Although Bhutan's early history is rich in mythology, much of it remains unknown. The country opened its doors to tourism in 1974, with the number for tourists kept to an environmentally manageable level through government regulated tourist tariffs.
Bhutanese are renowned for their happiness and are a proud people who wear their national costume with pride. In this tour, visit the wondrous sights of Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha, and Paro. Experience the legacy of Bhutan, a jewel in the Himalayas.
Arrival / Paro - Thimphu
On a clear day, the flight to Bhutan is one of the most spectacular of all mountain flights. You will see major Himalayan peaks such as Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, and on the final approach to Paro, Bhutan’s own snowy peaks of Chomolhari, Jichu Drake, and Tserimgang.
Upon arrival in Paro, meet our representative and drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. En-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different styles of stupas adorn this confluence - Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese. Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see Tschogang Lhakhang, the Temple of the Excellent Horse. It is a private temple built in the 15th century as the result of visitation from Balaha, the excellent horse and a manifestation of Chenrezig, the compassionate Buddha. Overnight in Thimphu.
In the morning visit Pangri Zampa, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. It houses a monastic school where Buddhist monks learn Lamaism and astrology based on Buddhist philosophy. Sodha Travel will organize a private puja (prayer ceremony) with the monks for peace, prosperity, and good luck. An offering will be made with butter lamps at the altar.
Return to Thimphu and explore Simply Bhutan, an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF). It is a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. A distinctive feature of Simply Bhutan is that it is fully operated by young people and job seekers who receive on the job training in basic business and management skills, customer care, and other spheres of life. The fund generated through Simply Bhutan is utilized to run many of the youth development programs for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth under YDF.
In the afternoon, visit the following: The National Library, with its extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts; the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a six-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts; and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine where Bhutan’s famed traditional herbal medicines are compounded and dispensed. Later, visit the Memorial Chorten, continuously circumambulated by people murmuring mantras and spinning the prayer wheels.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
Thimphu - Gangtey
In the morning, drive to Gangtey (5 hours). En-route visit Dochula Pass and admire the chortens, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all their glory.
In the afternoon, take a walk around Gangtey Village and visit Gangtey Gonpa, the only Nyingmapa monastery in the region. The village of Phobjikha neighbors the monastery on the valley floor. The quiet, remote valley is the winter home of black necked cranes which migrate from the arid plains of Tibet in the north. Evening at leisure and overnight.
ST's Hotel Recommendation
The award-winning Gangtey Lodge offers every comfort and luxury in one of the most remote places in the world. The suites are nestled near a cluster of farmhouses and perched above the spectacular Gangtey Valley.
After breakfast, explore Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley) leisurely on foot. Walk to Kilkhorthang located between the upper and lower valleys of Phobjikha and extends from Kilkorthang on the eastern side and crosses the main river to the other side of the valley.
From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Monastery, head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara Village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley.
Late evening walk to nearby village for a traditional farm house dinner. A leisurely walk through the village will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative, and traditionally built without the use of nail. The majority of the population of Bhutan continues to live as it has for centuries – in small isolated farms and hamlets, surrounded by terraced fields of rice, maize, and buckwheat. Overnight in Gangtey.
Gangtey - Punakha
In the morning, drive to Punakha (3 hours). En-route take a short excursion to Chimi Lakhang: The Chimi Lakhang, situated on a hillock in the center of the valley, is known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children are blessed with fertility after a temple prayer.
Punakha Valley is famous for rice farming where both red and white rice are grown along the river valleys of Pho and Mo Chhu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. ‘Ritsha’ meaning ‘at the base of a hill’ is a typical village in Punakha. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone foundations. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In the recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous.
Your evening can be spent exploring Punakha Village on the riverbank where the villagers may invite you for yak-butter tea or chili pancakes. Overnight.
After breakfast, hike through fields of chilies, cabbages, and rice along the banks of the Mo Chhu to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999.
Continue to Sang Chhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang: Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangduephodrang gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang (Temple). The temple houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzigchagtongchentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of entirely local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns where, apart from religious trainings, it provides training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making, and thangka painting.
Continue to Punakha Dzong, an impressive fortress between two rivers. It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still serves as the winter residence of the monk body.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
Punakha - Paro
After breakfast, drive to Paro (3 hours). En-route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist studies.
Visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangka paintings, textiles, weapons, armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.
Then walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong,fortress of the heap of jewels, which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala. Overnight in Paro.
In the morning, hike to Taktsang Monastery. Taktsang Monastery is also known as Tiger’s Nest. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. Trek back to the vehicle and drive to Paro.
*Please allow a minimum of five hours for the roundtrip hike. Horses are available until the halfway point only.
Optional evening hot stone bath, historically believed to have medicinal benefits in healing joint pain, hypertension, arthritis, and stomach disorders. Overnight in Paro
Today, transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!
Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Airfare to/from Paro from a preferred gateway
Private vehicle and driver
Comprehensive touring with a private guide
Entrance fees to the monuments
Local, immersive experiences
Airport transfers with assistance
Bhutan visa fee
Bhutan government taxes
Road/interstate taxes, fuel surcharges, and parking fees
Mineral water during touring and transport
Any items of a personal nature
A visa is required to visit Bhutan. Sodha Travel will arrange for the clearance, and the final visa will then be sent to you via email.
To protect your travel investment, Sodha Travel strongly recommends travel insurance
The tourism infrastructure of Bhutan continues to develop. Therefore, the accommodation and transport standards may be different than what you are accustomed to when traveling to other destinations. Flights may be delayed and ground transportation may be limited, thus causing adjustments to your scheduled itinerary. To avoid disappointment, we ask you to consider these factors when traveling to Bhutan.
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)
Farmhouse dinner with a local family
Phobjikha Valley, one of Bhutan's Few Glacial Valleys
Private Prayer Ceremony with Monks at Pangri Zampa