Brief General Background on Paro Tshechu (festival)
Paro Tshechu (festival) is the most popular religious dance festival in Bhutan. It has been held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the founder of the state of Bhutan) and Ponpo Rigzin Nyingpo initiated Paro Tshechu festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong (fortress) in 1644.
Paro Tsechu is held for 5 days beginning on the 10th Day of 2nd Bhutanese lunar month every year and in 2018 it is from March 27-31. The Paro festival offers a best opportunity to witness the Bhutanese’s rich culture and history. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits.
It is also a yearly social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery.
On the last day of Paro Tsechu there will be a display of a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting), the Guru Throngdrol.Thongdrols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze viewers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdrol is said to cleanse the viewer off sin.
Paro Festival Schedule: March 27-31, 2018
Paro Festival Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Paro
Fly into Paro by Drukair flight ( Royal Bhutan Airline). After immigration and customs formalities, you will be received by the representative of Access Bhutan Tours & Treks and driven to your hotel. After checking into your hotel and after refreshments you will visit the following:
- Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
- Kyichu temple,one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo.
- Dungtse Lhakhang( temple): The unusual and circular lhakhang, reminiscent of the Shanag, or the black hat worn by the Bhutanese Black Hat dancers was, built by the great “Builder of iron chain bridges,” Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo.
- Paro downtown where you can visit local stores and also have free interaction with local people.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 2: Paro Tshechu
Today you experience the color, excitement and spectacle of the Paro Tshechu Festival. It is the most divine and deeply symbolic of all the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Bhutan. Dressed in traditional finery, devotees flock to the Paro Dzong to proclaim their faith and receive blessings. Monks and lay people, dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes perform festive dances of good triumphing over evil to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. The dances and costumes have survived unchanged for thousands of years, each dance is an exact re-enactment of visions seen by Bhutan’s great Buddhist saints and any changes would be seen as sacrilege. Many dances will be performed today including: Lords of the Cremation Grounds. Terrifying Deities, Heroes, Novel Man and Ladies Lencham , Stag and Hounds. The dances are interspersed with folk songs and clowning aided by copious amounts of butter tea and a locally produced potent alcoholic barley spirit.
You will spend the whole day at Paro festival with lunch in between. You will also take time off to visit the interior of Rinpung Dzong, built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks.Then walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan.
Dinner and overnight in Paro.
Day 3: A day hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) in Paro
After breakfast,you will hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria. Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months. The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former beauty.
After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point. Then drive back to hotel and relax.
Dinner and overnight in Paro.
Day 4: Paro Tshechu and Paro-Thimphu ( 54 km, 1 hr)
Early morning before dawn, you make your way to the early morning blessing from Guru Thongdroel (Thangka of Guru Rhinpoche). Today is the most auspicious day of the festivities and dances of the Heroes, Ging and Tsholing, the Eight Manifestatons, the Sixteen Fairies and the Religious Song are all performed in a magnificent cacophony of sound and color.
After witnessing the unveiled Thongdroel and receiving the blessing, you will return to your hotel for breakfast and then visit the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here is an intriguing collection of artefacts which provide you with a wonderful insight to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
From the Ta Dzong you will go to the festival ground to get a glimpse of the last day of Paro festival.
In the evening you will travel to Thimphu, the next destination on your tour in Bhutan.
Dinner and overnight in Thimphu
Day 5: Thimphu Tour
After breakfast, visit the following:
- Bhutan Postal Museum (recently established)-The museum tells the story of Bhutan’s progress and development through the evolution of communications and postal system in the country. And also you can get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends
- National Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs. You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
- Simply Bhutan or The Folk Heritage Museum, an outdoor museum that gives an insight into rural life in Bhutan.
- The School of Traditional Painting of Arts and Crafts where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan
- Archery Match (National Sport of Bhutan) at Changlimithang National Stadium. Normally you will spot Bhutanese men playing archery game during weekends or public holidays. Good opportunity to interact with local people.
- Centenary Farmers’ market (if tour coincides with Thu-Sun) where farmers would be selling their wide range of farm produces (vegetables from farms and wild ferns or bamboo shoots collected from forest, flour, rice, roasted rice, rice flakes, spices, yams both cultivated and wild ones collected from forests, fruits, etc) and livestock products (mainly cheese and butter). Free interaction with people from town as well as from villages come to this weekend market. Weekend market is from Thursday-Sunday( 4 days).
- The Memrial Chorten which was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of the country, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan.
- Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
- Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
- Changankha Lhakhang (temple): This temple situated atop a small hound overlooking the Thimphu valley was built in the 13th century by the illustrious Lam Phajo Dugom Zhigpo. The temple is considered the spiritual home of children born in the Chang valley.
- Kuenselphodrang where largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu valley and also if interested/if time permits, take a leisure walk throughKuenselphodrang Nature park and enjoy the nice view of the entire Thimphu valley below
- Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts.
- Government-run Handicrafts Emporium and local crafts shops, to browse through examples of Bhutan’s fine traditional arts. Here you can buy hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, and other interesting items made from local materials
In the evening stroll around Thimphu town and you may visit local handicraft stores.
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 6: Thimphu Short Nature Hike to Tango Monastery
After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Tango Monastery which lies north of Thimphu city. From the base camp which is the end of motor road you hike up to the Monastery is through the forest filled with oak and fine trees as well as Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during spring season.
The Tango Monastery site has had religious significance since the 12th century when it was the home of the highly revered Buddhist monks who brought the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism to Bhutan.
The Tango Monastery was built in 1689 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyal. The three-storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months.
At present Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You will experience complete peace and serenity in this area. After visiting the monastery, walk back to the road and then drive back to Thimphu .
Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 7: Thimphu-Punakha/Wangdue
Distance: 71 km, estimated driving time: 2 hour
After breakfast travel to Punakha & Wangdue through Dochula Pass 3140 m).
At Dochula, in the clear spring sky, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. You can take photos at the beautiful 108 chortens.
You will also visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (monastery) which was built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck ( the Queen Mother of Bhutan).
You will have refreshment (tea/coffee and snacks) at Dochula Pass Cafeteria and then travel onto Punakha.
On the way, stop for traditional Bhutanese lunch at a farmhouse Lobesa village. After lunch walk through paddy fields for about 20 minutes to visit the Devine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
Then walk over traditional canteliver bridge to visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho – Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river).
Then walk for about 15 minutes to one of the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan spanning 350 m and perched high above the very swift Pho chu (male river). Draped with prayer flags ,the bridge connects the town of Punakha and Punakha Dzong.This bridge is mainly used by locals from the village located on the other side of the river as a shortcut to Punakha Dzong.
In the evening visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendup Lhakhang Nunnery and enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view of Punakha and Wangdue valleys from there. This scenic place gives you a good opportunity for photography.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel in Punakha.
Day 8: Punakha-Paro
Distance: 125 km
Estimated travel time: 3 1/2 hrs
After breakfast, drive through upper Punakha valley passing through farmhouses and take a leisure walk through farmhouses and then through nature to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten temple built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about 1 hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtaking view from there.
After lunch,drive back to Paro. After a refreshment drive up the valley to visit the historic Drukgyel Dzong which was built in the 16th century to mark the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invaders.
Dinner and overnight at hotel in Paro.
Day 9: Paro Departure
After breakfast, you will drive to the Paro Airport for your flight to your onward destinations.
End of Tour Program
Bhutan Trip Cost for this 8 Night 9 Day Bhutan Tour Package Price
|3 pax & above
|High Season: March 2018
The above Bhutan tour package prices includes the following:
- Bhutan Government Royalty of US$ 65/person/night
- FIT surcharges of US$40/person/night for a single traveler and US$30/person/night for a double
- Twin sharing hotel rooms at 3 star hotels
- All meals ( breakfast, lunch, dinner & light refreshments) with standard menu at 3 star hotels
- English speaking tour guide service
- All transfers and excursions by private vehicles
- All entrance fees to museums and monuments
- All internal taxes and fees
- Mineral drinking water
The above tour prices do not include the following:
- Fee of US$20/person for Mules/horse ride to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Optional)
- Single room supplement of US$ 50/room/night (optional)
- Bhutanese Visa fee of US$40/person (must be paid in advance with tour cost)
- Airfares (optional)
- Travel insurance (recommended)
- 4 star and 5 star accommodations and meals (optional)
- Other personal expenses like overseas calls, laundry,etc
***Thank you & Tashi Delek***