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Nimalung Festival (13 Days)

Festival Dates:
1st to 3rd July 2017

21st to 23rd June 2018

The ‘Tsechu’ literally means the ’10th day’ of a month and is considered one of the auspicious days of the month. The festivals are called ‘Tshechu’ as one of the three days of festival falls on the 10th day of the particular month. These religious festivals are in honour of Guru Rimpoche or a patron deity of the area. Mask dances and various cultural folk dances are performed by the monks and the locals. All mask dances have religious significance and it is believed that one who witnesses the tshechu is profusely blessed.

Tshechus are also an occasion for friends and families to get together and for some it is also an opportunity to show off their best dresses, jewelry and ornaments. So, everybody is dressed in their best.

Mask Dance during Tshechu

Mask Dance during Tshechu

ITINERARY

Day 01. Arrive Paro

  • 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 your hotel and relax with a cup of welcome tea.
  • 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.
  • Evening free.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

Day 02. Paro – Taktsang Hike

  • Morning hike to 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.
  • On the way back drive to the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong, built in 1647 by the Great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Explore the ramparts and on a clear day experience an unforgettable view of Mt. Jhomolhari (7,314 m).
  • On the way back, visit Kichu Lhakhang, built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Paro.

Day 03: Paro – Thimphu Sightseeing

  • Drive to Thimphu with sightseeing en route.
  • National Memorial Chorten: This Chorten (stupa) was built (1974) in honor of the late 3rd King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. Built in a typical Tibetan style outside and with three shrines inside represents the mainspritual themes of the Nyingma School. The paintings inside depict tantric Buddhismin all its complexity. The complex is visited by people from all walks throughout the day and is one of the most public religious places in the capital.
  • Buddha Point: Kuenselphodrang now popularly known as Buddha point since the construction of the world’s tallest Buddha (Dhordenma) Statue (169 feet) started. You can also enjoy the spectacular view of Thimphu valley below. 
  • Evening visit 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 04: Thimphu Sightseeing

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  • National Library: Was opened in 1967 to preserve the ancient Dzongkha texts and act as a repository for thousands of old religious books and manuscripts as well as the wooden blocks used for printing.
  • Visit Zorig chusum (meaning 13 arts and crafts) which is popularly known as the painting school. Students in this institute learn 13 different traditional arts and crafts like painting, sculpture, wood carving, weaving, embroidery, etc.
  • 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. 
  • Simtokha Dzong: Simtokha Dzong is about 3Km south of Thimphu above the old road to Paro and Phuntsholing. Officially known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras), it was built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
  • 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.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu. 

btechnophiles_chenray_cult_tour_mountain journey_dochuDay 05: Thimphu – Punakha

  • Before reaching Punakha (about 22km from Thimphu) you will pass through a mountain pass “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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Day 06: Punakha – Gangtey

  • Drive to Phobjikha takes you through Wangdue valley and past the 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.
  • Gangtey Goenpa: Gangtey Goenpa (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. 
  • Overnight at your hotel in Gangtey/Phobjikha.

Day 07: Gangtey – Trongsa – Bumthang (Distance 137 kms)

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  •  En route to Bumthang 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.  
  • 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.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

Day 08: Bumthang Witness Nimalung Festival

  • Drive to Nimaluing Lhakhang
  • Mingle with the locals to witness the Festival.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

Day 09: Bumthang Sightseeing

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  • Jakar Dzong: Which literally means “The Castle of White Bird” was built in 1646. The building was damaged by fire and then again by earthquake of 1897 after which it was rebuilt by King Ugyen Wangchuck in 1905. Today it is the administrative Head Quarters of Bumthang district. 
  • 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. 
  • Wangdicholing Palace: The first palace in Bhutan was built in 1857 then Trongsa Penlop (Governor), Jigme Namgyal the father of the first king.
  • 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.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Bumthang.

Day 10: Bumthang-Wangdue

  • After breakfast drive to Wangdue.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Wangdue.

Day 11: Wangdue – Thimphu

  • Drive to Thimphu.
  • Afternoon free for shopping.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.

Day 12: Thimphu – Paro

  • Free for shopping and photography in the town,
  • Visit Handicraft emporium,
  • After Lunch, drive to Paro,
  • Visit a Farm House.

Day 13: Departure

  • Your travel to Bhutan ends. After breakfast, our team will drop you to the airport and bid farewell.

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