The kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the last unspoiled gems of the Himalaya. Closed to foreign visitors until the 1970s, Bhutan has an amazingly preserved traditional Buddhist culture uniquely blended with modern sensibilities. On your five-day journey, you'll visit monasteries, fortresses, and enjoy stunning views as you hike through the mountains.

Highlights

  • Explore the fascinating dzong fortresses of Bhutan
  • Enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayas from Dochu La Pass
  • Hike up a mountain to the Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Visit ancient temples and learn about Buddhist traditions 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro, transfer to Thimphu Thimphu
Day 2 Explore Thimphu, drive to Punakha Punakha
Day 3 Punakha and the Dochu La Pass Paro
Day 4 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 5 Depart from Paro  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro, Drive to Thimphu

Thimphu, Bhutan
Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu, in the foothills of the Himalayas

Fly into the town of Paro from Delhi, Kathmandu, or Bangkok. You'll be welcomed by your guide and driven to Bhutan's capital city of Thimphu, about an hour and a half away. Spend the day exploring and visit the grand Tashicho Dzong, which overlooks the city. This fortress-like compound is a Buddhist monastery and the seat of the Bhutanese government. Then stop by the magnificent Memorial Chorten, a religious monument built to honor a former king. Finally, make your way to the giant golden Great Buddha Dordenma statue, where you'll watch the sunset over the valley below.

Day 2: Explore Thimphu, Travel to Punakha

Punakha Dzong
The impressive Punakha Dzong, the former capital of Bhutan

Today you'll delve deeper into Bhutanese culture in Thimphu. Go on a half-day tour around the city, stopping at arts workshops and museums, an indigenous medicine hospital, convents and monasteries, the weekend market, and a takin sanctuary. The takin is the national animal of Bhutan and is a large goat-like animal.

After lunch, you'll travel to the town of Punakha, about three hours away. You'll drive through thick forest as the road climbs gently up to the Dochu La Pass at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050m). Take in the spectacular mountain vistas to the north before continuing down to the sub-tropical Punakha Valley. Here you'll visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece located at the intersection of two rivers. Then later in the afternoon visit the market in town and attend an evening prayer ceremony at the nunnery.

Day 3: Punakha and the Dochu La Pass

Dochu La Pass
View from the Dochu La Pass

Wake up early for a short, easy hike to Chimi Lhakhang temple, dedicated to the quirky Buddhist leader Drukpa Kunley. The "fertility temple," as it's sometimes called, is filled with phallic imagery said to ward off evil spirits. From there, drive back through the Dochu La Pass for more panoramic views of Himalayan peaks along the Tibetan border.

You'll get even better views from Lungchutse Lhakhang, up on a hilltop about 1,640 feet (500m) above the Dochu La Pass. Trek for two hours through a rich growth of moss, birch, hemlock, and rhododendron trees to get to the Lungchutse temple. Enjoy a picnic lunch in fresh mountain air before walking downhill to the meditation center at Trashigang Goemba. From here, you'll be picked up and driven back to Paro for the night.

Day 4: Hike to Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery

Tiger's Nest monastery
The sacred Paro Taktsang, also known as the Tiger's Nest Monastery

This morning you'll embark upon a full-day hike to the iconic Paro Taktsang, also called the Tiger's Nest Monastery. To reach this 17th century temple complex nestled into the mountainside, you'll climb up a somewhat steep path for one to three hours. If you're not too tired, continue further uphill to visit a few more monasteries off the beaten track. Take in the amazing views of the Paro Valley, and then stop at Bhutan's oldest temple, Khyichu Lhakhang, on the way back down. In the evening, sit down to a lovely farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 5: Departure

One of Paro's many dzongs

Spend the last morning exploring Paro at leisure. Check out the National Museum inside the Ta Dzong, roam around the Rinpung Dzong, or visit the unusual Dumtse Lhakhang temple, which is home to some of Bhutan's finest murals. Then say goodbye and head to the airport for your departing flight.