Hiking or TrekkingTours in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan
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Sightseeing or FestivalTours in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan
A Tsechu is a Buddhist festival in honour of Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava, popularly known as 'Guru Rimpoche', the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tsechu draws hundreds of Bhutanese people in a spirit of reverence, blessing, festivity and celebration. The Tsechu comes to life with colour, music, dance and drama as villagers and townspeople gather to witness the masked dances, sword dances and other sacred rituals. These events, most of which are performed by monks in colourful and elaborate costumes bring blessings to the onlookers, as well as instructing them about the Buddhist Dharma.
The Jambay Lhakhang Festival commemorates not only Guru Rimpoche, but also the establishment of Jambay Lhakhang (temple) in 7th century.
During this festival, variety of traditional and mask dances are performed and each dance bear significant meaning. However, the highlight of Jambay Lhakhang Drup remains the fire ceremony named 'Mewang' and the religious dance known as 'Tercham'. Apart from these, the other activities include- a famous drum beat dance, a clown dance called Dola Pangtoy Shazam, Raksha Mangcham (a dance symbolizing life after death) and many more.
This tour is designed to start either in Kathmandu or in Bhutan Click here to see the Nepal extension
Day-1: Arrival Paro The flight into Paro is spectacular on a clear day as magnificent views of the world's highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro valley as you land. After clearing customs and visa control you will be transferred to your hotel.
Day 2: Paro Morning visit Drugyal Dzong (a ruined fortress), 16 kilometers away from Paro town. Although it has been in ruin this Dzong has its great historical importance for the people of Bhutan. It was a place where the Bhutanese finally defeated the Tibetan invasion and drove them back. On a clear Day one can view the sacred Mt. Jhomalhari (Mountain of Goddess). Visit Kyichu Lhakhang (Lhakhang means temple) which was built in 659 AD by the King Songtsen Gompo of Tibet as one of the 108 such monasteries he built in various places to spread Buddhism.
After Lunch visit National Museum which used to be a watch tower for Paro Rimpong Dzong (Fortress). It was converted into Museum in 1968. Visit Paro Rimpong Dzong, the Dzong was built in 1646 AD, and walk down to town one the way you can see the traditional wood bridge of ancient style. Visit a typical Bhutanese farmhouse and sightseeing trip to the Paro town.
Day-3: Thimphu - Punakha After breakfast, you'll travel to Punakha about 77km away and a 3 hours journey via Dochu La Pass at an altitude of 3,050m. En route we will stop at the Chimi Lhakhang, which is dedicated to the legendary Lama Drukpa Kinley (known as the Divine Madman). The monastery is also revered as a sanctum of fertility. Legend has it that the couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting the temple. Punakha, at an altitude of 1,300m, was once the old capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955. Lunch at Punakha and then visit the Punakha Dzong (also known as the Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong) built in 1637, which is strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) rivers. Now the dzong serves as the administrative centre of Punakha district and the central monastic body.
Day-4: Punakha -Trongsa via Wangdue Phodrang This morning we'll travel a distance of 142km (6 hours) to Trongsa via Wangdue Phodrang through Pele La Pass at 3,300m. This pass is an important dividing range that separates the western from central and eastern Bhutan. En route stop off at Chendebji Chorten (stupa) located just below the road. Evening at leisure. Spend the night in Trongsa.
Day-5: Trongsa - Bumthang Today morning you'll visit the Trongsa Dzong or the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower), the ancestral home of the present Royal Family where the first two Kings ruled from this dzong. After lunch, you'll continue the journey for about 2 hours to Bumthang, the most beautiful valley and cultural heartland of Bhutan. En route we will stop for a quick visit to the Yathra Weaving Centre at Chumey, where they use yak and sheep wools for yathra products with patterns unique to Bumthang.
Day-6: Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival Attend Jambay Lhakhang Drup (festival) for a full day. The temple is one of the 108 Buddhist temples built in the 8th century by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. Revered as one of the oldest landmarks of the arrival of Buddhism in Bhutan, this temple holds a unique tshechu (festival). The main highlight of this festival is the most spectacular mid-night sacred naked dance (tercham) and draws a lot of tourists every year! Overnight in Bumthang.
The first day of the festival begins in the evening around 8:30 pm. The details of the first day of the festival are as follows:
Black Hat Dance (Shana) and of the Gings (emanations of Guru Rinpoche): Costume: Dancers, wearing long brocade robes and ornate black hats, perform this dance. The dancers' who represent the Ging wear shorter robes with masks. This dance is performed to purify the ground and to chase away evil influences.
Dance of Offering (Tshogcham): A dancer offers the body of evil spirits to the deities. After the offering is made the audience goes outside the temple where an arch of pine bushes has been erected.
Fire Dance (Mecham): The arch of pine is set on fire. The fire is said to purify the earth of evil spirits. People who pass through the arch have their sins cleansed. A dancer chases away the evil spirits.
Day-7: Bumthang After breakfast, you will attend the full second day of the Jambay Lhakhang Drup (festival) which will start around 10:30 am. You will be watching many ritual dances, which are performed in the court yard of Jampa Lhakhang. There are a number of different dances, subdivided into three categories: those that are intended to give moral instruction; those that are designed to drive away evil spirits and those that celebrate the Buddhist faith in its many guises. This is the occasion where the local people, dressed in their finest clothes, come to attend the festival with packed lunches. This occasion also gives opportunity to the local businesses- there will be a number of stalls selling craftwork, jewellery, religious artifacts and thangkas.
Details of the 2nd Day Jambay Lhakhang Drup (festival) are:
Dance of Singje Yab Yum (Lord of death and his consort): The Lord of Death and his consort perform this dance to protect the four realms over which he has power.
Dance of Nyulema and Peling Ging Sum (Three kinds of Ging): The Nyulema is an evil spirit represented by a boy in a skeleton mask. The Ging with the sticks catch the Nyulema. The Durdag or the Lords of the Cremation Ground (represented with dancers wearing white skeletal masks) bring forward a box, which represents evil spirits. The Ging with swords liberate the mind of the evil spirit by killing its body of flesh. The Ging with drums dance to celebrate the victory of religion over the evil spirit.
Dance of the Jachung Bochung (Two mythical birds): Dancers wearing masks representing the auspicious birds perform the dance. The play of the Atsara Gapo Pawo Solgyo (Atsara who acts like a Pawo). Though most of the stories and plays were originally with Buddhist sub text they now serve as comedy relief for the crowd. This story is about an Atsara (clown with a red mask) who is mad. The Atsara injures his son, as he did not recognize him. He tries to save his son's life by impersonating a pawo or medium and tries to perform a religious curative ceremony. Being unsuccessful he has to finally call a doctor and a monk to cure his son.
Day-8: Bhumthang After breakfast, attend the full day of the 3rd day of Jambay Lhakhang Drup. The program begins at around 10:30am.
Dance of the four stags (Shacham): The King of the Wind was causing much unhappiness and suffering in the world. Ugyen Rinpoche subdued him and then as a sign of victory rode on the stag, which was the mount of the king of the Wind. Later a disciple of Guru Rinpoche, Namkhay Nyinpo found an effigy of the face of the stag which appeared to be a blessing. Thus the dance came into existence.
Dance of Ging Tsoling: The dance is supposed to take place in the paradise of Guru Rinpoche and is performed by incarnations of the Guru. The dance is said to give blessings to those who witness it as well as remove obstacles to the doctrine of the Buddha. People whistle during the dance to chase away evil spirits and the Ging hit people on the head to chase away impurity from the body.
Dramitse Ngacham (Dance of the drums from Dramitse): The creator of this dance was Kuenga Gyeltshen, a learned lama from the 16th Century who lived in Dramitse. He is reputed to have seen the dance in Guru Rinpoche's paradise performed by attendants of the guru. The dance proclaims the superiority of religion over evil spirits.
Pacham - Dance of the heros: Pema Lingpa (the Treasure-Revealer who discovered many Buddhist treasures) saw this dance in Guru Rinpoche's paradise. On his return to earth he recreated this dance. The most important attendants of the Guru perform the dance. They lead the beings who die into the presence of the Guru.
Phole Mole: The nobleman and the lady. This 'play' is about two princes who leave their princesses and go to war. An old couple is to take care of the princesses. As soon as the princes leave the clowns try to frolic with the princesses and also corrupt the old women. When the princes return they are shocked by the behaviour of the princesses and the old women, and have their noses cut off as a punishment. Finally a doctor is called and everyone's nose is restored and the princesses and princes marry.
Day-9: Bhumthang - Ura This morning you'll visit the Mebar Tsho (flaming lake) located along the way to Tang village, where the renowned treasure reveller, Terton Pema Lingpa, discovered treasures from the lake in the late 15th century. In the afternoon, enjoy some sightseeing and visit a temple in the Ura valley and drive back to Bumthang for overnight.
Day-10: Bumthang - Gangtey This morning we will travel a distance of 188km (5-6 hours) to Gangtey via Trongsa. Phobjikha valley is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare Black-necked Cranes, where they come in hundreds after spending their summer in Tibet and then migrates to the Himalayas of Bhutan to spend their winter - they arrive in the months of September and October and fly back to Tibet between February and March.
Day-11: Gangtey - Paro Today is a day-long journey heading back to Paro via Wangdue Phodrang. The journey passes through the awe-inspiring mountains and lush vegetation along the highway and will photo stops during the journey. En route stop off at Dochu La Pass at an altitude of 3,050m. On a clear day, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the snow capped eastern Himalaya ranges and also a magnificent distant view of the Gasa Dzong from this spot.
Day-12: Hike to Paro Taktshang Drive up to Satsam Chorten (10 km from Paro town) and from there walk up to Taktsang Monastery. The name Taktsang means 'Tiger's Nest'. The Monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff drop of nearly 4000 ft. and overlooks the Paro valley and the river. It is said that in the second half of the 8th century, Guru Padma Sambhava known as the second Buddha in Bhutan meditated on this spot where the Monastery is situated having alighted there on the back of a flying tigress. Picnic lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria. The round hike takes about 4 hr.
Day-13: Paro Final Departure. Drive to airport for the final departure.
End of services
Spring (March to May) is considered to be the most beautiful time of the year, as it is then that all of the local flowers come into bloom turning the low lying valleys into a wash of colour. It is also the time of the Paro tsechu festival so if you are planning on catching this festival, then Spring is the time to come.
Autumn (September to November) brings crisp clear blue skies, allowing for stunning uninterrupted mountain views. It is also popular trekking season and thus brings more tourists into Bhutan.
June to August (Summer) is monsoon season. Bhutan, however, does not receive the high level of rainfall that other countries in the region do, and when it does rain, it is generally confined to the afternoons.
Winter (December to February) is cool and sunny and a great time to visit the area. However, many of the areas are snowbound, particularly in the east. If you are planning to see the Black Necked Crane, then winter is the time to come.
Hotels in Bhutan are rated according to a National 5 star rating system. This does not mean all are 5 star, but rather that every classification of accommodation from home stays to guesthouses, have to adhere to a set of government standards. As such, the standard hotels, lodges and guesthouses are usually good, often small and with a great ambiance.
All tour operators are required to provide their guests with a minimum of 3 Star accommodations so you can be assured of your comfort. Most hotels provide their guests with television, room service, fitness centers, spas and wi-fi. However the exact services available will vary from one to the other. The more popular tourist destinations like western and central Bhutan usually have the higher standards of star rated European and Asian properties. There are a few luxury hotels and resorts, but they are rather expensive. Hotels in Bhutan are rated according to a National 5 Star rating System.
If starting in Nepal, we spend two nights in 3-star, Thamel Eco Resort, well situated within the heart of Thamel, or, if it is full, a similar category in Kathmandu.At the end of the tour we return to the same hotel.