Nestled between the Tibetan Autonomous Region (China) and India, the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan offers unique and untapped photographic opportunities at every turn of your journey. A must-see sight on a photo tour is the festival of Bhutan when the Bhutanese culture comes to life. Locals get together dressed in their finest traditional clothes and jewellery. Festivals selected for our itinerary are away from crowded tourists and with the locals – as authentic and spectacular as it gets! This tour is for anyone with a keen interest in capturing the life, culture, festival and landscapes of Bhutan. It is designed to avoid spending all day driving across the country. There is leisurely time to capture images along the way, to meet friendly and hospitable people, awe-inspiring sights from waterfalls dropping out of the forests to amazing mountain landscapes, untouched wilderness, colourful festivals, unspoilt tradition and cultures, outrageous archery competitions, striking Dzongs, fantastic monasteries, unique Buddhist architecture and tapestries and charming villages. This mystical land offers extraordinary photographic experiences. Don’t forget to pack your camera!
Day 1: Arrive Paro
Day 2: Fly to Bumthang
Day 3: Jakar Valley Gentle Walking
Day 4: Festival of Bhutan
Day 5: Bumthang – Trongsa
Day 6: Trongsa – Phobjikha
Day 7: Moving to Punakha
Day 8: Punakha
Day 9: Moving to Thimphu
Day 10: Hike to Cheri Monastery
Day 11: Thimphu – Haa
Day 12: Haa – Paro
Day 13: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Day 14: End of Tour
Flying into Bhutan offers the most spectacular views of the Himalayan ranges, including Mt. Everest (8,848m/29,028ft), Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m/28,169ft) and Mt. Gangkar Puensum (7,564m/24,836ft). On arrival we meet you at Paro International Airport after clearing your immigration and customs formalities and transfer to your hotel in Paro for check-in. Paro is home to the famous Taktshang Monstery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), National Museum, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Afterwards, you have time to capture images of the beautiful Paro valley from the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower), which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. It is located 6-km away from Paro town. Walk down to the Paro Dzong (also known as Rinpung Dzong), which is located across the Pachhu River (about 2-km from Paro International Airport). The dzong was built in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to safeguard the Paro Valley against Tibetan invasions. The evening is at leisure to relax and enjoy, we have allowed some time for this and also to explore a small Paro town and its surroundings. Tonight enjoy a welcome drink and dinner with BGT. Overnight in Paro.
This morning, we transfer you to Paro International Airport for a short 35-minutes flight to Bathpalathang Domestic Airport in Bumthang by Drukair (ATR 42-600). The ATR flight is equipped with the ClearVision system, which serves small airports in the country. This short-haul flight offers you the unique experience flying over the skies of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan! On arrival in Bumthang (2,650m), transfer to your hotel for check-in. Later, travel out to view some of the enchanting sights of Bumthang Valley. Visit the Jakar Dzong, constructed in 1549, in a picturesque location on the hilltop overlooking Bumthang (Jakar) town and Chokhor Valley. Later, discover the “Little Switzerland in Bhutan.” Mr Fritz Maurer, one of the first Swiss expatriate to work in Bhutan and now married to the local lady, introduced brewing, farming machinery, diary (Swiss gouda cheese), bee-keeping and fuel-efficient, smokeless wood stoves as well as its first tourist guesthouse. Who would have thought someone makes Swiss gouda cheese in Bhutan? The country’s only native beer, Red Panda, is brewed here. If lucky, join for a beer and stories of Bhutan’s development with the owner (Swiss expat). Enjoy a tranquil evening strolling the streets of a small Bumthang town. Overnight in Bumthang.
We explore the pristine Bumthang Valley (also known as Jakar), the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. From your hotel, we drive 10 to 15 minutes to the Jambay Lhakhang (Temple of Maitreya), said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). This temple was built to subdue evil spirits of the demoness causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism. Continue onto a farm track along the valley floor walking about 15 to 20 minutes towards the Kurjey Lhakhang complex, which consists of three temples. A 108-chorten walls surround these impressive temples with a huge front yard on the side of a hill. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave in the 8th century to subdue the local demon (Phola Shelging Karpo) to fight off ill health of the King of Bumthang, Sindhu Raja. Of the three temples, the oldest and holiest Guru Lhakhang was built in 1652, and hence the temple was named after Guru’s body imprint left on a rock. Next, we cross a suspension bridge over the rushing Chamkharchhu River on foot to the Tamshing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa founded this temple in 1501 for the teachings of Nyingma Buddhism in central Bhutan, who was prolific treasure finder and one of the influential religious figures in Bhutanese history. From here, your transport will pick you up and head to the Jakar Dzong, built in 1549 in a picturesque location on the hilltop, overlooking the charming Jakr Valley. Enjoy a tranquil evening strolling the streets of a small Bumthang town.
Experience the day filled with traditional masked dances, depicting demons, heroes, animals and wearing brightly coloured brocade outfits. A tshechu (festival) draws hundreds of Bhutanese people together as well as tourists, and is one of the best ways to discover the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan. For the Bhutanese the festivals are religiously important and also a great opportunity for locals to get together, dressed in their finest traditional clothes and jewellery and remember to pack your camera! Most Tsechus date back to medieval times and literally translates to the tenth day of the lunar calendar. The dates and duration of the tshechu vary from one district to another but always take place on or around the 10th day of a month in honour of Guru Rimpoche, one who introduced the tantric Buddhism in the 8th century in Bhutan. Such festivals are mostly held in the dzong (fortress) or local monastery. We have a unique selection of suggested festival tours and are completely tailor-made. If the idea of a festival captures your imagination let us know and we can help you plan your trip around it.
After breakfast, our journey (68-km) about 2 hours takes us to Trongsa (2,200m) via Yotongla Pass (3,425m). En route stop off at the Yathra Weaving Centre in Chumig village, where the Bumthap women weave yak and sheep wools into the beautifully patterned fabric called “Yathra” including woollen mattresses (Drumzeedhen). Historically, Trongsa is one of the important districts of Bhutan. Trongsa was once the headquarters for the central and eastern regions and has been the seat of Trongsa Penlop (Governor). All the Kings of Bhutan first invest as the Trongsa Penlop before ascending to the throne. Discover the massive and majestic architectural masterpiece of the Trongsa Dzong with a distinctive yellow roof. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, built in 1648, overlooking the gorge of the Mangdichhu River. You’ll also have time to explore the Tower of Trongsa (known as Ta Dzong), an ancient watchtower rising five storeys above Trongsa town. It was built in 1652 and has four observation points resembling Tiger, Lion, Garuda and Dragon. Today the tower houses a state-of-the-art National Museum with insights into the significance of Trongsa Dzong and the Wangchuck dynasty (kings) of Bhutan. The evening is at leisure to relax or explore the idyllic Trongsa town and its surroundings. Overnight in Trongsa.
Depart Trongsa this morning for Phobjikha (120-km) about 3 hours via Chelela Pass (3,390m). From the viewpoint (Thumangdra) opposite to the Trongsa Dzong, you can take photos of the beautiful landscapes and dzong. On the way take a stroll along the Chendebji Chorten below the road. A nice stop to stretch your legs and walk around the chortent! This 18th century monument resembles the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu (Nepal) with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. Enjoy a scenic journey, changing landscapes from the awe-inspiring mountains to lush vegetation. It is not uncommon to encounter grazing yaks by the roadside along the East–West highway. Later, visit the picturesque 17th century Gangtey Gonpa (monastery) on the hillock with amazing views of Phobjikha Valley (2,900m).This monastery is the only Nyingmapa School of Buddhism taught here in western Bhutan. Phobjikha valley is well known as the winter home of the rare Black-Necked Cranes. The birds migrate from the Tibetan plateau to spend their winter from early November and fly back to Tibet between February and March. Rest of the day is yours to relax, enjoy or explore the delightful surroundings of Phobjikha valley. Overnight in Phobjikha.
You have an option to stay in local homes. A farmhouse in Bhutan is very colourful, decorative and traditionally built having a 2-storey with decent toilets, shower, hot stone bath, etc. Such service providers are trained in basic housekeeping, cleanliness and hygiene for tourist purposes. It gives you a total new experience living in a village house where food and drinks are served by the housemother like she does for her family members, intermingle with the locals and participate in the local daily activities (including how to prepare a Bhutanese meal) if you so wish, etc. You won’t regret for adventuring into this bit of lifetime fun!
After breakfast, we head to Punakha (78-km) about 2 hours, once the winter capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south, and also a popular tourist destination. Our journey takes us through Chelela Pass (3,390m) and Nobding, a small town and past by the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong overlooking the convergence of the Dangchhu and Punatsangchhu Rivers. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) constructed the dzong in 1638, resembling that of a sleeping elephant. The fortress was gutted by fire in 2012 and is under reconstruction. Arriving in Punakha (1,350m), visit the fertility Chimi Lhakhang en route, nestled on a round hillock near a village called Sopsokha, built in 1499 by Saint Drukpa Kunley (known as the Divine Madman). The temple is about 10-km from Punakha Dzong and takes 20-minutes walk through agriculture fields. Legend has it that the childless couples wishing to have a baby from across Bhutan and occasionally from overseas are blessed with a child after visiting this mysterious temple. Later, explore the Punakha Dzong, strategically located at the confluence of the Phochhu (male) and Mochhu (female) Rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built the dzong in 1637, which is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. Jacaranda trees beautifully cover the dzong with the purple bloom of flowers in the spring. If you are feeling energetic, why not take a walk to Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge built over the Phochhu River? Overnight in Punakha.
Discover the delights of Punakha–Wangdue Phodrang Valley. Punakha is situated in western Bhutan with a warm and temperate climate, bordered by Gasa to the north, Thimphu to the west and Wangdue Phodrang to the east and south, and also a popular tourist destination. You’ll at first drive (7-km) about 30-minutes to the parking by the Mochhu River before climbing up the majestic Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. The Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk built this 100ft tall temple in 1994, located on a strategic ridge overlooking terraced fields and countryside of Punakha Valley. From the parking, cross a suspension bridge over the Mochhu River and walk up through paddy fields to the base of the hill before climbing a moderately inclined trail surrounded by pine trees. It takes about 45-minutes to hike up to the top. After lunch, your tour continues to the charming Rinchengang village opposite to the Wangduephodrang Dzong, which is about 20-minutes walk uphill from the highway, and the village is known for its skill in traditional method of stone masonry. Afterwards, drive to the beautiful Talo village (1,300–1,500 MASL), situated atop Punakha Valley. Motorable road (approximately 20-km) reaches up to Talo and Nobgang villages. Talo is one of the cleanest villages in Punaka surrounded by a dense forest, mostly conifer. The Royal Queen Mothers of Bhutan (four sisters) hail from this Talo region. Our final stop is at the Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery Buddhist College in Wolakha, spectacularly located on a hilltop (25-minutes drive from Punakha Dzong). The Queen Mothers’ parents built it in 2008 for nuns to pursue higher Buddhist studies. This beautiful nunnery place is very quiet and calm – an idyllic place to practice Buddhism. You have plenty of time to relax or explore Punakha–Wangdue Phodrang Valley at your own way. Overnight in Punakha.
Today we travel (71-km) about 3 hours to Thimphu (2,300m), the capital of Bhutan. En route stop off at Dochula Pass (3,050m), where the picturesque Druk Wangyal Chortens (108 stupas) stand. Soak up the panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain (Mt. Gangkar Puensum at 7,564m). Continue to Thimphu city, home to approximately 138,736 inhabitants. Bhutan’s capital is not a concrete jungle that you see in other parts of the world. It is set in a lovely rural valley with beautiful natural scenery on all sides and buildings built in the traditional Bhutanese style. No traffic lights in Bhutan yet! Marvel at the police directing traffic with an intricate ballet of hand signals at the main intersections. Thimphu is a small city but has many attractive places. Arriving in Thimphu, visit the National Memorial Chorten (stupa), built in 1974 in honour of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (1928-1972). This stupa is a prominent monument for Bhutanese daily worship in the city with its golden spires and bells. Another must see place to tick off on your list is Kuenselphodrang (the largest 169ft Buddha Dordenma statue in the world), built in 2006 and sits atop a hill, overlooking the southern entrance to Thimphu city. End the day by exploring the Centenary Farmers Market (Thimphu’s weekend market), a platform for Bhutanese farmers to sell farm produces, local arts and crafts, etc. Use your free time to relax or explore the streets of Thimphu city. Overnight in Thimphu.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Thimpu city behind, we set out for a beautiful hike to Cheri Monastery (2,850m) through woods of blue pine, oak trees and rhododendron species. The oldest monastery is home to many sacred relics and also a meditation center, located around 14-km (35-minutes) north of Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan) built this monastery in 1620 and established the first monk body here. You’ll at first cross a cantilever bridge, vibrant with prayer flags and the sound of gushing Thimphuchhu River before hiking uphill about 1 hour along a steep trail. A visit to the monastery is spiritually purifying. Why not pray inside the monastery and play dices to reveal what is in store for your life, like fortune-teller stuff? You can also easily spot deer and jaru (mountain goats) as you approach the monastery. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the riverside. Then we drive back to Changlingmithang (Sports Complex), if lucky you will see the locals playing outrageous archery matches (national game of Bhutan) and also football. In the evening, visit the Tashichhodzong, first constructed in 1216 AD and re-built in 1641 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (founder of Bhutan), which now houses some ministries, the office and throne room of His Majesty the King and the Central Monk Body. Overnight in Thimphu.
Leave Thimphu city behind and make your way (112-km) about 4 hours to Haa (2,700m) via Chhuzom (30–km) where the Pachhu and Wangchhu Rivers join. Chhuzom (confluence) is a major road junction connecting Haa (82-km) to the southwest, Phuentsholing (141-km) to the south and Paro (24-km) to the southeast. It is one of the smallest and least populated districts after Gasa. A rugged and mountainous terrain, endowed with very rich flora and fauna, characterizes Haa, bordered by Tibet to the north. En route you’ll see the Dobji Dzong looming majestically on a hilltop. It was built in 1531, considered to be the first model Dzong in Bhutan by Ngawang Chogyal (brother of Lam Drukpa Kunley). In ancient times the dzong served as a central jail. Today it is used as a Buddhist monastery. Afternoon sightseeing includes the Lhakhang Karpo and the Lhakhang Nagpo. These two temples located just above Haa–Thimphu highway are among the 108 monasteries built in one day by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Lhakang Karpo means the “White Temple,” built at a site where Songtsen Gampo released a white pigeon. The sacred white temple was reconstructed in 2010 and consecrated in 2018, which houses the monastic body of Haa. Whereas the Lhakhang Nagpo means the “Black Temple.” Similarly, a site where the black temple stands is believed that a black pigeon flew. Enjoy some leisure time in Haa Valley in the evening. Overnight in Haa.
We exit Haa and set off for a scenic, meandering drive (62-km) about 2.5 hours to Paro (2,200m), home to the famous Taktshang Monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), National Museum, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Stop off at Chelela Pass (3,988m), which is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan and 26-km from Haa. Soak up the most spectacular views of Mt. Jomolhari (7,314m) and Jichu Drake (6,989m) from here. Then it’s all downhill (36-km) to Paro as we leave the mountain scenery, where you’ll see the Kila Gonpa Nunnery (also known as Chelela Gonpa) en route, straddled on the cliff-side facing Paro. There are about seven small temples and several huts, a serene home to around 100 Buddhist nuns. Later, we explore the Ta Dzong (ancient watch tower), located about 6-km from Paro town, which now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. Walk down to the Paro Dzong (also known as Rinpung Dzong), which is located across the Pachhu River (about 2-km from Paro International Airport). The dzong was built in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to safeguard Paro Valley against Tibetan invasions. The evening is at leisure to relax and enjoy, we have allowed some time for this and also to explore a small Paro town and its surroundings. Overnight in Paro.
Bhutan’s famous Paro Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is an unforgettable sight. No visit to Bhutan would be complete without a trip to Paro Taktshang (3,120m). It is stunning in its beauty and location. Today is a real highlight as you take a short hike to the Taktshang Monastery, clinging on a rock cliff at 900m above the Paro Valley floor. The monastery is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in Bhutan because Guru Rinpoche (one the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism) is believed to have flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century. An 11-km (round-trip) hike starts from the base of the mountain from the road point (Ramthangkha), which is 2-km drive from Paro town. Enjoy your rewarding hike about 4 hours (round-trip) with extra one hour to tour the monastery at a leisurely pace. There is a small teahouse halfway through from where a view of the spectacular monastery to enjoy! Gentle horse/pony rides are permitted till the viewpoint. Afterwards, there will be time to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang en route, one of the oldest and 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century (so full of history and mythology). Overnight in Paro.
Your tour ends this morning after breakfast. We transfer you to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Our guide and driver from Bhutan Green Travel will see you off. Tashi Delek (Goodbye and Good Luck!)
Peak Season – Land Only (Prices in USD Per Person)
|Start Date Thursdays||1 person||2 people||3-10 people||11-15 people||16-20 people|
|04 Mar 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|18 Mar 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|08 Apr 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|15 Apr 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|06 May 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|13 May 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|09 Sep 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|16 Sep 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|07 Oct 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|14 Oct 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|04 Nov 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
|11 Nov 2021||$3845||$3630||$3210|
Regular Season – Land Only (Prices in USD Per Person)
|Start Date Thursdays||1 person||2 people||3-10 people||11-15 people||16-20 people|
|03 Jun 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
|10 Jun 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
|01 Jul 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
|15 Jul 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
|02 Dec 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
|09 Dec 2021||$3190||$2980||$2555|
Our Pricing Policy
Prices are quoted and payable only in (US dollars). All prices published on our websites, brochures and marketing materials are set as low as possible. The guide prices may vary at any time subject to government actions, changes in exchange rates, increase in transportation costs or fuel prices before we have accepted your booking. However, we guarantee our prices who have already signed up for your tour.
- Pickups and drops from airports and hotels
- Comfortable transport (private vehicle) throughout your trip
- Licensed English-speaking guide & driver
- Best accommodation in 3 star hotels with private bathrooms based on 2 adults sharing a twin/double bed (single supplements apply)
- Comfortable farmhouse/home stay/heritage house can also be arranged
- Camping facilities and haulage for trekking tours
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and bottled water daily
- All sightseeing & hiking (entrance fees to museums and other attractions)
- Baggage handling at all hotels and camps
- All applicable internal taxes and service fees
- Bhutan visa fees
- International and domestic flights
- Travel insurance
- Other personal expenses such as alcoholic drinks & beverages, laundry, telephone calls, etc.
- Discretionary tips for guides and drivers (see FAQs)
- Upgrade to luxury properties (4 star and 5 star hotels)
- Single room supplement from $50 per night
- Optional activities & additional services