Bhutan’s festivals are joyous expressions of its Buddhist culture. The festivals offer Bhutanese an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion, but they are also occasions for seeing people and being seen. People bring their finest clothes, their most beautiful jewels, they take out picnics rich with meat and alcohol. Men and women joke and flirt. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humor prevails. We join hundreds of villagers as they enjoy a rollicking carnival and watch mystical masked dances. This trip visit the important villages and historic sites of western Bhutan, such as Paro, Thimphu, Punaka and Phobjikha valley.
Day 1, February 29: Flight to Paro. Arrive Paro by Druk air BAe 146-100 series, the only national carrier. The flight offers you beautiful view of mountains and landscapes. On arrival and after visa formalities you will be received by our members. Afternoon/evening time at leisure. Overnight Tenzinling Resort.
Day 2, March 1: Sightseeing in Paro. Visit the ruined fortress of Drugyel dzong which still attracts visitors due to the strategic location of the fort. The fort defended the Paro valley from the Tibetan invasion from the north in the early 17th century. On clear weather Mount Chomolhari 7320 meters can be seen towering over the dzong. Proceed through the beautiful valley to the watch tower or locally known as Ta-Dzong. It was housed into the National museum in the 1960s by the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The seven floors museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century. A short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong which serves as the administrative center and school for monks. Walk further down crossing the traditional bridge into Paro Town. Stroll around the market and return to Kichu Resort.
Day 3, March 2: Drive to Thimphu. Drive to Thimphu is 2 hours and will be a pleasant one mainly due to the well maintained road through out Bhutan. Upon arrival check into Hotel Migmar. Sightseeing, visit the Memorial chorten built in the memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, 15th century Changangkha monastery, Motithang mini zoo to see the rare "Takin" national animal of Bhutan and drive further down with good view of the Thimphu valley and free time in the market.
Day 4, March 3: Sightseeing in Thimphu. Visit the Painting school, National library and Handicraft centers. Drive 3 hours to Punakha crossing the Dochula pass 3100 meters. On fine weather you will see the eastern Himalayan ranges including the highest mountain in Bhutan Mt. Gangar Punsum 7520 meters. The drive from the pass is all the way downhill dropping to the lower and warmer valleys of lobesa. Overnight at Zangdopelri hotel.
Day 5, March 4: Full day festival in Punakha Dzong. Attend the Punakha Festival. Punakha, was nothing more than a dzong as recently as 25 years ago. Then a central school was constructed and the village expanded in the mid-1980s. The small size of the place is surprising, considering the primordial role that Punakha has played in the history of Bhutan and the fact that it was the country's capital for 300 years. Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal built Punakha dzong, or Punthang Dechen Phodrang, in 1637. However the site had already been occupied as far back as 1328 by a saint, Ngagi Rinchen, who built a temple there which can still be seen today opposite the great dzong and which is called Dzongchung, meaning, "the little dzong". In addition, Guru Rinpochey blessed the site in the eighth century and issued a prophecy which said that "on the front edge of the hill that looks like an elephant's trunk, a man named Namgyel will come and build a fortress".
When Shubdrung arrived at the confluence of the Pho and Mo (Pho - male and Mo - female) rivers, he set up a camp there and the very night had a dream in which he heard the prophecy of Guru Rinpochey. He decided then and there to build a dzong on that spot and place there the Rangjung Karsapani, the exceedingly sacred relic that he had brought with him from his monastery at Ralung in Tibet. This was a statue of Avalokiteshvara which had appeared miraculously from a vertebra of Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of Drukpa school in Tibet, at the time of his cremation. This relic was so sacred that the Tibetans attacked Punakha dzong in order to take it back but were repulsed by the Bhutanese. This episode gave rise to the festival of Punakha, the Punakha Serda, which you will be witnessing today.
Day 6, March 5: Punakha sightseeing to Paro. In the morning join the locals to watch the mask and folk dances at the first courtyard of Punakha Dzong. This remarkable fortress is built between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods and fire. Every year during the month of February a procession known as the Punakha Serda takes place to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans. After lunch drive to Paro. Overnight Tenzinling Resort.
Day 7: March 6: Day hike to the view point of Taktsang Momastery. Day hike to the view point of Taktsang monastery. Horses can be arranged with an extra payment. The hike which is all the way uphill takes about 2/3 hours through villages and pine forests. The monastery which clings to a huge granite cliff 800 meters from the paro valley was devastated by fire in 1998 but the Royal Government has taken immediate steps to restore the monastery to its original structure. It is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. The demons were subdued who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism and converted the Paro valley into Buddhism. During the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint mediated and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit once in their life time. Stroll back to Resort. Evening at leisure.
Day 8, March 7: Transfer to airport and departure. Transfer to airport where the guide will help you with the final departure formalities.
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