Bhutan, being a Buddhist nation, has some very unique (and strict) tourism rules for its visitors. For one, all visitors pay a minimum fee of US$250/day…non-negotiable. This usually tends to cover everything though, and Bhutan is certainly not a place for backpackers.
It’s key to get to know the locals here – you’ll find them warm and loving. Perhaps this is because Bhutan takes great pride in stressing the importance of the Gross National Happiness over the Gross National Product.
Places to Visit in Bhutan
- Punakha Valley
- Punakha Dzong
- Dochula Pass
- The ruins of Drukgyel Dzong
- Tashi Yangtse, rural Bhutan
- Wangshu River
Unique Things to See and Do in Bhutan
- Eat Ema Datshi, the national dish of chillies and cheese
- Visit Thimphu capital city – the only one in the world without stoplights!
- Watch some archery, Bhutan’s national sport
- Hike to Paro Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
- Trek the Druk Path between Par and Thimphu
- Go bird watching
- Check out a Buddhist festival
- Visit the Gasa hot springs
Bhutan’s history is a rich and complicated one, and can be traced back to 2000 BC. However, Buddhism didn’t arrive in the area until the 7th century, when Padmasambhava Guru Rinpoche came to the area. This guru is still revered today. Monasteries were set up, and then dzongs were created by a Tibetan lama named Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He introduced both secular and religious governments – an ideology that still operates today.
Bhutan faced many years of frequent civil war until the early 1900s. Ugyen Wangchuck became Bhutan’s first king, who unified the country. His dynasty still exists today, but under this monarchy, Bhutan remained isolated from the rest of the world for many years. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the kingdom rid itself of slavery and the caste system, becoming a more modern country and introducing land reform.
When king Jigme Singye Wangchuck was coronated in 1974, he dedicated his time to maintaining Bhutan’s culture and environment. But things became tumultuous for Bhutan again – major political reforms happened, and Nepalese citizens seeking democracy were evicted. Many of them still live in refugee camps.
Despite all this, Bhutan has turned into a peaceful, tolerant nation. For the intrepid explorer, it has everything to offer!
Getting Around Bhutan
Travel in Bhutan can be quite difficult thanks to all its tourism restrictions. But don’t let this discourage you – the rewards are well worth it. Generally it’s best to arrange transportation with your guide. There are no domestic airlines, but there are tourist buses and taxis. Remember to book your bus in advance – they sell out quick, and booking up to 24 hours beforehand is highly recommended.
Taxis aren’t metered, but most drivers honour the government guidelines. If you’re an Indian citizen, you can drive a car into Bhutan. Otherwise, nope, you’re out of luck.
Keep in mind that Bhutan covers a very mountainous region! If you’re prone to motion sickness, all the winding, twisting roads will make you a little queasy. It’s a good idea to stay hydrated and to carry anti-nausea pills.
Did you know…?
In Bhutan, everyone’s birthday is on New Year’s Day. Everyone turns a year older on this date — you’ll never forget a birthday again!
Did you ALSO know…?
Healthcare and education are free in Bhutan, for both visitors and citizens (despite being one of the poorest countries in the world)
Best Time of Year to Travel to Bhutan
October to December is a great time to visit Bhutan because the air is clear and there’s a lot of sunshine. Things tend to get colder in January and February, but then March and April also have a lovely, dry climate. This is also when the gorgeous rhododendrons come out, and everything is swathed in colour.
The months from May to September are the least favourable times to visit Bhutan. You’ll experience monsoon rains, and visibility (thanks to the mist) will be hard in the mountains.
Ready to plan your visit to Bhutan? Check out these popular guides and trips.