Experience all the highlights of western Bhutan with a passionate local on this 8-day itinerary that begins with a tour of some of the most important cultural sites in the capital of Thimphu. Then, set out to see the stunning natural beauty of this Himalayan kingdom with a drive across Dochula Pass, hiking in the glacial valley of Phobjikha, and monastery and market tours in semi-tropical Punakha. End your visit in the emerald green Paro valley, where you will hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Highlights

  • Take an archery class at Changlimithang Stadium
  • Visit a wildlife conservation center in Phobjikha Valley
  • Learn about Bhutan's architectural heritage on monastery tours
  • Explore markets filled with traditional Bhutanese handicrafts
  • Take a meditative day hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paro - Transfer to Thimphu Thimphu
Day 2 Tour of Thimphu - Transfer to Phobjikha Valley Phobjikha
Day 3 Explore Phobjikha Phobjikha
Day 4 Transfer to Punakha - Tour Chimi Lhakhang Punakha
Day 5 Explore Punakha Valley Punakha
Day 6 Transfer to Paro - Hike to Lungchutse Goemba Paro
Day 7 Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery Paro
Day 8 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro - Transfer to Thimphu

The Buddha Dordenma
The Buddha Dordenma

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: Tour of Thimphu - Transfer to Phobjikha Valley

A view of Phobjikha
A view of Phobjikha

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.

After you have lunch, your driver will set off for the Phobjikha Valley. Your route will take you through forests and over the magnificent Dochula Pass—where you'll have incredible views of the Himalayas—and through the subtropical valley of Punakha.

When you get to Phobjikha, you'll be able to check in at your hotel with stunning views of the valley. You'll have the evening free to relax.

Day 3: Explore Phobjikha

The lush Phobjikha Valley
The lush Phobjikha Valley

You'll have the full day to explore Phobjikha Valley. You will start your tour by visiting Gangteng Monastery, and then you can hike down the beautiful nature trail that descends into the valley. 

If you'd like, you can ask your guide to take you to see some of the nearby villages, local monasteries, and farmhouses. At the end of the day, you will explore the wetlands and visit the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre.

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Day 4: Transfer to Punakha - Tour Chimi Lhakhang

A Bhutanese temple on the bank of a river
A Bhutanese temple on the bank of a river

After breakfast, your guide will drive you two hours back to Punakha. On the way, you will be able to stop at for souvenirs and snacks at the Wangdue Market

Shortly before you reach Punakha, you can take a short and easy hike to Chimi Lhakhang—the famous fertility temple that is devoted to the "divine madman" of Buddhism, Drukpa Kinley. 

When you're finished touring the temple, your guide will take you to check in at your hotel and rest for the evening.

Day 5: Explore Punakha Valley

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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.

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 quickly.

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 6: Transfer to Paro - Hike to Lungchutse Goemba

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

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 can visit the monastery known as Rinpung Dzong.  

After you're finished exploring, you'll check in at your hotel and relax for the evening.

Day 7: Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

Aerial view of Tiger's Nest Monastery
Aerial view of 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. At the end of the day, you will head to town for a farewell dinner with your guide.

Day 8: 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. 

Map

Map of Explore Western Bhutan - 8 Days
Map of Explore Western Bhutan - 8 Days
Bas
Written by Bas Naus, updated Feb 26, 2020