Winter Break in Bhutan: 7-day Itinerary for a Solo Traveller

Author: Lily Shanker
Date: 2018-12-07

Bhutan is one of the most welcoming destinations during the winter season. The winters (December-February) are pleasantly dry and cool (around 10 degrees Celcius) in the lower regions, making it ideal weather for hiking to various monasteries, strolling through scenic fields, and having a magnificent view of the eastern Himalayas. If fortunate, one can catch a rare sighting of black-necked cranes during this time.

Rumors are still afloat that solo travelers are not allowed in Bhutan, but it is not so. The only flag of concern raised by the security officials is that solo travelers usually don’t make prior hotel bookings, making their whereabouts a bit obscure.      

If you’re a solo traveler or wanting to take your first solo adventure, then head to Bhutan for your winter break.

Here’s a 7-day itinerary that covers the interests of two types of tourists visiting Bhutan: a knowledge seeker (Buddhism and monasteries) and nature lover.

Day 1: Arrival & Sightseeing, Paro

Land in Paro Airport and head to your hotel (you can obtain your entry permit at the airport by producing your passport and 2 passport-size photographs). Some of the places you can visit later on in the day are National Museum of Bhutan, Kyichu Lhakang-an important Buddhist temple, Rinpung Dzong-administrative seat of Paro, and Drukgyal Dzong-ruined remains of a fortress and monastery.

 

Day 2: Hike to Tiger’s Nest, Paro

Have an early breakfast and drive up to the base of Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). From here, you start your 2-hour trek up. If the distance and terrain feel daunting, you can always stop at Taktsang Cafeteria, which is the halfway point, and head back (you can even ride on horseback till this point). The next point is called photo point; from here there are 700 steps to scale before reaching the top. As you’re a solo traveler, I suggest you join a group to keep yourself motivated.

Once you’re back (it’ll probably take you half a day), you can go around the local market.

 

Day 3: Sightseeing in Thimphu (1 hr 20 min from Paro)

Thimphu, the capital city, is quite a cultural treat. Some of the places of interest include:

1. Buddha Dordenma: It’s the largest sitting statue of the Buddha measuring 51.5 m in height located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. It overlooks the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. 

2. Motithang Takin Preserve: Catch a glimpse of the ‘takin,’ the national animal of Bhutan.

3. Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan: It hosts exhibitions that showcase the various elaborate clothes made for the royal family by workers here.  

4. Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory: You not only get to see how Bhutanese paper (Deh-sho) is made but you also get to try your hand at making it. You can buy the paper too.

Before you leave Thimphu, remember to get your own personalised stamps at the National Post Office.

 

Days 4 and 5: Sightseeing in Punakha (3 ½ hrs approx from Paro, 2 ½ from Thimphu)

Punakha is a paradise for nature lovers. All the places mentioned below offer stunning views of the mountain ranges, fields, and gardens. I would recommend you stay here for 2 days to cover all the places at leisure. Since you’re a solo traveler, you might consider staying in a homestay, which will give you a whole new experience.

1. Punakha Dzong: Built at the junction of Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers, it offers breathtaking views of the Punakha valley.

2. Chimi Lhakhang: Located in the center of the valley, this penis-focused monastery is dedicated to Buddhism's "Divine Madman." You have to cross rice fields and a tiny stream before getting there.

3. Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten: You can catch a glimpse of the peaks of Gasa from here.

4. Punakha Ritsha Village: You can find some splendid traditional architecture here.

5. Talo Village: The farmhouses here are very picturesque. This village is known for its cleanliness. You can walk up to the Talo Monastery and spend some peaceful time there.