Why you should visit Bhutan now

Bhutan leading in Eco-Tourism in the world

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Bhutan is leading the world in Eco-Tourism and some experts even claim that some years down the line the world will follow Bhutan as the model country for eco-tourism. Bhutan was also awarded with the “Earth Award” in 2018 amongst top 100 sustainable destinations in the world at the ITB (International Tourism Bourse) in Berlin, Germany. Bhutan’s strategic tourism policy “High Impact, Low Volume “helps to tackle mass tourism in an effort to conserve the natural environment and preserve cultural heritage. To make the strategy a reality this policy dictates that every tourist coming into the country must only come through an authorized Bhutan tour agency and that the tourist party must be liable to pay the minimum daily tariff which is 200-250 USD per night depending on lean-peak season. But the good news is the 250 USD per night is an inclusive package including A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional payment), three meals a day, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide, all ground transport within the country and camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours. It is also worth noting that 65 USD goes toward nation building such as providing free education and free healthcare for its population and improving infrastructure which basically lets you play a huge role as a responsible human to give back to the community you’re visiting.

Happiness Scale to Measure Development

Bhutan has an exceptional development philosophy. Instead of measuring the country’s economic growth on wealth that is Gross National Product, the government measures happiness of its people using Gross National Happiness Index which focuses on good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. It is mandated in the constitution that the country must maintain 60% forest coverage at all times to come. The term Gross National Happiness was first coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck. His Majesty believes that the inner happiness of his people is more important than the wealth they acquire which is why basic needs like education and health services are provided for free. One should definitely travel to Bhutan to experience the happiness first hand.

For the Lively Festivals

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One must absolutely experience the rich culture and traditional norms of Bhutan. One can do that by immersing in the vibrant carnival like festival which is observed all year round in different regions throughout the country. The religious festivals called Tshechus are compilation of masked dances which are themed on religion to honor the great Buddhist saints and to retell actual significant events through dances.

The festivals are generally observed in the courtyards of colossal fortresses known as Dzongs. The dances commence with monks wearing meticulously crafted masks storming out to the courtyard with heavy stomps and synchronizing with beautiful swirls and spins creating a mesmerizing effect to an onlookers’ eyes. The courtyard is adorned with devotees wearing intricate textiles and bejeweled with priceless jewelries which is something to be adored and one cannot simply go without admiring the sight and even capturing few moments into their cameras to be cherished forever.

The Cliff-Hugging Breath-Taking Tiger’s Nest

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The Taktshang monastery or the tiger’s nest is revered as the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan and it has topped every traveler’s bucket list. No matter how short your travel duration is you cannot simply go without visiting this monastery. Precariously suspended on a rock face this monastery has managed to intrigue every traveler from across the globe. The 325-year-old monastery is perched at 900 meters off of the ground above Paro valley. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew to the site riding atop a flying tigress and meditated for many years inside a cave that is located in the heart of the temple. Spectacular scenery views are a supplementary delight taking visitors through verdant pine forests amidst endless strings of colorful prayer flags.

Adventures

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Bhutan offers endless possibilities for adventurous people through its rugged terrains and vast valleys. For enduring and brave people adventures like mountain biking on rocky dirt trails, grueling treks in snow and demanding water sports like rafting and kayaking, for soft adventurers activities like mild hiking, bird watching, fishing and boating are recommended. Owing to its rich biodiversity, Bhutan can be a thrilling destination for wildlife safari.

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Bhutan Tour Packages

Explore Bhutan through various Bhutan Tour Packages available that are tailor made for your convenience depending on your comfort and liking for the perfect holiday into the mountains.  While Bhutan offers a plethora of tour packages some of the most distinguished ones are cultural tours, trekking tours, adventure tours and nature tour. Our experts have found the need to list and elucidate the types of tours, their description and how you must choose according to your needs, saving hours of research and reading through unnecessary articles.  We have also attached some sample itineraries for your ease.

Bhutan Cultural Tours

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Cultural tours generally revolve around historical site seeing and cultural highlights around the country. The tour packages include religious festivals, visiting ancient Dzongs or fortresses and tripping to sacred monasteries. The tour usually lasts from 5 days to 10 days depending on your travel duration. This tour offers profound insights into the cultural and traditional settings of the country and will provide the guests with spectacular experiences. The religious masked dances that are included in the tour are a remarkable experience as the monks wearing meticulously crafted masks spin and swirl their long brocade dresses synchronizing with each other and audiences dressed in their best textile rich vibrant dresses watch the dancers with much passion and devotion is an amazing vibe that must be experienced. Whether you are in the country for a short duration or a long vacation, no visitors ever leave the country without hiking to the tiger’s nest (Taktshang); the hike to tiger’s nest is the highlight of the tour. The tiger’s nest monastery is suspended precariously on a rock face above the Paro valley. The hike of about 3-4 hours to tiger’s nest monastery takes the hikers along verdant alpine forest and infinite streams of fluttering prayer flags. The experience is simply remarkable and the view from the monastery is to die for. If one wishes to further experience the rural life of Bhutan up-close one can choose to even spend a night or two at one of the farm houses which can be arranged by your travel agent and experience the traditional lifestyle of Bhutan. Sharing meals with the family, engrossing in farming chores( only if you wish to), engaging in friendly archery matches and soaking in hot stone mineral baths at the end of the day are some of the activities you could do while at a farm house. These experiences will definitely have you come back for more.

Bhutan Trekking Tours

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Bhutan offers number of exciting trekking tours. Owing to its rugged mountainous terrains and the trekking routes being mostly in the northern part of the country which are not touched by civilizations yet, it offers the best authentic trekking experience in the world. Among many trekking tours the most notable ones are the Jhomolhari trek, the Druk path trek, the snowman trek and the Dagala Thousand lakes trek. The Druk path trek is fairly short and is completed in about 4 days. The trekking trail leads from Paro valley to Thimphu valley, or vice versa passing sequence of mountains that separate the two valleys. The trek climbs up to almost 2000m with a high point of 4200m. Before reaching Thimphu Valley trekkers will be graced by an exceptional view of Mount Gangkar Puensum. The Jhomolhari trek is most sought for its moderate nature and is the most popular among tourists. Mount Jhomolahari marks the border between Bhutan and Tibet. The Snowman trek is revered as one of the most difficult treks in the world. . The route begins from Paro and ends in Bumthang, passing six mountains that are typically over 7000 meters and nine mountain passes that are over 4500 meters, often forced to camp on snow. Only brave adventurist embarks on this trek. The trek lasts from 28 days to 30 days. The Dagala Thousands lakes is a challenging trek that will take the trekkers alongside to some glorious lakes known for trout fishing and offers magnificent views of the glorious peaks of the Himalayas, including the grand Mount Everest and Mount Kanjenjunga. Trekking tours in Bhutan offer the most authentic experience into the nature along beautiful mountains that see scarce to no human encroachments only few nomads are seen along the mountains tending and herding yaks.

Bhutan Adventure Tours

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Bhutan offers multitude of adventure tours that revolve around hiking to sacred monasteries, white river rafting or kayaking, cycling tours and motor biking on off road trails. These tours are usually combined with other tours like cultural tours but it is completely up to you to combine the tours or to completely choose to do the adventure tour. The adventure tour experience is absolutely thrilling. Hiking to sacred monasteries will take the hikers along verdant forest and refreshing mountain air. The cycling and motor biking adventures will give you a good amount of adrenaline rush for the adrenalin junkies and white river rafting or kayaking on Bhutan’s largest river basins is definitely an amazing experience.

Bhutan Nature Tour

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Bhutan offers a wide variety of tours that are built around nature such as bird watching tour, butterfly watching tours and wild life safaris. Bhutan boasts of wide variety of endangered species of animals frequenting the dense forests in the high altitude such as snow leopards, Bengal tigers that are roam at elevation ranging from 3000 to 4000 meters, the red panda, the gorals and the langurs, the Himalayan black bear, sambar, wild pigs, barking deer, blue sheep and musk deer. Bhutan’s efforts in conservation have seen thriving populations of some of the rarest animals in the world and have therefore Bhutan has been recognized as one of the last biodiversity hotspots in the world. In the tropical jungles of Southern Bhutan you might come across clouded leopards, the one horned rhinoceros, elephants, water buffaloes and swamp deer. You can even find the Golden Langur, a species of monkey that is exclusive only to Bhutan. Jungle safari in Royal Manas national park is an exhilarating experience.

Bhutan Trip Itinerary

Druk Path Trek

11 days 10 Nights Package

Overview

Druk Path Trek is one of the most popular and easiest treks in Bhutan. The Trek begins from Paro and ends in Thimphu city. The trek offers a great view of the highlands. Trekkers will come across many highland lakes through the course of the trek and the trek includes a final stop at 13th century Phajoding Monastery in Thimphu. The package also includes cultural sightseeing to some of the most popular tourist attractions in Paro and Thimphu.

Day 01: Arrive at Paro International Airport and Cultural Sightseeing at Paro

Take in the spectacular aerial view of the valley as you approach Paro International Airport. Assigned tour guide and driver will greet tourists on arrival at the airport and drive to the hotel. In the afternoon travellers will explore the beautiful Paro valley. Some of the highlights include National Museum, Paro Dzong and drive north of Paro town and visit the Drugyel Dzong. On a clear weather day, tourists can see the Mount Jomolhari.

Overnight at Hotel in Paro

Day 02: Hike to Taktsang Monastery

The highlight of the trip is the hike to the Tiger’s Nest. Tourists will drive up to the base of the monastery and a two hour hike awaits. Refreshment will be served on the way up at the cafeteria where tourists can take in a close up view of the Tiger’s Nest perched on a cliff. After the short break, continue the hike and on arrival at the monastery, tourists will visit the shrine. After the exploration, tourists will descend back to the cafeteria where lunch is served. After lunch, tourists will descend back to the base and onwards to the hotel.

Overnight at a hotel in Paro

Day 03: Paro – Jili Dzong

Trekkers will begin the trek from Paro to Jili Dzong. Trekkers will gradually climb up the valley to the camp site. On a clear weather day, trekkers can catch a spectacular view of Paro valley and the Mount Jomolhari. In the first day, trekkers will walk for 5 hours covering 7 Kilometers. First night camp site is at Jili Dzong. Camp altitude will be at 3480 meters.

Day 04: Jili Dzong – Jimelangtso

On the second day, trekkers will continue the gradual climb through thick alpine forests and rhododendron trees. At the camp site, trekkers may meet yak herders. The trail to Jimelangtso follows the ridge and the views are majestic on a clear weather day. The camp site is next to Jimelangtso (lake). The lake is known for its giant sized trout. Trekkers will walk for about 9 hours covering 21 Kilometers. Camp altitude will be at 3870 meters.

Day 05: Jimelangtso – Phajoding

The trail to Simkotra takes trekkers through rhododendron trees. Trekkers will come across yak herder camp site through the course of the trek. Trekkers will begin a gradual climb and on this leg of the journey, if the weather permits, trekkers can view Mount Gangkhar Puensum, the highest mountain in Bhutan. Closer to the camp site, trekkers will start descending and arrive at Phajoding Monastery. Trekkers will camp next to the monastery. The morning view of the Thimphu valley below from Phajoding can be quite spectacular. Trekkers will walk for 8 hours covering 21 Kilometers. Camp altitude will be at 3750 meters.

Day 06: Phajoding – Thimphu

The final leg of the trek is all downhill. Trekkers will descend through thick blue pine forests and finally arrive at Thimphu in about 3 hours. Trekkers will be transported to the hotel in Thimphu.

Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu

Day 07: Thimphu Sightseeing

Tourists will do some cultural sightseeing in Thimphu. Attractions include Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park, Folk Heritage Museum and Takin Preserve.

Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu

Day 08: Thimphu – Phobjikha/Gangtey Valley

Early morning start to Dochula for lungchutse hike. Enroute to Phobjikha, you will arrive at Dochula. Dochula is one of the many mountain passes in Bhutan accessible by motor road. The pass has an elevation of 3100 meters and offers a panoramic view of the Eastern Himalaya mountain range.

Hike to Lungchutse from Dochula (2 ways and 1 hour at the spot- 4 hours)

Lungchutse hike is one of the most rejuvenating and picturesque hike. The trail will take you through a diverse forest until you reach the ridge. From the Lungchutse temple you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the Himalayas and the valley below.

Lunch at Dochula Cafeteria and Drive to Phobjikha valley (4 hour Drive)

Phobjikha is one of the most idyllic places in Bhutan. The valley is part of an important wildlife reserve; the valley is home to the endangered black necked cranes. These birds migrate south to the valley from Tibet every winter before flying back early spring. Aside from enjoying the tranquility, the valley also has multiple hiking trails leading through the small community in the valley.

Overnight at a hotel or Farm Stay in Phobjikha valley

Day 09: Drive back to Paro / En route cultural sightseeing in Punakha

After visiting the Gangtey Monastery, you will drive back to Punakha (3 hours) and visit the Punakha fortress and Chimi Lhakhang (temple of Fertility) and stop for lunch. In the evening, continue your drive to Paro.

Overnight at a hotel in Paro.

Day 10: Day Excursion to Haa Valley and Chelela Pass

Over night at a hotel in Paro.

Day 11: Depart from Paro

Drive to Paro international airport for your onward departure flight.

Bhutan Nature and Cultural Tour

9 Nights and 10 Days

Day 1: Arrive at Paro International Airport

Take in the spectacular aerial view of the valley as you approach Paro International Airport. Assigned tour guide and driver will greet tourists on arrival at the airport and drive to the hotel. In the afternoon you will explore the beautiful Paro valley. Some of the highlights include National Museum, Paro Dzong and stroll the quaint Paro town in the evening.

Overnight at a hotel in Paro

Day 2: Begin your Bumdra Trek (6 Hours Hike)

The trek elevation peaks at 4000 meters. Bumdra is a short trek but the trail has a lot to offer with diverse vegetation, stunning view of the Himalayas and the tranquility at the camp site. The camp site is below an ancient sacred monastery. The trail starts from Sang Choekhor Monastery (2800 meters). You will be driven up to the monastery and begin the climb. The trek up to Choe Tse Lhakhang (Temple) can be quite steep at times. From the temple, trekkers can enjoy a panoramic view of Paro valley. After a short break near the temple, trekkers will continue their climb for another 20 minutes to the top of the ridge. From the ridge, the walk up to the camp site is gentle. The view of Paro valley disappears as you head in to the forest towards the camp site. After another 20 minutes’ walk, you will exit the forest and approach a scenic open meadow marked with fluttering prayer flag and a small stupa. Past the meadow, you will arrive at the camp site (3800 meters). The elevation gained offers an undisturbed view of the snowcapped mountains. You are recommended to wake up early to catch the sun rise. To watch the first ray of the sun drape the snowcapped mountains is phenomenal. Trekkers can choose to hike to the top of the ridge (4000 meters) from the camp site for even better view. On a clear weather night, the sky looks stunning with stars from the camp site.

Overnight at the Campsite.

Day 3: Bumdra – Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) 6 hours Hike

Today you will continue the trekking loop and descent through Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). Taktsang which translate to The Tiger’s Nest is a Buddhist monastery in Paro valley. According to the legend, Buddhist saint Guru Rinpoche flew to the current monastery site riding atop a tigress in the 7th century. There he is said to have meditated in a cave for three years, 3 months and 3 days to subdue evil forces and bless the place. Guru Rinpoche is credited for introducing and spreading of the Buddhism dogma across the country and hence Taktsang is revered as one of the most sacred Buddhist site in the country.

Today it has become the most visited site by tourists. Approached by a two hour hike through the pine forest, the majestic architecture perched on a cliff 900 meters above Paro valley greets the hikers. Once at the top, tourists can enjoy the panoramic view of the valley below.

Overnight at a hotel in Paro

Day 4: Paro – Thimphu (1 hour Drive)

After an early morning breakfast, you will drive to Thimphu. You will visit some popular tourist attractions in Thimphu including the largest sitting Buddha in the world, the Memorial Chorten, Thimphu Dzong, a 17th century fort that houses the office of His Majesty the King of Bhutan.

Overnight at a Hotel in Thimphu

Day 5: Thimphu – Punakha

Enroute to Punakha, you will arrive at Dochula. Dochula is one of the many mountain passes in Bhutan accessible by motor road. The pass has an elevation of 3100 meters and offers a panoramic view of the Eastern Himalaya mountain range.

Hike to Lungchutse from Dochula (2 ways and 1 hour at the spot- 4 hours)

Lungchutse hike is one of the most rejuvenating and picturesque hike. The trail will take you through a diverse forest until you reach the ridge. From the Lungchutse temple you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the Himalayas and the valley below.

Lunch at Dochula Cafeteria and Drive to Punakha (1 and half hour) and Cultural Sightseeing at Punakha

Travelling to Punakha is like getting in a time machine and going back to the 17th century. Punakha offers tourists a unique medieval experience. The region still holds many traditional houses built decades ago with people leading a simple farming lifestyle. The valley is especially beautiful during spring and autumn adorned by the produce in the paddy fields. Did you know that Punakha was a former capital of Bhutan? Much of Bhutan’s significant history from fighting against the Tibetan invasion to the institution of first monarch to the signing of the treaty of Punakha with the British Indian Empire which shaped Bhutan’s future significantly were all witnessed in this region.

Day 6: Punakha- Gangtey

Early Drive from Punakha to Phobjikha (3 and half hours)

Phobjikha is one of the most idyllic places in Bhutan. The valley is part of an important wildlife reserve; the valley is home to the endangered black necked cranes. These birds migrate south to the valley from Tibet every winter before flying back early spring. Aside from enjoying the tranquility, the valley also has multiple hiking trails leading through the small community in the valley.

Overnight at a Farm Stay in Phobjikha

Day 7: Halt at Gangtey

Today you will explore the Gangtey Nature Trail on foot or on bicycle if you choose. Explore this idyllic valley and let the wildlife preserve rejuvenate you from within.

Day 8: Drive to Paro (6 and half – 7 hours)

Not so early drive from Phobjikha to Paro. A relaxing start to a long day, mid-way through your trip

Overnight at a hotel in Paro

Day 9: Day Excursion to Chelela Pass

It is one of the highest motor able passes (3988 meters) in the country. Chelela pass separates Paro and Haa valley. The pass is 35 kilometer drive through a dense spruce and larch forests from Paro. The destination is ideal for a day excursion. On a clear weather day, tourists can catch a spectacular view of the snowcapped Mount. Jomolhari (7326 meters) from the Chelela Pass. Customarily Passes are considered sacred and are usually marked with colorful prayer flags fluttering against the stiff wind of the highlands. Depending on the season of travel, tourists may also see yak herds grazing.

Chelela Ridge Hike

This short hike along the mountain ridge presents a thrilling experience. The ridge divides Haa and Paro valley. Hikers will start their climb from the Chelela Pass at 3988 meters and peak at the sky burial spot with an increased elevation of 500 meters. Through the course of the hike, hikers will come across exotic flowers including the Himalayan Blue poppies (the national flower of Bhutan). Once at the sky burial spot, hikers can choose to decent down to the Kila Gompa nunnery and complete the loop or return to the Pass. The weather and visibility can turn for better or worse at any moment complemented by the stiff wind presents an adventure for the thrill seekers. Hikers will need to bring warm clothes and some snacks and water for this trip.             

Overnight at a hotel in Paro

Day 10: Depart Paro

You will be dropped off to the airport.

 

Top Things to do in Bhutan

In case you are wondering about things you can do on your visit to Bhutan, be sure to include the entire list below to make the most of your travel to Bhutan. Visit www.bookmytour.bt to learn more about planning your trip to Bhutan

  1. Hike to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro Bhutan

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Perched on a sheer cliff 900 meters above Paro valley, Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) is Bhutan’s iconic and most visited tourist destination. Reaching the Tiger’s Nest monastery takes a two to three hour hike up a dirt trail that navigates through the pine forests. According to the legend, Guru Rimpoche arrived at the current site of the monastery riding atop a flying tigress and hence the name of the subsequent monastery was named the Tiger’s Nest. He is believed to have meditated at the site for more than three years. Paro Taktsang is considered one of the most sacred Buddhist site in Bhutan. As hikers arrive at the site, the magnificent close up view of the monastery and the panoramic view of the valley below makes the hard trek up the mountain worth it.

  1. Attend the biggest festival in Bhutan – Tsechu (Mask Dance Festival)

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Tsechus are an annual religious festival celebrated across the country. The festival is celebrated within and around the great Dzongs (medieval fortresses). During the festival, monks chant prayers and perform meticulously choreographed dances wearing extravagant silk costumes and exquisitely crafted masks depicting pantheons of gods and deities. Locals in the community and people from within the region congregate at the Dzongs to celebrate the event. The prayers and the dances are believed to invoke deities to offer blessings and spiritual guidance to the crowd. The event is made extra special by cooking sumptuous food for the event and locals also dress up in their finest traditional dresses. Tsechus are generally celebrated for three to five days and concluded with the offering of blessing and a display of a giant applique known as the Thongdrol.

  1. Visit the Temple of Fertility in Punakha Bhutan – Chimi Lhakhang

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The temple is built on a hill overlooking the Sopsokha village in Punakha. To get to the temple, visitors have to pass through to the village of clustered typical Bhutanese houses surrounded by rice fields. Most tourists are stunned by what they see while passing through this village. Every house in that village has murals of phalluses painted on the walls of their houses. The story goes back to the 15th century, when a Tibetan Buddhist saint visited Bhutan preaching the dharma. However Drukpa Kuenley was known for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism and offer blessings. He indulged in music, alcohol and women. He often used sex as a means of teaching Buddhism and offering blessing. During his extensive travel across the country, he advocated the painting of phalluses on the walls of the houses to drive away evil spirits and raise harmony in the household. The temple was constructed subsequently in his honor and local tradition exists where childless couples are advised to visit the temple to offer prayers and receive blessing from a wooden phallus in hopes of conceiving. The rising popularity of this tradition has seen many foreign couples visit the temple.

  1. Soul searching at Gangtey Village

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Also known as Phobjikha valley, Gangtey is one of the most idyllic places in Bhutan. The valley is also part of an important wildlife preserve as the endangered black necked cranes fly from Tibet and spend their winter days in the valley before flying back in the early spring. The valley is a paradise for bird watching enthusiast however you must plan your trip to this valley during the winter months to watch the cranes. Locals in the community in collaboration with environmental conservation agencies celebrate the black necked crane festival in November to raise awareness and promote environment conservation. The quaint valley is blessed by Gangtey Monastery built on a ridge overlooking the valley. The tranquility of the valley makes it an ideal destination to practice meditation. The monastery has meditation centers. For the nature lovers, Gangtey village has many nature trails suitable for hikes and cycling.

  1. Excursion to the Mountain Passes

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The mountainous terrains separate different regions. Travelling within Bhutan by road often requires crossing several mountain passes usually over 3000 meters.  The vegetation and the climatic conditions are substantially different from the valleys and during the winter months, it is common to see the passes covered in snow. The existence of animism culture promotes the belief that mountain passes are sacred and hence you will usually find the passes in Bhutan has a Buddhist stupa constructed with many prayer flags fluttering against the stiff winds of the highland.

Dochula Pass: Dochula Pass is thirty minute drive away from Thimphu city, en route to Punakha valley. The pass has an elevation of 3100 meters. With recent landscaping and development, the mountain pass has a café, restaurant, a monastery and the hundred and eight Druk Wangyel Chorten. However the highlight remains the 360 degree panoramic view of the entire eastern Himalayan range. If the weather permits, you will also be able to see Mount Gangkhar Puensum, the highest mountain in Bhutan.

The Chelela Pass between Paro and Haa valley is another popular day excursion destination. Chelela Pass is the highest motor able point in Bhutan at 3900 meters.       

If you are excited to visit the land of Happiness, get in touch with an authorized Bhutan travel agency to book your trip to Bhutan. All tourists must book their Bhutan tour through an authorized local tour operator as mandated by the Royal Government of Bhutan.

Bhutan – Australia Friendship Offer

Bhutan tourism is pleased to announce the Bhutan-Australia friendship offer to commemorate the special occasion that marks 15 years of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Australia. The offer is extended to Australian nationals for a period of 3 months starting June through August 2018. The offer is basically a deduction on the minimum daily package rate where the Australian tourists will only pay the government sustainable development fund of US$ 65 per night instead of the mandatory minimum daily tariff US$ 200 per night. All Australian nationals planning to avail the special offer must get in touch with a  local tour operator. View list of agents in Bhutan

The offer is a one-time special offer that was initiated to welcome all the Australian nationals visiting Bhutan in June, July and August in 2018.

Promotion Highlights:

  • Applicable for travel period in June, July and August 2018.
  • FREE waiver of daily rate US$200/person/night.
  • FREE waiver of FIT surcharge US$40/person/night.
  • Pay only US$65/person/night as government Sustainable Development Fee.
  • 30% Discount airfares for Australians.
  • Up to 50% Discount with partnering hotels.
  • Special airport reception on arrival of the 1st Group

Terms and conditions:

  • The offer is valid from 1st June 2018 to 31st August 2018.
  • The offer is for the nationals of Australia only.
  • Visitors should book their trip through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator.
  • A onetime visa fee of US$ 40 is applicable.

 

 

Top Places to Visit in Bhutan

If you ever visit Bhutan, these are some of the must visit places. Each destination has its unique offering of diverse culture, heritage and the people. If you wish to plan a trip to Bhutan then you will need to get in touch with an authorized Bhutan travel agency in Bhutan and book your trip as per your need.

  1. Bumthang Bhutan

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Bumthang has some of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country and the land has rich cultural heritage passed on for generations. Bumthang is also known for the tales of great Buddhist Saints and Tertons (treasure discoverer) believed to have performed miracles and bless the land and its people. Located in the central region of Bhutan, Bumthang is 266 kilometers and 10 hour drive from Thimphu. With the construction of a domestic airport recently, travelers can now take a short flight from Paro to reach Bumthang.

The people of Bumthang cherish their unique culture predominantly speaking the local dialect. A buckwheat noodle served stir fired with noodle and Sichuan pepper and buckwheat pan cake are a local delicacy. The region is also known for its cheese and butter production which are sold at a premium in the capital.

Top Tourist Attractions in Bumthang

Chakhar Lhakhang

A vast nine storied iron castle was constructed at the current site by a local King in the 7th century. Over the period of many centuries, the castle deteriorated. A small temple was built by Terton Dorji Lingpa. As per the historical account, the local king fell chronically ill cursed by the local deity and had to invite the tantric master Guru Rinpoche to subdue the deity and restore the King’s health. The event is considered significant as Guru Rinpoche is believed to have introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The Guru Rinpoche also took one of the daughters of the king as his consort and the temple that can be found today was constructed and consecrated with treasures dedicated to the daughter of the local King.

Kurje Lhakhang

Guru Rinpoche visited Bumthang upon the invitation of the local King. Guru is believed to have meditated in a cave to subdue the local deity and restore the King’s health. While meditating, Guru left an imprint of his body in that cave thus the name of the temple came to be known as Kurjey which translates to the imprint of the body.

During the medieval period, the first Governor of Trongsa constructed the first of the three temples that can be found today to enclose the cave. Subsequently the King and the royal family extended the compound and constructed bigger temples. Kurjey is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. It is also believed that the cypress tree near the entrance is an offshoot of Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick.

Ugyen Choling Palace

Ugyen Choling palace is an ancestral home turned into a museum. The restoration process was carefully executed to preserve the medieval aesthetics and the rooms are furnished with original content that were passed on for generations. The visit to the palace gives tourists an insight into the traditional Bhutanese way of life.

Located in secluded valley of Tang, the privately owned property aims to facilitate anyone interested in conducting religious studies and research. It is also promoted as a research center. The complex also has guest houses and exhibition centers for guests.

Where to Stay in Bumthang | List of Hotels in Bumthang

Name Rating Website
Chumey Nature Resort Standard http://www.chumeynatureresort.com
Aman Kora Bumthang Luxury https://www.aman.com/resorts/amankora
Mountain Lodge Standard http://mountainlodgebhutan.blogspot.com
Swiss Guest House Standard http://www.swissguesthouse.bt
Hotel Ugyenling Standard http://www.bhutanhotels.com.bt/ugyenling/ugyenling.htm

 

  1. Punakha Bhutan

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Punakha district served as the former capital of Bhutan. Punakha valley has one of the most beautiful and majestic Dzongs (fortress) in the country.  Punakha has pleasant subtropical weather. To avoid the cold winter of Thimphu, a tradition was started in the medieval century where the central monk body moved its residence to Punakha valley every winter for six months. Punakha continues to serve as the winter capital for the state monk body.

Punakha has witnessed many historical events such as the enthronement of the first monarch that marked a new era for Bhutan and the recent Royal Wedding of the King of Bhutan were celebrated in Punakha valley. Zhabdrung, the spiritual and the political leader who unified Bhutan was laid to rest at the Punakha Dzong. The Machen, a temple within the Dzong houses the embalmed body of the great leader. As a tradition all Kings and Chief Abbot begin their reigns by offering prayers at this shrine.

Punakha is a two hour drive from Thimphu. The newly widened national highway navigating through the woods provide tourists pleasant driving experience. After exiting the Thimphu, the climb begins from Simtokha. The first stop is at Dochula Pass at 3100 meters where tourists can view a panoramic view of the Himalayan range. If the weather permits, tourists may also be able to see Bhutan’s highest mountain Gangkhar Puensum which has an elevation of 7570 meters. From the pass, the road descends to Punakha valley.

Top Tourist Attractions in Punakha

Punakha Dzong – The Palace of Great Bliss          

Zhabdrung built the Punakha Dzong in 1637. The event was prophesied by Guru Rimpoche in the 8th century. According to the oral accounts, the chief architect had spent a night in the small temple near the current site of the Dzong as per the instruction of Zhabdrung. The intended architectural design of the Dzong was revealed to him in his dream that night.

The Dzong is built on the confluence of two rivers and it is accessed by a traditional cantilever bridge. A steep wooden staircase leads into the open courtyard of the Dzong. The staircases were strategically designed to be removed during the times of war making it impenetrable successfully guarding its people and the sacred relics. The dzong has a six storied central tower (Utse) which houses Bhutan’s most sacred relic Rangjung Kharsapani “a self-created image of the Bodhisattva of compassion.” The Dzong also has an enormous assembly hall (Kunrey) where the monks recite prayers and perform religious rituals. The place is sanctified with a towering statue of the Buddha, Zhabdrung and Guru Rimpoche.

Chimi Lhakhang – The Temple of Fertility

En route to Punakha town, tourists will come across Sopsokha village below the highway. The small community has clustered typical Bhutanese houses surrounded by paddy fields. The village is known for its flamboyant traditional graffiti of phallus drawn on the walls of every household in the community. A short hike through the village takes tourist to the temple of fertility.

A Tibetan Buddhist saint traveled to Bhutan in the 15th century. He was known for his unorthodox way of preaching Buddhism. He was known to indulge in alcohol, music and women. His tales of offering blessing in the form of sex are legendary. He was popularly known as the Divine Madman. His worshippers painted phalluses on the walls to drive away evil spirits and raise harmony in the household. Many childless couples visit the fertility temple in hopes of conceiving.

Where to Stay in Punakha| List of Hotels in Punakha

Name Rating Website
Drubchhu Resort Standard https://drubchhu.com
Aman Kora Punakha Luxury https://www.aman.com/resorts/amankora/lodges/punakha
Dhensa Boutique Resort Luxury http://dhensa.com
Como Uma Punakha Luxury https://www.comohotels.com/umapunakha
Zhingkham Resort Standard http://www.bhutanhotels.com.bt/bhr_ver2/zhingkham-resort.html

 

  1. Gangtey Bhutan

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Also known as Phobjikha, the valley is situated in central Bhutan under Wangdue district. The marshy land and the valley is part of an important wildlife preserve. It is home to the red foxes, leopards, wild boars, Himalayan black bears among others. During the winter months, the valley celebrates the arrival of the migratory endangered black necked cranes. The cranes fly from Tibet during the winter months and fly back in the early spring. A 16th century monastery built on the ridge overlooks the valley and serves as a place of worship for the community. Locals congregate at the monastery for annual religious festival. The monastery also runs a monastic school for the monks.

The tranquility of the secluded valley is an ideal destination for tourists looking to relax and get away from the busy world. The valley has many nature trails suitable for hikes and cycling around the valley that offers tourists a rejuvenating experience. During the stay, tourists can explore the community school, temple and the village and engage with the locals.

Where to Stay in Gangtey| List of Hotels in Gangtey

Name

Rating

Website

Dewachen Hotel Standard http://www.dewachenhospitality.com
Aman Kora Gangtey Luxury https://www.aman.com/resorts/amankora/lodges/gangtey
Gangtey Gompa Lodge Luxury http://www.gangteylodge.com

 

  1. Thimphu Bhutan

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Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan. It is the biggest and the most modern city in Bhutan. The city is 2 hour drive away from the International Airport in Paro district. A city of over 120,000 residents, Thimphu is the center of commerce and the Government in Bhutan. Tourists exploring Thimphu city will experience its cultural heritage existing in harmony with modern day development and western infused culture.

Tashichodzong in Thimphu houses the Office of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and important Government offices. The massive fortress stretches along the bank of the Thimphu River. The House of the Parliament stands opposite to the Dzong on the other side of the river. Cafes, multi cuisine restaurants and bars have proliferated along the Norzin Road stretch. Thimphu is also known for its entertaining pubs and night clubs.

The biggest event in Thimphu is the Thimphu Tsechu (Masked Dance Festival). An annual spiritual social event organized during the fall season. Locals and tourists flock to the open courtyard next to the Thimphu Dzong to watch the monks perform a religious inspired dances wearing exquisitely crafted mask depicting various Buddhist gods and deities. The event is concluded with offering blessing to the attendees.

Top Tourist Attractions in Thimphu

Buddha Dordenma

A 51.5 meter tall bronze Buddha statue gilded in gold overlooks the Thimphu city from a hilltop. The statue was built to fulfill a prophecy to emanate an aura of peace and happiness in the world. The monument complex is surrounded by kuensel phodrang Nature Park. The park also has multipurpose trail for hikers and cyclist.

Zorig Chusum Institute 

The institute aims in promoting and preserving the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Zorig Chusum means the thirteen arts and crafts. It includes the art of sculpting, calligraphy, painting, masonry among others. These skills are generally deployed in the construction of Dzongs, temples, palaces and typical Bhutanese houses.

The Institute enrolls young students interested in pursuing these hands on skills. Zorig Chusum attracts many tourists. Visitors can catch the students perform live demonstration of their crafts and also explore the institute’s gallery which has a display of all the products crafted by the students.

 The Centenary Farmer’s Market

Bhutan still predominantly has an agricultural economy. The famers in the countryside engage in farming activities year round to meet the demand of food created by the rising working force in urban places like Thimphu. Farmers from across the country bring their produce to the centenary farmers market every weekend. The city residents rush to the farmers market during the weekend to buy fresh local produce and also catch up with their preferred vendors.

A visit to the farmer’s market is always a lively scene where people from all walks of life come together and witness this amazing synergy of communities helping each other grow.

Where to Stay in Thimphu| List of Hotels in Thimphu

Name Rating Website
Le Meridien Thimphu Luxury http://www.lemeridienthimphu.com
Zhiwaling Ascent Luxury http://www.zhiwalingascent.com
City Hotel Standard http://www.cityhotelthimphu.com
Hotel Bhutan Standard https://www.hotelbhutan.com.bt
Hotel Druk Luxury http://drukhotels.com

 

  1. Paro Bhutan

The valley of Paro extends from Chuzom (confluence of Paro and Thimphu River) to Mount Jomolhari in the north. Unlike the narrow Thimphu valley, the wide valley of Paro is covered with fertile rice fields and groups of clustered typical Bhutanese houses spread across the valley. Bhutan’s only international airport is in Paro and therefore all tourists visiting Bhutan via flight will first arrive at Paro. Paro is an hour drive away from the capital Thimphu.

Top Tourist Attractions in Thimphu

Taktsang Monastery

The Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang) is one of the most visited attractions in the country. The Taktsang monastery is perched on a cliff 900 meters above Paro valley. Tourists will need to hike up to the monastery. It is a 3 hour hike up to the monastery. The well maintained dirt trail takes hikers through the pine forests flanking the steep ridge and gradually ascending up to the monastery. On arrival, hikers can finally take in the magnificent view of the monastery and the panoramic view of the Paro valley below.

Paro Dzong

Paro Dzong is the center of the district’s administration. The central monk body also resides in the Dzong. The massive open courtyard is used for social and spiritual gathering. The most popular being the Paro mask dance festival. The annual event attracts many locals and tourists to witness the famous mask dance performed by the monks. Inside the high rising walls of the Dzong, a five storied central tower houses shrines of the guardian deities and lamas. The Dzong is built on a ridge overlooking the Paro valley. The Dzong is approached by a traditional cantilever bridge and paved footpath leading up to the entrance of the Dzong.

Ta Dzong National Museum

Initially built as a watch tower above the Paro Dzong, it is now the national museum of Bhutan. The watch tower unlike other Dzongs, have a circular structure. The structure boasts of its impenetrable 2 and a half meter thick wall dotted with windows. The museum houses many exhibits including an egg laid by a mule, a horse horn, a stone axe.

Where to Stay in Paro| List of Hotels in Paro

Name Rating Website
Le Meridien Paro Luxury http://www.lemeridienparoriverfront.com
Zhiwaling Hotel Luxury http://www.zhiwaling.com
Aman Kora Paro Luxury https://www.aman.com/resorts/amankora/lodges/paro
Haven Resort Standard http://www.haven-bhutan.com
Tashi Namgay Resort Standard http://www.tashinamgayresort.com

Read More: Attractions in Bhutan

Bhutan Festivals

Bhutan Mask Dance Festivals (Tsechus)

Religion festivals in Bhutan encapsulate the essence of Bhutanese culture. Religious festivals are celebrated throughout the country. The most popular festivals are the Tsechus. The festival honors Guru Rimpoche and his glorious deeds. Tsechus are held annually in or around the great Dzongs. It draws many tourists from across the world and the locals in the region. During the celebration, monks perform series of meticulously choreographed dances and recite prayers to honor the great saint and invoke guardian deities to bless the congregation. Tourists often remain fascinated by the visual aesthetics of the event. The spectacular costumes worn by the monks include silk robes, ornate hats and exquisitely crafted mask depicting pantheons of gods.

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The tense narration of theatrical presentation is lightened the Atsaras (clowns). The clowns are often spotted holding a red wooden phallus and teasing women and children. It is said that the clowns are entitled to mock the spiritual and temporal subjects. The entire event is perceived as a spiritual and social gathering. The event includes spending time with family and neighbors, playing games and celebrates the occasion with sumptuous food and drinks. The two to three day color fest event ends with the offer of blessing and unfurling of a giant applique known as the “Thongdrol” depicting Guru Rimpoche. Locals believe that the Thongdrol has the power to liberate a soul by a mere sight.

Intriguing Mask Dances of Bhutan

 

Bardo Raksha Mangcham (Dance of Judgment of the Dead)

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The dance of judgment of dead is based on an ancient text. The text is believed to have been composed by Guru Rimpoche. Bardo translates to the intermediate stage. It is also believed that the soul of the dead wanders for seven weeks before gaining liberation or a favorable human rebirth to practice dharma.

The dance of judgment of dead begins with the entrance of an ox and his attendant monkey. The ox leaps in and out of the arena depicting the unpredictability and impermanence of life. The monkey holding a scale depicts Buddhist belief in the law of cause and effect and the display of the agitated nature of mind.

Shinje Chogyal “Lord of Death” wields a sword of wisdom in the right hand and a mirror of consciousness in his left hand. He chairs the judgment day accompanied by a white god and a black demon. Through the act, two human enter the arena for judgment and their rebirth. One of the human referred to as “Nyalwa Bum” or the sinner of hundred thousand non-virtuous deeds. Crowds learn that he was a hunter, fisherman and a bully during his lifetime. He was also found to criticize the disciples of Buddha’s teaching. However while he was fishing one day, he gained six merits by saving six people from drowning. The other lived a spiritual life and rescued animals from being killed.

The black demon and the white god report the good and bad deeds of the humans. The lord of death commands the monkey to weigh the person’s accumulated good and bad deeds. The sinner is condemned to hell for retribution while the spiritual is escorted to heaven or for favorable rebirth by the dakinis.

Duthro Dagmo Chezhi (Lord of Cemetery)

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Durdag, Lord of cemetery are believed to be the emanation of the Boddhisattva of Compassion. The dancers wear a skeletal costume, the four dancers march to the arena with thunderbolt steps. During the proceeding, they summon the consciousness of all evil forces and liberate their consciousness. The choreography includes a routine where the dancers bend backward and touch the ground with the tip of their mask to summon the deities of the earth to witness their act of faith.  The skeletal costume reminds the crowd of the impermanence of life.

 Mewang (Fire Blessing)

The fire blessing ceremony is performed to expel all evil spirits. As the spirits are believed to be nocturnal, the ceremony is conducted during the night fall. The ceremony uses two 20 feet wooden polls covered in flammable tinder to offer fire blessing. A duet wrathful dance consecrates the area and lights up the polls. Locals believe that lighting up the torch brings good health and bounty harvest. People then walk pass the blazing polls to cleanse their bad karma.

Guru Tsen Gye (Eight Manifestation of Guru Rimpoche)

Guru Rimpoche is believed to have manifested into six peaceful and two wrathful forms. The eight manifestations represent the eight consciousness which are hearing, taste, seeing, feeling, touch, mental consciousness, deluded awareness and all-encompassing consciousness. These consciousness are invoked during the dance to seek blessings, clarity and cleanse bad karma.

Bhutan Popular Tsechu Festivals (Mask Dance Festivals)

Thimphu Tsechu

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The annual Thimphu Tsechu is celebrated on the 10th day of the 8th lunar month. Local residents in Thimphu and people from within the region congregate at Tashichodzong to celebrate the event. The elderly members in the community look forward to the tradition of witnessing the event and the curious younger members are guided and introduced to the ancient tradition. One of the social highlights of the event includes the tradition of dressing up in their finest dresses and jewelries.  Monks begin the festival by chanting prayers and taking the center stage wearing the exquisitely crafted mask and silk costume. The entire event unfurls with a majestic back drop of the 17th century fortress.

The celebration is not only confined within the premises of the Dzong. The entire Norzin road in the city is closed during the festival and vendors set up make shift food and game stalls. The festive season lasts for three to four days.

Paro Tsechu

The annual Paro Tsechu is another major event in Bhutan. As per the tourism monitoring report, Paro Tsechu draws the highest number of tourists. The Tsechu is held 10th day of the second lunar month. The first day of the festival is organized in the courtyard within the Dzong and the subsequent days are celebrated in the open courtyard within the Dzong area. Tsechus are believed to confer blessing to those that attend the festival and hence all Buddhist faithful make it a tradition to attend the festival every year.

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The final day of the Paro Tsechu is particularly considered auspicious. The festival concludes with the unfurling of the giant applique before dawn. His Majesty the King graces the final day to offer prayers before the Thongdrol. The Thongdrol in Paro is almost two centuries old.

How to plan your trip to Bhutan

Specially crafted and updated travel guide for travelers planning to travel to Bhutan| A Must Read Travel Guide.

Are you looking for a perfect getaway to a mysterious mythical Bhutan? Are you confused where to begin? Then this travel guide to Bhutan is exactly what you need. This guide has everything you need to know about planning the perfect holiday without losing your mind.

Disclaimer: Some tips mentioned in this travel guide may not be applicable to some travelers. Travelers from India, Bangladesh or Maldives are not restricted to the “daily package tariff” and “mandatory tour operator”.

A brief account on Bhutan

Where is Bhutan?

Bhutan is a very small country in South Asia tucked cozily in the heart of the eastern Himalayas squeezed in  between two of the out sized nations in the world; China in the north and India to the south. It is home to some 700,000 happy Bhutanese living in a harmony with the environment.

Bhutan is known for its pristine environment and its adoption of Gross national happiness as a factor to measure the country’s development rather than the Gross national product. Bhutan is also a leading country in terms of eco-tourism which has grasped a lot of foreign attention and some even claim that Bhutan in coming years will be the model country for eco-tourism. Bhutan’s unique culture and traditions also never failed to awe-struck any travelers who came across Bhutan. Bhutan is also celebrated for having the friendliest people in the world. Still not convinced? Don’t take my word for it but you can read more about Bhutan here.

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Tourism in Bhutan

Bhutan opened its doors to tourism only few decades back after remaining in isolation for many years. Bhutan welcomed its first tourists of 300 visitors as late as in 1974 .Since then tourist arrivals have been progressively increasing with about 250,000 tourists traveling to Bhutan in 2017, which is about one third of the population of Bhutan.

Bhutan has always been mindful of the impact of mass tourism on its culture and especially on its pristine environment which is why it has efficiently come up with the policy of high impact and low volume which bring us to the tourism guidelines and policies:

Travelers must come into the country through a local tour operator/tour agency

Travelers cannot simply take flights to Bhutan and explore its wonders by themselves. You must first get in touch with an authorized Bhutan tour operator and then buy the package that seem fit for your liking and then make required payments in advance before your arrival. Your trusted tour agency will make all the required documents ready for your trip. The Bhutanese tour operator should be registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).

Tip: Book directly through a local Bhutanese travel agent, save costs on commissions added on by middlemen.

Minimum daily package and tour cost

The government of Bhutan has set a minimum daily package rate for your tour which depends on your travel dates and which is inclusive of all the other elements such as accommodation, entry fees for sightseeing, a certified driver and a proficient tour guide. The rates depending on dates are as follows.

Peak tourist season: US$ 250/night per person (Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct, Nov)
Lean tourist season: US$ 200/night per person (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug, Dec)

Other services Included in this rate are as following:

  • 3-star accommodation on a twin-sharing basis
  • All meals
  • Private car with driver throughout the trip
  • Private English speaking tour guide
  • All entry fees to monuments, parks and festivals
  • Trekking tents, cook, equipment, haulage (if going on a trekking tour)

Surcharge for FIT or small group

Individual travelers who are not huge fans of group tours or a couple just looking for a quite romantic getaway without the pressure of a family or a solo person simply wishing to embark on this journey alone visiting Bhutan are subject to a surcharge as follows on your minimum daily tariff:

  • One traveller: US$ 40 per night
  • Two traveller: US$ 30 per person per night

Good news! Get discounts on your tour package to Bhutan

Travelling with a group of more than 11 people or if your tour duration exceeds 8 days you are eligible for various discounts. Discounts are also available depending on your entry and exit points. Children below 12 years are also eligible for discounts. Keep that in mind when you ask your travel agent for a tour quote as not all travel agents may provide the right information about your savings.

Tip: To differentiate themselves (as they can’t do on price), tour operators may provide extras. So, feel free to ask.

How does the tour booking process work?

Choosing a tour operator

The first step of your planning phase is to get in touch with a local tour operator here in Bhutan. Which is not an easy job as everyone may get overwhelmed with a long list of strange sounding travel agents in Bhutan? Here is where we can provide our expertise as you can start by checking the list of tour agencies that is maintained by the Tourism Council of Bhutan in the tour operator directory. Then you may check their individual websites and see what packages they offer, their costing and what kind of tour they specializes in such as( adventure tour, cultural tours, trekking and hiking tours, etc) and also check what all services they provide.

Choose few from the list and try to contact them, you can probably determine the quality of their services from their response and interactions you have with them.

Found the perfect tour agent? Nope? Still confused? No problem! We can still help as we are also an authorized local travel agent in Bhutan, fairly latest and run by people with lots of individual experience in the travel sector and who are genuinely interested to provide you with the best experience possible in Bhutan.

Tip: Avoid travel agents that offer very low rates compared to the minimum package rate. Why? Because they may probably be pulling dirty tricks and breaking the law of the country which, trust me, you don’t want to be a part of.

Tour payment and visa processing

After having decided your tour agent and the type of tour you want to avail, your agent will ask you to make the payments so that they can begin to process tour tourist visa to Bhutan. Why do you need pay the full payment before arrival? You will need to make the full payment because without the payment TCB will not process your visa application. You will also be transferring the payment to TCB’s bank account and they’ll hold it until you have entered the country, completed your tour and departed the country.

Tip: Ensure you are transferring the payment to TCB’s bank account (the ultimate beneficiary will be the tour operator). Since 2017, you can also make online payment using Bank of Bhutan’s payment gateway.

The best time to travel to Bhutan

Weather in Bhutan

Bhutan experiences four seasons every year. Western and central region along the temperate climatic zone generally have warm days and cold nights during winter season and hot and humid days and cool nights during summer season. Light occasional snowfall can be expected during the winter months in the western and central region while the highlands and the mountains in the alpine region see snowfall most of the year.

Spring and fall seasons in Bhutan have the most favorable weather conditions for any outdoor activities and it is also considered the festive season time of the year.

Best time to visit for festival

The most popular festival in Bhutan is the Tshechus (masked dance festival). Tshechus are an annual religious event which is observed at large courtyard of Dzongs and where monks perform meticulously choreographed dances wearing beautifully carved and painted masks depicting pantheons of Buddhist doctrine guardians and deities. The dances are believed to invoke deities to bless the onlookers. Some of the popular Tshechus are the Thimphu Tshechu, Paro Tshechu and Punakha Drubchen.

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Getting to Bhutan

Travelers can either fly to Paro International Airport or can get into the country via road through Phuntsholing, Gelephu or Samdrup Jongkhar. As most of the tourist attractions are in the western part of the Country, most tourists prefer to fly into the country through Paro which is only an hour drive from the capital city, Thimphu.

Flying into Bhutan

Bhutan has only one international airport in Paro which is located at exactly 90 minutes drive from the capital city, Thimphu. The Airport functions with two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air is a government operated organization while Bhutan Airline is a private business run by the Tashi Group of companies. Both the Airlines are very well maintained and well serviced.

Druk Air’s modern Airbus A-319 and ATR plane flies to and from:

  • Bangkok (Thailand)
  • Delhi (India)
  • Mumbai (India)
  • Kolkata (India)
  • Bagdogra (India)
  • Gaya (India)
  • Guwahati (India)
  • Kathmandu (Nepal)
  • Dhaka (Bangladesh)
  • Changi (Singapore)

Whereas Bhutan Airlines only operate with fewer destinations like:

  • Bangkok (Thailand)
  • Delhi (India)
  • Kolkata (India)
  • Kathmandu (Nepal)

Both DrukAir and Bhutan airline offer similar airfares and services. You can either book your flight tickets directly on the respective airline’s website or you can also ask you tour agent to arrange it for you.

The Best Part of Flying to Bhutan

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The landing and the taking off of the plane in itself is an amazing experience. As Bhutan is mountainous country the view of mount Jomolhari as the clouds disperse is a magical experience and especially if you are flying from New Delhi and Kathmandu to Paro, you can enjoy an amazing view of Mount Everest. You will need to manage a window seat on the left side of the plane on your flight to Paro.

Tip: If you are planning to visit Bhutan during the peak tourist season, plan and book your trip at least few months in advance as flights and hotel rooms tend to get totally booked.

Entering Bhutan by land

If you wish to combine a tour in Nepal and also India then entering into Bhutan would be much easier and cheaper by road through Bhutan’s southern Borders with India. The nearest Indian airport to Phuntsholing is the Bagdora airport at Siliguri (West Bengal, India) from where Phuntsholing town is just 4 hours away. You can also have your tour agent to pick you up from Bagdora airport and then have a spectacular 5 hours drive to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.

Popular attraction sites to visit and things to do

Bhutan offers a wide variety of must see and must do things depending on your travel duration. If your travel duration is less than one week then a tour into the western region is recommended. The western Bhutan tour includes Paro, Thimphu (the capital of Bhutan), Haa, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang and Phobjikha.

Thimphu

Thimphu

Located at an hour drive from Paro town is the beautiful capital city Thimphu. A city of about 200,000 people, it is one of the smallest and least populated capital cities in the world and is the only capital city in the world still without a traffic light. The beauty of having no traffic light is the dancing traffic man signaling the cars and managing the traffic is something to see.

Sites to see in Thimphu: Tashichodzong(fortress), Buddha Dordenma (Buddha point), Motithang Takin reserve, Folk Heritage Musuem, Authentic Craft Bazaar, Centenary Farmer’s Market, Semtokha Dzong.

Phobjikha

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The beautiful valley of Phobjikha is home to the endangered black necked cranes. The cranes are attracted to this spectacular land for its enormous marshy land spread in the center of the valley which remains protected for these migratory seasonal birds. The birds fly to the valley from Tibet every winter and flies back in early spring. The picturesque valley is a perfect place to get away from the fast forwarded world and find some inner peace and also spend some quality time to do some soul searching.

Places to visit and things to do in Phobjikha: Gangtey Monastery, Gangtey Nature Trail, Black Necked Crane Information Center, Local community in Gangtey

 

Paro

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Set in a beautiful open valley and enclosed by mountains is the Paro valley. Paro is also home to the only international airport in Bhutan. The highlight of the Paro tour is the cliff hugging breathtaking Paro Taktshang (tiger’s nest).

Popular sites to visit in Paro: Paro Taktshang (includes a 3 hour hike), Drukgyel Dzong, Tamchog Lhakhang, Paro Rinpung Dzong.

 

Central, Eastern and Southern Bhutan

If you plan to explore Bhutan for a longer stretch, then you should visit parts of central and eastern and southern parts of Bhutan like Bumthang, Trongsa, Tashigang and Tashiyangtse and Zhemgang.

Hotels and accommodations in Bhutan

Your accommodation is more likely to be selected and arranged by your tour operator as a part of your inclusive packaged rate. It is mandated by TCB that a 3 star rated accommodation to be arranged by any tour operator so nothing to Worry about there but if you wish to upgrade to a higher rated luxury hotel then extra cost may be applicable.

However if you wish to have a quite humble stay at a farm house, your tour operator will arrange it for you.

Classic Luxury accommodations

Bhutan boasts of high end luxury hotels and resorts which generally cost around $300+ per night. The ones worth your every penny are Aman Resorts (Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Gangtey, and Bumthang), Uma (Paro, Punakha), Taj Tashi (Thimphu), and Le-meridian (Thimphu) and Zhiwaling in Paro. If you would like to stay at these properties, you can have your tour operator arrange it for you and extra cost are applicable.

Typical 3-star hotel

A typical 3-star hotel will have the following amenities:

  • Spotless rooms with windows, proper ventilation, clean and sanitized sheets, towel, blanket, etc.
  • Comfortable mattresses
  • Bathrooms with installed shower and toilet
  • 24 hours of running water and access to hot water
  • Internal heating systems
  • Daily house keeping

 

Home stays in Bhutan

Apart from the overrated wi-fi connected robotic hotels, you can also choose to spend a night or two with a local family at a farm house. After all what is a Bhutan tour without a little mix of authentic Bhutanese experience with the locals. Staying at a farm house will provide you with a true experience with a real Bhutanese family. Don’t worry you won’t be invading their private space as they are generally friendly people and even warmer hosts. You can even experience authentic Bhutanese cuisine first hand straight from the mother’s hand (nothing like mother’s warm food). During the day, you could watch or partake in the daily village life in Bhutan or ramble through the villages or even engage in a local archery game. You’d be glad to know that all farm stays are inspected and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, and are equipped with all basic amenities for a comfortable stay. Paro, Haa and Punakha offer a lot of farm-stay experiences.

Tip: It is in your best interest to decide and let your travel agent know about your choice of accommodation in advance during your tour booking process.

Bhutan Food

Red rice, chillies and butter tea is the basic overview of Bhutanese food. Bhutanese eat rice in their every meal. Another local favorite is the “Ema Datshi” which literally translates to chillies and cheese.  Bhutanese like their Ema Datshi very hot and spicy. You must try Ema Datshi when you are in Bhutan but you can have a less hot version of it, just ask your cooks to tone down the hotness for you.

If Bhutanese food does not impress you then you can also choose to have international cuisine which the hundreds of restaurants in Bhutan offer.

Your all inclusive tour package already includes the cost of all meals during your entire tour. You’ll be eating your breakfast most likely at the hotel that you are staying whereas the lunch and dinner will be arranged at different restaurants which are TCB certified restaurants and will most likely be set meals or buffets. However, at any point of your trip if you wish to have a fine dining experience at an expensive high end luxury resorts/restaurants. You will be asked to bear the bill yourself.

food

Tip: You must mention your dietary preferences to your travel agent at the time of tour booking so that they can provide you with better dining experience.

Ground Transportation in Bhutan

You will be traveling through Bhutan by car. A comfortable well serviced car and a certified driver will be arranged for you which are a part of your all inclusive packaged rate deal. The type of vehicle will depend on the size of your tour group;

Roads in Bhutan

You will experience the drive of your life through Bhutan’s winding twisty roads that climb up on mountains and come down in valleys through villages. If you do not fall asleep through the journey, you’ll be pleased to see the beautiful sceneries, waving trees and spectacular landscapes.

Tip: pop some motion sickness pills if you are prone to getting car sick. These twisty roads are mean sometimes.

Helicopter tours

Since 2015, you can choose to take a helicopter sightseeing tour in Bhutan. These tours range from 30 minutes to 2 hours and can fly 6 passengers at a time.  You will be able to fly over Paro valley, Taktsang, Drukgyel Dzong and also view a glimpse of Mt. Jomolhari. (Note: extra charges apply for this tours, it starts from US$ 1,500)

The helicopters are operated by Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Ltd. (a state owned enterprise) and the aircrafts were bought brand new in 2015, piloted by certified international pilots.

Phone and internet

SIM cards and phone network coverage

The two mobile operators in Bhutan, B-mobile and TashiCell offer good phone network coverage and connectivity inside Bhutan. They provide decent LTE data speeds and both the service providers offer tourist sim cards. To use their service, ensure your phone is compatible with the following specifications:

  • B-Mobile: LTE Band 3 (1800Mhz)
  • TashiCell: LTE Band 28 (700Mhz)

If your tour includes trekking in the mountains, there is limited or no mobile network coverage during the time of the trek but your tour operator should have a satellite phone which can be used in terms of emergencies.

Internet and Wi-fi

Almost all hotels in Bhutan offer Wi-fi to their guests, however some hotels have limited it just to their lobby area.

Tipping culture in Bhutan

Tipping is still fairly a new culture in Bhutan and it is not really mandatory and you need not tip at restaurants as they already charge a certain amount of service tax on the cost. If your guide and driver go out of their way to make your trip a memorable one then you can tip them as gesture of gratitude.

We will be updating this guide as and when we have new information.