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 for the best weather. No doubt there are tons of interesting events to enjoy in Bhutan all year round, 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 Things to do in Bhutan
There is a long list of things to do 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
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.