You don't need to have a lot of time in Bhutan, nor an exceptional level of fitness, to experience some of the best hikes in the kingdom. This selection of the best day hikes offers something for every interest and ability, from quick and easy downhill rambles to steep uphill climbs and passes.

Overview

Bhutan's landscapes, filled with villages, hills, farmland, cliffside monasteries, forests, and mountains, are ideal settings for day-long walks. Whether you're spending a couple of weeks or just a few days in Bhutan, try to fit one of these hikes into your itinerary. From easy afternoon strolls through rolling meadows to full-on day treks with steep ascents and high-altitude passes thrown in — plus a handful of ancient Buddhist sites to visit along the way — here are some exciting options for day hikes in Bhutan.

Each hike is tagged by its difficulty level: easy, moderate, or advanced. If you're ready to spend more than a few days on the hiking trail, consider trying a 14-day trekking tour of Bhutan.

Moderate: Taktsang Goenba (Tiger's Nest Monastery)

The iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery

The place affectionately known as the Tiger's Nest Monastery is officially called the Paro Takstang Goenba, and it's a must-visit place on any Bhutan itinerary. It was built in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rimpoche (an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism) first meditated. The story goes that he was carried here on the back of a tiger from Tibet, hence its nickname. It's still a working monastery.

The Tiger's Nest is a short drive from Paro. The round trip to the monastery, perched high on a cliff, takes four to five hours. Ideally, you'll also spend about an hour at the monastery itself.

The hike starts at the parking lot, at the foot of the mountain. You will see the monastery high up above and in front of you, which is the perfect motivation to keep walking! The trail itself is wide and not too steep, so it's suitable for varying levels of ability. Horses can be hired for visitors who don't feel comfortable hiking the whole way.

The Takstang Cafeteria lies at about the halfway point, and some visitors choose to stop here and not continue all the way to the monastery. There are good views of the monastery from here. However, it's worth continuing to reach the monastery itself. The path after the cafeteria flattens out a bit, although the final push up to the monastery is a little strenuous.

Once at the monastery, you'll be shown around inside. Then you'll hike back on the same path.

Easy: Dochu La (10,006 feet) to Lungchutse Lhakhang (11,482 feet)

Dochu La

This day hike is an ideal excursion on the journey between Thimphu and Punakha.

From the elaborate chorten (Buddhist shrine) at Dochu La pass, at 10,006 feet, the trail to the small Lungchutse Monastery is a three- to four-hour round trip. The walk follows a trail mainly used by horses, cattle, and yaks, and undulates up and down. The forests you will pass through are rhododendron, blooming in the spring, plus juniper, birch, and hemlock.

From the monastery, you'll be treated to panoramic Himalayan views to the north. All of Bhutan's major peaks should be visible depending on the cloud cover, including Jhomolhari (23,996 feet), Gangchhenta (Great Tiger Mountain, in the shape of a tiger, 22,440 feet), Masang Gang (shaped like a trident, 23,507 feet), Zongphu Gang (Table Mountain, 23,293 feet), and Gangkar Puensum (Bhutan’s highest, at 24,740 feet, and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world).

Easy: Gangtey Nature Trail, Phobjikha Valley

The Phobjikha Valley

The Gangtey Nature Trail in the Phobjikha Valley is an easy, short trek of around two hours that leads you mostly downhill.  It's extremely beautiful, with views of the glacial valley.

From the 16th-century Gangtey Goenba atop a small hill, hike down through meadows that bloom with wildflowers in the warmer seasons. Reach the village of Semchubara, and from there, hike through a forest and then through a valley.

This short trail is a must-do for nature and wildlife lovers. Spot animals grazing along the way, and enjoy a glimpse of rural Bhutanese life. In the winter, you may be lucky and see black-necked cranes that migrate here in the winter from the Tibetan Plateau. If you're interested in birds, have a look at this itinerary specialized for bird-watchers traveling in Bhutan.

Although this hike is short, it allows you to spend a bit more time in the absolute peace and quiet of the Bhutanese countryside.

Moderate: Ngang Lhakhang to Tahung in Tang Valley

Traditional Bhutanese architecture near Bumthang

You could choose to hike the longer, three-day Bumthang Cultural Trek, but for a taste of the same in a day (six hours), do the Ngang Lhakhang to Tahung route instead. This is the second day of the Bumthang Cultural Trek.

Starting at Ngang Lhakhang (a 15th-century temple known as the "Swan Temple"), hike through meadows and bamboo forests, crossing numerous small streams. Climb the long but gradual ascent to the Phephe La (11,023 feet), marked with a small stone shrine and colorful fluttering prayer flags. On the way up and down, you'll be surrounded by beautiful, peaceful forests of rhododendron, juniper, and birch, the branches dripping with atmospheric Spanish moss.

After the pass, hike downhill into a broad valley, dotted with grazing yaks, cows, and sheep. End at the village of Tahung, where you can camp overnight.

Advanced: Hike to Khamsum Chorten, Punakha Valley

Punakha Valley

It's a short, steep climb up to the Khamsum Chorten in the Punakha Valley. But the views and the walk through the stunning Punakha Valley are worth the effort. 

From Punakha town, drive about 30 minutes. From the parking lot, it's a 45-minute walk up through rice fields to the Khamsum Chorten.

The chorten itself is not that old compared to many of Bhutan's other monuments: it was built in the 1990s. It's situated on a ridge with lovely views of the valley and farmland.

The descent to Sonagasa village and then Punakha Dzong takes a couple of hours. It follows a trail by the river, through farmland and across a suspension bridge. 

Have more time to explore Bhutan? Check out this recommended five-day itinerary.