Paro Tshechu is one of the most famous festivals in Bhutan. Throngs of people,travel from around the world and neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. On the last day of the celebration, a gigantic Thangkha (Thongdrel) of Guru Rinpoche will be displayed inside the Dzong. The Thongdrel will be displayed early in the morning and for a few hours only. It is believed that one can cleanse their own sins upon viewing the Thongdrel.
Day 1: Arrival in Paro, Bhutan
When you first arrive at Paro International Airport, you will be met by one of our delightful tour guides just outside the arrival hall. At 7,333 feet above sea level, the first thing you will likely notice is the effect of the high altitudes, so we will give you time to acclimate as we take a short drive to Thimphu and check into your hotel.
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and the perfect location to transition from your familiar lifestyle to our unique country that is like no other place on earth. Here you will begin to appreciate our local customs as you get your first glimpse of monks dressed in traditional red robes, men in striped ghos, and women in brightly colored kiras. Once you settle into your hotel, we will begin to unlock the mysteries of Bhutan by touring Thimphu’s most important sites. The National Memorial Chorten was built in 1974 to memorialize Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the third king of Bhutan (1928-1972). A chorten is a stupa, or hemispherical structure, that is used as a place of meditation. The whitewashed building with a golden finial on top is a popular location for prayer as it represents the strength and kindness of our beloved third king.
The Thimphu Tashichho Dzong is a fortress and Buddhist monastery with a distinctive Bhutanese architectural design. Sitting aside the Wang Chhu (river), it is the current seat of the Druk Desi, the head of the civil government, and houses the offices of the current king.
On the weekends, Centenary Farmers’ Market is where farmers come to sell their vegetables, cheeses, grains, and the occasional yak leg. Across the street is the Kundeyling Baazam where you can bargain for local handicrafts, such as mala beads and prayer wheels. We will then take a scenic drive up to Buddha Point in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park to see the 169-foot-tall bronze statue of the seated Buddha Dordenma. One of the largest sitting Buddha statues in the world, it sits atop a hill where you will see sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains. After returning to town for dinner, you can wander through the shops, bars, and cafes of Thimphu.
Day 2: Tour of Thimphu
After breakfast, our first stop will be at the National Folk Heritage Museum, dedicated to preserving Bhutanese folk arts. This renovated 19th-century building is laid out like a traditional, rural household with three stories of traditional arts Es, cultural relics, and artifacts. Demonstrations are performed throughout the day to show how the Bhutanese people have lived over the centuries.
At the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, you will see the ancient practice of natural papermaking. Using the bark of two local tree species (Daphne and Dhekap), craftsmen demonstrate how to make the traditional paper Deh-sho. You can even try making your own paper for a special souvenir. Handmade papers were used by monks for writing prayers and woodblock printing.
Weaving is considered the national art of Bhutan, so at The National Textile Museum, you will learn all about the brightly colored and beautifully designed fabrics that are worn by the Bhutanese people. Thanks in part to our Queen Jetsun Pema, the fabrics of Bhutan are widely considered high fashion around the world. Due to the importance of this living art form, the Royal Government of Bhutan works to preserve and promote these traditional weaving methods.
We then take a drive to Motithang Takin Preserve, home to one of the strangest looking creatures on earth. The takin is a gentle moose-like animal that is described as looking like is was stung by a bee. Originally a small zoo, the king decreed that it was not in alignment with Buddhist practices to pen up animals, and they were released into the wild. The takin; however, refused to leave and began wandering the city streets in search of food. The preserve was established, and Bhutan’s national animal is now taken care of by royal decree.
We end the day with a visit to Simtokha Dzong. Built in 1629, it was the first fortress of its kind in Bhutan and features beautifully painted Buddhist murals and carvings inside. Simtokha means “demon stone” and legend has it that the fortress was used to contain a demon inside a rock which was terrorizing the region. Today, it is home to one of the premier monk-taught Dzongkha learning centers, the national language of Bhutan.