Battle Cries of Punakha (11-22 February 2016)

** Festival dates are tentative as unexpected changes can occur. Contact us to confirm dates **

Trip Overview

The Punakha Drubchen and Tsechu (Festival) hosts the dramatic recreation of the 17th century battle scenes with between the ‘pazaps’ or local militia, and the invading Tibetan army. At that time Bhutan did not have a standing army, so to expel the invading Tibetan forces local men from the eight Tshogchens, or great village blocks, took up arms to protect their land. The Tsechu is a celebration of winning this battle, and a reminder of Buddhist teachings and the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche. This journey will also take you to the key culture and natural sights of Western and Central valleys of Bhutan.

Trip Summary

11 February – Paro; 12 February – Thimphu; 13-14 February – Punakha Dromche and Festival; 15 February – Trongsa; 16-17 February – Bumthang; 18 February – Bumthang, Gangtey/Phobjikha; 19 February – Gantye, Punakha; 2-22 February – Paro.

Battle Cries of Punakha
Battle Cries of Punakha

Price

USD 2613 (approx. AUD 4442)

BOOK NOW PAY FOR TRIP

Prices based on twin share. Single supplement: 446

*AUD estimate based on USD/AUD 1=0.7

Inclusions: accommodation, meals, dedicated transport, entry fees to museums and attractions, licensed guide and driver, visa processing fees, all administrative costs.

Exclusions: international airfares (contact us to arrange), comprehensive travel insurance, personal expenses and tips.

11 February – Paro

Arrive into Paro International Airport. During the flight to Paro, look out for the breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Paro is a beautiful fertile valley encapsulating a rich vibrant culture, scenic beauty and plenty of myths and legends. The sacred Mount Jomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunges through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). You’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to the capital city of Thimphu – the seat of government, religion and commerce in Bhutan. It’s a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Thimphu was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became Bhutan’s official national capital. With an estimated population of 100,000 people, explore this unique city filled with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Spent the afternoon soaking up the local atmosphere at the National Memorial Chorten and 13th century Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Thimphu and the spiritual home of all children born in the Chang valley. Overnight in Thimphu.

12 February – Thimphu

Today, you can take the 50 minute hike to Cheri Monastery, believed to have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in the 8th century or visit the several sights around Thimphu city. Sangaygang and Buddha Point have the best vantage points Thimpny city and surrounding valleys. Near Sangayang is a sanctuary dedicated to the Takin, a cow and bull-like mammal is the national animal of Bhutan. Head to the bustling Centenary Weekend Market by the riverside for a selection of organic fruits, vegetables and snacks. Along the river, VAST art gallery and sculpture walk showcases the works of local Bhutanese artists. Nearby, “Children’s Park” is a popular garden playground for children, and young Bhutanese on dates, or follow the sounds of the cheering and dancing crowd to the National Stadium to watch a game of the revered national sport of archery. Overnight in Thimphu.

13-14 February – Punakha Dromche and Festival

From Thimphu, head East to Dochula pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks, before descending into balmy Punakha valley, the ancient capital of Bhutan. On this 3 hour drive through the countryside you’ll see glimpses of everyday life in the remote Himalayas. During spring, Rhododendron forests bloom and covers the mountains in a riot of glorious colours. Spend the next day and a half attending the festivities of the Punakha Dromche and Festival. Overnight in Punakha.

15 February – Trongsa

Drive to the 16th century Trongsa (‘New Village’ in the local dialect), the old seat of power for the first two hereditary kings of Bhutan. Trongsa has its humble origins as a lone tshamkhang (small meditation room) after Ngagi Wangchuck (1517–54), the great grand-father of the founder of Bhutan Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, discovered self-manifested hoof prints belonging to the horse of the protector deity. Retreats, temples and hermit residences soon grew up around the tshamkhang which became the modern Trongsa. Visit the imposing Trongsa Dzong and the Trongsa Royal Heritage Museum. Overnight in Trongsa.

16-17 February – Bumthang

Continue East to Bumthang – the spiritual and geographic heart of Bhutan. Bumthang has an individuality that charms its visitors and separates it from other regions. Comprising of four smaller valleys namely Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is seeped with religious legends. Bumthang is the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin. You will have two days to explore the many wonderful trails and monasteries in Bumthang valley and learn about their stories and histories, such as the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region, the sacred Kurje Lhakhang  dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava – the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and who the Bhutanese and Tibetans believe is the Buddha of our time. Have a peep of the Wangdicholing Palace as you head towards one of the most important pilgrimage sights of Bhutan- the Mebar Tsho (‘Burning Lake’) where holy relics hidden here by Guru Padmasambhava were discovered. Overnight in Bumthang.

18 February – Bumthang, Gangtey/Phobjikha

Today you’ll heading back West through Phobjikha/Gangtey valley – home of the endangered Black Necked Cranes that migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north, to pass the winter months. The Black Necked Cranes Information Centre is a great place to learn about this graceful yet at times awkward bird. The valley also provides rich pastureland for cattle and the district is also famous for its fine bamboo products, slate and stone carvings. Visit the 17th century Gangtey Goemba and Phobjikha village. Overnight in Phobjikha.

19 February – Gantye, Punakha

Journey back to Punakha. You have the option to attend the second part of the Punakha Festival and/or stroll through the rice fields to Chhimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the famous and unorthodox Buddhist master Drukpa Kinley – endearing referred to by the Bhutanese as the ‘Divine Madman’. The ‘Divine Madman’ is associated with the many phallic symbols you would have seen on your travels in Bhutan. Learn about the master’s deeds on the painted wall murals and ask the locals you meet about his stories. You may be surprised by what you find out! Overnight in Punakha.

20 February – Paro

Continue West back to Paro. Relax or stroll along the streets linked with wonderfully preserved traditional Bhutanese houses and local stores. Head to the National Museum for a dose of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thangka paintings, natural history artefacts, and see Bhutan’s exquisite stamps, coins, and handicrafts collection. If you are still in love the fortresses, check out the 16th century Rinpung Dzong, ‘fortress of the heap of jewels’ where some of scenes from the film ‘Little Buddha’ by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1995 was filmed. If you are into Tibetan Buddhism, the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang built by the famous Buddhist Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo has a museum next door dedicated to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche with photographs and artefacts. Overnight in Paro.

21 February – Paro

Today is your hike up to Bhutan’s most iconic and awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang) Monastery. Perched seemingly perilously on the edge of a sheer cliff face, Taktshang is one of Bhutan’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche miraculously flew here on the back of a tigress, meditated in a cave here for three months and converted the whole of Paro valley to Buddhism. Resting at an altitude of 900 meters above the valley,  Taktshang is an architectural wonder and this 4 hour hike will be sure to be one of your most overwhelming and unforgettable experiences. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, enjoy a Bhutanese hot stone bath to relax from the day’s hike, or visit some of the local establishments and mingle with the locals for your last night in Bhutan. Overnight in Paro.

22 February – Paro (Departure)

After breakfast, you will be transported to Paro International Airport for your onward journey.