HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PUNAKHA FESTIVAL
Punakha Festival is held in Punakha located in the western part of Bhutan and this place has critical importance in the history of Bhutan since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Buddhist Saint who unified Bhutan, in 17th century.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen became the annual festival in Punakha.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene on the last day of Punakha Drubchen.
Punakha Festival was introduced in 2005 in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
Both the festival consists of typical masked dances which are very colourful and interesting, the events and enactments are different on each day. Punakha Dromchoe is a five day long festival dedicated to the goddess Mahakala. The religious aspects are performed in the same manner as in early times.
PUNAKHA FESTIVAL DETAILED ITINERARY
Day 1: Arrive Paro International Airport
Upon arrival at Paro International airport, you will be welcomed by our company representative and the tour guide will receive and escort you to designated Hotels in Thimphu.
The drive to Thimphu – world’s smallest capital takes about an hour on a well paved two lane road that follows Paro River downstream to the confluence with Wang Chu (Thimphu River). The 60 kms road then turn upstream towards Thimphu along the Wang Chu. Check in at the designated hotel in Thimphu.
Afternoon visit 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. Then visit Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts and 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.
Day 2: Thimphu Sightseeing
After breakfast, begin our sightseeing with a short drive to Kuenselphodrang where largest Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu. Then visit National Memorial 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. Next visit Changankha Lhakhang (temple) situated at 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.
Afternoon, visit 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. After visiting the museum we will walk to School for Arts & Crafts; where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu – Punakha
Check-out from the hotel and drive to Punakha, the former Capital of Bhutan (77 Km) from Thimphu. Enjoy panoramic view of Black Mountain range at Dochu La, Visit Druk Wangyel Lhakhang, and Royal Botanical Garden on the way. Dochu La is a paradise for photographers.
On arrival, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan’. It is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers) and is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location.
After lunch, enjoy a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it’s not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing.
Day 4: Punakha Drubchen
After breakfast, witness the last day of Punakha Drubchen which is the most spectacular day of Punakha Drubchen which would be held at the courtyard of the Punakha Dzong. The last day of Punakha Drubchen ends with dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army.
You will also visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho – Chu (male river) and the Mochu (female river). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. At the dzong, you can see the highest standards in woodwork.
After lunch drive through upper Punakha valley and take a hike through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (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 an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
Day 5: First Day of Punakha Tsechu
After breakfast attend the first day of Punakha Tsechu which will be held at the courtyard of Punakha Dzong.
In the evening you may visit Punakha town and market.
Day 06: Punakha-Phobjikha-Punakha
After breakfast drive to Phobjikha valley through the dense forests of the Phobjikha Valley you arrive at Gantey village where you see the Gangtey Monastery and visit the monastery. Phobjikha valley is part of the beautiful Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (formerly known as Black Mountains National Park), one of Bhutan’s most important nature sanctuaries. Each winter it is home to a flock of 300 rare and endangered black-necked cranes. The surrounding hills and mountains are home to nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. This is one of the most remote and untouched regions in Bhutan and is only just opening its doors to the outside world.
The Black necked cranes start migration to this area from November each year. You will have refreshment and lunch at a resort/restaurant in this valley. Afternoon you can visit the Black Necked Crane Center and enjoy the fascinating sight of these birds in this beautiful scenic valley.
In the late afternoon drive back to Punakha and overnight at a hotel in Punakha.
Day 7: Punakha Tsechu and Punakha-Paro
Early morning go to the Punakha Dzong to witness the unfurling of Thongdroel (giant silk Thangkha) which is unveiled on the last day of Punakha Tsechu.The thongdroel is usually unveiled at dawn and it is then let down to the ground and ceremoniously rolled and folded away before the first rays of the sun can reach it.It is believed that it brings blessings to all who view it.
Then return back to your hotel and after breakfast get a glimpse of the last day of Punakha tsechu and then travel to Paro with lunch enroute.
On arrival at Paro visit 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. Then visit Farm houses in Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer and where you can enjoy authentic Bhutanese dinner.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 8: A day hike to Taktsang Monastery
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 9: Depart Paro
After your leisurely breakfast in the hotel drive to Paro airport and depart to your onward destination. Here you bid goodbye to your helpful Bhutanese tourist guide and driver and proceed to your onward destination.
WHAT WE INCLUDE IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TOURS:
Tea and snacks
Complementary bottled water in car
permits and sightseeing
NOT INCLUDED IN OUR TAILOR MADE BHUTAN TOURS:
Drinks and Beverages
Phone and other bills of personal nature