Travelers longing to experience Bhutan, the pristine and tranquil kingdom in the Himalayas, can see some of the country's best cultural sites on this 7-day itinerary. Begin your trip in the capital of Thimphu and learn how this country's ancient cultural traditions inform modern life before driving east across the spectacular Dochula Pass to the semi-tropical valley of Punakha where you will hike across suspension bridges and go river rafting. Then, continue to Ha Valley where you will sleep in a traditional farmhouse and experience Bhutanese family life before cycling to Paro and ending your trip with a tour of the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Highlights

  • Explore the capital's best museums and markets
  • Go on a rafting trip through the Punakha Valley
  • Visit Bhutan’s oldest temple in the beautiful Paro Valley
  • Enjoy a homestay on a Bhutanese family farm
  • Hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro - Transfer to Thimphu Thimphu
Day 2 Guided Tour of Thimphu - Transfer to Punakha Punakha
Day 3 Excursion to Punakha Valley - Rafting Trip Punakha
Day 4 Hike to Lungchutse Goemba - Transfer to Ha Ha
Day 5 Cycling Excursion to Paro Paro
Day 6 Hike to Paro Taktsang Paro
Day 7 Departure via Paro  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro - Transfer to Thimphu

The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu

Welcome to Bhutan! When you arrive in Paro International Airport (PBH), a representative will be waiting to take you on a short 1.5-hour drive to the capital city of Thimphu

After you arrive at your hotel and check in, you will be able to visit the great Buddhist monastery known as Tashichho Dzong, the Memorial Chorten, and the Buddha Dordenma—a giant golden statue that offers great views of the valley below. 

Day 2: Guided Tour of Thimphu - Transfer to Punakha

A local archer at Changlimithang Stadium
A local archer at Changlimithang Stadium

After breakfast, you'll set off on a guided tour of Thimphu's best sites.

You'll start with the oldest temple in Thimphu: Changangkha Lhakhang. After that, you definitely shouldn't miss walking through the Changlimithang Stadium where you can try to shoot some arrows at the archery ground. Depending on your interest, you can make your way to other sites such as the Motithang Takin Preserve, the Textile Museum, and the Weekend Market.

If you would prefer a more active day, you can take a 2-3 hour hike to the northern end of Thimphu Valley to Tango Monastery.

In the afternoon, your guide will drive you across the Dochula Pass to Punakha. When the weather is clear, you can see wonderful views of the eastern Himalayas on this route.

When you arrive in Punakha, you will visit Chimi Lhakhang, the famous fertility temple that is devoted to the "divine madman" of Buddhism, Drukpa Kinley. After your tour, you will check in at your accommodation and have the evening free to relax.

Day 3: Excursion to Punakha Valley - Rafting Trip

Rafting in the Punakha Valley
Rafting in the Punakha Valley

After breakfast, a representative will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the idyllic countryside of the Punakha Valley north of Punakha.

When you arrive, you will cross one of Bhutan's many iron suspension bridges and begin your short, steep hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chöten, a stupa built in 2004 to guard Bhutan from evil forces. You'll see amazing interiors and murals, and there are fantastic valley views from the rooftop.

After returning down to the bridge, you will start your rafting trip down the Po Chu River. This gentle river makes for a relaxing rafting trip, and you will be able to enjoy more views of the beautiful valley before returning to shore at the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece located on the confluence of two rivers.

Your guide will show you all the chapels and notable sites inside the compound, and they will share important stories related to this wonderful structure. After your tour of the Dzong, you will continue to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan!

In the late afternoon, you can attend the evening prayer ceremony at the local Buddhist nunnery or return to your hotel for some free time.

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Day 4: Hike to Lungchutse Goemba - Transfer to Ha

The view from Lungchutse Goemba
The view from Lungchutse Goemba

You'll wake up and have breakfast before your guide drives you about 37 miles (60 km)  to Dochula Pass for yet another opportunity to view Bhutan’s peaks in the north that form the natural boundary with Tibet.

From here, you can take a two-hour hike through rich forests of birch, hemlock, and rhododendrons trees to the small temple of Lungchutse Goemba. As the temple is located 1,600 feet (500 meters) above the Dochula Pass on a hilltop, you'll be able to take in even more astonishing views among the wispy clouds. If the day is clear, you'll be able to have a quiet picnic lunch on the hilltop.

If you'd like to continue exploring, you can walk an hour downhill to another retreat and monastic center: Trashigang Goemba. After you look around, your driver will pick you up and take you on a three-hour transfer to Ha, where you will spend time with a host family and sleep in an authentic Bhutanese farmhouse.

If you'd like your guide to take you to the impressive Lhakhang Karpo, one of the finest temples of Bhutan, it is within walking distance from the farmhouse.

Day 5: Cycling Excursion to Paro

A pair of travelers biking to Paro
A pair of travelers biking to Paro

After breakfast, your guide will drive you back to Chelela Pass where you will pick up your rental bike. You'll cycle 22 miles (36 km) down a quiet, paved road to Paro. Along the way, you will be able to stop at Dzongdrakha cliffside temples.

When you arrive in Paro, you'll be treated to roads lined with willow trees, apple orchards, large whitewashed farmhouses, ancient temples, terraced fields of rice, and forested hills.

In the late afternoon, you will tour the National Museum and the Rinpung Dzong Fortress before settling in at your hotel for the evening.

Day 6: Hike to Paro Taktsang

A view of Paro Taktsang
A view of Paro Taktsang

Today, your guide will take you on a hike to Bhutan's most recognizable landmark—the legendary Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery).

The steep climb that takes between one and three hours will bring you face to face with this spectacular monastery that was built in 1692.  You will see intricate prayer wheels, tapestries, statues depicting important Buddhist figures, and more. If you'd like to get off the beaten path, you can visit more remote monasteries further uphill such as Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tshomo.

After you finish exploring the temple complex, you will return to Paro Valley for a tour of Bhutan’s oldest temple: Kyichu Lhakhang.  At the end of the day, you will head to town for a farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 7: Departure via Paro

Inside one of Paro's many dzongs
Inside one of Paro's many dzongs

It's time to say goodbye to Bhutan! After breakfast and a final morning spent enjoying the tranquility, your guide will transfer you back to Paro International Airport in time for your flight home. 

Map

Map of Culture & Adventure in Bhutan - 7 Days
Map of Culture & Adventure in Bhutan - 7 Days
Bas
Written by Bas Naus, updated Feb 27, 2020