Bhutan Cultural Tour With 2-Day Trek in Bumthang Valley
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💎 Why we love it ?
Travel to five western districts of Bhutan and delve in to discover why this tiny Kingdom chose to remain secluded for centuries. Visit magnificent fortresses and temples that dot hilltops and strategic locations against the backdrop of soaring mountains adorned with snows and forests. Marvel at the pristine environment and age-old traditions of the magical Kingdom of Bhutan so well preserved that the outside world calls it ‘Last Shangri-La’. The 2-Day trek is fairly easy that takes you through rich forests, beautiful valleys, and along crystal-clear rivers filled with trouts. There are plenty of ancient temples to visit and pass through a number of typical Bhutanese villages where you can stop and rest offering you an opportunity to understand the culture and traditions of Bhutan.
🏁 Tour Itinerary: Bhutan Cultural Tour With 2-Day Trek in Bumthang Valley
Day 1: Arrive Paro International Airport – Sightseeing in Paro (2200m)
On your arrival at Paro, the only International Airport in Bhutan, our guide and driver will receive you and transfer you to the hotel. If you arrive before the hotel check-in time, you’ll be escorted to visit some of the important landmarks in Paro right away from the airport. Otherwise, check in to the hotel and settle yourself in the new surroundings before you begin sightseeing.
National Museum of Bhutan – Ta Dzong
The National Museum of Bhutan is housed in an ancient watchtower called Ta Dzong which means “watchtower fortress” in Dzong, the national language of Bhutan. Built-in 1649. the museum displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artworks including traditional costumes, armor, weaponry, and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. Ta Dzong was converted into the National Museum in 1968.
Dungtse Lhakhang (Lhakhang means ‘temple’) is located on the other side of the Paro Chhu river about 5 minutes drive from the main Paro town. It was built in the 14th century by the Tibetan Buddhist Scholar, Dupthop Thangtong Gyalpo popularly known as Chagzampa which means ‘Iron Bridge Builder’. He built about eight iron chain bridges across Bhutan, though the bridges are no longer in use today, one can still see remnants of some of the bridges. It is said that he built this temple to protect the people in the valley from being afflicted by leprosy.
7th-century Buddhist monastery – Kyichu Lhakhang
Paro Kyichu Lhakhang has located just a few minute’s drive from the main town of Paro and is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan. It is believed to have been built in 659 A.D. by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in his effort to built 108 such temples across the Himalayan region to subdue the spirit of a demoness who was causing obstruction to the spread of Buddhism.
Free time to explore Paro town and get to understand the culture of this tiny Hidden Kingdom of Bhutan.
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Khangkhu Resort or Bhutan Mandala Resort.
Day 2: Paro / Transfer to the capital city Thimphu (2334m)
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Thimphu, the only capital city in the world without traffic lights. This little bustling little city is home to approximately 115,000 residents and the main center of commerce, religion, and government in the country.
Distance 55 km | Time 2 hours | Thimphu Altitude 2,334m/7,655ft
En route, you may want to visit Tamchog Lhakhang dedicated to the 15th-century Tibetan Scholar Thangtong Gyalpo. It is located on the other side of the Pachhu River accessible after crossing an old iron bridge, one of the very few remaining of the many built by Thangtong Gyalpo.
Bhutan Postal Museum
On arrival in Thimphu, visit the Bhutan Postal Museum which is located in the heart of the city in the same building as Bhutan National Bank so you can also exchange your money into local currency if you wish. The Postal Service in Bhutan was first launched in 1962 with the opening of a post office in Phuentsholing, a town in the south bordering India. The Postal Museum was opened in 2015 to exhibit the story of Bhutan’s progress and development of communications and the postal system in the country. If you are interested in philatelic products and stamp collection, they have a good collection of stamps, First Day Covers, and stamp albums. The museum remains closed on Sundays.
National Institute of Zorig Chusum
Visit the National Institute of Zorig Chusum where 13 Traditional Arts & Crafts of Bhutan are taught. It was established to promote and preserve the Bhutanese traditional arts and crafts and to facilitate increased access to learning Zorig skills by Bhutanese youths. Closed on Sundays. Traditional lunch will be served at the Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant or at a similar restaurant in the town.
After lunch, visit Royal Textile Academy & Museum. Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. With rapid development and exposure to western culture, the art of weaving and production of its own handwoven textile is declining fast. Not long ago, it was common to see one member in the family weaving for the entire family. It is closed on Sundays. After that, we visit the Craft Bazaar (OPTIONAL) along the main streets of Thimphu.
Leisure time to explore Thimphu town.
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Kuenphen Rabten Resort or Hotel Amodhara.
Day 3: Hike from Kuensel Phodrang to Changangkha & Local Sightseeing in Thimphu
After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to visit the largest sitting Buddha Statue located at Kuensel Phodrang overlooking Thimphu valley. It was built in 2015 to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and also for the purpose of ushering peace in the world.
We then embark on a 2-hour leisure hiking in the outskirts of the capital city from Kuensel Phodrang to the 13th-century Changangkha Lhakang which gives a grand overlooking view of Thimphu valley. It is relatively a short hiking trail through sparsely populated pine trees offering a perfect opportunity for families and nature lovers to spend their leisure time.
The hiking can start from either end of the trail but most hikers prefer to start from Kuensel Phodrang after visiting the largest sitting Buddha statue. The trail is a section of a 60km cycling trail surrounding the entire Thimphu city which was built in 2016 to commemorate the 60th Birth Anniversary of the Great Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
At the end of the hike visit one of the national treasures, the 13th-century Changangkha Lhakhang established in the 12th century by Tibetan Buddhist scholar Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo who is known for spreading Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism in Bhutan which subsequently becomes the state religion. One of the many invaluable treasures at the temple is the original copy of 16 volumes of Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita (Bum Gye Dring Due Sum) handwritten by Nyima, the son of Phajo Drugom Shigpo.
After lunch at the traditional restaurant Little Bhutan, we drive to visit the Centenary Famers’ Weekend Market to get insights into the food culture and preferences of Bhutanese society. Farmers from all over the country bring their farm produce to sell during the weekend. Opens from Friday – Sunday.
From there we pass by Changlimithang Archery Range to witness that game of archer is the match is in progress. You’ll see archers singing and dancing each time the target is hit from a whopping distance of 145m. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Kuenphen Rabten Resort or Hotel Amodhara.
Day 4: Thimphu / Transfer to Phobjikha Valley (3000m)
Today after breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Phobjikha valley, via Dochula, a sacred mountain pass at 3150m above sea level. You can see a panoramic view of some of the highest peaks of Bhutan (weather permitting).
From Dochu La Pass, we continue driving towards Punakha passing through some villages, the elevation drops gradually, and the road winds through pine trees. As you reach the lower valley, you will feel the drastic change in altitude from 3,150m just an hour and a half ago to a warmer subtropical region at 1,200m.
En route, we stop at the village of Sosokha and visit the famous Chimi Lhakhang popularly known as “Temple of Fertility” located about a 30-minute walk from the nearest road through beautiful terraced rice fields and farmhouses. Chimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 by Lama Ngawang Chogyal on a site blessed by his older brother, Lama Drukpa Kuenley who was known as ‘Divine Madman’ for his obscene character and unorthodox ways of propagating Buddhism. He would often express his desire for sex and use phallus as a medium to subdue malevolent spirits. Today, one of the relics of Chimi Lhakhang is a phallus.
Phobjikha is a vast U-shaped glacial valley at an elevation of about 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) and it is a winter home for endangered Black Necked Crane from November to March and migrates back to Tibet by the beginning of the spring season. Every year on the 11th of November, Black Necked Crane Festival is held to celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of the lives of the local people during the winter months.
Gangtey Nature Hike
For nature enthusiasts and those who enjoy long walks through the woods surrounded by splendid nature all around, taking up Gangtey Nature Trail is highly recommended. The trail is about 5km and takes approximately 2.5 hours. The nature trails begin from the Gangtey monastery and take you through wonderful meadows, forests, beautiful traditional village houses, farmlands, and crystalline streams. This short nature trail gives you a great feeling of the valley and an understanding of the community living there.
Distance 135 km | Time 4.5-hours | Phobjikha Altitude 3,000m/9,840ft
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Yueloki Guest House or Dewachen Hotel & Spa.
Day 5: Phobjikha valley / Transfer to Bumthang in Central Bhutan Via Trongsa (2600m)
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the famous landmark and one of the biggest monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Monastery popularly known as Gangtey Goenpa founded in 1613 (gonpa literally means “high remote place” and is usually a place of religious significance). The name Gangtey is derived from the fact that the Goenpa is built on a peak (Tey) of a hillock (Gang). The present abbot of this monastery is the ninth Gangtey Trulku His Holiness Kunzang Rigzin Pema Namgyal.
We then drive to Bumthang valley also known as Jakar. En route, stop briefly at Trongsa for lunch at one of the restaurants and continue the drive. On our way back from Bumthang on Day 10, we will halt a night here in Trongsa and visit some of the nearby historical sites including the majestic Trongsa Dzong.
We continue to drive and pass by the highest mountain pass between Trongsa and Bumthang (Yotongla 3,450m) and gradually descend to Bumthang. En route, stop briefly at Chumey village to see Yathra Weaving Center and get insights into the traditional attires and weaving culture of the people of Bumthang valley. Yathra is a type of colorful textiles handwoven out of sheep and yak hair by the inhabitants of Bumthang.
On arrival in Bumthang, check in to the hotel and settle down. If time permits, we’ll visit the Swiss Cheese and Wine factory which was established by Mr. Fritz Maurer, a Swiss volunteer who came to Bhutan in the early 1960s and made Bumthang his home.
Leisure time to explore Chamkhar, the main town in Bumthang valley.
Distance 150km | Driving time 5-hours | Bumthang altitude 2600m, Trongsa altitude 2200m
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Kaila Guest House or Mountain Lodge
Day 6: Full Day Exploring Bumthang Valley also known as Jakar
Bumthang is known as the cultural heartland of Bhutan as many of the most ancient and precious Buddhist monuments are found here. The district of Bumthang is divided into four blocks of Chhoekhor where the main town is located, Chumey, Tang, and Ura all of which are broad and beautiful valleys.
We begin the day by first visit 7th-century Jampa Lhakhang, one of the oldest Lhakhangs in the Kingdom founded by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in the 7th century AD. The King was destined to build 108 Lhakhang to subdue the spirit of the demoness that was harming the propagation of Buddhism in the Himalayan region. Out of few temples built in Bhutan, Jampa Lhakhang is one of the two prominent temples. The other one is Kichu Lhakhang in Paro which you visit on Day 1. Both Jamba and Kyichu temples were believed to have been built on the same day.
Visit Kurjey Lhakhang which is built on the sacred site blessed by Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Bhutan and is revered as the second Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism.
From there we drive to visit the sacred Tamzhing temple built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa who is considered the patron saint of Bhutan. Among the many treasures and religious artifacts handcrafted by the Pema Lingpa himself, there is an armory that stood the test of time for five centuries bearing no rust or any sign of deterioration. It is believed that you will be cleansed of all your past sins and defilement if you circumambulate the inner sanctum of the temple 3 rounds carrying that sacred armory. This is one activity enjoyed by all visitors with fun and a sense of veneration.
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Kaila Guest House or Mountain Lodge.
Day 7: Bumthang – Ngang Lhakhang / Tahung (2720m)
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Ngang Lhakhang where you’ll spend a night at a homestay with the local family. The drive takes you along the left bank of the Chamkhar Chu river passing through few villages. If interested, you can visit some of the fine secluded sacred temples along the way.
Lunch will be served at the homestay which is located right beside the Ngang Lhakhang temple. The family of the homestay have inherited the temple from renowned Buddhist luminaries and have been taking care of it for many generations. You’ll spend the rest of the day exploring the village and getting insights into the daily lives family in rural Bhutan.
Distance 15 km | Driving time 1-hour | Ngang Lhakhang altitude 2700m
🏚️ Accommodation: Dinner and overnight at a homestay with the local family.
Day 8: Ngang Lhakhang / Tahung (2720m)
You’ll begin the day by crossing verdant meadows and with a beautiful view of the valley below. Then you climb gradually to Phe Phe La (3,360m/11,055ft), the highest point of this trek route. The trail passes through beautiful forested areas where many stops can be made to enjoy the natural beauty of your surroundings. The path leads you downhill into a broad valley. Amongst several possible camping sites the most likely one is uphill behind the village of Tahung.
Distance 16 km | Time 6 hours | Ascent 750m/2,460ft | Descent 670m/2,200ft | Camp Altitude 2,720m/8,925ft
🏚️ Accommodation: Overnight outdoor camping.
Day 9: Tahung / Tang valley (2750m)
The trail follows the Tang Chu river filled with trouts. On the bank of the river is the Tang Rimpoche’s Lhakhang. The trek will pass the Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) and lead you to Tang Ogyencholing. Ogyencholing Palace houses a privately owned museum and has all manner of traditional artifacts on display.
Distance 16 km | Time 4-5 hours | Descent 230m/755ft | Tang valley Altitude 2,750m/9,020ft
Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake)
It is believed that Terton Pema Lingpa, the most revered 15th century Saint from Bumthang, went into the lake holding a butter lamp (candle-like lamp used for ritual offering) and resurfaced holding treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche in the mid-eight century AD with butter lamp still burning brightly held in his hand. Some of the treasures discovered from the lake by Terton Pema Lingpa include Zung (the inner offerings of the statues) and the statue of Guru Rinpoche, which can still be seen today at Tamshing Lhakhang which you visited on Day 6.
Ogyen Choling Museum
Although Ogyen Choling was a palace owned by the ancestors of the Royal family of Bhutan, it was regarded as being a monastery or hermitage because of its past connections with great Buddhist masters like Longhcen Rabjam (1308-63) and Terton Dorji Lingpa (1346-1405). It was turned into a museum in 2001 with the aim to share its heritage and also to preserve and maintain its religious and cultural significance. The curator, Kunzang Choden, is the owner of the museum and the direct descendant of the original family. If Kunzang Choden happens to be at home, she herself will guide you through the museum giving you profound insights not only about the lifestyles and living conditions of households of the religious and nobility during the 19th and 20th centuries but also on how Bhutan has changed over the years.
🏚️ Accommodation: Dinner and overnight at Ogyen Choling Guesthouse
Day 10: Tang Valley / Transfer to Trongsa (2200m)
Today we drive to Trongsa and visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong and the Ta Dzong which is now converted into Museum. After a leisurely breakfast at the Ogyen Choling Guesthouse, we start our journey back to Trongsa. Just about a few hundred meters before arriving at proper Trongsa, visit the Royal Heritage Museum located on a promontory overlooking the majestic Trongsa Dzong. The museum is housed in a watchtower called Ta Dzong built in 1652 and provides visitors an insight into the significance of Trongsa in Bhutan’s history.
On arrival in Trongsa, check in to the hotel and relax for a while before the lunch is served. After lunch, visit the inner courtyard of the largest Dzong in Bhutan, Trongsa Dzong built-in 1648. Trongsa Dzong is known as Choekhor Rabtentse Dzong. It holds a significant place in the history of Bhutan as it was from here that the ancestors of the Royal family of Bhutan emerged as the most powerful rulers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first and second hereditary kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat of power. There is a tradition that the crown prince must be invested as Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa) here at Trongsa Dzong before he ascends the throne of the King.
We can also visit Thruepang Palace. This two-storied simple palace situated just above the highway in the town is the birthplace of our Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It was here that on 2nd May 1928, His Majesty was born to King Jigme Wangchuck and Ashi Puntsho Choden. He spent most of his early childhood days here in this Thurepang Palace. The other palace of interest is the Eundu Choling Palace which was the winter residence of the 1st King Ugyen Wangchuck.
Distance 94 km | Time 3 hours | Trongsa Altitude 2,200m/7,220ft
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Tashi Ninjay Guest House orYangkhil Resort
Day 11: Trongsa / Transfer to Punakha valley (1200m)
After breakfast, drive to Punakha valley. Under normal road conditions, we should reach Punakha town in under 5 hours. From Pele La (3,420m), the highest mountain pass between Trongsa and Punakha valley, the drive will be a gradual descent all the way to Punakha valley.. On the way, you might see common grey langurs which are usually found in the forests of Bhutan at an altitude of up to 3,600 meters. Lunch will be served at Wangdue Phodrang town which is about 50km from Punakha town.
After lunch, we continue driving to Punakha and visit the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture, the historic Punakha Dzong – The Fortress of Great Bliss. Originally known as Pungthang Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang Dzong which means ‘Fortress of Great Bliss’, was built in 1637 AD by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to guard the region against Tibetan forces. It is the second oldest, second largest, and certainly the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. The sacred wall paintings and main artifacts inside the dzong, the intricate woodwork, and the architectural structure of the dzong display a fine example of Bhutanese arts and craftsmanship which continues to influence Bhutanese architecture even today. After visiting the Dzong, walk to Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge that runs across the Phochu (male) river. Punakha Dzong is flanked by two glacial-fed rivers – Phochu (male) and Mochu (female) rivers.
Distance 140 km | Driving time 4.5-hours | Punakha Altitude 1,200m
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Meri Puensum Resort or a similar one.
Day 12: Punakha valley / Transfer back to Paro valley (2200m)
Today after breakfast, we hike to the picturesque Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel Chorten and then transfer to Paro overnight via Dochula Pass.
Hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten
Drive about 20 minutes from the main town of Punakha to the road head from where you cross a suspension bridge over Mochu (female) River and the trail takes you through paddy fields. Normally it takes just under one hour to reach the serene site of the marvelous chorten. The view below is stunning with glacial-fed Mochu river snaking through the fertile valley of Punakha. Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten is located on a ridge overlooking the picturesque Punakha valley.
White Water Rafting on Mochu River (OPTIONAL): White Water Rafting is available at an additional fee charged by the rafting service provider. The rafting on Mo Chhu is graded 1-2 making it possible for all ages to try and experience rafting. The rafting distance is 10-14kms and takes about 2 hours from start to the finish point.
After lunch, we drive to Paro valley overnight. If you are not interested to do rafting, lunch can be arranged at Dochula Cafeteria with great views of some of the highest mountains of Bhutan (weather permitting).
From Dochula Pass, we descend down all the way to Simtokha Dzong built-in 1631 by Zhangdrung Ngawang Namgyel who united Bhutan as one nation-state. If you are interested, we can stop by and visit the Simtokha Dzong. Built strategically on a ridge overlooking the Thimphu valley, Simtokha Dzong is significant not only because it was the first Dzong built by Zhangdrung Ngawang Namgyel but also stands on the borders of three major regions: Thimphu, Paro, and Wangdue Phodrang. One of the main statues inside the Simtokha Dzong is the statue of Buddha of Compassion. Legend has it that fortunate visitors are able to see a light shining forth from the chest of the Buddha. The Dzong has more than three hundred slate carvings from the 17th century. Recently, His Majesty the 5th King donated the statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel which wasn’t there initially.
Distance 115 km | Time 4 hours | Paro Altitude 2,200m
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Khangkhu Resort or Bhutan Mandala Resort
Day 13: Hike to the famous Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest)
After breakfast, drive to Ramthangka, the base of the Taktsang monastery. Taktsang monastery is located on the face of a sheer 800-meter rock cliff in Paro. The round-trip hike takes ab4-5 hours for most visitors. Oneway horse riding is available on your way up to the mid-point (Taktsang View Point Cafeteria) for about USD20 per horse which will carry only one person. Horse riding is not recommended on your way down and most owners will not allow it.
Taktsang which literally translates to ‘Tiger’s Nest’, is regarded as one of the most important monasteries in Bhutan. It was originally built in 1692 on the sacred cave where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the mid-eighth century A.D. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava flew to Taktsang from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan, riding on a tigress.
After lunch at the cafeteria, we retrace our steps back to the base and drive to Paro town and spend some leisure time exploring the Paro town and later towards the evening, visit a beautiful farmhouse and savor the home-cooked local cuisine. You may want to take a traditional hot stone bath believed to have a therapeutic and revitalizing effect.
🏚️ Hotel Option: Overnight at Khangkhu Resort or Bhutan Mandala Resort
Day 14: Departure from Paro
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Your guide will assist you to complete all exit formalities before you check in.
Terms & Conditions
- Free cancellation for up to 30 days prior to departure date
- 20% will be charged if cancelled 16-29 days prior to departure date
- 30% will be charged if cancelled 08-15 days prior to departure date
- 50% will be charged if cancelled 03-07 days prior to departure date
- No refund will be available if No Show or cancelled 0-02 days prior to departure date
The flight tends to get fully booked months ahead especially during the peak season. We highly recommend you book flights a few months ahead of your departure date. We can help with the arrangement of flights to and from Bhutan. There are only two airlines operating in and out of Bhutan:
- Drukair, the national flag carrier of Bhutan (www.drukair.com.bt) operates from and to these cities/International Airports: Bangkok, Bagdogra, Bodhgaya, Dhaka, Delhi, Guwahati, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Singapore.
- Bhutan Airlines, a private airline introduced in 2011 (www.bhutanairlines.bt) operates from and to these cities/International Airport: Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu
Other Important Information
- Airport pick-up and drop-off time will be coordinated depending on your flight timings
- For the purpose of processing a visa, you must send us a clear passport copy of all the participants after you book the tour. A whole biodata page including the machine-readable zone must be seen clearly. It can be either scanned or just a mobile photo shot as long as it is clear and legible. Passports should have a validity of at least SIX MONTHS from the day you depart from Bhutan.
- You’ll receive a copy of your approved e-Visa Clearance letter in PDF format within 3-4 business days from the day the visa application is submitted. You MUST print a copy of this letter and present it at the check-in counter of the airline flying into Bhutan. Without the proof of an e-Visa Clearance letter, you may be denied boarding the flight to Bhutan. The actual visa will be stamped on your passport on arrival at the Paro International Airport.
- Child(ren) below 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult
- All participants between the age of 13 – 17 years old must send us a valid copy of the Student Photo ID Card/document after booking the tour. Discounts are already applied in the price. Those who do not have a valid student photo ID Card will have to pay the price difference.
- All our tour guides speak very fluent English. Guides speaking other major languages (Chinese, Japanese, French & German) can be arranged at an additional fee of $120 per day.
- You must let us know prior to your arrival if you have any dietary restrictions/preference.
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