A Buddhist Himalayan kingdom – only the name already shows how unique Bhutan’s culture and heritage is. Sandwiched between China and India, this small country has become one of the most attractive destinations for travelers.
Bhutan culture tours are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the country’s distinctive heritage and scenic landscape. Set within one of the world’s greatest mountain ranges, the kingdom is famous for its impressive alpine peaks and forest cover, which is more than 70%. Thus the country has a remarkably diverse flora and fauna, with some of the species that you can only find here.
Coming to Bhutan, you will be able to visit Dzongs (fortresses), monasteries, chortens, and old temples. These are the religious destinations, which embrace the Buddhism in their architecture. From these buildings, which often sit on high passes and mountain ridges, you will get the best views of Bhutan’s picturesque towns.
Find out about the Bhutanese heritage when you visit the temples, monasteries and dzongs, and come in contact with the locals. The Bhutanese are some of the most welcoming people you will ever meet when travelling. Chatting with them over special Bhutanese dishes, in which chilies is the star of their meal. Also, we can stroll around Bhutan’s dynamic towns, visit local markets, and try out hot stone bath and their favourite sports, archery and darts, which are played in almost every family.
Tour duration– 11 days/ 10 nights
Tour destination – Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, Trongsa, Punakha, and Paro.
Tour overview – Hidden in the Himalayan range, surrounded by layers of cloud, Bhutan welcomes visitors to the country with its pristine nature and stunning landscapes. This tour will take you to five destinations of Bhutan – Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, Punakha and Paro valley. While Thimphu is the capital city, Bumthang is called Switzerland of Asia for its attractiveness with tourists. Tang valley in Bumthang is one of the most beautiful valleys of Bhutan. You will visit Bhutan’s Dzongs with their distinctive architecture, some of which are enormous, and are used partly as a place for Buddhism practice. Trips to sacred like Tiger’s Nest and Mebar Tsho – The Flaming Lake are an important part of the tour to let you learn more about the history, tales and life in Bhutan
Day 01: Thimphu sightseeing
- Altitude in Paro: 2,280m
- Altitude in Thimphu: 2,320m
- Distance: 55km
- Estimated travel time: 1.30hr
Make sure to look outside your plane window for the majestic sight of Himalayan mountain peaks as you are approaching Paro airport. Our representative will then take you to Thimphu – the capital of Bhutan. This city is known as the capital in the world that does not use traffic lights. We will visit the impressive Tachogang Lhakhang (Temple of the Excellent Horse), which is just on the way to Thimphu. After having a vision of an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the legendary bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464) decided to build a temple and an iron suspension bridge at this location.
In Thimphu, we will first go and see the National Memorial Chorten. This site serves as a dedication for world peace and prosperity and a memorial to Bhutan’s Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The Tibetan-style structure is an iconic religious site in the town, and the focus of daily worship for the locals.
The last site we will visit today is Buddha Point (Buddha Dordenma Statue), an exceptionally giant statue. With a height of 51.5m, it is ranked as one of the tallest statues in the world. The statue was erected to fulfill a prophecy from the 8th century A.D, which was discovered by the religious treasure discoverer Terton Pema Lingpa. The tall Buddha statue, which sits on a glided meditation hall, emanates an aura of peace and happiness to the world.
The rest of your first day is for exploring the lively Thimphu. This charming city is bustled with shops, bazaars, and hospitality locals in their Bhutanese traditional dress. The nightlife here is perfect for those who want to refresh with tasty local dishes, good music, and cool bars.
Afterwards, we will return to the hotel and stay overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 02: Thimphu sightseeing
We will start the day with the hike to Bhutan’s first monastery Cheri Goemba, established 1620. Ngawang Namgyal, who built the ancient monastery, was also the founder of the Bhutanese state. The trail will ascend about 400m and we can see the building after just 1 hour of walking. We will cross lush forest of blue pine, fir, and rhododendron and possibly catch the sight of nearby cliffs with wandering gorals (wild goat).
In the afternoon, we will head to the famous Changangkha Lhakhang, where parents go to receive blessings for their young children. Perching on a ridge above central Thimphu, the temple has a shrine dedicated to the tshomen (mermaid) in its central backyard. Walk to the back kora (pilgrim path) and you will have the incredible view of the charming valley from above.
There is no better place for travelers to discover Bhutanese traditional arts than our next destination, the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, otherwise called as the ‘Arts And Crafts School’ or the ‘Painting School’. The school offers a number of courses teaching traditional arts, from painting, embroidery to wood carving, clay arts. You will definitely be impressed with the young students’ discipline and skills when watching them practicing.
Later, we will visit one of the most imposing structures in Thimphu, Tashichho Dzong, or popularly called Thimphu Dzong. The complex serves as the seat of the Bhutanese government and stands on the right side of Wangchu river. Originally built in 1216 A.D by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa, it had gone through a number of renovations and was totally rebuilt in traditional fashion by His Late Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1952. This place is also popular for its captivating flag changing ceremony. Make sure to watch the ritual when it begins at 5pm in the courtyard!
You will spend the second night at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 03: Thimphu to Gangtey
- Altitude in Gangtey: 2900m
- Distance: 160km
- Estimated time: 6hrs
After 2 days in Thimphu, we will travel to Gangtey (or Phobjikha valley). We will first stop at Dochula pass (3,050m), which is just on the way. The pass is a famous sightseeing location, from where you can catch the wonderful panoramic view of the Himalayas mountains. The picture of 108 memorial chorten gracing the hillside is particularly breathtaking with the backdrop of the snowcapped mountains. This destination is deemed as one of the most scenic mountain passes any traveler will ever see.
In Gangtey, we will visit a very special site – Gangtey Goemba, or ‘Gangtey monastery’. It is the only Nyingmapa monastery in this region, built in 1613. Situated on the crest of a hill top overlooking the lush valley, the monastery offers a stunning view of the land known as the winter home of the rare Black-necked Cranes. The birds migrate to Gangtey from November to March, so you can see them when travelling around this time.
Today we will follow the Gangtey Nature Trail, a scenic hike to discover the pristine landscape of Gangtey valley. The journey will start from the hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, descend towards lovely meadows and to Semchubara village. We will then hike through verdant blue pine forest before the path leads us down to a valley viewpoint and ends at Khewang Lhakhang (Khewang temple). We will also visit the Black–necked Crane Visitor Centre. This is where you can learn more about the rare bird species and a nice location to see the cranes during winter.
We will spend the night at the hotel in Gangtey.
Day 04: Gangtey to Bumthang
- Altitude in Gangtey: 2800m
- Distance: 158km
- Estimated time: 6hrs
Right after breakfast, we will drive to Bumthang, named as the Spiritual Heartland of the kingdom. Some of the country’s oldest palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries are situated in this valley.
On the way, we will visit the historic Ta Dzong, the watchtower which once guarded Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion. Standing on a promontory above Trongsa town, it is now the National Museum with impressive collections dedicated to the Wangchuck dysnasty. There is no better place for visitors to learn about the kingdom’s history than the ancient Ta Dzong.
Then, we will go to the imposing Trongsa Dzong, right next to the former watchtower. Sitting high above the roaring Mange Chhu, it is a remarkable sight that is visible from anywhere in town. The dzong is also praised as the most majestic dzong in the whole country and. The assemblage of buildings trails down the ridge and sometimes disappears into the veils of cloud on its south side. Built in 1644, the grand complex used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuck dynasty before they became rulers of Bhutan in 1907.
We will then visit Yathra Weaving Center, a famous attraction in Chumey valley (Bumthang). Yathra is a unique hand-woven textile with intricate designs, which can only be found in this region of Chumey valley.
We will drive slowly to Bumthang, taking breaks for tea and refreshments.
Today we spend the night at the hotel in Bumthang
Day 05: Bumthang sightseeing
Jambay Lhakhang, the renowned chorten built in the 7th century will be our first destination to visit today. It was one of the 108 chortens built by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo to pin down the demoness that wanted to prevent the introduction of Buddhism to people. It was also visited by Guru Rinpoche during his time in Bumthang and later renovated by the Sindhu Raja after the Guru restored his life force.
From there, we will travel to the grand Kurjey Lhakhang temple complex. It is very importance due to its link with Guru Rimpoche, the famous patron saint mediated and left the imprint (jey) of his body (ku) on a rock in the 8th century. The imprint is preserved in the oldest of the three buildings in the sacred temple complex.
We will also go to Kurjey Temple and Kurjey Drupchu, where the holy water is believed to be blessed by Guru Rimpoche himself.
Next, we will visit Tamshing monastery, formally called Tamshing Lhendup Chholing (Temple of the Good Message). This was built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and the construction is the most important Nyingma goemba in Bhutan. The main lhakhang is known for the unusual design, with the main chapel screened off in the center of the assembly hall, almost like it is separated.
From Kurjey Lhakhang, we may also hike to Tamshing monastery, the trail will only be for 1 hour.
After lunch, we will arrive at Lhodrak Kharchu Monastery. The sacred monastery was blessed by Guru Rinpoche and it was also the seat where Nub-ben Namkhai Nyingpo became an accomplished Yangdag master. The edifice was established in the 1970s and there are giant statues of Guru Rinpoche, Chenresig and Sakyamuni in its Tshokhang (assembly hall).
It is a 20-minute walk downhill from the monastery and we will be back in town and stay overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
Day 06: Discover Bumthang
In the morning, we will explore the landmarks in Tang valley, the most remote of Bumthang’s valleys, and the first destination is the sacred Mebar Tsho (or ‘The Flaming Lake’). Legends say that the religious treasurer Terton Pema Lingpa, following his vision, had jumped into the lake with a butter lamp in his hand. He then emerged from the water, holding a chest and a scroll of paper with the butter lamp still burning bright. Thereafter, the lake was named Mebartsho. Today, the site is a sacred pilgrimage site and bright-coloured prayer flags encircling it.
Later, we will go to the village and hike to the Tang Ogyen Choling Palace And Museum. This construction was originally one of the 8 lings (places) built by Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363), one of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism. After that, the Tibetan saint Dorji Lingpa (1346-1405) chosen it as one of his centres and a lineage was established, which continues still today. The family decided to maintain Ogyen Choling as a religious and cultural center, formally opened in 2001. Afterwards, we will return to the village. The walk back will take about 1.5 hour.
Overnight at the hotel in Bumthang.
Day 07: Bumthang to Trongsa
- Altitude in Trongsa: 2,216m
- Distance: 80km
- Estimated travel time: 3hrs
Leaving the beautiful valleys of Bumthang, we will travel to Trongsa. It is one of the most historic towns in Bhutan, offering wonderful views of the surrounding deep valleys.
Once we are in Trongsa, we will take a 1-hour drive to discover Kinga Rabten, the winter palace of the Second King Jigme Wangchuck. This place will offer you an insight into the early days of the Bhutan’s monarchy. The drive to the palace is quite scenic itself, passing below Takse village, a huge waterfall and the fertile rice terraces of the lower Mangde Chhu valley.
Just another 15-minute walk or a short drive uphill from the building is Karma Drubdey Nunnery. Founded by the great scholar and meditation master, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche in 1968, today it is home of about 127 nuns.
The nunnery will be our last destination for the day, and we will spend the night at the hotel in Trongsa.
Day 08: Trongsa to Punakha
- Distance: 150km
- Estimated travel time: 5hrs
- Altitude in Punakha: 1,300m
From the remote Trongsa valley, we will head to Bhutan’s former capital – Punakha. This destination is one of the most picturesque valleys, and is where you can see the convergence of the country’s two main rivers of Bhutan – the Mo Chhu and the Pho Chhu.
We will see inside the striking Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great Happiness), standing at the junction of the two famous rivers and overlooking the lush valley. The edifice was built in 1637, making it the second dzong established in Bhutan, and also was used as the seat of the government until the 1950s. In spring, the sight here is extremely astonishing, with the dzong’s towering whitewashed walls as the perfect backdrop for the lilac-coloured jacaranda flowers, bringing a dreamy feeling to the whole picture.
After that, we will go to Pho Chhu suspension bridge – the longest of its kind in Bhutan. You will see multicoloured prayer flags gracing along the whole 160m length of the suspension bridge. It is also a great sightsee location, offering the splendid view of Punakha Dzong and Pho Chhu valley below.
We will enjoy lunch before hiking through beautiful rice terraces and pine trees to reach Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. The famous chorten is located on a ridge above the valley, where we will arrive after only 1 hour of walking. It was established by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and is a fine example of the country’s architectural and artistic traditions. This chorten is the only one of its kind in the world with its unique structure. It is also a location to have the exceptional view of the striking Punakha valley.
Tonight you will stay at the hotel in Punakha.
Day 09: Punakha to Paro
- Distance: 125km
- Estimated travel time: 4hrs
Today, we will drive back to Paro, where the wonderful Bhutan journey began. While travelling, we can stop for a lovely walk across lush hillocks to see Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility). Childless women will visit this temple to pray and receive a wang (blessing or empowerment). The trail, which will be about 25 minutes, will lead through Lobesa village, and you can enjoy the sight of local farmers working on the fields.
We will head to the renowned Paro Rinpung Dzong (Fortress of The Heap of Jewels) in the afternoon. With its towering buttressed white walls, the complex can be seen from anywhere in town, and it is also ranked as a high point of Bhutanese architecture. Erected in 1644, it served as the meeting hall for the National Assembly and now, preserves both the monastic body and district government offices.
Later, we will arrive at the National Museum of Bhutan (or Ta Dzong). The building, which was a former watchtower, has the design in the shape of a conch shell and 7 storeys. The cultural museum displays an impressive collections of thangkas, fearsome festival masks used for tshechu dances, textiles, weapons, and a Heritage Gallery as well.
You can try out your skills by making wooden bowls when we are at Sangay Handmade Bowl and Cup Factory.
Overnight at the hotel in Paro
Day 10: Paro sightseeing
The journey to Bhutan can only be completed once you have been to Taktsang Monastery (or commonly called the Tiger’s Nest). This striking monastery is one of the holiest sites in the entire country, built way back in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rimpoche arrived on the back of a tigress and mediated for 3 months subdue the evil demons residing within it. The trail to reach Tiger’s Nest, which stands on a sheer cliff at more than 3,000m, is 4.5km one-way, with an elevation gain of 600m. we will have breaks along the hike to enjoy and take pictures of the valley’s pristine landscape, with lush forests and Himalayan snowcapped mountains.
After trekking back down, we will go to visit Kyichu Lhakhang – one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, and one of the 108 sites established by the Tibetan King Songstan Gampo in the 7th century. Once we are at the temple, you will see the captivating sight of elderly pilgrims constantly walking around the lhakang and spinning the prayers wheels. This building also houses the valley’s greatest treasure, a statue of Jowo Jamba from the 7th century.
After the adventurous hikes of the day, we will have a special dinner with a Bhutanese family, simply chatting and enjoying the authentic dishes. Bhutanese are known for their hospitality and friendliness towards visitors.
You can try the traditional hot stone bath, or take time to wander around the cool pubs in town. These dynamic pubs offer tasty local snack and good wine for a great night out. We will spend the last night of the trip at the hotel in Paro.
Day 11: Depart Paro
After breakfast, your guide will accompany you to the airport for flight to your onward destination. Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck) and we hope to see you again!
- Single traveler: US$ 2,874 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$2,774 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 2,474 per person
OFF PEAK SEASON
- Single traveler: US$ 2,374 per person
- Group of 2 people: US$ 2,274 per person
- Group of 3 people: US$ 1,974 per person
- If you are planning to travel Bhutan with a group of 4 people and more, please feel free to contact us to get the cost for your group.
|The cost includes||The cost excludes|
|Bhutan visa fee (US$ 40 per person).||Laundry/beverages/telephone calls and any personal expenses.|
|3 star categories hotel twin sharing room or double sharing room.||Travel insurance.|
|Accommodation in the best 3 star hotels in Bhutan.||Airfares.|
|All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in day.||Airport taxes if any.|
|Bottled water, tea, and coffee on the trip.||Excess baggage charge.|
|A sustainable development fee of $65 per night.||Tips to guides and drivers.|
|Museum fees and other special entry fees.||Services not mentioned.|
|Internal transportation with experienced driver throughout the trip.|
|Sightseeing as per itinerary with qualified and licensed English speaking guide.|
|Gho or Kira (traditional and national dress of Bhutan) for your use during your stay in Bhutan.|
|Bhutanese sim cards.|
|Archery and dart.|