Overview of 8 days Bhutan itinerary –
Day 1: Arrive at Phuntsholing, travel to Thimphu.
2nd Day: Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu sightseeing, permit extension and special area permit.
4th day: Day trip to Punakha.
Day 5: Travel to Paro.
6th Day: Day trip to Haa valley.
Day 7: Hike to Tiger Nest Monastery.
Day 8: Paro to Phuntsholing.
In April 2018, we backpacked to Bhutan – the country of happiness, for 8 days using our Own Bhutan itinerary. The memories are so fresh that it feels like it was just yesterday we were wandering down those clean lanes in Thimphu and Paro exploring those local markets, eating out at random places, admiring magnificent Bhutanese architecture, interacting with locals and listening to their side of Bhutanese histories.
We did not opt for any packaged tours and planned the whole trip & made our 8 days Bhutan itinerary on our own with the help of other travel blogs. We backpacked through western Bhutan – Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Haa valley in those 8 days and mostly traveled by bus and shared cabs. During our trip, we booked cab only when it was highly necessary and thus managed to cover the whole trip under 13000 INR per person.
Here are the details of the Bhutan itinerary we followed during our trip. This might help future travelers who want to explore the majestic beauty of Bhutan on their own.
- We started and ended our Bhutan trip at Phuntsholing.
- According to the Visa policy of Bhutan, Citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, do not need a visa obtained prior to their visit, but an entry permit at the port of entry upon arriving in Bhutan. So, if you’re a passport holder of any of those countries, you can check the procedure of applying for an entry permit.
- Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of Indian Standard time.
- The train journey from Kolkata to Hasimara: Board Kanchankanya express (Scheduled departure time- 8:30 PM, Arrival time : 11:05 AM) from Sealdah, Kolkata. We reached Hasimara at 11:50 AM as the train got delayed for more than half an hour.
- Reached Hasimara by 12:00 midday, took shared auto (cost 45 Rs per head) to Jaigaon, crossed border, got our entry permit by 3 PM BST (Immigration office lunch hours are from 1 PM to 2 PM BST; as we reached the border town at 1:15 PM BST, so we had to wait for 45 minutes).
- Transfer to Thimphu by shared cab at 3:30 PM BST after buying a local sim card; reached Thimphu by 8:30 in the evening.
- Checked into Hotel Ghasel, which is very convenient and budget staying option, located right in the heart of the city. We got a really good money-saving deal on Booking.com plus some discount on our stay which made our trip more affordable.
- Thimphu Sightseeing – visit Buddha Dordenma, Changangkha Lhakhang, takin zoo, a few viewpoints (VVS tower, Kuenselphodrang nature park), Folk heritage museum (closed on Sundays and public holidays), Thimphu Dzong. Stay at Thimphu.
- Explore Thimphu on foot. Visit Royal textile museum (closed on Sundays and government holidays), Postal museum (closed on weekends and public holidays; we went there on a Saturday to visit it for the second time – IT WAS CLOSED!! ), explore local markets, eateries, souvenir shops, watch an Archery match, Spend time sitting at Thimphu Clock tower.
- Entry pass extension and restricted area entry pass approval. Stay at Thimphu.
Note– One can add a hike to Tango & Cherry monastery on day 3. We planned the same but later dismissed the plan because of ongoing discontinuous rain.
- Day trip to Punakha via Dochula pass. Visit Punakha Dzong, Suspension bridge and back to Thimphu, Chimi Lhakhang en route.
- Book bus ticket to Paro. Stay at Thimphu.
One can do river rafting in Pho Chu and Mo Chu river, but for that, you have to stay for that day in Punakha or Khuruthang. If you plan to do so, book your accommodation prior to your visit as there are very few staying options available in Punakha and Khuruthang (Only 1 in Punakha and 5 in Khuruthang). Alternatively on Day 4, from Thimphu, you can visit Punakha via Dochula Pass, go for rafting, stay for the night at Lobesa in case you’re planning to visit Chimmi Lhakhang (which I recommend to visit). Lobesa has 4 accommodation options available, so prior booking is needed to avoid any kind of trouble.
The entry fees of each Dzong in Bhutan is 300 Rs. per person. Among all the Dzongkhas, Punakha Dzong is the most beautiful and the biggest one. So if you want to cut down the budget, visit only Punakha Dzong from the inside ( don’t forget to ask for your free guide at the ticket counter) and other dzongs from outside. There are viewpoints for each dzong which offer an excellent outside view.
- Early morning bus travel from Thimphu to Paro. Check into Hotel Samden Norzin (our best stay in Bhutan), located just opposite the bus station.
- Visit Kyichu Lhakhang, explore local markets. Stay at Paro.
- Day trip to Haa valley via Chele la pass by booked cab. Stay at Paro.
Note– if you’re planning to stay at Haa, try to go for a few hikes – katsho goemba and Jana dingkha. For further information, I’ll recommend reading offbeat explorers’ post on hikes around haa valley. Also, there are very few staying options available in Haa. So, try to book your accommodation prior to your visit to avoid any kind of inconveniences.
- Hike to Tiger Nest monastery (we started at 8 in the morning and reached the monastery by 11:00 AM).
- Come back to the hotel and have lunch.
- Visit Rinpung Dzong/Paro Dzong, the National Museum in the afternoon.
Paro Rinpung Dzong timings: 8 AM – 6 PM from March to October and 8am-4:30 pm from November to February.
National Museum timings: 9 AM – 5 PM from March to October (ticket counter closes at 4:30 PM); 9 AM – 4 PM from November to February (ticket counter closes at 3:30 PM)
- Book bus ticket for Phuntsholing, explore local souvenir shops. Stay at Paro.
- Bus travel from Paro to Phuntsholing.
- Have lunch at Jaigaon before boarding train from Hasimara at 4:50 PM.
If you have more than 7 days, then from Punakha, on Day 5, you can go on a day trip to Phobjika Valley (especially if you visit in winter, you can witness Black neck crane there). On Day 6, You can go up to Bumthang (Central Bhutan) and spend 1-2 days there before moving to Paro.
Which places in Bhutan do you want to cover? Do You have any itinerary on your mind? Share it with us. Also, If you need any help with planning an itinerary, please leave a comment!