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Dragon Kingdom

The festivals in Bhutan are numerous. Each district performs annual festivals called Tsechu & Dromche that falls on the 10th day of the month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is the spiritual occasion in honor of Guru Padmashambhava, "one who was born from a lotus flower" popularly known as Guru Rimpoche, "The precious Teacher". Festivals are also social gatherings where people from all walks of life gathered to rejoice together, dressed in all their finery.

Tsechus or the festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are not held for tourist's attraction. They are the genuine manifestations of religious traditions hundreds of years old which outsiders are given the opportunity to witness. We would like to see that the privilege retained, without in anyway impairing or infringing on the beauty and sacredness of the rituals. Most of the dances date back from beyond the middle Ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elders dressed in bright costumes. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqués or Thongdroels. The moment of the unveiling is shrouded in secrecy and creates great excitement among all the participants.

The Dzongs come to life with color, music and terrifying masked and sword dances and other rituals. Tourists are allowed into the Dzongs to watch the spectacle, but not the inner sanctuaries.

Photography should always be discreet. It is generally allowed to take photographs at Tsechus.

The most popular festivals are Paro Tshechu, Thimphu Tshechu, Wangdue Tshechu, few in Bumthang like Jambay Lhakhang Drub and Thangbimani, and in the east such as chorten kora festival. (see festival list sent separately) .
Day 01: Arrive Paro (55km, 1 & 1/2 hours):-Flight into Paro with Druk Air, Bhutan National Airline. The flight takes you over the great Himalayas, offering the most beautiful scenery of the world's highest glacial peaks. As you enter Paro valley, you will see the Paro Dzong (Fort), the National Museum and the Paro town. Your Bhutanese guide from Experience Bhutan Travel will receive you at the airport & welcome you to Bhutan. After completing the formalities, you will drive through fascinating valley of Paro to Thimphu. A mixture of rice fields, apple orchards and farm houses. After passing the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers, the road ascends and the valley turns into a narrow gorge before widening out at Namseling, and soon the quaint shrubs of Thimphu begins to appear. Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and is the only large settlement in Bhutan. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit and watch a gathering of local people in the town square, wearing their traditional dress, and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way. Depend on time you can stroll in the town, buy souvenir from Bhutan as you like. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 02: Sightseeing of Thimphu valley( 180km, 6 hours):-
Soon after your breakfast, you enjoy full day of sightseeing that includes:
Memorial Chorten: This is a most impressive stupa built in the memory of Bhutan's third King by the order of Grand Queen mother Ashi Phuntsho Chhoden in 1974.
National Library: It holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts, manuscripts and also modern academic books.
Handicrafts Emporiums: It displays wide range of products such as beautifully woven fabrics for man & women, crafted products & other decorative items.
National Institute for Zorig Chusum (thirteen traditional arts & crafts): The Royal Government of Bhutan has sponsored and established this national institute in the year 1971 mainly to preserve and promote culture and to contribute to the country's economy through quality products and services. In the course of history Bhutan has developed a unique artistic tradition, which has played a vital role in modeling its distinct cultural heritage and this tradition is reflected in thirteen traditional arts & crafts.
Traditional medicine Institute: It was established with the help of Italian government to improve traditional medicine. The rich herbal medicines abundant in the kingdom are prepared here.
Tashichhodzong: The biggest fort of Bhutan built in 1648. It houses secretariat building, King's throne room and other government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot.
Folk Heritage Museum: One of the oldest house in Thimphu, having been restored and transformed into Folk Heritage Museum in the year 2001 under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo. This museum is meant to serve an account of everyday rural life for the young urbanized generations and as a place for preserving objects related to this life, in case this way of life disappears as time passes.
Textile Museum: This museum was inaugurated under the patronage of Queen Ashi Sangay Choden in June 2001. Many intricate designs of Bhutanese textiles are displayed here. It will also serve as center for conservation, restoration and documentation of Bhutanese textiles. There are many more things to see apart from above mentioned sightseeing places. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 03: Witness Thimphu Festival :-Following breakfast, go to the festival ground to witness the festival. Lunch will be arranged by guide during the break in one of the best restaurants in the town. Evening; at leisure. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 04: Drive to Punakha (75km, 3 hrs) :-
Following breakfast, 3 hours drive to Punakha, the winter residence of chief abbot. The road climbs for about an hour till you reach a pass at Dochula at an altitude of 3150M. Weather permitting, this pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas. After hot cup of tea/coffee at the Dochula tourist's café, continue to descend a long way to Punakha & Wangdue through temperate forest of rhododendron & magnolia bloom in spring then a semi-tropical zone where orange trees, banana trees and cactuses are found in abundance. On arrival, check in to the hotel. After your lunch at the hotel in Punakha, visit the Punakha Dzong some 7-8 km away from the hotel. Punakha Dzong is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan situated in the confluence of Phochhu & Mochhu (male & female rivers). It looks like a giant ship with excellent wood work and detail of paintings. It was here that the first King was crowned in 1907. It was capital of Bhutan until 1955 and then it was shifted to Thimphu. This dzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637. Punakha dzong is still serves as winter resident of the chief lama of Bhutan and houses both administrative & religious centre of Punakha district. Drive further north of the valley and hike for about 45 minutes crossing over suspension bridge to new Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a new temple, the paradise of Guru Rimpoche through the rice field and village of Niengergang. The view from the temple to the valley below is photogenic. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 05: Witness Wangdue Festival :-Following breakfast, 21km drive to Wangdue. On arrival go inside the Dzong where the festival takes place. Witness the festival until late afternoon. Lunch will be served in one of the best restaurants in new Bajo town. Evening, return to Punakha. Overnight at the hotel. BLD
Day 06: Drive to Trongsa (150km, Time: 5 hrs) :-Following breakfast, drive to Trongsa, central Bhutan. The road passes through Wangdi district crossing over Pilela pass (alt. 3,300m), the boundary between western and central Bhutan. It is a journey you are not likely to forget. The scenery is certainly stunning so you need to make occasional stops to take beautiful pictures en route. In places the road is literally carved out of impressive cliff sides. Descending from the other side it is a long way down to Trongsa. The Dzong looks superb from a great distance. It is the longest monastery/fortress in the kingdom built along the ridge at a very strategic location for political reason. It was from here that the present royal family emerged as the most powerful force at the beginning of 20th century. It is most impressive Dzong in Bhutan built in 1648 by the order of Shabdrung Rimpoche. Overnight at the hotel. BLD
Day 07: Visit Dzong. Drive to Bumthang (69KM,3 hours) :-Following breakfast, visit the Trongsa dzong, and also visit the Kuengarabten Dzong (24km south of Trongsa). This Dzong is the winter palace of 2nd and third kings of Bhutan. 30 Minutes hike to Nunnery from the Dzong. After nunnery, drive back to Trongsa. After lunch, 3 hours drive to Bumthang, one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. From Trongsa you drive across the Yotong La pass (3,400m) and descend eventually into the valley Chumey & Chamkhar, the heart of the famous Bumthang Yatha weaving region. This central area of Bhutan is where the colorful wool weaving is famous. On arrival check in to the Lodge. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 08: At Bumthang :-
Following breakfast, drive around the valley and visit the historically important temples. Bumthang is the general name given to a complex of 4 valleys viz: Chumey, Choekor, Tang & Ura with altitude varies from 2600m to 4000m. Visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred temples in Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche came here in the 8th century and meditated for several days until his body got imprinted on the back of a rock. He then manifested into different forms and subdued Sheiling Karpo, the local deity of Bumthang valley and converted him into Buddhism. On your return, visit Jambay Lhakhang built in 7th century AD by King Songtsen Gompo of Tibet. It is one of the 108 temples built by him all over Nepal, Tibet & Bhutan. After lunch, visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa, the treasure discoverer. It contains interesting Buddhist paintings and also visits Koncho Sum lhakhang, which is close to Tamshing. On you way back visit Swiss farm, cheese factory ( buy some Swiss cheese if you like). Finally visit the Jakar dzong (castle of white bird). Retire of the day. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 09: Drive to Wangdue (198km,6 hrs) :-Following breakfast, drive to Wangdue via the same road crossing over Yotongla pass, Trongsa town, Pilela pass and descending down to Wangdue. Lunch will be served at Chendebji Chorten. On arrival at the hotel in Wangdue. BLD

Day 10: Drive to Thimphu (72km,3 hrs):-Following breakfast, drive for about 5 km and walk about 20 minutes through rice fields and the village of Yoakha and visit Chime Lhakhang (temple of fertility) built in the 15th century situated on a hillock above the village. It is believed that couples, who cannot do not have children go to this temple and will be blessed with children. After the temple walk back and continue drive to Thimphu via the same road taken by you earlier crossing over Dochula pass. Lunch will probably be at Dochula café. Remember to take second change to view eastern Himalayas, if you were not very fortunate with the weather earlier. On arrival in Thimphu, check in to the hotel. Afternoon, do last day to your souvenirs shopping in Thimphu. Overnight at the hotel. BLD

Day 11:Drive to Paro (60km,2 hrs):-Following breakfast, drive to Paro following through the Valley of Thimphu River with rice fields, houses & orchards on either side. After lunch sightseeing of Paro valley that includes: Ta Dzong: The National Museum. It once served as the watchtower for Paro Dzong. It was built in 1646 by the order of Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyel, the great builder of Dzongs and the unifier. Drukgyel Dzong: Meaning, the fortress of victory. It is now a ruined fort situated at the north end of the valley. It was built in 1647 by Shabdrung to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644. Kyichu Lhakhang (Temple of god). It is one of the most sacred temples in Bhutan built in circa 636 AD by a Tibetan King Songtsen Gompo. From then on Buddhism was flourished in Bhutan. Overnight the hotel. BLD

Day 12: Excursion to Taktsang Monastery:-Following breakfast, drive for about 10km from Paro town and hike up through the meadow of pines, rhododendrons and oaks. The trail takes about 2 hours till near the main temple called Taktsang Pelphug, the closest viewpoint. Normally the visitors go till the café as entering inside the temple is prohibited. This café is located little more than half way and is also a good viewpoint. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche flew here on the back of a tigress and meditated here for three months and subdued the local deities and converted them to Buddhism. Later in the 17th century, the fourth Desi or temporal ruler of Bhutan Tenzin Rabgye built a temple in 1692 in its present form thus fulfilling the wishes of Shardrung Rimpoche who died before he built this temple. After lunch at the café, hike down and drive to Paro. Overnight at the hotel in Paro. B/L/D

Day 13: Fly to onward destination.
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