Focus On Bhutan – 13 days/12 nights
We love Bhutan….it really is the most wonderful, rewarding destination! We are very fortunate to travel to Bhutan regularly to ensure our itineraries and inclusions are the very best possible for our valued clients. Below is an itinerary designed for private travellers who have the time to include the beautiful central Bumthang region. This tour can be tailored to suit your exact requirements.
Tour Itinerary Overview.
- 2 nights Thimphu with sightseeing, hiking & shopping options
- 2 nights Phobjikha valley for hiking and exploring
- 2-3 nights Bumthang valley – Lhakhangs, monasteries, hiking & weaving*
- 1 night Trongsa with Dzong, museum visit and hiking.
- 2 nights Punakha valley with exploring, monastery & Dzong visits & hiking.
- 2-3 nights Paro valley with Taktsang Monastery hike, exploring & shopping*
* We will guide you whether a 3rd night in either Bumthang or Paro is best for you.
Why Book with Bhutan & Beyond?
- 18 years Bhutan experience, service & knowledge.
- We personally visit Bhutan regularly.
- Our partners in Bhutan, BTCL, are second to none.
- Competitive pricing & luxury hotel upgrade options.
- Exceptionally well constructed & flexible itineraries.
- We provide a comprehensive Bhutan visitor guide.
- Experts at combining Bhutan with India & Nepal.
- ATAS Accredited via our parent company MTA Travel.
- Access to our exclusive travel app COMPANION.
- Provision of our SHERPA app weblink for your COVID-19 requirements.
Your Bhutan Land Package Inclusions:
- English speaking guide & experienced driver with SUV/minibus.
- All touring & transfers throughout your journey.
- Traditional 3 star hotel accom with private bathrooms.
- All meals & bottled water daily.
- Entrance Fees, hiking & exploring.
- Bhutan visa fees & processing.
- Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) & all local taxes.
- Bank transfer & communications fees.
- Professionally operated by Bhutan Tourism Corp Ltd (BTCL).
- Comprehensive Bhutan visitor guide
- Full support from Bhutan & Beyond.
Your Bhutan land package excludes:
- Airfares to/from Bhutan.
- Personal items – laundry, drinks, designer coffee’s, phone calls, tips etc.
- Luxury hotel upgrades at additional cost.
- Travel Insurance – mandatory to enter Bhutan.
- Any COVID-19 PCR or RAT tests required.
Please ensure your travel insurance covers you for these activities.
- White Water Rafting – Punakha Valley. US$250.00 for up to 5 persons.
- Archery in Paro @ US$7.00 pp.
- Mountain bike hire in Paro & Thimphu from US$25 pp per 1/2 day.
- Cooking class at Paro farmhouse & hot stone bath US$25.00 per person.
- Hot stone bath at Paro Farmhouse US$18.00 per person.
COVID-19 Updates & Procedures:
Our Sherpa travel app will keep you updated with COVID-19 requirements pre, during & post travel. These include PCR, RAT & any other tests and where to get them, vaccination certificates & other documentation plus any tracing apps required at your destination and stopovers. Once your tour booking is confirmed and your air travel process commences, we will provide you with your personal Sherpa app weblinks to assist you manage the COVID-19 procedures that will be relevant at the time of travel.
Cancellation Conditions Land Tour:
- Deposit date until 35 days prior arrival in Bhutan – Land tour deposit is refundable less B&B service fees.
- 35 days or less prior to arrival in Bhutan – No land tour refund permitted.
Please note: – These conditions cover land travel arrangements only and NOT airfares which are subject to their own cancellation conditions.
Tour Itinerary: Day 1
Paro Valley to Thimphu Valley (1 hr 30 mins)
After clearing immigration and customs you will be greeted by your BTCL guide and driver and transferred to Bhutan’s capital Thimphu. Travelling through the spectacular countryside, en-route make a stop at the Tachogang Lhakhang (iron bridge). All the houses and buildings in the Kingdom are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.
On arrival into Thimphu check-in to your hotel and take lunch. Enjoy the remainder of the day to explore Thimphu, both by vehicle and on foot. Your options include visits to the National Memorial Chorten; the celebrated Royal Textile Academy (closed Sun & PH) and the Takin Preserve – home to Bhutan’s most unusual national mammal.
Exploring the Thimphu Valley today.
Today we highly recommend you visit the following.
The Buddha Dordenma statue located at Kuenselphodrang (just outside the city). The statue is made of bronze and gilded in gold. It is considered the largest Buddha Shakyamuni statue in the world. There is also an excellent 3 km hike option through the adjacent Kuenselphodrang Nature Park which offers sensational valley views.
View the majestic Trashichhoe Dzong (visits are only possible after business hours on weekdays or at the weekend) and visit the (nearby) beautiful Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakang (temple).
Visit the ‘Simply Bhutan’ display village including a traditional Bhutanese lunch. At ‘Simply Bhutan’ you can experience ara tasting (local spirit); suja tasting (butter tea); try your hand at archery and enjoy a cultural performance of song & dance during the lunch, plus much more.
Other recommended places to visit, depending on your preference, & in consultation with your guide are.
- Zorig Chusum – the Institute of the 13 Arts & Crafts of Bhutan (closed Sat/Sun/PH & sometimes closed to visitors at other times.)
- The National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts. (closed Sat/Sun & PH)
- Hand-made paper making factory. (closed Sat/Sun & PH)
- Visit the Thimphu Post Office to get your personalized postage stamp printed. (Mon-Fri & Sat am)
- The weekend market (Fri-Sun) where everyone goes to buy an array of fresh fruits & vegetables; home-wares, handicrafts and clothes.
- Take a wander along Thimphu’s main street, Norzin Lam, which offers good shopping and the Craft Bazaar.
- For those interested in quality weavings and local art visit the Gagyel Lhundrup weaving centre. Here you can interact with the weavers.
- The adjacent S. Bishwa art gallery is also worth a visit. (both closed Sat/Sun)
- The city bars & coffee shops are also worth checking out. Your guide will advise you the best options. Please note Tuesday is ‘dry day’ in Bhutan and most bars in the city will remain closed.
- Travel up the valley & hike to Tango Monastery which houses a university of Buddhism for monks.
- There are other 1/2 day/ day hikes possible in the Thimphu valley & your guide will recommend suitable hike options depending on the season and your prior hiking experience.
Overnight Thimphu – Bhutanese Style 3* Hotel.
Thimphu to Phobjikha Valley (4-5 hrs)
This morning transfer by road eastwards to the Phobjikha Valley. En-route pass the Semtokha Dzong, built in 1629 & the oldest fortress of its kind that guarded the Thimphu valley, which today it is a monastery.
Continue ascending to Dochu La (pass) to view the 108 Stupas, commissioned by a former Queen as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the low intensity conflict in late 2002, when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutan – Indian border. On a clear day you will witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalaya and depending on the time of the year the vista can vary from alpine snow (November – March) to a profusion of blossoms (March – May) splashed among the soft green of the wild herbs and forest trees.
When the ruins of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong (under reconstruction) come into view, notice the large cacti that cover the hillside below which, were planted long ago to discourage invaders from climbing the steep slope to the Dzong. From the road view Rinchengang, one of Bhutan’s oldest villages, which did not have access to water, electricity or schooling until the early 1990’s.The craftsmen of Rinchengang are sought after for their skills in construction of Dzongs and Lhakhangs (temples).
Potatoes are Phobjikha’s primary cash crop and mainly exported to India. Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains and is one of the most beautiful open valleys in Bhutan. It is also one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country and the winter home (late October to early February) of the rare black necked crane, which annually flies in from Tibet. There are also muntjaks (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red foxes.
Exploring the Phobjikha Valley
While you are in Phobjikha we recommend you visit the Black Crane nature information centre and the sacred Gangtey Monastery. Plus, enjoy time to wander through Gangtey village and hike the Gangtey Nature Trail.
There are many additional hikes available in this beautiful valley and your guide will advise you the best options.
Overnight Phobjikha Valley – Bhutanese Style 3* Hotel.
Phobjikha Valley to Choekhor Valley, Bumthang. (3-4 hrs)
This morning depart Phobjikha to the central Bumthang region comprising the 4 valleys of Chhume, Choekhor, Tang & Ura.
Traverse the Pele La (Pass) which crosses through the Black Mountains National Park and divides western and central Bhutan and stop for lunch near Trongsa, where you will spend more time on your return journey. Keep a watchful eye out for Rhesus Macaques (Brown Monkeys) on the side of the road.
The Trongsa Dzong is perched at the end of a ridge and seems to hang in space at the head of the valley. The Dzongs location afforded it great power over this part of the country as the only foot and mule trail between east and western Bhutan leads straight through Trongsa and through the Dzong itself.
On arrival in the Bumthang region notice the large fields of buckwheat that cover the valleys…..buckwheat noodles and pancakes are a Bumthang speciality. Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. There are short walks and hikes to choose from and your guide will be happy to make recommendations.
Exploring the Bumthang Region.
Today your recommended sightseeing includes visits to the Wangdicholing Palace (exterior access only) and one or both of the Jambay & Kurjey Lhakhangs. These are the oldest two monasteries in the kingdom and all the former Kings of Bhutan are cremated at Kurjey Lhakhang. You can enjoy a hike from these lhakhangs back to your hotel for lunch.
Other options include the Tamshing Monastery where about 95 Monks reside – most are under 15 and from poorer families who cannot afford to send their children to state school; then make a visit to the nearby ‘Burning Lake’ and learn its dark legend.
Time permitting, drop in at the Swiss Farm to taste local produce including sweet cheese, apple brandy and locally brewed wine and beer. Alternatively enjoy one of the other hikes available in this region or find a nice quiet spot at the hotel to catch up on some reading.
Overnight Choekhor Valley – Bhutanese Style 3* Hotel.
Choekhor Valley to Trongsa (2 hrs)
Today transfer back westwards towards Trongsa, via the Chhume valley, for the opportunity to shop for excellent local handicrafts and textiles. This region is renowned for its exceptionally high quality weavings.
The Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of the Royal Family of Bhutan and has added the excellent Tower of Trongsa museum into its ancient watchtower, which you will visit this afternoon, followed by an optional excursion to the Dzong itself.
Alternatively there is a good 2 hour valley hike below the Dzong that your guide will advise you on.
Trongsa to Punakha Valley (4+ hrs)
Depart early this morning to the Punakha Valley which holds the title as the winter capital because of its more temperate climate. Arriving into the Punakha valley check out the markets at Lobesa followed by a visit to Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (also known as the Divine Madman or Mad Monk), which is a pleasant, easy 20 minute walk across paddy fields. It is believed that childless women who visit the temple will conceive after receiving a “wang” (blessing) from the resident monk.
Visit the local nunnery and, time permitting consider a very scenic excursion to either the small village of Nobgang, original home to the 4 former Queens of the 4th king, OR the small village of Talo where you can wander through the beautiful and serene gardens of the local monastery. Don’t forget the weekend market if you are in Punakha on a Saturday morning.
Exploring & hiking in Punakha today.
This morning visit the dramatic Punakha Dzong, which formerly served as the seat of the government and is still the winter residence of the Dratsheng (Central Monk Body). This is Bhutan’s most spectacular Dzong and an excellent example of how a medieval fortress and a centre of both monastic and administrative functions, has adapted and evolved for modern day use.
This afternoon we recommend a fascinating hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten through fields of vegetables, rice paddies and tiny hamlets. This Chorten holds very special significance being consecrated in 1999 and dedicated to the protection of the former Crown Prince – today’s current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Overnight Punakha Valley – Bhutanese Style 3* Hotel.
Punakha Valley to Paro Valley (4 hrs)
Depart Punakha early morning for your transfer westwards to the Paro Valley, once again traversing Dochu La, and arriving in Paro town in time for a late lunch at one of the local restaurants.
This afternoon enjoy an orientation tour of the major features in Paro town including Paro Dzong with its cantilever bridge and the National Museum to view the fine collection of ancient Thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons and other artefacts.
Finally we recommend a wander along the main street which offers good shopping for jewellery and handicrafts.
Pilgrimage Hike in the Paro Valley.
This morning take a pilgrimage hike to the very revered Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tigers Nest. All Bhutanese Buddhists strive to make this pilgrimage at least once in their lives and each step they take on the trail counts towards credits for their future.
Choose between a 1.5 hour round trip hike to the monastery viewpoint or a longer 5 hour and more strenuous hike into the monastery itself. Tigers Nest clings impossibly to a cliff of rock at 800 m above the valley floor and where Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress to subdue the local demons followed by 3 months meditation in a cave still visible in the monastery. In 1998 the monastery was seriously damaged by fire and has since been painstakingly reconstructed to its original condition & consecrated by the 4th King in 2005.
After lunch at the Taktsang Viewpoint cafe, on the hiking trail, finish the hike and next visit nearby Kyichu Lhakhang – one of Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful temples boasting an orange tree that perpetually bears fruit.
Overnight Paro Valley – Bhutanese Style 3*Hotel.
Chele La and Haa Valley Excursion
Travel to Chele La (pass) on Bhutan’s highest motorable road at 3980 m and choose to take an awesome ridge hike to the Kila Nunnery or continue down into the remote and hidden Haa Valley.
Haa is a most beautiful valley, only opened up to tourists since 2004, and a visit is especially recommended between March and November. During the winter months between mid-NOV and early MAR the road can become impassable and during this period we recommend you substitute this day/night for an extra night in Bumthang, central Bhutan.
For those who prefer to stay at a lower altitude your guide will recommend a number of lower valley hikes in the Paro area.
Overnight Paro Valley – Bhutanese Style 3* Hotel.
Early morning departure from your hotel to Paro Airport for your onward flight.
Please scroll down the page to locate the interactive map of Bhutan.
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Name of Tour: Focus On Bhutan – 13 days/12 nights