Trip facts

Activity General Tour

Bhutan is believed to be the last Shangri-La, a land of unique culture and tradition, with 80% of its culture dominated by Buddhism. You will visit the country’s tallest Buddha statue, Buddha Dordenma, located atop a hill in Kuensel Phodrang National Park. Another natural wonder of our country is the impressive Punakha Dzong, the summer capital for the monk’s body. The Dzong once served as the capital of Bhutan and was the heart of political, commercial, and cultural activities.

An adventurous hike awaits you at the iconic Taktsang Monastery. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche came here riding on a tigress. Built on a gorgeous granite mountain cliff with a pristine waterfall, nature abounds. Explore historical artifacts in Ta Dzong. Dzongdrakha Lhakhang, the oldest and one of our most significant cultural and religious centers, is commonly known as the replica of Taktsang.

Day 01: Arrive Paro by Flight & transfer to Thimphu (55km, approx. 1.-hour drive)

Upon arrival in Paro, clear your immigration formalities and meet our representative outside the terminal. Then drive to the capital city, Thimphu. The drive takes you along the Paro Chu until the confluence at Chuzom, from where we head towards Thimphu, the modern capital of Bhutan and the only capital city in the world without traffic lights, instead maneuvered by policemen. This bustling little city is the main center of commerce, religion, and government in the country. Depending on your arrival time, you may visit the Memorial Chorten, constructed to dedicate world peace and in loving memory of the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, “the father of modern Bhutan.” This landmark is an iconic monument where you can observe a large crowd of people circumambulating and chanting mantras. Other highlights include the Buddha Dordenma, one of the largest statues of Shakyamuni, standing at a height of 51.5 m, cast in bronze and gilded with gold. It overlooks the southern gate of the valley, and within it are placed 125,000 miniature statues. It also features a large prayer hall where Buddha is seated. In the evening, take a leisurely walk around Thimphu’s main street.

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

Day 02: Thimphu

After breakfast, begin your tour with a short drive to visit Tashichho Dzong. This towering fortress, nestled beside the Thimphu Chu, is a magnificent example of Bhutanese architecture and houses the seat of the Chief Abbot, the throne room, and the offices of the King, the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. Originally built in 1216 and reconstructed in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it was later renovated in the 1960s in a traditional Bhutanese manner, without nails or architectural plans. The Thimphu festival is held in the courtyard of this fortress.

The National Institute of Zorig Chusum and the Choki Art Institute are training centers for cultural and traditional arts and crafts. Here, students are trained in 13 different techniques for six years in traditional painting, woodcarving, and statue-making. Later, visit the Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery, locally known as Zilukha Nunnery, one of the largest nunneries in Bhutan. It was built by Thangtong Gyelpo, the builder of iron chain bridges across Bhutan and Tibet, and features an enclosed chorten in the main courtyard.

The Takin Sanctuary, home to Bhutan’s national animal, which resembles a goat and yak, can also be visited. According to legend, the Tibetan saint Drukpa Kunley, known as the “Divine Madman,” created this unique animal.

In the afternoon, explore the Textile Museum in Chubachu, which showcases a cultural and heritage collection of antique textile artifacts. Patterns from authentic Bhutanese weavers from various parts of the country are exhibited.

The Centenary Market in Thimphu, beside the Wangchu River, commemorates the coronation of the fifth King and serves as the largest domestic weekend market for vegetables, fruits, meats, and farm products. Farmers from different parts of the country come here to sell their produce. A wooden cantilever bridge leads to stalls selling textiles, handicrafts, and clothing.

The Jungshi Paper Factory is a small establishment that produces traditional Bhutanese handmade paper, known as Deh-sho, from Daphne bark. Witness the entire process from the drying and sorting of pulps, and consider purchasing greeting cards and other products as souvenirs.

Changlimithang Stadium, Bhutan’s national stadium, is where you might catch an archery match or a national football tournament. The National Folk Heritage Museum offers an insight into the traditional Bhutanese way of life, with an impressive collection of artifacts from rural households.

In the evening, take a leisurely walk in the Craft Market, an eco-friendly space constructed from bamboo. Here you can purchase hand-woven textiles, Thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate and wood carvings, jewelry, and other interesting items made from local materials.

Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 03: Thimphu – Punakha & Wangdue (75 km, approx. 3 hours’ drive)

After breakfast, explore Simtokha Dzong, built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1629. Its name literally means “Atop a Demon.” The dzong, a replica of the Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet), is perhaps the first dzong built in Bhutan and the oldest.

Then proceed drive towards Punakha. From Thimphu, road climbs upto Dochu la Pass (3,050 m), which is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, adorned with prayer flags and 108 stupas constructed by the eldest Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. It has three layers: the top layer has twenty-seven stupas, the middle one thirty-six, and the lower one forty-five, known as Druk Wangyal Chortens. On a clear day, you can enjoy a clear view of the northern Himalayas from the pass. Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built in honor of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, merges past and future in its details, narrating the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision reaches into the distant future, a fine blend of history and mythology.

Post-lunch, visit Rinchengang Village, located near Wangdue Phodrang, opposite the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. The village, clustered with traditional Bhutanese houses, is said to have been constructed by the artisans when the dzong was being built. Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, founded by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 on a high ridge between Punakha and Trongsa, caught fire on 24 June 2012 and was virtually destroyed, save for the lower walls. Under the command of His Majesty The King, reconstruction began in January 2014, and the dzong has since been restored to its original structure.

Chimi Lhakhang, located in Lobesa on a round hill, was blessed by Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman,” known for his unconventional teaching methods. A short hike from the main highway, about half an hour, leads to the temple, which is frequently visited by childless women seeking fertility blessings, often involving a wooden phallus symbol.

Punakha Dzong, or “Palace of Great Happiness,” is situated at the confluence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal from 1637 to 1638, it is revered as one of the most beautiful pieces of Bhutanese architecture, being the second-largest dzong in the country. The chief abbot and the monastic body migrate here during the winter season from Thimphu.

Overnight at the hotel in Punakha / Wangdue (Altitude 1,300m).

Day 04: Punakha & Wangdue – Paro (125 km, approx. 4.1/2-hour drive)

After breakfast, we drive north of the valley to hike up to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which lies at the northern end of the valley. The hike takes about 45 minutes from the road to the chorten. Constructed by the Queen Mother of Bhutan to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability, and harmony, it offers a picturesque view of the upper Punakha valley from the third floor. We then drive back to Paro, descending from Dochu La and following the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys. Along the way, we visit Tachog Lhakhang, renowned for its 600-year-old iron bridge; beside the bridge, the temple is a highlight for visitors.

Later in the day, we proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower and converted into a museum in 1968. Its collection includes fine arts, paintings, textiles, jewelry, handicrafts, stamps, and galleries of stuffed animals and butterflies from Bhutan. The top floor of the museum houses a chapel with a “tree” depicting the main figures of the four religious schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

We then descend to visit Rinpung Dzong, constructed in 1644 and known as the “fortress of the heap of jewels.” The courtyard features fine Bhutanese paintings depicting the life of Buddha, cosmic mandalas, and the narrative of Milarepa. The most famous Paro festival is held here, with the unfurling of a giant thangka on the last day.

Next, we walk down the trail through a wooden cantilever bridge to Paro town, where you may observe an archery tournament, Bhutan’s national game. Dungtse Lhakhang, a small chorten beside Paro Town across the Paro Chu, was built by Thangtong Gyelpo in 1421 to subdue an ogress. The temple’s unique paintings depict the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy, as well as the most significant deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyu school.

Later in the afternoon, we drive to the north end of the valley to visit Drukgyel Dzong. It was in ruins until 2000 but has since been reconstructed to its original form. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built it in 1646 to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders. Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples, was constructed by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in the 7th century. Of the 108 temples built during his reign, Kyichu is among the 12 main temples. Located 5 km from Paro town, it houses the original 7th-century Jowo Jampa Statue, along with eight standing bodhisattvas and statues of Zhabdrung, Guru Rinpoche, and Chenrezig with 11 heads and 1000 arms.

In the evening, explore the local market and town of Paro.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 2,280m).

Day 05: Paro

After breakfast, we drive to the trailhead to hike up to Taktshang Monastery (approximately a 5-hour round-trip walk). It is one of the most important monasteries in Bhutan, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and was visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. It is now a place visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime.

Spend the evening at leisure in the charming town of Paro.

Optional tour: Chelela Pass

After breakfast, embark on an optional tour to Chele La Pass. At an elevation of 3,988 meters, it is considered one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan, connecting Paro and Haa Valley. The pass is marked by hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. From here, you can enjoy spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake. Upon returning from Chele La Pass, take a short drive to visit Dzongdrakha Lhakhang, often renowned as the smaller replica of Taktsang Monastery. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche first landed here upon his arrival in Bhutan. During the annual festival at Dzongdrakha, the chorten of the past Buddha is opened, allowing visitors to receive blessings from the relic kept there. Later, visit the Bonday village with a mild walk, exploring traditional farmhouses and meeting local people. Spend the evening at leisure in the charming town of Paro.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro. (Altitude 2,280m)

Day 06: Depart Paro

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be driven to the airport for your flight to your onward destination. Our representative will assist you with the exit formalities and then bid you farewell.