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Festival Tour Itinerary

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Bangkok – Paro

Druk Air landing in Paro Airport

Flying into the country’s only airport, in the beautiful Paro valley, the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress, provides a breath-taking first impression.

On arrival at Paro airport, after immigration and custom formalities, your guide for the trip will receive you and transfer you to the hotel.
This beautiful valley encapsulates a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the country’s only airport, and the National Museum. Mt. Jhomolhari (7,300m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley, its glacial waters plunging through deep gorges to form the Pa Chu (Paro River). The Paro valley is one of the kingdom’s most fertile, producing the bulk of Bhutan’s famous red rice from its terraced fields.

Today’s sightseeing in Paro includes:

Drukgyel Dzong: This Dzong, with a picturesque village nestling below its ramparts, was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders. Though largely destroyed by fire in 1951, the towering outer walls and central keep remain an imposing sight. On a clear day, there is a splendid view of Mt. Jhomolhari from the approach road to Drukgyel Dzong.

Rinpung Dzong: Built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the “fortress of the heap of jewels“stands on a hill above Paro Township. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge (called the Nemi Zam) and then up a paved stone path running alongside the imposing outer walls. The valley’s annual springtime religious festival, the Paro Tsechu, takes place in the courtyard of the Dzong and on the dance ground on the hillside above.

Ta Dzong: On a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong is Ta Dzong, built as a watchtower to protect Rinpung Dzong. (“Ta” means “to see” in Dzongkha, so the watchtower of a Dzong is always called a “Ta Dzong”). On account of their function, watchtowers are always round in shape. In 1968 Paro’s Ta Dzong was inaugurated as the National Museum, and now holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, together with a small natural history collection.

Kyichu Lhakhang: This Lhakhang, built in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan (the other being Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples. The first temple was built by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. In 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.

Farm Houses: The natural beauty of Paro valley is enhanced by picturesque farm houses dotted about the fields and on the hillsides. The two to three-storied Bhutanese farm houses are handsome in appearance, with colorfully decorated outer walls and lintels, and are traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural style. A visit to a farm house gives an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of a farming family.

Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight-Resort in Paro

Day 2: Hike to Taktsang Monastery
Today, we hike up to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest.” This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.

Tigers Nest (Taktsang) Monastery in Bhutan

After visiting what is known as one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites in the country, we will go off the beaten track further up to the temples that are on the hill tops above Tiger’s Nest. It’s so peaceful there and you can really communicate with nature as you enjoy the views from the top be it that of mountains or the valley. No wonder that some monks have chosen this place to meditate for their life! To go down, we are following a different path that takes us through the pristine thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons festooned with Spanish mosses.

Approximate walking time: 06 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight- Resort in Paro

Day 3: Day at Paro Tsechu

The Sacred mask dance

A Tsechu is a festival in honor of Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava, popularly known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’, the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tsechu draws hundreds of Bhutanese people in a spirit of reverence, blessing, festivity and celebration, and is one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan.
The Tsechu comes to life with color, music, dance and drama as villagers and townspeople gather to witness the masked dances, sword dances and other sacred rituals. These events, most of which are performed by monks in colorful and elaborate costumes bring blessings to the onlookers, as well as instructing them about the Buddhist Dharma.

This is the day two of this remarkable festival where we will spend the whole day witnessing the following dances in the same sequence as given below;

Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)
The Bodhisatava Manjusiri (Jampelyang) represents the body of wisdom of all the Buddhas. When he takes the appearance of the terrifying Lord of Death, he becomes the Lord (Je) of the Death (Shin) and thus is called Shinje. Being the Lord of the Death, he is also the ruler of the Three Worlds, which he protects. His wrathful Buffalo face guards the four continents and blesses them before the arrival on earth of the gods of Wisdom.

Dance of the Black Hats with Drums (Shanag Nga Cham)

Black hat dance

In honor of the victory of religion over the enemies, the Black Hats beat the drums, the sound of which resounds throughout the Three worlds.
When the Black Hat Dancers have destroyed the malevolent enemies, who persecuted the beings and the Buddhists, they beat the great drums of Buddhism. The sound of the drums represents the religion itself which cannot be represented in any other way because it has no visible form.
Dance of the three kinds of Ging with Sticks (Jug – Ging)

The origin of Rigzin Pema Lingpa’s Jug Ging (the running Ging with stick), Dri Ging (Ging with sword) and Nga Ging (Ging with drum) is as follows:
The source of peace and happiness for all sentient beings of the phenomenal world, the world of astral forms and the spiritual world (Khamsum-three worlds) are the precious teachings of the Buddha that fall into two categories: the mantra and sutras. The spread of these doctrines in this world primarily depends on the establishment of teaching, listening and writing schools so that the teachings are learned, meditated upon, and practiced by all. All evil hearted human and non-human beings that are not happy with such religious progress and cause hindrance are termed “Jungpo Nyulema”. Among the several methods of subduing these evil spirits given in the tantras and oral instructions, the one that we are dealing with is based on Pema Lingpa’s methods. When this king treasure revealer visited the celestial palace of Zangthopelri, the three types of Gings projected by Ugyen Rinpoche miraculously showed him how such Nyulemas can be overpowered by the Ging Cham Dance. As this is based on such a secret teaching, the dance is very sacred.

The Jug Gings:
Have the power to see in all the three worlds the Nyulemas that enter into the human and non-human beings and cause obstacles to the progress of religion. With their clairvoyance and other special powers, they search out the Nyulemas and catch them with the hook of affection, tie them up with the lasso of compassion, and beat them with the self-less wisdom club, making them powerless. The Jug Ging Dance portrays this.

Dance of the Lords of Cremation Grounds (Durdag):
They are the protectors of the religion who live in the large cremation grounds situated on the external edges of the Mount Sumeru.

On the external edges of a symbolic mandala where the assembly of the secret tantric deities are residing, there are eight large cremation grounds. Living in these cremation grounds are numerous protectors of the religion (Chhokyong) who are bound by an oath and among them, are the Lords of the Cremation Grounds who protect these areas.

Because of the promise they had accepted before and from which they cannot be diverted even for one instant, these Lords render powerless the assembly of demonic enemies who have violated their oath of not harming the Doctrine. They offer them to the gods of the mandala and they reduce them to a mere name.

Dance of the three kinds of Ging with Sword (Dri-Ging):
The Dri Ging Dance shows how they separate the Nyulemas with their protecting deities; rob them of their life and fortune; purify their karma and defilements; and deliver their souls to the pure heavens.

Dance of the three kinds of Ging with Drums (Nga-Ging):
The Nga Ging dance depicts how the flesh and blood of the vanquished Nyulemas are offered to the Holders of Pure Awareness (Rigzinlhas), meaning the enlightened ones. The dance shows the burial of the defeated evil forces with burial dances and the beating of the drums of religion to indicate that the mantra and sutra teachings are flourishing without hindrances. This dance also offers a prayer for the peace and happiness of all sentient beings and thus it is a very auspicious mask dance.

As explained above, the reason why these blessing-charged mask dances should be performed in every place during the religious festivals is that, why mention the positive effects on the observers if they are presented using the power of creation and dissolution meditations, even just by perceiving the dancing figures, ones merit and reverence for the enlightened ones increase and the evil and dark forces are subdued. As the Buddha Dharma activities and its protectors increase, there prevails peace and comfort for all sentient beings.

Dance of the Stag and the Hounds (Shawa Shachi):
This represents the conversion to Buddhism of the hunter named Gonpo Dorji by the great saint Jetsun Milarepa (1040-1123).
Long ago, Jetsun Milarepa was deeply meditating in a hermitage called Nyishang Kurta on the border between Nepal and Tibet, when he heard a man shouting and a dog barking. He went out of his cave and saw a red-haired stag that was sweating all over his body and trembling with fear. Because of his great compassion, Milarepa sang a religious song and the stag having forgotten the fear lay down beside the Lama. Chasing the stag, a red dog arrived running as fast as lightning, and full of fiery wrath. For the dog also, Milarepa sang a religious song, immediately he allayed the temper and the passion of the dog. The dog lay down beside the stag, like they are mother and son. Following the dog, a hunter called Gonpo Dorji arrived. He was a frightening fierce and strong man, carrying bow and arrows. When he saw Milarepa, the stag and the dog, he wondered if the Lama had cast a spell on the stag and the dog and he became enraged. He told Milarepa “ You protect the stag and the dog, let’s see if you can protect yourself from this arrow” and he shot a poisonous arrow. Gonpo Dorji’s bow broke into pieces, the string of the bow was cut and the arrow was turned against himself. Gonpo Dorji was shocked and Milarepa told him “Gonpo Dorji, your arrow is returned, now listen to my song”. As Milarepa was singing, a violent regret for whatever action he had done before was born in Gonpo Dorji and he confessed his bad deeds. He promised to take an oath not to sin again. He practiced the religion and attained full realization.

This dance is generally performed like a play in two parts. The first part takes place the first day while the second part is on the second day of the Tsechu. Usually there are two dogs and not just one like the above story. The first part is quite comical: the hunter’s servant appears first and jokes with the clowns. Then comes the hunter crowned with the leaves and carrying a bow and arrows who is accompanied by his two dogs. These dancers are wearing knee length yellow skirt and the dog masks. The servant jokes very disrespectfully with his master who, before going hunting, must perform some good luck rituals. The priest performs the rituals in the way contrary to the Buddhist tradition, while the Atsaras and the servant go on with their jokes.

The second part has more serious and the religious tone. Milerape appears, wearing a long dress, white hat and holding a pilgrim’s staff. He sings with a soft voice and has his right hand near his ear. The two dogs, the stag and the hunter, one after the other, arrive in Milerapa’s presence and he converts them with his song. The conversion is symbolized by a rope that the dogs and the hunter have to jump. This part exhibits acrobatics among the dancers.

Altitude at Paro: 2300m
Overnight- Hotel in Paro

Day 4: Chele La Ridge Hike

Walk into the nature

This morning, we will take a drive to Chele La (3750m), the highest motor able pass in the country and hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (4100m). Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley. The short steep descent from the top will take us to the nunnery of Kila Gompa. Here the nuns, called anims, live a life of contemplation and seclusion, with daily prayer and spiritual practice. The temple itself is surrounded by numerous meditation huts, and many hidden caves lie inside the rocky cliffs. The gompa is surrounded by a lush forest dominated by tall firs. Sparkling mountain streams wind down the slopes, which are covered with a variety of wildflowers and plants.

About 30 anims, or nuns, live here, ranging in age from about 20 to 80 years. The community is one of the oldest of seven nunneries in Bhutan, and was initially established in the early 9th century as a meditation site. After being destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt and officially established in 1986 as an anim dratshang (religious community of Buddhist nuns).
Kila Gompa is historically significant as a sacred meditation site. Many renowned Buddhist saints have come here to find peace and seclusion. The main temple houses ancient statues of Chenrezig (Avalokiteswara) and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) among others.

Life here is simple. The day begins and ends with prayers. The anims arise at 3 AM and study Buddhist scripture until 8 AM when they go to the temple for prayers. The first simple meal of the day (rice, vegetables and tea) is eaten at 10 AM, after which studies continue until 9 PM when a simple supper is served. The nuns retire after a final session of prayer. Most of the nuns have given up properties and left their families to live with the bare minimum of material things. Their studies and subsistence are supported by the government.
Some of the older nuns have retired into meditation, while many of the younger ones pursue basic Buddhist studies and perform religious ceremonies. The course takes 5-6 years, after which they begin meditation, which can range from four months to three years. One young nun, when asked why she had chosen this life, replied “There is peace in thinking about others, apart from yourself.” Another said “If I was given back my youth, I would still choose this life but I would start it earlier. I have never been more at peace with myself.”
The walk down from here to the road is lined with small white chortens and it will take us about an hour.

Approximate walking time: 06 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m.
Overnight: Resort in Paro

Day 5: Another Day at Paro Tsechu

Thongdrel

This is the day four of this remarkable festival where we will spend the whole day witnessing the following dances in the same sequence as given below;

Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum):
The Bodhisatava Manjusiri (Jampelyang) represents the body of wisdom of all the Buddhas. When he takes the appearance of the terrifying Lord of Death, he becomes the Lord (Je) of the Death (Shin) and thus is called Shinje. Being the Lord of the Death, he is also the ruler of the Three Worlds, which he protects. His wrathful Buffalo face guards the four continents and blesses them before the arrival on earth of the gods of Wisdom.

Dance of the four Stags (Shacham):
Guru Rinpoche subdued the king of earth-spirits (Sadag) dominating the northwest direction, God of wind (also the lord of the North-West Direction) and rode the stag, which was the Mount of the God of Wind.

Long ago when Ugyen Rinpoche was in the world, he subdued the God of the Wind who created much unhappiness and discomfort in this world through his great power by making all sentient beings and the world tremble. Ugyen Rinpoche rode the stag belonging to the sadag and went around the world blessing the land in order to restore peace and happiness for everyone. As a blessing the first incarnation of Nam Nying (Namkhe Nyingpo) formed the effigy of a face of a stag and hence the dance of the white stag came to be. The dance was introduced and performed to pacify the world and to restore peace and happiness for posterity, as it is a re-enactment of an auspicious incident from the biography of a great one.

Dance of the Judgment of the Dead (Raksha Mangcham):
This is based on the Bardo Thoedrol (Book of the Dead), a text hidden by Guru Rinpoche and rediscovered later by Terton Karma Lingpa (14th century). The dance is also described in the Sutras and Tantras.

When all beings die, they wander in the Bardo (Intermediate state) waiting to be liberated by Buddhas in the form of both peaceful and wrathful deities into the pure fields where no suffering exists. However, when the Buddhas who assume their peaceful and wrathful forms appear to greet them, the men who during their lifetime had no fervent adoration for the Buddhist Doctrine, do not recognize them as Buddhas and are frightened. As the men do not recognize the Buddhas and think they are enemies, they cannot be conducted into the paradise. The Buddhas, however through their various manifestations do not stay indifferent and perform good deeds unto the beings until the cycle of rebirth is complete.
Shinje Chhogyel, Lord of Death, estimates the value of the white and lack deeds during the judgment. Also present are the White god and the Black demon who live with every being from birth, and all the Shinje’s helpers who emanate under numerous forms. These are the Raksha Lango (Ox-headed) represents Justice Minister, the Phag Gochen (Wild hog-headed) maintains the records of sinful and meritorious deed of all beings, the Chung Gochen (Garuda-headed) who holds a small sword which cuts the root of the three poisons (ignorance, envy and anger) and a hammer which destroys the sins, the Sengye Gochen (Lion-headed) helper who holds a lasso which represents love and an iron chain which represents compassion, the Domgye Gochen (Bear-headed) helper holds the magical noose which tries the method and wisdom together and in other hand a saw which cuts selfishness, the Drulgye Gochen (Serpent – headed) helper holds a mirror of fate which reflects all deeds both sinful and virtuous, the Trel Gochen (monkey-headed) helper holds a scale to weigh sins against virtues.

All these helpers are called Rakshas and they are separate with equanimity the black actions from the white actions of all beings, just as in the case of the sinner, Digchen Nyelwabum and the virtuous Khimdag Pelkye.

The way Nyelwabum and Pelkye are judged in the Bardo after their death show to the observer how the pious people get liberated to happier worlds and the sinners punished for their sins. It is also hinted in the dance that the sinful finally pay for their sins and get liberated to their higher realms too.
The frightening Court of Justice cannot be avoided by the condemned beings. But after enduring certain suffering, their sins are washed away and they are purified. Progressively they are led to the pure fields and paradise. Unfortunately some beings do not understand that everything is the result of their mind, whether it is pure or impure. The dance shows everyone, that if one devotes themselves to virtuous actions; they will be sent immediately to the pure fields and paradise.
Regarding the other different forms of Shinje’s helpers shown in this dance, are beings who were born into the human world where the doctrine of Buddha has been propagated, now that they are the Gods who have taken refuge in Buddhism.

The dance can be described as more of a play than a dance and lasts approximately two hours. Firstly, there is the long dance of all the Raksha who are the helpers of Shinje, the Lord of Death. Then Shinje himself appears, symbolized by a huge puppet which holds a mirror. The Lhakarp (White God) and the Due Nagpo (Black Demon) enter the courtyard with him. Shinje sits and all his helpers follow taking up their places in two rows in front of him. Then the judgment begins. First the Due Nagpo and the main helpers perform a dance. Then the sinner (Digchen Nyelwabum) who is dressed in black and wearing a red hat, arrives. He is very frightened and tries to escape but is recaptured each time by the helpers. From his basket, a freshly severed cow’s head is taken, implying that the sinner was responsible for killing it.

The judgment begins.
The Lhakarp (White God) sings of the merits of the man, followed by the Due Nagpo (Black Demon) who expounds the sins of the man. The Trel Gochen (monkey-headed) weighs the sins and virtues. Finding there are more sins committed than virtues a black strip of cloth symbolizing the road to hell, is spread and then the sinner is sent to hell.

This is followed by a general dance after which everyone assumes their former seating positions. Another man (Khimdag Pelkye) is brought forward. He is clad in white and holds a prayer flag and a ceremonial scarf, which altogether is implicit of his virtues. The same scene as above is re-enacted and at the conclusion a white strip of cloth symbolizing the road to heaven is deployed. Fairies elaborately dressed in brocade and bone-ornament come to fetch him. At the last moment, the Black Demon, furious at having lost a being, tries to grab the virtuous man but the White God protects him.

Mandala

Dance of the Drum from Dramitse (Dramitase Ngacham):
In the 15th century, the daughter of Pemalingpa came into this world. This nun called Chorten Zangmo was living in the monastery of Dramitse in Eastern Bhutan. Her brother, the well learned Lama Kuenga Gyeltshen not only saw Guru Rinpohe many times and heard hs teachings but also went through the strength of his magical powers to the Zangthopelri (Abode of Guru Rinpoche). At that time, the attendants of Ugyen Rinpoche were transformed into one hundred kinds of peaceful and terrifying deities. They took in their left hand a big drum and in their right hand a drumstick and performed a dance.

Kuenga Gyeltshen witnessed this dance and when he returned to Dramitse and to the human world, he established the tradition of the dance along with the other drum dances which were composed by the ancient Treasure-Discoverers such as Sangye Lingpa and Ugyen Lingpa. Kuenga Gyeltshen called the particular dance, which has been executed in Dramitse in Eastern Bhutan, “Dance of the Drum from Dramitse”.

In the realm of Zangthopelri where the beings have accumulated merits, the dancers are decorated with splendid jewels. Just in seeing this dance, the Black Demons are vanquished and the white gods reign supreme. Men and Gods are happy and they gain Buddhahood, which is the ultimate objective.
Today, the dance has evolved from a local event, centered on a particular community into an art form, representing the identity of the Bhutanese nation as a whole. It was proclaimed by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible cultural heritage of the world in November 2005.

Altitude at Paro: 2300m.
Overnight: Resort in Paro

Day 6: Paro – Thimphu
On the last day of Tsechu, rise before dawn to attend the display of the great Thongdroel, an intricately appliquéd and embroidered silk scroll measuring 40 x 60 feet. This work of art pictures the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, the Second Buddha and the founder of Tantric Buddhism. Thangkas such as this one are regarded as great treasures and are displayed only once a year for a few hours. It is believed that the mere sight of the Thongdroel brings salvation to the beholder. The festival area fills with people from all over the country well before dawn. People offer butter lamps and receive Thongdroel blessings. Monks dance cheerfully beating on double-sided drums with curved drumsticks. The Thongdroel is then let down to the ground and ceremoniously rolled and folded away before the first rays of the sun can reach it. Following the display of the Thongdroel, the Tsechu continues throughout the day with the performances of several additional dances.

After the thongdroel display, we will take a drive to Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.

The sightseeing in Thimphu includes; Visit to the Institute of Traditional Medicine; Bhutan has long and rich tradition of medicine based on natural remedies derived mainly from plants and earth, and some animals. This institute has facility for out patients, training, research and production of traditional medicine. The courses to become traditional doctors, called drungtsho, entail six to eight years of strenuous study after high school. The institute has an exhibition room that imparts excellent look into the tradition.

Visit to the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts, the school offers a six-year course in the techniques of traditional art in religious and secular paintings, woodcarving, clay sculpture and traditional mask making. One can see students working through progressive levels practicing precise rules of Bhutanese art. The school also has a showroom from where student works are sold at very reasonable price compared to town for same quality of work.

Visit to the Folk Heritage Museum; established in 2001, this is an interesting museum housed in a very old traditional house. The museum is a walk through the fast changing rural tradition, habits and skills, and those of the past. They organize special exhibitions annually on select subject pertaining to Bhutanese heritage.

Visit the National Memorial Chorten; the building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who had wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace.

Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous.

Approximate driving time: 01 hour. Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m
Overnight – Hotel in Thimphu.

Day 7: Hike to Cheri monastery

A short drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu brings us to the Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the country. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena with going across a covered bridge over the Thim chhu and we climb steadily to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints. Shabdrung also spent three years in retreat here and it’s a renowned meditation place even today.

After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena we will have picnic lunch along the clean and unpolluted Thimphu River. After lunch, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts. The Choki School is private and provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to attend or complete their formal education. After visiting the school we continue along the riverside trail and pass through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu.

Approximately 03 hours walking time. Altitude at Thimphu: 2300m.
Overnight – Hotel in Thimphu

Day 8: Hike from Dochu La to Lungchotse Lhakhang

We take a drive for about an hour along the east-west highway till Dochu La Pass (3050m) to begin yet another hike. The view of the Himalayas to the north when the sky is clear from this pass is spectacular. The pass is marked by 108 chortens (Stupa) which are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa, but whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.
The location of the 18th century Lungchotse Lhakhang is perfect for a day hike from here. For those who do not fancy walking for hours seeking solitude and peace of mind yet would like to have that, this is the place to go. It is a perfect place to enjoy the bounties of nature. On a clear sunny day one can see the entire Bhutan Himalaya with its snow covered peaks. The sunset from Lungchotse with different colors playing against the sky is a splendid spectacle. The view from the ridge as the sun sets over the rolling hills remains etched in mind for a long time.

The way to the Lungchotse Lhakhang is no less striking. It is a gentle 02 hour uphill walk from Dochu La. The route is well shaded with rhododendron trees growing in abundance all over the place. The path is well padded with fallen leaves. In May and June when the flowers are in bloom it is a magical trek amidst the various hues of white, red, pink and purple.
They say heaven is a place on earth – perhaps Lungchotse is one such place. Anyway it is as close as you can get to in a day!

Approximate walking time: 04 hours. Altitude at Dochu La: 3050m.
Overnight: Hotel Dochu La

Day 9: Dochu La – Punakha

If the weather favors us, it will be a bonus to see the sun rise over the eastern end of Himalaya at around 5 in the morning.
After a short drive on the way to Punakha, we will stop at the Royal Botanical Garden and see the varieties of plants or we can find out the name of plants that we have seen on the previous day.

In Punakha, we will visit the Dzong that was built by Shabdrung, in 1637, on a strategic junction at the confluence of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. The Dzong has played a hallowed role in the history of Bhutan. It served as the seat of Shabdrung’s government, several foreign delegations were received here in 18th and 19th century, the election and coronation of the first King was observed in 1907 and the Third King convened the first National Assembly in the Dzong. The central monastic body continues to reside here in winter. The embalmed bodies of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Pema Lingpa are housed on the top floor of the main tower. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King from the latest fire in 1987.

Next in line is a short hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten in the northern part of the valley. Newly built and it is a more elaborate version of the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu. It has an astounding work of frescoes and intricate statues.

Approximate driving time: 01 hour. Altitude at Punakha: 1200m.
Overnight: Hotel in Punakha

Day 10: Punakha

This morning, we will take a drive to Talo – the native home town of the queens for our short downhill hike following the beautiful track that links the village of Talo and Nobgang where we will see village and the farmhouses to have intimate insight into the Bhutanese way of living. We will have the picnic lunch on a scenic spot.
In the afternoon, nature drive along Puna Tsang Chhu – one of Bhutan’s biggest rivers towards south to see monkeys, mountain goats and if we are lucky – the rare and endangered white bellied hereon.

Punakha Dzong and Bridge

On the way back, visit the windswept town of Wangduephodrang and its Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley.

Approximate driving time: 02 hours. Altitude at Punakha: 1200m.
Overnight – Hotel in Punakha

Day 11: Punakha – Paro

It’s a return journey from here as we drive back to Paro, up and over Dochu La Pass again. After lunch in one of the restaurants in Paro town, you may have rest of the day at leisure on your own or otherwise, your guide will come up with some activities.

Approximate driving time: 03 hours. Altitude at Paro: 2300m.
Overnight: Hotel in Paro

Day 12: Paro – Bangkok

After breakfast in the hotel, drive to the airport in time to catch up your onward flight. Your escort will bid you farewell and soon the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappears again behind its guardian mountains.