Bumthang: Bumthang’s temples such as the seventh-century Jampa Lhakhang temple and historic monasteries seemed to have slipped through time untouched. The valley is home to some unique cottage industries such as Red Panda Brewery and Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility. Wangdichhoeling Palace is the home of the second king of Bhutan. Kurjey Lhakhang is considered one of Bhutan’s most auspicious monuments and is where early winter festivals are held, drawing thousands of Bhutanese to receive blessings.
Eastern Himalayas: This region is situated in several countries with Bhutan on its southern slopes. Steep, high mountains are crisscrossed by a network of rivers and deep valleys. Elevation rises from 200 meters/660 feet in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 meters/23,000 feet. This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems. More than 770 species of birds and 5,400 species of plants occur throughout the kingdom; and Bhutan has are species such as the golden langur. This biodiversity hotspot has some 234 globally outstanding eco-regions.
Paro: Paro is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries and the country’s only airport. Kurjey Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is a place of pilgrimage for Bhutanese. Legend claims that Guru Padmasambava, wizard-saint of Himalayan Buddhism, came here in the eighth century, riding his flying tiger to a cave to meditate. There he left a stone imprint of his body. Later, a temple was carved into the cliff about 800 meters/2,624 feet above the valley in his honor. Those who hike up to the café opposite the monastery are rewarded with breathtaking views. On the north end of the valley stands the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong (Victorious Fortress), where Bhutanese repelled invading Tibetan armies in the 17th century. The National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong, offers a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lays the dominating Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture.
Phobjika: A beautiful wide, flat valley without trees, Phobjika welcomes visiting black-necked cranes that arrive from Tibet each winter. They come in large numbers to a protected area in the valley. On arrival, they are said to circle the 17th-century Gangtey Monastery three times, and repeat this ritual when they return to Tibet in early spring. The monastery is devoted to Nyingmapa, the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. A monastic college has been established above the village. The valley lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park.
Punakha: Punakha was Bhutan’s capital until the government was moved to Thimphu. The valley is famous for farming red and white rice along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. Built in 1637-38, the striking red and white Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of the first king of Bhutan. Since the 1680s, a special chamber in the dzong has been the site of a continuous vigil over the earthly body of the founder of Bhutan. At 1,350 meters/4,430 feet, Punakha, which dates from 1637, once served as the winter capital. It is still the winter home to Bhutan’s spiritual leader and the monks of Thimphu and Paro.
Thimpu: Thimphu Valley has supported small settlements for centuries and a dzong has existed there since 1216. But not until the king made Thimphu Bhutan’s new capital in the 1960s did the city begin to develop with vehicles appearing the following year for the first time. The town’s School of Thangka painting, National Library, and Traditional Medicine Institute all offer fascinating insights into Bhutan and Buddhist philosophies.
Trekking: Trekking journeys in the Himalayas are an adventure for the experienced enthusiast. Big Five offers a variety of programs for those who wish to hike these mountains. In Bhutan, a six-day journey begins at Jele Dzong, at an altitude of 2,591 meters/8,500 feet, and climbs up to about 3,353 meters/11,000 feet at Lake Jimilangtso. The terrain is varied and breathtaking. Walks average four to seven miles a day.
Trongsa: Trongsa is one of Bhutan’s most historic towns. The first monastery was built here in 1543. The town’s dzong was constructed in 1644, and served as the original seat of power of the House of Wangchuck before it became the ruling dynasty of Bhutan in 1907. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzong’s highly strategic position on the only connecting route between east and west, the governor of the region was able to control the whole of the central and eastern sections of the country from here.
Best Time to Travel to Bhutan
Suggested Bhutan Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Paro, Bhutan/Thimphu
Paro is less than a two-hour drive through stunning landscapes to Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital city.
Day 2: Thimphu
Nepal’s old-world capital has a textile museum, folk heritage museum, School of Arts and Crafts and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine.
Day 3: Thimphu/Phobjika
Of note are one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery.
Day 4: Phobjika
Visits to the Black Neck Crane Center, walks or mountain bike rides through thismagnificent valley can be arranged.
Day 5: Phobjika/Bumthang
A memorable journey to Bumthang travels through dramatic landscapes, terraced fields and deep river valleys.
Day 6: Bumthang
Seventh-century temples and valley monasteries seem to have slipped through time untouched.
Day 7: Bumthang/Tang/Bumthang
Seldom visited, Tang Valley is home to ancient monasteries.
Day 8: Bumthang/Punakha
Punakha Valley is famous for farming red and white rice along Pho and Mo Chu rivers.
Day 9: Punakha
Built in 1637-38, the red and white Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of the first king of Bhutan.
Day 10: Punakha/Paro
Paro has many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries and the country’s only airport.
Day 11: Paro
Kurjey Monastery, the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and the national museum are among the sights here.
Day 12: Paro/Depart
Custom Bhutan Travel Options
Trongsa, Bhutan (4 days)
Buddhist temples and monasteries seem to have been cloaked in a time shield, untouched.
Eastern Himalayas (3 days)
Eastern Himalayas are one of 234 globally outstanding eco-regions. Traveling overland from northeastern India into Bhutan offers a different perspective.
Trekking (2-4 days)
Trekking through the countryside of Bhutan past villages, farms, mountain ranges and valleys can be done on foot or by bicycle.
These accommodations, while basic, allow authentic interactions between travelers and the local host families.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$600 per person per day