Slow travel is on the rise and one of the top destinations where travellers can truly uphold this is Bhutan, the sole Himalayan Buddhist kingdom in the world. This comprehensive 9D8N trip takes you on an exploration of this mystical land from Paro to Punakha, culminating in a 2D1N trek to the one and only Tiger’s Nest. Explore palatial dzongs, go white water rafting, experience a traditional farmhouse stay and more as you discover why Bhutan is known as the happiest place on Earth.
This journey outline is by no means fixed. As the traveller takes centre stage in our planning – from the type of lodging to daily activities – your journey will be crafted to suit you.
Touchdown in Paro in the morning. Make your way to one of our local family’s farmhouse for lunch for your first experience of Bhutanese hospitality and help out with farm activities like fruit picking, milking of animals and brewing of araa (rice wine). You will then travel to one of the most sacred Buddhist landmarks in Bhutan, where you can ask your guide about exploring a secret cave there. Take in panoramic views of Paro valley from the ancient site and end your day with an evening stroll in Paro town.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast followed by a 1.5-hour drive to Chele La Pass, the highest road pass in Bhutan. Once there, choose between a 1.5-hour hike along the mountain ridge (dress warm and bring your hiking poles!) through the forest to an ancient nunnery where around 30 nuns live in self-imposed isolation, or take a car directly there. If the weather gods are in your favour, you’ll be able to spot the snow dome of Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mount Jumolhari (7,326m).
Enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing the drive to Haa valley to meet with your second Bhutanese family. You may like to spend the night with them in their rustic, colourful farmhouse built with mud and stones – and without any nails. Learn more about their way of life over a cup of milk tea and try your hand at archery, the national sport.
After breakfast, take a drive to Katsho village, from where you can do a hike to Juneydrak hermitage to meet Tashi, the temple’s caretaker who will regale you with stories about his past and the retreat’s history. From the village, set off on a trail through a charming rhododendron forest to Katsho Goemba. Enjoy top-down views of the village and pop into the temple to admire antique thangkas.
Lunch will be in town, followed by a drive to the picturesque village of Hatoe. Settle in at a refurbished farmhouse for the night and rest your weary muscles in a traditional hot stone bath.
Thimphu, the vibrant capital of Bhutan, awaits. The drive there will take approximately 4.5-hours and you can visit the villages of Jabana, Sususa and/or Dogokha en route. Time permitting, you can meet families living in the area and chat with them over a cup of tea or araa. Lunch will be at a local restaurant where you can sample local delicacies like beef bathup, and if you feel like stretching your legs after the long drive, you can do so from Buddha Point to Changgangkha temple.
Come evening, opt for some R&R or explore the town. A visit to the National Memorial Chorten for a glimpse of Bhutanese prayer life is worthwhile. Your dinner companion will be a renowned historian and adviser to the royal family, where you can get all the As to your Qs about the House of Wangchuck, folktales, art and more.
Sample beef momos at a local café for breakfast before a 3.5-hour drive to Punakha Valley. Spy the towering peaks of the Himalayas over the 3,050m mountain pass of Dochu La, where you can stop to take photos of the 108 stupas which were built in honour of Bhutanese soldiers killed in a battle against Assamese insurgents in 2003. The descent down to the valley offers scenic snapshots of traditional Bhutanese village life.
After lunch, get those steps in and set off on a leisurely 2-hour hike (known as the Talo hike) from Laptsakha. In ancient times, the route was supposedly used by Bhutanese to ply to and fro Thimphu and Punakha, so you can imagine yourself walking in the steps of history along the way. At the floor of the valley, take in quaint views of sub-tropical fruit gardens, terraced rice fields, Shengana village and Punatsangchhu river. The journey will culminate at the stunning Punakha Dzong.
This morning, enjoy the thrill of rafting down Punakha river. The waters are relatively calm but the ride will deliver the adrenaline rush you crave. The water is cold so be sure to layer up under your lifejacket.
After taking on the rapids, brace yourself for another heart pumping experience as you cross the longest suspension bridge of its kind (160m) in Bhutan, which brings you to villages on the other side of the Pho Chhu riverbank. Some of our local friends will greet you there with lunch. A 3.5 to 4-hour drive will then take you back to Paro where a relaxing night is in order for the lead up to the Bumdra trek the next day.
Drive to Sang Choekhor Monastery to meet with your trekking crew before hitting the ground for 2 to 3-hours. The journey includes a 45-minute steep ascent to reach Chhoetse Lhakhang (3,650m) for lunch. Have a browse at the murals on the premises, which the caretaker claims are more than 700 years old.
When you’re ready to go, we’ll hike for another 1.5 to 2-hours until we reach the campsite just below the Bumdra Lhakhang (Cave of a Thousand Prayers). Warm up by a bonfire and settle in to your tent for the night.
Today you’ll make the pilgrimage to Tiger’s Nest, starting with a 2-hour descent down from the campsite to Zangdopelri Monastery, a temple dedicated to Guru Rimpoche. Another hour of walking will bring you to the sacred cliffside temple where the supreme beauty of the structure is so mind-boggling, the image of it will stay imprinted in your mind long after you leave. Feel free to take your time admiring the thousands of prayer flags framing a 200-foot waterfall below the site, or the tsa-tsas (small reliquaries) containing ashes of the dead on ledges in the vicinity before we make a 1.5 to 2-hour trek downhill.
A car will be waiting to take you to your lodge, where you’ll be treated to quintessentially local red rice beers – made with a specialty grain – to commemorate the end of your journey.
Take your time to relish your breakfast – and last proper meal in Bhutan – at the resort’s terrace. Time permitting, you may wish to head into town to pick up some Himalayan artefacts or textiles to take home with you before leaving for the airport.
Paro, Haa, Thimphu, Punakha and Bumdra.
January to May, October to December.
Easy to Moderate.
From US$5,490/person for a group of 2 on a private basis, including double-sharing rooms/tents. Excludes flights.
As we’ll customise your journey based on your preferences and needs, please note that this indicative price is just a rough estimate. Prices can fluctuate depending on season, type of accommodation and activities/experiences chosen (private vs. shared) etc.
This journey outline is by no means conclusive. It is just a guideline and can be tailored according to your comfort level, interests and preferences for every detail from accommodation to activities.