Bhutan is a beautiful Himalayan nation where happiness is measured on a national scale, where seemingly barren mountainscapes are home to precariously-perched Buddhist monasteries, and where a vibrant, colourful culture can be found at every turn. Natural beauty is in rich supply, with some of the world’s cleanest air and rivers. Although only considered to be a town, Paro is the main tourist entry point to Bhutan, as it’s where the country’s only international airport is located (partly why Bhutan’s air is so clean). As such, many of the best Bhutan tours begin and end in Paro.
To take a comprehensive tour of Bhutan often requires at least a week, although there are some excellent shorter options available that cover the country’s major tourist highlights too. Given the country’s average altitude (8,000ft/2,438m) however, it can take a few days to acclimatise, and even simple walks can feel like dreary hikes. As such it’s best to wait a few days if coming from lower altitudes before embarking on a tour. Given the remote, undeveloped Himalayan location, may of the best experiences involve some form of hiking at some point in the tour. For the serious alpinists, there are even tours that incorporate a healthy range of longer hikes, so that you can fully experience the best of the region. Here are three of the best Bhutan tours from Paro, taking into account many factors like the itinerary, value for money and the reviews of previous guests.
FROM: $975/per person
Although only a four-day tour from Paro, the small size of Bhutan means that it’s just about possible to pack plenty of the country’s finest sights into a short tour. For example, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang) clinging to the cliffs, which is perhaps the most revered of Bhutan’s sights. Time is also spent exploring the capital city Thimphu, including a number of museums and the Simtokha Dzong, a medieval fortress the likes of which are only found only in the regions of Tibet and Bhutan. This tour’s fee includes medium-quality, ensuite hotel rooms, all meals and the Bhutan visa fees, in addition to all tour guides and transportation.
From $2,637/ per person
Getting a strong sense of what really makes Bhutan tick involves taking more time to explore the country’s towns and villages beyond the main, customary tourist sights. Although this ten-day tour’s itinerary includes classics like Taktsang Monastery, there’s so much more to see in the country. Take a deeply spiritual hike through the countryside to ornate Buddhist temples around Bumthang, enter glacial valleys to reach remote villages like Kwewa and drive over Himalayan passes to various Buddhist institutions where the air is thin but the belief and sense of happiness are strong. All meals and snacks are provided along with entrance fees to museums and hotel accommodation.
From $3,099/ per person
While some tours in Bhutan rely solely on road access and the provision of transport, this is still a country that understands and respects the old ways. So this ten-day round-trip tour from Paro is quite special because it involves getting well away from the beaten path and into the wilderness around Paro. Trek past rows of prayer wheels, past clumps of colourful prayer flags to the Bumdrak Camp, located at 12,650ft (3,860m), then the next day, after camping under clear skies, hike back to Paro via the remarkable Tiger’s Nest Temple to cap off a perfect tour. As with the other tours, everything is included in the price here.