After much debate here at Selective Asia HQ we’ve agreed that our Simply itineraries are the perfect in-depth introduction to a country. They showcase the country’s main highlights and ensure you don't miss a thing. Simple!
Our Simply Bhutan itinerary focuses on the west of this small Himalayan Kingdom, visiting the capital, Thimphu; the picturesque Punakha valley; and the charming town of Paro. In just over one week you’ll get a real feel for Bhutanese culture and visit western Bhutan’s major dzongs and monasteries including the iconic Tiger’s Nest.
We've combined Bhutan with a stopover in Kathmandu: an easy and popular country combo. However, this is not set in stone and other routings (via Delhi or Bangkok for example) are possible.
At a glance
- Explore the sacred World Heritage sites of Kathmandu
- Fly over the Himalayas into Bhutan
- Spin prayer wheels at the photogenic Punakha Dzong.
- Rustle up a Bhutanese meal with a farming family.
- Enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayas as you cross Dochu La Pass
- Join pilgrims on the trek to Taktsang Monastery: Bhutan’s most revered Buddhist site.
Kathmandu - 2 nights
The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is an assault on the senses! The smell of incense mingles with pungent spices and scooter exhaust, merchants shout to make themselves heard above the sound of motorbike horns, cars and cows share the streets which are lined with ancient temples alongside internet cafes. It’s also an excellent place to acclimatise to the higher altitudes of the Himalayan foothills. You’ll spend a couple of days exploring the city’s incredible heritage, before flying over the mountain range to Bhutan.
Day 1 - Arrive in Kathmandu, altitude acclimatisation & orientation tour
On arrival in Kathmandu, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your hotel.</p><p>Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.
In the afternoon, rejoin your guide for an orientation tour focusing on the area around Durbar Square, once the seat of the city's kings. Many of the square's surrounding buildings date back to the 18th century or beyond, and it remains the traditional heart of Kathmandu. The labyrinth of lanes around it are lined with shrines, temples, teahouses and markets. Your guide will show you the Hanuman Dhoka — Kathmandu’s Royal Palace — and the intricately carved Kumari Chowk, which is home to the young Kumari (living goddess).
Day 2 - Tour of Kathmandu’s sacred sites
Join your expert guide for a day exploring Kathmandu’s sacred sites, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Start with Pashupatinath Temple, one the oldest and most sacred Hindu temples in Nepal, before visiting the Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. After lunch, head out of Kathmandu to Bhaktapur, one of the three former royal cities of the Kathmandu Valley (the other two being Kathmandu & Patan) and home to some of the finest religious architecture in Nepal. Wander through its maze of narrow streets to see evidence of Bhaktapur’s rich cultural heritage: courtyards are filled with fired clay pots, women sit weaving cloth, and craftsmen carefully chisel timber into furniture and statues.
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Thimphu - 2 nights
Thimphu is quite unlike other Asian capital cities. Although it is a bustling metropolis in comparison to the rest of Bhutan — there are internet cafes and western restaurants, nightclubs and taxi ranks — it nonetheless maintains a small-town traditional feel, and you’ll still observe many locals in national dress. At the time of writing, Thimphu remains the only capital in the world without traffic lights! Sink into the relaxed pace during your time here, exploring significant Buddhist sites and getting to know Bhutan’s traditional culture.
Day 3 - Fly over Himalayas to Paro in Bhutan, drive to Thimphu
Fly to Paro in Bhutan, making sure you request a seat on the left-hand side of the plane for the best views of the Himalayas and Mount Everest! Once you've arrived and cleared customs, you'll be met by your Bhutanese guide and transferred to Thimphu, where the rest of your day will be at leisure.
Day 4 - Tour of Buddhist sites & traditional culture
Spend the day touring Thimphu with your guide, starting with the Tibetan-style National Memorial Chorten, where you’ll discover an endless procession of Bhutanese circumambulating the chorten to gain merit. Move on to the Tashichho Dzong and, if you happen to be in Thimphu at the weekend, the bustling market. Head out into the hills to admire a gigantic bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, its base housing a large meditation hall and 125,000 smaller bronze Buddha statues, before completing your exploration at Thimphu’s Institute for Zorig Chusum. Established to preserve and promote Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts through training and education, the institute welcomes visitors to watch craft demonstrations by the students.
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Punakha - 2 nights
Sitting in a picturesque, low-level valley, Punakha enjoys a temperate climate that tends to be warmer than the rest of the kingdom, and is favourable for growing rice and fruit. It served as the capital of Bhutan for over 300 years, and holds a significant place in Bhutanese history. You’ll visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong (a towering religious fortress), pay your respects at the Temple of the Divine Madman, and enjoy the rural pace of life with a farmhouse lunch amongst the rice fields, before chatting with some student monks at a venerable Buddhist institute.
Day 5 - Monastery visit, drive over Dochu La Pass to Punakha, tour dzong
Visit Changangkha Lhakhang Monastery, perched on a ridge overlooking Thimphu. This fortress like temple and monastic school was built in the 12th century, and its resident astrologer - if provided with your date of birth - can consult his charts to let you know which Buddhist prayer flag will offer you protection. Suitably safeguarded, set off through the pine forests and fluttering prayer flags for Punakha, via the Dochu La Pass, where you'll stop for tea with (on a clear day) spectacular views of the Himalayas. Once you've checked in to your Punakha hotel, there'll be time to explore the Punakha Dzong, widely considered to be the most beautiful of Bhutan's impressive fortresses.
Day 6 - Rice-field walk, farmhouse lunch, Nalanda Buddhist Institute
Take a short drive out into Punakha Valley for a stroll through the rice fields to Chime Lhakhang, 'the Temple of the Divine Madman'. Built in the 15th century, the temple is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, Bhutan's famous nonconformist saint. His rather unique approach to enlightenment predominantly revolved around sex, and legend has it that he defeated a demoness at the temple site using his, um, ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. The temple is appropriately revered for its fertility powers! Having meditated on this story, walk on to a nearby farm house, where you'll be treated to a traditional lunch. It’s a fascinating insight into local life, with your guide acting as translator while you chat with your hosts. After the meal, visit the Nalanda Buddhist Institute, a monastic school established in the 8th century. The institute is home to around 125 monks of all ages, who welcome a conversation to help them practise for English lessons.
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Paro - 3 nights
Paro enjoys a picture-postcard setting on the banks of the Paro Chhu River in the centre of Paro Valley, surrounded by rice fields and pine forest clad mountains. Its attractive main street is lined with traditional style buildings, handicraft shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
Day 7 - Mountain drive to Paro, Rimpong Dzong, farmhouse cooking lesson
You’ll be driven through the mountains once again, stopping to stretch your legs and admire the scenery. You’ll reach Paro in time to visit the impressive Rimpong Dzong, built in 1646 to defend against Tibetan invaders, before heading to a local farmhouse where the resident family will help you prepare a traditional meal over a fire stove. With your guide on hand to translate, try your hand at making the fiery ema datse — large chillies in a cheese sauce — which is a staple of Bhutanese cuisine. Once you master the datse, you'll be able to rustle up a number of popular dishes! Sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labour with your hosts before heading back to your hotel to digest.
Day 8 - Bhutan’s highest road, scenic hike to nunnery, ancient temple visit
Today you'll take the Chele La Pass through the mountains, following winding roads lined by an increasing number of prayer flags, placed to catch those important gusts of wind to carry prayers into the air. At the lofty height of 3,988m above sea level, Chele La Pass is the highest paved road in Bhutan, and on a clear day offers impressive views of the sacred peak of Jhomolhari, as well as down the Haa valley. From here, take a scenic downhill hike through woodland and rhododendron meadows to Kila Gompa nunnery, thought to be the oldest nunnery in Bhutan. You're likely to be the only visitors, and having spent some time exploring you'll be driven back to Paro via Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the country's most ancient temples.
Day 9 - Trek to Tiger’s Nest temple
After a hearty breakfast to prepare for your day of trekking, you'll meet your guide for the drive to Ramthangkha, the start of your hike to Taktsang Monastery - the Tiger's Nest. Clinging to a cliff face at just over 3,000 metres above sea level, this eye-catching monastery is one of the most venerated and sacred Buddhist sites in the world. It’s also one of the most photogenic! The legend holds that, back in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche (who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan) flew here on the back of a tigress, and meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days. Sadly we are unable to provide a flying tigress, and the only way for you to reach Taktsang is on foot. You'll follow the steep trail up through pine forest, catching glimpses of the monastery through the trees. Pause halfway at a small café, before continuing via some spectacular viewpoints. Inside the monastery complex, you can explore small temples, meditation caves and ornate shrines. The smell of incense fills the air, and you are likely to hear the sound of monastic chanting.
Day 10 - Depart Paro
Head to the airport for your onward flight, not forgetting to request a seat on the right-hand side of the plane for views of Mt. Everest.
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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.
Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.
|Hotel class||Price per person (based on total # travelling)|
|2 persons||3 or 5 persons||4 or 6 persons|
Traditional ComfortThe Traditional Comfort hotel, just outside the busiest area of central Kathmandu, showcases a stylish fusion of Newari craftsmanship and contemporary design… See more
First Class hotels in Paro
Paro’s First Class hotels offer a simple, yet comfortable and welcoming introduction to Bhutan. If you’re flying into Paro, a stay at one of these hotels is ideal for catching your breath and exploring some of the regions iconic sights...See more
First Class hotels in Thimphu
Thimphu’s First Class hotels range from stately buildings with grand interiors to more modest suburban affairs with echoes of Dzong architecture, all within easy reach of Thimphu’s many sights...See more
First Class hotels in PunakhaDotted throughout the picturesque Punakha valley, these hotels offer simple accommodation gently set into the picturesque hillside… See more
Hotel Yak & YetiOverlooking an oasis of manicured grounds in the heart of Kathmandu’s Durbar Marg district, the Hotel Yak & Yeti offers high-quality service and a timeless aesthetic… See more
Zhiwaling HeritageFull of colourful wood carvings and traditional-style fabrics, the Zhiwaling Heritage is an uplifting homage to the ornate architecture of Bhutan’s historic temples... See more
Hotel DrukLocated in Thimphu’s lively centre, next to the stately Clock Tower Square, Hotel Druk blends classic hotel style with traditional Bhutanese art and design… See more
Dhensa Boutique ResortA sense of calm radiates from every corner of the Dhensa Boutique Resort, where the minimalist design focuses your attention on Punakha’s sweeping hillsides… See more
Dwarika's HotelHoused in an extraordinary building that showcases its founder’s passion for Nepali culture and craft, the Dwarika Hotel is an atmospheric sanctuary amid the temples and monuments of historic Kathmandu… See more
COMO Uma ParoSituated on a hillside overlooking the extraordinary Paro valley, the COMO Uma offers a sophisticated retreat with all the warmth of a cosy mountain hideaway... See more
Taj TashiIn the heart of Thimphu, Taj Tashi casts a grand silhouette against the forested hills surrounding Bhutan’s bustling capital… See more
COMO Uma PunakhaLooking down the valley to the Mo Chhu river, the COMO Uma Punakha combines its picture-perfect view with high-quality boutique accommodation and a dual focus on relaxing and exploring the surrounding countryside… See more
Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.
These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).
Whilst many clients are happy with one of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.
The important stuffPlease note: During high season periods (March – May, September – November) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.
- English speaking, local guide
- All accommodation listed
- Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
- Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
- One way flight from Kathmandu to Paro
- All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals listed, with tea, coffee and water
- Bhutan entry visa
- International flight reconfirmation.
- Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
- Nepali entry visa.
- International airport departure taxes
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Drinks, other than tea, coffee and water
- Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
- Travel insurance
- All other services not listed in 'inclusive'
Please noteAll prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.
FlightsWe will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.
VisaYou will require a visa to enter Bhutan. This is arranged in advance of travel by Selective Asia and the cost of the visa is included in our holiday pricing. You will also require a visa to enter Nepal.
PassportPlease ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.
InsuranceYou will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.
Vaccinations and Malaria PreventionYou will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.
Booking ProcedureOnly once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.
Travelling ResponsiblyWe care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.
Our tailor-made service costs you no extra
This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...
Your own private guides & drivers
You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.