The best way to experience the unspoiled natural beauty of Bhutan is on foot, and this active 9-day itinerary combines cultural outings with a trek through the popular Druk Path. You will start your trip in Paro, where you will visit the National Museum and hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery. Then, transfer to the Druk Path trailhead and begin your 4-day hike to the capital of Thimphu. In Thimphu, enjoy a short tour of the city's top sites before ending your trip with excursions to ancient temples in Punakha and Paro.

Highlights

  • Take a day hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Visit Kyichu Lhakhang, Bhutan’s oldest temple
  • Enjoy 360-degree views of the Himalayas on the Druk Path
  • Learn about Bhutanese history in Thimphu
  • Explore Punakha's cultural sites and markets

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro - Guided Tour Paro
Day 2 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 3 Start Druk Path - Trek to Jele Dzong Jele Dzong
Day 4 Trek to Jimilang Tsho Lake Jimilangtsho Lake
Day 5 Trek to Phajoding Phajoding
Day 6 Trek to Thimphu - Short City Tour Thimphu
Day 7 Transfer to Punakha Punakha
Day 8 Tour of Temples - Transfer to Paro Paro
Day 9 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro - Guided Tour

View of Paro
View of Paro

Welcome to Bhutan! When you arrive in Paro International Airport (PBH), a representative will be waiting to take you to your hotel in Paro. 

After you check in, you will be able to see some sites in Paro Valley. You'll start at the watchtower known as Ta Dzong which houses the National Museum, and then move on to the 15th-century Rinphung Dzong or the Jangtsa Dumgtseg Lhakhang temple, which is home to some of the finest murals in the kingdom.

In the afternoon, your driver will take you up to Chele La Pass, which reaches 12, 467 feet (3,800 m) high and overlooks the mountains. After getting some photos, you will walk down a path that begins at the pass to the Kila Nunnery where you can visit the temples and chapels. If there's time, you may also be able to visit the Dzongdrakha Lhakhang temple on a cliff.

At the end of the day, your driver will pick you up again and take you back to your hotel in Paro for the evening.

Day 2: Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

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

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.

Day 3: Start Druk Path - Trek to Jele Dzong

View of the mountains from the path the Jele Dzong
View of the mountains from the path the Jele Dzong

After breakfast today, your driver will transfer you to the trailhead near the National Museum. Here, you'll meet with your guide, pack up your camping gear, and begin trekking.

This portion of the trail will take you 4 miles (7 km) almost entirely uphill through Damchena village, apple orchards, and pine forests. After a 4-5 hour hike, you will set your camp in a nearby meadow at an elevation of 11, 482 feet (3500 m).

Day 4: Trek to Jimilang Tsho Lake

Jimilang Tsho Lake
Jimilang Tsho Lake

After breakfast, you will visit the abandoned Jele Dzong that includes a statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni before beginning your hike across the ridge.

Your hike will cover about 12 miles (20 km), so this will be one of your longer days at around 7 hours. Along the path, you'll have great views of Jomolhari Mountain and enjoy a 360-degree outlook at Langye Ja La (Ox Hump Pass) which reaches 13,000 feet (4070 m) in elevation.

A rocky, steep descent at the end of the day leads to Jimilang Tsho Lake, where you will set up your campsite.

Day 5: Trek to Phajoding

On the path to Phajoding
On the path to Phajoding

Today will be another 7-hour day as you gradually climb up to an elevation of 13,451 feet (4,150 m). You will pass through rhododendron forests on your to the halfway point at Simkota Tsho Lake, where you can take a rest.

You'll climb past small outposts of yak herders and have views of Mount Gangkar Puensum—the highest mountain in Bhutan—on the final portion of your hike to the campsite near the Phajoding Monastery.

Day 6: Trek to Thimphu - Short City Tour

The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu

After breakfast, you'll have some time to tour the Phajoding Monastery and nearby temple complex before you begin your final 6-mile (11 km) hike to meet your private transfer. After about three hours on the trail, you'll hop in the car and enjoy a relaxing drive back to your accommodation in Thimpu.

You'll have time to take a hot shower and rest before your activities in the afternoon, which include tours of the great Tashicho Dzong and the Memorial Chorten.

At the end of the day, you can watch the sunset from the Buddha Dordenma—a giant golden statue of the Buddha that offers great views of the valley below.

Day 7: Transfer to Punakha

The Punakha Dzong
The Punakha Dzong

After breakfast, your guide will pick you up at your hotel and drive you 3 hours to nearby Punakha. Your route will take you across the Dochula Pass, and if the weather is clear, you can see wonderful views of the eastern Himalayas.

When you arrive in Punakha, you will check in at your hotel and have lunch before heading to the idyllic Punakha Valley. 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.

Then, you'll continue hiking through rice fields and along the riverside to another suspension bridge where your car will be waiting to drive you to the impressive Punakha Dzong, an architectural masterpiece located on the confluence of two rivers.

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

Day 8: Tour of Temples - Transfer to Paro

The view from Lungchutse Goemba
The view from Lungchutse Goemba

In the early morning, you will take a short and easy hike to Chimi Lhakhang, the famous fertility temple that is devoted to the "divine madman" of Buddhism, Drukpa Kinley. After your tour, you will get in your private transport and enjoy another scenic drive back to Dochula Pass.

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.

At the end of the day, your car will pick you up and drive you to your accommodation in Paro.

Day 9: Departure

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. 

Bas
Written by Bas Naus, updated Feb 26, 2020