Festival Date: 13th of December Annually
This one day Dochula Festival or Tshechu (in local) was commissioned by the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck in the year 2011. Compared to other fesstivals in Bhutan, It is a unique one as it is fully performed by the Royal Bhutan Army personals rather than monks and even the dances are completely different. The festival starts at 0900 and ends at around four in the evening.
Itinerary (This is a sample, we can customize as you like)
Day 1 – Arrival in Paro, drive to Thimphu
- On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be warmly received by a friendly, traditionally dressed Chen-Ray Travel & Tours’ representative with a traditional white welcome scarf (called Khadhar) with eight auspicious symbols printed on it. Drive to Thimphu which is about 1 hour drive from airport with sightseeing en route. Check in to your hotel and relax with a cup of welcome tea.
- Drive to Kuenselphodrang where world’s tallest Buddha (Dhordenma) Statue (169 feet) sits overlooking the Thimphu Valley. Enjoy the spectacular view of Thimphu city.
- Visit the memorial chorten (Stupa) located in the center of the City which was built in the memory of our beloved Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
- Evening free
- Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 2 – Thimphu
- Folk Heritage Museum: The Museum offers a glimpse of not only the past but also depicts the present reality of rural Bhutanese people.
- Royal Textile Academy: Was instituted in May 2005 under the patronage of Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck as a non-government, non-profit organization with the aim to educate, promote and preserve Bhutanese Textiles. It showcases the traditional methods of weaving and has large collection of of dresses from the Royal family.
- Centenary Farmers’ Market- Initially started as a week end market where the local villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products used to be open on Saturdays and Sundays. But now the market opens from Thursday to Sunday.
- Tashichho Dzong: The present form this Dzong was consecrated as late as 1969 and it is a visual delight. The history of this Dzong dates back to thirteenth century but the original dzong was not at the present site that offers no defensive merit. The old one was built in 1216 or so by the founder of the Lhapa School and was located on a spur to the North-East of the present one. This Dzong was badly damaged during a subsequent struggle with the drukpas and later became the property of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in the 1630s. In 1641 he rebuilt the Dzong christening it Tashichhoe (the Fortress of Glorious Religion). This became the summer residence of the Zhabdrung and the clergy and Punakha the winter retreat. A fire in 1772 resulted in severe damage and the Desi and Je khempo of that time decided to rebuild it at the bottom of the valley where it now stands. After the capital was moved to Thimphu, it was renovated and expanded in 1962.
- Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 – Thimphu-Dochula-Punakha
- Drive to “Dochu La” at 3100m above sea level. On a clear day, the view of the Eastern Himalayas from this pass is one of the best in the country. There are a hundred and nine chortens (stupas) in three tiers of forty five, thirty six and twenty seven circumscribing a single larger chorten at the top. This chortens are called Druk Wangyal Chortens or ‘Stupas of Victory’. The building of these chortens was initiated by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck when her husband the fourth King, travelled to the South-East of the country in December 2003 leading his army against the insurgents from India.
- Mingle with the locals for the festival.
- Towards evening proceed to Punakha. On the way hike to Chime Lhakhang. This Lhakhang dates back to 1499 which was built by Lama Drukpa Kinley who is till this day known as a Divine Madman. Located beautifully on a hilltop, it is about 30 to 40 minute walk passing through a charming village set in lush terraced fields. Lama Drukpa Kinley is beleived to have subdued a demoness residing in Dochu La with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ and a wooden effigy of this is preserved within. There are also statues of him along with those of Lama Zhabdrung, Sakyamuni and Avalokiteswara. Devotees receive blessings from his wooden phallus and iron Bow and arrow that lie here and childless women are said to have their wish fulfilled after visiting this Lhakhang.
Day 4 – Punakha – Trongsa
- Morning visit Punakha Dzong. The Dzong straddles the confluence of two rivers- Phochu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River) is the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan. It was named as ‘Pungthang Dechen Phodrang’ or ‘Palace of Great happiness’. This impressive fortress was built in 1637. It was the second of the mighty dzongs built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (person who unified Bhutan) and was the seat of government till the end of the reign of the second King.The site of the Dzong is believed to have received the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava (the Great Buddhist teacher who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan). In the eighth century he is believed to have prophesied: “…on the edge of the hill that looks like an elephant’s trunk, a man named Namgyal will come and build a fortress…”The most recent historic event the wedding ceremony of the present King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema’s was held inside this Dzong.
- Drive to Trongsa takes you through the valley of Wangdue and will come pass by the ruins of Wangduephodrang Dzong. This was another Dzong built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel in 1638 at a spot that controlled the routes to Trongsa towards East, Punakha and Thimphu towards West, Gasa to the North and Dagana and Tserang to the South. Legend says that when Zhabdrung arrived in the area he spotted a boy building sand castle on the banks of the river. This was taken as good omen and when the dzong was built it was named after the boy – Wangduephodrang or Wangdi’s Palace. Complex and different in shape, the dzong comprised of three separate but linked structures. It was unfortunately completely destroyed by fire in 2012 and is now under reconstruction.
- On the way stop at Chendebji Chorten (stupa). This Napalese style stupa lies on the banks of Nikka Chu at an extremely serene spot. It was built in the eighteenth century by Lama Shida of Tibet to suppress a demon who had been troubling the inhabitants of the valley. A smaller Bhutanese style chorten was constructed nearby by the Royal grandmother in 1982.
- Overnight at your hotel in Trongsa.
Day 5 – Trongsa – Bumthang
- In the morning visit Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive Dzong (Fortress) in the country – it is intricately layered into the hillside, in complete harmony with its surroundings. The structure is aesthetically designed and its clean lines boast a superb sense of proportion and space while finely carved woodwork and elegant paintings suitably embellish it. Following the instruction of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the Dzong was built in 1644 by Chhogyel Minjur Tempa who later became the third Desi (Governor). The Dzong was named Chökhor Raptentse Dzong. The structure was enhanced by Desi Tenzin Rabgye in 1771 and now contains twenty-three temples. It is a veritable maze of corridors, courtyards and passageways leading to the multiple levels contained within the great outer impregnable shell.
- Ta Dzong: Located strategically above the Trongsa Dzong, it was built by Choeje Minjur Tenpa, the first governor of Trongsa, in the year 1652. The tower stood guard over the Trongsa Dzong to protect the main stronghold of the town from any external threats. It is a short steep walk from the Trongsa town.
- Afternoon drive to Bumthang.
- Evening free
- Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
Day 6 – Bumthang
- Jambay Lhakhang: Believed to have built on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the year 659. The temple is dedicated to Maitreya or Jampa and the central shrine holds a large statue of the Buddha of the future, surrounded by four boddhisatvas. The statue is guarded by iron chainmail handcrafted by Pema Lingpa. Under the temple is said to be a lake in which Guru Rimpoche hid several Terma. In October one of the most spectacular festival, “Jambay Lhakhang Drup” is staged here.
- Kurjey Lhakhang: This monastery is the country’s most historical holy place – the complex is surrounded by 108 chortens (stupas), transforming it into three dimensional mandala patterned on the lines of the Samye Monastery in Tibet. ‘Kur’ means body and ‘jey’ is print – it is here that guru Padmasambhava meditated when he first arrived in the country, leaving an imprint of his body on the rock enshrined here.
- Tamzhing Lhakhang: (Temple of the good message), was established in 1501 by Terton (treasure reveler) Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingmapa temple in the kingdom. Tamzhing commands a very good view of Kurjey Lhakhang which is just located on the other side of the river.
- Meybartsho: About 11 km drive from Chamkhar town you can visit the site of some of Terton Pema Lingpa’s (Treasure Discoverer) greatest finds – Meybartsho or ‘Flaming Lake’ which is one of the popular pilgrim sites of Bhutan.
- Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.
Day 7 – Bumthang – Gangtey – Wangdue Phodrang
Drive to Gangtey Goenpa, the Monastery was established by Pema Lingpa’s grandson who became the first Gangtey Trulku. The goenpa is affiliated with several other important goenpas in this region, including Tamzhing in Bumthang. Currently the ninth reincarnation, Kunzang Pema Namgyel is the abbot here. Besides the goenpa there are several schools, a Tibetan style chorten (stupa) and meditation centers where monks retreat for periods ranging from three days to three years. There is also a Buddhist college nearby that offers a nine-year course in Buddhist studies.
Phobjikha Valley: This valley is famous for potatoes which is one of the cash crops of the region and an important export to India. Phobjikha is also famed for the migratory black-necked cranes that make it their winter home. This endangered species of birds arrives from Tibet towards the end of October. Known as ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’ by the Bhutanese, the locals have great affection for these beautiful birds and are featured in many folk songs. Their departure by the end of February is marked by songs of lamentation. Details of their habitat and habits are available at the Crane Observation and Education Center. If you visit the place at the time when the birds are in residence, you may be able to get a close view from the hides specially constructed for this purpose.
- Drive on to Wangdue.
- Overnight at your hotel in Wangdue.
Day 8 – Wangdue – Paro
- After breakfast drive towards Paro via Thimphu.
Ta Dzong : Built in 1656 as a watchtower for Rinpung Dzong is now used as the National Museum which is a repository of not only precious works of art but also costumes, Armour and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provide a good snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. It opens 7 days a week except on National Holidays.
Rinpung Dzong: Built in 1646 by Lama Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal and strategically located to thwart Tibetan incursions into the rest of the country, this Dzong became one of Bhutan’s strongest and most important fortresses.
- Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 9 – Paro-Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) Hike
Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery: The hike to Taktshang Monastery perched on a cliff at 2950m/9700ft takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours as per your hiking ability. It is an uphill hike to the Monastery. There is a cafeteria (Taktsang Jakhang) on the half way.
Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (the great Buddhist master) with his magical powers came to Taktshang in the eighth century, flying from the east of the country on the back of a tigress (a form that one of his consorts is believed to have taken). He is said to have meditated for about three months in a cave on the cliff and subdued the evil spirits. The primary Lhakhang was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1692 by the fourth Desi Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below.
Kyichu Lhakhang: After returning from Taktshang, visit Kyichu Lhakhang. It was built in 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The temple fell into disrepair but was superbly restored in 1839 by the 25th Je Khempo (Chief Abbot). He also contributed the outstanding statue of Avalokiteshwara, with eleven heads and thousand arms, which is located in the sanctuary.
- Evening free for souvenir shopping.
Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
Day 10- Depart Paro
- Your travel to Bhutan ends. Our team will drop you to the airport and bid farewell.