Bhutan Cultural and Walking Adventure  - Day-by-Day Itinerary

 Route Map

Route Map

For a photo gallery click here!

Day 01: Arrive Paro

  • Rinpung Dzong
  • National Museum
  • Zuri Dzong hike (time permitting)

The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular air journeys in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Paro International Airport is situated in a beautiful valley and sits at an altitude of 2235 metres, the highest of its kind in the world. Our representative will be waiting for you on your arrival and will take you to the group hotel, just a few minutes drive away.

After lunch,  enjoy an afternoon of sightseeing in and around Paro including a visit to the National Museum which houses many religious relics and works of art, before paying a visit to the magnificent Rinpung Dzong, which looms majestically over the city. A highlight of this former fortress is the huge painting of the Saint Milarepa, considered to be the master of meditation by the Bhutanese and was believed to have attained enlightenment in his lifetime. Dzongs are large monasteries and district administrative centres, which once served as strategic forts. 

Time allowing, take a 1 hour walk along the forested hillside to Zuri Dzong, before descending to the road where our driver will be waiting.  The walk passes the beautiful Gonsaka Lhakhang (Buddhist temple) and provides wonderful views of the valley and Rinpung Dzong.  Zuri Dzong dates from 1352 and is home to the valley’s local protector gods.

Overnight at the tour hotel in Paro.

 

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Day 2: Paro

  • Tiger's Nest Hike
  • Kyichu Lhakhang
  • Leisure time in Paro

After a hearty breakfast, we will begin our hike to the world famous Taktsang Lhakhang, Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates as "Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 hundred metres above the Paro Valley.

It was first built in 1692 in a cave entrance, where the Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated sometime in the 7th century. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site on the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it.

After lunch we will drive back into Paro to visit the historic Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple constructed by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.  

Overnight at our hotel in Paro.

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Day 03: paro - Bumthang

  • Morning flight to Bumthang
  • Jakar Dzong
  • Jambay Lhakhang

After breakfast, we will drive a short distance to Paro Airport where we will take a 40 minute flight to Bumthang in the central part of the country. Bumthang is home to some of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries. Its lush and scenic valleys were carved by ancient glaciers. It is also a major producer of apples and apple juice.

On arrival we will be visiting the Jakar Dzong, known as the “Castle of the White Bird", which dominates the Chamkhar Valley and overlooks the town of Jakar below.

Next up is a visit to Jambay Lhakhang, one of 108 sacred temples built in 7th Century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in order to suppress a demoness that was terrorising the Himalayas. It is said he built them all in one day.

In the evening you will have time to explore the vicinity of the hotel at your leisure. 

Overnight at hotel in Jakar.

 

Day 04: Bumthang

  • Padtselling Monastery hike or free time to relax
  • Picnic lunch 
  • Meditation time 

Today you have the option of relaxing in Jakar or joining your Tour Leader and local guide for a day hike to the beautiful Padtselling Monastery.  

Established in the 1769, the monastery's name (Padtstelling) means "A place where lotus flowers grow". It is a gompa in the dzong style of Bhutan. The hike starts near the Red Panda Brewery on the outskirts of the town. The path heads quite steeply through forest and then through beautiful flower meadows which offer great views of the Choekhor Valley.

On arrival at the monastery we will have time to relax, meditate and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Overnight at hotel in Jakar.

day 5: Bumthang

  • Membertsho 
  • Tang Valley 
  • Ugyen Chholing Muesum 

Today we will explore Tang, the most remote of Bumthang's valleys. From our hotel in Jakar it's an 11km drive to reach an unpaved road that branches north up to the Tang Valley. Near to this juncture is the holy site of Membartsho. Known locally as the Burning Lake, it is said that here the great Tertön (treasure hunter) Pema Lingpa had a vision of the sacred treasures that Guru Rimpoche had hidden within the lake centuries earlier. 

After spending some time at this spiritual power spot,  we will continue driving uphill along the narrow and bumpy roads towards the Tang Valley. 

On arrival at the Tang village at the heart of the valley, you can wander freely and interact with the friendly and hardworking locals. Here we will enjoy lunch at a local guesthouse. After a meal made from local ingredients, we can spend a while at Ogyen (or Ugyen) Chholing Museum. The family that owns it wanted to provide a place for religious studies, research and solitude. The interesting and well-captioned exhibits offer an insight into the lifestyle of a Bhutanese noble family.

Our route back to the Bumthang Valley offers a chance to enjoy a different landscape as we descend through forested slopes.

Overnight at hotel in Jakar.

 

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Day 06: Bumthang to gangtey

  • Chumey valley
  • Yathra Weaving Centre 
  • Trongsa Dzong 
  • Drive Distance: 188kms/ 6-7 hours drive

Today we will make the long drive from Bumthang to Gangtey via Trongsa. Although the journey will take around 7 hours, the scenery is incredible and we will make a couple of very interesting and enjoyable stops along the way. When you see the amazing grassy plains of Gangtey we are sure you'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

Our first stop will be at a small village in the Chumey Valley. Here we will spend some time at a Yathra Weaving Centre. 

Thick, hand-woven woollen textiles with intricate designs, locally known as Yathra,  have been a unique specialty of weavers in Chumey, Bumthang for generations. It is a tradition that has been kept alive by the women weavers in Chungphel, Zhurey, Kertsho, Bhim, Terzoe and Yeerangbi in Chummey.

Weaving Yathra is a communal affair. The women weave throughout the year as it is their main source of cash income. Settlements in these villages are clustered, therefore women come together to weave as a group in one hut. Girls begin their training to weave as young as 8 years of age.

We will have chance to watch the weavers deftly spin the yak and sheep's wool into the distinctive geometric patterns of yathra and we will also be able to purchase something to take home if you so desire. 

As we drive we will reach the Trongsa District, where we will make a short visit to the fortress, the Trongsa Dzong. The road then  continues up to and over the Pelela Pass at around 3400 meters above sea level before arriving in Gangtey.

Overnight at hotel in Gangtey. 

 

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Day 07: gangtey - Punakha 

  • Morning walk across the Phobjikha Plain
  • Black-necked Crane Centre
  • Gangtey Gonpa
  • Gangtey Nature Trail

 

We start the morning in a truly spectacular manner by walking across the Phobjikha Valley and along a nature trail considered to be one of the finest and most scenic in Bhutan.  At 3000 metres, Phobjihka is an incredibly beautiful (and incredibly green) grassy plain that has to be seen to be believed. At the end of the nature trail (and the end point of our morning hike) is the magnificant Gangtey Gonpa Monastery. The history of the monastery traces back to the early 17th century and to the prophecies made by Tertön Pema Lingpa in the late 15th century. 

After some time with the monks at Gangtey Gonpa, we will head back down to the grassy plain below to visit the small but informative Black-necked Crane Centre. These graceful birds winter in the valley every year. 

Next, we will drive to the former capital Punikha, stopping for lunch in a small village along the way. Total driving time is around 3 hours with lots of spectacular scenery along the way.

On arrival in Punakha, time and energy levels permitting, we can visit the Sangchen Dorjee Lhendup Nunnery. Here we will have a chance to interact with the nuns and also enjoy astounding views. 

Overnight at hotel in Punakha.

 

 A nun at Sangchen Dorjee Lhendup Nunnery

A nun at Sangchen Dorjee Lhendup Nunnery

Day 08: Punakha 

  • Hike to Khumsum Yulley Chorten
  • Punakha Dzong 
  • Chimi Lhakhang 

We start the day by driving along the beautiful Punakha-Wangdue Valley-floor for around 15 km, before hiking approximately 1 hour through fields and a pine forest to the Kamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. The temple inside the chorten is famous for its examples of tantric Buddhism and philosophy. 

We board our bus again for the drive back along the banks of the Mo Chhu (Mother) River until we reach the magnificent Punakha Dzong.  Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. 

After lunch we will head to the very special and very strange Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the Fertility Temple. After the site was blessed by the "Divine Madman", the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), Chimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 and sits on top of a small hillock. The surrounding buildings are adorned with the images of colourful erectile penises in mid-ejaculation. These are a feature throughout Bhutan, but nowhere are they quite as prevalent and graphic as here! 

Overnight at hotel in Punakha.

 

Day 09: Punakha -Thimphu

  • Dochula Pass
  • Lungchuzekha Gonpa hike
  • Thimphu
  • Takin Sanctuary

After breakfast, we will drive up to the stunning Dochula Pass (3,100 metres), which on clear days offers an incredible view of the Himalayan peaks. From the pass we begin our hike to Lungchutse Monastery. The hike (which passes through forest containing moss-covered rhododendron the size of trees, giant hemlock and juniper) is one of the most spectacular and picturesque walking courses in the region. A small trail leads you the last 50 meters past a row of fluttering prayer flags up to Lungchutse Temple. Weather permitting, the 360 degree view of some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, including Jumolhari (7314m) and Masang Gang ((7150m), is guaranteed to take your breath away. 

From here we will continue on to the Trashigang Gonpa and the village of Hongtso where we will meet up with our vehicle and head to the capital city, Thimphu. The total hiking distance is around 10km with a height gain of around 550 metres. A challenging, but very rewarding and memorable day!

Before reaching our hotel, we can make a brief visit to the Takin Sanctuary, a modest breeding and conservation centre for the takin, Bhutan’s National animal.

Overnight in Thimphu.

 

Day 10: Thimphu

View from Dodedrak
  • Memorial Chorten
  • Painting School
  • Textile Muesum
  • Dodedrak Monastery

Start the day with a visit to the Memorial Chorten, a beautiful and colourful stupa built in memory of the Third King of Bhutan. Later, visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as ‘the painting school', to witness the students diligently learning Bhutan's 13 traditional arts. Next up is The National Textile Museum, which has generated national and international attention and boasts a substantial collection of antique textile artifacts exclusive to Bhutan.

After eating at a local restaurant and following a further short drive, we will begin our afternoon hike above Thimphu to the incredible Dodedrak Monastery.

On arrival at the 12th century Dodedrak temple, we can enjoy tea and attend evening prayers with the monks. Later, explore the monastery grounds at your leisure.

Overnight at monastery.

 

Day 11: Thimphu to paro

 Kuensel Phodrang

Kuensel Phodrang

  • Morning ceremony with the monks
  • Leisure time in Paro
  • Farmhouse visit and dinner with a Bhutanese family

This morning we have a chance to join the monks for an early morning prayer ceremony and meditation. We will have time to relax and take photos in the early morning light before having a simple breakfast. Then we begin our walk back down towards the Thimphu valley-floor where our private vehicle will be waiting.

We will have time for a leisurely visit to Kuensel Phodrang, a gigantic statue of Lord Buddha with an adjoining temple, before having lunch in Thimphu. After lunch, we will drive back into Paro where we can enjoy some free time in the town to do some final souvenir shopping before returning to our hotel.

In the evening we will have dinner with a local family in their traditional-style farmhouse and have a chance to try home cooked foods and traditional drinks such as ara and butter tea.

Overnight at our hotel in Paro.

 

Day 12 - Departure

A guide and driver will take you the short distance to the airport in plenty of time to catch your flight.

 

 Golden Langur at Dodedrak Monastery 

Golden Langur at Dodedrak Monastery