Explore the most iconic highlights of Western Bhutan on this six-day itinerary. In the capital of Thimphu, you'll see how ancient traditions coexist with modernity, and learn about Bhutanese architecture and history. Then, you'll drive across the spectacular Dochu La pass to the semi-tropical valley of Punakha, the former winter capital of the Kingdom. The tour ends at the emerald-green Paro Valley, where you will hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery—a quintessential Bhutanese experience.

Highlights

  • See Thimphu's impressive Giant Golden Buddha
  • Get 180-degree views of the Tibetan Valley from Lungchutse Lhakhang
  • Drive through the scenic Himalaya mountain pass of Dochu La
  • Hike to Bhutan's most famous landmark, the Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Visit Kyichu Lhakhang, Bhutan’s oldest temple

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Tour of Thimphu Thimphu
Day 2 Sightseeing in Thimphu & Drive to Punakha Punakha
Day 3 Explore Punakha Punakha
Day 4 Transfer to Paro Paro
Day 5 Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 6 Depart from Paro  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Tour of Thimphu

Prayer wheels in Thimphu
Prayer wheels in Thimphu

As soon as you arrive in Paro, a guide will welcome you and transfer you to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

On the road, you'll get your first impressions of this mountainous and peaceful kingdom. As you pass flourishing forests and beautiful deep valleys, you'll see with your own eyes how Bhutan manages to be the only carbon-positive country in the world.

In Thimphu, you'll immediately start a tour of the city highlights. Begin with the great Tashicho Dzong, then head to Memorial Chorten, where many residents go for their daily prayer. The tour finishes at the impressive Golden Giant Buddha statue, which is of spiritual importance to the locals. After admiring the statue, you can turn your head towards the valley and delight in your first sunset in the country.

Once the sky begins to turn dark, you will go to your accommodation and check in.

Day 2: Sightseeing in Thimphu & Drive to Punakha

Druk Wangyal Chortens on the Dochu La pass
Druk Wangyal Chortens on the Dochu La pass

Get an early start on a half-day tour of Thimphu’s cultural sites and monuments. You will pass through many of the capital's most important landmarks, including a Takin Sanctuary, the Nunnery at Zilukha, Zangdopelri Temple, and Changangkha Monastery. If time permits, you will also go to Simtokha Dzong, the Textile Museum, and a crafts workshop. 

Take a well-deserved lunch break and rest from a morning spent walking. Then, it will be time to embark on a 3-hour drive Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. As soon as you leave Thimphu, you will be surrounded by forests and start gently climbing the Dochu La pass. This road through the majestic Himalaya provides spectacular views and is dotted with important landmarks such as the Druk Wangyal Chortens: 108 chortens erected in memory of Bhutanese soldiers that passed away during a 2003 conflict.

Upon arrival in Punakha,  you will start on a short and easy hike to Chimi Lhakhang Temple, which is dedicated to Bhutan’s famous Saint Drukpa Kuenley. 

You will then check into your accommodation and rest for the night.

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Day 3: Explore Punakha

Beautiful Punakha Dzong
Beautiful Punakha Dzong

Start the morning with a breathtaking hike to Chorten Nebu Goenba, an 18th-century monastery which is now a monastic school.  The trail will take you through scenic terraced rice fields and views of the Punakha River—you'll be so engrossed in the landscape that three hours of roundtrip hiking will pass by in a breeze.

At the end of the hike, a car will be waiting to take you to the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece located on the confluence of two rivers. You will spend a significant amount of time exploring this fortress-monastery and learning about Bhutanese history and architecture.

In the late afternoon, you'll spend some time at Punakha Market, the perfect place to buy souvenirs. You will then attend the evening prayer ceremony at the local nunnery.

Day 4: Transfer to Paro

Rinpung Dzong in Paro
Rinpung Dzong in Paro

After breakfast, you'll drive back through the amazing scenery of Dochu La Pass on your way to Paro.

You will stop mid-journey for a two-hour hike through rich vegetation to the impressive Lungchutse Lhakhang. Perched on a hill and rising 1640 feet above the already steep Dochu La, the temple provides even more breathtaking views of the Tibetan Plateau and the Bhutanese Himalaya. Walk around the temple, take time to meditate, and finish your visit with a scenic picnic lunch overlooking the world below. 

After lunch, you'll start a mild one-hour descend to Trashigang Goenba, another beautiful monastic center. The car will pick you up here and continue another two hours to Paro. 

Once you arrive, you can rest at your accommodation before setting out to explore on your own. Recommended sites include the Ta Dzong watchtower, which houses the National Museum, Rinphung Dzong fortress, and Dumtse Lhakhang temple, known to hold some of the finest murals in the kingdom.

Day 5: Tiger's Nest Monastery

The magnificent Tiger's Nest Monastery
The magnificent Tiger's Nest Monastery

Get excited for the highlight of your Bhutan adventure: a hike to the astonishing Tiger's Nest Monastery

Perhaps Bhutan's most famous landmark, the legendary Taktsang Goenba (as it is locally called) is a steep 1-3-hour hike. The arduous hike ends as you come face to face with this spectacular monastery.  Carved on the side of a mountain, the temple is truly awe-inspiring and makes for some incredible photos.

If you have it in you to keep climbing, you can leave the crowds of Tiger's Nest behind and go further uphill to other monasteries like Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tshemo

On your return to Paro Valley, you'll stop at Bhutan’s oldest temple: Khyichu Lhakhang.  Although the temple is not as famous as Tiger's Nest, its significance to the local culture cannot be overstated.

When you arrive back in Paro, you'll enjoy a delicious farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 6: Depart from Paro

Iron Bridge in Paro
Iron Bridge in Paro

Enjoy your last breakfast in Bhutan before heading to Paro Airport and catching your onward flight. We hope you enjoyed this adventure!

Map

Map of Bhutan Highlights: Thimphu, Punakha, & Paro - 6 Days
Map of Bhutan Highlights: Thimphu, Punakha, & Paro - 6 Days
Bas
Written by Bas Naus, updated Jan 31, 2020