Bhutan is regarded as the only remaining Himalayan kingdom, where tourism was closed until 1974. It is a country that protected its culture and tradition well, where you will find people still wear traditional clothes. People in Bhutan respect their religious beliefs. It has magnificent temples and spiritual centers, typically featuring dzong-style architecture.
The government of Bhutan measures economic prosperity by the GNH (gross national happiness) instead of by its GDP. The government of Bhutan take a lot of care to ensure their people live happily, it has passed laws providing free education and healthcare. While travelling in Bhutan talk to Bhutanese people and hear about their values and priorities.
In order to protect its unique cultural heritage from the negative impact of tourism, Bhutan practices a "High Value, Low Impact" policy, in which travelers need to pay a travel cost of $200–250 per person per day (includes accommodation, food, transport, and a knowledgeable guide). This makes Bhutan appear to be an expensive destination, and provides it with less tourists.
Is Bhutan worth visiting? Yes. We present to you reasons why you should visit Bhutan at least once in your lifetime to explore the uniqueness of traditional Himalayan life.
1. The Country That’s Carbon Negative
Bhutan is a country concerned with its ecological nature. According to government law, at least 60% of the country must be covered by forests, however, it holds steady at 70%. Because of this, Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. It means that more carbon dioxide is absorbed than produced.
Most of Bhutan's land is made up of protected areas established since the 1960s. Jigme Dorji National Park and Manas National Park are good examples of forests with incredible flora and fauna. Located at the foot of the majestic Himalayas, their dense forests provide a wonderful experience for anyone who enjoys nature.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Jigme Dorji National Park covers an area of 4,316 square kilometers and covers most areas of Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, and Paro. It is the second-largest national park in Bhutan. It provides you with opportunities to see animals and beautiful plants thrive in their natural environment.
Witness snow leopards, antelope, tigers, black bears, blue sheep, pandas, and other animals in their natural habitat. Besides animals and birds, the flora here is also very active. Orchids, azaleas, and blue poppies are just a few of the many plants here.
Walking is an ideal option to explore Jigme Dorji National Park. A good time to spend exploring would be around 2-3 hours, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery. You will go through the thick green cypress forest, be met by many birds, butterflies, and animals on the way.
Location:It is in Punaka, a 5-hour drive from Paro or a 4-hour driver from Thimphu.
Travel information: Spring season (April-May) is the best time to visit Jigme Dorji National Park.
Royal Manas National Park
Royal Manas National Park has only been open to the public in recent years. The park is the oldest reserve in Bhutan. It borders on Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park to the north. The park, rich in wildlife, is the birthplace of Bhutan's tropical and subtropical ecosystems.
It is a haven for animals, birds, and plants. There is a wide variety of wildlife and plant species there, such as Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, Himalayan black bears, and many others. There are more than 900 species of plants recorded, and it makes the park ecologically rich.
There are many activities you can participate in, such as bird watching, where you can see hornbills, pigeons, swifts, bustards, and more. You can mountain bike and camp in the beautiful environment of the park.
Location: Located in South Central Bhutan.
Travel information: All months, aside from monsoon season (June-September), is a good time to visit the park.
2. The Only Country in the World that Has an Official Ministry of Happiness
Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures happiness as output. In Bhutan, GNH (gross national happiness) is considered more important than GDP. The king and the government of Bhutan are very careful to ensure that their people live a happy and fulfilling life. People's quality of life depends on spiritual values.
Dzong-style architecture represents spiritual values, with huge fortress designs, large iron and wood entrances, trumpet-shaped roofs, and internal courtyards. There are many beautiful dzongs where you can seek spiritual peace in Bhutan.
Literally "Happiness Palace,” Punakha Dzong is located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers. It is considered the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan. The dzong is both the second oldest and largest dzong in the kingdom. It was the seat of the central government until 1907.
It is now the winter residence of the royal official monk group. The white walls of this dzong provides a picturesque view of lilac and red-robed monks that wander around in the courtyard. The beautiful and colorful murals painted on the interior walls give insight into the history and beliefs of Bhutanese Buddhism.
Location: Punakha Dzong is in Punakha Valley, a 5-hour drive from Paro or a 4-hour drive from Thimphu.
Travel information: Photography at Punakha Dzong is prohibited.
Located in central Bhutan, Trongsa Dzong is the largest fortress in Bhutan. For a long time, it has been the official headquarters of religious government, and the key to controlling the Kingdom. This is also a monastery complex with more than 200 monks.
Aside from the striking presence of the dzong, the town also offers a range of beautiful walks, offering opportunities to soak up the mountain views. The nearby watchtower also houses a fantastic museum with royal memorabilia and Buddhist artwork, as well as a far-reaching view of the dzong and valley below.
Location: It is in Trongsa district, a 6-hour drive from Paro or a 5-hour drive from Thimphu.
Travel information: As dzongs are religious places, you need to follow a proper dress code. It is recommended to wear clothing that fully covers your arms and legs.
Paro Dzong, also known as Rinpung Dzong, is located on the banks of the Paro Chhu river and is accessible by a small bridge. It is the official office for the government of the Paro district. It may not be Bhutan’s grandest dzong, but it is one of the best representations of traditional Bhutanese architecture.
The central watchtower looms over the surrounding buildings and is a strategic architectural component shared by all clans in the country. Many of the shrines in this dzong are closed to the public. The paved courtyard outside is the stage for Paro Tsechu, where people worship the statue of Padmasambhava and perform various traditional dances to commemorate the celebration of the festival.
Location: Paro Dzong is located in Paro city.
Travel information: Paro Dzong has several halls and courtyards where you are required to remove your footwear before entering.
3. The Country Keeps Its Culture in the Best Way
Bhutan is a country where ancient culture flourishes in the best way! Bhutanese have made slow and steady progress, but they have always lived based on their beliefs and traditions. For example, Bhutanese people must wear Bhutanese traditional clothing when visiting any official or religious place in Bhutan.
Bhutanese are also good at various arts and crafts, such as textiles, painting, making sculptures, and archery. All of these play an important role in their profound history and heritage. Archery is the most popular national sport in Bhutan! There are many cultural things to do in Bhutan, such as trying on traditional clothes, buying handicrafts, and more.
Get Photographed in Bhutanese Traditional Dress
Bhutanese are required to wear traditional clothes in public. The men wear a heavy knee-length rope call gho and women wear a long dress called kyra. You can even tell a person's social status by their clothing. Ordinary people wear a white scarf, while aristocrats wear a yellow scarf.
Thimphu and Paro are full of locals in traditional clothes. During the Tsechu Festival, these colorful Bhutanese traditional costumes are a visual pleasure. You can buy a pair of gho or kyra as a souvenir. Wearing traditional clothes for the festival is a great way to honor the wonderful Bhutanese people!
Location: Thimphu and Paro
Travel information: You can purchase traditional clothing on Norzim Lam Street. The main market in the city has shops on both sides that remain open until 9 PM. A hand-woven dress is of high quality and will cost more than a machine-made one.
Shop for Handicrafts
Shopping in Bhutan has become one of the popular things to do. You can take home parts of Bhutan and learn a lot about its culture. Bhutanese crafts include textiles, paintings, wood carvings, and paper products. These handicrafts are the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese community.
Location: National Handicraft Emporium (Thimphu) and Chencho Handicraft & Weaving Center (Paro).
Travel information: Don't buy antique crafts, because you are not allowed to take antiques abroad.
Try the National Sport — Archery
One of the best ways to experience Bhutanese culture is by attending an archery competition. While wandering through the streets, you'll see colorfully dressed people gathering in their traditional robes to shoot arrows. Archery competitions attract many people who love to participate in this social activity.
Bhutan's archery continues to see its evolution through people's efforts to master the art with their skills. This is a wonderful glimpse into their culture.
Location: Thimphu and Paro have archery classes.
Travel information: Courses can be customized based on level of experience, ranging from beginner to advanced.
4. Bhutan Has Charming Trekking Paths.
Located in the eastern Himalayas, there is no better way to enjoy Bhutan's mountains than trekking. The kingdom is home to some of the most beautiful treks in the world. March to May, September, and October are the best months for hiking.
There are different levels of trekking trails to suit any style, from easy to difficult. If you are a novice trekker, the Druk Path Trek is the best option.
If you have previous hiking experience, then you can choose the moderate Jhomolhari Trek. If you are an avid hiker and want a challenge in Bhutan, the Snowman Trek will be perfect for you.
Druk Path Trek — 4–6 Days
The Druk trail has a remote mountain view for hiking and includes the Mount Gangkar Puensum, the highest mountain in Bhutan, which can’t be climbed. The path runs through pine forests, azalea forests, villages, and ancient dzongs. It's a fairly easy trek, and reaches a height of 3,500 m (11,500 ft).
Travel information: March–June and September–October are the best times for this trek.
Jhomolhari Trek — 8 Days
As one of the most popular and moderate treks, Jhomolhari is known for providing incredible views of the Jhomolhari mountains. This hike will provide charming scenery, such as pastoral alpine meadows and green valleys. This long journey will take you through the Tak-hung La Pass at 4,520 m (14,830 ft).
Location: Drukgyel in Paro
Travel information: April–May and September–November are the best times for this trek.
The Snowman Trek
It is known as "the most difficult trek in the world." This trail leads you through valleys, alpine meadows, pastures, orchards, and azalea forests. You will pass impressive waterfalls and lakes. See animals in their natural habitat, such as blue sheep, yaks, and griffins. The path passes through 11 gates, four of which are more than 5,000 meters (16,000 feet).
Travel information: September and October are the best time for this trek.
5. Bhutan Has Many Festivals Throughout the Year
Bhutan is a prosperous and happy country with primitive beauty and fascinating traditions. Bhutan's festivals are known for their richness, vitality, and joy. Most of these festivals celebrate Guru Rimpoche, the saint who introduced Bhutan to Buddhism.
Mysterious mask dances and thangka paintings are the most important ways to celebrate the festivals in Bhutan. In this country, at least one festival is celebrated every month, so make sure your travel date is in line with these fun festivals.
6. The Country Has No Traffic Lights
Bhutan is one of the least polluted countries in the world. This is a country without traffic and people don't honk their horns on the road. Most importantly, because the road discipline is so devoutly observed, there are no traffic lights. While travelling in Bhutan, pay attention to direction from traffic police. Taking photos of the white-gloved traffic police has become a popular thing to do.
The other things worth your time are the National Memorial Chorten, TashiChhoe Dzong, and Weekend Market.
National Memorial Chorten
This huge Chorten is loved by many Bhutanese and is one of Thimphu's most prominent landmarks. The Tibetan pagoda was built in 1974 to commemorate the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–72). You will see people dressed in a gho or kyra (traditional clothing) and holding an oil lamp that is used for kora (ritual detour).
Location: southern-central part of Thimphu
Travel information: The kora lasts into the evening and you can see it by 8 PM.
The home of the Bhutanese government, Tashichhoe Dzong is a huge fortress built in the 17th century. It is an office building for his Majesty the King of Bhutan. In addition to the administrative functions of the fortress, it also has niches that make it a sacred place.
Location: north of Thimphu
Travel information: It´s possible to visit after 4 PM when the government has gone home for the day.
Centenary Farmers Market
Centenary Farmers Market, known as the Sunday market or weekend market. Up to 80% of the local population is engaged in agriculture, which is still the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population. As a result, farmers across the country try to market their products over the weekend, a trend that has evolved into a sustainable trade.
Wandering around the market, you will find collections of vegetables, fruits, meat (mostly dried), dairy, and other local organic products. People chat and laugh while they do their shopping. This is not merely a market, but also a lifestyle for the Bhutanese.
Location: central Thimphu
Travel information: This market is only open on the weekends.
7. The Country with “High Value, Low Impact” Tourism
One reason is Bhutan's "High Value, Low Impact" tourism policy. This is to protect the unique cultural heritage of the country and minimize the negative impact of mass tourism. Such a policy is very suitable for such a small country with a fragile ecosystem. Bhutan has been trying to maintain its status as an admired travel destination.
Travelers have to pay the daily tariff of US$200 or US$250/per person, per day seasonally (including the use of private guides and drivers, 3 meals a day, 3-star accommodation, and entrance fees). The quality of food and service is usually excellent. Tourists are treated as VIPs in Bhutan.
Explore Bhutan with Asia Highlights
We will provide you with an all-inclusive tour with the best value. We have great respect for Bhutan's tourism policy and desire not to spoil its unique culture and history. You will get VIP service from us and the most memorable experience.