- Destinations: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Bumthang,
- Max Altitude: 4,000 m
- Best Season: March to May and September to November
- Meal: Full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
- Accommodation: Government approved 3 stars hotels and above
- Transportation: 4 wheel drive – suvs, tour vans & mini buses
Note: Use this as a general guide to get an idea of the tour. Do keep in mind that there will be further customization on the given itinerary, depending on the season, your interests, group size and your preferred duration of the tour.
The Dragon Kingdom will take you as far as the beautiful valley of Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This tour will cover almost every cultural aspect of Bhutan and you will get to see and experience all of the cultures that define Bhutan.
- Witness spectacular bird’s eye view of the Himalayas while flying in/out from Paro.
- Excursions in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue and Bumthang
- Weekend nightlife and Farmers Market in Thimphu
- Dochula Pass – it offers an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayas
- Visit Punakha Dzong – the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan
- Hike to Taktsang Monastery – the Tiger’s Nest
- Burning Lake and Jarkar Dzong in Bumthang
- Walking tours in Thimphu, Punakha, Paro and Bumthang
- Attend festivals – if tour falls on a festival season
- Experience Bhutanese culture, tradition and food.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 01: Arrive Paro, sights in Paro
Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Touching down at Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall and he will have you check into the hotel upon arrival. Today, we will take it easy and have you acclimatize to the altitude.
After catching on some sleep or a little rest in the hotel, you will do some sightseeing or do a short hike in Paro.
Paro Valley– The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Chomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro. Paro Dzong – also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag. Ta Dzong – Built as a watchtower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. Drukgyal Dzong – Built in 1647 by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan. The Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Day 02: Fly to Bumthang, cultural tour of Bumthang.
After a hearty breakfast in your hotel, you will catch a domestic flight to Bumthang. The flight is about 30 minutes long but this will save you a lot of time and more over, driving one way to Bumthang is enjoyable but driving both ways can be a pain, given the length of the drive time. On arriving in Bumthang your vehicle will already be at the airport to pick you up.
Bumthang is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and it is also the spiritual heartland of Buddhism in Bhutan. It is a beautiful valley with a wide variety of fauna and flora. In A.D. 747, a Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava (known in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche), came to Bhutan from India at the invitation of one of the numerous local kings. After reportedly subduing eight classes of demons and converting the king, Guru Rimpoche moved on to Tibet. Upon his return from Tibet, he oversaw the construction of new monasteries in the Paro Valley and set up his headquarters in Bumthang. According to tradition, he founded the Nyingmapa sect–also known as the “old sect” or Red Hat sect–of Mahayana Buddhism, which became for a time the dominant religion of Bhutan. Guru Rimpoche plays a great historical and religious role as the national patron saint who revealed the tantras–manuals describing forms of devotion to natural energy–to Bhutan. Following the guru’s sojourn, Indian influence played a temporary role until increasing Tibetan migrations brought new cultural and religious contributions.
In the morning, if time permits, we will hike to the Tamshing Goemba, built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa. We will also visit Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan. Built by the Guru Rinpoche in 1652, it houses a rock with his body imprint. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche manifested as a Garuda to defeat the demon Shelging Karpo who had taken the form of a white lion. We will also visit Jambay Lhakhang, built in 659 by Tibetan King Sontsen Gampo to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism. Come October, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most colourful festivals in Bhutan. Jakar Dzong – pitched on a high ground overlooking the town junction, it was built as monastery in 1549 by the great grandfather of the Zhabdrung. It is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang district. In the afternoon, we will hike up to Thangbi Valley, crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Thangbi Lhakhang built in the 14th century via an unpaved road.
Day 03: Tang Valley and explore Ogyen Choling
Tang Valley is approximately two hour drive from Jakar. One the way to Tang we will visit the Me-Bar Tsho and check out the Pemacholing Nunnery; where we usually request the nuns to perform a ritual for your well being.
Me-Bar Tsho (Flaming Lake) is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, the holy lake is said to be one of the holiest lakes in Bhutan. Long time ago, Terton Pema Lingpa (Buddhist saint and treasure discoverer) dived into the lake while holding a burning butter lamp on one hand. Several hours later when he came out of the lake, he was holding some relics one one hand and the butter lamp on his other hand was still burning. Thus the lake was called Me-Bar Tsho (Me-bar=Burning Tsho=Lake).
Ugyen Choling Palace is where we will spend nights in the owner’s guesthouse. Ugyen Choling Palace was built in 17th century by Deb Tsokey Dorji, a descendant of Buddhist Saint Dorje Lingpa. Ugyen Choling is a national treasure, privately owned by the same family for hundreds of years. Its remote location makes it one of the less frequently visited historical sites in Bhutan, hosting fewer than two hundred guests per year. The best part of the Palace is the quaint museum housing permanent exhibits on three floors in the main building and the Utse, the central tower. Traditional living quarters are recreated to capture the realistic ambiance of the ancient lifestyles and conditions of the households. Everyday kitchen and weaving utensils, war weapons–including petrified yak dung to make gunpowder–tools and farming implements are the main part of the exhibits In the evening, villagers (mostly single ladies looking to meet our guides and drivers) will come to the Palace for an evening of cultural entertainment. You’re invited to join in the singing and dancing.
Day 04: To Trongsa, Trongsa Dzong
After a morning tour of the Ogyen Choling Musuem, we will start our journey towards western Bhutan; Trongsa, Phobjikha, Punakha, Thimphu and back to Paro.
The drive from Ogyen Choling to Trongsa is about four and half hours and to make the journey fun, we will be making several stops for photography, meals, tea and fresh air. Our goal today is to reach Trongsa before the Trongsa Dzong is closed for visitors.
Trongsa Dzong is perhaps the most spectacularly sited dzong in Bhutan, with a sheer drop to the south that often just disappears into cloud and mist. The rambling assemblage of buildings that comprises the dzong trails down the ridge and is connected by a succession of alley-like corridors, wide stone stairs and beautiful paved courtyards. The southernmost part of the dzong, Chorten Lhakhang, is the location of the first hermitage, built in 1543.
Day 05: To Phobjikha, hike from Lontey to Gangtey Monastery
After driving for three hours or so we will have our lunch and then, before we reach Pele La pass (3,390 metres (11,122 ft)) we will get off the vehicle and hike to the stunning valley of Phobjikha, where the rare Black Necked Cranes roost in the winter.
The Valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black Necked Cranes (Grus Nigricollis). 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. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the Gangtey Gompa monastery. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century. Day 05:
Day 06: Gangtey Nature Trail, drive to Punakha
Today morning we will do a short hike (30 – 45 mins) from Phobjikha valley to Gangtey Monastery. Upon finishing the hike, we will drive to Punakha and on the way to the hotel we shall check out the Chhimi Lhakhang.
The Chhimi Lhakhang is a Buddhist monastery located near Sopsokha village in the Punakha District of Bhutan. Pilgrims and tourists have to trek for 20 minutes through the agricultural fields of rice and mustard to access the monastery. Popularly known as The Fertility Temple by westerners, the monastery idyllically stands on a round hillock surrounded by scenic views. Built over half a millennium ago, it’s one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. Chimi Lhakhang is the repository of the original wooden Phallus symbol brought by Drukpa Kunley from Tibet. The giant phallus (a symbol of an erect penis) is used to bless the people who visit the monastery, especially the women looking to conceive. The phallus is a common symbol throughout the country. In the village of Sopsokha near the monastery, all the houses bear paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls. The 25cm (10 inches) wooden phallus has a silver handle and is said to repel evil eye and malicious gossip.
Day 07: Explore Punakha
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten – Built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon wangchuck this Chorten is a slpendid example of of the Bhutanese architecture and art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It has been built over eight and a half years and its details have been drawn from religious scripture.
Day 08: To Thimphu via Dochula, cultural tour and nightlife
The drive time from Punakha to Thimphu is two hours. We will stop by Dochula pass and enjoy the breathtaking view of the snow capped Himalayan mountain ranges of Bhutan. On arriving Thimphu, we will continue with sightseeing activities. Later at night, after dinner, if you are up for it, we will give you a taste of nightlife in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
Takin enclosure– On the way to the viewpoint over Thimphu is the home of Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin; a strange looking beast some say looks like a beestung moose. Buddha Dordenma at Kuensel Phodrang, will be our next stop. The 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The Buddha statue itself is competed awaiting paintings, but visitors can drive up to the Buddha point and view the tallest statue of Lord Buddha. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night. Heritage Museum– Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artifacts used in rural households. Textile Museum – Witnesses the art of traditional weaving. National Memorial Chorten – Which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Papermaking Factory – Witnesses the art of papermaking. Simtokha Dzong – Five miles from Thimphu, on a lofty ridge, stands Semtokha Dzong the oldest fortress in the Kingdom.
Day 09: Thimphu Nature Hike, transfer to Paro.
The Thimphu Nature Hike is an easy two hour hike that starts from the Buddha Dordenma to Changangkha Monastery. Even though it is an enjoyable hike, you will meet very few people on this trail. After lunch, we will continue doing some sightseeing activities such as the Farmers Market, Cordyceps Tasting House, The Crafts Market etc, do some shopping and later in the evening, we will head to Paro. The approximate drive time to Paro is one hour.
Day 10: Hike to the Tiger’s Nest
Today is the day. We will be hiking to the most popular travel attraction in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest. After the hike, we will go try out the traditional hot stone bath in one of the farm houses in Paro valley.
Day 11: Bid Bhutan farewell
Today you will bid fond farewell to this beautiful Himalayan country and catch a flight to your next destination. We hope by now you would have made some friends and also kept many photos and beautiful memories of Bhutan! And we look forward to seeing you again in this beautiful land of endless Enchantments! Tashi Delek!
Spring & Autumn: March, April, May, September, October & November
Single traveler: US$ 290 per day
2 person: US$ 280 Per person per day
3 person and more: US$ 250 per person per day
Winter & Summer: January, February, June, July, August & December
Single traveler: US$ 240 per day
2 person: US$ 230 Per person per day
3 person and more: US$ 200 per person per day
Note: On the above rates there will be a one time extra payment as follows:
01: Visa Fee: US $ 40 per person
02: TDF (Tourism Development Fund): US $ 10 per person