Western Bhutan is home to many of the kingdom's top sights and most beautiful landscapes. You'll explore the region on this well-rounded 7-day trip that starts in the capital city of Thimphu. Discover the glacial valley of Phobjikha, attend an evening prayer ceremony in Punakha, enjoy a picnic in the mountains, and hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery. Since the itinerary focuses on just one part of the country, you'll spend less time traveling between destinations and more time simply enjoying them.

Highlights

  • Hike to the famed Tiger's Nest monastery
  • Visit Phobjikha, the so-called "Valley of the Cranes"
  • Marvel at breathtaking mountain views from Dochu La Pass
  • Trek through a quiet forest of rhododendron to Lungchutse Temple

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Thimphu & Sightsee Thimphu
Day 2 Tour Thimphu's Cultural Attractions Phobjikha
Day 3 Explore Phobjikha, the "Valley of the Cranes" Phobjikha
Day 4 Attend a Prayer Ceremony in Punakha Punakha
Day 5 Take in Sweeping Mountain Views at Dochu La Pass Paro
Day 6 Hike to the Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 7 Depart Bhutan   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Thimphu & Sightsee

Streets of Paro
The busy streets of Paro

Welcome to Bhutan! Begin by transferring from Paro to the capital city of Thimphu. You'll do some sightseeing around town this afternoon. Start at the Memorial Chorten, resplendent in the sunlight with its golden spires and soft sounds of religious bells. This center for tantric Buddhism contains one of the finest collections of Buddhist statues in the world. Continue to Kuensel Phodrang, home to the Buddha Dordenma — one of the largest Buddha statues in the world at 169 feet (54 meters) tall. It's a great place to watch the sunset. 

Day 2: Tour Thimphu's Cultural Attractions

Monks in the garden at Simtokha Dzong in Thimphu
Monks in the garden of Simtokha Dzong in Thimphu

Experience everything Bhutan's capital has to offer with a half-day tour of its most important cultural sites and monuments. Highlights include the Choki Traditional Art School, the Institute of Traditional Medicine Services (formerly known as the Indigenous Hospital), the Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery, the Takin Sanctuary (where you'll have the chance to see the national animal of Bhutan), Zangdopelri Temple, the Changangkha Monastery, Simtokha Dzong fortress, and the Changlimithang Stadium, where you can try your hand at archery.

After lunch, head to the Phobjikha Valley, also known as the "Valley of the Cranes." Travel uphill through the forest to Dochu La Pass, with its spectacular northern-facing mountain views. Then continue to the subtropical Valley of Punakha and down into the glacial valley of Phobjikha, where you'll spend the night.

Day 3: Explore Phobjikha, the "Valley of the Cranes"

Phobjikha Valley
Hiking in the Phobjikha Valley

Today you'll explore the beautiful Phobjikha Valley. Start with a visit to Gangtey Gonpa, an important monastery. From there, a beautiful nature trail winds down into the valley. As you make your way along the path, you'll pass the wetlands where the region's famed cranes reside in winter. You'll learn more about the species and its natural habitat with a visit to the Black-Necked Crane Information Center

Day 4: Attend a Prayer Ceremony in Punakha

Punakha Dzong
Blossoming trees outside Punakha Dzong

After breakfast, travel from Phobjikha to Punakha, where you'll visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece located on the confluence of two rivers. It dates back to 1637. After a short hike through the valley, you'll arrive at 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. In the late afternoon, visit Punakha's town and market before attending an evening prayer ceremony at the nunnery, a peaceful way to end a busy day.

Day 5: Take in Sweeping Mountain Views at Dochu La Pass

The view from Dochu La Pass

This morning, return to Dochu La Pass, where another hiking opportunity awaits. Trek through a landscape rich with moss, laden birch, hemlock, and rhododendron, winding your way 1,640 feet (500 meters) above the pass to the Lungchutse Temple at Lungchutse Lhakhang. Enjoy a picnic lunch here against a backdrop of sweeping views, then continue downhill to the monastic center Trashigang Dzong.

Afterward, head to Paro by car and spend the late afternoon exploring the Paro Valley. The Ta Dzong (watchtower)  houses the National Museum. Rinphung Dzong fortress and Dumtse Lhakhang temple, featuring some of the finest murals in the kingdom, are just a few of the gems the valley has to offer. 

Day 6: Hike to the Tiger's Nest Monastery

The Tiger's Nest Monastery
The famous Tiger's Nest Monastery

On your last full day in Bhutan, you'll hike to the legendary Tiger's Nest Monastery. The steep climb, which takes between one and three hours on the way up, will bring you face-to-face with one of Bhutan's most iconic sites. The trail 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. 

If you're feeling adventurous and are longing for a more remote experience away from other tourists, several other monasteries, including Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tshemo, await further up the hill. When you're done, make your way back down to the valley for a stop at Bhutan's oldest temple, Khyichu Lhakhang. Then return to Paro for a farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 7: Depart Bhutan 

Children in Bhutan
Children in Bhutan

It's time to say goodbye to Bhutan. Transfer to the airport for your flight out. Tashi delek (blessings and good luck) and safe travels!

More Bhutan Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Bhutan? Check out these other 7-day Bhutan itineraries, with trekking adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Discover Western Bhutan - 7 Days
Map of Discover Western Bhutan - 7 Days