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 the sacred heritage sites of Kathmandu
  • Discover the ancient kingdom of Patan
  • Fly over the Himalayas into Bhutan
  • Relax into the traditional culture in gentle Thimphu
  • Pay your respects at the Temple of the Divine Madman
  • Witness thriving ancient lifestyles & craftsmanship
  • Traverse mountain passes with extraordinary views
  • Admire Bhutan's extraordinary religious fortresses
  • Spin prayer wheels at the photogenic Punakha Dzong
  • Tuck into a home-cooked meal with a farming family
  • Chat with local shepherds in a remote valley
  • Trek to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s most revered Buddhist site
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. 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.

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 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 Kathmandu’s UNESCO sites

Includes:

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.

Day 3 - Discover the ancient kingdom of Patan

Includes:

Also known as Lalitpur — ‘City of Beauty’ — Patan is the oldest of Kathmandu 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. Spend the morning strolling through its 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, handicraft shops, restaurants and coffee shops.

Day 4 - Fly over Himalayas to Paro in Bhutan

Includes:

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.

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Bumthang - 3 nights

The region of Bumthang encompasses four wide fertile valleys, each covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes, apple orchards and dairy farms -- rather randomly, the area is well-known for its Swiss cheese! Besides its scenic beauty, Bumthang boasts some of Bhutan’s oldest and most historically important goembas and lhakhang (monasteries and temples).

Day 5 - Short flight to Bumthang, visit sacred sites… & a Swiss cheese factory!

Includes:

Hop on a quick flight to Bumthang, enjoying excellent views of the Himalayas. Meet your expert local guide to explore some of Bumthang’s sacred sites, including the ancient temple of Jambay Lhakhang, and the 17th century Jakar Dzong. Once home to the first king of Bhutan, the dzong has a secret passage to a nearby spring, allowing access to water during times of siege. You may also like to visit Bumthang’s famous Swiss cheese factory, established by ex-pat Fritz Maurer and (perhaps unsurprisingly!) the only commercial cheese factory in Bhutan — or tour Bumthang Brewery, producer of the country’s best beer.

Day 6 - Explore a historic palace, & pause at important pilgrimage sites

Includes:

Head into the picturesque Tang valley, passing through several villages where life has remained unchanged for generations, and pausing 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 Palace, a place of considerable significance since the 14th century. A number of rooms have been carefully restored to give an authentic and fascinating insight into the lifestyle of Bhutan's religious nobility during previous centuries. Having strolled through the palace and explored its museum, you'll be driven back to Bumthang via Mebar Tsho, ‘the Burning Lake’, an important pilgrimage site.

Day 7 - Scenic mountain drive, meeting local shepherds for a chat

Includes:

Spend the day exploring Ura, Bumthang’s highest valley and arguably its 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. With your guide as interpreter, you will hopefully get the chance to chat with the locals, who are typically sheep herders living a traditional lifestyle.

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Phobjikha - 2 nights

Also referred to as Gangtey, after the monastery that overlooks the valley, Phobjikha Valley is a vast glacial plain surrounded by forest-clad mountains, and peppered with farming hamlets and lhakhang (temples). It feels truly remote, and is virtually untouched by modernisation –- electricity only arrived a few years ago — and offers plenty of enjoyable trekking! The region is a designated conservation area, and between late October & the end of February it is renowned for the arrival of endangered Black Necked Cranes, which migrate here to avoid winter in the Tibetan Plateau.

Day 8 - Mountain drive via Yotong La Pass to Phobjikha Valley

Includes:

Leave Bumthang through a picturesque landscape dotted with villages and monasteries, perhaps stopping to watch the local weavers at work on the colourful hand-spun textiles for which the region is famous. Wind your way over the Yotong La Pass (3,425m above sea level), before zig-zagging down into Trongsa for lunch and a stop at the town's spectacular dzong and its excellent museum. Traverse the Pele La Pass (3,330m) — the traditional boundary between east and west Bhutan — keeping an eye out for yaks grazing at the roadside. If the weather is good, you may also get views of Jhomolhari, the sacred peak, before finally arriving at your hotel in Phobjikha Valley.

Day 9 - Nature trail along prayer wall to 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 to the 15th century Khewang Lhakhang temple. En route you can stop at the Black Necked Crane information centre, which sits beside the wetlands where these endangered birds spend winter. After your trek, return to Gangtey Goemba for a proper visit. This 16th century monastery is one of the largest in Bhutan, and enjoys uninterrupted valley views from its elevated location.

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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. During your stay, you’ll visit some of Bhutan’s most impressive religious fortresses, and pay your respects at the Temple of the Divine Madman.

Day 10 - Scenic drive to Punakha, rice-field walk to Temple of the Divine Madman

Includes:

Relax on the picturesque drive from Phobjikha to Punakha Valley, and enjoy lunch before 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, your afternoon will be at leisure to do as you please.

Day 11 - Explore religious fortresses

Includes:

Visit the impressive Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, commissioned by Bhutan’s Queen Mother to promote world peace. It's a fine example of traditional architecture, despite being built in the 1990s. It's reached by a walk uphill through fields of rice, chillies and beans, and its panoramic valley views are well worth the effort! The intricate murals adorning 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. 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 12 - Drive over Dochu La Pass to Thimphu, tour Buddhist sites & traditional culture

Includes:

Set off for the drive to Thimphu through the pine forests and fluttering prayer flags, via the Dochu La Pass, where you'll stop for tea with (on a clear day) spectacular views of the Himalayas. Once you've arrived, your guide will help you explore the local sights, 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. Finally, 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.

Day 13 - Hour's scenic trek to historic Buddhist college, arts & crafts demonstrations

Includes:

Spend the morning at the Tango Goemba, built by Lama Drukpa Kunley — aka ‘The Divine Madman’ — in the 15th century. It is now an acclaimed Buddhist studies college, home to around 150 monks. It holds huge religious significance, with historical connections to the great Tibetan lamas, and is understood to be home to an important young tulku (reincarnated lama). You'll reach the monastery along a one hour gradually inclining trail, lined with miniature stupas placed by pilgrims to ward off evil. After lunch back in Thimphu, spend some time 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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Paro - 2 nights

Clinging to a cliff face over Paro at just over 3,000 metres above sea level, the eye-catching ‘Tiger’s Nest’ 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 up the steep pilgrim trail. Your stay in Paro will also include a gentle hike through the hills to visit one of Bhutan’s oldest dzongs.

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

Includes:

You'll be driven to Paro in time for lunch, before visiting the National Museum, where you'll begin a picturesque hike through forested hillside with 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's 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 for an afternoon at leisure. In the early evening, 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:

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. 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 16 - Depart Paro

Includes:

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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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.