Bhutan Itinerary for 7 days and FAQ's
Bhutan is a picturesque valley nestled between the majestic Himalayas generously dotted with gushing rivers and colourful monasteries. However, it continues to be one of the least visited countries in the world. Bewitching landscapes, vibrant culture, preserved traditions, warm people, delicious cuisine – Bhutan has it all. So why aren’t tourists rushing to this unspoiled Buddhist Kingdom? Bhutan follows the principle of ‘High Value Low Impact Tourism’ and aims to keep mass tourism away. It is regulating the number of visitors so that it can preserve its environment, resources, and culture. Isn’t that enough reason to visit this breathtaking country?
Bhutan is not very popular amongst world travelers because of inaccessibility, limited infrastructure, travel restrictions, and exorbitant tourist visas. But if you are in the region and have a small window of 6-7 day, Bhutan is a country that you should be visiting. Known as the ‘Happiest Country in the world’- the little kingdom will mesmerise you, fascinate you and most importantly, it will touch your soul. Not many countries can claim to do so. If you are adventurous enough to venture on the road less traveled, Bhutan should be on your bucket-list. Seven days may not be enough if you want to experience this enchanting country extensively, but if that is all you have, here is the best itinerary for you.
I have not crammed too many towns as Bhutan is a place where you have to relax and imbibe the mystical surroundings. Moreover, the roads are winding, narrow, one-way with sharp hair-pin bends. So best option is to drive slowly, take frequent breaks and enjoy the stunning scenery en route.
Suggested Seven-Day Itinerary:-
Day 1 – Reach Paro, Transfer to Thimphu, Overnight at Thimphu
Day 2 – Explore Thimphu, Overnight at Thimphu
Day 3 – Drive to Punakha, Stop at Dochu La Pass. Overnight at Punakha
Day 4 – Explore Punakha and neighboring areas. Overnight at Punakha
Day 5 – Drive to Paro, Explore Paro. Overnight at Paro
Day 6 – Hike Tiger Nest Monastery. Overnight at Paro
Day 7 – Fly Back,
Day 1 –Landing in Paro is an experience in itself. Paro International Airport is located in a deep valley and you can admire the spectacular views of the snow-capped Himalayas as you descend in the lush green valley. Make your way to Thimphu, the capital, city of Bhutan. The scenic drive through forests will take more than an hour. Check-in your hotel and spent the rest of the day resting and acclimatizing. Stay the night in Thimphu.
Day 2 – Spend the day visiting places in and near Thimphu. Thimphu is a modern city with tall buildings, yet the sacred culture and heritage have been kept intact. The city is the perfect place to savor the delicious Bhutanese cuisine and shop for local handicrafts. Another night at Thimphu.
Places to visit in and around Thimphu:
- Buddha Dordenma statue – 50 m tall statue
- National Memorial Chorten
- Thimphu Dzong – the seat of Bhutan’s Government
- Centenary Market
- Tashichho Dzong
- Takin Reserve
- National Textile Museum
- Junghi Handmade Paper Factory
- Folk Heritage Museum.
Day 3 – In the morning leave for Punakha – the drive will take around three hours. You can stop at Dochula Pass, a collection of 108 Chortens built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants. The riverside town of Punakha is known for its gurgling rivers, majestic fortress/Dzong, picturesque rice fields, and breathtaking countryside. Explore the iconic city at your own pace. Overnight at Punakha.
Places to visit in and around Punakha:
- Chimi Lhakhang (Fertility) Temple
- Punakha Dzong
- Punakha Suspension bridge
- Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Day 4 – Spend the day exploring the rest of Punakha. You can enjoy river rafting in Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu River. Getting up early totake a short hike to Chin Lhakang Temple is also a good option. Another night at Punakha.
Day 5 – Make your way back to Paro. The drive will take you around four hours. The drive is spectacular with mountains on one side and river on another. The quaint little town with traditional houses, paddy fields, and untouched beauty has an old-world charm. You can enjoy mountain biking, rafting and hiking in Paro. Spend the night at Paro.
PS – If you want to take a day trip to idyllic Haa Valley from Paro, you should reach Paro on the 4th night, so that you can leave for Haa Valley early. It takes you couple of hours to reach Haa Valley from Paro.
Top Places to visit in and around Paro:
- Paro Dzong
- National Museum of Bhutan
- Druk Choeding Temple
- Ugyen Pelri palace
- Chele la
- Rinpung Dzong
- Dumste Lhakhang
Day 6 – Wake up early to hike up around 1000 meters to the most iconic sights of Bhutan – Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Perched precariously at over 3000 meters on the edge of a narrow cliff, Tiger’s Nest is the highlight of Bhutan. You will have to climb for 2-3 hours to reach this 17th-century temple complex. It is steep uphill climb in higher altitudes, so climb at a slow and relaxed pace. The reward lies in the spell-bounding beauty, clean atmosphere and mystical serenity that you will experience as you climb the steep path. According to folklore, Guru Rinpoche was transported to the spot by a flying tigress – hence the name. After such a long trek, reach your hotel in Paro to stay the night.
Day 7 – End of your vacation in Bhutan. It is time to fly back home from Paro International Airport.
PS – If you have less than 7 days, this itinerary can still be easily managed. Truncate your time in any of the three cities depending on your preferences. If you have come to the region, visit to India is a must.
PC – Flickr.com
Frequently Asked Questions:-
The peak season is from March-May (flowers are in full bloom) and September-November (best time for trekking). Monsoon is from June-August. You may be caught in few showers, but the prices will be lower and Bhutan would be lush green. If you are looking for snow, you can visit November-February. But you may encounter roadblocks and diversions.
Bhutan has only one international airport located in Paro and there are only two airlines that are allowed to operate – Druk Air and Bhutan air. They only fly from selected places like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok, Kathmandu Singapore, and Dhaka. So international connectivity is a big issue. You can also reach via road from neighboring countries.
Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. However, English is widely spoken and understood all over Bhutan.
Bhutan’s currency is Ngultrum which is equal to 0.013 USD. ATMs are few and far between and International Debit/credit cards are not widely accepted. You are also charged an additional fee. So always keep sufficient cash with you.
Citizens of most countries need a visa to enter Bhutan which can be obtained through licensed tour operators. The visa costs $40. Citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives require an entry permit which can be obtained at the port of entry on producing a passport with minimum 6 months validity. This permit is free.
It is the minimum spending per night that every tourist has to pay to get a visa. The minimum tariff can be adjusted against visas, meals, accommodation, official tours, and transportation. Basically, this tariff covers almost all your expenses in Bhutan besides tickets, tips, and shopping. It is $250 for the high season and $200 for the low season. In addition, you have to pay $40 per night if you are traveling solo and $30 if traveling as a couple. The tourists from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives are exempt from this tariff. They will have to pay 1200 Ngultrum per day as a ‘sustainable development fee’ from July onwards. The SDE is only applicable in regions where tourist influx is more.
If you are an Indian and traveling in a group of more than 4, you will need a tour guide to move between cities.
As there is not much public transport available in Bhutan, the best option is to book a taxi for your entire stay. There is usually a flat rate for long-distance trips. Ask your driver to arrange for all the required passes.
The Internet in Bhutan is certainly not up to the mark. Big hotels offer free Wi-Fi but don’t expect lightning speed. You can buy a local SIM from Paro or Thimphu to stay connected.
- Bhutanese respect their royal family a lot, so be respectful of them.
- Pictures inside temples are not allowed.
- You cannot smoke in public places.
- You are supposed to cover your arms and legs while entering temples.
- Avoid public display of affection.