Bhutan Highlights & Black Necked Crane Festival Tour

From $2,900 pp

  • Duration

    10 days
  • Departure Date

    Nov 5, 2024
  • Trip Style

    Small Group
  • Country

  • Physical Rating



Discover the rich blend of cultural and natural experiences Bhutan's highlights have to offer, and witness the iconic Black Necked Crane Festival!

This 10-day Small-Group (max 12 guests) Bhutan trip offers a captivating journey through the heart of this enchanting Himalayan kingdom. You'll stay in 4* accommodations (included) spending 3 nights in Thimphu, 4 nights in Gangtey, and 2 nights in Paro.

Starting in Paro and proceeding directly to Thimphu, the capital city, the itinerary begins with visits to picturesque monasteries (including one accessed by a short hike), with visits to vibrant local markets sprinkled in.

The tour continues to Punakha and the stunning Gangtey Valley, with a special focus on the annual Black Necked Crane Festival and Black Necked Crane Observatory. You'll explore Bhutan's unique environment and culture, and enjoy a mixture of historical and natural wonders.

The journey concludes with a visit to Paro's special landmarks, including the stunning Taktsang Monastery ("Tiger's Nest"), and is rounded out by a wholesome local dining experience.

This immersive trip allows travelers to soak up the beauty and spirituality of Bhutan, leaving them with cherished memories of this remarkable destination.


  • Visit classic Thimphu sites like the Local Crafts Bazaar, the National Library, and the Institute for Zorg Chusum (Painting School)
  • Experience a living museum for the cultural heritage of Bhutanese people
  • See the King's Memorial Chorten and six impressive forts ('Dzongs')
  • Enjoy engaging hikes to the Cheri Monastery and the renowned Taktsang Monastery ("Tiger's Nest"), and visit a few more monasteries by car along the way
  • Visit the Sangchen Dorji Lhendup nunnery near Punakha
  • Walk through local markets and admire bamboo products, slate, stone carvings, and more
  • Explore the Gangtey Valley and celebrate with locals at the Black Necked Crane Festival - you'll have time at the Black Necked Crane Observatory, too
  • Savor an authentic dining experience at a local farmhouse and taste Bhutanese cuisine while feeling the warmth of local hospitality
  • Visit the RENEW Center, a non-profit organization working to: Respect, Educate, Nurture, & Empower Women

Departure Dates

  • Nov 5, 2024 - Nov 14, 2024

Guaranteed Departure

Group Size: Max 12; 10 spots left.

Seasonal Notes

November is one of the best months to visit Bhutan. Temperatures are mild and pleasant, which allows for very enjoyable short hikes with spectacular views. Expect temperatures to be warm during the day and a bit cold during the evening, ranging from 41°F-54°F.

Festivals are abundant and a special way for visitors to connect with Bhutan's culture. This trip is only offered once per year, in November, to coincide with the Black Necked Crane Festival.


Day 0 Delhi [India] or Kathmandu [Nepal]

This 10-day Small-Group trip starts on November 5th. To arrive in Paro on November 5th, there are two options, both of which we can assist you:

  1. Fly into Delhi, India on November 4th and spend the night there, then fly to Paro, Bhutan on November 5th (additional cost).
  2. Fly into Kathmandu, Nepal on November 4th and spend the night there, then fly to Paro, Bhutan on November 5th (additional cost).

In most cases, this will mean flying out of the United States on November 3rd to arrive on time for this trip.

Day 1 Paro [Bhutan] (arrival day)

Take a scenic flight from either Delhi, India, or Kathmandu, Nepal to arrive in Paro (additional cost). Both flights will offer an incredible introduction to the breathtaking Himalayan range, with scenic views and an exciting descent into Bhutan.

Upon arrival at the Paro airport, you will be met warmly and welcomed with great hospitality. The representative will display the “Yugen Earthside” placard outside the airport terminal. This will be your tour guide during your entire visit to Bhutan.

You will be then escorted and transferred to the Thimphu hotel in our private vehicle. Drive time from Paro to Thimphu is about 1.5 hours. Along the way, you will be given a brief description of the activities that will take place during the upcoming trip and a preliminary briefing on hygiene and safety by our representative.

In Thimphu, you will check into your hotel and have time to relax after the day's journey. In the evening, you can stroll along Thimphu Main Street and the bustling market area. Don't miss the Local Crafts Bazaar, showcasing exquisite examples of Bhutan's traditional arts. Here, you have the opportunity to purchase hand-woven textiles, Thangkha paintings, masks, ceramics, slate, and wood carvings, as well as jewelry and unique items crafted from local materials.

Altitude above sea level: 2,350m
Driving time: approx. 1.5 hours
Accommodation: 4* Hotel

Day 2 Thimphu Sightseeing

After breakfast, we'll enjoy a big day of sightseeing in the Thimphu Calley including visits to the following:

  • The National Library, which houses an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts.
  • The Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School) where students undergo a 6-year training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts.
  • Simply Bhutan, a living museum and studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people.
  • Either the Textile Museum, which provides insight into one of Bhutan’s most distinct art forms, or the Lhendup Weaving Center.

Afterward, we'll visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang), the largest statue in the country and the world's largest sitting Buddha statue at 167 feet high. Located a short drive from Thimphu's city center, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu Valley from Buddha Point. You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.

Moving on, we'll visit the King's Memorial Chorten. This memorial is continuously circumambulated ceremoniously by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. The construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”). The King wished to erect a monument for world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.

Next, we'll visit Trashichhoedzong. This impressive fortress/monastery houses the Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King, and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of the Chief Abbot and central monk body.

We can also visit the RENEW Center in Thimphu. They are taking steps to empower and train women. The botanical gardens and parks are another option, if you prefer.

Altitude above sea level: 2,350m
Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 Thimphu Hike

After breakfast, get ready to hike to the Cheri Goemba Monastery (also called the Chagri Dorjeden Monastery). This monastery was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620. A silver chorten inside the monastery holds the ashes of Shabdrung's father.

We'll drive for about 30 minutes to reach to the base point towards the north of Thimphu. The goemba is situated about half an hour's walk from Dodena (alt. 2,600m). The trail commences by crossing a traditional wooden bridge that spans the ThimphuChhu, then climbs steeply to the monastery.

Being the place where the Shabdrung spent many years in meditation, Cheri today has numerous hermitages and small temples located on its slopes. The one-way walk to the monastery is approx 2 km, taking about 2 hours (roundtrip).

Afterward, you'll visit the Pangri Zampa Monastery, standing on the west bank of the Thimphu River just beyond the municipality's northern fringes. Although its history spans nearly 500 years, it is most famous for its role as Bhutan's Royal College of Astrology, a distinction it has held since 2003.

Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 Thimphu - Punakha

Early morning after your breakfast, you will be driven to Punakha. En route, we will visit several important sites.

The first visit will be to the Bhutanese Dzong known as Simtokha Dzong, located approximately 5 kilometers south of Thimphu. The Dzong is officially called the Sangak Zabhon Phodrang which roughly translates to the Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras.

Then, we will stop over for tea at Dochula Pass (3,100 m), where on a sunny day, you can get stunning views of the majestic Eastern Himalayan ranges.

Next, we will drive towards Punakha and visit Punakha Dzong, or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzong. This is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Po Chhu Rivers, which combine to form the Puna Tsang Chu. This, in turn, is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra River.

We can also visit Sangchen Dorji Lhendup, a nunnery near Punakha that is on the way.

Finally, we'll visit the Chimi Lhakang monastery, also known as Chimel Lhakang, located in the Punakha District of Bhutan. The monastery stands on a small hill close to the village of Lobesa and was constructed in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpaheirarch. The monastery is also known as the temple of fertility and is visited not only by the Bhutanese but also by women from countries as far as Japan and the United States to receive a special blessing that can help these women conceive children.

Later in the evening, you can explore the local market of Punakha.

You are invited (not obligated) to give donations to monk schools in Punakha. We are submitting a letter of request to visit one such school in person.

Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 Punakha - Gangtey

After breakfast, we'll leave the hotel and drive to Gangtey (Phobjikha) via Lawala Pass. On the way, we'll pass through Wangdue Phodrang where you can explore the local market and its famous bamboo products, slate, and stone carvings. The journey takes you through dense forests with oak and rhododendron trees, eventually reaching the breathtaking Gangtey Valley, a rare expanse of treeless terrain in Bhutan.

Following lunch, you can embark on the scenic and easy 3.4 miles (5.5 km) Gangtey Nature Trail. This pleasant walk starts from a small hill overlooking Gangtey Goemba, leading you through flower meadows to Semchubara village, then into beautiful forests and an open valley. The trail concludes at the local community school, passing by a chorten and Khewal Lhakhang.

Driving duration: 3 hours
Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 Black Necked Crane Info Center; Phobjikha Valley

After breakfast, visit the Black Necked Crane Information Center, which features informative displays about black-necked cranes and the valley's environment. You can use the center's powerful spotting scopes and consult its pamphlet "Field Guide to Crane Behavior" to identify and learn about these birds. If the weather is uncertain, you can peruse the library and watch a 15-minute video.

The majestic Black Necked Crane birds migrate to the Phobjikha Valley every winter. Their arrival is considered an important and auspicious event in Bhutan, and the birds are revered as sacred.

Later, explore the Phobjikha Valley, known for its stunning natural beauty, with picturesque landscapes, lush greenery, and traditional Bhutanese architecture.

Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 Black Necked Crane Festival

In the morning, drive to Gangtey Gompa and witness the spectacular Black Necked Crane Festival, a full-day event!

Gangtey Goempa, situated on a small hill rising from the valley floor, is the sole Nyingmapa monastery in the western part of the Black Mountain's Gangtey Valley in Bhutan. It is also the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The monastery is surrounded by a sizable village primarily inhabited by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the monastery.

Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 Gangtey - Paro

After having breakfast, we will continue our journey to Paro along a picturesque highway. During the trip, we will make a stop to visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in the country, dating back to 1627. It now serves as the School for Buddhist studies.

Upon arriving in Paro, we'll check in at the hotel. After a satisfying lunch, our next destination is Ta Dzong, originally constructed as a watchtower, and now home to the National Museum. The museum boasts an extensive collection, featuring antique Thangkha paintings, textiles, weaponry, household items, and a diverse array of natural and historical artifacts.

Following the Ta Dzong visit, we will embark on a short walk down a trail to reach Rinpung Dzong, also known as Paro Dzong, meaning "fortress of the heap of jewels." This fortress has a long and captivating history. Within its wooden galleries in the inner courtyard, you will find exquisite wall paintings depicting Buddhist stories, including the four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount Sumeru, and other cosmic Mandalas.

To conclude our day, we will enjoy a cooking class and dinner at a local farmhouse, providing a unique and authentic dining experience!

Driving duration: approx. 5.5 hours
Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 Taktsang Monastery ("Tiger's Nest")

In the morning after your breakfast you will go for a hike/excursion towards Taktsang Monastery, also known as "Tiger’s Nest" (5 hrs. hike). Hanging precariously and magically from a rather steep cliff, the Taktshang Monastery is a monument of genuine pride for the Bhutanese nation. It defies architectural principles to the core and amazes tourists from around the world. It is a sight to behold!

Then you can spend some leisure time on your own.

Accommodation: 4* Hotel
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10 Paro (departure day)

It is time to conclude our journey, keeping all the terrific experiences of Bhutan in mind. In the morning after early breakfast, we will see you off at the Paro Airport for your onward destinations.

Meal: Breakfast


If you're interested in a custom Bhutan trip outside of these dates, we can assist with itineraries ranging from five to 11 days or longer. Contact us to design your perfect trip around Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Gangtey.

Route Map

A route map for the 10 Day 9 Night Bhutan Highlights plus Black Necked Crane Festival tour.

Inclusions & Exclusions

  • 9 nights in 4* Hotels in Bhutan

  • Breakfast & Dinner at the hotels

  • Lunch at local restaurants or en-route picnics

  • Cooking class

  • All transfers and sightseeing as per the itinerary

  • Entrances as per the above itinerary

  • Experienced English-speaking accompanying guide

  • Governmental royalty and taxes (including the $100 per person/night Sustainable Development Fee)

  • Bhutan visa fee

  • Flights to/from Bhutan

  • Any meals not mentioned in the itinerary

  • Beverages

  • Hot stone bath in Paro

  • Personal expenses (tipping, laundry, phone calls, etc.)

  • Travel Insurance


Prices exclude flights to/from the destination.

Prices are for double room occupancy unless indicated otherwise.

  • Deposit per person

    20% of the trip price

  • Group of 2 Travelers - price per person

    $2,900 pp

  • Single Supplement

    $450 pp

Optional Add-ons

  • One-way airfare from Kathmandu, Nepal to Paro, Bhutan: approx. $280
  • One-way airfare from Delhi, India to Paro, Bhutan: approx. $335
  • Layover in India (round trip airport transfer, BnB accommodation overnight between Nov. 4th and Nov. 5th): approx. $80
  • Layover in India (round trip airport transfer, 5* hotel accommodation overnight between Nov. 4th and Nov. 5th): approx. $180
  • Hot stone bath in Paro: $25


We are a Travelife-certified company, and we work to reduce all negative impacts on the natural and social environments. One of our approaches is to support our business partners, such as accommodation providers and excursion providers, in adopting sustainable best practices. By doing so, we promote greater tourism dispersal and help boost the local economy. Our focus on sustainability also includes creating awareness among our guests, office, and trekking staff.

  • Environmental Initiatives

We prioritize environmental practices that minimize negative impacts on the natural environment. For example, we use biodegradable hand soap and cleaning powder for our office, and we source these products from women who are mostly from poor, remote communities. We also encourage travelers to bring reusable water bottles and water filter tablets to reduce plastic waste. Our guides collect trash along the trail and dispose of it in designated areas, and we use cloth bags as much as possible. In addition, our trip includes low-carbon impact activities such as village walks, hiking, visiting local artisan workshops, and interacting with locals. Our office is solar-powered, and we prioritize energy-efficient lights and water-efficient toilets.

  • Sociocultural Initiatives

Our sociocultural practices focus on supporting the local communities we visit. Our trip takes guests to medieval towns that have remained largely untouched by modern life, promoting greater tourism dispersal and boosting the local economy. Meals are cooked using local produce, and we cater to guests' dietary requirements, such as vegetarian and vegan options. Our focus on sustainability also includes providing poverty-stricken children with shelter and education and engaging in various volunteering and charitable organizations. Additionally, our trip focuses on gaining a deep understanding of the everyday lifestyles of locals, strolling around old alleys and traditional houses, and hiking through ethnic villages.

Health & Safety

Be sure you have traveler's insurance.

  • For the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash, and other valuable items we advise the use of a neck wallet or money belt while traveling.
  • A safety deposit box is available in city hotels to store your valuable items but during the tour, you have to secure your belongings. We recommend you leave valuables at your home. A lock is suggested for securing your luggage.
  • It is advised to consult or get professional advice from a travel doctor about vaccinations and medical travel information beforehand.
  • Avoid consuming ice, salad, raw vegetables, and deep-fried, spicy, and greasy food.
  • The company and our suppliers (including for accommodation and transportation) adhere to stringent protocols related to health and safety.


What does the Physical Rating of "Average" mean?

It means the trip involves cultural sightseeing tours, local interaction, and local experiences. Guests should be prepared for total drive times in a day lasting up to 5.5 hours (most drives are much shorter), and several hikes ranging between 1.5 hours and 5 hours.

What are the accommodations like?

This is a comfort tour with 4* accommodations at boutique hotels with a more authentic style.

What is the maximum size of this Small-Group tour?

This tour can accommodate up to 12 guests.

What should I pack?

Bring all clothing including jackets and pants, and enough socks, underwear, and bras for the trip. Specifically, bring hiking clothes and boots for the hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Bring all personal hygiene and care products.

Bring US dollars. You can withdraw local currency and/or exchange money at the airport, though most places also accept USD. Credit cards are accepted in hotels, in some restaurants, and in souvenir shops.

Optional: A power bank is also recommended, as you may spend an entire day out and about.

Do I need a visa?

Yes. The Bhutan visa fee is included in the trip price and we will take care of this for you. Guests need to provide a valid passport copy expiring more than 6 months after the end of the trip, a recent passport-sized photo, and a copy of travel insurance.

If flying through Nepal, you will also need a Nepali visa (additional cost). A visa for Nepal can be acquired on arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, and at border entry points in Kakadvitta, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Gaddachowki on the Nepal-India border and Kerung on the Nepal-China border. Outside of Nepal, a visa can also be obtained at the nearest Nepal Embassy or Diplomatic Mission.

  • Nepali Visa fee: US $30 for 15 days, US $50 for 30 days, and US $125 for a 90-day, multiple-entry visa.

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Departure Dates

  • Nov 5, 2024 - Nov 14, 2024

Guaranteed Departure

Group Size: Max 12; 10 spots left.

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