Bhutan Heartlands (10 Days 9 Nights)

Trip Overview

A classic cultural insight journey of Bhutan that takes you from the fertile valleys of Paro, through the modern and ancient capitals of Thimphu and Punakha before reaching the spiritual heart of Bhutan – Bumthang. See all the essential cultural sites of the Western and Central valleys combined with a hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) Monastery.

Trip Summary

Day 1-2 – Paro, Thimphu; Day 3 – Punakha; Day 4 – Punakha, Bumthang; Day 5-6 – Bumthang; Day 7 – Bumthang, Phobjikha/Gangtey; Day 8-10 – Paro.

Bhutan Heartlands Map
Bhutan Heartlands Map

Price

USD 2,887 (approx. AUD 4,908)

BOOK NOW PAY FOR TRIP

Single supplement: USD 452 (approx. AUD 768)

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. During the flight to Paro, look out for the breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Mount Jitchu Drake in Bhutan. Paro a beautiful valley encapsulating a rich vibrant culture, scenic beauty and is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries. The fertile soil in the valley produces a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields. Mout 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). You’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to the capital city of Thimphu. Spend the afternoon seeing some of the cultural sights in Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 2 –  Thimphu

Explore the capital city of Thimphu – the seat of government, religion and commerce in Bhutan. It’s a unique city with unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Thimphu was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became Bhutan’s official national capital. With an estimated population of 100,000 people, this unique city is filled with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions. Take a short drive to the scenic Sangaygang and hike to Wangditse (2.5 hours in total). Visit the Takin Sanctuary, home to the half-cow and half-bull like mammal, the national animal of Bhutan. The famous biologist George Schaller called it a “bee stung moose,” referring to its bulbous nose, while taxonomists have put it into a class of its own, the Budorcas taxicolori. Spend the afternoon soaking up the community atmosphere at the National Memorial Chorten, then visit the Folk Heritage Museum to see how life was lived in a Bhutanese village a hundred years ago. See the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan at the Institute of Zorig Chusum and the collection of intricate and beautiful Bhutanese hand woven textiles at the National Textile Museum. Learn how paper is made from Daphne tree barks at the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, then make your way to VAST gallery situated on the banks of Thimphu river which features modern local Bhutanese artists and sculptures. On the weekend, the Centenary Weekend Market is just up the road where a range of organic local farmers produce and snacks can be found, there is an arts and textiles market on the other bank of the river on the weekend and a daily one within the main township. As the sun starts to set, visit the magnificent Tashichhodzong – the 500 years old fortress in the grandeur of traditional Bhutanese architecture that houses the office of the King, ministers and various government organizations, as well as headquarters for the central monastic body of Bhutan. Overnight in Thimphu. 

Day 3 – Thimphu, 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, Bumthang

Today drive to Bumthang via Pele La to the 16th century town of Trongsa – ‘New Village’ in the local dialect. Visit Trongsa Dzong, the old seat of power of central and eastern Bhutan where both the First and Second kings of Bhutan ruled.  The dzong is built along the contours of the mountain ridgeline and affords a great view of the Black Mountains. Continue the drive to Bumthang. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 5&6 – Bumthang

Bumthang is the spiritual and geographic heart of Bhutan. Comprising of four smaller valleys of Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is full of religious legends. Bumthang is the traditional home of the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga, to whose descendants the present monarchy traces its origin. Spend the day exploring this area on foot and visit Kurjey Lhakhang, a monument to the Bhutanese saint Guru Rimpoche, Tamshing Goemba and the 7th-century Jambay Lhakhang. Unwind at the Swiss Dairy project to sample some fine fresh bread, cheese, and wheat beer. Overnight in Bumthang.

Day 7 – Bumthang, Phobjikha/Gangtey

After breakfast, drive 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 8 – Phobjikha/Gangtey, Paro

Retrace the road back West towards Paro Dochula pass. Overnight in Paro.

Day 9 – 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 10 – Paro

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