Bhutan Destination Guide
Bhutan's breathtaking natural beauty, that comes with its location in the eastern Himalayas, is its biggest attraction. The scenery is definitely out of this world. The fabulous mountain vistas - the high Himalayan mountain passes at Dochu La and Chele La offer amazing views - of deep gorges, valleys, flowing streams and distant snow packed peaks, make you catch your breath in stupefaction. If you think the landscape is thrilling, wait till you experience the unique culture and colourful ancient traditions. They will fascinate you no end.
Bhutan offers unbelievable trekking, climbing, mountain biking and a diverse range of other outdoor activities. Visitors usually have a fun filled tour; most wishing they had a few more days to experience more of this awesome country on top of the world.
This Bhutan Destination Guide gives some handy information about some of the exciting Bhutan highlights you can expect to see while visiting Bhutan. As you are required to arrange your tour and sightseeing ventures before travelling to Bhutan we recommend you take a look at our Bhutan tours with a local company. For useful general country information check out our Bhutan Country Guide.
Things to See & Do in Bhutan
The spectacular architecture of the ancient temples, dzongs (fortified monastery) and other Buddhist structures add to the charm of Bhutan. Heritage museums and textile emporiums give visitors a peek into Bhutan's past and how age-old traditions and skills have passed on through generations. Weekend markets offer wonderful shopping opportunities and display the best of Bhutanese handicrafts, textiles and other produce. Religious festivals in Bhutan are visual treats not to be missed. Monks and villagers bedecked in striking costumes and masks recount myths, legends and history through folk dances and dance dramas.
With 72% of the land area under forest cover, a third of which demarcated as protected parks and nature reserves, Bhutan is home to diverse wildlife and vegetation. Bird-watching is a popular activity with many visitors.
Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting tourist attractions in Bhutan:
The lovely Bumthang valley is the cultural and religious centre of Bhutan and has some of the oldest Buddhist sites, temples and monasteries. Cultural tours through the area are very popular. Must visit attractions include Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Jakar Dzong and Kurje Lhakhang.
The hot springs in the villages of Gasa are located in the high Himalayan Mountains north of Punakha. It is a popular trekking trail up the valley and offers sightings of exotic wildlife blue such as sheep, deer and different bird species. Apart from soaking in the mineral tubs you can also observe, at close quarters, the people and their nomadic lifestyle tending to their yaks.
The National Museum of Bhutan, located in Paro in the ancient Ta Dzong building just above the Rinpung Dzong, houses some the finest of Bhutanese artefacts, relics, paintings and bronze statues. Also on display are medieval weapons and costumes. This circular building was once a watchtower of the Dzong.
Bhutan's only airport is in Paro and for most people this is the gateway to Bhutan. Home to the iconic Taktshang Monastery, the charming Paro valley with its pretty farmhouses and terraced farmlands is also the site of many ancient Dzongs and temples. Kyichu Lhakhang (built in the 7th century), Drugyel Dzong, Drakha Dzong, Taa Dzong and Rinpung Dzong are all worth visiting.
The National Museum, numerous shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs, and the art gallery are other attractions. A visit to one of the farmhouses will prove educational and interesting.
The rare and endangered black-necked cranes come to Phobjikha during winters. The great Gangtey monastery lies near this otherwise serene valley. The valley is a three hour trip from Punakha.
The former capital of the country, the Punakha valley is extremely picturesque, located as it is between two rivers that converge below the Punakha Dzong. The Dzong is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan and serves as the winter residence of Je Khenpo, chief of the Monastic Body. Up the valley lies Bhutan's biggest national park Jigme Dorji National Park. The park is rich in wildlife, which include a number of species of birds.
The Taktshang Monastery, also known as tiger's nest, has one of the most spectacular settings you will ever imagine. Perched on the side of a sheer cliff way up above the valley floor, the Taktshang Monastery has an almost surreal setting. Pictures of this iconic monastery grace the cover or front pages of most books and travel brochures on Bhutan. Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated here having flown to the site on the back of a flying tigress. It is located about 10 km from Paro town and makes for a great hike up the steep slope.
The capital and the largest city, Thimphu is a bustling place two hours from Paro. There are good tourist facilities and shops. The weekend market, where all the local produce including vibrant textiles, handicrafts and other stuff are sold, is a great place to pick up souvenirs and is a must visit for all tourists.
The Thimphu festival, held every year in October, is one of the most famous religious festivals of Bhutan and attracts a lot of visitors.
Most visitors find the many religious festivals with their accompanying pageantry, enormously entertaining. For many, visiting the numerous game reserves and national parks, home to exotic wildlife which includes tigers, langur monkeys, snow leopards, deers, bears, boars and 600 odd bird species is the most enjoyable activity. Joining in the raucous fun and general boisterousness of an archery competition - archery is Bhutan's national sport and many competitions are held - is another fun experience.
Trekking is one of the most popular activities in Bhutan. Some of the trekking trails are very tough and are meant only for the very fit, while others are much easier. Very few of the trekking trails have places to stay so camping equipment and food have to be carried along on most treks. Autumn and spring, when the countryside looks at its vibrant picturesque best, are the best seasons for trekking and hiking in Bhutan.
Snowman Trek, the 25 day trek along high altitudes and tough weather conditions to the remote district of Lunana is the most challenging. The Jhomolhari Trek, which takes you to distant villages and offer spectacular views, is one of the most popular.
Mountain biking is gaining popularity in Bhutan and the government is all for it as it is one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel. Bicycles can be hired at many places in Thimphu. The Paro valley offers excellent biking trails along scenic surroundings.