Adorned with arresting landscape and an unparalleled spiritual aura, Bhutan is unarguably a land where happiness and peace of mind are contagious. Landlocked and snuggled against the mighty Himalayas, this last great Himalayan Kingdom is a tourist destination for nature lovers, adventure aficionados, wildlife enthusiasts, culture buffs, and anyone who is looking forward to a holiday amidst tranquil surroundings.
Bhutan Tourism is home to some of the sacred Buddhist sites that exude spirituality that inspires the culture and traditions of the country as well. This unique destination is also a habitat for rare species of animals like snow leopards and red pandas along with more than 700 species of birds. Bhutan is one of those destinations where time has slowed down in your favour so that you can relish a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation in this Himalayan paradise.
For a common Bhutanese, it might be incomprehensible why foreign tourists want to stay extremely quiet while trekking and hiking on Bhutan’s best trails including the one to the famed Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Well, the quietude that this resplendent country offers is unlikely to be found anywhere around the world. The dense forests, the lofty snow-capped peaks, and the vast fields, all create a first impression difficult to be forgotten. Bhutan, the country that evaluates Gross National Happiness as its prime economic success, is truly a holiday travel destination you may not want to miss. Tucked between India and China, this country is indeed a slice of heaven for anyone in search of a beautiful holiday destination that can be one’s little getaway secret as well. Bhutan is a land of imposing dzongs (forts) and monasteries; a stunning landscape that ranges from thick foliage to pretty fields; and a culture that has plenty to impart.
However, don’t mistake Bhutan for being only a rustic and quaint destination, this lovely undogmatic country will not hesitate to embrace anything that is new and happening. Expect the Bhutan vacation travel guide to include classy clubs and pubs, conventional singing bars, and plenty of fine dining places to convince you that this must-visit country knows how to have/offer a good time. For family vacations, there can be no better tourism destination than Bhutan which is steeped in history and culture. Also being a Buddhist country, it offers the perfect settings to those inclined towards spiritual tours. This tiny Himalayan country also offers its visitors delectable food that not boasting about it back home is almost impossible. Adventure lovers have a plethora of treks to embark on whereas the honeymoon couples can stay satiated with the scenic settings and brilliant hospitality on tap. Bhutan is a paradise, and there is no denying it, if you haven’t visited here, then you have indeed missed the finest tourist place in the world.
A place of enchanting spirituality, holy monasteries, pristine locales, and green rolling hills, Bhutan is also home to a unique and fascinating culture. The country’s independent and sovereign history gave rise to a rich and distinct culture over the ages that is heavily influenced by the teachings of Buddha. Home to a plethora of monasteries, Chortens, and Lhakhangs, Bhutan is famous for its rich Buddhist heritage. The people here have strong faith in sacred Buddhist values. A traditional monastery or fortress adorned with colorful flags, the Dzong is present in every district and it is reflective of the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.
Places to See in Bhutan
Situated in the lap of the gorgeous Paro Valley in Bhutan, Paro is a quaint little town that inherits its name from the valley itself. Vast expanses of paddy fields, magnificent vistas of Mt. Jhomolhari, and the gorgeous river, Pa Chu, meandering by, no wonder it is a scenic paradise. What adds to the charm of the town’s captivating beauty is its tranquil vibe that lures countless tourists from across the globe to have a peaceful time away from the chaos of mundane lives.
Often called the heart of Bhutan, Paro is also recognized as one of the most significant historical and cultural centres of the country, which is home to age-old buildings, temples, and dzongs. Some of the must-visit places in Paro are the ‘Rinpung Dzong’, ‘Kyichu Lhakhang’, and ‘Drugyel Dzong’. Those who are hungry for an insight into Bhutan’s culture and heritage must make their way to ‘Ta Dzong’, or the ‘National Museum of Bhutan’. Perched over the Rinpung Dzong, the museum is a treasure house of antique Buddhist thangka paintings, bronze artifacts, old traditional costumes, and antique armaments. A sightseeing excursion in Paro is not complete without visiting the world-famous ‘Taktsang Monastery’ or the ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Perched on a rocky cliff and decked with fascinating architecture, no wonder, it finds a place in every traveler’s list of ‘things to do’ and ‘must-see attractions’ while in Bhutan. Though the monastery is best visited on a hiking expedition through well-maintained trails, if you are someone who is weak on the fitness front, a pony ride is best suited for your sort.
Your holidays in Paro are often considered incomplete if you haven’t indulged in the local shopping experience. The colorful ‘Paro Weekend Market’ is a popular tourist attraction and leaves travelers with a splendid time shopping keepsakes, traditional Bhutanese dresses, Bhutanese stamps, and prayer wheels. Gastronomes would also find an ample amount of dried yak cheese and organic honey to carry back home.
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is home to the royal family and combines the traditional with the modern. Explore its various attractions like the Folk Heritage Museum, Jungshi Paper Factory, Druk Wangyal Chorten & Buddha Dordenma Statue. Visit the Centenary Farmers Market & spot the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal, at Motithang Takin Preserve. Thimphu also hosts the Tshechu, a four-day festival marked by Chams, or masked dances. You can explore the modern side of the city in its restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs, and shopping centers.
Once the capital of Bhutan, Punakha is a naturally beautiful city located at an altitude of around 1200 meters and offers a breathtaking view of the Himalayas. The city is home to two rivers- Mo Chhu and Po Chhu, making the valley excellent for cultivation. Punakha is located at a distance of around 70 kilometers from Thimpu and boasts pleasant weather throughout the year. The city features plenty of slopes and the valley is excellent for enjoying trekking and mountain biking. River Rafting in Po Chhu is one of the most popular adventure activities in Bhutan. The city is also famous for its architecturally beautiful Punakha Dzong, which is the second oldest dzong in the country. Top tourist attractions in Punakha include Punakha Dzong, Punakha Suspension Bridge, Chimi Lhakhang, Po Chhu Suspension Bridge, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, Talo Monastery and Lingkana Palace.
One of the largest districts of Bhutan, Wangdue Phodrang boasts almost everything that a tourist yearns for. From stunning monasteries and sacred temples to rustic villages and exotic wildlife, the city is home to attractions that allure travelers to explore. The factor that makes the city different from others is its diverse topography, with subtropical forests in the south and snowy areas in the north. Wangdue Phodrang features numerous plants and animal species with Jigme Dorji National Park in the southeast and Wangchuck Centennial Park in the north.
The city is also home to rare animal species such as the red panda, blue sheep, snow leopard, and black bear. It is also rich in terms of flora with species such as blue poppy and rhododendrons. Spirituality seekers can visit many monasteries and temples dotted throughout the city. Nature lovers can head out for trekking on the beautiful trails in Wangdue Phodrang. Phobjikha Valley is another excellent place to visit for nature buffs as its boasts glaciers and is affluent in natural beauty.
The second largest town in Bhutan, Phuentsholing shares its borders with the Indian State of West Bengal. Serving as an entry point for travelers from Kolkata and Siliguri, it is an important economic hub of Bhutan.
Phuentsholing is a town on the southern border of Bhutan, known for its modern architecture. It is a valuable trading center of Bhutan, where Indians, Nepalese, and Bhutanese all come together to live and trade harmoniously in this town.
On your trip to Phuentsholing, you must visit Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, Karbandi Monastery, Bhutan Gate, and Kharbandi Goemba. Zangto Pelri Lhakhang is a small temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. An exquisite example of traditional Bhutanese architecture, the Bhutan Gate is the main gateway for entry from India. The Amo Chuu, which is the Crocodile Breeding Centre, breeds almost extinct species like Ghariyals and alligators. Karbandi Monastery or Karbandi Goemba is a temple with giant statues of Shabdrung Ngawang, Guru Rinpoche, and Shakyamuni Buddha. The temple has a rich history and offers a fantastic view. This town is a must-visit if you want to experience a day or two of solidarity and peace.
Staying in Bhutan is definitively once in a lifetime experience. The kingdom is truly a nature’s paradise, having been blessed with an abundance of natural beauty everywhere. It is for this reason; that Bhutan follows quite unique accommodation policies for its tourists. These policies are an endeavor by the Tourism Council to maintain the sanctity of the place and to keep it eco-friendly. In this paradisiacal place, international tourists have the opportunity to stay in hotels ranging from 3-star to 5-star along with an experience of staying in farms or homes of the locals.
Hotel Categories in Bhutan
Bhutan typically provides hotels with a minimum of 3-star ratings going up to 5 stars. Since all the hotels are approved by the tourism council, Bhutanese hotels maintain international standards and are clean and hygienic. They provide facilities ranging from television, room service, fitness centres, spa, wifi, and many more. The feeling of staying in these Bhutanese hotels having traditional architecture, amidst blissful nature is simply divine.
Some of the Best 3-Star Hotels in Bhutan
Three-star hotels in Bhutan offer value-for-money services along with the warm hospitality that the country is famous for. Some of the best 3-star staying places in Bhutan are:
3-Star Hotels in Thimphu
3-Star Hotels in Punakha
Meri Puensum Resort
3-Star Hotels in Trongsa
3-Star Hotels in Bumthang
3-Star Hotels in Paro
Some of the Best 4-Star Hotels in Bhutan
Blended with world-class services and warm hospitality, the 4-star hotels in Bhutan offer tourists an unforgettable experience amidst the pristine and serene nature. Here are some top 4-star hotels in Bhutan.
4-Star Hotels in Thimphu
4-Star Hotels in Trongsa
4-Star Hotels in Bumthang
Jakar Village Resort
4-Star Hotels in Punakha
RKPO Green Resort
4-Star Hotels in Paro
Resort and Spa Haven Resort
Some of the Best 5-Star Hotels in Bhutan
Only places like Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Trongsa, and Bumthang have 5* properties, while the rest of the country has a wide network of 3 & 4-star properties. Some of the best luxury hotels in Bhutan are:
5-Star Hotels in Thimphu
5-Star Hotels in Trongsa
5-Star Hotel in Bumthang
5-Star Hotel in Punakha
Dhensa Boutique Resort and Spa – Suite
5-Star Hotel in Paro:
Jr. Suite / Le Meridien
Resorts in Bhutan
Tourists can also choose to stay in resorts which have now started getting some limelight in the country. The idea of staying in a resort coupled with a spa and modern amenities will certainly be an unforgettable experience.
Farmstay Options in Bhutan
Apart from these, Bhutan is also known for its farm stay options and it should definitely be a part of your itinerary. It is an experience of staying on the farms so as to witness Bhutanese farming. These farm stays provide insights into the lifestyle of the farmer and their daily chores. Not to forget the stay is inclusive of delicious homemade food and unmatched hospitality by the locals. Some farm stay options in Bhutan are the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashigang, Gubjithang in Punakha, and Dungtse Lhakhang.
Homestays in Bhutan
Likewise, homestay options are also quite popular among tourists. Here as a tourist, you have the option of staying in a traditional home of a local family. All the homestay options are authorized by the council and are generally located in the countryside amidst greenery and scenic views.
A homestay option in Bhutan not only provides a glimpse into the daily lifestyle of locals but will also treat you to their delicious home-cooked meal. Some of the homestays available are Haa Valley, Trashigang, and Bumthang. While both the farm stay and homestay provide limited amenities, they are quite sufficient to make it a memorable stay.
Visa Information of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan follows unique visa policies. With an intention of maintaining its ecological balance and protecting its environmental policies, the country limits the total number of visas to be issued in a year. This also ensures the tourists who visit the country enjoy the beauty to its fullest.
Who Requires a Bhutan Visa?
With respect to visas, all nationals except Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians require a visa to enter Bhutan (they require a permit available on arrival). To attain a visa, foreign nationals should book their travel either with a licensed Bhutanese tour operator or through an international travel agent.
Documents Required by International Travellers
Travelers have to send a photocopy of the photo page of their passport to the agent for the visa application. Visa gets processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, after the payment of visa fee of USD $ 40. It typically takes 3 days for the visa clearance process without which flight tickets cannot be booked. International tourists also need to pay a daily fee during their stay in Bhutan, which is USD $250 during peak season and USD $200 for low season. The daily package includes costs of accommodation, meals, transport, and driver.
Mandatory Document: Photo Page of the Passport
Visa Fee: USD $ 40
Permits for Citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives
There are two ways to obtain a permit for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and Maldives
On Arrival: The permits are issued only at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing. The following are the documents required for the permit:
A duly filled form
Itinerary on an A4 Sheet
Photocopy of Passport/Voter ID Card
Passport Size Photo
Booked Hotel Voucher
An Undertaking Letter(If you are traveling alone)
Online Permit is facilitated by The Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). The system facilitates the online processing of permits for tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB-certified hotels. Travelers using this facility are able to obtain their permits ahead of their arrival in Bhutan.
How to reach Bhutan
The hospitable Bhutan keeps it simple and comfortable for visitors with an efficient airways and roadways system. With one international airport in Paro and three open borders – Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu for excellent road connectivity, Bhutan is easily accessible from many parts of India and countries of Asia like Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Follow these simple Bhutan travel tips to keep your tour in the country hassle-free and convenient. Travelling in Bhutan requires following general rules but there are certain tips that are exclusively for the country.
Travel/medical insurance is available with the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan.
The standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
Bhutan’s currency is called Ngultrum.
The Point of Sale (POS) services are available nationwide which means tourists can make payments by credit card at various hotels and handicraft shops.
Tourists’ cheques can be withdrawn and exchanged for local currency at various banks like the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB, and the Tashi Bank.
Bring flat-to-round pin converters as Bhutan has round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
Check with your guide before taking pictures and filming inside dzongs, temples, monasteries, and religious institutions as in some places photography/filming is prohibited.
Photography and filming of the exterior of a monastery or dzong is permitted.
Handicraft items and hand-woven textiles, handmade paper products, finely crafted gods of silver, postage stamps, and thangkas are the best things to buy from Bhutan.
Selling and buying of antiques is strictly prohibited in Bhutan.
Tipping is welcomed in Bhutan, however, it is purely a personal choice. It is recommended to place the gratuity in an envelope.
Bhutan has a good mobile phone network and telecom facility. Global roaming is also easily available.
Most cafes and hotels offer free Wi-Fi internet access.
The weather in Bhutan varies with the altitude and topography. It is ideal to carry light to heavy woolens irrespective of the season.
Dress modestly while visiting places of religious importance like dzongs, monasteries, and Chortens. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are ideal for such places.
Remove your hats, and caps at religious and administrative institutions and wherever the national flag is being raised.
The metric system for weighing in Bhutan in gram (g) and kilogram (kg) and for distance is kilometer (km).
It is advisable to consult a doctor before embarking on a trip to Bhutan for vaccination and appropriate medication. As a minimum one should have tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis vaccinations.
Though Bhutan is a safe destination, it is advised to exercise caution and to take care of personal belongings and important documents like passports by not leaving them unattended.
Bottled water is recommended to be consumed in Bhutan instead of tap water.
Learn about the pre-set limit for carrying tobacco goods and stick to the limit.