Punakha Tshechu is celebrated in the auspicious month of February after Punakha Drubchen. This particular festival is thronged by people of all regions in the country as it takes places in the erstwhile ancient power bastion of the country and unfailingly attended by the Royal Family of Bhutan too.
The unfurling of a large tapestry called as Thongdrel, it is an appliqué of Guru Padmasambhava and the main attraction of the festival. It is believed that a mere sight of the Thongdrel liberates an onlooker and cleanses him of his sins.
⦁ Punakha Dzong
Built in 1637, sacred to the Bhutanese as the ‘palace of happiness’ the dzong is built second in succession to the line of dzongs built by Zhabdrung in Bhutan. The dzong is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture built at the fork of two rivers- the grandiosity and the beauty of the dzong is icon to cherish forever. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
⦁ Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten
Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Nestled on a gentle knoll, it was built to confer prayers for the wellbeing and happiness of the whole world.
⦁ Tiger’s Nest
Often referred as the cultural icon of Bhutan, many visit Bhutan to hike this marvelous yet surprisingly built temple at almost 3000 meters above the sea level.
On a cliff 1000 meters above the floor of the valley, the popular Tiger’s Nest is situated at a precarious location. Owing to the sacredness of the temple as the Second Buddha of the Vajrayana Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the caves of the temple complex after subduing a tiger flying to the location on the back of a tigress, it is a must visit for the Buddhist pilgrims once in their lifetime.
- Day 1 Paro-Thimphu: Flying into the Kingdom of Happiness, the magnificent mountains greets as your plane descents. Reception is always kept as a brief affair, after a quick exchange, you are on your way to the capital city of Bhutan that is only an hour-long. On the way, as per itinerary, you will have two stops before reaching destination Thimphu. On reaching Thimphu, you will be escorted to your hotel.
- Day 2 Thimphu: The capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu is in a bubble of time transiting by the day. Caught in the romance of modern and medieval affairs, the population is wrought by the influx of rural-urban migration for greener pasture- Thimphu is growing uncompromisingly. Thimphu is at the cross-section of three times: past, present and the future. As Thimphu offers a peek into the future and the present connects the past, one is offered unparallel insight of Bhutan in Thimphu. As it might occur to travelers that Thimphu as it develops, it must be developing at the cost of losing the roots of the past, most will be surprised to see that the history, culture, and tradition is still intact. The many attractions such as the Simtokha Dzong, Tashichhodzong (houses seat of the central government and office of the King), folk heritage museum, and schools of arts and crafts- it showcases Bhutan at a glance. Offering a birds-eye view of the city, we will visit Buddha Dordema to get the North-East view of the city and drive to Sangaygang for the South-West view of the city. By evening, we will go pushing elbows in the busiest streets of the capital witnessing the lifestyle of Bhutanese urban populace.
- Day 3 Thimphu-Punakha: Bit early on the schedule, we traverse into the depths of the Western territories. The destinations- Punakha and Wangduephodrang lie in the cocoon of a medieval setting. It takes two-hours from Thimphu to the destination of the day. The western districts stood witness at scores of historical transition of the country, even to the unification of the country. Onto destination bound, the drive is one of the most scenic of the tour. Additionally, the stopover at the mountain pass- Do Chula at 3100 meters offers the panoramic vista of perennial snowcapped mountains to the North. On a clear weather, one can count 10 mountain peaks, the peaks are collectively known as ‘Jigme Singye Wangchuck Mountain Range’ after the name of Fourth King of Bhutan. It is on this journey that touts the fauna of the country. For photographers, down the mountain pass- Do Chula to the floor of the valley, it’s a photographer’s paradise. Before reaching our destination, we drive to the ‘temple of fertility’ renowned for blessing infertile couples with children.
- Day 4 Punakha Festival: Jovial and to revel, we head to Punakha Dzong for Punakha Tshechu. The day’s activity to witness the festival will be a whole day activity. In colorful apparels, we will witness series of masked dances surrounding the life of Guru Padmasambhava. Attending tshechu is significant and it is believed that as a Buddhist one must have attended a tshechu at least once in one’s lifetime. Apart from witnessing the festival, it is a good idea to indulge in socializing with the locals, taking the opportunity to photograph them and the dancers. You must also tour the corridors and rooms of the fortress. Everything is a sight to marvel
- Day 5 Punakha – Paro: Preparing for the Thongdrol, an appliqué showcasing the Buddhist pantheons and Guru Padmashambhva, we set to the Punakha Dzong at wee hours along thousands of other visitors and locals. Thongdrel means ‘liberation at sight’ that cleanses our sins of the past and accumulates good merit for the next life or rebirth. After a sumptuous lunch, we head to Paro. At Paro, after checking into our hotel and refreshing ourselves, we can indulge in folk dances.
- Day 6 Paro: After a quick breakfast equipping everything recommended, we set on the most awaited segment of the tour. The toil of the day before comes to play as you hike to the Tiger's Nest. Etched precariously on a carve of a granite cliff at 3120 meters, almost 1000 meters above the valley floor, Taktshang is the cultural icon of Bhutan. It is for this particular attraction, tourists flock to Bhutan and pilgrims attempts to visit the monastery at least once in a lifetime, if not more. For the being of the temple, a legend spells that the Indian Saint, Guru Padmasambhava, worshipped in the Buddhist world as the Second Buddha flew to this location on the back of a tigress to tame a tiger demon. The switchback trail to Taktshang offers respite through picturesque vistas of nature, the opportunity to see the last horizon, the horizon beyond horizon and narration by the guide on many myth and legends of Bhutan continuing the hike in a pace unbothered by time. After finishing the trail, the mind, and body equally exhausted, you might want to get a trekker's foot massage for a good night's sleep. Another one could be taking a hot stone bath immersed in a wooden tub with local medicinal herbs offering a relaxing sensory journey.
- Day 7 Paro: As you bid goodbye to come again, take your beautiful memories of Bhutan everywhere you travel.