Festival Tour of Bhutan
The Thimphu Festival Tour of Bhutan is celebrated in the fall and this time of the year has a clear blue sky with absolutely beautiful weather.
The Thimphu Festival Tour of Bhutan is one of the grandest of Bhutan’s festivals and attracts the largest audience. Featuring dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes, Tsechu (festivals) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan.
A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honor of Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The Thimphu Tsechu was established by the 4th Temporal Ruler, Tenzing Rabgye (1638-1696) in 1670. This festival also provides a great opportunity to witness locals gathered in their finest Gho’s and Kira’s in a celebration of their culture and faith. This tour also visits sacred sites in Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha.
ITINERARY OVERVIEW OF FESTIVAL TOUR IN BHUTAN
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU. DAY 02: ATTEND THIMPHU FESTIVAL. DAY 03: THIMPHU FESTIVAL TOUR. DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA SIGHTSEEING. DAY 05: PUNAKHA – THIMPHU – PARO. DAY 06: PARO. DAY 07: DEPART PARO.
DAY 01: ARRIVE PARO – THIMPHU.
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Tour Bhutan team will receive you at the airport and after the Visa formalities.
After lunch enjoy afternoon sightseeing around Paro, including a visit to the Ta Dzong Museum housing many religious relics, works of art, and handicrafts offering a great orientation into Bhutan’s historical, cultural, and religious past. Next, visit the Rimpong Dzong to see the painting of the great saint Milarepa, considered as the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and believed to have attained enlightenment in a lifetime. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 02: THIMPHU TOUR.
The Thimphu tour starts with a visit to Tashichho Dzong to attend the Thimphu 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 socializing as well.
Tashichho Dzong, ‘the fortress of the glorious religion. Initially erected in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was rebuilt in the 1960s during the reign of Bhutan’s third king in the traditional style, without plans or nails. Tashichho Dzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 03: ATTEND THIMPHU FESTIVAL.
Enjoy a morning sightseeing, including a visit to 12th-century Changangkha Temple, and the National Memorial Chorten depicting the Buddhist faith in the form of paintings and statues. This temple was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernization, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972.
In the afternoon return to Tashichho Dzong to further experience the colorful events of the Thimphu festival. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 04: THIMPHU – PUNAKHA.
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area, there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring color.
Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Zhabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three-story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan’s first king was crowned.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. The monastery lies about 15 minutes walk from the road point on a small hilltop overlooking Punakha valley. The temple is also called the fertility temple and many childless couples go to his temple for blessing. Overnight at your hotel in Punakha/ Wangduephodrang.
DAY 05: PUNAKHA – THIMPHU – PARO.
In the morning drive to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions.
Drive back to Thimphu where you will visit The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum. You will also have an opportunity to visit handicraft and souvenir stores. If your visit to Thimphu coincides with the weekend, you can walk through the Thimphu Market to see the variety of food of Bhutan, including basket upon basket of fiery chilies, fresh cheese, and a variety of fresh greens. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 06: PARO TIGER NEST HIKE
After breakfast hike to Taktsang Monastery. The trail is broad and the walk of approximately 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometer above the Paro valley floor (for those who cannot hike we will arrange a horse for transfer up to the viewing point). The view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the valley floor is a spectacular sight. The great Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century. He then mediated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. Nearby there is a teahouse where you can stop for refreshments.
In the afternoon drive to 17th Century Drukgyel Dzong, a historic monument built by the Zhabdrung to commemorate his victory against invading Tibetans in 1644. In fine weather, the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7314m) appears as a stunning backdrop. On the return drive to Paro, visit 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
Alternatively, day 6 could be spent on a day trip to the Haa Valley, one of the most picturesque districts in Bhutan. Reached via the beautiful Chelila Pass, Haa Valley is characterized by its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain. Overnight at your hotel in Paro.
DAY 07: DEPART PARO.
Your Thimphu Festival Tour in Bhutan ends today. Our guide and driver will drop you at the airport and see you off. Tashi Delek! Best wishes!
Note: 2023 Thimphu Festival date falls on 24th to 26th September 2023. If you plan to visit Bhutan and attend the Thimphu festival please drop us the mail.