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For many decades, Bhutan was frozen in time, an isolated kingdom up in the cold Himalayas. But that was then. Today, Bhutan is enthusiastically, but carefully, welcoming the world, and it remains a land of great wonder, vibrant cultures, and a proud past. The country has numerous highland hamlets like Lobesa and Ura that seem to be frozen in time and are steeped in Buddhist traditions. Similarly, its mountainous landscapes, especially in places like Punakha and the Haa Valley, are still largely untouched. Monasteries, such as Tiger’s Nest and the 17th-century Chagri, and dzongs like Tashichho, which was built in 1216, add a stark, surreal beauty to the stunning vistas. Bhutan might be the ‘last Last Shangri-La’ but it is ready to share its secrets with you.
- Nikita Rodrigues
- From India
How many days to spend in Bhutan? This is a common query among first-time travelers heading for this enigmatic country. If you are planning a Bhutan itinerary, we suggest spending a minimum of five to seven days to visit the major monasteries, dzongs, and temples as well as to explore Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro.
If you have anywhere between ten to 14 days to spare, you can add remote and spectacular valleys such as Phobjikha to your Bhutan itinerary. With enough time at your disposal, you might also want to drive through the Chele La Pass, the country’s highest motorable road, and go deeper into Bhutan’s beautiful countryside.
It is surprising how much of this beautiful country can be covered in five days or less if you choose the right Bhutan itinerary. For short trips, focus on the main sights. A Bhutan itinerary will probably be incomplete without Tiger’s Nest monastery. Constructed in 1692, this sacred Buddhist site in Paro consists of four temples, residential quarters for monks, and a functioning monastery. You can combine a day trip here with visits to other historic sites in Paro and even get a brief overview of Thimphu in around four to five days.
Alternatively, devote more time to Thimphu and its surrounding areas during your five-day stay in the country. See the resplendent thousand-armed Avalokitesvara in the 12th century Changangkha Monastery before heading for Punakha Dzong. Discover one of Bhutan’s most idyllic fortifications located at the confluence of two rivers. To get there, you will have to cross the 3,116-meter Dochu La Pass.
For more ideas and tour options, check out our 5-day itineraries in Bhutan.
A one-week Bhutan itinerary gives you interesting options to push the envelope and discover some hidden gems of this amazing land. Explore every nook and cranny of Thimphu. Visit the National Memorial Chorten, which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and browse through the collection of the capital city’s folk heritage and textile museums as you immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture and tradition.
Up next on your itinerary should be Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. From there you can drive to the country’s central valleys. A stunning, seven-hour trip on road is all that it takes to reach Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutanese Buddhism.
You can also include the beautiful valley of Phobjikha as well as a quick tour of Paro in a seven-day itinerary. Else, skip Punakha and spend two days trekking to the medieval dzongs in and around Paro.
Check out our 7-day Bhutan itineraries for more tour options that are booking-ready.
Add spectacular driving trips, breathtaking Himalayan landscapes, and a wee bit of trekking to your ten-day Bhutan itinerary. The Druk Path trek, considered by many to be the epitome of trekking in this country, connects Paro and Thimphu. It takes you through dense rhododendron and pine forests, past ruined fortresses, serene lakes, and idyllic yak pastures. An unforgettable experience for many, this trek is a great option for those planning to spend ten days in Bhutan.
Alternatively, you can also spend your time soaking up all the superb sights of Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha without feeling rushed during a ten-day stay in the country. You also have the option to combine the best of both worlds if you want to. Spend a couple of days trekking through Bhutan’s mountainous terrain and tiny villages. Done with your hike, you can then spend the remainder of your time exploring Paro and Thimphu.
Check out these 10-day Bhutan itineraries for more tour options that are booking-ready.
Two weeks in Bhutan is a sufficient duration to experience the length and breadth of this magical country and tick off most of its cultural and religious sites. Build on top of the ten-day options above as you delve into the country’s extraordinary spiritual heritage.
Located to the east of Thimphu, the Phobjikha Valley is a dream come true for history enthusiasts and budding ornithologists alike. This place holds a lot of significance among the adherents of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism as it is home to Gangteng Monastery, while its marshlands provide refuge to more than a dozen endangered avian species, including the graceful black-necked cranes that fly down from the Tibetan Plateau during winter.
If you still find yourself with some time to spare, head out to see Bhutan’s oldest nunnery, Kila Gompa, and learn more about the country’s traditional arts and crafts at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Other destinations worth your attention are Royal Botanical Park in Lampelri—on the outskirts of Thimphu—and Ogyencholing Museum.