Rich in culture and tradition, Bhutan is a beauty that surpasses the ordinary.
From strolling around Thimphu City to Trekking Tiger’s Nest, to enjoying the local delicacies to getting lost in the beautiful breath-taking valleys, Bhutan is in one word Magical!
We’ve covered everything that you need to know to explore this incredible country in our all-inclusive Bhutan travel guide.
Memory montage: our Bhutan experience
Bhutan is a small landlocked country in south Asia tucked in the Himalayan Ranges. This last standing Buddhist Kingdom is said to be one of the happiest countries in the world. Standing true to its title, this country greets everyone with the warmest of smiles ever.
Strolling in the serene valleys, walking through pristine forests, soaking in the untainted air, Bhutan is the ultimate destination to disconnect and rejuvenate.
Backpacking to Bhutan was one of the most exciting expeditions, not just because of the thrill of the first international trip but also because of the mystical experience this country offers.
Bhutan travel guide: What to know before you go
When is the best time to visit Bhutan
Bhutan is blessed with seasonal variations. It has distinct summer, spring, monsoon and winter seasons which makes it a year-round travel destination depending upon your choice.
Visit during summers for a clear look of the lush green landscapes, spring for the beautiful rhododendron flowers that lights up the valleys, monsoon for the thriving flora and fauna and winters for the magical snowfall.
We visited during Spring in the month of April and absolutely loved it. The valleys come alive as the beautiful rhododendron flowers bloom in abundance. The mild cold weather, clear skies makes every view worth the while.
Capital & currency in Bhutan
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, a modern city in an ancient place.
Currency in Bhutan:
- Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN)
- 1 INR = 1 BTN (Indian currency has one on one mapping with Bhutan)
All major international currencies such as U.S. Dollar, Pound Sterling, Euro, Australian Dollar etc are easily convertible.
Do you need a visa to visit Bhutan?
Citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives with a valid passport need a permit available at the point of entry. All other international tourists need to obtain Visa, which can be processed online.
Is it safe to travel to Bhutan?
Bhutan is one of the safest place to be. Crime, petty thefts are minimal. The country scores high in the safety index.
Getting to Bhutan
Our Bhutan travel guide on how to get to Bhutan, either via plane, train or road.
Paro International Airport
Bhutan has only one International airport – Paro International Airport. National Air carrier of Bhutan – Druk Air operates regular flights to Paro mostly via Kolkata, India.
By Train/Road – This is how we did it
This is a pocket friendly option which is full of experiences. Bhutan is accessible by roads via Phuntsholing – known as the Gateway to Bhutan, it is the Bhutan side of the Indo–Bhutanese Border.
We took the following route to reach Phuntsholing:
- Kolkata – Hasimara (Train) – Hasimara is a small town in West Bengal, India. The Indo-Bhutanese border is a 45-minute auto ride from Hasimara station.
- Hasimara station – Jaigaon – (Auto) – Jaigaon is the Indian side of the Indo-Bhutanese Border.
- Jaigaon – Phuntsholing – Just walk by!!
Bhutan travel guide: Travel tips
Not all international debits/credit cards work in Bhutan. You might want to confirm with your bank before travelling to Bhutan. Thimphu is the best place to stock up some currency as smaller villages and towns might not have ATMS.
Network connectivity is good in Bhutan except for remote valleys.
Most hotels in Thimphu and Paro have Wi-Fi but you wouldn’t find internet connection in the other smaller towns/villages.
When in Bhutan…
Try the local food in Bhutan
Chillies are an essential part of Bhutanese cuisine and hence needless to say food in Bhutan is spicy. We tried a lot of local cuisines during our stay and following are the few must haves.
- Red Rice – One of the staple foods of Bhutan. This is a variety of rice which tastes nutty and is a little grainy.
- Momo – These heavenly dumplings need no introduction.
- Suja – The Bhutanese Butter Tea. A Frothy butter drink, salty in taste. Different but worth the try.
- If you eat non- veg, try Pork at any local restaurant.
Hop around the local markets in Bhutan
The best way to explore a country’s local culture is to visit its local markets. Phuntsholing, Thimphu and Paro are the prominent places to do some souvenir shopping.
Wooden handicraft and hand-woven textiles are very good in Bhutan.
Bhutan itinerary for 8 days
- Day 1: Hasimara – Jaigaon- Bhutan
- Day 2: Entry permit and reach Thimpu
- Day 3: Explore Thimpu
- Day 4: Day trip to Punakha via dochula pass
- Day 5: Thimpu to Paro via Chele la pass and Haa Valley
- Day 6: Hike Tigers Nest
- Day 7: Explore Paro
- Day 8: Leave Bhutan
Hotels in Bhutan
We stayed at the below hotels in Bhutan:
- Phuentsholing: Hotel Centinel
- Thimpu: Hotel Tandin
- Paro: Hotel Sonam
Search for other hotels in Bhutan below.
5 places to visit in Bhutan
Tigers Nest, the cliffside monastery
Tiger’s Nest is Bhutan’s most sacred religious site and one of the must-see places to visit in Bhutan. Also known as Paro Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest is a beautiful Monastery hung 900 meters above on a cliff overlooking the spectacular Paro Valley.
As legend has it, Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on a Tigress’ back to subdue local demons after which he meditated there for months. Guru Rinpoche is said to be the second Buddha and the one to introduce Buddhism to Bhutan.
Haa Valley, Bhutan’s best kept secret
One of the most beautiful valleys of Bhutan and our favourite pick has to be the Haa Valley. Approximately 65kms from Paro, this beautiful hamlet is Bhutan’s best kept secret.
The Valley is very close to the disputed Indo China Border in Doklam and hence was closed for tourists till 2002. It was made available for the public in 2002. Not many people know of it, as a place to be included in their itinerary.
There are numerous ancient Buddhist temples around which makes the valley ideal for hiking. A few hike options are Yangthang – Hatey Hike, Bjungneydra – Kat – Sho, Gonpa Hike, Jyenkhakha – Jamtey Gonpa – Yangthang Gonpa Hike.
Punakha Monastery and river rafting
Punakha is around 80kms from Thimphu and is a 2-hour ride by road. Punakha monastery is one of the most scenic one along the river bank Pho Chhu & Mo Chhu RiverIf out of all the genres of travel, adventure is your true love, do not miss rafting in Punakha.
Imagine yourself flowing with the current, all drenched while watching a few rare birds in their most natural habitat along with the beautiful Punakha valley at the backdrop. White water rafting is a different experience altogether. Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers in Punakha are famous for river rafting in Bhutan.
Little to no experience is required for rafting on these rivers as there are certified experts who would guide you throughout the course. Specific instructions are given before riding the boat and off you go for an amazing adventure.
The most memorable part of the course is the point where you can see the Punakha Dzong from the river. The Dzong looks beautiful at the backdrop while rafting across.
Mountain passes are always beautiful because altitude nurtures tranquillity. Located at an elevation of 3100m, Dochula pass is a tale of bravery, valour, inspiration and spirituality. This place comes on the way to Punakha from Thimpu.
This beautiful mountain pass is located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu and one of the most divine places to visit in Bhutan. It was built in commemoration of 108 Bhutanese soldiers who passed away in military operations of 2003. There are 108 memorial Chorten or stupas built in remembrance of every lost soul.
Chele la Pass: the highest drivable road in Bhutan
Standing on the highest possible road in Bhutan, wrapped in clouds and prayer flags, Chele La is enthralling. Located at an altitude of 3810m, Chele la links the two Valleys of Paro and Haa.
- Approximately 36kms from Paro and 27kms from Haa, Chele La is situated in between the two valleys.
- Because of its altitude, natural trails through forests with a view of Himalayas , Chele la is famous for mountain biking and trekking in Bhutan.
- The drive to Chele La is through dense spruce forests. Depending on the season of visit, one may come across gushing waterfalls, blooming rhododendrons and yaks grazing.
- The mountain slopes on the way to Chele La are covered in white poppy – a type of flower only found here and nowhere else in the world.
- The temperature at the top is pretty cold and staying long becomes difficult due to the altitude. Summers are chilling but clear and winters are blood freezing cold.
- One a clear day, one can view Mt. Jumolhari – one of Bhutan’s most sacred peak, standing tall at 22,000 ft.
Pack your bags and set out to travel Bhutan if you want to disconnect for a while only to reconnect again happier than ever. The serene landscapes, beautiful valleys, majestic mountains, pristine forests, soothing rivers, traditional lifestyle and warmest people makes Bhutan an experience worth every penny.
Tours to Bhutan
While our Bhutan travel guide takes you through how to explore Bhutan on your own, a common way to travel Bhutan is to join an organised Bhutan tour. There are many tour operators offering various Bhutan itineraries, some of our favourite include the tours offered by Klook, G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.