Gentle Walking Bhutan Tour -16 Days

Max Altitude : 3,990m/13,090ft
Accommodation Types : Hotels
Trip Duration : 16 Days
Maximum Group Size : 12
Difficulty : Moderate
Land Only Joining City : Kathmandu

Trip Overview

From our many years of experience in Bhutan we have created this outstanding itinerary, our most popular walking holiday with the aim of combining interesting walks, great scenery and comfortable accommodation. We have researched walks to give you the best possible experience, ranging from easy valley walking visiting temples, in effect sightseeing on foot, to more demanding walks offering a bit more of a challenge.


We will visit the main towns of Paro and Thimphu as well as Punakha with its fabulous dzong, and Bumthang, the cultural heart of the kingdom. You will also visit the lovely Gangtey Valley where in the winter months you may see the rare Black-Necked Crane. Finally no holiday to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to iconic Taktsang, the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, clinging to a cliff.


This is a holiday that will be enjoyed to the full by those who enjoy weekend walks in the British countryside. As well as the main walk, on certain days a gentler or harder walk may also be possible. On certain days it is also possible to opt out of the walk, enabling you to relax in or around your hotel or lodge. There are also exciting road journeys following twisting mountain roads and crossing high passes in your comfortable mini-coach. By its nature this is an adventure with plenty of varied walking in a place that is only just emerging into the 21st Century.


Each departure takes in a fabulous festival where you can mingle with the locals as they celebrate and socialise – a real highlight of any visit to Bhutan.


Leader: Local leader, Bhutan

You will have an English speaking Bhutanese guide. Smart mountain Adventure have been working with the same partner in Bhutan,Their guides are some of the best in the Smart mountain Adventure. They speak fluent English, as this is taught in all Bhutanese schools, and are fully qualified guides. The Tourism Authority of Bhutan insists that a Bhutanese trek or tour leader must pass his/her guiding exams in Thimphu before accompanying groups of foreign visitors. Guides receive regular ‘top-up’ training and 15 of our regular leaders have completed an extended training course run by Smart mountain Advenchature in Bhutan.



  • February departures attends the Punakha Tsechu.
  • March departures attends the Paro Tsechu.
  • September 2023 departure attends the Thimphu Tsechu.
  • October 2024 departure attends the Dechenphu Tsechu.
  • November departures attends the Black-necked Crane Festival.
  • December departures attends the Trongsa Tsechu.
  • Meal arrangements: Bed and Breakfast in Kathmandu and full board elsewhere.


  • Explore the cultural highlights of bhutan including iconic tktsang Monastery and punakha Dzong.
  • First-rate accommodation in Bhutan using comfortable hotels and lodges.
  • Relax at Dwarika’s hotel in Kathmandu – a unique heritage property.
  • Excellent and varied programme of gentle walks.
  • Join the flamboyant celebrations at a Bhutanese festival.

Short Itinerary

Day 01-03:

(This is the itinerary for our Trongsa Tsechu departures in December. Itineraries vary by departure. Detailed itineraries for all departures can be Fly to Kathmandu. Fly to Paro and drive to Thimphu.

Day 04:

Sightseeing and walk in and around Thimphu.

Day 05:

Drive over the Dochu La to Punakha. Visit Chimi Lakhang and village walk.

Day 06:

Walk in the Punakha Valley and visit Punakha Dzong. Drive to Gangtey.

Day 07-08:

Walk in the Gangtey Valley. Drive to Trongsa. Visit Trongsa Tsechu. Drive to Jakar walk.

Day 09:

Walk to Swan Lakhang and also in the Bumthang Valley.

Day 10-11:

Fly to Paro. Drive to Haa across the Cheli La. Walks in the Haa Valley. Drive back to Paro.

Day 12-13:

Walk to Taktsang Monastery, 3,110m/10,203ft, and sightseeing in the Paro valley.

Day 14-16:

Fly to Kathmandu. At leisure. Fly to your Home.


Day 01 Fly from your Home to Kathmandu
Overnight: In flight


Depart your Home on your overnight flight to Kathmandu.

Day 02 Arrive Kathmandu. Group transfer to hotel.
Overnight: Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu

You will be met and transferred to the luxurious and stylish Dwarika’s Hotel which is filled with Nepalese wooden carvings and statues and has a superb restaurant where you can eat in traditional style. It also has a cool, elegant courtyard and a swimming pool. After the long flight from London there’s no better place to relax.

Day 03 Fly to Paro. Drive to Thimphu.
Overnight: Phuntso Pelri Hotel or Similar, Thimphu

Transfer to the airport for the short flight up to Bhutan. On a clear day the panoramic views of the Himalaya are sensational, including Everest and Kangchenjunga, but particularly exciting is the approach through the Bhutanese foothills and the landing, including a few steep turns to land at the tiny airstrip of Paro. Although you are at the mercy of the airline computer, if possible try to sit on the left hand side of the plane for the most spectacular views.

On arrival you will be met by your guide and driver for the onward journey to Thimphu – a drive of around 1½-2 hours. Thimphu has an attractive valley location and is relatively small for a capital city but has grown greatly in recent years. If time permits, when you arrive in Thimphu you will drive up to see the large Buddha statue, perched above the town, this will give you excellent views and is a good way to orientate yourself to Thimphu and its surrounds.

Day 04 Walk to Wangditse Monastery. Sightseeing in Thimphu.
Overnight: Phuntso Pelri Hotel or Similar, Thimphu

This morning you will drive up to Sangaygang next to the Bhutan First Broadcasting Service tower, located in the North West of Thimphu. It is only about a mile drive up to the tower so if you feel like you would like to burn a bit more energy you can always walk up instead. From the tower you will have great views over Thimphu Dzong and the Thimphu valley as you start your walk contouring the beautiful hills to visit Wangditse Gompa. This walk should take around 1½ hours. You will have time to visit the gompa before you walk down for another 30 minutes to reach Dechen Phodrang Monastery. This monastery houses around 450 student monks enrolled in an 8 year course. The monastery is also home to some fantastic UNESCO monitored 12th century paintings. You will then meet your vehicle and be driven back to Thimphu.

In the afternoon there will be time to enjoy some sightseeing. There are many places of interest to visit in Thimphu, including the Tashichhodzong (the main government buildings), the Textile Museum, the Heritage Museum, the late King’s Memorial Chorten, the National Library, the School of Painting and the silversmiths and pottery workshops. The Government Handicrafts Emporium is possibly the best place to look for local handicrafts. It is interesting to visit the handmade paper workshop to see the paper being made and there are some nice items made from handmade paper for sale there. You could also visit the Post Office to buy some of Bhutan’s very attractive stamps, they will even print a valid stamp with your face on it while you wait! They also have good t-shirts on sale. While in Thimphu you might also like to visit the ‘zoo’. This is in fact a very large enclosure (several acres) just above the town, containing only Takin, the very rare animal found exclusively in Bhutan and parts of China and possibly one of the most quirky and strangest looking animals you will ever see.

Day 05 Drive to Punakha, 1,242m/4,075ft - 2½ hours. Visit Chimi Lakhang. Village walk.
Overnight: Zhingkham Resort Or Similar, Punakha

Driving out of Thimphu you climb to cross the Dochu La Pass, 3,048m/10,000ft, a spot marked by 108 chortens. Here, weather permitting you may take in a magnificent mountain vista. On clear days there are fabulous views of the eastern Himalaya from here, but this is a beautiful spot even on misty days. You then drive down through varied forest into the lush Punakha Valley.

You will firstly visit Chimi Lakhang, a temple built by Drukpa Kunley. Known as the ‘The Divine Madman’, Drukpa Kunley was a 15th Century Bhutanese Lama and is Bhutan’s most popular Saint and one of the most important figures in Bhutanese folklore. Despite the apparent conservatism of the Bhutanese people, Drukpa Kunley with his unconventional views on sex is a great favourite throughout the country – the phallus symbols painted on the outside walls of many houses date back to his teachings. Chimi Lakhang is especially popular with women, who come here to make offerings and to pray for children. This charming lakhang is reached by a short walk across the paddy fields and the short excursion takes about 45 minutes each way.

Later you will drive up to the charming village of Talo (altitude 2,800m). This attractive village is well known for its pretty girls. First you will drive up to its fine gompa, built above the village and worth a visit for the spectacular views. After visiting the gompa you walk down through the village and will see traditional village life going on. It’s all very pretty – the beautiful farm houses of the village have their own well kept flower gardens and corn and vegetables are grown in abundance. There is an air of prosperity and contentment. You come out back onto the road below the village and then you may either walk down through woods and fields, or drive down, to the village of Nobgang, the birthplace of the four girls who in 1979 married King Jigme Singye Wangchuk to become his four queens. After the king’s abdication they became Bhutan’s Queen Mothers. The gompas in Nobgang are sponsored by their family. The two villages of Talo and Nobgang have a longstanding rivalry in archery. Once your walk is done you will be driven back to your Punakha hotel.

Day 06 Punakha Valley walk and visit to Punakha Dzong. Drive to Gangtey.
Overnight: Hotel Gakiling Or Yo Lo Koe Lodge or Similar, Gangtey

After breakfast you will make the short drive a little further up the valley and start your walk at a pedestrian suspension bridge that crosses the Mo Chu River. You follow up through paddy fields to the base of the hill where Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten is sited. The climb to the top is then quite steep, but takes only 45 minutes or so. This Chorten was consecrated in December 1999 and contains sacred relics donated from Punakha Dzong. Leaving the grounds of the Chorten via a different gate you descend to join a contouring path which ultimately leads you to the small village of Yabesa and you then follow the Mo Chu downstream past Sonagasha, the King’s Palace and on to Punakha Dzong.

The fabulous Punakha Dzong, one of the most spectacular and important in the kingdom, is situated at the confluence of two rivers. In 1994 there was a major flood in the town which caused a lot of damage to the dzong but it has now been beautifully renovated and is a real showcase for Bhutanese craftsmanship and painting. You are normally allowed into the dzong unless there are VIPs visiting. After your visit you may either drive back to your hotel or extend your walk southwards down the valley for a further hour or so to reach the large settlement of Khuruthang and continue on to your hotel or to meet up with your transport.

Day 07 Gangtey Valley walk. Drive to Trongsa.
Overnight: Yangkhil Resort Or Similar, Trongsa

Today you will doubtless see some of the Black-necked cranes which come to the Gangtey valley in the winter and are usually resident from November to February. They overnight in the marshy meadows below Gangtey village and then fly off in the morning to their feeding grounds, so it worthwhile arranging to go to see them before breakfast, before they fly off for the day. Speak to your guide about an early call and how best to arrange a visit.

After breakfast you have the chance for a pleasant walk in the valley. In addition to glorious scenery, the valley boasts some wonderful legends surrounding events and places in the valley, including tales about two different types of Yeti, a large one and a small variety, as well as many other interesting legends. A number of different walks are possible and your guide will suggest a suitable one for your group.

Firstly, it is a short 10-minute drive to reach the Black-necked crane Information Centre. The centre has interesting displays on the ecology of the valley, a small library on Bhutanese wildlife and birds and some telescopes for observing birdlife. From here it is another 10-15 minutes to reach the small hilltop settlement of Gangtey and its impressive gompa, built in the 17th Century. The gompa has been recently beautifully restored and is worth a visit. From the gompa you can follow a network of foot trails and farm tracks down from the hill top and along the valley visiting various small villages and gompas along the way.

Later, you drive out of the valley and over the Pele La to continue on to reach the town of Trongsa. You will see Trongsa’s splendid Dzong long before you reach it because the road takes you up a long side valley before eventually turning back to Trongsa town. Trongsa has an exceptionally dramatic dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Because of its important strategic location this was one of the most important dzongs in the country. Set above the dzong is the Ta Dzong, the watchtower, a lovely old building which has been recently really beautifully renovated and houses an excellent museum with several floors of royal memorabilia and sacred artefacts. The views from the roof are worth the climb.

Day 08 Attend Trongsa Tsechu and drive to Bumthang.
Overnight: Ugyenling Hotel Or Similar, Jakar

In the morning you will visit the Trongsa Tsechu (festival). This festival takes place in the winter when there are fewer tourists and has great rustic charm. Bhutanese festivals are welcome opportunities for the Bhutanese to get together, not only to socialise and have fun, but also because the very act of attending a festival is thought to confer merit and wash away sins. Village people from the area gather to participate in the festival and for the singing and dancing. Spectacular dances are performed which are intended to give moral instruction, drive away evil spirits, promote good crops and celebrate the Buddhist faith in its many guises. Watch out for the very jolly clowns who tease onlookers and dancers alike.

After your morning at the festival you will drive to Bumthang, crossing the Yotong La. The Bumthang region encompasses four major valleys. Jakar town where you will stay for two nights is in the main valley called Chokhor. The other valleys are the Ura Valley which is to the east, Tang valley which is slightly more off the beaten track and the Chumey Valley, the first valley you pass through on your journey to Bumthang from the west. Depending on what time you left Trongsa you may have time to visit a couple of of small temples in Chumey on the way, as well as Zugney, an important centre for weaving which is such an integral part of Bhutanese craftsmanship and culture. It is said that every home in Bhutan is equipped with a loom and that young girls become proficient in weaving before the age of 20. Finally you arrive at Jakar town, which lies in a pretty steep-sided valley overlooked by a distinctive dzong, the so called ‘Castle of the White Bird’, named after a bird that was said to have indicated the most auspicious place to build. You will drive to your hotel to check in.

Day 09 Walk to Swan Lakhang. Afternoon valley walk to various temples.
Overnight: Ugyenling Hotel Or Similar, Jakar

In the morning you will visit Ngang Lakhang, also known as Swan Lakhang or Swan Temple. First you drive the short distance to arrive at a long mani wall in Tangbi. You descend to cross the river by a suspension bridge and then have a pleasant walk of about 3 hours, up the river valley through forest and meadows to reach Ngang Lakhang, also known as ‘Swan Temple’. This temple has an illustrious history. Guru Rimpoche is said to have visited here and the present temple, built in the 15th century is said to be named after swans supposedly seen on a nearby lake by the temple’s founder, a Tibetan lama named Namkha Samdrup. After your visit to the temple you descend to cross the river to a road and will meet your vehicle to drive back to Jakar.

In the afternoon you can make a short, almost entirely level walk taking in some of the principle sights of the valley. From the hotel you either walk or drive the short way to reach Jambay Lakhang. This is one of the country’s oldest temples, built in the mid-7th Century. One interesting feature to look for is the set of three steps in the main temple. The first step, now hidden below floor level, is said to represent the time of the past or ‘historical’ Buddha. The second, very well worn, step represents the present Buddha, whilst the third step above, is said to represent the age of the future Buddha. The point at which the second step is worn down to ground level is held to be the time when the world as we currently know it will end.

From Jambay you take a farm track along the valley floor and walk for 30 minutes to reach Kurjey Lakhang, a series of three large temples. The oldest of the temples here houses a rock indented with the body shape of Guru Rinpoche, whilst the most recent dates back just 25 years and was built by the Queen Mother – Ashi Kesang Wangchuck. Descending from the temples you cross a suspension bridge and walk downstream for 45 minutes to Tamshing Lakhang: the most important Nyingma gompa in the Kingdom, established in 1501 by Pemalingpa. Inside you can see a suit of chain-mail armour, which Buddhists believe will bring good fortune if you wear it and then walk around the inner temple three times. Your transport will meet you outside the gompa and return you to your hotel, with perhaps a stop in Jakhar town-ship or a visit to spectacular Jakar Dzong.

Day 10 Fly to Paro. Drive over Cheli La pass, 3,990m/13,090ft, to Haa Valley with visit to Kila Nunnery on way.
Overnight: Lechuna Heritage Lodge or Similar, Haa

Today you will transfer to the small domestic airport at Jakar for the short flight to Paro.

After arriving in Paro, you will drive up to the Cheli La, a pass at 3,990m/13,090ft where in clear weather you will have wonderful views of the snow-capped mountains to the west which mark the border with Tibet. On the way you will call in at Kila Nunnery, a peaceful retreat for some 30 nuns who live a life of seclusion in an incredibly pretty spot set in lush forest beneath cliffs.

From the pass you descend on a long zig-zag road down into the Haa Valley. As you approach you will notice three almost identical conical hills in a line on the other side of the valley. These are believed by the locals to be the physical manifestations of three very important Buddhist saints. The left one is Manjushri (the god who holds the flaming sword which cuts the knot of ignorance), the middle one is Chenrizig (the Buddha of compassion of which the Dalai Lama is the human incarnation) and the right hand hill is Chana Dorji (this being the protector god of Bhutan). Collectively they are known as Rigsum (three hills).

As you descend further you look down on the square yellow roof of Haa’s monastery-fortress, the Namgay Dzong. Spread around the dzong are the buildings of the Indian Army dating from the visit of President Nehru – the Indian army has a presence in Bhutan ostensibly to protect the kingdom from possible invasion from China. Although part of the dzong is used by the Indian Army the central tower of the Dzong is still used by the local people. The old town itself is just to the north-west and is really attractive with traditional two storey shops and a post office. There is a large school in Haa. In the afternoon you should have time for some initial exploration in the Haa Valley.

(If the flight to Paro is cancelled today then you will drive back to Paro over the next two days instead of visiting the Haa Valley).

Day 11 Walks in the Haa Valley. Drive back to Paro with visit to Dzong Drakha.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

In the morning you will have time for a walk in the Haa Valley. Firstly you might drive up to the very top of the valley for an overview. This is a very pretty drive talking about 40 minutes and from here you will get really good views of the valley as well as over to the mountains of the west. On your return you take a spur road to Talung village and walk down from the top of the village for a look at a typical Haa village. Rejoining your vehicle at the bottom of the village you then drive the short distance to the bottom of a track for a nice walk up to Yongto Gompa, an ascent of 100 metres taking about 30 minutes. Yongto Gompa is perched on a ridge overlooking the main valley and is one of the oldest monasteries in Haa, thought to have been built in the 15th century. From here you walk downhill for 30 minutes through pine trees to Yangtha village. This is a large village on the floor of the main valley. In 2001 they suffered a huge fire which destroyed 12 houses. Amazingly, the fire left the temple of the village perfectly intact. After the fire the King visited the people of the village and paid for the reconstruction. The new houses are built in exactly the same traditional style and blend in remarkably well.

After lunch you drive back to Paro with a visit on the way to the temple of Dzong Drakha, a beautiful cliff temple spectacularly located on a broad ledge with vertical limestone cliffs above and below and with lovely views.

Day 12 Sightseeing in the Paro Valley including Kyichu Lakhang and Paro Dzong.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

Today’s sightseeing in the Paro Valley will begin at the ancient temple of Kyichu Lakhang which was one of 108 temples built by Songtsen Gampo an important early Tibetan king, to pin down the Bon demon who was thought to hover over the whole of Tibet.

You will also visit Bhutan’s National Museum to see some of the treasures housed in the Ta Dzong, or watch tower, above the Dzong. Displays include a fascinating collection of ancient thangkas depicting Bhutan’s important saints and teachers. You can then visit the spectacular Paro Dzong. This Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most impressive and well-known dzongs, and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture you’ll see. The massive buttressed walls that tower over the town are visible throughout the valley. The dzong’s correct name, Rinchen Pung Dzong (usually shortened to Rinpung Dzong), means ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. In 1644 Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal ordered the construction of the dzong on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. The fort was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro valley from invasions by Tibet. From here, you may like to walk down into the town and have a wander around the streets before returning to your hotel.

Day 13 Walk to Taktsang, 3,110m/10,203ft, 4-5 hours. Afternoon sightseeing in Paro or time at leisure.
Overnight: Hotel Olathang Or Similar, Paro

Today you will walk up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, Taktsang Monastery – a fitting climax to your trip. The monastery is perched some 600m/2,000ft up on a cliff overlooking the valley and was said to be where the legendary Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet on the back of a tiger to defeat five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. It’s a steep uphill walk through woods, of about 1½-2hrs, to reach a tea house (an ascent of 340m/1,115ft). Apart from offering welcome refreshment this tea house is one of the principle viewpoints of the monastery, and those who prefer not to climb any further can relax here whilst others continue on. If there is a particular religious gathering or VIP visit in progress, you will not be able to enter the monastery itself but a further half an hour’s ascent is well worth it in any case, as it brings you to another viewpoint directly across from the monastery. If you are able to make a visit, the final section of the walk takes you from here steeply down approximately 100m/330ft into the gorge that separates you from the monastery and then climbs back up again to reach the monastery gate. You descend to the valley floor by your outward route back to where your vehicle will be waiting. The full walk to the monastery and back involves approximately 740m/2,428ft of ascent.

The remainder of the day will be at leisure or to do any sightseeing that has been previously missed.

Day 14 Fly to Kathmandu. Transfer to hotel. At leisure.
Overnight: Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu

Again, a sensational take-off and scenic Himalayan flight past Chomolhari, Bhutan’s second highest peak, past Kangchenjunga and Everest back to Kathmandu, where you transfer to the Dwarika’s Hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure for sightseeing and shopping.

Day 15 At leisure in Kathmandu. Transfer to airport and depart for your Home.
Overnight: In flight

You will have much of the day free in Kathmandu when you may wish to do some sightseeing or shopping or simply relax by the pool at your hotel. Later there will be a group transfer to the airport for your overnight flight back to your Home.


  • Arrival & Departure Transport By private Car/Van/Bus.
  • Three meals a day during the Trekking (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)
  • Accommodation in Tea House during the Trekking.
  • Trekking Guide with Insurance
  • Kathmandu city and trekking maps.
  • Free use Company's duffel bag.
  • Day sightseeing around Kathmandu Valley, car/van/bus and tour guide.
  • All needed Government fees.
  • Food in Kathmandu(City) lunch and dinner.
  • Tips for Guide and Porters
  • Extra night accommodation in Kathmandu (late departure or early arrival from the mountains.
  • Donation Items of personal expenses like hot shower, battery charge, telephone etc.




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