- a large tapestry of Guru Padmasambhava followed by dance of the Lord of Death (Shingje) and his consort, dance of the black hats (Shanag), dance of the drum (Drametse Ngacham), dance of the eight kind of spirits (De gye mang cham), and other traditional songs and dances.

Detail Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive at Paro International Airport from Delhi, Kathmandu or Bangkok. Paro is situated in a beautiful valley and is a fitting introduction to this charming kingdom. Your guide will meet you and take you on a drive along the Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. You can stop on the way to take in the magnificent Tagchhog Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s iron bridge builder. Take an afternoon walk around town and soak in the atmosphere of this magical capital with its busy shops and bazaars and photogenic citizens in national dress. If there is time this afternoon we will visit the School of Traditional Arts and browse the striking collection of intricate textiles at the National Textile Museum. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 2. Thimphu sightseeing. We will visit the revered Memorial Chorten and then we can visit Changangkha temple, perched on the hilltop overlooking the town. Devotees flock throughout the day to circumambulate and turn the prayer wheels. The temple also contains beautiful wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold. Later we will stop to see an archery match and visit the weekly market. In the afternoon we can drive up to the Radio Tower (offering splendid views of the city from a hilltop festooned with prayer flags), visit the Takin Reserve showcasing the unique national animal, the Takin or visit the Folk Heritage Museum. The guide will discuss the plan for the day with the group. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 3. Thimphu to Punakha. In the morning drive to the old capital, Punakha, via Dochu La pass at 3050 metres, where we will stop for a hot drink and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. In the afternoon visit the imposing Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. Built in 1637, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. Then take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’ (Lama Drukpa Kuenley). Overnight in Punakha.

Day 4. Drive to Gangtey (at 3300 metres). Enjoy the views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges. Visit Gangtey Gompa (one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and recently extensively renovated). Overnight in Phobjikha where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This is the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet. As a result no electricity is run to the valley to avoid disturbing their habitat.

Day 5. Today we return to Paro via Wangdi, originally considered Bhutan’s secondary capital and commanding an important central position. Visit Wangdi Dzong, built by the Shabdrung in 1638 on an auspicious site where four ravens were seen flying in four different directions. After lunch continue on your way. In the afternoon you could visit some handicraft stores in town and purchase some souvenirs. Then we will visit a farmhouse to get a view of the traditional Bhutanese way of life and take tea (or arra!) with the farmer and his family. Overnight in Paro.

Day 6. Take a day walk to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, the sacred Taktshang monastery which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress. He subsequently meditated here for three months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. You can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria from where you get a spectacular view of the monastery. On the way back you can visit Dumtse Lhakhang, a temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the iron bridge builder. Overnight in Paro.

Day 7. This morning you will visit Paro Festival. You will see locals dressed in their finest clothes who have walked from miles around to attend the festivities. They come to watch masked dances, to pray, and to feast. While the underlying purpose of the festival is spiritual, dances are more often like plays, telling stories where good triumphs over evil, or depicting significant historical events, especially surrounding the life of Bhutan’s patron saint, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche). There is inevitably a great deal of socialising as well. The occasion provides an opportunity for people to relax and forget the daily routine, and to dress in their finest clothes and jewellery, but it is also an occasion for prayer and blessings. Overnight in Paro.

Day 8. Early in the morning visit the Festival again to see the excitement of the thongdrel ceremony, where a large religious painting made of cloth is unfurled on the side of the Dzong, an event that only takes place on the last day of the annual festival. In the afternoon, visit Ta Dzong (‘the watch tower’) now housing the National Museum. Built on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong, it was originally used to defend Rinpung Dzong and the Paro valley during times of war. Its unusual circular construction resembles a conch shell and it now contains a magnificent collection of Bhutanese artifacts – costumes, religious paintings, arms, textiles and a fascinating collection of Bhutan stamps. There should also be time to visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (fortress of victory), constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. On the way back to paro town,you can also visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.

Day 9. Early in the morning your guide will accompany you to the airport to see you off onto your flight to Delhi, Kathmandu or Bangkok and wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck).

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