Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan and is the winter seat of His Holiness the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century and it served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity that identified Bhutan from rest of the world.
During the 17th century, Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the victory he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then the Punakha Drubchen has become the annual festival of the Punakha district.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic re-creation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men are dressed in traditional gear and re-enact the ancient battle scene. This re-enactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.
Day 1 : 23 Feb 2018 - PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - THIMPHU (L/D)
Upon arrival at the Paro International airport, you will be met by your guide.
Before proceeding to Thimphu, visit Ta-Dzong (built in1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong (literally meaning “Heap of Jewels”), the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley, built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
After lunch drive through to Thimphu. The drive is along a winding road by the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu, then it turns upstream along the Wang Chu to Thimphu, Bhutan’s scenically located capital city.
In the evening, visit the Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body which includes the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan).
Welcome dinner and overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 2 : 24 Feb 2018 - THIMPHU – PUNAKHA (B/L/D)
Drive to Punakha via the Dochula Pass (3,140 m). On the way stop to see the spectacular array of chortens, to enjoy the superb view over the snow capped Himalayan Mountains and also to the Gasa Dzong at a distance if the weather is clear.
After lunch, walk about 25 minutes among beautiful terraced farmlands and farm houses to visit Chimi Lhakhang, which was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (the Devine Madman) in the 15th century. He subdued the demoness with his “Magical Thunder bolt”. The Temple is also known as “the Temple of Fertility”.
Then visit Punakha Dzong. The impressive Punakha Dzong lies between two great rivers. The names of the rivers are Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). This Dzong serves as the winter residence for the Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body and also the office of the district administration.
Dinner and overnight at your hotel (A class 3*) in Punakha.
Day 3 - 4 : 25 - 26 Feb 2018- THE PUNAKHA TSHECHU FESTIVAL (B/L/D)
Attend the Punakha Drubchen Festival for two days.
Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Punakha.
We will also arrange walking tours to suit your interests.
Drive through to Thimphu on the Saturday afternoon.
Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5 : 27 Feb 2018 - THIMPHU (B/L/D)
After breakfast drive to Dodeyna to climb through a beautiful forest track to the Tango Monastery which overlooks a forested valley and other Buddhist retreats high in the mountains.
After lunch, visit the National Memorial Chorten built in honour of Bhutan’s late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and drive uphill to the Kuensel Phodrang to see a large statue of Buddha Shakya Muni being built.
In the afternoon, you will also get an opportunity to visit National Institute of Traditional Medicines, National Insitute of Zorig Chusum (School of 13 arts & crafts), Royal Textiles Academy and local handmade paper house.
In the evening, proceed to Paro.
Dinner and overnight in Paro.
Day 6 : 28 Feb 2018 - TAKTSANG MONASTERY OR TIGER’S NEST (B/L/D)
After breakfastvisit Drugyal Dzong (a ruined fortress), 16 km away from Paro. Although it is now in ruins, this dzong has great historical importance for the people of Bhutan. It was a place where the Bhutanese finally defeated the Tibetan invasion. On a clear day one can view sacred Mt. Jomolhari (Mountain of Goddess).
We will then drive you to the trail head to take a breathtaking and memorable hike through beautiful pine forest. You will stop for light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria before walking on to the famous, Taktsang monastery or Tiger’s Nest. The primary Lhakhang or main temple was built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in 1684 by the Penlop of Paro, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, Dorji Drolo from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in the east.
In the afternoon, you will have an opportunity to explore the beautiful town of Paro.
Dinner and overnight in Paro.
Day 7 : 01 March 2018 - PARO - PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (B)
After breakfast at your hotel, drive to Paro International Airport where your guide will accompany you to bid you farewell.
Number of days: 7 days, 6 nights
US$1,680 single per person
US$1,560 twin/double per person
US$ 1,200 triple per person
14 - 16 February 2016