Tergo Travels, Bhutan

Tergo Travels, Bhutan

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Tentative dates within 5-9 April
Duration 8 Nights

Tsechus are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar. These festivals are large gatherings that bring people from all walks of life to gain merit and to socialise.

The main theme of the tsechus are the scared Cham dances which are very colourful and is based on the life of the 9th century Buddhist teacher Padmasambhava and other Buddhist saints. Many Tsechus also feature the unfurling of thangka (a large tapestry depicting a seated Guru Rinpoche surrounded by holy beings). It is believed that viewing the thangka will help in cleansing one’s sins.

The story behind the tshechus is that Padmasambhava visited Bhutan in the 9th century to restore the health of a king who was not well at that time. Padmasambhava performed a series of dances and rites and restored the king’s health. The grateful king helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Padmasambhava organized the first tsechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form) were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the Chams depicting the glory of Padmasambhava.

Dromche is another kind of religious festival and Dromche includes dances dedicated to Yeshe Gompo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo. These are the two main protective deities of Bhutan. Dromches are also very colourful and is similar to the tsechus.

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Day 1   |   Arrival at the Paro International Airport

Druk Air flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills, each flight is a mesmerizing feat and offers exciting descent into the Kingdom. On arrival at the airport, received by our representative and then transfer to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan. If you arrive before lunch time, you will be served a picnic lunch Paro before your journey onwards to Thimphu.

Picnic lunch at Paro

Drive  to Thimphu (1 hour drive)

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and became a town only in 1961. The capital is the hub of several government offices, international organizations and has a population of approximately more than 100,000 people. The name Thimphu originates from a sinking stone which is infront of the Dechenphu monastery. Legend says that a stone was placed on top of a subdued ogress to prevent her from flying away.

Visit Trashichho Dzong

Trashichho Dzong is the centre of government and religion, site of King’s throne room and the seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Built in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was reconstructed in 1961 in traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans.

Night halt in Thimphu

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Day 2   |   Visit Sangaygang for a view of the Thimphu valley

Sangaygang offers you a panoramic view of the Thimphu city.

Visit the Takin zoo (Takin is the national animal of Bhutan)

This is a mini zoo where the national animal of Bhutan, Takin, is kept in captivity.

Lunch in one of the hotels in town

Visit the Textile Museum / The Folk Heritage Museum

The Textile and Folk Heritage Museums gives a fascinating testimony of the Bhutanese material culture and living traditions.

Night halt at Thimphu

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Day 3   |    Travel to Phobjikha (4 hrs drive)

Phobjikha is a glacial valley. This place is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country due to the Black Necked Cranes which migrate from Tibet to this place in the winter.

En route take a 15 minutes break at the 108 chortens in Dochula

The mountain pass of Dochula offers you a view of the chain of Himalayan Mountains ranges on a clear sunny day.

En route visit the Wangdue Dzong

The Wangdue Dzong sits atop a high ridge between 2 rivers, the Punatsang Chhu and the Dangchhu. Legend says while people were searching for a site for the Dzong, four ravens were seen flying in four directions. This was considered an auspicious sign representing the spread of religion in four directions.

Picnic lunch along the way

Rest and recuperation in Phobjikha

Night halt in Phobjikha

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Day 4   |   A day’s hike in the Phobjikha valley (4 hrs walk)

Gangtey Gompa – Gogona 15km (6-7 hours)

The trail winds gradually upwards through meadows and fields, ascending to Tsele-la pass (3,400m) where we stop for lunch. The trail then descends gradually for some time through forests of junipers, bamboo, magnolias and rhododendrons. After a last short climb, we reach Gogona village. The people of Gogona were originally nomads and they speak a language called Bjopkha (language of nomads).

Night halt at Phobjikha

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Day 5   |    Travel to Punakha (4 hrs drive)

Until 1955, Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (chief abbot)

Punakha is warmer than Thimphu.

Visit the Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637-38. It is the winter home of Bhutan’s Central Monastic Body led by the Chief Abbot. Due to its location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue valley, the dzong is vulnerable to flash flooding caused by glacier lakes (GLOF). Flash flood damage to Punakha Dzong occurred in 1957, 1960 and 1994.

Lunch in one of the local hotels

Short walk to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal stands majestically on a strategic ridge above the Punakha valley. Built over a period of 9 years, it is a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions and the only one of its kind in the world. Built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, this temple is dedicated for the well being of the kingdom and the benefit of all sentient beings.

Night halt in Punakha

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Day 6  |   Travel to Paro (4.5 hrs drive)

Lunch in Paro

Visit the Ta Museum

The Dzong, originally built as Watch Tower, it now houses National Museum of the Kingdom and boasts antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

Night halt in Paro

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Day 7   |  Witness the Paro Tshechu

Paro Festival is one of the busiest festivals in Bhutan, dances are performed by trained monks and laymen wearing amazing costumes, experience the buzzing active lifestyle while visiting many historical sites in Bhutan.

The unfolding of the silk Thangka – which is so large it covers the face of the building and is considered one of the most sacred blessings in the whole of Bhutan. The ‘Thangka’ is a religious picture scroll known as a Thongdroel which is exhibited for a few hours, at day break of the final day of the festival, enabling the people to obtain its blessing. This holy scroll ‘confers liberation by the mere sight of it’ (the meaning of the word ‘thongdroel’ in Bhutanese). This festival is a time for Bhutanese to celebrate with their families and friends.

The ‘Tsechus’ are Buddhist religious festivals where masked dances depicting events from the life of Padmasambhava, the eighth century Nyingmapa Buddhist teacher (second to Buddha), and stories of other saints are staged. In Bhutan, Padmasambhava is known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’. The dances are performed by trained monks and laymen wearing costumes that depict the creatures that you can expect to meet after death. Besides attending the Paro Festival we do sightseeing in Paro valley, Thimphu and Punakha visting many historical sites.

Night halt in Paro

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Day 8  |   Trek to the Tiger’s nest (5 hrs walk)

Constructed in 1692, Taksang is one of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries.  It is perched on the mountainside at an elevation of 3,120 metres (10,200 feet).  Taksang meaning “Tiger’s Nest” was named after the legend where Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tigress before finally landing at the very spot that Taksang was built.

Night halt in Paro

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Day 9  |  Departure

Please click here to download the tentative festival dates for 2010