All members of the family will love the sights and activities of Western Bhutan on this 10-day itinerary. With customs and traditions still going strong after centuries, and an environment so rich and diverse, Bhutan is a country that is completely unique. In Thimphu, the capital, you will see how ancient traditions go hand-in-hand with modernity. Continue to the semi-tropical valley of Punakha, once the winter capital. Explore this valley on foot and in a raft. End with an unmissable Bhutan attraction: the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Highlights

  • Hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Have fun white-water rafting on the Punakha River
  • Try Bhutan's national sport, archery
  • Experience Bhutanese family life at a homestay in a farmhouse

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro and Drive to Thimphu Thimphu
Day 2 Thimphu Sightseeing Thimphu
Day 3 Drive to Phobjikha Valley Phobjikha
Day 4 Phobjikha to Punakha Punakha
Day 5 Hiking and Rafting in the Punakha Valley Punakha
Day 6 Punakha to Ha via Dochu La Ha
Day 7 Hiking in the Ha Valley Ha
Day 8 Drive to Paro - Explore Paro Valley Paro
Day 9 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 10 Farewell Bhutan!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro and Drive to Thimphu

Welcome to Bhutan

Welcome to Bhutan! Arrive on a flight to Paro. Here, you'll be welcomed by your guide and transferred to Thimphu, a drive of about 1.5 hours. 

Depending on your time of arrival there may be time to visit the great Tashicho Dzong, the Memorial Chorten, and the Giant Buddha statue, from where you will have great valley views as the sun sets. If your flight arrives in the late afternoon, visit these sights tomorrow instead.

Day 2: Thimphu Sightseeing

Takin, Bhutn's national animal

The capital of Bhutan has many things for visitors to see. During a day tour you can visit several of Thimphu’s cultural sites, monuments, and temples, including crafts workshops and the beautiful Textiles Museum. Kids especially love the archery ground at the National Stadium, and the Takin Preserve, where you can see the quirky looking national Bhutanese animal.

Day 3: Drive to Phobjikha Valley

Phobjikha Valley

After lunch, drive to the Phobjikha Valley. As soon as you leave Thimphu town you will be surrounded by forest. The road climbs gently to the Dochu La Pass (10,000 feet/3050 m). From the pass you can enjoy spectacular mountain views to the north.

Continue driving to the subtropical valley of Punakha (4100 feet/1250 m). From here it is another two hours to the glacial valley of Phobjikha. On arrival in Phobjikha, visit the centuries-old Gangtey Goenba and the Black-necked Crane Centre, to learn about these graceful birds that migrate to Bhutan every winter.

Day 4: Phobjikha to Punakha

Punakha Valley

Today, your driver will take you down to Punakha. You will surely notice the warmer temperature due to the lower altitude. In the valley of Punakha you will visit Chimi Lhakhang, the famous temple of the 'divine madman' Drukpa Kinley. This famous fertility temple is visited by people from all over Bhutan, who seek blessings to fulfill their wish to have children. 

Day 5: Hiking and Rafting in the Punakha Valley

Punakha Dzong

After breakfast, drive into the idyllic countryside north of Punakha. From a small suspension bridge, you will start a short and steep hike to Khamsum Yuelley Chorten, a relatively new stupa with amazing interiors and great valley views.

After having warmed up, return to the bridge, from where you'll embark on a white-water rafting trip. The Punakha Chu is a gentle river, and while rafting you will be able to enjoy the beautiful valley.

End the river trip at the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece on the confluence of two rivers. In the late afternoon, you can attend the evening prayer ceremony at the local nunnery.

Day 6: Punakha to Ha via Dochu La

Hiking near the Dochu La

Today, drive back over the Dochu La Pass and enjoy another opportunity to view Bhutan’s peaks in the north, which form the natural boundary with the Tibetan Plateau.

Even better views will appear from Lungchutse Lhakhang, above the pass on a hilltop. A two-hour hike through birch, hemlock, and rhododendron trees will bring you to the Lungchutse Temple. Enjoy a picnic lunch with astonishing views, on a clear day.

Instead of returning to Dochu La, you can walk downhill to another retreat and monastic center, Trashigang Goenba (one hour from Lungchutse). Here your car will pick you up and drive you to the Ha Valley (about three hours).

Tonight you will sleep in an authentic Bhutanese farmhouse.

Day 7: Hiking in the Ha Valley

Hiking above the Ha Valley

From your homestay, drive to the northern end of the Ha Valley, the most scenic part of the valley. Take an easy 3-4 hour hike through lovely villages and past temples. In the afternoon you will visit the impressive temple complex of Lhakhang Karpo, and you will make a stop at the local school.

Day 8: Drive to Paro - Explore Paro Valley

Approaching the Paro Valley

After breakfast, drive to the Paro Valley via the Chele La Pass. At 12,500 feet (3800 m) it's Bhutan's highest motorable road.

On the way down to Paro you will stop at the Dzongdrakha Cliff Temples. The Paro Valley is one of the loveliest valleys in Bhutan. The roads are often lined with willow trees, and you will see apple orchards next to the roads. Large whitewashed farmhouses and temples complement the terraced fields, with forested hills rising on either side to create a beautiful, organic and peaceful whole.

In the late afternoon, visit the Ta Dzong (watchtower), which houses the National Museum and the Rinphung Dzong Fortress.

Day 9: Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

Tiger's Nest Monastery

Enjoy hiking to the legendary Taktsang Goenba (Tiger's Nest Monastery). A steep 1-3 hour climb will bring you face-to-face with this spectacular monastery. You may also hike beyond Taktsang to more remote monasteries further uphill, such as Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tshemo. This will take you away from the ‘crowds’, and you will get great valley views from here.

Return to the Paro Valley, where you will stop to check out Bhutan’s oldest temple, Khyichu Lhakhang, dating back to the 7th century. Once you arrive back in Paro town you can enjoy a farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 10: Farewell Bhutan!

Farewell Bhutan!

After breakfast, transfer to Paro Airport in time for your departure flight. Farewell, we hope to see you again!

Map

Map of Family Adventure in Western Bhutan - 10 Days
Map of Family Adventure in Western Bhutan - 10 Days
Bas
Written by Bas Naus, updated Mar 4, 2020