Western Bhutan Express (8 Days 7 Nights)

Trip Overview

Get a taste of what makes this small Himalayan country incredible and unforgettable. The journey takes you to the bustling capital city of Thimphu – a city without traffic lights, the beautiful secluded valleys of Punakha, Phobjikha and Haa; and up to the dizzying heights of the iconic Tiger’s Nest (Takshang) Monastery located in the fertile and charming valley of Paro. Be transported back in time to a country filled with fortress-like Dzongs, observe the making of world-class hand-woven Kira and Ghor, and traditional handicrafts. Walk into nature, explore and surround yourself in the abundantly rich Himalayan flora and fauna. Take a tip in the traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath and set your heart on fire with the spicy Bhutanese cuisine (they really love chillies)!

Trip Summary

Day 1 – Paro, Thimphu;  Day 2 – Thimphu;  Day 3 – Dochula, Punakha;  Day 4 – Punakha, Phobjikha/Gangtey;  Day 5 – Phobjikha/Gangtey, Haa;  Day 6 – Haa, Paro;  Day 7-8 – Paro.

Western Bhutan Express Map
Western Bhutan Express Map

Price

USD 1,701 (approx. AUD 2,892)

BOOK NOW PAY FOR TRIP

Single supplement: USD 284

All prices based on twin share.

Inclusions: accommodation, meals, dedicated transport, entry fees to museums and attractions, licensed guide and driver, visa processing fees, all administrative costs.

Exclusions: international airfares (contact us to arrange), comprehensive travel insurance, personal expenses and tips.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Paro, Thimphu

Arrive into Paro International Airport. On the flight into Bhutan, be sure to look out the window for the most scintillating scenery of the world’s highest Himalayan glacial peaks, including Mount Everest. Paro is a beautiful valley encapsulating a rich vibrant culture, scenic beauty and plenty of myths and legends. Paro is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum and the country’s only international airport. Mt. Jomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunges through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields. You’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to the capital city of Thimphu. Take the afternoon to rest or explore a bit of Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 2 – Thimphu

A full day of exploration in Thimphu valley awaits! If you are a hiker, take the trail to Tango and Cheri Monasteries, otherwise start your day at the National Memorial Chorten – a landmark monument in frequented by locals and soak up the atmosphere. Around town there are plenty to choose and see. You could head to the Folk Heritage Museum for a glimpse into how life is in Bhutanese villages. See the vibrant designs of Bhutanese weaving at the National Textile Museum. Browse the Arts and Crafts bazaar nearby for a wide selection of Bhutanese antiques, wood carving, weaving and paintings, or learn about how Daphne tree barks are turned into handmade paper at the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory. Along the Thimphu riverside, you’ll find VAST Gallery which features modern Bhutanese art and sculpture. If you happen to be here on a weekend, the Centenary Weekend Market offers a range of local and regional organic fruits, vegetables and snacks. Further along is Children’s Park – a popular botanical garden playground for children, and young Bhutanese alike. From here, follow the sound of cheering and singing to the National Stadium archery field across the road to watch Bhutanese men best each other at their national sport.As the sun starts to set, visit the magnificent Tashichoedzong – the 500 years old fortress in the grandeur of traditional Bhutanese architecture that houses the office of the King, ministers and various government organisations, as well as headquarters for the central monastic body of Bhutan. Overnight in Thimphu. 

Day 3 – Punakha

From Thimphu, head East to Dochula pass (3,100 meters), a beautiful mountain pass (alt 3,140 m) framed by fluttering prayer flags and a spectacular set of 108 miniature chortens (stupas). On a clear day, you will get glimpses of the stretch of towering, awe-inspiring Himalayan peaks. Descend into Punakha valley, the ancient capital of Bhutan. Visit Punakha Dzong, arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful in Bhutan situated at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu (Mother and Father Rivers). The three-story main temple of the Punakha Dzong is a breathtaking example of traditional architecture with four intricately embossed entrance pillars crafted from cypress and decorated in gold and silver. Then take a turn about the fertility temple Chimmi Lhakhang dedicated to the famous and unorthodox Buddhist master, Drukpa Kinley (endearing referred to by the Bhutanese as the ‘Divine Madman’), who is associated with the phallic symbols you would have seen on your travels in Bhutan so far. Learn about the master’s deeds painted on the walls and ask the locals you meet about his stories. You may be surprised by what you find out! The temple is also frequented by couples who are praying for children and families who come to be blessed. Babies whose parents have brought them here to be named will bear the first name of ‘Kinley’ or ‘Chimmie’. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 4: Punakha, Phobjikha/Gangtey

Wake up to the uplifting Himalayan morning with a 45-minute hike to Khamsum Yule Namgyel Chorten built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace in this world. From here you will get a birds-eye view of Punakha valley and the meanders of Punakha river. Walk back along the farm fields along the river bank. A three-hour drive past the ruins of Wangdue Phodrang Dzong brings you to Phobjikha/Gangtey, one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan and chosen home of endangered Black Necked Crane, which migrates from the central Asiatic Plateau to escape its harsh winters. See cranes roosting and dancing in the valley during the months of November to February. Explore the valley on the easy Gangtey Nature Trail and learn about the cranes’ habitat at the Black Necked Cranes Information Centre. Overnight in Phobjikha/Gangtey.

Day 05: Phobjikha/Gangtey, Haa

Enjoy the morning at Phobjikha/Gangtey then set off to the gorgeous Haa valley, the lesser known town that was only opened to tourism a decade ago. The valley is small but unrivalled in its beauty. Take a stroll in town and visit Lhakhang Karpo. Overnight in Haa.

Day 6: Haa, Paro

Drive back to Paro past Chelela Pass (4000m) where on a clear day you can see the sacred Mount Jomolhari (7413m) peaks to the North, Kang Bum Peak located above Gaza (6300m) and Tiger Mountain (Gangcheta 6840m) north of Laya. The pass overlooks the breathtaking view of Paro and Haa valley. Enjoy the trails around Chelela pass then continue to Paro. Relax and unwind in Paro for the afternoon and psych yourself up for the unforgettable trek to Tiger’s Nest tomorrow! Overnight in Paro.

Day 7 – Paro

Today you’ll hike up Bhutan’s most iconic and awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang) Monastery. Perched seemingly perilously on the edge of a sheer cliff face, Taktshang is one of Bhutan’s most venerated pilgrimage sites. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche miraculously flew here on the back of a tigress, meditated in a cave here for three months and converted the whole of Paro valley to Buddhism. Resting at an altitude of 900 meters above the valley,  Taktshang is an architectural wonder and the spectacular four-hour walk will be sure to be one of your most overwhelming and unforgettable experiences. If there’s time in the afternoon, visit the National Museum (Ta-Dzong) which contains displays of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thangka paintings, natural history artefacts, and Bhutan’s exquisite stamps, coins, and handicrafts collection. Then see the 16th century Rinpung Dzong, ‘Fortress of the Heap of Jewels’, where some of the scenes from the film ‘Little Buddha’ by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1995 was filmed, or the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang was built by the famous Buddhist Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, the house next to the museum contains photographs and artifacts belonging to the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche – the Vajrayana master, scholar, poet, teacher, and head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Relax in the evening with a traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath (optional). Overnight in Paro.

Day 08 – Paro

After breakfast, you will be transported to Paro International Airport for your onward journey.