8 Night 9 Day Punakha Drubchen and Punakha Tshechu
Brief Background on Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu
Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan and this place has critical importance in the history of Bhutan since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Buddhist Saint who unified Bhutan, in 17th century.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen became the annual festival in Punakha.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene on the last day of Punakha Drubchen.
Punakha Tshechu was introduced in 2005 in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
Both the festival consists of typical masked dances which are very colourful and interesting, the events and enactments are different on each day. Punakha Dromchoe is a five day long festival dedicated to the goddess Mahakala. The religious aspects are performed in the same manner as in early times.
Schedule of Punakha Drubchen : Feb 24, 2018
Schedule of Punakha Tshechu : Feb 25-27,2018
8 Night 9 Day Tour Itinerary
Day 01: Arrive Paro, Paro –Thimphu
On arrival at Paro airport and after completing your immigration formalities, you will be received by your tour guide from Access Bhutan Tours and Treks.Then drive to Thimphu . On arrival at Thimphu check into your hotel and after refreshment visit the following:
- Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
- Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts and Government-run Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts shops, to browse through examples of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, and other interesting items made from local materials.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu Sightseeing
After breakfast visit the following:
- Kuenselphodrang where largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu valley and also if interested/if time permits, take a leisure walk through Kuenselphodrang Nature park and enjoy the nice view of the entire Thimphu valley below.
- Bhutan Post Office Headquarters to get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends.
- National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs. You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
- Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory. The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
- Simply Bhutan– A living museum of rural life which provides visitors and tourists with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
After lunch visit the following:
- National Institute of Traditional Medicine (outside only), where medicinal herbs are compounded and dispensed, and traditional medical practitioners trained.
- Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
- National Memorial Chorten (stupa), chorten literally means ' seat of faith' and Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of Buddha'. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation at the National Memorial Chorten.
In the evening stroll around Thimphu town where you can visit local handicraft stores.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03 Thimphu-Punakha and Wangdue
Distance: 71 km, estimated driving time: 2 ½ hours
After breakfast, travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass 3140 m). In the clear spring sky, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. . Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on the hill by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and well being of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan.
You will also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (monastery) which was built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck ( the Queen Mother of Bhutan) as a tribute to His Majesty the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and armed forces after His Majesty led a successful operation against Indian militants who had occupied certain areas of Bhutan. The gallery of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang has beautiful murals depicting some of the important events in the reigns of the Kings of Bhutan.
Then travel onto Punakha. Punakha has been inextricably linked to some of the most momentous events in the Bhutanese history and deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and significant regions at the heart of Bhutanese culture. Punakha had served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 till 1907. The dzong is historically important and stands as the symbol for a unified Bhutan.
On the way, stop for lunch at Metsina village and then visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
After lunch visit Rinchengang village in Wangduephodrang where you will take a short walk through the village and have free interaction with the villagers. Round trip hike will take about 1 hr. At the same time you can view the rebuilding work of Wangdue Dzong (the Dzong was razed to the ground by fire in 2012).
In the evening you may visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Punakha and Wangdue valleys from there.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 04: Witness the Last Day of the Punakha Drubchen
After breakfast, witness the last day of Punakha Drubchen which is the most spectacular day of Punakha Drubchen which would be held at the courtyard of the Punakha Dzong. The last day of Punakha Drubchen ends with dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army.
You will also visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho - Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork.
After lunch drive through upper Punakha valley and take a hike through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
Dinner and overnight at hotel at Punakha.
Day 05: First Day of Punakha Tsechu
After breakfast attend the first day of Punakha Tsechu which will be held at the courtyard of Punakha Dzong.
In the evening you may visit Punakha town and market.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 06: Punakha-Phobjikha-Punakha
Distance: 64 km,estimated driving time: 2 ½ hrs for one way
After breakfast drive to Phobjikha valley through the dense forests of the Phobjikha Valley you arrive at Gantey village where you see the Gangtey Monastery and visit the monastery. Phobjikha valley is part of the beautiful Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park ( formerly known as Black Mountains National Park), one of Bhutan’s most important nature sanctuaries. Each winter it is home to a flock of 300 rare and endangered black-necked cranes. The surrounding hills and mountains are home to nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. This is one of the most remote and untouched regions in Bhutan and is only just opening its doors to the outside world.
The Black necked cranes start migration to this area from November each year. You will have refreshment and lunch at a resort/restaurant in this valley. Afternoon you can visit the Black Necked Crane Center and enjoy the fascinating sight of these birds in this beautiful scenic valley.
In the late afternoon drive back to Punakha and overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 07: Punakha Tsechu and Punakha-Paro
Early morning go to the Punakha Dzong to witness the unfurling of Thongdroel (giant silk Thangkha) which is unveiled on the last day of Punakha Tsechu.The thongdroel is usually unveiled at dawn and it is then let down to the ground and ceremoniously rolled and folded away before the first rays of the sun can reach it.It is believed that it brings blessings to all who view it.
Then return back to your hotel and after breakfast get a glimpse of the last day of Punakha tsechu and then travel to Paro with lunch enroute.
On arrival at Paro visit Rinpung Dzong, built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks.Then walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan. Then visit Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer and where you can enjoy authentic Bhutanese dinner.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 08: A Hike to Paro Taktsang Ghoempa(Tiger’s Nest Monastery)
After breakfast travel by car to the base camp of Tiger's Nest Monastery and then hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria.Then walk further up to the monastery which will take another 1 ½ hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months. The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former glory.After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point.
On the way visit Kyichu temple,one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body.
In the evening you may relax in the traditional hotstone bath.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel l in Paro.
Day 09: Depart Paro
In the morning, your Access Bhutan travel guide will seee you off at the Paro Airport for your onward journey.
End of Tour Program
Bhutan Trip Cost for this 8 Nights 9 Days Tour Itinerary
3 pax & above
High Season: Feb 2018
The above Bhutan tour package prices includes the following:
- Bhutan Government Royalty of US$ 65/person/night
- FIT surcharges of US$40/person/night for a single traveler and US$30/person/night for a double
- Twin sharing hotel rooms at 3 star hotels
- All meals ( breakfast, lunch, dinner & light refreshments) with standard menu at 3 star hotels
- English speaking tour guide service
- All transfers and excursions by private vehicles
- All entrance fees to museums and monuments
- All internal taxes and fees
- Mineral drinking water
The above tour prices do not include the following:
- Single room supplement of US$ 40/room/night (optional)
- Bhutan Visa fee of US$40/person (must be paid in advance with tour cost)
- Airfares (optional)
- Travel insurance (recommended)
- 4 star and 5 star accommodations and meals (optional)
- Other personal expenses like overseas calls, laundry,etc
***Thank you & Tashi Delek***