Best places to visit in BHUTAN
Planning a trip to Bhutan and wondering what are the best places to visit in Bhutan?
Bhutan is a small country in Eastern Himalayas. It is not a popular tourist destination, but the main reason is that it’s not possible to travel to Bhutan independently. To preserve its unique culture, the government of Bhutan has enforced a strict tourism policy.
To travel to Bhutan, you need to join an organised tour, and there’s a minimum daily fee set by the government. Thanks to this fact, Bhutan is not ruined by mass tourism and is one of the most remarkable destinations in the world.
Would you like to visit Bhutan?
Check out our article to find out how to travel to Bhutan and what are the best places to visit in Bhutan!
Travelling to Bhutan: Guided tours only
How to travel to Bhutan?
When planning a trip to Bhutan, it’s important to know that independent travel to Bhutan is not possible at the moment.
You must book a tour if you want to travel to Bhutan. There’s a minimum daily tariff (fee) set by the government. It depends on the number of travellers in your group and the season. The tariff is the same for cultural tours, treks, and any other types of tours. It covers the following: accommodation, meals, transport and guides.
There are a number of government-approved travel agents that sell excursions to Bhutan. Local travel agents offer a number of different tour packages. You can choose between different cultures, nature, wellness and adventure tours. Most tours last from 5 days to two weeks. Choose the excursion that appeals to you most!
If you love trekking, you’ll be delighted to know that it is possible to hike in Bhutan and enjoy magnificent views of the seven-thousand-meter peaks of the Himalayas. By the way, one of the finest and most challenging treks, the Snowman Trek, is one of the hiking trails of Bhutan.
Click here to learn more about tourist tariffs and travelling to Bhutan.
You can see all the tour operators on the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s Website.
7 best places to visit in Bhutan
Paro & Taktsang Monastery
Paro is the entry point for all tourists flying into Bhutan.
It is home to Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only international airport. Surrounded by 5.5 km-high mountain peaks and featuring an unusually short runway, Paro Airport is often considered “the most difficult commercial airport in the world”. Only a handful of pilots are certified to make the approach between the tall peaks. When you’ll be travelling to Bhutan, you’ll experience the landing yourself.
Paro is a pretty historic town with a number of historical buildings and sacred sites. The main street boasts traditionally decorated houses. The most notable building in the town is Rinpung Dzong with its Nemi Zam bridge, both lighting up at night.
Paro Taktsang, one of the best places to visit in Bhutan, is located only 12 km from Paro. Also known as the “Tiger’s Nest”, it is a sacred Buddhist monastery set in the cliffside. It consists of ornately designed temples and meditation caves. Paro Taktsang is one of the most iconic landmarks of Bhutan.
Chele La Pass
Chele La Pass is a steep and narrow asphalt road built in the 1990s.
Situated at an altitude of 3988 metres, Chele La Pass is the highest motorable point in Bhutan. It is decorated with prayer flags, and on clear days, the pass boasts beautiful views of snow-capped peaks.
As the road is steep and narrow, with sharp turns and vertical drops, it is dangerous to drive it in winter due to snow and ice.
Thimphu is Bhutan’s capital and largest city.
The most notable building in the city is Tashichho Dzong. It is a large Buddhist monastery that has a fortress, a number of shrines and flower gardens.
What else can you see in Thimphu? Visit National Memorial Chorten which is an impressive Buddhist stupa featuring a gilded spire. Buddha Dordenma is a towering Buddha statue perched above a temple, overlooking the valley. Royal Botanical Garden is a nice place for a relaxing walk. You can see a variety of Himalayan plants, including rhododendrons and orchids. Changangkha Lhakhang is a hillside temple with panoramic views of the city.
Do you want to see Bhutan’s national animal? Visit Royal Takin Preserve which is home to the country’s national animal — takin, a unique-looking antelope goat.
Punakha is a town 3 hours drive away from Thimphu.
It was the capital of Bhutan until 1955. Now the town is a popular tourist destination and is known for its fortified monastery, the Punakha Dzong. This dzong was the seat of the Government of Bhutan when Punakha was the country’s capital. The Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan. It has six stories and a central tower.
A covered wooden bridge that crosses the Mo Chu river is a part of the dzong complex.
Trongsa Dzong is Bhutan’s largest Dzong and one of the best places to visit in Bhutan.
The imposing Dzong is located in a picturesque location — it is built on a mountain overlooking the gorge of the Mangde River. Trongsa Dzong is a great example of traditional dzong architecture. It is an extensive complex that is set on many different levels. The dzong consists of a number of temples, and a network of passageways, courtyards and corridors.
Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek
Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek is a very popular 6-day trek.
The route will take you to a number of high-altitude lakes, traditional Bhutanese villages and two high mountain passes. On your way, you will be treated to beautiful natural landscapes and stunning views of the Himalayan mountain range.
The Snowman Trek / Laya Gasa Trek, Bhutan
Running from Laya to the high Bhutanese Himalayas, the Snowman Trek is the longest hiking trail in Bhutan.
It is one of the most difficult hikes in the world due to harsh weather conditions, duration and high altitudes. Created by the yak herders, the trail is 347 km long and it takes about 25 days to complete it. The trail passes remote villages and lakes and goes through numerous mountain passes. The trekkers need to camp as high as 5000 m above sea level. It was also reported that the snow leopards can be found on the way, although there is no report of danger.
Only a handful of people each year attempt the Snowman Trek. It is believed that more people have summited Everest than have completed the Snowman Trek.
Be warned — hiking the Snowman Trek is expensive. The average price is 6000 USD.
The Snowman Trek is an extension of the Laya Gasa Trek, which is considered one of the most beautiful treks in Bhutan. Just like the Snowman Trek, the Laya Gasa trek offers views of some of the most unspoiled landscapes and the highest mountains of the country. It takes 14 days to complete the Laya Gasa Trek.
Bhutan travel tips
- Independent travel in Bhutan is not possible, so you need to join a guided tour in order to be able to travel to Bhutan. See the information above.
- If you want to travel to Bhutan, then everything must be arranged and paid for in advance.
- ATMs are available in major towns. However, we would not recommend relying only on ATMs in Bhutan. There may be power shortages, or simply your card may not be accepted by local ATMs. It’s better to travel to Bhutan with some cash.
- Pack a good windproof rain jacket, sturdy walking/hiking shoes and a warm sweater, especially if you are planning to hike. Pack thermal underwear, hat, gloves and scarf for autumn and winter trips. Also, keep in mind that Bhutan has several different climate zones. In some places, it may be cool even in the summer.
- A lot of popular tourist attractions in Bhutan are high-altitude. You need to know how to deal with altitude. It is crucial to acclimatise when travelling to high altitude regions in Bhutan. Ascending too quickly can cause altitude sickness.
- The best months to visit Bhutan are March, April, May, September, October, and November. These are peak months when the daily tariff is higher.
- It is customary to tip guides, drivers, and porters. On average a good tip is around 10-15 USD for your guide, around 10 USD for your driver, and 8 USD — for your porter.
- Dress modestly, especially in the places of worship! Pack clothes that cover your legs and arms. Loose-fitting trousers and shirts are the best, both for male and female travellers. It is required to wear somewhat smart clothes when visiting a temple or monastery — a long-sleeved shirt with collar and long trousers for men, and a long-sleeve and a long skirt or long trousers for women. You can’t wear jeans in a monastery or temple. However, you can wear jeans, t-shirts and capris when exploring the towns of Bhutan.
- Bhutan is very safe, and crime is uncommon.