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Highlights of Western and Central Bhutan with Tsechu Festivals

12 days 11 nights

Code BFT54

Category Bhutan Classic Tours

  • Group Size 3-10
  • Difficulty Level 3
  • Rating Popular
  • Highest Altitude Youtongla pass (3425m/11234 ft)
  • Trip Starts From Paro
  • Trip Ends At Paro
  • Accommodation Hotels
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Thimphu Phobjikha Jakar (Bumthang) Trongsa Punakha Paro Takstang
Dates & Prices


In this journey of a lifetime, we take you to the land of fresh air, rich religious and cultural traditions, stupendous mountains, and pristine nature. It is also a land of people who by official proclamation that is unique in the world, measure their lives not by GNP (Gross National Product), but by GNH (Gross National Happiness)! Bhutan, a country of the size of Switzerland, tucked between Tibet and India, is truly a jewel of the Himalayas – perhaps, some would say, Shangri-La.

This trip covers the main highlights of western and central Bhutan, with a focus on the annual Tsechu festivals at temples and monasteries. We’ll join these Bhutanese festivals that celebrate the great accomplishments of the Buddhist Saint Guru Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche. The festivals also celebrate Bhutan’s energy and bright culture – masked, barefoot dancers leap, whirl, brandish knives, and beat tambourines to subdue evil spirits and to celebrate the teachings of Buddha. Clowns prance, crack vulgar jokes, clang the brass cymbals and ring the bells. Bald monks in maroon robes chant and trumpet the horns, while pink-cheeked children frolic about. Everyone shows off their best national costumes and jewelry.

For the Bhutanese, participation in the festivals is an important social event that is also chance to immerse themselves in the essence of their religion and culture. For us, the festivals are a chance to be part of grand, colorful events in a beautiful Himalayan setting.

Warning: This trip features some day hiking. Some hikes are five or six hours long in the hilly terrain.

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the fortresses, monasteries and temples of Bhutan.
  • Hike to the Takstang Monastery, Tango Monastery, Khamsum Yuelley Temple, and the Chimi Lakhang Temple.
  • Attend the colorful weekend market.
  • Explore the lesser visited villages of Rinchengang and Ura.
  • Visit a typical farmhouse to learn the lifestyle of the local farmers.
  • Share a meal with a Bhutanese family.
  • Sip tea with the monks, learn the monastic life, and perhaps learn some Bhutanese phrases.
  • Meet the textile weavers, time-honored thangka painters, and the traditional paper makers.
  • Enjoy the customary hot stone bath to heal common ailments.
  • Join the colorful tsechu festivals.

Trip Cost

US$ 2790 per person on double occupancy (Minimum group size 3 persons).

US$ 350 Private room supplement.

US$ 800 Estimated in-tour airfare (Bangkok/Paro/Bangkok).

Note: If the group size falls below 3 persons, following supplement will be added to the invoice:
US$ 330 per person for group size 2 and $ 550 for solo travel

Trip dates in 2018-19:

  • 09 Mar, 2019~Trip times with Paro Tsechu.
  • 13 Apr, 2019~Trip times with Ura Yakchoe Festival.
  • 06 Jul, 2019~Nimalug Tsechu, Bumthang.
  • 19 Aug, 2019~Trip times with Masutaki Mushroom Festival, Ura Valley.
  • 07 Oct, 2019~Trip times with Thimphu Tsechu Festival.
  • 10 Nov, 2019~Trip Times with Jambaylakhang Drup.
  • 8 Dec, 2019~Trip times with Ngalakhar Tsechu.

Note: Festival calendar is subject to change or local authorities may cancel the festival with or without any prior notice.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Paro, Bhutan

Flights to Paro (altitude 7,380 feet, or 2,250 meters) arrive from Kathmandu or Bangkok or Delhi. Please allow at least one night in those cities before and after your trip to ensure a safe connection with flights to and from Bhutan. Please arrange your own international airfare to the gateway city; Far & High will book the onward flight. Your Bhutan visa is part of the tour cost. We will email it to you in advance, as you’ll need it at check-in for your flight to Bhutan and again upon arrival at the Paro airport, where your passport will get its final visa seal. After completing immigration and custom formalities, your guide and driver will meet you outside the terminal and transfer you to a restaurant in the town for lunch.

After lunch, your guide will lead explorations of Paro. We begin from the National Museum housed at Ta Dzong, which served as a watch tower for the Rinpung Dzong (a dzong is a fortress and a religious and social center). The museum has a wonderful collection of books, murals, Bhutanese textiles, crafts, weapons, olden utensils, stuffed animals, and a rich philatelic collection. From here, we descend to Rinpung Dzong, which is the district headquarters and also the seat of the district's monastic body.

Now, we proceed on an hour long scenic drive to Thimphu with a stop for a short walk at the 13th century temple of Tamchog Lakhang. The temple was built by the famous Tibetan iron-bridge builder Thangthong Gyalpo – architect, physician, teacher, and a saint! The temple is owned and maintained by his descendants.

In Thimphu, we’ll have time to settle in and enjoy lunch before a walking tour of the tiny city. Thimphu is probably the only capital in the world without any traffic lights! We will take a leisurely stroll and visit the memorial chorten (shrine) of the 3rd King of Bhutan Jigme Dorje Wangchuk, and whatever else time and our interest allow.

Overnight: Khang Residency
Meals : Lunch, Dinner
Day 02~Thimphu: Sightseeing and hiking

After breakfast, we are off for sightseeing and hiking. We have a lot to see today! Depending on your interest, pace and available time, we may or may not see all the sights listed below. We first visit the week-end market of Thimphu, if we are here during the week-end. Farmers from the neighboring villages come to sell their fresh produce. We will also visit the archery field to see the national sports of Bhutan.

Next, we can visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum that offers a six-year course on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts, including painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Then we can head to the Folk Heritage Museum, a three-story mud and timber building that replicates a century-old traditional farmhouse that gives us a glimpse of not only the lives of ancient Bhutanese people, but also many rural people even today.

Next, we can visit the Takin Sanctuary. Takins – a kind of sheep by way of antelope — are the National animals of Bhutan and believed to exist only in Bhutan Himalaya. On the way back, stop at the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, home to 40-60 Buddhist nuns.

We can visit the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center, which produces traditional hand-woven textiles and has a selection of cloth and ready-made garments for sale. Here, you can see the local women working their looms. 

Next, visit the Changangkha Temple, one of the oldest in Thimphu, built in the 12th Century. The temple houses Chenrizig (Avolokitesawara), an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation as the central statue. 

In the afternoon, we can visit the World’s Largest Buddha Image — Buddha Dordenma, situated atop a hill overlooking the Thimphu Valley. This is the latest addition to Thimphu's attractions. The image is 169 feet tall. The massive three-story base houses a large chapel, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. 

An option: hiking enthusiasts keen to experience monastic lives away from the crowds of town can take a half-day hike to Tango Goemba monastery. You’ll miss some sights listed above; and if you are part of group, the choice will be made by majority vote. Tango Goema Monastery is Bhutan's highest learning center for Buddhist studies. All Je Khenpo, the religious head of Bhutan, must complete a nine-year program here, including a three-year, three-month, three-day course in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba Monastery! With luck, the monks will be in recess, and we can join them for tea. (Note: on a group tour, there must be a unanimous decision to take this hike.)

Overnight: Khang Residency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 03~A long day of drive to Phobjikha Valley

(85 miles, 6 hours).

After an early breakfast, we leave for Phobjhikha Valley.

As we leave Thimphu behind, the road gradually winds up through villages and pine forests to Dochula Pass (3100m/10168 ft.), marked by 108 Buddhist shrines, flickering with sacred prayers flags offered by the Buddhist devotees. On a clear day, the pass offers superb panorama of the snow-capped mountains and the valleys.

From the pass, the road drops slowly through the changing vegetation to the sub-tropical lowlands of the Punakha and Wangdue Valleys. In about 2 and half hours, we will arrive in Punakha where will stop for lunch.

We cross Lawala Pass and continue on the winding road down to the glacial valley of Phobjikha on the slopes of Black Mountains. Phobjhika is also referred to as Gangtey, after the Goemba here.

If time allows, we will visit the monastery or we will return here the following day.

Overnight: Dewachen Hotel or Gakiling Hotel
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Phobjikha: Sightseeing and hiking

Today, we first visit the prominent Gangtey Gompa of early 17th Century. This is the only Nyingmapa monastery in the region. From here, we jump on the Gangtey Nature Trail for an easy hike through the pine forest and the valley. The hike ends over the meandering Chhu Nap (Black River) near Khewang village. Here we will be picked up by transport.

If we wish for a longer hiking option, here are some recommended hiking trails: Shasi La Nature Trail (3-4 hours, moderate), Longtey Hike (4 hours, moderate) and Gogona Hike (6-7 hours, strenuous). Discuss these options with your guide and choose the option that best interests you. 

Overnight: Dewachen Hotel or Gakiling Hotel
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~A log day drive to Jakar

A stunning day today, covering 188 km or 117.5 miles over 7 hours! As we backtrack to the main road and head to the east. The road gradually climbs the Black Mountain Range and crosses Pele-la pass (10,824 feet, or 3,300 meters) where the panoramic views include Mount Jhomolhari on the border with Tibet. Below is Trongsa, hometown of the present rulers of Bhutan. At the Chendebji chorten, note the large white monument, which is said to have concealed the remnants of an evil spirit that was vanquished here.

We will have our lunch stop in Trongsa and enjoy meal gazing over the striking Trongsa Dzong. From Trongsa, the road climbs to the Youtongla pass (11,234 feet, or 3,425 meters) and then descends to Chume, the first of the four Bumthang valleys. Zugney Village here is home to the Yathra workshops, where they make deep-colored wool textiles in a pattern typical to these parts of the country.

Check into your accommodation and balance of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: Rinchenling Lodge or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 06~Sightseeing of Bumthang

Bumthang Valley is regarded as the cultural heart of Bhutan, and it is a place of stories. We start with the Jambay Lhakhang Temple, which was built in the 7th Century by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. Legend has it that this was one of 108 temples he built miraculously in a single night in Tibet and neighboring countries. The next stop – Kurjey Lakhang Temple – also has a story: Kurjey means “body imprint,” and it was built around a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated and, yes, left his body imprint. 

From here, we take a short walk (30 minutes), crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Tamshing or Tamzhing Monastery, the most important Nyingma monastery of the region, founded by the great Nyingma guru Pemalingpa. Another brief walk will bring us to Kenchosum Lhakhang, probably the region’s most striking monastery. The original temple dates back to the 9th Century, but the current one was rebuilt completely after it was destroyed by fire in 2010. 

Then, a cultural shift. We will meet our driver here for a ride to Panda Brewery and the Swiss cheese factory, founded by a Swiss man in 1960s. Prior appointment is necessary. Later, we can take a relaxed stroll in the Chamkhar, a bustling one-street town with a goldsmith, tailors, several butchers, cafes, and handicraft stores.

If time permits and you are interested, you can visit Jakar Dzong that overlooks the town. 

Overnight: Rinchenling Lodge or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 07~Bumthang: Excursion to the remote Ura Valley

Today, our guide and driver take us on a scenic drive to Ura Valley, with charming villages and a spectacular landscape. The valley of Ura is believed to be the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. 

Ura Valley is less frequented by tourists. We enjoy views of snow-capped mountains along the way. After about two hours, we can stop in the high mountain pass of Serthangla and begin our hiking, which is mostly downhill through the alpine vegetation. Amidst lush vegetation and beautiful wild flowers along the way, you might see horses and cattle grazing. The trail opens into a wide, serene valley with picturesque houses. It takes about one hour from the pass to get to the main village. We can take a leisurely stroll through the village and visit the Ura Temple that dominates the landscape. We’ll look for the monks inside the temple in prayer, and also the community kitchen where the villagers take turns cooking for the monks and pilgrims visiting the temple. 

We can meander on the narrow cobbled street around the medieval village. It has a cluster of 50 whitewashed houses that are typical in the countryside. We hope to visit one of them. As the villagers are dependent on livestock breeding and farming, the houses are designed to accommodate them. In the middle of the village is a small flour mill where the villagers grind the wheat, rice, or millet that they harvest. If time allows, we can also visit the village school. We will eventually take our van ride back to Jakar, which takes about three hours with occasional stops on the way for photography.

Overnight: Rinchenling Lodge or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 08~Across the Yutongla Pass to Trongsa.

After breakfast, we leave for a three-hour drive to Trongsa, the ancestral home town of Bhutan's monarchy. We’ll stop in a roadside town of Zugney to see the yathra workshop. Yathra is the name of locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout Bhutan. We will also see the vegetable dye techniques on wool.

We will then head for a breathtaking highway and cross Yutong La Pass (11, 234 feet) before we descend into Trongsa. We stop here to visit the majestic fortress of Trongsa, the ancestral home of the royal family. It is an architectural wonder built by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, in 1648. It is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong is an architectural wonder. Views from here are extensive, creating the strategic location of this Dzong. 

After lunch in a local restaurant, we hike the historic route that adds to the experience of travelers to Trongsa. The trail goes through the steep and dense forest with variety of fauna and flora. A short stop at the traditional cantilever bridge for photographs would be a memorable experience. 

The hike lasts about 90 minutes and finishes nearby our hotel. You can do this hike in reverse direction as well.

Overnight: Yangkhil Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 09~Travel to Punakha; visit Punakha Dzong and hike Khamsum Yuelley Chorten

This morning we take a scenic, four-hour drive to Punakha, the former winter capital of Bhutan. We cross the Lowa La Pass and rejoin the main highway, leading to Punakha.

After lunch, we visit the stunning Punakha Dzong, probably the most impressive of all the Dzong (fortress) architectures of Bhutan. It has served as the winter capital of Bhutan, and even today the chief abbot moves there from the capital. Next, we proceed for a pleasant hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten – about 45-60 minutes up, but only 30 minutes down. The temple is situated atop a beautiful hillock overlooking the valley. Built by the Queen Mother, it is an example of Bhutan's finest traditional architecture.

Later, we can take leisurely stroll in the town.

Overnight: Drubchu Resort or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10~Travel to Paro

We begin with a lovely drive to Paro, about five hours away. The road climbs through the changing vegetation from subtropical to the alpine and rhododendron forest. We stop at Dochula Pass (10,168 feet) for another opportunity for the views. After some splendid time on the pristine pass, we continue our travel to Paro. The road winds down, passing through the villages and bypass Thimphu.

Upon arrival, we will check into our accommodation. After a wash up and change, your guide will take you for leisurely stroll in the sleepy township of Paro.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11~Paro: Hike the Taktsang Monastery

We’ll have an early morning breakfast, check out of our hotel, and then drive about 90 minutes to the trail head for the legendary Takstang Monastery – the Tiger's Nest, Bhutan’s most famous pilgrimage. Perched dramatically on the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff above the valley, Tiger's Nest is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan and a forever-memorable destination for anyone who makes the trip. The round trip is about four hours. It is possible to ride a pony half way up, but not on the upper trail, or on the way down.

On the way back to Paro, we will detour to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, a 16th Century monastery built to mark the Bhutanese victory over Tibetan invaders, and also the ancient Kyichu Lakhang Temple – another of the 108 temples that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built in a single night in 7th century!

Optional Hot Stone Bath:
With advance notice, you can experience a traditional Hot Stone Bath in a farmhouse. Hot stone bathes are a Bhutanese traditional method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other ailments. Even if you don’t have any of these issues, it’s a wonderfully relaxing experience, especially after a laborious hike. It costs approximately $25 per person.

Overnight: Khanghu Resort or Raven's Nest Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12~Depart Paro

After breakfast, we are transferred in time for flight to your next destination.

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation on double occupancy basis.
  • All transfers and sightseeing, as listed on the itinerary, by private vehicle.
  • Three meals a day.
  • English speaking local tour guide.
  • Sightseeing admission fees.
  • Bhutan visa fee.
  • Service of internal airfare reservation (Airfares are not included).

Trip Does Not Include

  • Airfare to and from Bhutan and airport taxes (Estimated internal airfare is $980 for Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok and one domestic fare).
  • Expenses of personal nature such as drinks, tip, laundry, phone, etc.
  • Extra expenses or loss due to acts of nature, and unforeseen events such as flight cancellation, delay, accident, illness, etc.
  • Travel Insurance.

Trip Difficulty Level, Road and Transport

This is a motor vehicle-based tour with some optional hikes, and can be undertaken by anyone in general good health. The itinerary’s highest altitude is Chele La (12,497 feet, or 3,810 meters) for a brief stop. Our accommodations are in lower altitudes where altitude sickness is not a concern. Some of the hiking excursions are steep, but they are optional. Travel on a given day can include three to six hours of driving, sometimes on rough or damaged roads that are carved out of the hillside. If you are traveling during monsoon, there can be temporary washouts. 

Far & High Travel provides Korean- or Japanese-made SUVs or minivans, or Japanese coaster buses, depending on the group size. Drivers are skilled and know Bhutan’s roadways. Drivers, unlike guides, may speak little or no English. Flat tires and mechanical breakdowns are possible in these conditions, but our drivers are capable of taking the situations under control. We will appreciate your cooperation and flexibility when something unexpected happens during the tour. 


Majority of Bhutanese hotels are small properties with 25 or 30 rooms; some are even smaller. They are built in local architectural styles and have traditional Bhutanese decor. They are classified as “three-star” properties, but in fact have limited choices even if you want to upgrade. You will have private bathroom with running hot and cold water. There may be disparity in the rooms; so travelers of the same group may get different types of rooms. Toiletry supplies may be limited. Hotels in the towns may have internet and long distance calling available.

Some international chain resorts, such as Aman Kora, Uma Paro, Taj, and some heritage hotels, can be booked at an additional cost. 


Our tour features three meals each day, most of them at our hotel. In Bhutan, meals are usually served in buffet that includes rice, vegetables, noodles, and breads. Our guides can arrange some dinners at local restaurants at your request. One note: traditional Bhutanese food always features chilies, and the most popular dish, "ema datshi," is made with large, hot, green chilies in a cheese sauce.


Our guides are college-educated local people, proficient in English and trained and licensed by local tourism authorities. Most importantly, they are friendly and committed to deliver the best services.

International and internal airfares

The tour starts and finishes in Paro, Bhutan. There are no direct flight connections from the USA or Europe to Bhutan. You need to first fly to Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata or Kathmandu, spend a night there and next day fly to Bhutan. Bangkok is the most popular gateway for travel to Bhutan, as there are daily 2 flights from Bangkok and the US citizens and most European passport holders don't need visa for Bhutan.

From Kathmandu and Delhi also there are five or six flights a week depending on the season. Please do not buy your international airfare until Bhutan flight schedule is available.

Passport and Visa

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your trip and there must be one or two blank pages on your passport for the visa sticker, and entry and exit seals. Bhutan visas are pre-processed by Far & High; we will get clearance for you before your flight into Bhutan. Your passport gets an actual visa seal upon arrival at the Paro airport. If you are traveling via Indian cities, you need to obtain an Indian visa before your travel begins. If you are traveling via Kathmandu, Nepal, you can obtain Nepal visa upon arrival.

Note on Itinerary

Although we will do our very best to adhere to the itinerary schedule as listed; it is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.

Booking Deposit & Payment Schedule

A deposit of US$ 300 is requested along with completed trip registration form to hold your place on the trip. We also need a color scan of the passport. You can charge the deposit on any major credit cards.

When it’s time to purchase the Bhutan flight tickets, we will request from you the second payment for the flights.

Final and balance payment is due 90 days prior departure. Final payment by credit card also attracts additional 3.5% fee. You will save this fee by paying personal check or cashier's check. We reserve the right to refuse certain form of payment. Payment within 90 days before departure must be made by cashier's check or wire transfer.

Cancellation and Refund

Notice of cancellation and refund request must be received in written form. Cancellation fee structure has been listed below:

  • 90 days prior departure: US$ 150 (Administrative Fee).
  • 60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 300 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 45 days to 59 days prior departure: US$ 450 or 50% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 30 days to 44 days prior departure: US$ 600 or 75% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • Less than 30 days: 100%.

Travel Protection Plan

While we spare no effort to make your tour smooth and enjoyable, there might be unforeseen events and conditions such as illness, accident, inclement weather, flight cancellation, missed connection, or loss of baggage, any of which can cause interruption, delay or total cancellation of your trip, thus putting your hard-earned travel investment in jeopardy. It’s also possible that you might need medical assistance, emergency evacuation, or medical transportation when you become ill or are involved in an accident when you are traveling in remote areas. The trip cost does not cover any of these expenses or losses, and so we strongly recommend you that you should protect yourself and your travel investment against those unfavorable conditions.


Khang Residency Thimphu
Khang Residency Thimphu
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Drubchu Resort Punakha
Drubchu Resort Punakha
Dewachen Hotel Phobjikha
Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa
Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa
rinchenling thumb
Rinchenling Resort, Bumthang


Note: The hotels listed are our preferred properites but they are subject to change.


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(Formerly Highland Asia Travel)

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Tel: 1 612 605 4428
Fax: 612 807 1137


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