Travel Itinerary: 6-day Trip to Bhutan for Indians

1

Bhutan is one of the best countries to visit for Indians for four reasons:

  1. It’s right next door
  2. All you need is a valid passport or a voter id
  3. The weather is lovely, and the views are amazing;
  4. The trip is quite affordable—a round-trip to Bhutan can be done for around Rs.45,000 per person

Bhutan’s location at the foothills of the Himalayas, sustainable tourism policy, focus on happiness as a yardstick to measure progress, and unique culture and cuisine make visiting the country a truly satisfying experience.

Bhutan is rich in history, spirituality, and gorgeous and tranquil natural spots. The places you MUST include in your Bhutan trip are Paro and Thimphu. Being in the lap of the Himalayas, the view around will always be lovely.

Itinerary for a 6-Day Trip to Bhutan

Spend at least six days in Paro and Thimphu to be able to visit multiple places and enjoy everything in each area. Otherwise, you’ll end up rushing through the holiday.

It’s also very easy to get saturated by the number of places to see and things to do if you do not create a detailed itinerary for your trip.

Before we get to the recommendation on the best way to spend 6 days in Bhutan, you’ll need a permit which Indian’s have to pay for now. Here is how you can get one.

How to get your Bhutan entry permit

Get your entry permit at the Phuentsholing Regional Immigration Office (or at Paro airport if you’re directly flying in). The requirements are:

  • Adults: passport with minimum 6 months’ validity OR Voters Identity Card
  • Children below the age of 18: valid Birth Certificate in English (or a certified copy from regional language into English) AND school ID Card
  • It is suggested you have all hotel booking copies at hand
  • Daily Sustainable Development Fee: Rs.1,200 per day for persons aged above 12, Rs.600 for children aged above 5 up to 12, and no fee for children aged 5 or below

Important Bhutan immigration and entry-related information:

  • Bhutan Gate open hours: 6 am to 9 pm every day
  • Phuentsholing Regional Immigration Office timings: 6 am to 8 pm on weekdays (lunchtime: 1 pm to 2 pm); closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and local holidays
  • Entry Permit valid for 7 days, can be extended further for tourists with valid reasons
  • Entry Permit valid only for a visit to Paro and Thimphu
  • For travel to other places from Thimphu, additional Route Permit required from the Immigration Office at Thimphu
  • No need of entry permit to stay in Phuentsholing in case you reach outside immigration office hours
  • Thimphu Immigration Office timings: 10 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday; closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and local holidays
  • For online Entry Permit, three things are mandatory:
    • Valid passport (Voter’s ID won’t do)
    • Must be done through a registered Bhutanese Tour operator
    • Stay must be with a hotel certified by the Tourist Council of Bhutan (TCB)

Get a temporary Bhutanese SIM card (Tashicell or Bhutan Telecom) from Phuntsholing, because while Indian networks might work fairly well, international roaming charges are steep—₹50 per minute for local calls, ₹150 per minute for calls to India, and ₹6.5 per 10 kb of data usage (Airtel.in).

Also, remember that Bhutan time is half an hour ahead of Indian time, so don’t forget to reset your watch.

Detailed Bhutan Itinerary:

Now let’s see in detail how this trip will work out.

Note: The itinerary includes several Buddhist temples (lhakhangs), monasteries (goembas) and fortresses (dzongs). Make sure you don’t saturate yourself with these early on so that you can enjoy the grander ones in Paro and Thimphu. We have indicated the optional sights, so you know which ones you could skip.

Day 1: Phuentsholing

There are two ways to cover the 165km to Phuntsholing from Bagdogra:

  1. The costly but easier and faster way: hire a taxi. Depending on the number of people travelling together and the type of car you choose, taxi from Bagdogra to Phuentsholing will cost between Rs.2,700 and Rs.7,000 one way. Book online or go to Bagdogra/Siliguri to hire.
  2. The cheap but more time-consuming way: take a train. From either New Jalpaiguri (17.5km from the airport) or Siliguri Junction (12.5km), first take a train to Hasimara, West Bengal (around 4 hours). Hasimara to Phuentsholing is just 19km—the fastest way (30 minutes) would be to take an autorickshaw to the Bhutan border gate. Alternatively, take a bus to Jaigaon, then a shared auto until the gate, and then walk across the border to the immigration office in Phuntsholing.

Tip: If you’re going to use a taxi for the entirety of your trip, then book one from Bagdogra itself. The daily rental would be between Rs.3,000 and Rs.7,000, depending on what kind of car you pick.

Planning your arrival time at Phuentsholing:

If you’re flying into Bagdogra, take an early morning flight so that you can enjoy a less hectic day at Phuntsholing before the trip starts. Try to reach the Regional Immigration Office by 11 am Bhutan time. Your permit formalities might take two to three hours, so if you reach late, then the permit processing might be affected by the Immigration Office’s lunchtime.

If you’re taking the train, you would only reach after 12 pm, and everything would get delayed. But don’t worry about being late; you can stay and roam around in Phuentsholing without a permit.

If you get late, first eat a hearty Bhutanese or Chinese lunch at Zen Restaurant, just 2 mins from the Bhutan Gate. Then check in to your hotel and go to the Immigration Office after that.

Places to stay

You need to stay in Phuentsholing only for one night, so we suggest that you don’t spend too much on hotel rooms here. Here are two places we recommend:

  • Hotel Thuenpa Puenzhi: Rs.660 to Rs.2,000 per night*
  • Centennial Hotel 2008: Rs.1,700 to Rs.2,600 per night*

Places to see

bhutan gate
Bhutan Gate by Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA

The first sight that meets your eye as you cross the border will be the Bhutan Gate —a typical example of Bhutanese architecture, with wood painting, dragons on both the sides and traditional motifs. It’s arguably one of the most photographed monuments in Phuntsholing.

By the time you get the permit, have lunch, and check in to the hotel, we expect it’d be 3 or 4 pm. Spend the evening exploring some beautiful places in Phuentsholing.

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang and Park (Buddhist Temple)

  • Distance from bus stop: 600m (10-minute walk)
  • Open hours: 7 am to 6 pm. Best visit by 10 am or after 4.30 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: This is the first of the Buddhist temples you’ll see in Bhutan. Wrap up this visit in less than 30 minutes to enjoy the sunset at Phuntsholing Viewpoint.

Phuentsholing Viewpoint (Alapan’s Viewpoint on Google Maps)

  • Distance from Zangto Pelri Lhakhang: 1.6km (25-to-35-minute hike)
  • Open hours: All day. Avoid going at nighttime
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 1.5 hours including the hike
  • Tip: Be there by 5-5.30 pm to enjoy the sunset.

OR

Karbandi Monastery (Also called Rinchending Goemba)

Karbandi Monastery
Karbandi Monastery by Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA
  • Distance from bus stop: 4.5km
  • Open hours: 7 am to 6 pm. Best visit by 11 am or after 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: Karbandi Monastery is bigger than Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, so if you’re pinched for time, pick this over Zangto. It’s on top of a hill, and you can see the entire Phuntsholing town from here, with a lovely view of the sunset. If you are travelling by car/taxi, then you can even schedule this for the next day, on your way to Paro.

OPTIONAL: Palden Tashi Chholing Shedra (Monastic school)

  • Distance from bus stop: 900m (10-to-12-minute walk)
  • Open hours: NA (Since it’s a school, let’s assume it’s open during the day)
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: This place makes for a tranquil evening or morning walk if you have nothing else to do. It is worth visiting only if you’re interested in artistic murals. Photography is not allowed inside.

Things to do

Amo Chhu Crocodile Breeding Centre: A conservation centre for gharials and muggers (magar)

  • Distance from bus stop: 500m (10-minute walk)
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Rs.100
  • Time required here: Around 45 mins

Crocodiles as an order are lazy and simply lie near the water basking in the sun for long hours. If you want to see them do something other than lie like a log, go around noon when they’re being fed.

It may be difficult for you to squeeze the crocodile centre into your evening so that you could add this to your return journey from Thimphu via Phuentsholing.

Day 2: Paro

Paro is around 145km from Phuentsholing. The road route is very scenic; you cannot drive too fast because of the hilly terrain. If you haven’t already booked a car, then use the Bhutan bus service. There are two buses from Phuentsholing to Paro: the first departing at 8.30  am and the second at 9am. By car, you’ll reach in 4-5 hours while the bus will take 6-7 hours.

Places to stay

Stay in Paro for two nights. Here are five places we recommend:

  • Ama’s Village Lodge: Rs.1,800 to Rs.3,200 per night*
  • Rimphu Heritage Paro: Rs.2,800 to Rs.5,200 per night*
  • Zambala Hotel River-View: Rs.3,300 to Rs.3,800 per night*
  • Taktsang Village Resort: Rs.3,800 to Rs.4,900 per night*
  • Haven Resort Paro: Rs.12,800 to Rs.17,000 per night*

Places to see

Try and reach Paro by 3 pm at the latest. Check in to the hotel and freshen up, and then head out to these places:

Rinpung Dzong (Monastery and fortress)

  • Distance from city centre: 3.5km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 1 pm every day, and 2 pm to 5 pm from March to October and 2 pm to 4 pm from November to February
  • Ticket price: Rs.300 for adults and Rs.150 for children + guide’s fee
  • Time required here: 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Tip 1: The fort houses a monastery as well as the district government offices and courts, so a Saturday or Sunday would be better to visit the place without having to deal with administrative crowds. Photography is only allowed outside the dzong.
  • Tip 2: Follow the formal dress code—no shorts, no collarless, sleeveless, or half-sleeved shirts/tops. If you’re wearing half-sleeve or sleeveless tops, carry a full-sleeve jacket to wear over it. Remove your shoes wherever indicated inside the complex. Walk around the halls/chapels/prayer wheels in a clockwise direction.
  • Tip 3: The Paro Tshechu festival is held here every year in March-April. Enjoy the dramatic music festival complete with regional religious music, costumed ritual dances, and the unfurling of a massive embroidered thangka (cloth art).
Paro Tsechu Festival
Paro Tsechu Festival by Stephen Shephard / CC BY-SA

Zuri Dzong (Fortress)

  • Distance from Rinpung Dzong: 1.3km
  • Open hours: Anytime during the day
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 1 hour including trekking
  • Why go here: This is the oldest dzong in Bhutan, offering a scenic bird’s eye view of Paro valley. There’s a cave here where Buddha meditated in the 8th century.

Namgay Artisanal Brewery and Bistro (Bhutanese pub)

  • Distance from Zuri Dzong: 3.9km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 11 pm
  • Tip: Try their unique Bhutanese red rice lager. The view from the brewery is fantastic. NAB also has live music, so check their Facebook page to see if someone is playing during your stay in Paro and groove to some regional pop music.

Things to do

If you don’t want to go around visiting temples, monasteries, and fortresses, pick any of these activities to do while in Paro. Spread these over the two days whenever you have free slots in your itinerary:

1. Watch an archery competition

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, and traditional competitive archery is very different from Olympic archery. The archery ground in Paro often has open competitions and even international competitions.

You may not be able to find the archery ground through Google Maps—check with the local population when you reach and if they have a competition ongoing, don’t miss it!

2. Watch paper being made at Tashi Gongphel

Distance from city centre: 3.5km

The Tashi Gongphel paper factory is one of the places in Bhutan where traditional handmade paper—called Dehsho—for writing prayers and for manuscripts is made. You can watch the paper being made, try it yourself, and buy items made from Dehsho. Don’t worry if you miss this—you can experience this at Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory in Thimphu as well.

3. Watch wooden items being made at Sangay Wood Turning Factory

Distance from city centre: 2.5km

The Sangay Wood Turning Factory is one of the places in the country where the traditional art of shagzo—woodturning to produce wooden items—is practised. Watch wooden bowls (dapa), cups (dza phob), and intricately patterned plates being respectfully created, try making something yourself, and buy wooden souvenirs to take home.

4. Shop around Main Street

There are different shops near Main Street selling a variety of unique items, in case you are interested in souvenirs and gifts for friends back home:

  • ForBuddhist religious items: Lama Tshering Dorji General Shop
  • ForTraditional handwoven fabrics: Chencho Handicraft and Weaving Centre (also watch weavers at work)
  • For souvenirs, local products, and handicrafts:
    • Bhutan Made
    • Yoesel Handicraft
    • Bhutan Stamp Center (also sells uniquestamps and coins)

5. Shop at the Paro Weekend Market

The weekend market is open from 6 am to 4 pm on Sundays and is the best place to buy yourself a Bhutanese souvenir or a local product.

Products you can find include prayer wheels, powdered juniper incense, organic Tsirang honey, khoo (dried jellied cow skin), lime mixed with betel nut paste, strings of chugo (dried yak cheese), datse (a Bhutanese cheese), kira (traditional Bhutanese dress), and unique Bhutanese stamps, handicrafts, and handloom items.

Day 3: Paro

Start your day early to cover more places without getting tired.

Places to see

Trekking to Tiger’s Nest/Taktsang Goemba (Cliffside Monastery)

  • Distance from city centre: 12km
  • Open hours: 8 am to 1 pm throughout the year; 2 pm to 5 pm from October to March and 2 pm to 6 pm from April to September
  • Ticket price: Rs.1,000
  • Time required here: 5 to 6 hours including trek and monastery tour
  • Tip 1: Start by 6.30 or 7 am to enjoy the trek and the views. But for best photographs, you’ll have to wait for mid-day.
  • Tip 2: Get a guide at the base of the mountain and hire a horse if you cannot walk all the way up. A permit may be required to enter. Bags, cameras, and shoes have to be deposited at the entrance of the monastery.
  • Tip 3: Read up on the history and legend so that you have cultural context when you see the sacred caves and temples inside the goemba complex.

This will take you at least half a day, so plan the rest of the day after lunch. Here are some highly rated but moderately priced restaurants to try back in Paro main street area:

  • My Kind of Place
  • Son am Trophel Restaurant
  • Lhayabling Restaurant
  • Yue-Ling Restaurant

National Museum of Bhutan

  • Distance from Main Street: 3km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm from March to October and up to 4 pm from November to February
  • Ticket price: Rs.25 for Indians above the age of 10
  • Time required here: 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Tip: Go here only if you are truly interested in museums and the history of the country.

Pick one of the below Buddhist temples after visiting the museum. Each one is unique, tranquil, and has fantastic views.

Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang (Chorten [shrine]-like Temple)

  • Distance from National Museum: 2.7km
  • Open hours: 7 am to 6 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Why go here: This is a peaceful and differently designed temple that was recently renovated.

Kyichu Lhakhang (Temple)

  • Distance from National Museum: 7 km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 4 pm
  • Ticket price: Rs.150 for students and Rs.300 for adults
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Why go here: This is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bhutan and has an impressive 7th-century statue of Jowo Sakyamuni.

Tamchoe Monastery/Tachog Lhakhang

  • Distance from National Museum: 20.7 km
  • Open hours: 8 am to 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 45 mins
  • Why go here: You get to cross Paro Chhu river on an iron chain hanging bridge to reach this monastery. It’s at an elevation of over 2,000m with a lovely view.
  • Tip: This is on the Paro-Thimphu highway, so you could also slot this for the next day on your way to Thimphu. While you can enter the monastery area freely, you may need to seek permission from the monks to enter the temple.

After you’re done visiting the above places, go ahead and catch up on experiences unique to Bhutan that you couldn’t finish on day 2.

Special mention

There are plenty of temples and monasteries to see, but since there’s more of that to come in Thimphu, go for a trek to Haa Valley or trek/drive up to Chelela Pass instead.

1. Haa Valley

If you are interested in getting a glimpse of traditional Bhutanese village life, trek or cycle down to the south-west of Paro around the isolated Haa Valley. There is also bus service to Haa from Paro at 9 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There are small hotels and homestays to stay overnight.

The Haa Summer Festival is the best time to take in the regional culture. It’s usually held in July and celebrates traditional lifestyles, sports, cuisine, arts and performances, handicrafts, and nature.

2. Chele La Pass Trek/Drive

Distance from Paro: 36.8km (around 2 hours)

Chelela is the highest road passage in Bhutan and is 3,988m above sea level. Drive down here or go on a hike to enjoy views of Mts Jomolhari and Jitchu Drake, valleys of Paro and Haa, beautiful white poppy fields, and several species of birds.

3. Jomolhari Mountain Festival

This two-day festival celebrates the culture of mountain communities living around Jomolhari, near Paro. It especially focuses on bringing about awareness about the conservation of snow leopards. It is held in October every year.

Day 4: Thimphu

The 51km to Thimphu can be covered in 1.5 hours by car; leave early to reach by 9 am. There are 2 bus services to Thimphu from Paro at 9  am and 2  pm by which you’ll reach in 2 hours.

Places to stay

Stay in Thimphu for 2 nights. Here are five places we recommend:

  • Zhingkham-Heavenly Abode: Rs.1,600 to Rs.2,000
  • Thimphu 180 view: Rs.2,300 onwards
  • Choni Apartment: Rs.3,600 to Rs.4,500
  • City Hotel: Rs.5,200 to Rs.10,000
  • Osel Thimphu Bhutan: Rs.5,200 to Rs.13,500

Places to see

On your first day in Thimphu, you can cover the following places:

Motithang/Royal Takin Preserve

  • Distance from city centre: 3.7km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Rs.300
  • Time required here: Around 1 hour
  • Tip: Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and it’s unlikely that you’ve seen one before.Get here at opening time to see them gathering to eat. Wear shoes with a good grip because the stairs are quite steep. However, there aren’t many animals to see—just a few takins and deer.

Sangaygang Viewpoint

  • Distance from takin preserve: 1.8km
  • Open hours: NA
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: Go either in the morning or evening (not too early or too late of the fog will lower visibility) for great views and to take lovely photographs of the Thimphu valley.

Pick one of these folk museums to visit (going to both might get repetitive):

Folk Heritage Museum/Phelchey Toenkhyim

  • Distance from viewpoint: 5.6km
  • Open hours: Monday to Friday—9.15 am to 5 pm (April to October), and 9.15 am to 4 pm (November to March); Weekends—10 am to 4 pm
  • Ticket price: Free for children under the age of 10 and Rs.50 for others
  • Time required here: Around 1.5 hours excluding lunch
  • Tip 1: Photography or videography are not allowed. Take a guide if you want everything explained. Have lunch at the museum restaurant.
  • Tip 2: If you are travelling in groups of five or more, book a traditional Bhutanese lunch or dinner here in advance (7 days). Advance bookings are available for demonstrations of traditional activities such as oil extraction, ara (toddy) brewing, rice-roasting or pounding, etc.
  • Tip 3: You can buy traditional souvenirs and local ara from the museum shops.
  • Tip 4: If you’re interested in books and literary history of Bhutan, the National Library and Archives is a 2-minute walk away. If you’re interested in art, the National Institute for Zorig Chusum is 3 minutes away.

Simply Bhutan (Heritage Museum)

  • Distance from viewpoint: 5.2km
  • Open hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm (March to October); 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (November to February)
  • Ticket price: Rs.300
  • Time required here: Around 1.5 hours excluding lunch
  • Tip 1: Wear traditional Bhutanese dresses and get photos clicked for Rs.100. Take part in archery and folk dances. The in-house guide is available.
  • Tip 2: Videography costs Rs.6,000 per hour. Have a traditional set lunch (thali) here. Souvenirs and handicrafts available in the museum shop.
  • Tip 3: Book in advance (7 days) for authentic Bhutanese lunch or dinner, birthday party dinners, and traditional song and dance performances.

If you decide not to have lunch at the folk museums, here are some highly rated restaurants in Thimphu city centre:

  • Babesa Village Restaurant
  • Sinchula Indian Cuisine
  • The Zone
  • Zombala2 Restaurant

After lunch, visit the following places:

Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory

  • Distance from city centre: 1.9km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Rs.50
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: Go here only if you missed the Tashi Gongphel Paper Factory in Paro. The paper items sold here might seem slightly costly.

National Memorial Chorten

  • Distance from the paper factory: 1.3km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm (March to October), 9 am to 4 pm (November to February)
  • Ticket price: Rs.300
  • Time required here: Around 20 mins
  • Why go here: This is an iconic Thimphu monument dedicated to world peace.

Tashichho (Trashi Chho) Dzong (Monastery and fortress)

  • Distance from memorial chorten: 5.3km
  • Open hours: Monday to Friday—5.30 to 6.30 pm (March-October) and 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm (November-February); Saturday and Sunday—9 am to 5 pm (Mar-Oct), and 9 am to 4 pm (Nov-Feb)
  • Ticket price: Rs.300
  • Time required here: Around 2 hours
  • Tip: This serves as an administrative building, which is why the weekday visitor hours are limited to the evening. Get a guide, and they might be able to take you to see the monks’ residential quarters as well.

Day 5: Thimphu

Places to see

Changangkha Lhakhang

  • Distance from city centre: 1.1km
  • Open hours: 6 am to 6 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 30 mins
  • Tip: This small temple is located on a ridge overlooking Thimphu city. You canget your horoscope checked here from the resident astrologer. If you want to join the praying time, visit between 6 am and 8 am or 5 pm and 6 pm.

Bhutan Textile Museum (Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan)

  • Distance from Changangkha Lhakhang: 1.3km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 4 pm (closed on Sundays and national holidays)
  • Ticket price: Rs.100
  • Time required here: Around 45 mins
  • Tip: This is a textile school but also has a textile museum, weaving centre, exhibition centre, and textile shop that the public can access.

Buddha Dordenma Statue

  • Distance from the textile museum: 7.5km
  • Open hours: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time required here: Around 1.5 hours
  • Why go here: This is a 169-ft tall bronze statue of serene Buddha seated on a meditation hall atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. You have to climb 300-odd steps to get here. Inside the hall, there are 1.25 lakh 8-to-12-inch bronze Buddha statues. Also offers beautiful views of Thimphu valley.

Things to do

Spend the second evening at Thimphu doing some shopping.

1. Shop at Norzin Lam Street

Norzin Lam is the main street of Thimphu city, and in the evenings, you can walk around and buy some souvenirs, woven and wooden handicrafts, books, etc. There are street stalls as well as shopping complexes.

Tip: This is a busy road, so preferably go for a walk instead of taking a vehicle.

2. Shop at the Thimphu Weekend Market

Centenary-Farmers-Market-Thimphu
Image by Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA

This market is located at the west bank of the Wang Chhu river, north of Changlimithang Stadium. It is open from Friday to Sunday from 7 am to 4 pm (it may extend to the night as well), and sells a range of items, from fresh vegetables, meat, and grains to handicrafts and incense.

Each section of the market is dedicated to different commodities. Cross the cantilevered bridge to find the area dedicated to handicrafts.

Special Mention

1. Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek

Trek-lovers should try thesix-day Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek between either April to June or September to October. It’s a moderate-to-tough trek. The trail covers 35km from Gynekha village to Chamgang village, which is about 35km.

Apart from the pristine beauty of the mountains and lakes around the Himalayas (you will even see Mt. Everest!), the trek passes through some traditional Bhutanese villages too.

2. Rhododendron Festival

This festival is held in April every year at Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula, near Thimphu. It celebrates the rhododendron flower, which can be seen in plenty around this time of the year in Bhutan. You can see different rhododendron varieties, garden walks, and exhibitions, and experience local culture and cuisine, traditional games, arts and crafts, and cultural programmes.

3. Matsutake Mushroom Festival

This festival is in August every year in Genekha near Thimphu. It is aimed at creating awareness about local mushroom varieties and their sustainable harvesting. You can buy local mushrooms and other indigenous products, enjoy cultural activities, and take part in mushroom hunting.

4. Thimphu Dromchoe and Tshechu

Image by ©Christopher J. Fynn / Wikimedia Commons

Held in September-October every year at the Tashicho Dzong, the Thimphu Tsechu is one of the most significant religious festivals of the country. It starts with the Dromchoe, which is the sacred dances dedicated to Palden Lhamo, the deity Bhutanese consider their protector. The Tshechu itself will have prayers, rituals, and masked traditional dances and performances.

5. Druk Wangyel Tshechu

This religious celebration is in honour of Gay Ngyen Jakpa Melen, a guardian deity of Bhutan in October-November every year at Dechenphug Lhakhang. Religious dances, masked performances, and traditional rituals are a sight to behold.

6. Dechenphu Tshechu

This festival is a performance by the Royal Bhutan Army in December every year at Dochula, near the Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range. It honours the role of the army and the leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan.

Day 6: Back to Phuentsholing and your city

Leave from Thimphu depending on when your return flight from Paro or Bagdogra is. Thimphu to Paro is 51km (1.5 to 2 hours by road), while Thimphu to Bagdogra is 328km (8-10 hours by road).

If you feel like going all the way to Bagdogra and then your city will be too tiresome, then head to Phuentsholing (149km: 4-7 hours) first, stay over and cover anything you may have missed to see or do here, and then go to Bagdogra and your respective cities the next day.

Pro Tip: If you have only 5 days for the trip instead of 6, you can still follow the same itinerary. Just book a direct flight to Paro instead of going via Bagdogra and Phuntsholing. But remember, flights to Paro are fewer and more expensive.

How Much Will 6 Days in Bhutan Cost?

Here’s an estimate of how much a 6-day Bhutan trip would cost:

Item Cost in Rs. *
Permit** Rs.7,200 (Rs.1,200 per day x 6)
Cab (hatchback for 4 travellers) Rs.18,000 (Rs.3,000 per day x 6)
Hotels** Rs.14,500 (Rs.2,900 per day x 5)
Rinpung Dzong** Rs.300
Taktsang Goemba** Rs.1,000
National Museum of Bhutan, Paro** Rs.25
Kyichu Lhakhang** Rs.300
Motithang Takin Preserve** Rs.300
Folk Heritage Museum** Rs.50
Simply Bhutan** Rs.300
Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory** Rs.50
National Memorial Chorten** Rs.300
Tashichho Dzong** Rs.300
Bhutan Textile Museum** Rs.100
Grand total Rs.42,725

*calculated as per current rates, subject to change. Check out the latest prices before fixing your budget.

**Cost per person for the entire trip

Food costs not included

Must-try Dishes While You’re in Paro and Thimphu 

Image by User: (WT-shared) Shoestring at wts wikivoyage / CC BY-SA

Bhutanese cuisine mainly uses datshi (yak cheese), red rice, dried meats such as yak and beef, and chillies. It’s heavy in stews, soups, and sides.

Don’t miss these vegetarian dishes in Bhutan:

  • Ema-datshi/datshi: Stew made of spicy chillies and yak cheese. Have it with the staple red rice.
  • Kewa datshi: Stew made of potatoes and yak cheese, but only mildly spicy.
  • Shamu datshi: Stew made of mushrooms and yak cheese.
  • Lom: Stir-fried or sautéed turnip leaves
  • Jaju: Soup made of milk and leafy vegetables such as turnip leaves or spinach
  • Goen hogay: Cucumber salad mixed with chili flakes, tomato, coriander, onions, Sichuan pepper, and datshi cheese.
  • Ezay: This is not a dish, but a mandatory dip—Bhutanese chili sauce.

Check with restaurants for buckwheat dishes such as hoentay (dumplings), khur-le (pancakes), and puta (noodles).

Don’t miss these meat dishes in Bhutan:

  • Jasha maroo/maru: Chicken (or beef) stew/broth with chillies, onion, tomato, garlic, ginger, and coriander leaves.
  • Phaksha paa: Stew with boneless pork shoulder, red chillies, radish, ginger, and bok choy.
  • Sik am paa: Dried pork belly fried with dried chillies
  • Juma: Sausage made with minced meat, Sichuan pepper, and rice-filled and wrapped into the intestine.
  • Yak meat dishes: If you like beef, you’ll probably end up liking yak meat too. Check with the restaurant about their yak meat dishes and ask for anything that appeals to you.

Also, check out if the restaurant(s) you are in serves momos with unique stuffings.

Best Time to Visit Paro and Thimphu

The best time to visit Paro and Thimphu is from March to May (spring and summer) and then from September to November (autumn). At this time, the weather ranges from pleasant to slightly hot or cold.

Avoid the peak of winter and monsoon. The temperature in winters (December to February) can go down to -6° Celsius. Monsoons, on the other hand, can get very wet and humid.

Off-season Travel to Bhutan

June to August (monsoon/late summer) and December to February (winter) are typically considered off-season for Bhutan travel. This is because the rains can be quite heavy and the winters quite cold.

However, that does not mean you cannot go there at all. Bhutan in winters is a delight of snow-covered mountains, clear blue skies, and snow-games. During monsoon/late summer, you can see the country in all its verdant grandeur.

You could also plan off-season trips to Bhutan if you’re planning to attend any of the tshechus or other festivals.

A few things you can expect to be cheaper during off-season are:

  • Organised tours from certified operators
  • Hotel tariff
  • Flight rates

This could bring down your overall cost by at least 20%.

Disclaimer:

  1. Prices are per person
  2. In case of hotels, they are per person per day

All prices mentioned here are as of the date of update. Please check actual rates before finalising budgets and plans.


About Author

Writer, observer, lover of stories. Expert in short-people problems, armchair travel, and overthinking. I like to think that I’m a wise woman with a pinch of quirk.

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