Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen

Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen

“Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen” is an itinerary designed for travelers to witness the Punakha Drubchhen Festival.

Also known as the Puna Drubchen, this festival was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans, when Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Since then Punakha Drubchen became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.

Unlike most of other festivals in Bhutan, Punakha Drubchen is unique. It hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men dressed in traditional battle gear recreate the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.

“Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen” can be customized and can be combined with other activities or interest as per the requirements, convenience and interest of the travelers.

Tour Highlights – “Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen”

  • Opportunity to witness one of the most unique festivals in Bhutan. This festival hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army.
  • Visit less traveled places in Haa, openend to Tourism in Bhutan only in the year 2002.
  • Opportunity to pass through Chelela Pass, the highest motorable road in Bhutana and Dochula Pass, one of the most beautiful and must visit place in Bhutan with breathtaking views of the Himalayas and the nature from the passes.
  • Opportunities to walk around less touristy places and villages.
  • Opportunity to explore the Haa Valley, Paro valley, Thimphu (the capital city of Bhutan without traffic lights) , Punakha Valley (the old capital of Bhutan) and the Wangdue Valley
  • Travel hassle free with your own guide and driver. Travel as per your convenience and visit places as per your interest. We are flexible with the itineraries except for the confirmed overnight destinations. Enjoy a real holiday.
  • Personal attention by the tour operators.
  • A private traditional cultural show and experience of the traditional hotel stone bath.
  • Wonderful day hike to the abode of gods and monks, the world famous, Taktshang Monastery (Tigers’ nest)
  • Visit to the age old Lhakhang (Monasteries/ temples) and dzongs ( Fortress)
  • Opportunity to explore villages, visit to village houses and interact with local people.
  • Opportunity to play archery (the national game of Bhutan) and many more.

Detailed Itinerary – “Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen”

Day 1, Arrive Paro

Altitude of Paro: 2280 m

On your journey to Paro, the panoramic views of the Himalayas are sensational, including the Everest and other famous Himalayan Peaks. The approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro becomes more exciting as you enter Bhutan.

On arrival, you will be received with a warm welcome by your Bhutanese Guide with Tashi khadar and a small gift and escort to hotel.

After lunch, visit;

Rinpung Dzong: Meaning “fortress of the heap of jewels”. The dzong now serves as the administrative and judicial seat of Paro district and residence for around 200 monks of Paro and was built at the same time of Drukgyel Dzong.The famous Paro Tshechu ( festival) is held here in spring.

Ta Dzong: It overlooks the Rimpung Dzong and was built in 1951 as a watch tower. This dzong is Round, more like parts of the European castle. The Dzong was established as the National Museum of Bhutan since 1967 and holds fascinating collection of arts, relics, religious thangkha,etc.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Day 2, Paro – Haa:

Driving Distance: 65 Km, Driving Hrs: 2.5 Hr, Altitude of Haa: 2700 m.

After breakfast, drive to Haa via Chelela pass. Stop at Chelela pass and enjoy the view of High Mountains and the prayer flags. You can install your own prayer flags here.

Chelela Pass: It is the highest point between the Haa valley and Paro valley at an altitude of 3810 m. This place gives a very good view of the Himalayan mountains, including the mountain Jumolhari. The place also gives good view down towards the Haa valley. A lot of prayer flags flutter in the place.

Drive further to Haa Valley.

Haa Valley and places to visit in Haa:  Haa valley was known for its animist tradition during the pre- Buddhist era.  Inhabitants of Haa then believed offering animal blood to their local deities. However, after the visit of the tantric master, Guru Padmasambhava, in the 8th century the inhabitants were transformed into peaceful Buddhist.  Guru Padmasambhava, subdued the local deities such as Ap Chundu and made them the guardians of the Buddhist tradition. Traces of this belief system are still noticed in the form of festivals and rituals.

Opened to foreign tourist only in the year 2002, it is a culturally rich valley. A few famous places to visit are:

7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum. The grand annual Haa Tshechu is also performed here at Lhakhang Karpo on the 8th-10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month.

The Haa Wangchuklo Dzong built in 1915 after the Dumchog Dzong was razed to the ground by fire is worth visiting.

The valley is also unparalleled in Bhutan in terms of the diversity of the folk culture, legends and shamanistic rituals. The shamanistic traditions is vividly practiced in almost all the communities, most notable of which is the annual ceremony to honour Ap Chundu, the guardian deity of the valley. The valley is also a paradise for nature lovers and travelling there is a very rewarding experience.

Dinner and over night in hotel.

Day 3. Haa – Thimphu.

Driving Distance; 115 Km, Driving time: 3-4 Hr, Altitude of Thimphu: 2320 m.

After breakfast, drive to Thimphu.

Lunch at Thimphu.  After lunch is a time to refresh in the cool breeze of the Himalayas with the perfect views of the Thimphu valley. Visit the following:

Sangaygang view point (2685 meters):  to have view of whole Thimphu valley and walk through hundreds of colorful prayer flags that dot the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley.

Takin Preserve Centre; The takin, the national animal of Bhutan can be seen here. This particular animal is found only in the Himalayan region.

Kuenselphodrang: A place for refreshing with a huge statue of Buddha on the top of  Kuenselphodrang. The area also gives a very good view of the Thimphu valley from the west.

National Memorial Chorten: This Chorten was built in the honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as “The Father of Modern Bhutan”. This Chorten was built in 1974 in a typical Tibetan style. This Chorten is also a center of worship for the people living in Thimphu and contains many religious paintings and tantric statues.

Then, free time to walk around The Thimphu town visiting different textile and handicraft shops.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Day 4 , Thimphu Sightseeing:

Altitude of Thimphu: 2320 m,

After breakfast, visit:

The Institute for Zorig Chusum: Students are taught the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan in this institute.

The Institute of Traditional medicine: Here Medicines are prepared according to the Tradition practices.

Folk Heritage Museum: Founded by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.  The museum is one of a kind that portrays the lifestyle of a family in the Thimphu valley in the olden days. This is a three storied, 19th century traditional house giving an insight to the Bhutanese lifestyle, and artifacts from the rural households. The museum contains typical Bhutanese household objects, tools and equipments.

Typical Bhutanese lunch at the Folk Heritage Restaurant.

After lunch, visit:

Textile Museum: This Textile Museum is operated by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs of Bhutan. The Museum was established in the year 2001 and has a good collection of exclusive and antique Bhutanese textile artifacts. The museum was set up with an objective to promote and encourage weavers to continue weaving of traditional Bhutanese textile, Promote Bhutan in the field of textile art and to preserve and promote the history and tradition of Bhutan.

Jungshi handmade paper factory: It is a 1 km drive from main city of Thimphu to the factory. The factory Manufactures the traditional Bhutanese paper using the bark of two tree species in the manufacture of traditional paper  the Daphne tree and Dhekap. The entire process of traditional manufacturing of the Handmade paper can be observed. It was previously operated by the government. Now it is run by a private entrepreneur.

Tashichhodzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion): A Doom (Blue Stone) Dzong was built on the hill above Thimphu  in 1216 the lama Gyalwa Lhanampa. A few years later Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo, who brought the Drukpa Kagyu lineage to Bhutan, took over Dohon Dzong. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (The one who unified the country) acquired the Dzong in 1641 from the descendants of lama Phajo and renamed it as Trashi Chhoe Dzong. The Dzong is the seat of the national government and the Central Monastic Body, including the summer residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) at present.

Dinner and over night in Hotel.

Day 5, Thimphu – Punakha

Driving Distance: 76 km, Driving Time: 2.5 – 3  hr, Altitude of Punakha – 1310

After breakfast, drive to Punakha.  On the way, visit:

Dochula pass: The most known pass in Bhutan, about 30 km drive from the Capital City Thimphu on the way to Wangduephodrang. It is at around 3150 m height. On a clear day, spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas mountain ranges can be seen. The pass also has 108 Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chhortens which is believed brings multi fold merit to all sentient beings and which make the pass a must visit place.

Drive further to lamperi. Stop at Lamperi to visit the Royal Botanical Park.

Royal Botanical Park – Situated at an altitude range of 2100 meters – 3800 meters, the park covers an area of 47 square kilometers and is located between Thimphu and Punakha. The park contains a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna and features a huge species of plants and animals including endangered species such as Himalayan yew, native Rhododendron, Royal Bengal Tiger, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Blood pheasants and Himalayan Monal. You can also find Tetracentron (an ancient relict angiosperm with no vessel in its trunk) in the park. The park has 14.5 km of trails for eco trek for cycling and walking and one of the main attractions is the rhododendron garden including a picnic spot with children’s play ground.

Lunch at Wangdue.

After lunch visit;

Rinchengang village: it is small and clustered village located opposite to Wangduephodrang dzong (The dzong was destroyed by fire in the year 2012, and it is being rebuilt now). It is about 20 minutes hike uphill from the near road.

Then drive towards Punakha and take a short excursion to visit the Chimmi Lhakhang.

Chhimi Lhakhang: This temple is located on the way to Punakha. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility and was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15 century. Lama Drukpa Kuenley is also known as the Devine Madman.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Day 6. Punakha (Punakha Drubchen: Day 1)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha dzong to witness the festival.

Festival Program for the day:

  • Arranging of  camps
  • Reading out the Code of Conduct.
  • Handing over the dresses to the Kabji Gup

In the evening, drive back to Hotel.

Day 7. Punakha (Punakha Drubchen – Day 2)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha dzong to witness the festival.

Festival Program for the day:

  • The pazaps will go for bathing in procession following the age-old tradition.
  • Handing over dresses to the Gups.

Dinner and overnight in Hotel.

Day 8. Punakha (Punakha Drubchen – Day 3)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha dzong to witness the festival.

Festival Program for the day:

  • The gups will present themselves to the Je Khenpo.
  • Co-inciding with the performance of ‘Shenje Phag’ in the Monk’s Assembly Hall, the pazaps along with their respective gup and Drungpa will make their way into the Dzong carrying their Tsendhar or flag.
  • Drubchen Mask Dance program.
  •  ‘Zhugdrel Tendrel’ program inside the temple of eight pillars for the pazaps.
  • The pazaps will return to their respective camps after the talk by the Je Khenpo.
  • Zhugdrel Phunsum Tshogpa.
  • Singing the ‘Lenma’ or ballad and performance of ‘Bhed’ or Victory Dance.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Day 9. Punakha (Punakha Drubchen – Day 4)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha dzong to witness the festival.

Festival Program for the day:

  • Kabjips will fire in the air in the as a wake-up call with a victory walk over to Changyul.
  • Zhugdrel Tendrel & performance of ‘Bhed’ or Victory Dance.
  • Taking gruel inside the camp and making offerings of wine.
  • As i)Kabjips ii)Toep iii)Chang and iv)Kawangpas proceed in the above order across the Mochu Bridge to assemble near the side of the dzong, each individual makes an attempt to be the first person to offer betel nut to whoever they meet first.
  • Forming two lines they will walk around the dzong singing ‘Lekso’ hauling victory, firing in the air and after similarly completed going round the Dzongchung Chorten or miniature Dzong they will proceed to Zomphakha grounds where each will carry out his duty.
  • Dasho Dzongdag will serve the welcome tea.
  • Four of the ‘Lenma’ performers will perform the dance.
  • Drungpas and the Penlops will perform ‘Bhed’ or victory dance.
  • Witnessing the indoor mask dance.
  • Making wine offerings in the area.
  • Checking whether the things are as per the list.
  • Zhugdrel.
  • Offering songs to Je Khenpo from the base of the flag at the entrance to the dzong.
  • Traditional sports Competition such as, Shot Putt, Carrying sand bags, Sawing timber,  Tree climbing.

Dinner and Overnight in hotel.

Day 10. Punakha (Punakha Drubchen – Day 5)

After breakfast, drive to Punakha dzong to witness the festival.

Festival Program for the day:

  • ‘Torbuel’ or making offerings.
  • The pazaps will enter the dzong and tie their Tsendhars or flags on pillars.  After the prayer ritual is over, the preceptor to the ‘Dep’ or governor will read out the ‘Chayig Chenpo.’
  • Singing ‘Lenma’
  • Holding one’s own ‘Chogdha’ or arrow of victory in the hands, each individual will do an explanation or description of it.
  • The four Drungpas will enter the temple of eight pillars or ‘Kagayma Lhakhang’.
  • Continuing performing the ’Bhed Dance’ at the base of ‘Machen Tshelshing’ or the ‘Orange Tree of the Great Mummy’ they will proceed outside from the upper entrance of the dzong towards the place called ‘Norbu Chu Shaksa.’
  • The pazaps who make exit from the lower entrance to the dzong will go to Changyul and pretend.
  • After enactment of the throwing of gem into the river they will make a return in ritual procession. This will be followed by the performance of the ‘Bhed Dance’ by the four ‘Penlops’. The teacher of the’Lenma’ will sing the ‘Lenma’ in a long-drawn melody.
  • Handing out of scarves, ‘Jinlab’ and religious strings by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
  • Sports Competition such as Wrestling and Tug of war and giving out prizes.

End of Punakha Drubchen.

Day 11. Punakha – Paro:

Driving Distance: 135  km, Driving Time: 4 – 5 Hr, Altitude of Paro: 2280 m.

After breakfast, drive to Paro.  On the way to Paro, visit the Tamchog Lhakhang.

Tamchog lhakhang; built in the 13th century by Thangthong Gyalpo. He is also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple. It is owned by the descendants of Thangthong Gyalpo.

After lunch, free time to relax or to go around the Paro town.

Dinner and over night in hotel.

Day 12. Paro Sightseeing:

Altitude of Paro: 2280 m

After breakfast, excursion to Taktshang Monastery.

Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest): Paro Taktshang is one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, and an occasional grove prayer flags. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantrum mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, came in the form of form of Dorje Droloe riding a flying tigress to subdue the evil and demon that were obstructing the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayas.

After lunch, visit a village and a farm house and learn about the rural Bhutanese way of life. Relax in a traditional hot stone bath in the farm house.  The hot stone bath helps relaxing and is said to have medicinal values.

Hot stone bath: The traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath, known as Dotsho in local language has been practiced in Bhutan for centuries as a medicinal soak. Many Bhutanese believe that the bath helps in curing joint pains, helps in relaxing and other medical problems. River stones are heated and then put in water to heat the water; sometime medicinal herbs are added to the water before it is ready for the soak.

Dinner and overnight in hotel.

Day 13. Departure:

After breakfast, drive to Airport and farewell.

Important Notes

The comfort, convenience and interest of the travelers is very important to us. We are flexible with the “Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen” itinerary. Sightseeing can be done as per the convenience and interests of the guests. If it is of interest to the guest, they may choose to visit places that may not be in the itinerary, except for the change of overnight destination.

We reserve the right to change the “Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen” itinerary or hotels anytime as may be required to, in case of unforeseen contingencies (natural/man made) or unavailability of hotels.

Some of the sites to be visited may be closed on government holidays or during breaks. In such cases we shall do other sightseeing in its place.

This itinerary can be tailor made for any duration or within any destination and can be combined with any kind of activities such as trekking, rafting, walking tour, cycling , etc.

It is advisable to “Bhutan Travel with Punakha Drubchen” itinerary at least 6 months prior to the travel date because of limited Bhutan tourism infrastructures and inventories.