Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Punakha Dromche & Tsechu (9 Days)

Festival Dates:
22nd to 27th February 2018

Punakha Dromchoe dedicated to the Goddess Mahakala, is a five day long festival held inside the Punakha Dzong. The age old religious aspects are still performed in the same way consisting of Mask dances and various cultural programs. A play of warriors going off to war is enacted on the last day. The tshechu (festival) falls by the end of February or early March as per the Bhutanese (Lunar) Calendar. So check for exact dates in our festivals dates list.

DAY 01: ARRIVE AT PARO – THIMPHU (55 km/1 hour)

  • On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be warmly received by a  friendly, traditionally dressed Chen-Ray Travel & Tours’ (Bhutan Tour Operator) 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.

  • Afternoon 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. 

  • 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

 

Sitting Buddha, Kuenselphodrang

Sitting Buddha, Kuenselphodrang

DAY 02: Thimphu Sightseeing

  • 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.
  • Evening free to go for shopping for souvenirs in the shops of Thimphu or the Craft Bazaar where you can find handicrafts of Bhutan. The Bazaar is supported by the Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Craft (APIC) to promote the traditional arts and crafts and to supplement the income of the rural people.
  • Overnight at your Hotel in Thimphu.

DAY 03: Thimphu – Gangtey (144 km/aprox 5 hours)

  • Drive to the beautiful valley of Gangtey.
  • Stop at “Dochu La” pass 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.

  • Visit 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. 
  • Pema Thinley, the grandson and mind reincarnation of Terton Pema Lingpa founded the Temple in 1613, and Tenzin Legpai Dhendup, the second re-incarnation, built the temple. The present Abbot, Kunzang Pema Namgyal is the ninth re-incarnation. It is a Nyingmapa monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamshing in Bumthang.
  • Explore 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.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Gangtey.

DAY 04: Gangtey – Punakha (97 km/3 hours)

  • Drive to Punakha
  • 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.
  • Evening at leisure
  • Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

DAY 05: Punakha Tshechu (festival)

  • Drive to 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.
  • Mingle with the locals dressed in their finest to witness the festival.
  • Overnight at your hotel in Punakha.

btechnophiles_chenray_dest_wangdiDAY 06: Punakha Tshechu

  • Attend the festival for the whole day or you can go around sightseeing.
  • Overnight at your Hotel in Punakha.

DAY 07: Punakha – Paro (131km/4 hours)

  • Drive to 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 Punakha.

DAY 8: Taktshang Hike 

Taktshang (Tiger's Nest), Paro

Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest), Paro

  • 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: 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 shopping.
  • Overnight at your Hotel in Punakha.

DAY 9: Depart

  • End of your travel with Chen-Ray Travel & Tours. Our team will drive you to the Airport and bid farewell.

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