Set deep in the eastern Himalayas between India and Tibet, Bhutan is a special place where the native people are deeply connected with the land. On this 10-day tour of the country, you'll explore the country's famous landscapes, driving through valleys, farms, and rice paddies, stopping to take photos from high-altitude mountain passes, and visiting Buddhist temples and royal palaces. With a mix of off-the-beaten-path destinations and popular attractions like the Tiger's Nest Monastery, this highlights tour is a great introduction to Bhutan.

Highlights

  • Hike to the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Tour glittering Buddhist temples and royal palaces
  • Road-trip through Bhutan's mountains and valleys
  • Marvel at the Himalayas from a high-altitude mountain pass

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro & Sightsee Paro
Day 2 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 3 Transfer to Bumthang Bumthang
Day 4 Visit Historic Sites in Bumthang Bumthang
Day 5 Tour Trongsa Dzong & Watch Tower Phobjikha
Day 6 Explore the Phobjika Valley Phobjikha
Day 7 See the Famous Punakha Dzong Punakha
Day 8 Hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Monastery Thimphu
Day 9 Discover Thimphu's Cultural Sites Thimphu
Day 10 Depart Paro   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro & Sightsee

A traditional bridge across the Paro River

Welcome to Bhutan! You'll start in the Paro Valley. Do some sightseeing today, starting at Paro Dzong (also called Rinpung Dzong, the "Fortress of a Heap of Jewels"). Constructed as a simple fort in the early 15th century, it was developed into a much more commanding fortress in 1646. It's one of the finest examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture in existence. Today, the building houses a monastic school and several interesting paintings, including an unusual Bhutanese interpretation of a mandala. Cross the traditional wooden covered bridge across the Paro River. In times of war, the bridge was frequently retracted to protect the dzong.

You'll also see Ta Dzong, a watchtower built in 1649 and renovated in 1968 to house the National Museum. The unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell. Displays include an impressive collection of thangkas (Buddhist paintings on cloth) depicting Bhutan's important saints and teachers. There's a natural history gallery with a three-dimensional map of Bhutan, and an underground tunnel is said to lead from the watchtower to the water supply below. Finally, swing by Kyichu Lhakhang, a Buddhist temple in Paro. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country, built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. 

Day 2: Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

The famous Tiger's Nest Monastery

This morning, drive for about 25 minutes to begin your hike to one of Bhutan’s most revered pilgrimage sites, the Taktshang Lhakhang, popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The trek offers spectacular views of the sacred monastery, which is perched precariously on a sheer rock face 3000 feet (900 meters) above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche, father of Bhutan’s Mahayana Buddhism, arrived in the Paro Valley more than a millennium ago and meditated for three months in a cave. That cave was converted into this monastery. 

Day 3: Transfer to Bumthang

A traditional kitchen in Bumthang

Today, you'll catch a flight to Bumthang and spend the afternoon sightseeing. Highlights include Jambay Lhakhang, a temple founded in the 7th century by a Tibetan king, and the Kurjey Lhakhang temple complex. There are three large temples within the complex and more than a hundred shrines. Kenchogsum Temple was beautifully restored in 1995 and looks new, but it actually dates back to the 7th century. Finish the sightseeing circuit at Jakar Dzong, literally meaning "castle of the white bird," set in a picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor Valley. It's one of the largest fortresses in Bhutan, with impressive stone walls and an elegant interior.

Day 4: Visit Historic Sites in Bumthang

A river in the Swiss farm area

This morning, head to Wangdichholing Palace. The palace, built in 1857, was the first in Bhutan that was not designed as a fortress. Several kings adopted Wangdicholing as their main summer residence. There are five large water-powered prayer wheels inside square stupas as you approach the gates of the palace. In the afternoon, you'll explore the Swiss farm area nearby. There is a small factory beside the river that produces Swiss cheese, honey, apple wine, and local beer. Taste some locally made treats before heading back to Bumthang.

Day 5: Tour Trongsa Dzong & Watch Tower

Architecture dwarfed by mountains at the geographical center of Bhutan

After breakfast, you'll drive a few hours along twisting roads to Trongsa, located at the geographical center of Bhutan. Take some time to explore the town of Trongsa, with its unique Tibetan influence, then continue traveling until you reach the Trongsa Dzong, the largest and most impressively situated dzong in Bhutan, perched high on a cliff above a deep river gorge. Built in 1648, the Trongsa Dzong is a huge fortress filled with intricate wood carvings, a maze of courtyards, and covered passages that follow the contour of the ridge. Ta Dzong, the watchtower above the town, offers fabulous views over the surrounding area. 

Day 6: Explore the Phobjika Valley

A postcard-like view of the Phobjikha Valley

Explore Phobjikha Valley, a glacial valley within Black Mountains National Park. It's a natural habitat for wildlife, including nesting black-necked cranes from Central Asia. Due to conservation measures, there is no electricity in the valley. Homes use solar-powered cells or generators, and rooms are heated with wood stoves. You'll tour Gantey Gompa, a monastery on a hilltop overlooking the valley, and walk on the Gangtey Nature Trail, strolling downhill through flower meadows, passing through forests, and enjoying sweeping views of the valley.

Day 7: See the Famous Punakha Dzong 

Chimi Lhakhang (Monastery of Fertility) in Bhutan

After an early breakfast, start the journey into the countryside towards the Punakha Valley. You'll take a break for a walk through the paddy fields and villages. In the valley, you will visit Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the "divine madman" Drukpa Kinley. This famous fertility temple is visited by people from all over Bhutan (and the world) who seek blessings as they attempt to fulfill the wish of having children. After lunch, explore the historic Punakha Dzong fortress strategically located at the confluence of two rivers. It was built in 1637.

Day 8: Hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Monastery

Dochu La mountain pass in the Himalayas

Set out on a beautiful day hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal monastery, crossing a suspension bridge and walking through rice fields, then trekking along a trail surrounded by pine trees. Soak in the serene natural beauty of the area and participate in the rite of lighting butter lamps — the lamp light symbolizing wisdom — in the temple. In the afternoon, continue through the countryside toward the Thimphu Valley, passing through Dochu La Pass, where you'll enjoy magnificent vistas of the Himalayans. You'll pause to admire Dochula Monastery, also known as the Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens, which features Buddhist monuments visible from every perspective. 

Day 9: Discover Thimphu's Cultural Sites

A massive Buddha statue in Thimphu

Today is dedicated to sightseeing in Thimphu. The capital has many attractions for visitors. During a guided tour today, you will visit several of Thimphu’s cultural sites, monuments, and temples. You'll also attend a crafts workshop and explore the Textiles Museum. Check out the archery ground at the National Stadium, where you can try Bhutan's national sport for yourself, and stop by the Takin Preserve to see the Bhutan Takin, a quirky-looking animal that's related to the goat and the antelope. It's the national animal of Bhutan.

Day 10: Depart Paro 

Houses and temples near the airport in Paro

The trip has come to an end. Transfer to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

More Bhutan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Bhutan? Check out these other 10-day Bhutan itineraries, with trekking adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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