Discover Bhutan in Depth Tailormade Holiday
16 day holiday from - £3,745 per person based on 2 adults in twin/double rooms. Excluding international flights to Kathmandu.
Return to Bhutan Holidays
- The hike to the sacred Tiger’s Nest Monastery with its spectacular location
- The beautiful valleys and mountainous landscapes of Bhutan
- The opportunity to observe the enduring traditional lifestyle and rituals of the local people.
- Stunning Bhutanese architecture, in particular the imposing Dzong
Suggested Discover Bhutan in Depth Tailormade Holiday Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city. Spend the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight Kantipur Temple House.
Day 2 – Kathmandu
Enjoy a tour of the most interesting sites of Kathmandu, including the historic area of Bhaktapur which continues to be a bustling and atmospheric part of the city despite extensive damage from the 2015 earthquake. Head outside the city to Swayambhunath, an important Buddhist stupa, which has views right across the Kathmandu Valley. This evening is at leisure for you to either sample the hotel’s excellent cuisine or venture out to find a restaurant and try a few local delicacies. Overnight Kantipur Temple House (BL)
Day 3 – Arrive Paro (Bhutan) – Thimphu (Driving time approximately – 1 hour)
Transfer to Kathmandu airport for the flight to Paro. The flight into Bhutan on a clear day has to be one of the most spectacular in the world (be sure to ask for a seat on the left hand side of the plane to soak up the best of the incomparable views – pre booking is not possible). Arrive at Paro International Airport, situated in a beautiful valley at 2280 metres, and a fitting introduction to this charming kingdom. Meet the guide and drive along the compelling Paro and Thimphu river valleys to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Stop en route to take in the magnificent Tamchhog Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Thangtong Gyalpo, the pioneering 15th century saint and engineer, who organised the building of Bhutan’s revolutionary iron bridges. Enjoy a late afternoon walk around town and soak in the atmosphere of this magical capital with its bustling shops and bazaars and photogenic citizens in national dress. Take time to visit the archery ground where local teams demonstrate extraordinary skill with bow and arrow as they practice the national sport of Bhutan [weekends only]. Overnight Norbuling Hotel (BLD)
Although Bhutan’s capital has developed over recent years and now exhibits many of the recognisable features of other international cities, it still retains many of its traditional sites and attractions. While there are now vehicles, bars and restaurants, you will still mingle with local people in traditional dress and crimson clad monks, lending an enduring charm. The city’s cultural richness exudes from every street-corner, from the impressive Trashi Chhoe Dzong to the countless fascinating handicraft shops and the sensory rush that is the weekend market.
Day 4 - Thimphu
If today coincides with the weekend, then visit the bustling and atmospheric market. If your visit coincides with a weekday, there are many museum options to explore – art, textiles, culture, medicine, to name but a few – depending on your interests. Continue to the revered Memorial Chorten and the Changangkha temple. Elegantly perched on the hilltop overlooking the town, devotees flock to the temple throughout the day to turn the myriad of prayer wheels. The temple also contains beautiful wall paintings and hundreds of religious scriptures written in gold. We also take an easy stroll along the side of the valley through beautiful pine forest and enjoy glimpses of the valley below. This afternoon, take in more of the sights and culture of the capital with the option of a trip to visit the Simtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses in Bhutan, dating from 1629. In the centre of town there are many handicraft stalls all displaying products that are entirely made in Bhutan. Overnight Norbuling Hotel (BLD)
Walking guidance – The walk today along the side of the valley should take around 1.5 hours maximum and is an easy stroll along a well-marked trail.
Day 5 - Thimphu – Punakha via Dochu La (Driving time approximately – 3 hours)
Today enjoy a scenic drive of approximately 3 hours to the old capital, Punakha, via the soaring Dochu La Pass (3050 metres), from where, on a clear day, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges, including peaks well over 7000m. Then descend through cool forest. You will notice the change of climate and vegetation as you approach low lying Punakha, at 1250 metres and situated in a fertile valley. Take a pleasant walk of an hour or so across terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by “The Divine Madman” (Lama Drukpa Kuenley). This afternoon, visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”; built in 1637, and strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. Close to the Dzong there is a spectacular suspension footbridge that crosses the Po Chu and it is well worth taking the short detour to cross it for the vertiginous thrill and the excellent views of the river. Overnight at Hotel Lobesa (BLD)
Walking guidance – The walk to the Temple of Fertility should take around 1.5 hours there and back and is an easy and scenic walk across terraced fields, following a footpath, but the last approach to the temple is uphill with some steps (not steep).
Note – if you prefer a more strenuous walk today it is also possible to do a 3-4 hour walk from the Dochu La Pass which affords spectacular views of the Himalayas on a clear day. Contact us for details.
Day 6 – Walking in the Punakha Valley
After breakfast, hike to Chorten Ningpo, dating from the 17th century. The Chorten is a little-known spot with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. This magical spot was once a dense forest reputedly inhabited by evil spirits. The magnificent great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown out of the blazing log that ‘The Divine Madman’ threw (the tree’s bark is still black from where it was burnt). In 2005 the monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village, and founded a small Buddhist educational institution where the children can study traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts as well as Western subjects. From here you can take a hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten via the village of Yebisa. The walk commences from the suspension bridge below Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten. Hike at a gentle pace for around 10 minutes from the bridge through the paddy rice fields of Yebisa village, continuing for around 40 to 50 minutes up to the temple. The walk is still fairly gentle but there are some steeper segments. From the top you will see a beautiful view of the valley and surrounding villages. The temple is 30 metres tall and is dedicated to the fifth King. After visiting the temple descend for around 30 minutes until you reach the suspension bridge where you will be picked up by the vehicle. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to relax after the walking and imbibe the tranquillity of the scenery around your accommodation. Overnight Hotel Lobesa (BLD)
Walking guidance - Chorten Ningpo – 1 hour up and 30 minutes down – the distance is short, hiking up a track that leads from the main road to the temple and back down again. For Khamsum Yuelley – see details in the daily description. Ascent is about 250 metres.
Note – rafting is an optional extra this morning instead of the hike to Chorten Ningpo. Rafting on the Mo Chu (Mother River) is a low grade of difficulty with some gentle rapids. The majority of the ride down the valley is placid and relaxing with opportunities to soak up the views and watch the many species of birds playing on the riverbanks, such as Asiatic dipper, White-capped redstart, Indigo banded kingfisher and Black whistling-thrush. At the end of the 1.5 hour rafting you will cruise past the impressive Punakha Dzong, offering a unique perspective of this historic building. Please let us know at the time of booking if you wish to do the rafting. Lifejackets and helmets will be provided. You may get wet so wear appropriate clothing.
Day 7 – Punakha – Phobjikha Valley – Gangtey (Driving time approximately – 3 hours)
After a leisurely breakfast, we drive for 3 hours through beautiful scenery to the stunning Phobjikha valley. On arrival in Gangtey, visit Gangtey Gompa, one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries, recently restored, and explore the valley where the villagers live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This stunning valley is the area where graceful Black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet. They usually remain in the valley until late February or early March. Overnight Dewachen Hotel (BLD)
Day 8 – Phobjikha Valley
Today is an opportunity to truly enjoy the clear air and magnificent sweeping tableau of this enigmatic valley on an exceptionally scenic walk. Start the hike from your hotel and walk from here to the Black-necked crane Information Centre, which offers a great deal of information on the valley and its famous migrating birds. From here walk to Beta Village, then continue to Gangtey Gompa from where we take the Gangtey Nature Trail, past Semchubara village, through forests of blue pine trees encrusted with lichen (known as old man’s beard and an indicator of the pristine environment) and where you can hopefully see some good birds. Continue on from the end of the nature trail to Kingathang village where you can visit a temple built by the Queen Mother. From Kingathang, you can walk via Yusa village back to your hotel. Overnight Dewachen Hotel (BLD)
Walking guidance – The total distance of the walk today is 12 – 13km and will take around 6 hours with stops. This is a relatively easy grade trek in the valley and is very scenic. However if you wish to do a shorter walk then this is no problem.
Day 9 – Gangtey – Trongsa – Bumthang (Driving time approximately – 8 hours)
An early start today at around 7:30am will include a full morning drive of around 5 hours to Trongsa, the gateway to central Bhutan (2180 metres). As a journey, it offers a compelling insight into the geography and society of this amazing kingdom. The high point of the journey, literally and metaphorically, is Pele la Pass: at 3420m and clad with the ubiquitous prayer flags, passers-by understandably give thanks here for a successful ascent and for affording stunning views of Mt Jumolhari, Kangbum and Jichu Drake. The second half of the morning involves a gradual decent toward Trongsa, passing through yak-herded landscapes and a variety of forests and fascinating small villages. Set amidst spectacular scenery; visit Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, which commands the eye from miles away. Continue this afternoon for around 3 hours through some of Bhutan’s most beautiful terrain to Bumthang. The spiritual heartland of Bhutan with its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces, Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. Overnight at Gongkhar Guest House (BLD)
Day 10 – Bumthang
Today enjoy sightseeing in Bumthang. Your guide will take you on a fascinating tour of a variety of sacred sites in the valley including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang. Later visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong (Jakar), with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley. The Dzong sits above the bustling two-street market town of Jakar, focal point for trade for the region. The Dzong’s sixteenth century origins reputedly centre around the symbolic appearance of a huge white bird on the hillside, as lamas were gathered to choose a site: hence its name is literally ‘Castle of the White Bird’. Overnight at Gongkhar Guest House (BLD)
Day 11 – Tang Valley
Drive to Tang valley, the most remote of Bumthang's valleys. The road climbs past the trail to Membar Tsho (‘The Burning Lake’) – the Buddhist saint Pem Lingpa’s discovered sacred treasures here. Faced later with on-looking sceptics, and holding a burning lamp he again swam into the lake’s depths for many minutes, emerging with new riches and a still-burning flame. The site remains one of Bhutan’s most important pilgrimage sites. From here, drive on to Drangchel, Pema Lingpa's birthplace. Spend time enjoying some of the picturesque villages and beautiful temples, including Ugyenchholing Palace, now a museum, which lends an intriguing insight into life in an aristocratic family of the last century. Return to Bumthang for the night. Overnight Gongkhar Guest House (BLD)
Alternative sightseeing option
Today we can also take an excursion to visit Ura village, situated at 3100m and dominated by its temple. Ura is in the highest of Bumthang's valleys and is believed to be the home of the earliest inhabitants in Bhutan. The village has about 40 houses closely set along cobbled streets, giving it a distinctly medieval air. You can also visit Sumthrang Monastery, a very ancient foundation, dating back to the 13th century; the site is cut gracefully into the cascading hillsides and is currently undergoing a sympathetic renovation. There is a small collection of sacred arts and crafts on display. Return to Bumthang for the night
Possible day hike option
It is possible to take a day hike to Babzur via Petseling monastery. Start the hike by the Swiss Guesthouse Hotel. Hike for around 1.5 hours to a tiny village called Changbi where you will be welcomed with hot tea and snacks arranged by your guide. Continue on to Petseling monastery, home to around 70 monks. From here you will have a panoramic view over the Bumthang valley and you can also see the finishing line of Bhutan’s most challenging trek, the Snowman Trek, in the distance. Continue on to Babzur. The village is located by a beautiful meadow, lined with a few prayer flags and offering excellent views of Kunzangdrak Gompa. After a packed lunch here you walk for another 1.5 hours until reaching the feeder road where the hike ends.
Day 12 – Bumthang – Paro
Transfer to the local airport for the short flight back to Paro. On arrival, transfer to your hotel on arrival you can take a stroll in the town and check out the many handicraft shops. Alternatively, relax on the inviting terrace of the Gangtey Palace Hotel, soaking up the incomparable views. Overnight Gangtey Palace (BLD)
Note – internal flights can be subject to delay and cancellation, depending on weather conditions, so the itinerary may need to be adapted at short notice.
Day 13 – Paro
This morning, visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. From here, visit the National Museum (previously housed in the Ta Dzong watch tower), built atop the hill in an unusual circular construction resembling a conch shell, the site overlooks Rinpung Dzong in order to defend it and the Paro valley during times of war. Unfortunately, an earthquake in September 2011 damaged the Ta Dzong and the contents of the museum were temporarily moved to a neighbouring building, although it is still possible to see a magnificent collection of Bhutanese artefacts – costumes, religious paintings, arms, textiles and a fascinating collection of Bhutan stamps. The National Museum is due to reopen in the Ta Dzong in the near future. Nearby you can also visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. Later this afternoon if you wish, there may still be time to head to the archery ground to watch the phenomenal skills of local people taking aim with bow and arrow [weekends only]. Overnight Gangtey Palace (BLD)
Hiking Option - It is possible to start your adventure to Tiger’s Nest Monastery today by taking a hike out of Paro and spending an adventurous overnight in a fixed camp and then unlike most visitors actually descend to the Tigers Nest Monastery the next day. Please contact us if you wish to explore this option.
Day 14 – The Tiger’s Nest Monastery
This morning embark on the amazing hike to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktshang monastery which clings impossibly to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. It is the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan and Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, subsequently meditating here for three months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. You can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria from where there is a spectacular view of the monastery. On the way back you may be interested to visit Dumtse Lhakhang, a temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, celebrated architect of many of the iron bridges in Bhutan. Overnight Gangtey Palace (BLD)
Walking guidance - The ascent to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and of course sections of The Druk Trek are very steep in places and you should be sure that your level of fitness will allow you to take part. It is possible to rent a stick at the start of the hike. Expect the entire hike, with stops and lunch, to last between 5 - 6 hours, at an easy pace to enjoy and photograph the spectacular surroundings. Speak to our team for personal experience accounts of the hike if you have any concerns. The monastery is situated at an altitude of just over 3000m and the elevation gain is around 600m from the start of the walk. Distance is around 6.5km.
Day 15 – Depart Bhutan to Kathmandu
Early this morning your guide will accompany you to the airport and wish you Tashi Delek (‘Goodbye and Good Luck’). Enjoy the scenic flight back to Kathmandu (this time request a window seat on the right hand side of the plane!). On arrival, transfer to the hotel in the city and enjoy some final time at leisure to reflect on the trip. Overnight Kantipur Temple House (B)
Day 16 – Depart Kathmandu
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK. (B)