The Bhutan Himalayan Challenge is an exciting and diverse adventure that immerses you in the breathtaking landscapes and majestic mountains of Bhutan. This action-packed itinerary is designed for adventure enthusiasts, combining thrilling activities such as trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and cultural exploration. Get ready for an unforgettable journey that will leave you with lifelong memories of this remarkable destination.
Please note that this itinerary is a sample outline and can be customized according to your preferences, fitness levels, and time constraints. The actual activities, durations, and routes may vary, and adjustments can be made to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants.
Outline of the itinerary
Day 01: Arriaval in Bhutan & transfer to Thimphu
Day 02: Thimphu
Day 03: Thimphu to Punakha
Day 04: Explore Punakha
Day 05: Punakha to Thimphu
Day 06: Thimphu to Haa
Day 07: Haa to Paro
Day 08: Bumdra Trek
Day 09: Bumdra to Paro
Day 10: Departure
Upon your arrival at Paro Airport in Bhutan, you’ll be captivated by the pristine mountain air, lush forested ridges, magnificent monasteries, and the warm presence of the Bhutanese people in their striking national attire. After customs and visa formalities, our guide will greet you and drive you to Thimphu, the capital city known for its unique charm as the world’s only capital without traffic lights.
Start your exploration with a visit to Sangaygang, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Thimphu city. Hike to Wangditse Monastery along a gentle trail, enjoying stunning vistas of Trashi Chhoe Dzong and the upper valley. Descend to Dechenphu Monastic School, an ancient monastery with significant religious artifacts.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Centenary Farmers Market, Bhutan’s largest domestic market, where local farmers showcase fresh produce and handicrafts. Indulge in delicious local delicacies and browse colorful stalls. Adjacent to the market, explore Kaja Thorm, a beautifully arranged farmers market with enticing food options.
In the evening, take a leisurely stroll along Thimphu’s main street, visit handicraft shops, or relax at a local café or bar. Use this time to acclimate to the high altitude and join an orientation session with your guide to discuss the exciting adventures ahead.
Embark on an exciting adventure with a mountain biking excursion around Thimphu. Discover scenic trails, pedal through charming villages, and soak in the breathtaking landscapes of Bhutan. The biking route will be customized to match your skill level, ensuring a delightful experience for all participants.
This beautiful and relatively easy loop ride takes you north from Thimphu. Arrive at Dodena, where you can safely park your bikes and begin a hike to the Chari Monastery nestled high among the mountains. Established by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620, the monastery holds historical significance as the site where the first Drukpa monastic was established in 1623. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself spent three years in retreat at this monastery. The area is ideal for hiking and spiritual retreats. Enjoy a delicious hot lunch near the riverside, immersing yourself in the tranquil surroundings. The return journey is a gradual downhill ride back to Thimphu, allowing you to relax and enjoy the scenic descent. In the evening, take the opportunity to explore the town renowned for its handicraft shops, where you can find exquisite Bhutanese craftsmanship on display.
For an optimal experience, it is recommended to start early on a clear and sunny day to capture the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks at Dochula Mountain Pass. Situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), this scenic spot offers panoramic valley views with clouds hovering over the mountains. The pass is adorned with 108 hillside chortens (Buddhist shrines) and colorful prayer flags, creating a serene and spiritually significant atmosphere.
After enjoying breakfast at Dochula Cafeteria, begin your hike to Lungchoetse. This 18th-century temple is ideally located for a day hike, offering a blend of solitude, tranquility, and magnificent natural beauty. Even for those who prefer shorter walks but still yearn for peace of mind, this is an ideal destination. On a clear and sunny day, the panoramic view from Lungchoetse encompasses the entire Bhutan Himalaya, with snow-capped peaks stretching into the distance. The sunset at Lungchoetse, with its vibrant colors illuminating the sky, is a truly awe-inspiring spectacle. As you trek through the ancient forest, you may encounter rare bird species, wild mushrooms, and ultimately reach the Lhakhang (the highest point on the trail is approximately 3,569 meters above sea level), offering a panoramic view of the majestic Himalayas.
Continuing your adventure, descend into the Punakha Valley. Due to its lower altitude of 4,265 feet (1,300 meters), Punakha enjoys a relatively warmer climate, making it a popular winter destination for happiness and rejuvenation among the Bhutanese people.
Approximate walking time: 5 hours (Medium level)
Start your day by weaving through rice terraces and pine forests to reach Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a charming temple situated on a picturesque mountain ridge overlooking the Punakha Valley. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views, with terraced rice paddies providing a captivating backdrop to the flowing river. After visiting the temple, descend through rice fields and small villages, following a well-worn path that leads you through the scenic valley.
Next, visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, also known as the Palace of Great Happiness. This historic fortress holds great significance in Bhutanese history, having served as the country’s capital and the site of the first national assembly. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan, showcasing remarkable Bhutanese architecture and grandeur.
Continue your exploration with a visit to the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. Spanning the Po Chu River, this bridge connects to a nearby village and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Take your time to soak in the scenic beauty and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.
After a delicious lunch, head to Wangthangkha for an exciting rafting adventure on the Upper Phochu River. Enjoy a scenic drive through the picturesque Punakha Valley before reaching Wangthangkha. There, you will receive a safety briefing from an experienced river guide and be provided with the necessary rafting gear.
Embark on your thrilling rafting expedition, navigating through Class III to IV rapids. Experience the rush of adrenaline as you conquer the challenging whitewater sections of the river. Marvel at the natural beauty surrounding you, including deep gorges, lush forests, and captivating landscapes. Continue downstream, encountering more exciting rapids and savoring the exhilaration of the river.
Conclude your rafting journey at the River Confluence or Khuruthang Town, where you bid farewell to your river guide. From there, you will be transferred back to your accommodation in the Punakha Valley.
After breakfast, drive from Punakha to Paro, making a stop in Wangdue to explore Bajo Town. Visit the Lhawang Dehen handmade Incense factory to witness traditional craftsmanship in incense production.
Continue to Rinchengang village, known as the “grateful village.” It was settled by masonry experts who built the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Marvel at the skillful masonry and enjoy a view of the dzong.
Resume your drive to Thimphu and visit the National Post Office on Chang Lam, known for its high-quality stamps. Create your own personalized stamp featuring your photo to send to friends and family.
Rest and prepare for tomorrow’s longer ride.
Embark on an unforgettable cycling journey through the breathtaking Haa Valley. As you pedal, you’ll be surrounded by vibrant green fields of rice and potatoes, traditional Bhutanese farmhouses, and charming villages and towns, each with its own dramatic dzong (fortified religious building) set against the majestic backdrop of the Himalayas.
Start your day early by driving back to Paro and taking the side road towards Haa district where the rivers from Paro and Thimphu meet. Along the way, pass the scenic Dobji Dzong, a monastery perched on the edge of a cliff that was once a high-profile prison. From Dawakha village, begin your day’s ride for a challenging ascent. Alternatively, if you prefer an easier ride, drive about 20 km further to a pass to avoid most of the day’s uphill climb.
Upon reaching Haa Valley, visit Lhakhang Karpo, also known as the “White Temple,” dedicated to a local deity. Spend the night at a local farmhouse to experience the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality and stay in a traditional house. In the evening, indulge in a herbal hot-stone bath at the farmhouse. This therapeutic experience is known for soothing joint and muscle aches, as well as relaxing the mind and body. Pair it with Ara, the local distilled wine, for a truly rejuvenating experience.
After breakfast, embark on a scenic drive to Chelela Pass. As you ascend, you’ll pass through blue pine forests and encounter spruce and hemlock trees. At the pass, which stands at an altitude of 3,880 meters, you’ll be greeted by dwarf rhododendron and juniper trees. Weather permitting, the panoramic views from Chelela Pass may include the majestic peaks of Kanchenjunga (8,586m) and Jomolhari (7,326m) to the north. The descent from the pass is a winding journey through the forest, so caution is advised. Enjoy the picturesque landscapes as you make your way towards Paro valley, with the vast paddy fields of Bondey village welcoming you. Take the upper road for stunning views of the Paro airport, and if you’re fortunate, you might even catch a glimpse of a plane landing! Upon reaching your hotel in Paro, you can take some rest or explore the bustling town, which is filled with charming cafes, shops, and bars
Embark on the sacred Bumdrak Trek, visiting the revered Bumdra and Taksang Monastery. This trek combines spirituality and the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayan Mountains. Starting at Sang Choekor Buddhist College, a 1-2 hour steep ascent leads to a clearing with prayer flags and panoramic views of the Paro valleys. Continuing for another 1-2 hours, we reach Chhoe Chhoe Tse Lhakhang, a temple nestled by the mountain. The final climb reveals a temple overlooking Paro airport and the snow-capped Himalayas. After a forest hike and passing sacred chortens, we stay overnight at Bumdra Monastery, known as the “cave of a thousand prayers.” After lunch, explore the monastery with its legendary tale of angelic footprints. Bumdra sits at an elevation of approximately 3800 meters.
After breakfast, explore the Bumdra area, taking in its natural beauty and serene surroundings. As you descend from Bumdra, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the famous Taktshang Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest. Marvel at the architectural masterpiece of the monastery, precariously perched on a cliffside. Pay a visit to this sacred site, revered as one of Bhutan’s holiest places. As you continue your descent, make a stop at Zangto Pelri lhakhang, where you can catch glimpses of Tiger’s Nest monastery from a different perspective. Take in the tranquil atmosphere and absorb the spiritual energy of the surroundings. Finally, descend to Ramthangkha, where you’ll meet your driver and continue your journey to your hotel in Paro.
As you enjoy your final breakfast in Bhutan, take a moment to cherish the incredible experiences and remarkable memories you have created during your stay. As you make your way to the airport, reflect on the genuine warmth and hospitality of the Bhutanese people, leaving a lasting impression on your heart. Although it is time to bid farewell to this captivating land of endless enchantments, know that the people of Bhutan eagerly await your return. Tashi Delek!