Thimphu Festival

Thimphu: Festivals of Bhutan

 

Day 1 ~ Thimphu (7,600')

Fly to Paro, Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan. If you get a seat on the left side of the plane and the weather cooperates, you might have spectacular views of the high peaks of the eastern Himalaya, including Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga—five of the highest peaks in the world—and peaks in Bhutan such as
Chomolhari, Jichu Drakye, and Tsering Kang. After visa formalities at the Paro airport, we drive into town for lunch. Afterward, we drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, set at 7,600 feet in the Wang Chu Valley. The remainder of the day is free to rest and relax. (2 hours driving) Hotel


Day 2 ~ Thimphu (7,600')

After breakfast we drive to the north end of the road and hike 1½ hours up a steep hill to visit Cheri Monastery (Goemba), built in 1620 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and established with an original staff of 30 monks. Nowadays the monastery serves as the main meditation center of the country and has more than 70 monks undergoing their three-year, three-month retreat. Inside is a silver Chorten (shrine) holding the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father. On our return we’ll visit Tango Goemba, founded in the 12th century (the present building was constructed in the 15thcentury). It is now a Buddhist institute for higher learning. Return to Thimphu for dinner and overnight. (1½ hours driving; 5 hours hiking) Hotel


Day 3 ~ Punakha (4,100')

Our morning visit will include a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts (or “painting school”), where Bhutanese children can follow a six-year program in traditional arts, such as drawing, painting, woodcarving, and sculpture. We’ll also visit the Textile Museum, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, and Folk Heritage Museum. Afternoon drive across the Dochu La (“la” means “pass”) at 10,000 feet, where we might view the snow-covered peaks of the eastern Himalaya (weather permitting). The pass is marked by hundreds of colorful fluttering prayer flags and is an awesome sight. Continue to Punakha, winter seat of the highest lama in Bhutan until the 1950s. Hotel


Day 4 ~ Punakha (4,100')

Today, we will visit the ancient Punakha Dzong (a dzong is a fortress-monastery) dating back to the 17th century, which is spectacularly situated at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Rivers. We will also have an optional short hike across the rice paddies to visit nearby Chimi Lhakhang (temple), built by Lama Drukpa Kinley. Legend has it he subdued the demoness of the Dochu La with his “Magic Thunderbolt of Wisdom.” A wood effigy of the lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a Wang (blessing) from the saint. Hotel

 

Day 5 ~ Paro (7,500')

Morning drive (4 hours) to Paro. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, Bhutan’s beautiful stamps, and the Tshogshing Lhakhang (Temple of the Tree of Wisdom), with its carvings depicting the history of Buddhism. Time permitting; we will also visit the Paro Dzong itself, built in 1644 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.Hotel


Day 6 ~ Paro (7,500')

Today we'll take a steep, 2-hour hike to a teahouse, where we enjoy a great view of Taktsang Monastery (its name means “tiger’s nest”), perched on a cliff 2,700 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley. Taktsang is the most spiritual place for the Bhutanese and a major pilgrimage spot. Our hike follows a steep switchback trail through the forest. After a break with tea and cookies, you have the option to sit outside the building and admire the monastery and its beautiful surroundings or, if you feel energetic, to continue another hour to a closer viewpoint. Much of Taktsang was destroyed by a fire in April 1998, but it is now completely rebuilt. We’ll have some time in the afternoon to explore Paro on our own. (5 hours hiking). Those not wishing to hike will have the option of driving above the town of Bondey to a trailhead where we can walk about 40 minutes to Dzongdrakha, a small monastery/retreat center overlooking the Paro Valley. Built in the 16th century by the first local king, Chogay Dragpa, this monastery is one of five in the area. There is also a large stupa (shrine) similar to that of Bodhnath in Kathmandu, Nepal. After lunch, we drive to Thimphu. The rest of the day is free to rest and relax.Hotel

Day 7 ~ Departure

Transfer to the airport for the flight

 

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