Bhutan is one country that provides you with a lot of opportunities to explore and immerse in the experience. It is the biggest question everyone has – how much time would genuinely be sufficient to enjoy Bhutan. After all, it is not every day that one can plan trips like these.
So, today, I bring you the perfect trip that can be covered in a week and give you a good glimpse and feel of the nation.
So, let’s begin.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
The Most PERFECT 7-Day Bhutan Trip Itinerary
I will mention here that you can genuinely customize Bhutan trips and add more days to get more experiences packed into your travels. However, if you can only spare a week to get to the land of dragons, try this plan. Also, I should mention here that this is an itinerary made from the India perspective.
Day 1: Arriving in Phuentsholing
Even though there are many ways to get to Bhutan from India, the most common and convenient way is from the border of Jaigao-Phuentsholing. Jaigao is the last Indian town, and from Pheutsholing, the Bhutanese territory starts.
Opened Monday-Friday from 9 AM – 5 PM, it is in the immigration office of Phuentsholing, where nearly all border accessing applications for tourists arrive. Provide a photo ID, and you get permission in a couple of hours, depending upon how long the queue is.
If you manage to get permission before 2 pm, it is well worth using the same day and traveling to Paro. Those not hurrying can even consider staying for the first night in Phuentsholing, which has enough to offer to a tourist.
But for those short with time, a 4-hour journey to Paro (from Phuentsholing) can be easily made the same day they applied for a tourist permit.
To enter in Phuentsholing, you need not have a tourist permit with you. Even an Indian number plate vehicle can pass through with no problem. But as soon as you exit Phuentsholing, towards Thimpu or Paro, there’s an immigration checkpoint that asks for a valid tourist permit. I have a detailed post covering all the permits, how to get them, why you need them.
The journey to Paro to Phuentsholing takes nearly 4 hours if you’re driving, or 6 hours if you’re taking a public bus. The journey is rather impressive and enjoyable. From the sea level of Phuentsholing, you only pretty much go uphill throughout the trip before you end up a much colder town of Paro located at 2100+ meter altitude above the sea level.
The well maintained four-way highway, built by Indian Border Road Organization (BRO), moreover makes Phuentsholing to Paro & Thimpu a very sought after Himalayan Roads for motorbikes in India wanting to ride in Bhutan.
Day 2: Paro to Thimpu
Today you will be moving on from Paro and heading towards Thimpu. But, this won’t happen before you truly experience Paro – which has a bunch to offer as well. Of course, you will want to visit Tiger’s Nest Monastery – this is usually a bucket list item for most.
Even with packing a big punch on this day, you can still reach Thimpu on time. That is only possible as Paro to Thimpu is a short stretch of nearly 50km, and a smooth highway connecting two cities is moreover the best in the country, thus saving you enough time no matter when you leave.
Since Paro has the only international airport in Bhutan and Thimpu is the capital – the highway moreover stays good in shape throughout the year. It takes one and a half to two hours to travel between the two cities.
Day 3: Thimpu to Bhumtang
Today’s journey is excruciating. Thimpu to Bhumtang is a long way and a brutal; there is some road widening work after Punakha was going on last year, and made it worse. There are some specific timings within which you need to cross the stoppages. Otherwise, you may need to wait on a few check posts for a few hours.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Western Bhutan.
If you keep going and by the grace of luck, you are not stopped anywhere. In essence, even in this best-case scenario, you’ll need nearly eight hours to cover the 250 km stretch of a highway-under construction.
However, a few handy night-lodge services right next to the Bus station in Bhumtang offer an easy option of booking a dorm bed for as little as 150 Rupees, making it up to you for a long and rough journey.
As a town, Bhumtang doesn’t offer much to see than a 15th-century monastery and old-world charm. However, there are a bunch of hikes nearby here.
Day 4: Bhumtang to Trashigang
Another brutal and long stretch of a ride, Bhumtang to Trashigang, can again take 8 or 9 hours of your daylight. The route is moreover not in shape to be driving once it’s dark.
But on a good note, there isn’t much road construction going on the way. Leave with the first light to avoid any problems. There are enough budget accommodations in Trashigang.
Day 5: Trashigang to S. Jongkhar
Trashigang to S. Jongkhar takes you back to (a not so great but manageable) highway again, with a few patches of highly landslide-prone area. The journey is nearly 190 km and takes around 7 hours to complete.
At S. Jongkhar, you exit and enter into Indian territory, and as soon as you do that, the roads turn into the better state (with no mountain range at all). It’s a good idea to be staying in S. Jongkhar in Bhutan if you’re planning to spend a night there, rather than on the Indian town of Sashipur (the other side of the border) as it’s less chaotic and offers better accommodation option.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Central Bhutan.
I have kept a couple of buffer days, for you to indulge in some hikes and also keep a day additional in case your permits don’t come up in time.
Important tips for making the most of your journey
- It is always best to get the Bhutan permits from Kolkata before the trip itself.
- Since there are enough petrol stations on the way, and every day you will be riding a max of 300 km, there is no need to carry extra jerkins for petrol.
- There are no repairing shops between any two destinations, so it’s a good idea to stay prepared and carry extra equipment.
- Most of the roads (except for the famous highways connecting Paro and Thimpu) are wrong in shape, so we advise you to go for a ride only if you have an enjoyable riding experience.
Pro Travel Tip: Are you wonder how much will be the cost of Bhutan trip? Check our detailed guide on how to calculate the cost or budget of Bhutan trip?
Self-driving through Bhutan on a road trip
Although most people have guided and planned tours, Indian Nationals are lucky not to worry about that. If you are fortunate enough to design your travels. Also, you should know that roads are the only option to travel within the cultural kingdom, car rental service in Bhutan is the first important thing that you should take care of to explore and uncover more of the mysterious nation.
Bhutan has no shortage of travel agencies who provide unbeatable travel services in an instant. Car rental agencies also offer the best alternatives for self-drive car rental services in Bhutan. So, here are some useful tips you must not forget while booking a car rental for the Bhutan tour.
For booking a self-driving car in Bhutan, bring your valid personal ID proof and your driving license. Bring Xerox-copy for each of your required documents, and bring along your passport size photos.
Book Bhutan car rental services before 6-7 months before your visit for the best prices and best vehicles. Also, this is applicable for any self-drive rental bookings across countries – do check reviews, prices, and services online before paying for any XYZ Bhutan travel agency.
Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check this complete travel guide for traveling to Eastern Bhutan.
Things to keep in ming for driving in Bhutan
If you’re planning for self-driving in Bhutan, remember the speed limits- which are 8 km/h – 20 km/h. The maximum speed limit in cities is 30 km/h, and the maximum speed limit in the country is 50 km/h.
Also, all passengers and drivers must wear set-belts. Overtaking vehicles from the left or unsafe distance is strictly prohibited. It is compulsory to give way to pedestrians, and your minimum driving age for light vehicles should be 18 years.
I will go so far as to say that you should not be driving at night and avoid it as much as you can. Bhutan is in the process of developing its infrastructure, and you might hit portions on the road where there are no street lights or markings or villages nearby. Further, during monsoons, there is a risk of landslides that can block roads, causing inconvenience.
Bhutan is perfection for any duration. However, if you’re so persistent that you must go and don’t have the luxury of time, then indulge in this slightly hectic 7-day version.
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So, happy vacation and enjoy safe and delightful driving in Bhutan.