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Duration: 8 Night / 9 Days

Destination: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Phobjikha

This itinerary is recommended for a real up close and personal tour of the kingdom of Bhutan. You will visit 6 of the 20 districts of Bhutan including capital Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa and the beautiful valleys of Bumthang in central Bhutan

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paro, Bhutan, stay in Thimphu

The flights into Bhutan are a unique experience. At the Paro Airport, you will pass the immigration gate where you would have to show your visa and then arrive at the luggage terminal. Then you will sail through the custom formalities and at the exit terminal, your guide from Actual Travel Bhutan will be waiting for you with your name placard.

You will then drive for an hour to reach capital Thimphu. You can check into your hotel and then go about capital Thimphu in the afternoon. It is the only capital city without traffic lights. You can also visit the biggest statue of Lord Buddha, which is located over a hilltop overlooking the entire capital valley. You can also visit the Thimphu Memorial Temple, a shrine built in the memory of the third king. If you choose to, you can also visit some handicraft shops. In the evening, you can talk a casual walk around the city.

Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.

Day 2: Thimphu sightseeing, drive to Punakha

After breakfast at your hotel, you will check out of the hotel. You will then visit the 12th century Changangkha Temple. The main shrine of the temple is a bigger than life-size statue of Alalokitesvara, the god of compassion. The temple also has the statue of the local deity, Tamdrin, who is believed to be the protector of all people born in Thimphu. Parents of newborns visit the temple to get the names for the child.

You will then visit the Thimphu Mini Zoo, which has the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin. It is believed that the animal was snapped to life magically by a Tibetan Lama in the late 15th century after he placed the skeleton head of a goat on the skeletal body of a cow.

After lunch, you will drive towards Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan. It takes about three hours to reach Punakha. On the way, you will stop at the Dochula Pass (3,048m/10,000ft), which is the highest pass along the route. On a clear day, you can enjoy a strategic view of almost all the major mountain ranges in the country including the highest mountain in Bhutan – Gangkar Puensum (7,550m/24,770ft) – which is also the highest unclimbed mountain the world.

You resume the drive. It is a downhill drive descending to the more subtropical vegetation of Punakha. Just before reaching Punakha, you will take a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple built in 1499 by a Tibetan Lama, Drukpa Kunley who is known as ‘The Divine Madman’ for his eccentric ways of teaching Buddhism. He is said to have subdued an evil demoness using his phallus, which is symbolically referred as the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.” A wooden effigy of his phallus is still preserved at the temple. There is lot of accounts of childless couples, even tourists, who bore children after a visit to the temple.

In Punakha, you will visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, which is the most beautiful fortress in the country. The 17th century fortress is located at the confluence of the male and the female river giving it a romantic ambiance. The Dzong also houses the embalmed body of the founder of Bhutan who consolidated the country for the first time in the 17th century. It is customary for all kings to take blessing from the embalmed body before becoming the king.

Overnight in a hotel in Thimphu.

Day 3: Drive to Trongsa

After breakfast at your hotel, you will check out of the hotel and drive towards Trongsa. You will first cross Wangdue town and the road will be a gradual uphill towards the Pelela Pass (11,152 ft). on a clear day, you can see Mount JomoLhari from here. Then it will be a downhill drive. You can stop over at the Chendebji Chorten which was built as a replica of the popular Swayambunath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. You will resume the journey and head towards Trongsa.

In Trongsa, you will check into your hotel. Then you will visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong which is the largest fortress in Bhutan. In the late 19th century the father of the first king of Bhutan consolidated the country from here because of which it is customary for the crown prince of Bhutan to be given the honorific title of Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa) before he assumes the golden throne. From the dzong, you will then visit the watch-water of the dzong which today houses a museum. In the evening, you can walk about Trongsa town.

Overnight in a hotel in Trongsa.

Day 4: Trongsa to Bumthang.

After breakfast, you will check out of the hotel and proceed towards Bumthang. The drive is uphill till you reach the Yotong La Pass (11,234ft). The downhill drive begins till you enter the Chumey valley, the first of the four beautiful valleys of Bumthang. You can check out local traditional weaving centers at Chumey.

Bumthang is said to be the most beautiful valley in Bhutan. The second Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, is said to have visited Bumthang in 746 AD and spread the Nyingma sect of Buddhism in Bhutan for the first time. Bumthang still has several temples and sacred places blessed by Guru Rinpoche. He is said to have prophesized the coming of a popular saint, Pema Lingpa, who is considered to be one of the ancestors of the current royal family of Bhutan.

You will check in at your hotel in Bumthang. In the evening, you can walk around Jakar town before retiring to your hotel.

Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.

Day 5: Bumthang sightseeing

After breakfast, you will take a short drive to the famous Jambay Lhakhang Temple. Along with the Kichu Monastery in Paro, it is one of the oldest temples in the country built in the 7th century. The two temples in Bhutan are part of the 108 temples built in a single day in subdue a demon and to spread Buddhism in the Himalayan region. This temple is famous for hosting the annual naked dance festival. From there, you will visit the adjacent Kurjey Monastery. It derives the name from the body imprints left by Guru Rinpoche who visited the country in the 8th century. The imprints are inside a cave, which today lies inside the oldest of the three temple buildings.

You will then take a walk across the suspension bridge to Tamshing and visit the Tamshing Goemba monastery built in 1501 by the most popular saint of Bhutan, Pema Lingpa, who is also the ancestor of the royal family of Bhutan. The monastery is an important monastery for the Nyingma sect of Buddhism. It is believed that the monastery was built with the help of celestial beings. You can then visit the local cheese factory and a microbrewery.

In the evening, you can walk around Jakar town.

Overnight in a hotel in Bumthang.

Day 6: Bumthang to Phobjikha.

After breakfast, you will head to Phobjikha. It is the same way towards Thimphu. You meander your way out of the beautiful Jakar valley and ascend for some tiem to reach Yotong La (11,200ft/3,370m). Then you will descend towards Trongsa and proceed over the Pele La Pass (11,000ft/3,353mt) and a gradual descent will lead you to the junction that takes you to the Phobjikha valley.

Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful valleys in western Bhutan and it is most popular as the winter roosting ground for the endangered and rare Black-Necked cranes. The valley also has several farmhouses, which offers local Bhutanese experiences for tourists.

Overnight in a hotel in Phobjikha.

Day 7: Phobjikha to Paro

After breakfast, you will check out of the hotel and drive towards Thimphu. You will first reach Wangdue town, head towards Punakha and climb the Dochula Pass towards Thimphu. You can have lunch in Thimphu and proceed towards Paro. In Paro, you can walk about Paro town and if time permits, you can visit a temple or two.

Overnight in a hotel in Paro.

Day 8: Hike to the Tiger’s Nest

No visit to Bhutan is complete without a visit to the iconic Tiger’s Nest known as Taktshang Monastery. It is legend and recorded history that the reincarnation of Lord Buddha flew to the site in the 8th century on a tigress and meditated at the site. The monastery was built later and is perched on a vertical cliff face. It takes about 3 hours hike to reach the monastery.

From the base, you have the option to take ponies while you hike up to the monastery. The way back will take half the time you took to hike up. In the afternoon, you can visit the 7th century Kichu Monastery, which is one of the oldest temples in the country.

In the evening, you can walk about Paro town and if you wish check out few souvenir shops in the town.

Overnight in a hotel in Paro.

Day 9: Depart Paro

After breakfast at the hotel, you will drive toward the Paro Airport. You are expected to reach the airport two hours before the flight departure time.