Classic Western Bhutan Tour

This adventure takes in the very best of Western Bhutan, its culture, and tradition, towering fortresses, temples, and monasteries. Lush green valleys and hills dotted with prayer wheels and flags, this cultural tour includes short hikes, visits to historical places and meeting the local people. End your adventure with a spectacular hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Best time for this itinerary: Mar / Apr / Sep / Oct / Nov

Touring style: with private guide and driver

Prices are seasonal, include hotels, full board, professional touring and transfers. Starts from:

GBP 1889 per person sharing a twin room, Standard Class Hotels

Airfares are extra.

  • Experience Bhutan's unique culture and traditions
  • Take in spectacular Himalayan scenery
  • Visit Punakha's Dzong
  • Trek in pristine valleys
  • Climb up to Tiger's Nest Monastery in Paro
Classic Western Bhutan Tour at a glance
  • Day 1: Arrival into Paro and drive to Thimphu
  • Day 2: Thimphu touring
  • Day 3: Drive from Thimphu to Punakha
  • Day 4: Punakha Festival
  • Day 5: Drive from Punakha to Gangtey Monastery
  • Day 6: Drive from Gangtey to Paro
  • Day 7: Trek up Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Day 8: Departure or extension to India or Thailand
Classic Western Bhutan Tour Image 1

Day 1: Arrival

After a dramatic landing at Paro Airport, meet up with your guide and driver and drive to Thimphu.

The capital town of Bhutan and the centre of government, religion, and commerce, Thimphu is a unique city with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. With a population of about 1,00,000, it is perhaps still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light.

Right after checking in and relaxing for a while, proceed to visit Paper Factory. The handmade paper-making craft stemmed from the age-old tradition that originated in the 8th century of Bhutanese history.

Later in the afternoon walk around the National Memorial Chorten, a large white structure crowned with a golden spire. It is located close to the centre of Thimphu city and is one of its most iconic monuments. This is the most ideal spot to interact with locals who throng in large numbers to circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels, and pray at a small shrine inside the gate. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.

On the way back, take an evening stroll through the Craft Bazar recently established under the patronage of the Department of Cottage & small industry and in collaboration with the Department of Culture, tourism council, and the Department of agriculture marketing and Cooperatives. This market offers genuine Bhutanese arts & crafts thus contributing to the promotion, protection, and preservation of traditional arts and the main town of Thimphu.

Dinner and overnight at the Hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2400m).

Distance and journey time: 47 km, 1.30 hrs

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Day 2: Thimphu touring

After breakfast, embark on a fascinating Nature walk to Cheri monastery which is now an important centre for meditational retreats and was established in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as the home for Bhutan’s first monk body. 

To reach Cheri, drive for 14km (30 min) towards the Northern end of Thimphu Valley up to Dodena (2600m) from where the hike starts. The trail commences by crossing a nicely covered traditional wooden bridge that spans the Thimphu Chhu (river) and then heads up steadily to the monastery. The steep nature trail is serene and tranquil and you will get a chance to breathe through the cool air under the magnificent, wooded area while the view from the top is stunning.

Hiking InfoL Difficulty Level: Moderate
Maximum elevation: 2650m
Elevation gain: 330m
Walking distance: 6.5 km (round trip)
Walking time: 2.5 hours (round trip)

Enroute drive to Pangri Zampa, 16th century one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan located just north of Thimphu. Here is a monastic school where Buddhist student monks learn Lamaism and astrology based on Buddhist philosophy. An interaction with student monks here at the monastery can be a gratifying experience. You can also have your personal Astrology session @ a supplement cost.

After lunch, take a short drive to the north of town to Buddha Dordenma, located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D. that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni made of bronze and gilded in gold, measures 51.5 metres in height, making it one of the largest statues, in Bhutan. 125,000 smaller Buddha statues have been placed within the Buddha Dordenma statue, each of these also have been cast in bronze and gilded. Here at Buddha Point, you have the option to perform meditation at a designated area.

Conclude the sightseeing of the day with a visit to Trashichhoedzong, the ‘fortress of the glorious religion’. This is the centre of government and religion, the site of the monarch’s throne room and the seat of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. 

In the evening, explore the Centenary Farmers Market. Popularly known as the Weekend market, this bustling, colourful market centre is the biggest where farmers from different parts of the country gather to sell their farm products. With its wide assortment of products including handicrafts and its picturesque and colourful setting, the Farmer’s Market is a favourite spot for many.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 2,320m).

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Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha

.After breakfast, drive to Punakha across Dochu-la pass (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags that decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m), Kangphugang (7,170 m), Zongphugang (7, 060 m), a Table Mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.

At Dochula Pass, 108 chortens or stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. These chortens are built in three layers, the first lowest level layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty seven, built around the main chorten.

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and seat of government until 1955 and still, it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with a temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at an elevation of 1300m above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is a popular year-round destination.

After lunch, an excursion to Chimi Lhakhang. Situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, this is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and want one, if they pray at this temple, are usually blessed with a child very soon. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning ‘field’. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.

Then visit Punakha Dzong or (‘Palace of Great Happiness’), built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers, in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This majestic Dzong served as both the religious and administrative centre of Bhutan in the past. 

Longest Suspension Bridge - Located close to the fortress, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan connects a village to a paved road. The walk through the bridge will provide a scenic view of the river and the valley.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha. (Altitude 1300m)

Distance and journey time: 86 km, 4 hrs

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Day 4: Punakha Festival

Punakha Tsechu, as all Tshechu festivals, honours Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the precious yogi and saint who is credited with having introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas. The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colourful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The culmination of the festival constitutes the unfolding of a huge cloth thangka, a sacred scroll, depicting Padmasmabhawa and imagery from the Buddhist pantheon.

Overnight in Punakha.

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Day 5: Drive from Punakha to Gangtey

After breakfast, drive to Gangtey to visit the Gangtey Monastery and take a hike through the Gangtey Nature Trail & Crane information centre.
The valley of Gangtey/Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the black-necked cranes. Bhutan is home to around six hundred black-necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. These elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to the end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goenpa, an old monastery that dates back to the 17th century.

Overnight at Gangtey.

Distance and journey time: 74 km, 3 hrs

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Day 6: Drive from Gangtey to Paro

Depart for Paro. This beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The valley is also home to Mount Jumolhari (7,300m/24090ft) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.

Sightseeing in Paro. Visit the National Museum to see some of Bhutan’s cultural treasures, Rimpung Dzong, Kichu Lhakhang, Drukgyal Dzong and in the evening take a stroll in Paro town.

Overnight in Paro.

Distance and journey time: 169 km, 6 hrs

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Day 7: The spectacular trek to Tiger's Nest Monastery

Taktsang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek.

This is Bhutan’s most recognisable cultural icon perched 800m/2640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998 it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimpoche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. The hike takes approximately one hour to reach the cafeteria and another hour to reach the heart of the monastery. Most of the route is through wonderfully cool and sheltered oak forests. There is a tea house halfway for a break. After the tea-house, the path is slightly steeper and open with one area of exposed steps. It is a route that anybody of reasonable fitness can make but those who suffer from vertigo might prefer to wait at the tea house.

Start early to avoid the hot sun and remember to bring a hat. 

Farm House: Picturesque farm houses dot the valley amongst fields and hillsides. We welcome you to enjoy the hospitality of the Paro farmers. The two to three-storied Bhutanese farm houses are handsome in appearance, with colourfully decorated outer walls and lintels, and are traditionally built. 

Overnight in Paro.

Day 8: Departure

Depart by flight or extend your trip to include the beaches of Thailand or a Golden Triangle tour of India.

Distance and journey time: 10 km, 30 mins

 

Not quite right? This itinerary is just to give you an idea of what is possible. Need some more inspiration? Please get in touch at 01473 214305 or email sales@eastravel.co.uk We welcome your questions. We're here to help!

Highlights

Gangtey and Phobjikha Valley: Home of the Black Necked Crane

Set upon a hill rising from the valley floor, almost 10000ft above sea level, the monastery of Gangtey, much modified and rebuilt through 400 years of history stands today in the form of a magnificent 17th Century dzong, or fortress.

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Paro: base to trek the Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest monastery.

Paro is also home to the Rinpung Dzong, an imposing 17th Century fortress, and is your base to trek the Taktshang, or Tiger’s Nest monastery.

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Punakha: setting for the magnificent Punakha Dzong

Drive through idyllic pastoral scenes to the picturesque confluence of two mountain rivers, the setting for the magnificent Punakha Dzong, the country’s second most ancient but arguably finest and most imposing fortress monastery

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Thimphu: cultural capital of Bhutan

Thimphu lies in a broad river valley between 7375 and 8688 ft above sea level, one hour by road from Paro International Airport. It is also the seat of government, and Bhutan’s capital.

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Accommodation

Gangtey, Boutique Class
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge

Located in an idyllic spot high in the eastern Himalayan range, this delightful boutique property enjoys spectacular sweeping views down the breathtakingly beautiful Gangtey Valley.

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Paro, Deluxe Class
Uma by COMO, Paro

Uma by COMO, Paro, is an intimate, 29-room resort featuring the most exclusive private villas in Bhutan with an enviable location in the Paro Valley.

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Paro, Deluxe Class
Zhiwa Ling Resort

Zhiwa Ling, meaning Place of Peace is a luxury boutique property, conceived and created faithful to Bhutanese tradition within the stunning Paro Valley.

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Paro, Superior Boutique
Nak Sel Boutique Hotel and Spa

Located on a pine clad slope above Paro, on the edge of the National Forest, this absolutely delightful hotel looks out across the valley to the fabled Tiger’s Nest monastery.

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Paro, Standard Class
Tenzinling Resort

Set within a small hillside village among rice fields and apple orchards, the property commands sweeping views across the Paro Valley to the spectacular Paro Dzong, and Himalayan peaks beyond.

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Phobjikha, Superior Class
Hotel Dewachen

Located within a pine forest in the hidden valley of Phobjikha, 10000ft above sea level, the boutique property is designed in traditional Bhutanese style, and occupies a tranquil and beautiful setting.

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Punakha, Deluxe Class
Uma by COMO Punakha

Set upon a Himalayan hillside, this intimate, luxury lodge overlooks the idyllic Punakha Valley.

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Punakha, Superior Class
Dhensa Boutique Resort Punakha

Set among fragrant pine woods, and looking out over the terraced rice fields of green and fertile Punakha Valley, the Dhensa Boutique Resort’s clean, contemporary architecture combines the best of Modernity with traditional Bhutanese design motifs.

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Thimphu, Deluxe Class
Taj Tashi

A fine example of traditional Bhutanese architecture on the grand scale, this imposing property occupies an idyllic setting overlooking the city.

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Thimphu, Superior Class
Terma Linca Resort & Spa

Located at the edge of the capital on a bend of the tumbling, glacial Wangshu River, the hotel’s traditional Bhutanese architecture, and idyllic valley setting, is framed by its own flower-filled riverside gardens, and soaring Himalayan peaks beyond.

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Thimphu, Superior Class
Hotel Druk Thimphu

Set within the very heart of Thimphu, this elegant and distinctive property is a short walk from the capital’s main attractions. The traditional Bhutanese exterior conceals a chic and eclectic interior, the hotel’s unique sense of style complemented by a thoughtful approach to comfort and well-being.

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