10 Things You Should Not Miss in Bhutan

10 Things You Should Not Miss in Bhutan

By CarolUpdated Oct. 22, 2021

After their long trip to India, most travelers will extend their trip to Bhutan. It has its own beautiful architectural style, unique way of exorcism, national costumes, delicious food, and it has invented a new way to measure national success.

The average stay time of most tourists is 4–5 days. This is enough time to see spiritual monasteries or seek happiness from the Bhutanese. However, it is worth more of your time to delve deeper into the trip if you are willing to extend your stay in Bhutan.

We created a summary for what to see and do in Bhutan. It's great for first time and return visitors.

Highlights

  • While you are in Thimphu or Paro, shop like a local in weekend markets.
  • Visit some of Bhutan’s famous monasteries, including the Tiger’s Nest.
  • Expand your spirituality by attending the Tsechu Festival.
  • Learn more about Bhutan culture by attending archery lessons.
  • Observe endangered black-neck cranes while visiting Phobjikha Valley.

1. Ascend to the Tiger’s Nest

Recommended visiting time: Half-day

Tiger’s Nest, also called Taktsang Monastery, located in the valley of Paro, 10 km north of Paro town. Perched on a steep ridge 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level, it seems to cling to the edge of a rugged cliff. Tiger’s Nest is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage because many famous saints have come here to meditate.

The temple itself has a fascinating history and unique architecture. There are many murals throughout the halls, which are similar to Thangka's painting. As the room in the temple is small, it is impossible for people to fully appreciate these exquisite statues in close range.

It's a steep 2-hour hike to the temple, extending from the beautiful shade pine forest to the mountains. During the hike you can stop for a tea break while enjoying wonderful views.

Perfect for: those who love walking

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • When visiting temples, please dress appropriately and avoid wearing short skirts or inappropriate clothes. If necessary, don't forget to take off your shoes before entry.
  • You can hire a horse to take you up the hill.
  • No photos are permitted inside.
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2. Get lost in charming Thimphu

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, allows visitors to stop the typical tourist experience and become part of something unique. Thimphu is an interesting blend of modern and ancient. As one of the only capitals in the world that does not use traffic lights, it is a common sight to see traffic police control the traffic manually.

Tashichho Dzong is the landmark of the city. It has the National Assembly and the king's residence in its courtyard. In addition, the National Memorial Chorten and Folk Heritage Museum are worth visiting. Visiting the National Library will show you some valuable Buddhist documents. Head to Kuensel Phodrang hill to watch the peaceful sunset. From the top of the mountain, a huge statue of Buddha Dordenma stands on top of Thimphu.

Walk around the center and enjoy a cappuccino at a roadside cafe. You can observe how the new business boom is seamlessly integrated with the old traditional culture.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Thimphu is a city known for its nightlife.

3. Dominate the Magnificence of Punaka Dzong

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 hours

In Western Bhutan, Punakha Dzong is located at the confluence of the beautiful Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Punakha Dzong means “palace of happiness.” It is one of the oldest and largest suzerain cities in Bhutan.

Until the mid-1950s, Punakha Dzong was Bhutan's capital and government. The fortress is often described as one of the most beautiful in the country, with sparkling white walls and intricate roofs. Towers that overlook the town provide excellent views.

When monks move here from Thimphu for the winter, tourists are usually not allowed to enter the clan, but it is worth viewing from the outside.

Perfect for: those who love architecture

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Visit Punaka Dzong depending on whether the monks are at home, and whether they allow you to enter their monastery.
  • On the way between Thimphu and Punaka, the Dochula Pass is worth a stop.

4. Immerse Yourself in the Tsechu Festival

Recommended visiting time: 1 day for each

Take part in this amazing festival at least once to witness the unique mask dance and get close to the real Bhutan with a friendly community. There are many religious and popular festivals in Bhutan, which have become an important tourist attraction for many people.

Tshechu is a religious festival corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche, the man who introduced Buddhism to the Bhutanese people. It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month in Bhutan. However, the exact month of Tshechu varies from place to place and from temple to temple.

During the festival, there is a prayer ceremony and mask sword dance performance. A celebration is held throughout the country. Two of the most popular Tshechu in the country are Paro and Thimphu in terms of participation and audience.

Paro Tsechu Festival is annually celebrated in early April or late March, and lasts for 4 to 5 days to commemorate Rinpoche. On the last day of the festival, a huge religious painting of Buddha will be presented.

Thimphu Tsechu Festival is held in the capital for 3 days in memory of Guru Rinpoche. The celebration will be held in September, which will be one of the best experiences. It's also a social gathering for the Bhutanese people, where you can see beautiful clothes, jewelry, and food.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Photographs and asking the king to take a photo are not encouraged during this time.
  • During the festival, it may be overwhelming for foreigners, because of the crowds and noise.

5. Explore the Weekend Market

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 hours

In Bhutan, a visit to the market should not be excluded from your to-do list. Over here, almost every city and town has a weekend market. Every Friday thousands of farmers from all over the country come together, bringing locally produced vegetables, fruits, meat, and cheese.

You will find locals haggling over vegetables and eggs, and everyone is chatting or bargaining. People gather here as a way to catch up and end their week.

From 7:00 AM on Friday to 7:00 PM on Sunday, anyone can enter the market.

Perfect for: travelers who like to observe locals

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • It is a good place to buy hand crafts and souvenirs.
  • Don't accept their first price — bargain.
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6. Try Your Hand at an Archery Tournament

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 hours

Archery is a national sport in Bhutan, where each village and town have their own dedicated venue. Archery has been an important means of hunting and defense in Bhutan for centuries. In peaceful Bhutan, archery has evolved into a form of martial arts practiced by the royal family and was given a fashionable image.

If you want to try archery for yourself, take a class in Thimphu or Paro. With an experienced teacher by your side, you can transform from a zero into a hero. Before letting the arrow fly, feel the excitement of pulling back the bow, try to hold your heart steady, and experience the excitement of seeing the arrow hit the target.

Archery classes range from a couple of hours to a full day. Courses can be customized based on all levels of experience, from beginners to experienced.

Perfect for: travelers who like sports

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Your visit may be coincide with a big tournament.

 

7. Go Trekking in the Mountains

Recommended visiting time: 3–27 days

For those looking for an off-the-beaten-track adventure, trekking in Bhutan is the best enjoyment! When it comes to hiking, Bhutan offers beauty and diversity. The kingdom is home to one of the world's most challenging high-altitude journeys, as well as countless easy walks through the wilderness.

If you're looking for a challenging, high altitude journey, try a 27-day Snowman Trek. It's one of Bhutan's best treks and is loved by trekkers from all over the world. You'll need to cross the mountain border between Tibet and Bhutan. You will pass through 4 passes of 5,000 m (16,400 ft) height.

Along the way, you will see beautiful mountains in Bhutan, Tibet, and India, including Mt. Jomolhari with a 7,000 m (23,000 ft) altitude. This trail takes you through valleys, alpine meadows, pastures, and past azaleas. You will pass impressive waterfalls and lakes. You’ll see many animals, such as blue sheep, yaks, and griffins. It starts from Paro to Luna.

If you don't have enough time, or just want to stretch your legs more gently, then consider the 6-day Druk Path Trek. It is a fairly easy trek. Although it is 4,000 m (13,000 ft) high, the distance between the rest stations is not long, so there are many opportunities to rest.

This trail passes through pine and rhododendron forests, villages, and ancient dzongs. This is the best choice for beginners to hike. It shows the magnificent natural landscape of Oka Mountain, the highest unscaled peak in the world. This trek goes between the two towns of Paro and Thimphu.

The Owl Trek is also worth considering, it's a 3-day trek, famous among those who lack time. It will take you along the famous downrange pass, which is 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) high, with beautiful azaleas, bamboo forests, and temples. It starts from Dhur, a traditional local village.

Perfect for: outdoor adventurers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • To avoid any natural disasters, please plan your trip and check for the best time for a Bhutanese hike.

8. Go through Dense Forests in Haa Valley

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Haa Valley is 30 kilometers (20 miles) away from Paro. One of the most picturesque places in the southwest of Paro, also known as the smallest dzong (district) in Bhutan. Haa Valley is the only place in the world where cream-colored blue poppies can be found.

Its location is in a remote area with little attraction, but the Haa Valley offers a surreal view of Bhutan. It is the home of nomadic herdsmen and inhabits a very small population of Bhutan. The main crops planted here are rice, barley, and wheat, so Haa Valley is called "hidden rice.”

Bhutan's best trekking and mountain biking routes are organized around this area. One of the most popular festivals for Haa tribes and nomads in the Haa Summer Festival, which is usually held in July.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • October to November is the best time to visit this area.

9. Watch Birds at Phobjikha Valley

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Located in Wangdue Phodrang, also know as Gangtey. Against the background of the Black Mountains, the Phobjikha Valley offers amazing views of green fields. It is home to the black-necked crane. It has the largest number of cranes in the country, and is a designated protection area for cranes.

The valley is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level, so it is relatively cold. The black-necked crane flies from Tibet to avoid the severe winter. The cranes arrive at the end of October and stay until the middle of February. This is a paradise for birdwatchers. If you are a nature photographer, it's even better.

Phobjikha Valley has many trekking trails, with the most charming views of the landscape. Visit villages to observe rural life.

Perfect for: nature lovers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Winter is the best time to visit.
  • The Black-Necked Crane Festival is held in November.
  • You can rent a high-powered telescope from the Crane Information Center.
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10. Soak in a Stone Bath

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 hours

A trip to Bhutan without a hot-stone bath is incomplete. The Bhutanese hot-stone bath is the ideal way to relax after a long day's trek and is considered to have many health benefits.

The traditional Bhutanese hot-stone bath is unique. It uses freshwater mixed with medicine and herbs. Water is heated with burnt stones. Adding more heated stones can raise the water temperature. Stones are said to release hundreds of minerals into the water, which are believed to have medicinal value to soften muscle pain.

Hot-stone baths are offered in many hotels in Paro and Thimphu.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The prices of hot-stone baths may vary depending on the facilities and additional services/amenities provided.

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