Monasteries & Mountain Passes
General Tour / City
Fly overnight to Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu for the first leg of your awe-inspiring Bhutanese trip. Sit back and relax as you journey through the twilight skies, ready for the adventures ahead.
Upon arrival, you’ll be whisked off to the Kathmandu Guest House, to then spend the rest of the day at your own leisure. Check out the true heart of Kathmandu as you soak up the bustling delights of Thamel for some great local cuisine and quirky, colourful shops.
This morning is time for a flight to Paro. If you're lucky enough to encounter clear skies, you can marvel at the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks. You’ll be further blown away by Bhutan’s very own snowy peaks as you land at Paro airport for a drive to the modern capital town of Thimphu.
Once pulled up at your next hotel, freshen up and then head out to embrace the town’s beautiful blend of tradition and modernity. First on the agenda is a visit to Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery. This spiritual haven was built in 1976 by the 16th emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo, Drubthob Rikey Jadrel. Enjoy the impressive views as you chat with some of the 60 nuns who have devoted their lives to Buddhism.
Day four is the day for a jam-packed sightseeing adventure! Visit Thimphu Valley for an exploration tour, uncovering famous sights. Beginning with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten – which is dedicated to the popular king – gaze upon the sun-kissed golden ornaments and lavishly painted annexes of this striking shrine. Then it’s on to the Institute for Zorig Chusum to discover the thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Later in the day, you’ll move on to the Motithang Takin Preserve to find the national animal of Bhutan, the takin (with a head that looks like that of a goat, and body of a cow or yak). Pay a visit to the Centenary Farmers' Weekend Market to see where farmers from all over Bhutan come to trade, and also the 'Fortress of Glorious Religion', Tashichho Dzong.
From the Folk Heritage Museum and National Library to the Buddha Dordenma, you'll feel at one with the spiritual landscape of Bhutan. And just before the sun begins to sit snugly into its evening home, drive to the Sangaygang viewpoint to absorb the entire Thimphu Valley landscape.
Tuck into a tasty breakfast before setting off for the grandeur of Phobjikha Valley, a mystical and remote location. As you drive up to the Dochula mountain pass, make a quick stop to spot the chortens, enjoy spectacular views of the highest Himalayan peaks, and the prayer flags garnishing the highest point.
From here, it’s a winding descent into the glacial Wangdue Phodrang Valley. Follow the scenic route through tangled bamboo and oak forests, until you stumble across the hidden Phobjikha Valley, nestled beautifully on the stunning slopes of the Black Mountains. As one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country, there are animals galore nested in the surrounding landscape, from majestic Himalayan black bears to vibrant red foxes.
Upon arrival, you’ll head for the Black-Necked Crane Centre situated at the edge of the forest. Try out the hideaway for a chance to see these famous birds, before enjoying a peaceful night’s sleep at your hotel.
On day six, a nature trail of breathtaking Bhutan beauty awaits. With a route starting from the Mani stone wall (inscribed with prayers) and stretching through to Gangtey Gompa, nature lovers will be in their element, strolling through scented pine forests and blissful bamboo plants.
Today’s journey takes you onward to the town of Jakar in the central-eastern region of Bhutan. Officially known as Bumthang, you’ll embark on a lengthy but jaw-dropping journey of scenic landscapes where terraced farmland blends with deep river valleys and mountains standing tall against the striking skies.
Make a brief stop at the ancient Buddhist stupa of Chendebji Chorten. After taking in the intriguing history of demonic folklore, you’ll carry on to what was the original home of the royal family, Trongsa. Take your time to wander the quaint streets, stopping off at the commanding Trongsa Dzong – a stunning site and the ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch. Then it’s on to the picturesque Yutong La and down into the Chhune Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving.
You will sleep soundly after all that exploration, in the comforts of either Mountain Lodge or Tsela Lodge. Wake up the next day with an early morning visit to Choekhor Valley. Then the choice to go and explore the neighbouring palace of Wangdicholing is yours. Explore the sacred landscape as you make your way up the valley to soak up the majestic sights of Kurje Lhakhang. After a picnic lunch, you’ll enter the Tamshing Lhakhang. There’s no better place than this monastery to delve into such fascinating ancient Buddhist paintings. Later, visit Jakar Dzong, the 'Castle of the White Bird', then stroll through Bumthang's markets before returning to your lodge.
The picturesque town of Punakha (previously serving as the capital of Bhutan) beckons today, and after a long but spectacular drive, you’ll be eager to get your head down in your next hotel.
On day ten, set off on a morning hike to the nearby fertility temple of Chimi Lhakhang. As you wander down a narrow path framed by the golden bloom of paddy fields, you will reach the crumbling walls dedicated to the "Divine Madman", an eccentric monk from the 16th century. Then it’s off to the glistening white walls of one of the most beautiful Dzongs (fortified buildings) in all of Bhutan – the Punakha Dzong.
Enjoy a serene afternoon with a visit to the Nalanda Buddhist Institute. Enjoy the chance to meet with the monks who have devoted their lives to Buddhism. Before heading back to the hotel, stop off at the beautiful nunnery, hand built by the grandfather of Bhutan’s current king.
Activity and Adventure
Transfer to Paro, stopping off at the 108 Chortens to enjoy the views from Dochula Pass and the 15th-century Tachogang Temple on the way. Check in to your chosen hotel and spend the rest of the day rejuvenating and relaxing. To pick up some unique handicrafts and colourful fabrics, take a wander around Paro Town.
After a night of peaceful slumber, you’ll wake up fully refreshed for a day of Paro City treasures, starting with Ta Dzong. Formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum, it's the chance to get close to the ancient Bhutanese art, artefacts and natural history collection.
Then it’s on to the Rinpung Dzong. With a name meaning “Fortress on a Heap of Jewels”, there is a lot of important Bhutan history steeped within these walls. Built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, this Dzong serves as the administrative seat of the district of Paro as well as the state monastic community. You’ll also discover the splendour of the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang and Dunghtse Temple ahead of an evening visit to one of the finest farmhouses in Paro. Gaining unique insight into the happy Bhutanese culture, enjoy a fantastic traditional cooking demonstration in all of its glory! Ema Datshi (the national Bhutanese dish of chilli cheese stew) and butter tea will awaken your culinary taste buds.
On day thirteen, the real highlight of this trip arrives, as you’ll get the chance to enjoy a day trek to the Tiger's Nest Monastery. Once you’ve wandered the lengthy paths, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the clinging cliffside monastery. Legends say that founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche, arrived here on the back of a tigress!
Activity and Adventure
Make your way back to Paro airport for a midday flight to Kathmandu, where you’ll spend your final night in the Kathmandu Guest House. Enjoy your last few hours at leisure, relaxing in the hotel gardens or enjoying a few cocktails in the hotel lounge.
Wave a fond goodbye to this spectacular region as you depart back for home, ready to tell tales of all that you’ve seen.