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The 8 Best Cultural Tours in Bhutan

  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Sat Dec 19, 2020
8 best cultural tours in Bhutan

Bhutan, a sparsely populated country in the southeast of the Asian continent, is cradled in the foothills of the Himalayas making it the ideal place to conserve its rich culture. Culture is interwoven into all walks of life of the Bhutanese people which can be distinctly seen in the cultural tours in Bhutan. Bhutan culture and traditions are largely based on Vajrayana Buddhism.

Bhutanese religion is portrayed in the architecture of the ancient Dzongs, temples, chortens, and Mani walls. These architectural wonders are found in almost all corners of Bhutan straddled in hilltops offering views of the wide-spanning valleys.

More than most, all the architectural milestones are connected to the spiritual legend Guru Rimpoche known to introduce Buddhism to the Bhutan Kingdom in the 7th century. Myths suggest that he came on a tiger’s back to visit many caves in Bhutan which were later developed into monasteries and temples.

Bhutan also hosts numerous festivals in their monasteries. The festivals are rich in heritage and culture showing off their ethnic dress, songs, mask dances, and food. Bhutanese cultural landscape expands beyond the valleys into the hills decorated with tranquil monasteries for meditation and worship.


Following are the list of 8 Best Cultural Tours in Bhutan:

1. A Glimpse Of Bhutan Tour - 4 Days

glimpse of Bhutan Tour

Although brief, the Glimpse of Bhutan tour offers an insight into the rich culture in the economic and administrative centers of Bhutan. You will be embraced by the warm Bhutanese people who are very protective of their religious landmarks.

Some of the cultural icons that you will get to visit on this tour are the King’s Memorial Chorten, Motithang Takin Reserve, Paro Dzong, Buddha Point, and Paro Taktsang/ Tiger’s Nest Monastery. As suggested by the tour package, you will get the apt experience of the culture and tradition of Bhutan in the high cliffs overlooking the major cities and towns. It is the best travel destination for visitors who have limited time and/or budget but high enthusiasm to learn about the Bhutanese culture.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1       

Arrive in Paro and Drive to Thimphu (55km/1hour and 30mins)

Day 2

Sightseeing in Thimphu then drive to Paro (55km/1hr and 30mins) and Sightseeing

Day 3

Sightseeing hike to Tiger’s Nest/Taktsang Monastery (3180m/1043ft, 5 to 6hrs)

Day 4

Final Departure from Paro

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

2. Bhutan Heritage Tour - 8 Days

Bhutan Heritage Tour

The Bhutan Heritage Tour is an easy-going trip that lands you at major cultural heritage sites in the Himalayan Kingdom. The age-old heritage of Bhutan is seen across traditional houses and buildings and most importantly the Dzongs and Lakhangs.

You get to intermingle with the locals, some living in the bustling cities and towns, while others amidst isolated hills. Perhaps the most memorable sites that you get to visit on this tour are the roosting sites of Black-necked cranes; Gangtey monastery and the former Sky Burial grounds. This is regarded as one of the best tours to explore the importance of religious sites in ceremonial activities from birth, marriage, festivals to funerals.  

Brief Itinerary

Day 1        

Arrival in Paro followed by a sightseeing tour

Day 2

Drive from Paro to Thimphu (50 km, 1 hour ) and sightseeing

Day 3

Drive from Thimphu to Gangtey/Phobjikha Valley (127km, 4-5 hours)

Day 4

Sightseeing tour in Gangtey then drive to Punakha (74km, 2 to 3 hours)

Day 5

Drive from Punakha to Paro (116km, 3 to 4 hours)

Day 6

Loop drive to Haa Valley (120 km, 4 hours) via Chele La pass and back to Paro

Day 7

Sightseeing hike to Paro Taktsang/ Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Day 8

Final Departure from Paro

3. Bhutan Cultural Tour - 5 Days

Bhutan Cultural Tour

Bhutan Cultural Tour is an escapade into the traditional fortresses, temples, and monasteries in the cities of Paro, Bhutan Capital Thimphu, and Punakha. A combination of short drives and hikes, the tour lets you intermingle with the locals and understand their traditions and daily activities in a local homestay accommodation in the former capital of Bhutan, Punakha.

You will see the monasteries and temples filled with Bhutanese locals wearing Bhutan culture dress- males wearing Gho attire and females wearing Kira attire. Some of the landmarks that you will visit are the Rinpung Dzong, one of the oldest temples of Kichu Lhakhang, cultural icon Tiger’s Nest Monastery, 108 memorial chortens at Dochula Pass, and one of the largest monasteries, Punakha Dzong. You should also be open to visiting the Chimi Lakhang which is called ‘The Fertility Temple’ that exhibits phallus objects and paintings of spiritual significance.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1        

Arrival in Paro and sightseeing, then drive to Thimphu (50 km, 1 hours)

Day 2

Sightseeing tour in Thimphu then drive to Punakha (74km, 2 to 3 hours)

Day 3

Sightseeing in Punakha then drive to Paro (116km, 3 to 4 hours)

Day 4

Sightseeing hike to Paro Taktsang/ Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Day 5

Final Departure from Paro

4. Western Bhutan Tour - 7 Days

Western Bhutan Tour

The 7 days Western Bhutan Tour takes you to the western region in the former capital of Bhutan, Punakha nestled between Mo chhu and Pho Chhu rivers and the Phobijikha village. The Jungshi Handmade Paper factory following the age-old art of papermaking is a representation of the economic status of Bhutan. You get to witness the protected flora and fauna in the Motithang Takin Reserve. This trip also takes you to the high mountain pass of Dochula with astounding views of the Himalayas. Culture is truly depicted in the way of life of the people living in the scattered village of Phobjikha.

 Although the western end of Bhutan touches the China border, you will be amazed to see that there has been little to no influence in the way of life of the Bhutanese people as they protect their religion and culture.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1        

Arrival in Paro, sightseeing and drive to Thimphu (1hour /55km)

Day 2

Sightseeing tour to Thimphu

Day 3

Drive from Thimphu to Punakha (2-3 hours/85km) then Sightseeing

Day 4

Drive from Punakha to Phobjikha (2-3hours/81km) then explore Phobjikha village

Day 5

Drive from Phobjikha/Gangtey to Paro (5 hours/176km) and Paro Sightseeing

Day 6

Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (5 to 6 hours)

Day 7

Departure from Paro

5. Western And Central Bhutan Tour - 9 Days

Western and Central Bhutan Tour

Western and Central Bhutan Tour traverses through the cultural and religious center of Punakha and Bumthang. The journey takes you to amazing vistas and iconic landmarks crossing through high passes and into villages that seem to be lost in time.

Perhaps the highlight of this trek is visiting the much-acclaimed Jakar Dzong, Kurjey Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, and Tamshing Lhakhang temples in Bumthang. Apart from those, you also get to visit some spectacular monasteries like Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lhakhang, Tashiccho Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, and King’s Memorial Chorten.

If you want to experience the true culture of Bhutan and understand the Buddhist religion, then the Western and Central Bhutan Tour is best for you.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1         

Arrival in Paro then Drive to Thimphu (55km/ 1hour)

Day 2

Sightseeing tour in Thimphu

Day 3

Drive from Thimphu to Punakha (85km/ 2-3 hours), via Dochula Pass (3,100m/10,200ft) and Sightseeing in Punakha

Day 4

Drive from Punakha to Gangtey/ Phobjikha (82km/ 2-3 hours)

Day 5

Drive from Gangtey/Phobjikha to Bumthang (163km/ 5-6 hours)

Day 6

Sightseeing stay in Bumthang

Day 7

Flight to Paro (35 minutes)

Day 8

Sightseeing hike to Taktsang/Tiger’s Nest Monastery (3180m/1043ft, 5 – 6 hours)

Day 9

Final Departure from Paro

6. Grand Cultural Tour Of Bhutan - 6 Days

Grand Cultural Tour of Bhutan

The 6 days escapade in the Grand Cultural Tour of Bhutan is rightly named so, as it is designed to take you to the soulful former capital of Punakha on a loop from Paro to Thimphu and back. It is one of the most exciting cultural tours in Bhutan and best for those who want to interact with the warm and welcoming people of Bhutan.

Some of the notable places of cultural value are the tall Shakyamuni Statue in Buddha Dordenma, Punakha Dzong with amazing wall paintings, Druk Wangyal Monastery, 108 memorial Chortens at Dochula pass, Taktsang Monastery, and Kichu Lakhang among others.

Through the tour you can comprehend why Bhutan is called the happiest country as per the National Gross Happiness Index because the people are connected deeply to nature and culture. Their spirituality is reflected in the acts of meditation and prayer in the monasteries and temples situated on solitary hilltops.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1        

Arrival in Paro and Drive to Thimphu (55km/ 1hour)

Day 2

Sightseeing tour in Thimphu

Day 3

Drive from Thimphu to Punakha (85km/ 2-3 hrs), via Dochula Pass (3,100m/10,200ft) and Sightseeing in Punakha

Day 4

Drive from Punakha to Paro (117km/ 3 – 4hrs)

Day 5

Sightseeing Hike to Paro Taktsang/Tiger’s Nest Monastery (3180m/1043ft, 5 - 6hrs)

Day 6

Final Departure from Paro

Where to travel next?

Get help from our travel specialists for holiday ideas that matches your interests.

7. Bhutan West East Traverse Tour - 14 Days

Bhutan West East Traverse Tour

Bhutan West East Traverse Tour, unlike most of the other cultural tours, is a long tour in the Land of Druk, that exposes you to the Vajrayana Buddhist Culture throughout the country. The enthralling 14 days journey begins from the eastern end of Samdrup Jongkhar, the oldest town in Bhutan, and crosses through the mid-section towards Paro in the west. Hence, the tour showcases diversity in nature and consistency in culture.

The Bhutan West East Traverse Tour takes you to villages like Phongmey where women are seen textile weaving from raw silk, through remote settlements of Trangshiganag where locals plant banana groves and cornfields. These activities show how Bhutan is economically latched on to the age-old traditions. To top it off, you navigate through some of the most challenging and exciting landscapes like the Thrumshing La pass (3,750m/12,303 ft) and Kori La Pass (2450m/8,038ft), which offer vistas of the majestic mountain range from the east to the west.

More importantly, it offers visits to ancient enduring monasteries and temples in Trashigang in the east and Bumthang, Punakha, Thimphu, and Paro in the west.

It is one of the finest tours in Bhutan because it packs the most subtle and tranquil environmental settings with venerable icons of cultural significance sitting silently to be worshiped by Buddhist pilgrims and locals.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1           

Drive from Guwahati, India to Samdrup Jongkhar (104km, 2 to 3 hours)

Day 2

Drive from Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang (170km, 5 to 6 hours)

Day 3

Excursion tour in Trashigang

Day 4

Drive from Trashigang to Mongar (91km, 3 hours)

Day 5

Drive from Mongar to Khoma (69km, 2 to 3 hours) and Drive to Autsho (34km, 1 hours)

Day 6

Drive from Autsho to Bumthang (193km, 7 to 8 hours)

Day 7

Excursion tour in Bumthang

Day 8

Drive from Bumthang to Punakha (217km, 6 to 7 hours)

Day 9

Excursion tour in Punakha

Day 10

Drive from Punakha to Thimphu (85km, 2 to 3 hours)

Day 11

Excursion Tour in Thimphu

Day 12

Drive from Thimphu to Paro (55km/1hr) and Sightseeing

Day 13

Sightseeing Hike to Paro Taktsang/ Tiger’s Nest) Monastery (3180m/1043ft, 5-6 hrs)

Day 14

Final Departure from Paro

8. Bhutan Tour With Haa Valley - 8 Days

Bhutan Tour with Haa Valley

Bhutan Tour with Haa Valley is a recently opened tourist destination in 2002. The main essence of the tour lies in the drive-through surrounded by still hills and the visit to monasteries, temples, and Chortens. The tour allows you to immerse in the Buddhist religion as it is largely a part of Bhutanese culture which you can witness through a visit to their place of worship.

You can explore the local villages in Haa Valley, Nobgang, Talo, and Rinchengang and witness the locals working on their farmlands. Furthermore, you can also explore the Rinpung Dzong, Kichu Lhakhang, Chimi Lhakhang, Dobji Dzong, Punakha Dzong, Phodrang Dzong, and Tiger’s Nest monastery, all inclined towards Buddhism. Although new, this trek has gained momentum among tourists in recent years due to the inclusion of exploration in the villages, cultural landmarks in the hilltops with views of the Haa valley, Paro Valley, Thimphu city, and Punakha town.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1         

Arrival in Paro and sightseeing

Day 2

Drive from Paro to Haa Valley (65 km, drive 1 to 2 hours)

Day 3

Drive from Haa Valley to Thimphu (108 km, drive 3-4 hours)

Day 4

Drive from Bhutan capital Thimphu to Punakha (77 km, drive 3 hours)

Day 5

Exploring Punakha and drive to Wangdue (13 km, 45 minutes)

Day 6

Drive from Wangdue to Paro (126 km, drive 4 hours)

Day 7

Excursion Hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (5 to 6 hours)

Day 8

Departure from Paro

Why Should You Visit Bhutan?

The Land of the Thunder Dragon is prominent for its closely knitted culture, stunning landscapes, ancient temples, remote villages, and laggard city life. The isolated Himalayan Kingdom bordering China in the north and India in the south overlooks a range of mountains protecting the valleys and sparse villages. Bhutan tourism is one of the best in the world due to the following reasons:

Religion, traditions, and culture

Bhutan predominantly follows Vajrayana Buddhism believed to be brought by spiritual legend, Guru Rimpoche. As it is the state religion, it is refleted in the traditions and cultural practices of Bhutan. Festivals worshiping the divine relics and ceremonies for major occasions are all soaked in Buddhism. The national Bhutan culture dress of Gho and Kira wore by men and women respectively preludes the modern western apparel. Cham dance/mask dance, and folk dance are vibrant and fascinating and depict the ancient history of the formation of Bhutan. One must come in person to experience the rich culture of Bhutan.

Cultural Landmarks

Bhutan’s culture and religion are seen in the development of their age-old monasteries, temples, chortens, and Mani walls. It is a must to visit Bhutan to experience the Tiger’s Nest Monastery/Paro Taktsang located on top of a cliff, established with the belief that Guru Rimpoche visited the caves in his Tiger’s back to meditating here for months. Similar historical landmarks like Rinpung Dzong, Kichu Lhakhang, King’s Memorial Chorten, Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lhakhang, Tashiccho Dzong, and Gangtey Monastery, some of which are the largest and some the oldest dating back to the 7th century.

Rich Flora and fauna

Bhutan tour is best for covering an array of rich green forests with wildflowers, rhododendron, pine, juniper, orchids, magnolias, and oak forests. It boasts about 300 medicinal plants and a wide range of 46 species of rhododendron. The high altitudes beyond 3000m to 4000m provides habitation for the rare Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Bengal Tiger, Langurs, and Gorals. The trails in the cultural tours of Bhutan offers a chance to come across these wonders.

Pleasant climate and weather conditions

Bhutan is also known to have pleasant weather in all seasons. The subtropical climate is unchanging most of the year. The climate flourishes rich forests and inhabits a wide range of animals and birds. The flat valleys are characterized by hot summers and moderate rainfall in monsoon and summer. In the winters, the weather is cool in the flatlands and witnesses’ snowfalls in high altitude. Bhutan looks different in different seasons.

Freshly cooked vibrant cuisine

Bhutan is a food utopia for tourists whose primary purpose is to try distinct cuisines. Ema Datshi is the national dish of Bhutan which is a combination of ‘Ema’ translated to spice and ‘datshi’ translated to cheese. Food in Bhutan is vibrant and spicy with a mixture of rare spices. Locals also prepare their famous local wine made of wheat and millet and the well-known butter tea.

Among other things, Bhutan is the happiest country in the world so it is best to visit in order to experience the phlegmatic ambiance with content faces. An avid traveler should in no way miss out on visiting mystical Bhutan.

Best Time For Cultural Tours In Bhutan

Best Time For cultural tours In Bhutan

Bhutan is a natural and cultural wonder at all times of the year. However, different landscapes in Bhutan have different weather conditions which affect sightseeing and your comfort of traveling.

The Winter season from December to February is considered to be a good time for cultural tours in Bhutan. Only down side is that the mornings and evenings will be colder. This is because the weather in the flatlands is cool in the winters. Unlike summer and monsoon, the weather is not sweaty or gloomy. Even though winters are cold in Bhutan, the best cultural tour packages do not take you to heights above 4000m so you don’t get to face heavy and harsh snow.

Moreover, the true culture of Bhutan is observed through their major festivals which fall in Winter. Trongsa Tshechu is a festival celebration to greet the New Year on Jan 1 in Trongsa Dzong. The annual Trashigang Tshechu is celebrated in November/December in Trashigang Dzong where you can witness ceremonial cleansings and mask dances. Monggar Tshechu is another exciting annual festival, which is celebrated in Monggar Dzong (Eastern Bhutan). To top it off, there are fewer visitors this time of the year so you can get the tourist destination all to yourself.

The Autumn season is generally regarded as the best season to take any kind of treks or tours in Bhutan. Autumn falls during the month of late September to November in Bhutan. In the cultural tours you will be reaching the hilltops and cliffs toward the monasteries and temples, so in autumn you get to observe the unobstructed view of the pristine valley and high mountain.

The Spring season from March to May is also considered good. Monsoon during the time of June to mid-September typically sees rainfall so the low lands in the valley have slippery trails, making it difficult to drive at times.

Conclusion

The culture in Bhutan is unlike any other country. In that, culture is a crucial aspect of the local’s day to day life. From the dress they wear to the gods they worship; their heritage is reflected as you enter from any border whether east or west. The above-mentioned tours are some of the best cultural tours in Bhutan that offer a chance to get in touch with your spiritual self, understand the importance of history and religion. Also, the tour offers a chance to enjoy the panoramic views of the mountain and hills while driving through lush forests. The tour traverses mostly through drives and sometimes hikes. If you are someone who wants to experience the cultures and traditions of the southeast without having to worry about your physique then the cultural tours are designed particularly for you.

Relish your Bhutan Cultural tour to the fullest by contacting us to receive suggestions on the ideal tour for you and to have your tour managed successfully.


  • Author: Naba Raj Amgai
  • Posted on: Saturday Dec 19, 2020
Naba Raj

About Author - Naba Raj Amgai

Naba Raj Amgai, stepped into the world of travel and tourism in 1996. He is Founder and Managing Director of Third Rock Adventures.

Beginning his journey in the tourism industry as a humble Porter Guide to founding hospitality establishments and an adventure travel company, he has come a long way.

In a career spanning more than two decades, he has achieved more than anybody dreams of achieving. Along with his professional achievements, his selfless contribution towards his community and society has won him a lot of accolades and praises.

Having dedicated more than two decades in the tourism and hospitality sector, he has amassed a wealth of experience.

After passing high school, he began helping out some trekking guides and was soon recruited as a porter guide at a reputed trekking agency. Within a short time, he was individually guiding clients across the well-known trails of the Himalayas.

He went on to lead tour groups on multi-country tours to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India. Being a part of mountain climbing expeditions familiarised him with expedition logistics and operations. Later on, he went to become the Executive Director and took over the reins of Operations, Sales and Marketing departments. Spending several years in the tourism field has made Naba Raj Amgai a destination expert.

Travelling is his passion and he has been to many countries across the world – USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Holland, Germany, Austria and many parts of Asia.

His journeys to different parts of the world have enriched his travel experience and knowledge. This experience has been instrumental in planning and organizing successful trips for several clients.

As of today many reputed travel companies, hotels and restaurants are under his leadership. A dynamic and proactive leader, he continues to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.

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