The kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the last unspoiled gems of the Himalayas. Closed to foreign visitors until the 1970s, Bhutan's past and present are firmly grounded in traditional Buddhist culture. On this quick 5-day journey around the country, you'll visit quiet monasteries, explore ancient fortresses, and enjoy stunning views of the mountains as you hike through peaceful valleys.

Highlights

  • Explore the fascinating dzongs (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 Sightsee in Thimphu & Drive to Punakha Punakha
Day 3 Explore Punakha & Dochu La Pass Paro
Day 4 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 5 Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro & Transfer to Thimphu

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

Welcome to Bhutan! You'll arrive in Paro and transfer 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 sun go down over the valley below.

Day 2: Sightsee in Thimphu & Drive 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 museums, an indigenous medicine hospital, convents, monasteries, the weekend market, and a wildlife sanctuary.  Then you'll travel to the town of Punakha, about three hours away. You'll drive through a dense forest as the road climbs gently up to the Dochu La Pass at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). 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. Later in the afternoon visit the market in town and attend an evening prayer ceremony at the nunnery.

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Day 3: Explore Punakha & 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. It's a popular pilgrimage spot for Bhutanese people, especially those who wish to have their own children. Then drive back through the Dochu La Pass for more panoramic views of Himalayan peaks along the border of Tibet.

You'll get even better views from Lungchutse Lhakhang, a temple located on a hilltop about 1,640 feet (500 meters) above the Dochu La Pass. Trek for two hours through a rich growth of moss, birch, hemlock, and rhododendron trees to get to the 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 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 tucked 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 for a farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 5: Depart 

One of Paro's many dzongs
Bhutanese children in traditional dress

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

More Bhutan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Bhutan? Check out these other 5-day Bhutan itineraries, with trekking adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Highlights of Bhutan - 5 Days
Map of Highlights of Bhutan - 5 Days