bhutan monks dzongs temples

Monks, Haa Valley, Bhutan

Wonderful encounters with Bhutan’s flourishing Buddhist culture fill our journey from the Haa Valley to the Phobjikha Valley.

Photo by Hashmat Singh

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Festivals of Bhutan route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5395  
Length: 10 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights deluxe hotels, 5 nights welcoming lodges
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level: 7 hiking days on easy to moderate trails, 1-5 hours a day, altitudes between 7,000-10,500 feet


  • Experience a Buddhist festival on every departure
  • Exhilarating day hikes to traditional villages and mountain temples
  • Hike to the famous cliff hermitage of Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest”
  • Meet farmers, monks, and nuns

This was an amazing trip and there is no way that I could possibly think of anything to complain about. The scenery was stunning, the people were gracious and friendly, the culture and festivals were fascinating, and the hikes were glorious.Margot L.—Superior, CO

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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

In the secluded Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Buddhism permeates every aspect of daily life, hidden valleys shelter ancient fortress-monasteries, and the king decrees “Gross National Happiness” as the standard by which to measure the country’s wealth. On our journey through this magical Shangri La, you’ll hike to tiny villages and spectacular mountainside shrines, explore lively artisan markets, and meet red-robed monks in the chanting halls of majestic dzongs. Each departure features a Tsechu festival, with its wildly colorful masked dances, and our November trip attends the Wintering Crane Festival in the Phobjikha Valley. And no matter what time of year you go, you’ll get a chance to try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-4
Paro / Thimphu / Punakha Valley (Paro Festival Departure)

From Paro, set in an emerald-green valley at 7,500 feet, we head to Thimphu, where we visit the Arts and Crafts school and the sanctuary sheltering a herd of takin, a goat antelope endemic to the Himalaya. Crossing the Dochu La (10,200'), whose summit is festooned with fluttering prayer flags and more than 100 chortens (stupas), we reach the Punakha Valley, a tranquil region of farming hamlets and rice terraces. One of our walks brings you to the Nunnery Vocational School, where young nuns train and study Buddhist text and meditation, and we visit the stunning 17th century Punakha Dzong, an architectural wonder and seat of the head abbot of Bhutan.

Days 5-7
Haa Valley

Heading over the Cheli La (13,000'), we arrive at the mountain-ringed Haa Valley in westernmost Bhutan. Renowned for its deep cultural traditions, the Haa Valley is a beautiful pastoral realm of ancient farmsteads flanked by steep, forested mountains. Here we hike to exquisite 8th century temples nestled on wooded hillsides, share butter tea with the locals, and taste traditional Bhutanese dishes in a family farmhouse. Our overnights are in newly-built cottages at Rigsum Lodge. When it first opened its doors in 2004, Wilderness Travel had the honor of being their very first guests!

Days 8-10
Paro / Paro Festival

In the Paro Valley, our hike brings you through pine forests festooned with Spanish moss to breathtaking Taktsang Monastery, the “Tiger’s Nest.” Later, try for a karay (bulls-eye) during your lesson in archery (we can arrange a friendly competition to test your newfound skills!). At the Paro Festival, we witness an exuberant multi-day event that is both a community gathering and a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony during which locals watch elaborate masked dance-dramas and receive blessings. On one morning, we witness the unrolling of a giant thongdrol (sacred tapestry). Depart on Day 10.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 2+, according to our trip rating system. The hikes are moderate and suitable for people in good shape who enjoy mountain hiking. The longest hike is about 3-4 hours, and for the most part you can set your own pace. Although you carry only a daypack, there are some steep ascents and descents, and the hikes are at moderate altitude, which can make them feel strenuous.
Getting in Shape
For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the journey by hiking, running, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise well beyond your normal routine. Walking up and down flights of stairs is also an effective way to train for the steep ascents and descents in the Himalaya. Weekend hikes that involve long sections of uphill and downhill walking are great for conditioning your legs.

Accommodation and Food
Our accommodations in Bhutan range from rustic to very comfortable. The Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro and the Le Meridien in Thimphu offer a great deal of comfort, while the lodges in Punakha, the Haa Valley, and the Phobjikha Valley are rustic, but well situated and cozy. Most rooms are twin-bedded. At most guesthouses, simple buffets are provided at lunch and dinner. Bhutan’s cuisine is generally based on basic rice with stir-fry and stew options.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Feb 13-22, 2016  Punakha & Serda Festival

Mar 16-25, 2016  Paro Festival
Sep 8-17, 2016  Haa & Thimphu Festival
Nov 6-15, 2016  Wintering Cranes Festival
Dec 11-20, 2016  Dochula Festival

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2016
$5395 (4-15 members)
Single supplement: $1565
Forced single supplement: $1365
Internal airfare: $980 (subject to change)
Bhutan Visa Fee (WT acquires visa for you): $40
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Temples of Angkor Extension
   from: $755
Laos: Luang Prabang Extension
   from: $840
Burma Extension
   from: $2595
Bangkok Extension
   from: $645
Phuket Extension
   from: $795
Chiang Mai Extension
   from: $470
Tharu Lodge Extension
   from: $690
Karnali Lodge Extension
   from: $1460

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $600
90 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Up to 91 days prior to departure: No charge!
61-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
46-60 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • All accommodations; please note that rooms with double beds are usually not available in Bhutan. Most lodge rooms are twin-bedded.
  • All meals included
  • All government taxes and fees
  • All land transportation, airport transfers for passengers as noted in the Full Trip Brochure

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, hotels in Bangkok, airport transfers for individual arrival or departure, airport departure taxes, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

2016 Departures

Paro, Bhutan
Required arrival date and time: at least one day prior to Day 1 of trip

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
Your trip begins in Paro, Bhutan, but you must arrive in Bangkok at least one day prior to Day 1 of the trip (overnights in Bangkok are on your own). On Day 1 of the trip, all trip members will fly from Bangkok, Thailand, to Paro, Bhutan.
Paro, Bhutan
Date: Day 10
Suggested departure time: after 8:30pm

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
On Day 10 (the last day of your trip), you will be transferred to the Paro airport for the group flight from Paro to Bangkok; this flight typically arrives in Bangkok between 1:00 pm and 5:30 pm. It is best to reserve your departure flight out of Bangkok either late at night on Day 10 or the next day. We recommend you spend this night in Bangkok, as there will be less risk in missing an international flight connection if your Bhutan flight is delayed.

Le Meridien Hotel

Le Meridien Hotel

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Thimphu, Bhutan

Opened in 2014, Le Meridien’s brilliant white building capped with a vibrant red roof and orange-trimmed windows reveals a modern twist on ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Yulo Guest House

Yulo Guest House

Days 3 to 4 (2 nights), Phobjikha, Bhutan

This small, rustic country lodge with its classic Bhutanese architecture is set in a wonderfully remote location in one of Bhutan’s most ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Hotels in the Punakha Valley

Days 5 to 6 (2 nights), Punakha Valley, Bhutan

In Punakha we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Hotels in Paro

Days 7 to 9 (3 nights), Paro, Bhutan

In Paro we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Khandu Dorji

Departure Dates: March 16-25, 2016

Khandu Dorji has been guiding since 1983 and joined the WT Leader Team in 1998. Over the course of his exciting career, Khandu has trekked nearly every route in Bhutan. Formally educated in Thimphu, he also participated in a three-month intensive mountaineering course conducted by the Himalayan ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Kipchu Dorji

Departure Dates: February 13-22, 2016, September 8-17, 2016, November 6-15, 2016

Kipchu Dorji, whose name translates to “Calm Water Thunderbolt,” was born in the village of Katsho in Bhutan's little-visited Haa Valley. Kipchu attended Dr. Graham’s School in Kalimpong, India, and completed his professional training back in Bhutan, with studies in Buddhist ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Kinley Gyeltshen

Departure Dates: December 11-20, 2016

Kinley Gyeltshen hails from Gaselo village in Bhutan’s green and rugged southwest, where traditional farming is still the center of daily life. When Bhutan first opened its doors to the outside world, Kinley was among the early guides selected and formally trained by the government of Bhutan ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2


angkor wat cambodia temples

Temples of Angkor Extension

Exploring the Glories of a Bygone Khmer Civilization

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 2


Laos: Luang Prabang Extension

Gilded Temples and Traditional Buddhist Culture of Laos

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 2


Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2


Karnali Lodge Extension

Exploring Bardia National Park

Photography, Safaris, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
4 days  -  Level 1

Tharu Lodge Extension

Cultural Encounters, Jungle Walks, Elephant Rides

Cultural Adventures, Photography, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 1


wat arun bangkok thailand

Bangkok Extension

Discover the Beautiful Cultural Monuments of Bangkok

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 1

Chiang Mai Extension

Explore the Wonders of Northern Thailand

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 2

Phuket Extension

Explore a Jewel Set in the Andaman Sea

Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking
4 days  -  Level 2

Client Comments

This was an amazing trip and there is no way that I could possibly think of anything to complain about. The scenery was stunning, the people were gracious and friendly, the culture and festivals were fascinating, and the hikes were glorious. Margot L., Superior, CO Accommodations were excellent, keeping in mind that in more rural places the options were limited. Also, trip felt like it had the right balance of hiking and cultural experience. Have travelled with Wilderness many times before, and this was another excellent experience. Richard B., Philadelphia, PA We had many wonderful experiences...visiting a local school, observing a ceremony in monastery, coming upon an archery group practicing their skills, and, of course, the hike to Tiger's Nest. Marilyn G., Wyckoff, NJ A dramatic journey to another world with a magical, spiritual, and most authentic vibe. Lynn L., Reddington Beach, FL Wonderful trip—I enjoyed it immensely! I completely lost track of the days (a sign of a good trip!) and found I was completely engaged in the experience and moment. I had wanted to go to Bhutan for a long time and the trip surpassed my expectations. Cathy H., Delaware, OH We’re such fans—what can I say! Susan C., Florence, MA
Bhutan was everything I hoped for and more, and this trip showcased its natural beauty and culture very well. Pamela G., Omaha, NE It was a memorable trip and one we will remember forever. Alan L., Bellevue, WA The trip of a lifetime...of many. It will be hard to top. Jennifer S., Lafayette, CO This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done. The culture, the landscape, and the people were all amazing. Elizabeth K., Portland, ME It was an extraordinary experience and the most exotic place I’d ever been. I was actually hiking in the Himalayas in a beautiful Buddhist country! Sharon L., Bellevue, WA This trip was magical. It was so rich in spirituality, beauty, and friendliness. And amazing to visit a place still so untouched and pure in the native customs, costumes, and beliefs. Eliza S., Los Altos, CA Wow! A life-changing trip that I will never forget. Joe H., Eastsound, WA