The Wonders of Bhutan

Our comprehensive Wonders of Bhutan holiday will take you deep into the ‘last great Himalayan Kingdom’ - a magical and fascinating place quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Rich in culture and Buddhist tradition, this remote country boasts a breathtaking landscape dotted with ancient monasteries and dzongs, untainted by commercialism and modernity.

At a glance
  • Explore imposing dzongs (religious fortresses)
  • Visit the monastery of the Divine Madman
  • Eat a traditional dinner with a Bhutanese farming family
  • Pass through villages unchanged by modernity
  • Traverse mountain passes with spectacular scenery
  • Ascend to the Tiger’s Nest
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Kathmandu - 3 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. Be prepared for a sensory overload! Your stay here will include visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites and some of Kathmandu Valley’s ancient cities.

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu, city tour

On arrival, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your hotel.

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 (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.

In the afternoon, rejoin your guide for a tour of the area around Durbar Square. Durbar means 'palace', and the city’s kings were crowned here and ruled from this site. Many of its buildings date to the 18th century or beyond, and the square remains the traditional heart of the capital. The labyrinth of lanes around it are lined with shrines, temples, teahouses and markets. Your guide will point out places of significant interest, such as Hanuman Dhoka - Kathmandu’s Royal Palace, and the intricately carved Kumari Chowk, which is home to the young Kumari (living goddess). After exploring, you'll return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.

Day 2 - Tour of UNESCO heritage sites

Includes:

Spend the day exploring some of Kathmandu's sacred sites, including two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Pashupatinath Temple sits beside the holy Bagmati River, and is the oldest and most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal. Hundreds of Hindu pilgrims gather here every year, especially the sick and elderly who wish to be cremated by the sacred river. Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It’s another popular pilgrimage site, and you can join the stream of pilgrims as they stroll clockwise around the stupa to gain merit. After lunch, head out to Bhaktapur, one of the valley's three former royal cities and home to some of the finest religious architecture in Nepal. In its maze of narrow streets and courtyards, women sit weaving cloth and craftsmen carefully chisel timber into furniture and statues.

Day 3 - Explore the ancient kingdom of Patan

Includes:

Also known as Lalitpur, meaning ‘City of Beauty’, Patan is the oldest of the valley’s three ancient kingdoms. It boasts the finest collection of temples in the whole of Nepal, and is a well-known hub for craftsmen and artisans. You'll spend the morning strolling through the narrow alleyways, marvelling at extraordinary architecture and ancient sites, including the richly decorated wing-roofed Royal Palace, which houses an excellent museum packed with bronzes, sculptures and old photos. Nearby, you'll find the 17th century Krishna Mandir, an Indian-style temple constructed entirely from carved stone, the Taleju Temple, and the Kwa Bahal, a monastery decorated in brass and bronze.

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Paro - 1 night

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, housing handicraft and souvenir shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The valley is most famous as the location for the Tiger’s Nest monastery - one of the world’s most venerated Buddhist sites, clinging to a clifftop over the valley, 3,000 metres above sea level. You’ll return to visit the monastery later in your trip, but for now Paro is just a place pause before heading onwards to Bumthang.

Day 4 - Fly to Paro, Bhutan

Includes:

Once you’ve arrived in Bhutan, your guide will transfer you to tonight’s hotel for a rest before your onward journey into central Bhutan.

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Bumthang - 3 nights

The region of Bumthang comprises of four wide, fertile valleys that are covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes, as well as apple orchards and dairy farms. Rather randomly, Bumthang is a well-known Swiss cheese producer! Besides its scenic beauty, the region is home to some of the kingdom’s oldest and most historically important goembas and lhakhang (monasteries and temples).

Day 5 - Fly to Bumthang, explore sacred sites…& Swiss cheese factory!

Includes:

Head to Paro Airport for your 20 minute flight to Bumthang, in Central Bhutan, on which you can enjoy excellent views of the Himalayas. Having met your guide and checked in to your hotel, spend the afternoon exploring some of Bumthang’s sacred sites, including the ancient temple of Jambay Lhakhang, and the 17th century Jakar Dzong. This was the seat of the first king of Bhutan, and features a secret passage to a nearby spring to let its inhabitants access water during times of siege. If time permits, visit Bumthang’s famous Swiss cheese factory, established by ex-pat Fritz Maurer and (unsurprisingly!) the only commercial cheese factory in Bhutan. It’s also possible to tour Bumthang Brewery, producer of Red Panda, the country’s best beer.

Day 6 - Palace & museum tour, Burning Lake

Includes:

Head into the picturesque Tang valley to visit Ogyen Choling Palace & Museum, a place of considerable religious significance since the 14th century. On the way, you'll pass through several villages where life has remained unchanged for generations, and stop at Rimochen Lhakhang, a sacred spot where - legend has it - Guru Rinpoche used to meditate. Trek the last leg of the journey to Ogyen Choling, where a number of rooms, including the traditional living quarters, have been carefully restored to give an authentic and fascinating insight into the lifestyle of Bhutanese religious nobility during previous centuries. Take your time strolling through the museum and its surrounding buildings - your driver will be waiting for you outside. Return to Bumthang, stopping at Mebar Tsho, ‘the Burning Lake’ - an important pilgrimage site significant for its role in the legend of the Bhutanese saint Pema Lingpa, who dived for hidden treasure below the surface and emerged several minutes later, clutching treasure with his burning lamp still lit.

Day 7 - Scenic mountain drive, meet local herders

Includes:

Spend the day exploring Ura, Bumthang’s highest valley and arguably the most picturesque and peaceful. Follow the Chamkhar Chhu river before climbing to Shertang La Pass, which sits at 3,600m. On a clear day, the pass offers views of Gangkhar Puensum, the highest unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas. Pause at Ura Monastery, where symbolic murals decorate the walls and the flagstone courtyard is frequently used for local gatherings. As you explore Ura with your guide acting as interpreter, you can interact with any locals you meet. Ura residents are largely herders of sheep and yak, and live a traditional lifestyle unchanged for generations. Education is sparse, and many locals are illiterate; however, since 2008, READ (an American NGO) has worked here to improve literacy. As a result, Ura now boasts a community library – one of the first lending libraries in the country - which you can visit, and potentially make a literary donation if you bring books from home.

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Phobjikha - 2 nights

The Phobjikha Valley is also referred to as Gangtey, after the monastery that overlooks the valley. Surrounded by forest-clad mountains, this vast flat glacial valley is peppered with clusters of farm houses and lhakhang (temples), and offers enjoyable trekking opportunities. It feels truly remote, and is virtually untouched by modernisation – in fact electricity only reached here a few years ago. The Phobjikha region is a designated conservation area, and in the winter months (between late October & the end of February) plays host to around 500 endangered black-necked cranes which migrate here to escape winter in the Tibetan Plateau.

Day 8 - Drive to Phobjikha Valley via Yotong La mountain pass

Includes:

Leaving Bumthang, you'll head off through a picturesque landscape dotted with villages and monasteries. The Bumthang region is known for its hand-spun colourful wool weaving, and if you wish you can stop to watch the weavers in action. Head up a winding road which climbs over the Yotong La Pass (3,425m above sea level), before zig-zagging down into Trongsa for lunch. Perched above a steep gorge, the town enjoys a strategic location smack in the centre of the country. You can’t miss its spectacularly sited Trongsa Dzong, with imposing whitewashed walls draped across the green hillside. Visit the dzong and its excellent museum before continuing your scenic journey. Traverse the Pele La Pass (3,330m), the traditional boundary between east and west Bhutan, looking out for yaks grazing at the roadside. If the weather is good keep your eyes open for views of the sacred peak, Jhomolhari. Eventually, you'll arrive in the Phobjikha Valley, where you'll check in to your hotel to relax with an evening at leisure.

Day 9 - Gangtey Nature Trail along prayer wall, Black-Necked Crane wetlands

Includes:

Follow the Gangtey Nature Trail through Phobjikha Valley, starting at the prayer wall near the Gangtey Goemba monastery, passing through pasture, pinewoods, a village and marshlands, before you arrive at the 15th century Khewang Lhakhang temple. En route you can stop at the Black Necked Crane information centre at the edge of the wetlands where the birds roost in winter, to learn about these endangered birds' habitat and behaviour, as well as their conservation. After your trek, drop in at Gangtey Goemba for a proper visit. ‘Gangtey’ means mountaintop, and this 16th century monastery enjoys uninterrupted valley views from its elevated location. It’s one of the largest monasteries in Bhutan, and consists of a central Tibetan-style temple, extensive monk’s quarters, and outlying meditation rooms.

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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 rice and fruit growing. It served as the capital of Bhutan for over 300 years and holds a significant place in Bhutanese history.

Day 10 - Drive to Punakha, rice fields walk to temple of Divine Madman

Includes:

Take the scenic drive from Phobjikha Valley to Punakha, where you'll begin by checking in to your hotel and relaxing over lunch. In the afternoon, you'll be taken for a short walk through the rice fields of Punakha valley to Chime Lhakhang, the temple of the Divine Madman. This was built in the 15th century as a dedication to the non-conformist saint, Lama Drukpa Kunley, whose rather unique approaches to enlightenment predominantly revolved around sex. Legend has it that he defeated a demoness here using his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’... and the temple is revered for its fertility powers. Having paid your respects, the rest of your day will be at leisure.

Day 11 - Explore religious fortresses

Includes:

Visit the impressive Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, commissioned by Bhutan’s Queen Mother to promote world peace and a fine example of traditional architecture, despite being built in the 1990s. You'll walk uphill to the chorten along a trail through fields of rice, chillies and beans. The panoramic valley views are well worth the effort, especially from the chorten roof. The intricate murals which adorn its walls and ceilings are equally impressive. Return to Punakha for lunch, before visiting Punakha Dzong, widely considered to be the most impressive and beautiful dzong in the country. Painted timber windows peek out from its towering white-washed fortress walls, and vibrant murals depicting the life of Buddha adorn its interior.

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Thimphu - 2 nights

Thimphu is quite unlike other Asian capital cities. Whilst it’s a bustling metropolis in comparison to the rest of Bhutan, with internet cafes and western restaurants, nightclubs and taxi ranks, it maintains a small-town traditional feel, and you’ll still observe many locals in national dress. Thimphu is in fact the only capital in the world without traffic lights!

Day 12 - Drive to Thimpu with views of Himalayas, city tour

Includes:

Head to Thimphu, the road climbing steeply through pine forest to Dochu La Pass, marked by streaming prayer flags, where you'll stop for tea and - conditions permitting - spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain range. Stretch your legs with a (clockwise, naturally) stroll around the chortens before continuing your journey, checking in to your Thimpu hotel in time for lunch. Spend the afternoon visiting highlights such as the National Memorial Chorten, a Tibetan-style stupa which is the main focus for much local daily worship - you’ll see an endless procession of Bhutanese circumambulating the chorten to gain merit. You'll also visit the Tashicho Dzong and, if it's a weekend, the bustling market. Head out into the hills to admire a 51 metre tall bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, whose base houses a large meditation hall and an additional 125,000 smaller bronze Buddha statues.

Day 13 - Trek to 15th century Buddhist college, arts & crafts institute

Includes:

Take a short drive out of Thimphu to visit the Tango Goemba. Built by Lama Drukpa Kunley, the ‘divine madman’, in the 15th century, it is now an acclaimed Buddhist studies college, and home to around 150 monks. It holds enormous religious significance, with historical connections to the Zhabdrung (great Tibetan lamas), and is understood to be the current residence of an important young tulku (reincarnated lama). The monastery is accessed by a one hour gradually inclining trail (or a steeper 30-minute hike if you prefer). En route, you can see miniature stupas placed by pilgrims to ward off evil, and Buddhist quotations, designed to inspire. Having returned to Thimphu in time for lunch, visit Thimphu’s Institute for Zorig Chusum to learn more about Bhutanese tradition and culture. The institute was established to preserve and promote painting, wood carving, tailoring, and statue making, and you can watch craft demonstrations by the students. You can also visit the National Textile Museum for an insight into the history of weaving, and to see a beautiful collection of royal ghos (traditional robes).

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Paro - 2 nights

Clinging to a cliff face over Paro at just over 3,000 metres above sea level, the iconic Tiger's Nest monastery is considered to be one of the most venerated and sacred Buddhist sites in the world. It’s certainly one of the most photogenic. Legend has it that in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche (founder of Buddhism in Bhutan), flew from the east of the kingdom on the back of a tigress and meditated here for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days. Sadly we are unable to provide a flying tigress, and the only way to access Taktsang these days is on foot. You'll follow the steep trail as it climbs through pine forest, catching the odd glimpse of the monastery through the trees, and passing rows of prayer flags strategically hung to catch the wind.

Day 14 - Drive to Paro, forest hike, traditional farmhouse meal

Includes:

Drive to Paro in time for lunch, before heading to the National Museum where you begin a picturesque hike through forested hillside, enjoying beautiful valley views. It’s a fairly easy trek, and en-route you’ll pass by the charming Gonsaka Lhakhang temple, before arriving at Zuri Dzong. Built in the 14th century, it is thought to be one of Bhutan’s oldest dzongs, and is dedicated to Paro valley’s protector gods. Meet your driver and return to Paro, where the rest of your afternoon will be at leisure until early evening when you'll visit a local farmhouse for a traditional Bhutanese meal. It’s a fascinating insight into local life, and your guide will act as translator so you can interact with the family.

Day 15 - Trek to Tiger’s Nest monastery

Includes:

We recommend a hearty breakfast in preparation for your day of trekking. After breakfast, you will be met by your guide and driven the starting point for your hike to Taktsang Monastery, a.k.a the Tiger’s Nest. After around one hour of ascent (depending on your fitness levels) you’ll reach the halfway point, which is marked by a small café, and offers clear views of Taktsang. Break for tea and a snack before you continue up the trail. When you reach the ridge opposite the monastery (where a photo stop is obligatory), you descend a steep flight of stone steps before climbing uphill again to the entrance of Taktsang. Once inside the monastery complex, there are small temples, meditation caves and ornate shrines to visit. The smell of incense fills the air, and you're likely to hear the sound of monastic chanting. It’s easy to while away an hour exploring, before heading back down to the halfway café for a well-deserved sit down and lunch. Your driver will be waiting at the base point to transfer you back to your hotel for a much-needed rest.

Day 16 - Depart Paro

Includes:

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
First Class £3,099US$4,060 £2,932US$3,841 £2,725US$3,570

Traditional Comfort

The 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...

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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...

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First Class hotels in Punakha

Dotted throughout the picturesque Punakha valley, these hotels offer simple accommodation gently set into the picturesque hillside… See more

First class hotels in Phobjikha

Scattered in remote locations throughout the Phobjikha Valley, a selection of traditional hotels provide simple accommodation. Often constructed from traditional wood and stone, these hotels can feel strongly connected to the landscape...

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First Class hotels in Bumthang

Sheltered by richly-forested hills in the historic Bumthang district are a selection of First Class hotels with a warm, homely ambiance See more
Superior £4,235US$5,547 £4,046US$5,300 £3,851US$5,044

Hotel Yak & Yeti

Overlooking 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 Heritage

Full 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 Druk

Located 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 Resort

A 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

First class hotels in Phobjikha

Scattered in remote locations throughout the Phobjikha Valley, a selection of traditional hotels provide simple accommodation. Often constructed from traditional wood and stone, these hotels can feel strongly connected to the landscape...

See more

First Class hotels in Bumthang

Sheltered by richly-forested hills in the historic Bumthang district are a selection of First Class hotels with a warm, homely ambiance See more
Deluxe £8,091US$10,599 £7,953US$10,419 £7,717US$10,109

Dwarika's Hotel

Housed 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 Paro

Situated 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 Tashi

In the heart of Thimphu, Taj Tashi casts a grand silhouette against the forested hills surrounding Bhutan’s bustling capital… See more

COMO Uma Punakha

Looking 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

Gangtey Lodge

Resting on an untamed hillside in Phobjikha Valley, within strolling distance of Gangtey Goemba, Gangtey Lodge blends traditional Bhutanese farm house accommodation with contemporary interior features... See more

Amankora Bumthang Lodge

The Amankora Bumthang Lodge, with intricately carved eaves and minimalist white walls, sits comfortably next to the historic Wangdicholing Palace in the temple-peppered hills of Bumthang... 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).

Itinerary additions

At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.
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 stuff

Please 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.

Inclusive:

  • 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.

Exclusive:

  • 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 note

All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.

Extras

Flights

We 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.

Visa

You 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.

Passport

Please 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.

Insurance

You 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 Prevention

You 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 Procedure

Only 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 Responsibly

We 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.

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

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.