This private tour of the Kingdom of Bhutan is the ultimate immersion experience, traversing from Western Bhutan to the seldom visited far Eastern region of the country.
Bhutan Journey Overview
This journey is the ultimate immersion into the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, as we travel across the country ending our trip in India. We begin in Western Bhutan as we explore temples accessible only on foot, and hike to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery. As legend has it, Guru Rinpoche meditated in the cave where the temple is now located after reaching it on the back of a flying tiger. We travel to the cultural heart of Bhutan and explore the fascinating culture and legends that pervade this beautiful valley. Continuing east, we explore areas of Bhutan that are seldom visited by western guests. This journey is truly a unique experience for those who are looking to take in all that is special about Bhutan.
Itinerary at a Glance
Days 1-3: Our adventure begins after our dramatic flight into the Paro Valley. We explore this picturesque landscape and hike to the Tiger's Nest monastery. Paro is also home to the national museum, the Paro Dzong, and many interesting shops where travelers can find local goods.
Days 4-5: A short drive brings us to the capital city of Thimphu. We explore its many interesting sites, and perhaps watch an archery tournament, enjoying Bhutan's national sport. We hike to a remote hillside temple, and visit a craft school providing free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to local children.
Days 6-7: We make an early departure for our travel to Punakha, viewing 20,000-foot mountains along the way, and stopping for a hike to the temple of the Divine Madman. Our local guide spins tales of the unorthodox teachings of this legendary Buddhist master and poet. We also visit the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan's most impressive fortress, and spend time hiking through remote villages while learning about the traditional shamanism that villagers still practice.
Days 8-9: Exploration of the remote Phobjikha Valley and the small village of Gangtey. The spacious valley is excellent for hiking and full of opportunities to meet some of the locals.
Days 10-11: We travel a winding route to Trongsa where we overnight before continuing our journey east. Before moving on we visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong. We then continue to the town of Jakar, our base for the coming days.
Days 12-13: Here we discover the heart of Bhutan and the sites of the Bumthang Valley as we hike through villages to hidden temples. We also enjoy local culinary delicacies and take part in an evening of traditional song and dance.
Day 14: Today's travels brings us to Mongar and through the Thrumshing-La pass at 12,870', making this one of the most spectacular drives in the country.
Days 15-16: From Mongar we drive to Trashigang, the principal township of the largest and most populated district in the country. An excursion brings us to Trashiyangtse, once an important center because of its location on one of the ancient caravan routes. Trashiyangtse is now a rapidly growing town and the administrative center for this district.
Days 17-18: Our road from Trashigang brings us to many interesting sites, and ultimately descends to the plains passing through dense tropical forest full of teak, bamboo and ferns, before arriving in Samdrup Jongkhar. Located near the Indian border, we spend the night here before saying farewell to Bhutan and driving to Guwahati, the capital town of the northeastern Indian state of Assam, for your departure flight.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world's most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Traveling to and from
Most Convenient Airport for Arrival:
Bangkok International Airport; Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK).
Most Convenient Airport for Departure:
Guwahati International Airport; Guwahati, India (airport code GAU).
Meeting Place and Time:
Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan airport upon the arrival of your flight from Bangkok. Please be sure to be at the Druk Air (national airline of Bhutan) check-in counter at the Bankgok International Airport two hours before your scheduled flight on Day 1 of our trip. The airline tickets from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan will be purchased in advance for you by Boundless Journeys.
Departure Place and Time:
Guwahati, India; in time for the departure of your flight to Bangkok on Day 18 of your trip.
When to Reserve
It is important to reserve your trip early as the Bhutanese national airline has a strict ticketing policy and will only accept reservations with full payment for the ticket. Seats can only be confirmed upon receipt of your deposit, as well as the payment of $460 for these flights. Please contact our office with any questions regarding these important policies.
Most hotels in Bhutan are of similar standards. Although the hotels cannot be compared to international standards, they are comfortable and offer all necessary facilities.
Nights 1, 2 & 3: Janka Resort
Nights 4 & 5: Hotel Druk
Nights 6 & 7: Hotel Punatsangchu
Nights 8 & 9: Hotel Dewachen
Night 10: Yangkhil Resort
Nights 11, 12 & 13: Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge
Night 14: Druk Shongar
Nights 15 & 16: Hotel Doejung
Night 17: Hotel TLT
Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhutan
Bhutan Detailed Itinerary
Arrival in Paro, Bhutan. Visit to Bhutan’s National Museum and the Drukgyel Dzong.
Walking – easy to moderate, 1-2 hours.
We return to our lodge and relax with an orientation meeting and welcome dinner of Bhutanese cuisine.
Janka Resort, Paro
*Please note museums are closed on weekends and holidays.
Cheli la pass to Kila Gompa.
The day’s adventure starts early as we set out on a road that climbs almost 5,000’ above Paro’s valley floor to Cheli La (12,500’). Towards the end of our scenic hour and a half journey, we emerge from the blue pine and rhododendron forest into windswept highlands favored by yaks. Here, we’ll enjoy a view of Himalayan wild flowers, with fields of azaleas, edelweiss, and perhaps even the famous blue poppy at certain times of the year. If the weather is clear, we’ll enjoy tantalizing glimpses of some of Bhutan’s highest peaks. Upon reaching the pass, western Bhutan appears before us, with its unspoiled Haa valley, the mountains of Sikkim to the west, Mt. Chomolhari and Tibet to the north, and the patchwork fields of the Paro Valley to the east.
Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery.
Hike – moderate, 4-5 hours on hiking trails; approximate elevation gain of 1,650'.
This evening, we’ll visit a local farmhouse to relax our muscles while enjoying a traditional hot-stone bath therapy. Mineral-laden stones are fired and then immersed in a tub of water. As it cools, another heated stone is added to maintain a comfortable temperature. (Please note that the facilities are basic, and the therapy is done the customary Bhutanese style. If you prefer a spa version of this therapy, you may do so at an additional expense).
Transfer to Thimphu; city sites.
After a leisurely breakfast we say farewell to the Paro Valley and transfer to Thimphu. Our drive passes through idyllic countryside, with villages and fields on either side of the road. En route we visit the Semtokha Dzong, one of the oldest fortresses in the country, which now houses the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.
Before becoming Bhutan’s official national capital in 1961, Thimphu was simply a rural farming valley. Small and secluded, Thimphu is unlike any other capital in the world. The city is quiet and there are still only a few streets, no traffic lights, and none of the traffic problems that can be common to other Asian cities.
We conclude our day with a dinner at a favorite restaurant in Thimpu.
*Please note museums and schools are closed on weekends and holidays.
Cheri Goemba and the Choki School of Arts.
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on dirt roads and trails.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena. The trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Wang Chu, and climbs steadily on switchback trails to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view of the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred, as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints.
After our visit to the monastery, we descend on the same route, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts (closed on weekends and holidays). The Choki School is private and provides free, skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to complete their formal education. After visiting the school, we continue along the riverside trail, passing through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu.
Transfer to Punakha; (approximately 3 hours); Temple of the Divine Madman.
Walk – easy, 1-2 hours on local paths.
On the road to Punakha we stop in a small village where a short walk brings us to Chime Lhakang, a temple dedicated to the Lama Drukpa Kunley. Drukpa Kunley is one of Bhutan’s favorite saints, and is more commonly known as the “Divine Madman.” He traveled throughout Bhutan and Tibet using songs, humor, and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings, believing that the stiffness of the clergy and social conventions were keeping people from learning true Buddhism. This site is still believed to hold fertility powers for women wanting to conceive.
Khamsung Yuely Namgyel temple to Punakha Dzong.
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on dirt roads and trails.
After enjoying a picnic lunch alongside the river, we continue our walk to the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, the Punakha Dzong was the second of Bhutan’s dzongs and for many years it served as the seat of the government. Today it is the home to Bhutan’s spiritual leader, the Chief Abbot Je Khempo, who resides here with 1,000 monks during the winter months due to Punakha’s relatively low altitude by Himalayan standards (4,000’). From this spectacular dzong we can look back to see the Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance.
Transfer to Gangtey (approximately 2 hours).
After breakfast we depart Punakha, stopping at Wangduephodrang on our way to Gangtey. We visit the dzong which is perched on a spur at the confluence of two rivers. The position of the dzong is remarkable as it completely commands an impressive view both up and down the valley. The Wangdue district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slate which is mined up a valley a few miles from the town.
Our drive continues up a winding mountain road through oak and rhododendron forest, and over a high pass down into the Phobjikha Valley, surely one of the loveliest high altitude valleys in Bhutan (approximately 9840'). Phobjikha is one of Bhutan's few glacial valleys, and is the chosen winter home of black-necked cranes, migrating from the Tibetan plateau. Before arriving at our hotel for dinner, we explore the peaceful Phobjikha Valley and visit the Gangtey Gompa (Monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
Hotel Dewachen, Gangtey
Phobjikha Valley exploration.
Walk – easy, 1-3 hours on local paths.
Today is dedicated to a more in-depth exploration of the Phobjikha Valley. While our visit here may not coincide with that of the black-necked cranes, this is a very scenic and tranquil valley to spend time exploring. You may choose to simply walk through the town of Gangtey, or perhaps set out on foot for a longer exploration.
Hotel Dewachen, Gangtey
Transfer to Trongsa (approximately 3 hours).
Our road to the east, and the district of Bumthang, is an incredible feat of engineering which follows Himalayan ridges and valleys towards the cultural heartland of Bhutan. A winding and twisting route via the Pele La brings us to Trongsa, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s current royal dynasty, the Wangchuks. We visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong, perhaps the most impressive dzong in the kingdom. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Given its strategic location high above the Mande Chhu, it is often described as being perched so high on a mountain that clouds float below it. On arrival, we check into our lodge.
Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa
Transfer to Jakar (approximately 3 hours). Visit to the Yathra weaving studios; Bumthang Valley sites.
we continue along the road over Yotung La to the Bumthang Dzongkag (district) and the town of Jakar, our base for the coming days. Along the way, we visit Yathra weaving studios where hand-spun, hand-woven wool strips with patterns specific to the Bumthang region are created. These strips were once used as shawls and raincoats to protect against the winter cold of Bumthang, but today they are more often fashioned into short jackets that women wear. The Bumthang region encompasses four major valleys: Choskhor, Tang, Ura, and Chhume. The dzongs and the most important temples are in the large Choskhor Valley, commonly referred to as the Bumthang Valley. Different from most other valleys in Bhutan, Bumthang is broad and ideal for walkers and hikers. There are numerous Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites to explore, making it the cultural and historic center of the country. It would be difficult to find as many important temples and monasteries in such a small area anywhere else in Bhutan, and almost every little valley or hill has its own background of interesting myths and legends about kings, Buddhist masters, and serpents.
Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge, Jakar
Bumthang Valley sites.
Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge, Jakar
Bumthang to Mongar (approximately 6 hours).
Your journey continues eastwards, winding through more rugged terrain. The drive to Mongar takes about six hours, with spectacular views en route. We drive up into the hills above the valley and then past Ura village, before climbing sharply to the highest point on Bhutan's road network, Thrumsing-La pass (13,125'). From here, the road gradually descends to the alpine valley of Sengor, with wonderful views of cascading waterfalls and the hills of eastern Bhutan along the way. The vegetation changes from alpine to subtropical with the loss of height, and bamboo and luxuriant ferns overhang the road as we drop down to the valley floor. Our descent ends at 2,300', where we cross the Kuri Chu (river). We ascend again through pine forests, maize fields, and eastern hamlets to reach Mongar town, high on a gentle slope above the valley. We visit the Mongar Dzong, built in the 1930's and one of Bhutan's newest dzongs. It was constructed in the traditional ways of previous dzongs, without plans or the use of nails.
Druk Shongar, Mongar
Mongar to Trashigang (approximately 3 hours).
The first part of our journey today is through leafy forest filled with ferns. After driving through the Kori-La pass (8,040'), marked by a pretty chorten and a Mani stone wall, we descend rapidly through corn fields and banana groves to reach the famous curves in the road just below Yadi, a recent and now fast-growing settlement. After zigzagging down the hillside, the road east runs along the Gamri River. A short while later a turnoff on the left leads up to the Drametse (meaning 'the peak where there is no enemy') temple. The temple, perched on top of a steep hill above the village, was founded by Choeden Zangmo and is the most important monastery of eastern Bhutan. This is the place of origin for the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums. Another twenty miles along our road lies Trashigang (3,610'), which clings to a steep hillside above the Gamri river. Trashigang is the principal township of the biggest and most populated district in the country.
After lunch, we visit Trashigang Dzong, standing at the extreme end of a rocky outcrop far above the river gorge. It serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of the dzong is occupied by the local monastic community.
Hotel Doejung, Trashigang
Trashigang; excursion to Trashiyangtse.
After breakfast we visit the temple of Gom Kora, set on a small alluvial plateau, overlooking the river. Gom Kora is a famous place, as Guru Rinpoche is said to have subdued a demon here, trapping it in a rock. We continue down the road to Doksum village, where we see women busily weaving traditional Bhutanese fabric, and a chain-link swing bridge dating back to the 15th-century. The road turns into the hills here, running up the side of a winding river valley to Trashiyangtse. In former times, Trashiyangtse was an important center because it lies on one of the caravan routes leading from western and central Bhutan.
Trashiyangtse is now a rapidly growing town and the administrative center for this district. The area is famous for its wooden containers and bowls, which make memorable souvenirs of a visit to this remote region. We visit Trashiyangtse Dzong, which overlooks the town and was built in the late 1990's when the new district was created. We will also visit the dazzling white stupa of Chorten Kora on the riverbank below the town, and the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum, where students are trained in Bhutan's 13 traditional arts and crafts. In the evening we return to Trashigang.
Hotel Doejung, Trashigang
Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar (approximately 6 hours).
The Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar road was completed in 1965, and the journey to the Indian border takes about six hours. Along the way, we pass by Sherubtse College in Kanglung, which was founded in 1978 and is a degree-granting institution affiliated with the University of Delhi. We also visit the nearby Zangtho Pelri temple representing Guru Rinpoche’s paradise, built in 1978 by the late Minister of Home Affairs. We then drive on to Khaling, home of the National Institute for the Disabled and the Weaving Center. Visits to these may be arranged by prior request only, before leaving Thimphu (please let your guide know while in Thimphu if you are interested). From here, it is a further 50 miles to Deothang, which is remembered in history as the site of a famous 19th century battle fought during the Duar Wars, in which the forces of Jigme Namgyal defeated the British. The road then descends fairly rapidly to the plains through dense tropical forest with an abundance of teak, bamboo, and ferns.
Hotel TLT, Samdrup Jongkhar
Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati, India (approximately 3 hours).
After breakfast we say farewell to Bhutan and drive to Guwahati, the capital town of the northeastern Indian state of Assam, for your departure flight.
2015 Private Collection Land Cost
From $6,595 per person
1-2 Guests: $6,995 per person
3+ Guests: $6,595 per person
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
Bangkok, Thailand to Paro, Bhutan
- All meals included
- Private guide throughout
- All accommodations
- All transportation during the tour
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
- Bhutanese visa fees and departure taxes
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Sangay Wangchuk: Sangay has spent almost two decades in the tourism business and has trekked and climbed most of Bhutan’s corners and mountains. He did his practical mountain management courses in Chamonix, France. His pride is his passion for Bhutan’s culture and ecology. His book, Seeing with the Third Eye, Growing up with Grandma in Rural Bhutan, depicts his interest in local beliefs.
Dawa Tashi (on right): Dawa has been a travel companion and leader for many Boundless Journeys’ guests on a number of our tours, from treks in the mountains to festival celebrations in the valleys. His combination of local knowledge and amicable personality make him a real treasure to have on the trail. He doesn’t care if you are hiking at high altitude or exploring local towns in the lowlands, his main focus is to make sure guests come away with a fantastic experience and thorough understanding of the culture they have come to love as much as he does.
Kinley Tshering (on left): Kinley has led many tours for Boundless Journeys, and is a favorite among our Guests. Kinley (or Kelly as he is known among his Bhutanese coworkers) joined our local staff of Guides after completing extensive training in 2006. Very friendly and down to earth, Kinley is an extremely knowledgeable local Guide always determined to make your trip special.
Leki Phuntsho: Leki is a well-educated local guide who has lived his whole life in Bhutan and who currently resides just outside of Thimphu. He completed his extensive Guide Training from the Tourism Council of Bhutan in 2006, and enjoys trekking when not leading guests on cultural tours of his homeland. With his infectious love and passion for the country, Leki carries the adventurous spirit of a true Bhutanese guide. Very friendly and down to earth, Leki is always determined to make your trip special.
What other guests have said about our guides in Bhutan:
“It is truly impossible for me to express in words my gratitude and appreciation for the professionalism, dedication, and hard work of your team in Bhutan. Dawa was so accommodating and flexible throughout the entire tour. He certainly went out of his way to make sure the experience in Bhutan was both memorable and enjoyable for everyone in the group.” – S.G., East Rochester, NY
“Dawa was excellent, especially on the walks and hikes; very helpful. He was also extremely knowledgeable about Buddhism. We were very fortunate to have Dawa!” – S. M., Cambridge, MA
“It was an honor to be guided by someone I would consider to be Bhutan’s first-class ambassador, Sangay Wangchuk. Sangay was always imparting great knowledge, wit and wisdom with all members of our group. He became our Buddha.” – V. A., Playa del Rey, CA
“Sangay was such a pleasure to have on the trek – friendly, knowledgeable, open, and upbeat! He was amazing, sharing stories of his culture and the promise of things to come.” – K. L., Englewood, NJ
“Kinley Tshering was the most amazing guide. I have traveled to many places around the globe and been around a lot of guides. Kinley is truly outstanding. His patience, knowledge and good humor made every day special for us. He never tired to explain details to us or find a cup of tea. He is full of life and his love for his country showed greatly.” – G.M., Baltimore, MA
“Kinley was amazing in his knowledge and command of English in order to pass along information. If someone mentioned one thing or asked a question about something, he incorporated that into the next day’s activity or found it for us. For example, we had read about how incense is made and about momos in the DrukAir magazine on the flight over. We mentioned those things to Kinley and sure enough he found a small incense manufacturer for us to visit and made sure we had plenty of momos!” – G. M., Greenwich, CT
Picture Yourself Here:
Meeting warm and welcoming Bhutanese people and learning about a devout Buddhist culture
Exploring temples and monasteries that are accessible only on foot
Discovering an area of Bhutan that is seldom visited by western guests
Hiking through dramatic scenery with spectacular river valleys, snow-capped sacred mountains, terraced rice fields, and striking architecture
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