Mountain Peaks and Monastaries
Explore the tranquil mountain setting and breathtaking natural vistas of the spectacular Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
Discover the Himalayan heights of Bhutan, starting in the capital of Thimpu, where you can admire spectacular mountain views, Buddhist monuments and statues, as well as colourful market stalls.
Traditional architecture and ancient monasteries await in Punakha. Stock up on traditional handicrafts, marvel at the magnificent scenery and visit an ancient watchtower in Paro.
What To Expect
10 Days / 9 Nights
An itinerary combining the cultural and scenic highlights of magical Bhutan.
DAY 1: Thimphu
Board an early morning flight for Paro in Bhutan. The flight into Bhutan takes you close to the great Himalaya Mountains, offering dazzling views of some of world’s highest glacial peaks. As you descend into the Paro valley, you will pass forested hills, with the slivery Pa Chu (Paro River) meandering through the valley below and the Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watch tower) on the hill above the town.
As you exit the Paro Airport terminal you will be met by your guide and chauffeured to your hotel in Thimphu (1-hour drive). En route, stop to visit the Tamchogg Lakhang, walking across an ancient iron bridge that has been reconstructed using original chain links used by the famous Tibetan bridge builder Thangtong Gyelpo.
On arrival in Thimphu you will be driven directly to the Zorig Chusum, the institute of thirteen arts and crafts of Bhutan. Here you will be introduced to the uniqueness of Bhutanese traditional paintings, their formation, scaling (measurements) and material used.
Afterwards, you will be driven to your hotel for check-in, lunch and the opportunity to indulge in a short rest.
Later in the afternoon, you will meet your guide in the hotel’s lobby for your next adventure. You will be taken to visit Trashichoe Dzong, Bhutan's administrative and religious centre. It houses the throne room of the King of Bhutan, the government ministries, the nation’s largest monastery and the headquarters of His Holiness the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot), as well as the central monk body.
You will also have the opportunity to visit the weekly market, where vendors from throughout the region arrive with their produce. Superb local produce arrives from surrounding orchards, as well as from the southern region, where most of the country’s vegetables are grown. The market is a wonderfully vibrant and colourful destination to visit.
Spend two nights at the Taj Tashii Thimphu. Your accommodation will be in a Deluxe Room with lovely ensuite facilities. Your stay is on a bed and breakfast basis.
DAY 2: Thimphu
Begin the day’s adventure on a wonderful sightseeing excursion to Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue on the outskirts of Thimphu. The statue is filled with over 100 000 smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself, is made of bronze and gilded in gold. At a height of 51.5 meters, the Buddha Dordenma is one of the tallest Buddha statues on the world.
Afterwards you will have the opportunity to visit a privately run weaving centre in the heart of Thimphu. The centre produces intricately hand-woven textiles on site and has a selection of beautiful cloth and ready-made garments for sale. This is one of the few places where you can watch weavers at work. Textile manufacture in Bhutan is more of an artform than an industry. Fabric and weaving are inseparable from Bhutan's rich cultural design. The colours, textures and weaves have evolved over many centuries. Traditional techniques are followed in both the processes of weaving and dying.
As you head back to your hotel you will also have the opportunity to visit the National Memorial Chorten. This landmark of Thimphu was built in 1974 in the memory of third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The memorial contains statues and icons of deities, including complex tantric teachings, and serves as an important place of worship for Thimphu residents. This is a beautiful and photographic landmark, so be sure to keep your camera at the ready.
Other places of interest, worth visiting include:
• The Jungshi paper factory, where handcrafted paper is manufactured from the bark of daphne tree
• The Takin Preserve, a sanctuary for the captive breeding of the Takin, which is Bhutan’s national animal and an endangered species found at higher altitudes in the country.
Near your hotel there is a wonderful handicraft store that offers a chance for you to indulge in some retail therapy. The store provides a wide assortment of colourful, hand-woven textiles, thangkha paintings and other craft products.
DAY 3: Gangtey
After breakfast, you will be driven to Gangtey (approximately 6-hour drive). Your journey will take you through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees to Dochula Pass, situated at 10 000 feet. The pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges before the road descends into the fertile valley of Wangdue (4 430 feet).
Crossing Wangdue, the road once again gradually climbs to Lawa La Pass, which offers a magnificent view of Jhomolhari Mountain (7 300m) and Jichu Drake (6 700m). This route offers wonderful photographic opportunities, as the vegetation changes dramatically from mountain forest to high altitude dwarf bamboo, with spectacular mountain vistas along the way.
En route you will have the opportunity to stop at Nobding village for tea and a snack and then again later at the Pass, where you will have a fabulous view of the hills and mountains.
Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in the country and is the winter home of the endangered black-necked cranes, which migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass the winter in a milder and lower climate. Phobjikha is at an altitude of 2900 m above sea level and falls under the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park.
Upon reaching Gangtey, you will check in to your hotel (ETA at hotel 14h30) and then enjoy a delicious lunch.
Spend three nights at the lovely Gangtey Goemba Lodge. Your accommodation will be in a beautiful suite and on a breakfast and room basis. The lodge draws upon the inspiration of the unique and beautiful Bhutanese rural architecture - down to the very last detail. The focal point of the lodge is an informal lounge and dining space with wall to ceiling views of the valley below.
Day 4: Gangtey
Today, after a wholesome breakfast, you will meet your guide for the day’s first adventure – a visit to Gangtey Goemba, situated on a forested hill in the spectacular Gangtey valley. The Goemba was founded in the 16th century and is the main seat of the Nyingma sect of Buddhism in the country. The extensive complex consists of the central Goemba, the monks’ quarters, and a meditation centre.
Afterwards you will set out on a hike along the Gangtey Nature Trail. The trail descends into the charming Semchubara village, continues straight to the edge of the forest and gradually descends to a square chorten from where you will have a fabulous view of the valley. Here you will have some time to enjoy the beauty of the forest canopy, watching the antics of the migratory cranes. Afterwards, you will follow the trail, which passes Khewang Lhakhang, back to your hotel for lunch.
After a short rest, you will have the opportunity to visit the Crane Information Centre, where you can learn more about the endangered black necked crane. You can also browse through the lovely handicraft shop at your leisure.
The evening is free for you to unwind at your leisure.
Day 5: Trongsa
After an early breakfast, you will set out for a fabulous drive to Trongsa. On arrival, visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong, perhaps the most impressive in the kingdom. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty.
After a delicious lunch you will have the opportunity to visit the Watch Tower of Trongsa, which functions as a museum dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty. The tour of the 5-storied museum begins with a 15-minute documentary show on the brief history of Trongsa. The museum also provides a glimpse of Bhutan’s history over the last hundred years.
After your tour of the museum you will set off back to Gangtey.
Day 6: Punakha
After a leisurely breakfast, you will check out of the lodge and will be chauffeured to Punakha (3½ hour drive), retracing your route back to Wangdue via the Lawa La Pass.
On arrival in Punakha, you will have the opportunity to stop in the beautiful town of Khuruthang for an early lunch.
After lunch, you will be driven further north to the area's renowned suspension bridge, where you will hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. This three storey building boasts an impressive view of the Punakha Valley, as well as spectacular paints of various deities.
You will also have the opportunity to stop and visit the Punakha Dzong. Situated strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 and serves as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Afterwards, you will be driven to your new hotel for a well-deserved rest and dinner.
Spend one night at Uma Punakha. Your accommodation will be in a luxury room with lovely ensuite facilities. Your stay is on a room and breakfast basis.
Day 7: Paro
After a delicious breakfast, you will be chauffeured to Paro (4 and a half-hour drive), which will be your home away from home for next three nights. During your transfer you will stop to enjoy a memorable 30-minute hike to the Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a small hilltop. The temple is dedicated to the great Yogi known as Drukpa Kuenley or the Divine Madman, who dramatized Buddhist teachings using songs. Couples who seeks fertility often come to this temple for blessings.
Before reaching Thimphu, you will also stop at the Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong in the country. Constructed in 1629, the Dzong houses an old clay statue of Buddha. The wall paintings are one of the most beautiful in the country.
Late that afternoon you will reach Paro, a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. It is home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum and the country's only airport. Upon your arrival you will check into Uma Paro, where you will spend three Your accommodation will be in a one-bedroom villa and will be on a room and dinner and breakfast basis.
Day 8: Paro
Start your day with a soul-soothing yoga session at the hotel. Afterwards, tuck into a delicious breakfast before heading out with your guide for your first sightseeing adventure of the day – an excursion to Paro Rinpung Dzong. If it is the right time of year, you may witness the renowned Paro Annual Tshechu. Tsechus are religious festivals during which lively dancers perform wearing carved animal masks and colourful costumes. Large markets are also created at the fair, making for wonderful retail therapy opportunities.
Spend a couple of hours at the Dzong before visiting the National Museum, which houses ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection.
Later you may drive back to the hotel for lunch or try one of the local restaurants in town.
After lunch visit the Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century, which is one of the two oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan and is composed of twin temples.
Time permitting, later on in the afternoon you will be taken on a visit to Drukgyel Dzong. This fort, which has a picturesque village nestling below its ramparts, was built in 1646 to commemorate victory over Tibetan invaders.
After the tour you will be driven back to your hotel for dinner and a well-deserved rest.
Day 9: Paro
Today, you will strap on your hiking boots for your next adventure, a hike to the spectacular Taktsang Monastery (also known as the Tiger’s Nest). The trail climbs through beautiful pine forests, where you will encounter an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags every now then. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche, the founder of Buddhism, flew here from Eastern Bhutan on a tigress, bringing Buddhist teachings. This is one of the most venerated and sacred of all Buddhist sights around the world.
This hike takes about five hours, with an approximate gain in altitude of 900 meters (2 950 feet).
Afterwards, you will be driven back to your hotel for lunch and a siesta - or you can head back to the Paro Tshechu.
Day 10: Departure
Today, we wave a fond farewell as you are driven to Paro Airport for your flight home.
- WildlifeThe national animal of Bhutan, the takin; Himalayan birdlife
- Travelling with ChildrenNot suitable for young children as this an active holiday
- &Beyond's TreatNot applicable
- Don't Leave withoutGetting a private blessing at the Punakha Dzong or having your own personal postage stamp created with your image on it at the Thimphu Post Office.
Where to Stay
Combining Bhutanese tradition with contemporary style, Uma by OMO, Paro is an intimate and exclusive resort balanced on the slopes of the Paro valley.
Taj Tashi Thimphu boasts sweeping views of the mountains that rise above Thimphu valley
Situated at the western end of the lush Punakha valley, the intimate Uma by COMO, Punakha gazes out onto a scenic bend in the Mo Chu River.
The spectacular setting is a real draw at Gangtey Goenpa, a new lodge built from stone and wood to a design inspired by traditional farmhouses.
Rates & Terms
- Accommodation on a double or twin basis in the hotels specified.
- All transport as mentioned in a private vehicle.
- Sightseeing tours will be provided as per the itinerary with an English-speaking guide and in a private vehicle.
- All entrance and monument fees.
- All current taxes, subject to change as per hotel / airline / government policy.
- Airfares as mentioned in the quote above.
Experience the last Shangrila through this journey into one of the last remaining great Himalayan Kingdoms.