Bhutan is a hidden country nestled between Nepal and Bangladesh.
Surrounded by the Himalayas and The local name for Bhutan is the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” or “Druk Yul”. Interestingly, Bhutan is considered one of the most closed-off country in Asia in the past, until in recent years where it opened up a lot more with the reign of the 3rd king.
We made a visit to Bhutan in June this year after completing our trip in Nepal. Here’s sharing our 5 days itinerary we had in Bhutan and what information you need before deciding to visit this country.
How to get to Bhutan – Useful Tips
Flying is the only mode of transportation to get to Bhutan for tourists.
Paro Airport is the closet airport to the capital of Thimphu. If you are unfamiliar with the official language of Bhutan which is Dzongkha, don’t worry: English is the second official language of Bhutan. Quite a lot of the Bhutanese you will be interacting can converse with you in fluent English. However, for non-tourist facing Bhutanese, we cannot advise as we did not manage to interact with many of them in this trip due to the nature of having a guided programme.
Best Season to Visit Bhutan – When is a good time
Base on what you find online, the months between Mid-March to Early-June is the best time to visit Bhutan. These months fall into the spring season, making it warmer but mot too much rainfall.
The beginning of spring also paves the way for nature’s beauty to come to life, so the whole country is flourishing in greenery. However, do note that if you visit in the month of June like us, you are already running the risk of hitting the monsoon season where rainfall is common. However, if you are up for the risk, it will be the period with the cheapest fares and packages in Bhutan.
Top Activities You Can Do in Bhutan
There is a long list of things one can do here in Bhutan. Visit monasteries, go for hikes,water rafting, admire the architecture and more. However, for me and Cez, below are some of our highlights and recommendations of best places to visit in Bhutan.
Best Treks and Trails in Bhutan
Tiger’s Nest – Taktsang Monastery
Hiking to Tiger’s Nest is a must-do outdoor activity in Bhutan and one of our highlights. The hike up can get tiring, hot and crowded with tourists (at the wrong timings), but once you reach the lookout point of Taktsang Monastery in the distance, the view will blow you away.
This cliff-hugging temple is a very sacred Buddhist site that was built around a cave.
Time it takes to get to Taktsang Monastery
A full-on trek of Tiger’s Nest Monastery will probably take you 5-6 hours up and down, including the transportation time to drive to the starting base of the hike. From the base, you can rent a horse/ donkey to bring you a few kilometres higher, and the rest till the main lookout point is up to your willpower, stamina and hiking boots.
The hike is roughly 4 miles roundtrip and you can reach an elevation of over 10,000 feet.
ONE BONUS TIP: Go higher to the top of the mountain after you reached Tiger’s Nest (this path is not frequented by many tourists), which has a monastery at the top on the edge. The a path leading up to it is a bit steep but worth it, coz the view from the top is amazing! We even spotted the famous monkey of Bhutan!
NOTES: I would recommend to start nice and early for this jike, take your own pace while hiking to the Tiger’s Nest. Lastly, don’t forget to take plenty of pictures.
Here’s sharing a few other famous treks one can do here in Bhutan.
We didn’t have enough time to check out this long multi-day trek in Bhutan, but we heard it was amazing! The trek can last roughly up to 8 days and though getting popular, its not easily accessible. The highest elevation point is roughly 4,820m. The stunning mountains of Jumolhari, Tsherimgang and Jichu Drake can be seen from here. If you are lucky, you can see the periodic blue sheep and curious marmots.
Gazamchu Rhododendron Trek
An off-the-beaten type of trek through Central Bhutan is what the Gazamchu Rhododendron Trek is about. Tour packages and guides have only recently added a trek to this site in 2016.
The 36 miles trek begins in Central Bhutan and ends in Bumthang. Cultural spots such as Guru Rinpoche’s Pilgrim are seen throughout this trekking experience.
Immerse in the Flora and Fauna in Bhutan
The hills and streams and nature of this country are mesmerizing. More than 70 percent of Bhutan is covered in forests that include medicinal plants, endangered animals and birds. You might be lucky to spot a snow leopard, red panda or black-necked cranes. Unfortunately not us, but we were lucky to see a little bird’s nest with her blue little eggs!
Visit the Takin Enclosure at Motithang Takin Preserve
If you think the Takin is a mystical creature, then you are wrong.
The Takin is actually Bhutan’s national animal. We dropped by the Takin enclosure at the Motithang Takin Preserve to catch a glimpse of this rare animal. However, he was not very friendly and could not be spotted far far away chilling on the grass.
The Natural and Outdoor Sights throughout Bhutan
Besides the amazing trekking trails we did in Bhutan, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to engage in though it was not included in our programme.
Jigme Dorji National Park
This national park covers a large land mass area that spreads through Paro, Thimphu, Gasa and many more districts. There are many endangered species that live in this park such as takin, blue sheep and Ussuri dhole.
Kayaking and/or River Rafting
If you want to travel through Bhutan over water instead of road, then you must try one this sport. River rafting down the Paro Dzong is a nice adventure that has you surrounded by green valleys and gentle rapid waters. We didn’t get to experience it even though we really wanted to.
Kayaking is less thrilling but still as enjoyable. People of all levels of kayaking expertise can enjoy kayaking down the Paro River.
Rock Climbing in Bhutan
How could we leave rock climbing off this list? Apparently it is available here! Climbing up Easy Peasy, Half Mood and the Nose are just some of the amazing rock climbing routes you can attempt in Bhutan.
Cultural Day Tour to Monasteries and Dzongs
During your trip to Bhutan, you should at least check out one of their Dzongs (fortresses).
Some of the most beautiful and amazing monasteries and dzongs to visit are:
- Trashi Chhoe Dzong, Tashichhodzong (Thimphu Dzong)
- Changangkha Monastery
- Taktsang Monastery
- Tachog Lhakhang
- Ringpung Dzong
Each of these places are beautifully constructed buildings and the interior are really well maintain and colourful
The most common distinctions of Bhutan architecture are the multi-colored wood designs, sloping roofs and small-arched windows. The architecture of the buildings and streets are beautifully designed, painted colourfully and preserved and makes you feel like you are walking through a movie set.
Although each house is different, the design of the houses all use wooden frame, stone and earth retaining walls. There are no nails or iron bars permitted to be used during the construction of a house. The blueprints for each building are usually drawings or hand painted designs of each building. That was one really pretty thing I liked about their buildings – all so artistic and floral.
Try the National Sport of Bhutan – Archery
Archery has been the national sport of Bhutan since 1971. We were lucky enough to visit the Local Archery Finals, which happened to be on when we were in Bhutan!
The largest archery stadium is Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu. The national event is very interesting, and we were quite intrigued by the match and the dances in between.
Unique Experience – Wearing the Traditional Bhutanese Costume
Similar to Middle Eastern and Asian countries, Bhutan has a national dress code that should be adhered to by tourists. Women must always wear ankle-length dresses, while men should sport knee-length garments. Remember to bring an extra scarf, just in case you need additional coverage when visiting monasteries.
The Local Bhutanese People
A Photo Journey into Bhutan
The people of Bhutan are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet! They have warm souls and you can instantly feel a connection to them.
You could visit a million places on earth and not experience it like any other. A trip to Bhutan allows you to indulge in unfamiliar territory while exploring a beautiful country.
Sharing our 4 Days Bhutan Itinerary
As far as itineraries go, I suggest you use this as a guide but not to the detail. You might want to find your own mix of activities. Most of the places I visited are the usual cultural tour package options provided DrukAsia but you can try as much as possible to customize something more for your interest here in Bhutan.
Day 1: Thimphu Sightseeing
National Memorial Chorten
The golden spires and bells of this stupa was built to honor Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third Druk Gyalpo. There are prayer wheels, ornate sculptures and a teaching school in this chorten.
The View from Buddha point
It is one of Bhutan’s newest religious monument. Quite a lot of it is still work in progress, but the huge golden Shakyamuni Buddha was completed. This bronze statue is over three-storey-high and it is the focal point of visiting Kuensel Phodrang National Park.
Day 2: Thimphu city continued
Explore the Craft Gallery
By visiting local shops and galleries, you can check out the talented crafts Bhutan artists have. This showroom puts on display hand-crafted artefacts and all kinds of little gifts you can bring home for friends.
Centenary Farmers Market
Roughly 400 stalls are lined up at this farmers market. Farmers from around the country allow their produce to be put on display for people to admire and purchase.
Norzin Lam Craft Stalls
Shopping is a satisfying adventure that many of us love to do! The Norzin Lam street is lined with different stalls such as clothing, hand-made sculptures, jewelry and painting stalls. You can purchase items such as wooden cups, bamboo bags and Buddhist sculptures.
Day 3: Paro District
Paro City Tour
Although this town is relatively old, the main street was recently built in 1985. Paro town is a great place for the young and old as traditional and modernized ideas come together. There is a great archery ground you can visit, as well as many dzongs. Let’s share with you the best sightseeing spots you can consider.
Ta Dzong National Museum
Before this was indeed a National Museum, it was used as a watchtower to protect the people of the town. This museum has diverse exhibits such as decorative arts, bronze gallery, displays of arms and armours and stone inscriptions galleries.
This three-storey building was built in 1421. There is a great deal of paintings, figurines and stunning architectural beauty at this temple. Legend has it that this building was built atop a head of a black vicious snake.
This temple is the oldest in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century. The wooden floors are mostly all original and there are prayer wheels and monk houses throughout this temple.
Lastly, here’s sharing some additional things to note about guides and making your research which tour company to go.
Bhutan Guide and Tour Packages
With the nature of the country, the need to book a local tour package with a guide in advance is a requirement. Our trip was organized by DrukAsia, approved tour agency for Bhutan travel. They also managed our flights by their own carrier DrukAir in from Kathmandu in Nepal and out of Paro Bhutan Airport to our next destination Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Visa Requirements and Currency
Before you head off to this beautiful country, make sure you have the proper documentation and government-approved visa which can be arranged with your travel agent in advance.
Lastly, you can pay by their local Bhutan currency here, so you can drop by the bank during the trip to pick up some currency.
Here’s rounding up our 5 Days Trip in Bhutan with 21 over tips on what to note, what to visit here in Bhutan. Be sure to consider these important things like the best season to visit and best local experiences and things to do in Bhutan.
What is your perfect kind of trip in Bhutan?