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Cultural show in Bhutan

Bhutan: Land of Thunder Dragon

Example 11 Day Tour
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Travel across Bhutan and discover Bhutanese culture on this 11-day journey in the Land of the Thunder Dragon. This adventure takes you through the heart of Bhutan, exploring its key destinations, such as Thimphu, Punakha, Bumthang, and Paro. Explore Thimphu, the charming capital, and witness the blend of tradition and modernity as you encounter vibrant markets, ancient monasteries, and the iconic Dzong. Travel to Punakha, where the historic Punakha Dzong stands as a testament to Bhutan's architectural wonders. Enjoy the trail on a nature walk in Gangtey. Visit the spiritual heartland of Bumthang, dotted with sacred monasteries and temples. Take a scenic drive to Paro, home to the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery, Ta Dzong, and the National Museum. This journey will take you on an exciting adventure with a deep connection to the soul-stirring essence of Bhutan.
Taktshang Monastery or Tiger's NestGangtey MonasteryFestival MonksLocal MonkChagri Dorjeden MonasteryRinpung DzongPunakha DzongDruk Wangyal Chorten at Dochula PassTa Dzong - National Museum of BhutanCultural show in Bhutan
Highlights
  • Discover Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon
  • Take a nature walk to Chagri Monastery, a centre for meditational retreats
  • Explore Dochula Pass and 108 chortens honoring fallen soldiers
  • Take a photo of Punakha Dzong, a marvel of architecture
  • Hike to see the Tiger's Nest, the most famous monastery in Bhutan
Places Visited
Activity Level: Easy Active
Moderately active but not overly strenuous. This level includes activities like casual cycling, yoga, or excursions/activities that typically last 3-5 hours total each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Paro | Transfer to Thimphu

Upon arrival in Bhutan, you will land at Paro, the country's only international airport. Upon exiting the airport, your guide will meet you and drive you to your hotel in Thimphu (approximately one hour drive). Thimphu is the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and is a stronghold of traditional Bhutanese art, architecture, and culture. With over 100,000 residents, including the nation's Royal Family, it is 2,320 meters (7656 feet) above sea level. A crucible for urbanization—this is where you will see modern-day Bhutan infused with more traditional aspects of living. It is interesting to note that Thimphu is the only capital city without traffic lights in the entire world.

Just before reaching Chuzom, you will pass Tachog Lhakhang, a temple constructed by Thangtong Gyalpo. He pioneered suspension bridge construction in Tibet and Bhutan, many of which are still in use today. The present bridge to Tamchog Lhakhang was restored in 2005 in a traditional style with iron chains, and crossing this iron bridge is a wonderful experience (approximately a 50-minute roundtrip walk).

Drive onward to your hotel in Thimphu to check in and stay overnight.

Day 2: Thimphu

After breakfast, embark on a nature walk to Cheri Monastery, an important center for meditational retreats. It was established in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as the home for the first monk body in Bhutan. An elaborately decorated silver chorten inside the upper monastery enshrines the ashes of Zhabdrung's father. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave above the monastery when he came to Bhutan in the 8th century.

To reach Cheri Monastery, take a 14 KM (9-mile drive), approximately 30 minutes, towards the northern end of Thimphu Valley up to Dodena 2545 meters (8350 ft), from where the hike starts. The trail commences by crossing a nicely covered traditional wooden bridge that spans the Thimphu Chhu (river) and then heads up steadily to the monastery. The steep nature trail is serene and a chance to breathe through the cool, fresh area under the magnificent wooded area, while the view from the top is stunning. Cheri has several hermitages and small temples on its slopes, where the Zhabdrung meditated for many years. The area also offers stunning views.

Hiking Info
Difficulty Level:
Moderate
Max Elevation: 2650 meters (8,694 feet)
Elevation Gain: 330 meters (1,083 feet)
Walking Distance: 6.5 km (4 miles, round trip)
Walking Time: Approx. 2.5 hour (round trip) 

After lunch, you can visit the Textile Museum, which, established under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden, has elevated Bhutanese textiles to new heights as one of the most prominent and unique art forms. The museum has exhibitions on six major themes: warp pattern weaves, weft pattern weaves, the role of textiles in religion, achievements in textile arts, textiles made from indigenous fibers, and the Royal Collection.

If you're interested in learning about the traditional crafts of Bhutan, consider visiting the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. The institute was established in 1971 and aims to preserve and promote thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. The institute is sometimes referred to as the Arts & Crafts School or Painting School and offers 4-to-6-year courses in these thirteen traditional arts and crafts.

Take a short drive to the north of town to Buddha Dordenma, located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D. discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (the Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is believed to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. This massive statue of Shakyamuni is 51.5m (169 feet) tall, gilded in gold, and made of bronze, making it one of Bhutan's largest statues. The Buddha Dordenma statue has 125,000 smaller Buddha statues inside of it, all of which have been cast in bronze and gilded. At Buddha Point, you can meditate in a designated area.

Visit the fortress of the glorious religion, Trashichhoedzong, to round off your sightseeing day. It is home to the monarch's throne room, the seat of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot, and the hub of religion and government. Constructed in 1641 by the political and religious unifier of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the monastery was rebuilt in the 1960s using traditional methods without architectural blueprints or nails.

Before returning to the hotel, explore the Centenary Farmers Market (closed on Tuesdays). Popularly known as the Weekend Market, this bustling, colorful market center is the biggest place where farmers from different parts of the country gather to sell their farm products. The Farmer's Market is a popular destination for many due to its diverse range of products, which includes handicrafts, and its picturesque and colorful setting.

You will stay overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.

Day 3: Dochula Pass | Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley)

After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la Pass (3,088m/ 10,130ft), stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags that decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass: Masagang (7,158m/ 23,484ft), Tsendagang (6,960m/ 22,835ft), Terigang (7,060m/ 23,163ft), Jejegangphugang (7,158m/ 23,484ft), Kangphugang (7,170m/ 23,524ft), Zongphugang (7,060m/ 23,163ft), a Table Mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,570m (24,836ft).

The first Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, constructed 108 chortens, or stupas, at Dochula Pass. These are known as Druk Wangyal Chortens. These chortens are built in three layers, with the main chorten at the center of the first layer (lowest level) having forty-five chortens, the second layer having thirty-six, and the top layer having twenty-seven.

Drive to Gangtey (approximately 5 hours of driving), passing through dense forests of oak and rhododendron trees.

The Gangtey Valley is among the most stunning and pristine locations. This is a rare experience in Bhutan, where most valleys are enclosed. Finding a wide, flat valley devoid of trees after a strenuous climb through dense forests is surprising. A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor, lies the village of Phobjikha. In the evening, take a stroll, discovering the enchanting Phobjikha valley.

Day 4: Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley)

Visit the monastic school early in the morning to observe the prayer ceremony. After breakfast, visit Gangtey Goempa Monastery. Situated atop a small hill rising from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the largest and only Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan and the only one on the western side of the Black Mountains. Surrounding the monastery is a sizable village, mainly home to the 140 Gomchen families who maintain the monastery. Pema Trinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa, founded Gangtey Monastery in 1613. The monastery continues to teach the religious practices of Pema Lingpa.

Start your walking tour at the Gangtey Nature Trail. This pleasurable walk will give you a nice feel for Phobjikha Valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village, through beautiful forests, and into the open valley. The trail ends at a local community school after passing a chorten and Khewa Lhakhang. (approx. 5.5km/ 3.5 miles, 2 hours walk).

After lunch, explore the fascinating Phobjikha Valley. This place is the winter home of black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass the winter in milder and lower climates. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Blackwater) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-White Water).

Make sure to check out the Black Neck Crane Information Center. Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha Valley, the black-necked crane information center has an observation room equipped with a high-power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The center also offers display information that outlines the natural and cultural history of the area.

Day 5: Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley) | Trongsa | Bumthang (Jakar)

Drive to Bumthang via Trongsa for six hours after breakfast. The drive to Trongsa crosses Pelela Pass (3,300m/ 10,827ft), the traditional boundary between east and west. The ground is dense with high-altitude dwarf bamboo, and a cluster of prayer flags marks the pass. On the way, stop at Chendbji Chorten, a stupa built by the Lama Shida in the eighteenth century. It is Nepalese in style, with eyes painted at four cardinal points.

Trongsa has a spectacular landscape perched on steep slopes above a river gorge. It served as the central hub for the country and was the launching point for attempts at unification. While in Trongsa, visit Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan. It was built by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the official sent by Zhabdrung to unify Eastern Bhutan. It was also extended at the end of the 17th century by Desi Tenzin Rabgay. Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. The first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong.

Continue to Bumthang across Yutong-la Pass (3,400m/ 11,155ft). The road winds steeply up to the pass from Trongsa, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open, cultivated valley known as the Chumey Valley.

Take a short stop at Chumey, a wide and fertile valley where crops like wheat, barley, potatoes, and buckwheat are grown. The valley is famous for its traditional wool weaving called ‘Bumthang Yathra’

Day 6: Bumthang (Jakar)

Bumthang is a culturally and historically rich district in Bhutan, composed of four valleys. The largest valley, Choekhor Valley, is also known as the "Bumthang Valley." The valleys are broad and gently carved by the ancient glaciers, housing the most admired temples and monasteries in the entire nation. The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered with fields of buckwheat, rice, and potatoes, apple orchards, and dairy farms.

Visit the historic temple known as Jambey Lhakhang, constructed in 659 A.D. by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, to begin your day. As part of a chain of 108 simultaneously built temples to subdue an evil demon that lay over the Himalayan region.

A short distance from Jambey Lhakhang is the site of the sacred Kurje Lhakhang, consisting of three temples encircled by 108 chorten walls. The first and oldest structure was built on the rock where Guru Rinpoche meditated. The second building is also called the Sampa Lhundrup temple and houses a colossal statue of Guru Rinpoche. The third structure, known as Ka Gon Phur Sum Lhakhang, is dedicated to the happiness of all living beings in the kingdom.

Visit the picturesque Jakar Dzong, which overlooks Choekhor Valley. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly in the air and settled on the spur of a hill. It was viewed as a good omen, and the hill was chosen as the location for the monastery, Jakar Dzong, which translates as "castle of the white bird."

After lunch, visit Tamshing Lhakhang, a temple founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, Guru Padmasambhava's reincarnation. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings, like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female forms of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the nineteenth century.

If you're searching for an intriguing place to explore, visit the Bumthang Brewery. This state-of-the-art microbrewery produces Swiss-style unfiltered Weiss beer, locally known as 'Red Panda Beer'. It was Bhutan's first brewery of its kind, producing draft beer, apple cider, wine, and apple brandy. When you visit the brewery, you can see the entire process of making unfiltered Weiss beer. Adjacent to it is the Swiss Farm, where you can learn about the cheese-making process, taste Red Panda Beer, and purchase cheese, apple brandy, clover honey, and other products.

Stroll in the village in the evening and explore local shops and markets.

Day 7: Trongsa | Punakha

After breakfast, drive approximately 6 ½ hours back to PunakhaEn route to Trongsa, visit Ta Dzong, a cylindrical stone structure rising to five stories, built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa. It has been restored as a refined museum that exhibits a deft fusion of tradition and modernity after more than 350 years.

Before entering Punakha town, visit Wangduephodrang Dzong. It was established in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, located atop a high ridge between the Punak Tsang Chhu and Dang Chhu rivers, providing a breathtaking view of the valley below. Wangdue Dzong holds a special place in Bhutan’s history. The strategic location of the Dzong provided Penlop (the governor) of Wangduephodrang with a chance to protect the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana, and Thimphu, making him the third most powerful ruler after the governors of Paro and Trongsa. The Dzong was rebuilt to its former grandeur and splendor in 2022, following damage from a fire in 2012.

In the evening, take a leisurely tour of Wangduephodrang and Punakha towns.

Day 8: Punakha

Explore Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan and the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) until 1955. Blessed with a temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from the Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the fertile Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. Located at 1300m (4,265ft) above sea level, Punakha enjoys mild winters and is a popular year-round destination.

After breakfast, explore Punakha Dzong, a magnificent structure constructed in 1637 at the confluence of the Phochu and Mochu rivers, also known as the Palace of Great Happiness, by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This dzong, spanning approximately 182.88 meters by 73.15 meters (600 by 240 feet) with a six-story gold-domed tower, once functioned as a religious and administrative hub in Bhutan. Within its walls, discover courtyards and religious statuaries reflecting a rich history and spiritual tradition. Your guide will provide insights into the exotic culture with a longstanding presence in the region.

A quick trip to Chimi Lhakhang follows. Known as the temple of fertility, the Chimi Lhakhang is set on a hillock in the middle of the valley. Praying at this temple is believed to bring children to childless couples. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning 'field. A walk through the village near the temple will give you rare glimpses into the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.

After lunch, a beautiful hike leads to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten (approximately a 2-hour round-trip walk), which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability, and harmony in a changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.

You will stay overnight at the hotel in Punakha.

Day 9: Paro

After breakfast, take a 4-hour drive to Paro along the scenic highway. Upon arrival in Paro, check into your hotel. The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty, and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, the National Museum, and the country’s only international airport. At the northern end of the valley, Mount Chomolhari stands tall and proud at 7,314m (23,996 feet), covered in a pristine layer of white snow. Its glacial waters plunge through deep gorges to form the Pa Chhu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom, producing the bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.

After lunch, visit the Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique Thangka paintings, textiles, weapons and armor, household objects, and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

After visiting the Ta Dzong, take a short walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong), meaning "fortress of the heap of jewels." It has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore.

Later in the afternoon, visit the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the evening, stroll in the charming Paro city center, exploring petite shops on both sides of Paro's main street.

You will stay overnight at the hotel in Paro.

Day 10: Paro

After breakfast, take a fascinating 5-hour round-trip walk to Tiger's Nest, also known as Taktshang Monastery. Perched on the side of a cliff 900meters (2,953 feet) above the Paro Valley floor, it is one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche arrived at this monastery on the back of a tigress and meditated, hence its name, Tiger's Nest. After being visited by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646, it is considered sacred by Bhutanese people.

In the afternoon, you will visit a typical farmhouse. Bhutanese farmhouses are traditionally constructed without nails and are incredibly colorful and ornamental. Most people in Bhutan still reside in small, remote villages and farms surrounded by terraced rice, maize, and buckwheat fields, just as they have for centuries. In addition, you can practice archery, the national sport of Bhutan, and then enjoy traditional tea and snacks with local families.

Day 11: Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, transfer to the international airport on time to board your flight back home.

Accommodations

Norkhil Boutique Hotel & Spa

Hotel lobby
Hotel reception area
Hotel dining and bar area

Dhensa Boutique Resort

Dhensa Boutique Resort
Dhensa Boutique Resort
Hotel cottages

Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa

Dewachen Hotel & Spa

Dewachen Hotel & Spa
Dewachen Hotel & Spa
Dewachen Hotel & Spa

Jakar Village Lodge

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$4,850 2-3 travelers

Notes

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Included
  • 10 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 10 Dinners
  • 10 Nights Accommodations
  • 10 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Mandatory Government Service Tax.
  • Entrance Fee to Places of Visit and Monuments.
  • All transfers mentioned in the itinerary
  • Drinking water throughout the trip
  • English speaking guides
  • Bhutan Visa Fee
  • Sustainable Development Fee & Taxes
  • Prayer Flag hoisting
  • Farm House visit with Archery, Tea, and Snacks in Paro as per the itinerary
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Internal and International Airfare
  • Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, etc.)

Map

When to Go

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.

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This was my first experience with Adventure Life - and I couldn't have been more pleased with the trip. The guides and local staff in both Buenos Aires and Uruguay were terrific - extremely helpful and accommodating. I really enjoyed meeting the friendly staff in Buenos Aires in person (I left my bags with them for the afternoon).
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