The Paro Tshechu is held every spring and is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro Dzongkhag (district).
The Tsehchu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) , the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong. 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 of sin.
Day 1: Bangkok/Kathmandu/New Delhi-Paro (2,250m)-Thimphu
Fly into Paro, a beautiful valley which is an apt introduction to this charming kingdom. Meet your tour guide, and drive along the beautiful road which follows Paro Chhu river bank to Thimphu, the capital city. Along the way, see the Tachog Temple and see an iron chain bridge built in the 14th century. Take a stroll in Thimphu, and absorb Bhutanese culture as you meet, mingle and see everyday life unfurl before you.
Day 2: Thimphu (2,320m)
Today, we see the attractions in and around Thimphu. Our first visit is the Buddha statue, the world’s biggest, at Kuenselphodrang, the place which also affords a nice overview of the city. From here, we move to the Takin Reserve and then to Sangaygang from where we get another perfect view of the sprawling city. We also visit the Textile Academy, the Folk Heritage Museum, the Art Academy, Memorial Stupa, the magnificent Trashi Chhodzong and the Parliament building.
Day 3:Thimphu-Punakha (1,350m)
We drive to the ancient capital at Punakha. Our route follows the famous olden day pass at Dochula (3,050m), a vantage point from where we get stunning view of the awe-inspiring Himalayan peaks. Hereon, we drive downhill, leaving the temperate and alpine zone, to the sub-tropical valleys of Wangdue and Punakha. The highlights of this day is the visit to the “Temple of Fertility” at Lobesa and the gilded castle-fortress of Punakha, touted as the showpiece of Bhutanese architecture.
Day 4: Punakha-Phobjikha (3,000m)
Today, we climb gradually to the glacial valley of Phobjikha (3,500m.) Here we see probably Bhutan’s biggest stretch of plains in the north which has been adopted by the elegant but endangered Black-Necked Crane as its winter home. There is an air of deep spirituality about this place as well as the iconic Gangtey Monastery, the seat of the revered Peling Branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, is located atop a mound here.
Day 5: Phobjikha-Thimphu
We retrace our journey to Thimphu via Wangdue valley. It is known as the valley of “ornamental speech” because of the local people’s innate ability to come up with verses that are elegant, poetic and meaningful. This valley was once governed from Wangdue Dzong which, unfortunately was destroyed by fire and is being entirely rebuilt.
Paro Festival Tour
The journey is also remarkable in that we pass through varying landscapes of immense beauty, adorned with numerous shades and hues of alpine flowers.
Day 6: Thimphu-Paro
This is our last sojourn in Thimphu. We spend time doing some shopping and seeing a few other places before we head for Paro after lunch. In Paro, we visit the ruined “Fortress of Victory” at Drukgyal which, in 1644, repelled a Tibetan invasion which could have seriously compromised the sovereignty of Bhutan. Our last stopover for the day is the Kyichu Temple, built in the 7th century and thus the oldest and one of the most sacred in Bhutan. In popular myth, this temple was built to pin down the right knee of a giant ogress which was lying spread-eagled across the entire Himalayas.
This is the climax of our Bhutan trip. We dress up in formal clothes and head to the confines of Paro Dzong to witness one of Bhutan’s most colorful and sacred festivals. At the venue, we meet local people, dressed in their finest clothes, having travelled miles to watch the masked dances, to pray, and to revel. We see items after items of ancient dances, with dancers donning surrealistic masks and costumes that hark back to the days of yore. In between, we also see folk dances of various traditions, and, of course, a magnificent display of Bhutanese dress, jewelry and food. The mood is carnival-like with so much gaiety and fun.
Day 8: Paro
“Liberation on Sight?” For Bhutanese it is. Today, we get up in the wee hours of the morning and head back to the festival venue to see a gigantic appliqué painting exhibited against the masonry wall of the fortress. Called Thongdroel – meaning, “liberation on sight” – Buddhists believe that this painting displaying a pantheon of Buddhist Gods and deities has the divine powers to bless the onlookers and cleanse their sins. The moment is very precious for this happens just once every year. We round up the day with visits to the National Museum, formerly a “watch tower.
Day 9: Paro
Take a deep breath! Today, we hike up to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, a literal translation of Tak-tshang. This monastery edifice is precariously built on a sheer wall of granite cliff some 1,000 metres above the valley floor. Some say, it was built with the help of celestial nymphs in the 17th century for, otherwise, it is beyond human feat. This temple complex houses many caves, one among which is the site where the great Tantric saint – worshipped in the Himalayan Buddhist world as the “Second Buddha” – came riding on a tigress in the 8th century to destroy evil spirits and anoint the grounds to spread the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Day 10: Paro-Departure
Adios! Sayonara! Arrivederci! Ciao! Auf Wiedersehen! Bon voyage! Zàijiàn! Farewell Bhutan, farewell Happy Kingdom. We take a short drive to the airport for our next destination!