pemagatsel tsechu

Tour Highlights:

Festivals or Tshechu are held annually in various temples, monasteries and fortress across Bhutan. It's mainly a religious event celebrated on the 10th day of the month of the lunar Calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, an 8th century Buddhist teacher.

Pemagatshel Tshechu is one of the small such festivals in the Bhutanese calendar. It has been held annually since 19th century when the Dzong was consecrated. The festival is observed in three days in colourful event, mask dances, flock dances and local dances. Bhutanese from all walks of life in their finery come to attend the five day festival.

Routes & Distances at Glance:

Day 1: Arrival at Paro
Day 2: Hike to Taktsang monastery. 6 hours hiking
Day 3: Paro - Thimphu. 65 km, an hour drive
Day 4: Thimphu & short hike. 3 hours hiking
Day 5: Thimphu - Punakha. 77 km, 3 hours drive
Day 6: Punakha - Gangtey. 78 km, 3 hours drive
Day 7: Hike in Phobjikha valley. 3 hours hiking
Day 8: Gangtey - Trongsa. 120 km, 4 hours drive
Day 9: Trongsa - Bumthang. 68 km, 2 hours drive
Day 10: Tang valley
Day 11: Bumthang - Mongar. 198 km, 8 hours drive
Day 12: Halt in Mongar
Day 13: Excursion to Lhuntshe. 76 km, 3 hours drive
Day 14: Mongar - Trashigang. 96 km, 3 hours drive
Day: Trashigang - Pemagatshel. 190 km, 8 hours drive
Day 16: Halt at Pemagatshel
Day 17: Pemagatshel - Samdrupjongkhar. 110 km, 6 hours drive
Day 18: S/jongkhar - Guwahati (India). 190 km, 3 hours drive
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Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1: Paro
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. After visa formalities you will meet the guide of White Umbrella tours at Paro airport exit doors. Transfer to the hotel. Later, stroll the Paro town for leisure.

Altitude at Paro: 2300m

Day 2: Hike to Taktsang monastery
After breakfast, we hike to Taktsang Monastery. It is a strenuous hike as you have to climb up and down more than 500 steps to pass one gorge to reach the monastery at the end. But rest of the trail itself is an enjoyable for many hikers since climbs through beautiful pine forest and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. You can have different angles panoramic view of Paro valley. One can hire horse and enjoy on the back of a horse till half way if you like horse riding.
This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend says that the Indian Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tigress and landed here and mediated in one cave. He was also a religious hero for almost whole Bhutanese people as he brought Buddhism to Bhutan in early 8th-century.
On the way back to Paro, we visit 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang which is believed to be one of the 108 temples constructed in one day at the behest of the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

Day 3: Paro - Thimphu
In Morning, take a drive to Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, passing through idyllic countryside, with villages and paddy fields on either side of the road. Thimphu has a special charm and it is fascinating to sit and watch a gathering of local people in the town square, wearing their traditional dress and going about their business in a typically unhurried Bhutanese way.
Sightseeing around Thimphu. Visit the National Memorial Chorten, which was first initiated by the Third King as a protection from the negative elements of modernisation, and as a monument to world peace. The Royal Queen Mother completed it as a memorial stupa for the Third King who passed away in 1972. Continue on to 12th century Changangkha Temple and Drubthob monastery housing the Zilukha Nunnery.

After lunch visit the School of Arts and Crafts where students are taught the 13 types of Bhutanese art, The National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century, the Traditional Paper Factory displaying the Bhutanese paper making process, and a fascinating replica of a medieval farmhouse at the Folk Heritage Museum.

Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m

Day 4: Thimphu
Morning, drive to northern part of Thimphu city for half an hour to road point and from there, you have to hike to Chari Gompa founded in 17th century. It is popular for the Buddhist to do retreat in the Gompa, located on the hill surrounded by forest and in fact the first Monastic body was established in this monastery by founder of Bhutan. The main central figure is Buddha and kudung of Yap Tempa Nima (father of Zhabdrung). The trail was well established by pilgrims through the mix forest with hair pin trail. You are likely to encounter mountain goat roaming freely near the Monastery. The round trip could be 3 hours hike and the lunch will be arranged near the glacier river bank.

On the way back, visit Pangri-Zampa Monastery founded in 16th century by Tibetan Saint, currently the monastery is converted in Monastic School for Astrology and there are more than 100 monks study astrology. Beside the Monastery, there is huge cypress tree (National tree) claim to be oldest tree in Bhutan, we assume roughly more than 600-700 years old. Evening, witness archery game (our National game).

Altitude at Thimphu: 2400m

Day 5: Thimphu - Punakha
Drive over the Dochu-La pass (3,100 meters), which on a clear day offers an incredible view of Himalayan peaks before descending into balmy Punakha valley (about 3 hrs total driving time). The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdoms. In the Dochu-La area there are vast Rhododendron forests that grow to tree size and bloom in late April/early May covering the mountains in a riot of glorious spring colour.

Punakha was the ancient capital of Bhutan. On arrival, drive to Punakha Dzong, the ‘Palace of Great Happiness'. Built in 1637 by the Shabdrung, the ‘Unifier of Bhutan', Punakha Dzong is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers). It is the winter headquarters of the Je Khenpo and hundreds of monks who move en masse from Thimphu to this warmer location. The three story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. It was here in 1907 that Bhutan's first king was crowned.

Hike to Chimi Lhakhang, temple of the Drukpa Kuenly who is also known as the Divine Madman. He inherited the Divine Madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time. He taught the people that religion is an inner feeling and it's not necessary that one should be an ordained monk. He is also considered a symbol of fertility and most childless couples go to his temple for blessing.

Afterwards, drive 30 minutes towards northern part of Punakha valley and hike to Khumsum chorten. It's about less than 2 hours hike, worth to do hike as when you approach on hill, you will have splendor view of valley.

Overnight: Punakha. Altitude at Punakha: 1300 m.

Day 6: Punakha - Gangtey
Drive to Wangduephodrang and visit the Dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view both up and down the valley. Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slate which is mined up a valley a few kilometers from the town.

Then drive up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down into the Phobjikha valley, surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan. Phobjikha is one of Bhutan's few glacial valleys, and chosen winter home of black necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Explore Phobjikha valley and also visit Gangtey Gopa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.

Altitude at Gangtey: 3000 m

Day 7: Phobjikha valley
Morning, explore the scenery of U shape Phobjikha valley and take a glimpse of local people's daily core. And perhaps you may see flock working on their fields.

Later afternoon, we suggest to do hike ‘Gangtey Nature Trail'. It's about less than 2 hours hiking through pine forest, crossing stream and open valley. You may encounter some pheasant on the way and quite close with nature. Evening, visit farm house and taste our traditional tea.

Overnight: Farm house / hotel.

Day 8: Gangtey - Trongsa
In the morning, drive to Trongsa across Pele-la pass (3,300 m / 10,830 ft). This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between western and central Bhutan. Further down the road, stop to visit Chendebji Chorten erected in the 18th century by a Tibetan lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot. It is built in the Nepalese style, with painted eyes at the four cardinal points.

The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and its impressive Dzong, stretched along a ridge above a ravine, first comes into view about an hour before the winding road suddenly leads you into the town. On arrival, visit and experience the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture at Trongsa Dzong. It was Shabdrung's great - grandfather who founded the first temple at Trongsa in 1543. In 1647 the Shabdrung had begun his great work of expansion and unification, realizing all the advantages that could be gained from Tongsa's position; he constructed the first Dzong at the place where his ancestors had erected the temple. The Dzong was called Choekor Rabtentse. In 1652, Minjur Tenpa, the Penlop of Tongsa, had the Dzong enlarged. The Dzong is built in such a way that in the old days, no matter what direction a traveler comes from, he was obliged to pass through the courtyard of the Dzong. This helped to make the Penlop of this Dzong as powerful as it had a complete control over the east - west traffic. The watch tower above the Dzong further strengthened its defense. The father of the first king known as the black regent and the first king served as the Governor of Trongsa before the emergence of the Bhutanese Monarchy, since then it has become a tradition for the young crown prince to serve as the Governor of this place before he is crowned.

Later visit Ta Dzong on the hillside above the town built as a watchtower to guard Trongsa but recently converted into museum in 2008.

Altitude at Trongsa: 2100 m

Day 9: Trongsa - Bumthang
After breakfast, proceed to Bumthang, one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the holy heartland of Buddhism. The road winds steeply up to Yutong La (3,400 m / 11,155 ft), and then run down through dense coniferous forest to enter a wide, open, cultivated valley, known as Chumey valley.

We will visit Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan's "patron saint", Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro).

After lunch, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later on we will visit Jakar Dzong, "the castle of the white bird", and then take a stroll through Bumthang's market area before returning to the lodge.

Altitude at Bumthang: 2700 m

Day 10: Tang valley
Day Excursion to Tang valley, situated at 3000m, north east of Chhokor valley and on the way visit ‘Me-bar tsho' (burning lake) . En route to Tang valley, visit Nunnery Monastery established in 90's by the 9th re-incarnation of Pema Lingpa (mind). Drive through open field and crossing several villages and school.

We will visit Orgyen Chholing Museum established by Ashi Kunzang Choden, descended of Deb Tshoki Dorji (Temporal ruler). The hike to museum begins crossing Tang river, and village. Short walk, you will come across small wooden bridge, after that there is chorten and from there it is gradual ascend to the museum for less than hour. Before climbing there is small hut beside the trail. It is water mill back to the 18th century and still it is active perhaps you may see local people using it. Upon arrival at Museum, overlooking view of Tang valley and after visiting Museum, hike further down to suspension bridge for an hour. Picnic lunch at river bank. Later, drive back to Bumthang.

Day 11: Bumthang - Mongar
The journey continues eastwards, winding through more rugged terrain. The drive to Mongar takes about 8 hours, with spectacular views en route. We will drive up into the hills above the valley and then past Ura village, before climbing sharply to the highest point on Bhutan's motor able road network, Thrumsing La (3760 m).

From here, the road gradually descends to the alpine valley of Sengor, with wonderful views of cascading waterfalls and the hills of eastern Bhutan along the way. Vegetation changes from alpine to subtropical with the loss of height, and bamboos and luxuriant ferns overhang the road as we drop down to the valley floor. The descent stops at 700 m / 2,300 ft, where we cross the Kuri Chu (river). We ascend again through pine forests, maize fields and eastern hamlets to reach Mongar town, high on a gentle slope above the valley. Picnic lunch at a scenic spot en route to Mongar.

Day 12: Mongar
Like many other settlements in Eastern Bhutan Mongar town is situated atop a hill rather than within a valley. This town is considered the main trade and travel hub of eastern Bhutan and most travelers and merchants active in East pass through here often spending the night at one of the local hotels. The main street is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas. Near the clock tower there is a large prayer wheel around which people often gather to meet old friends and chat.

Mongar Dzong. Although built in the 1930s and one of Bhutan's newest Dzongs, it was constructed in the same way as all earlier dzongs, without plans or nails. However unlike the earlier Dzongs, that are located in strategic positions, Mongar Dzong is located on a small gently sloping area just above the town. A visit to Mongar Dzong demonstrates how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.

We will visit Zhongar Dzong. The ruin of Zhongar Dzong endures to this day as a testimony to the skill of its builders, most notably the renowned master craftsman, Zowo Balip. It is located on a hilltop overlooking the village of Themnangbi and is visible as one descends to Lingmenthang from the highway. Constructed in the 17th century, the Dzong is believed to have been built at a site where the master architect Zow Balip saw a white bowl.. A visit to the ruins can be a memorable experience and will give you a sense of medieval Bhutanese administration.

Another sacred site in the district is the renowned Aja Ney. Pilgrims from all other parts of Bhutan converge here to receive blessings and wash away their sins. A rock that bears 100 renditions of the sacred syllable "Aa," is said to have been discovered by Guru Padmasambhava. It is located at an altitude of more than 3,500 m and falls under Ngatsang geog. It is located approximately a two day trek from Serzhong village.

The Yagang lhakhang in a small village next to the town is another sacred monument in the Dzongkhag. It was built in the 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Terton Pema Lingpa. It was built after the Kupijigtsam Lhakhang in Yangneer village in Trashigang was completed. Today, the lhakhang plays an important role in the religious life of the people.

Day 13: Mongar - Lhuntse
Today, we will take a drive to Lhuntse which is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the monarchy.

On arrival, we will visit the Dzong which sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Kurichu valley. After lunch, we will take a short drive to explore Menji village for its distinctive textiles before we start heading back to Mongar.

Day 14: Mongar - Trashigang
This trip of about 96 km takes only 3 hours. The first part of journey is through leafy forest filled with ferns. After driving through the Kori-la pass (2,450 m / 8,040 ft), marked by a pretty Chorten and a Mani wall, we descend rapidly through corn fields and banana groves to reach the famous road zigzags just below Yadi, a fairly recent and now fast-growing settlement.

After zigzagging down the hillside, the road east runs along the Gamri River. A turnoff on the left leads up to Drametse. The temple, perched on top of a steep hill above the village, was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place of origin of the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums.

About 30 km onwards lies Trashigang (1,100m/3,610ft), which clings to a steep hillside above the Gamri river. Trashigang is the principal township of the biggest and most populated district in the country.

After lunch, we will visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of a rocky outcrop far above the river gorge. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the Dzong is occupied by the local monastic community.

Altitude at Trashigang: 1600 m

Day 15: Trashigang - Pemagatshel
Lengthy drive to Pemagatshel, road was completed in 1980's, and the journey down takes about 6 hours. Along the way, we pass by Sherubtse College in Kanglung, which was founded in 1978 and is a degree granting institution affiliated to the University of Delhi. We also visit the nearby Zangtho Pelri temple representing Guru Rinpoche's paradise, built in 1978 by the late Minister of Home Affairs.
We then drive on to Khaling, home of the National Institute for the Disabled and the Weaving Centre. From here, it is a further 30km to junction and another 2 hours to Pemagatshel.

Overnight: Hotel / Farm house

Day 16: Pemagatshel Tsechu
Situated upon a dagger-shaped mountain, Yongla Goemba is one of the oldest and holiest shrines in Eastern Bhutan. One of the more interesting historical facts about the temple is that during the Duar War the Trongsa Poenlop (Feudal Lord) Jigme Namgyel, father of the First King Ugyen Wangchuck, used it as a base of operations in order to launch raids upon the British troops.

There are various other shrines and temples in the region including the 15h century temple Kheri Goemba and the Lektiri Goemba in Goemba Singma village.

Today we witness the Pemagatshel Tsechu.

Day 17: Pemagatshel - Samdrupjonkhar
Drive to Samdrupjongkhar, en route Dewathang, which is remembered in history as the site of a famous 19th century battle fought during the Duar Wars, in which the forces of Jigme Namgyal defeated the British. The road then descends fairly rapidly to the plains through dense tropical forest with an abundance of teak, bamboo and ferns. Evening, stroll in the town for leisure.

Overnight: hotel

Day 18: Departure
After breakfast, our guide will bid you farewell and proceed to Guwahati (India).

Tour date

By request
(18 days / 17 nights)

Group size & price

from 3-12 pax:
4,290 USD per person

Price includes

  • 3* hotels double occupancy
  • Full board
  • private vehicle
  • all entrance fees
  • English speaking Bhutanese guide (other languages upon request)
  • Visa fee

Supplementary fee

  • Single individual
    80 USD per night
  • Group of 2 persons
    30 USD per person per night
  • single occupancy
    40 USD per night

* Any individual tours and services can be upgraded according to your time and interest on request.
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