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Sacred Rhythms: Punakha Procession

A colorful pageant of warriors at Bhutan’s ancient capital ~ 17 to 19 days
Taking place at the dramatic Punthang Dechen Phodrang fortress, the Punakha “Procession of Warriors” commemorates a 17th century victory over Tibetan raiders. Along with our other Sacred Rhythms programs, scheduled around annual festivals, our attendance at the re-enactment of this historic event celebrates Bhutan’s vibrant heritage. The warriors, or Pazaps, dressed in full battle regalia symbolically retrieve holy relics from the nearby river to remind onlookers of the ingenious ruse that saved Bhutan’s most sacred national treasure, the self emanating image of the Buddha of Compassion. Western writers have described the unique atmosphere at these festivals as akin to a “convivial medieval fair”. To be certain, festivity plays a part, but it is also much more. It is a time for the Bhutanese people to reflect and receive blessings and remember important saints and teachers and, lest things become too somber—for there is always a joyous and practical side to Bhutanese life—an opportunity to wear the season’s best, to flirt and cement relations, to see and be seen, and to share the best delicacies of the year with loved ones.

In spring, we attend the Punakha Procession or the Grand Paro festival. Fall brings us to the Thimphu or Wangdue festivals. In late fall and cusp of winter, we attend the Bumthang Festivals. Closing the year with a splash of winter color is the TrongsaTshechu. Join festive Bhutanese villagers at these fun-filled and exuberant celebrations of our living culture and myths.

“…framed against a row of jacaranda trees in full purple bloom, against a brilliant blue sky, encircled by two sparkling rivers, and wrapped in the fragrance of incense and juniper smoke.”
~Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, describing the Punakha fortress in her book, Treasures of the Thunder Dragon, Penguin-Viking, 2006.

punakha_festival_471x365ITINERARY IN BRIEF
Days 1 and 2 : Arrive in Paro, and hike the loop from the valley center to the dramatic dzong and the national museum .

Days 3 & 4: Transfer to the capital and hike the north end of the valley to Buddhist colleges and monasteries .

Days 5 and 6: Hiking in the mountains south of Thimphu valley, with picnics near the area’s mountaintop monasteries .

Day 7: Relaxed day browsing the capital’s markets .

Day 8: Visit Thimphu’s national museums and monuments .

Day 9: Hike through rhododendron forests above the Dochula pass, gateway to the east .

Day 10: Attendance at the Punakha serdra festival .

Day 11: Second day’s performances at Punakha festival .

Day 12: Transfer to Central Bhutan

Day 13: Hike to the “Burning Lake” and nunnery .

Day 14: Walking tour of valley center, with stops at key monsteries and temples .

Day 15: Visit Trongsa Dzong, spiritual home of Bhutan’s kings .

Day 16: Hike alongside rice paddies to the Khamsum Temple .

Day 17: Transfer to Paro Valley and visit Kyichu Monastery .

Day 18: Hike to “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery .

Day 19: Return flight to Bangkok or another gateway city.