Heart of the Dragon

Grade 1 2 3 4 5
Grade 2 – Moderate
Tours in the foothills and the lower middle-hills going up to 10,000'/ 3,000m. Roads are generally good, but at times may involve short "off-road" stretches. Average driving is 3-5 hours a day.
Tour Difficulty Grading

Our Nepal and Bhutan tours are graded easy to moderate, involving activities such as driving, sightseeing, short walks, boating, canoe and elephant rides. They take you to the foothills of the Himalaya, well below 10,000'/ 3,000m, or further down to the lowlands. Where long overland drives are involved, we use 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps for smaller groups and Toyota Coaster minibuses for larger groups. For overland trips between Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan, we use deluxe tourist bus services. The roads may take us up a Himalayan gorge or through the open plains of the Terai. Wherever they take you to, the views are breathtaking; driving through the land offers spectacular pictures of Nepal's diverse landscapes. Tours are graded on the basis of altitude, road condition, driving hours per day, and length of trip.

Grade 1 – Easy
Tours in the foothills staying below 6,500'/ 2,000m. Roads are relatively good, and average driving is 2-3 hours a day.
Grade 2 – Moderate
Tours in the foothills and the lower middle-hills going up to 10,000'/ 3,000m. Roads are generally good, but at times may involve short "off-road" stretches. Average driving is 3-5 hours a day.
Grade 3 – Challenging
Fairly demanding tours, usually in the high Himalaya, going up to 13,000'/ 4,000m. Roads can be unpaved and bumpy, and will usually take you into uninhabited or sparsely inhabited areas. Average driving is 5-6 hours a day.
Grade 4 – Demanding
These trips require participants to be in good health. All of them take you into the high Himalaya, altitudes ranging from 9,000'/ 2,800m to often in excess of 16,500'/ 5,000m. Roads venture into sparsely populated or uninhabited high-mountain wilderness. Average driving is 6-9 hours a day.
Note on altitudes
The altitude definitions indicate elevations through the major part of the tour. Tours usually involve side-trips into elevations exceeding the altitude ranges defined for their grades. Grade 3 & 4 tour itineraries are designed to allow proper acclimatization, with acclimatization days when we take exploratory trips to higher elevations.


5 days – Paro, Thimphu, Wangdue & Punakha
  • Scenic flights along the Eastern Himalaya between Kathmandu and Paro
  • Visit the major shrines and sights of Paro, Thimphu, Wangdi & Punakha
  • Day hike to the famous Taktsang monastery

vegetable-market-500x335This 5-day excursion could well have been called “The Best of Bhutan” — it offers the highlights of the Dragon Kingdom in a short but comprehensive tour that isn’t too rushed.

Our scenic flight along the Himalaya touches down at the idyllic Paro valley. We take a short drive to Thimphu and take in the sights and sounds of the capital. The next morning we take an excursion to the Cheri and Taango monasteries before continuing to Punakha and Wangdue in the Lobesa valley. Here we visit the Punakha Dzong — arguably the most beautiful building in Bhutan — and the Chhime Lhakhang, the Temple of Fertility. Upon our return to Paro we embark on the highlight of the trip: the walk to the fabled Takstang — Tiger’s Nest — monastery.

Heart of the Dragon is the ideal trip for those wishing to see the best of the Himalayan kingdom in a short but relaxed time.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1  Fly to Paro. Drive to Thimphu.
Afternoon Thimphu sights: Zorig Chusum Institute (National Institute of Arts and Crafts), Memorial chorten, Tashichho Dzong, and Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Point). Evening stroll around Thimphu town.
Day 2  Morning visit Pangri Zampa Lhakhang, Cheri and Taango monasteries.
Afternoon drive to Punakha across Dochu La pass. Visit Wangdiphodrang marketplace en route.
Day 3  Morning visit Punakha Dzong and Chimme Lhakhang.
Late morning drive to Paro visiting Simtokha Dzong en route.
Afternoon visit Ta Dzong (National Museum) and Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Day 4  Morning hike to Taktsang monastery. Visit Kyichu Lhakhang on return.
Late afternoon visit traditional Bhutanese farmhouse.
Evening stroll around Paro town.
Day 5  Early morning transfer to Paro airport. Fly to Kathmandu.

Dates and Pricing

We can operate private departures through the year for a party of one or more. Best season is fall through spring (October - May).

  High Season
(Mar - May; Sep - Nov)
Low Season
(Jun - Aug; Dec - Feb)
1 personUS$ 1,370US$ 1,170
2 personsUS$ 1,190US$ 990
3 or more personsUS$ 1,070US$ 870
Single room supplement US$ 140US$ 140
Airfare Kathmandu - Paro - KathmanduUS$ 394
Cost Information
Cost Information

The tour cost quoted is the cost per person, and includes:

  • Hotels: Accommodations on twin / triple room-sharing, full-board basis (breakfast, lunch, & dinner).
  • Tours: All sightseeing tours with a certified English-speaking guide.
  • Transfers: All land transfers by SUV (Hyundai Tucson or similar) or van (Toyota Hiace or similar).
  • Permits, Fees, & Taxes: All applicable permits, entry fees, and taxes.
  • Bhutan "FIT surcharge," applicable for groups of less than three persons.
  • Bhutan visa fee and TDF (Tourism Development Fund) fee.

Not included in the cost are:

  • Return airfare Kathmandu - Paro. Airfares indicated are subject to change without notice.
  • Personal clothing & equipment (upon confirmation you’ll receive a clothing & necessity checklist of items we recommend you bring).
  • Personal expenses, bottled / alcoholic beverages, and tips to crew.
  • Insurance: We strongly recommend that all trip participants be covered by their own personal insurance that also covers emergency evacuation.
  • Other unforeseeable expenses that may arise due to factors beyond our control, like bad weather or flight cancellations.
  • Nepal re-entry visa It is advisable to get a double- / multiple-entry visa for Nepal.


  Standard Hotels
ThimphuDorji Elements
PunakhaMeri Puensum Resort
ParoTashi Namgay Resort
Suggested Trips