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29 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan

Updated on August 4, 2021
Prantika Samanta profile image

Educated as a microbiologist, trained as an editor, a quintessential nomad soul grounded to the earth. Loves anything that touches her soul

A brilliant combination of snow-capped mountains, blue sky, and lush greenery in Dochula Pass
A brilliant combination of snow-capped mountains, blue sky, and lush greenery in Dochula Pass
The view of sunset from National Museum of Bhutan, Paro
The view of sunset from National Museum of Bhutan, Paro

Why Vacationing in Bhutan Is a Bliss?

Bhutan is a tiny, landlocked nation in Asia. Vacationing in Bhutan is a unique experience as it offers amazing vistas and tranquility.

Diverse geographical features, spectacular architectures, scenic vistas, varied vegetation, friendly people, rich culture of Bhutan fascinate adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, leisure travelers, and culture vultures from far and wide.

Snow-capped mountains covered by dense clouds in Chele La
Snow-capped mountains covered by dense clouds in Chele La
A quiet river flowing gracefully through the lush green valley with the reflection of the sky in the clear water
A quiet river flowing gracefully through the lush green valley with the reflection of the sky in the clear water

Nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan is home to the happy people.

Highlights

Before heading to Bhutan, note the following points to know Bhutan better.

1. Environment Friendly with Reduced Carbon Footprint

Bhutan emphasizes on planting trees to keep pollution at bay. This is one of the reasons why Bhutan has become a carbon negative country.

Vacationing in Bhutan is a bliss, as you can enjoy the fresh air amidst lush greenery. What can be a better way to connect with nature and replenish energy.

2. High happiness quotient

The peaceful ambiance of the land indicates that the people there strongly believe that happiness is crucial.So, Bhutan is called the land of happiness.

The country also ranks high in Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index.

Waking up to the picturesque sunrise, witnessing the beauty of the landscape, and enjoying the cool breeze and calmness fill the mind with happiness.

3. Activities to do in Bhutan

If you are into trekking, hiking, rafting, and other outdoor activities, go through the list provided in the table below and choose the activities you want to try.

Outdoor Activity
Venue
Trekking
Chele La (near to Paro)
Hiking
Paro Taktsang or Tiger Nest Monastery, Paro
Nature walk
Motithang Takin Preserve, Thimphu
Rafting
Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, Punakha
Kayaking
Paro Chhu, Paro
Paragliding
Ura Valley, Phobjika Valley, Bumthang Valley, and Haa Valley
Camping
Gangtey (a hamlet in western Bhutan), Limukha (a small village in western Bhutan), and Punakha
Rock climbing
Near to Thimphu

Note: Only a few activities and places are provided in the aforementioned table. For details, check the concerned website.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fluttering flags, pristine blue sky, shredded clouds, lofty mountains, less traveled road in Chele LaThe river with green hillsA nature walk trail, MotithangA green mountain range, Chele LaYaks grazing in the forest
Fluttering flags, pristine blue sky, shredded clouds, lofty mountains, less traveled road in Chele La
Fluttering flags, pristine blue sky, shredded clouds, lofty mountains, less traveled road in Chele La
The river with green hills
The river with green hills
A nature walk trail, Motithang
A nature walk trail, Motithang
A green mountain range, Chele La
A green mountain range, Chele La
Yaks grazing in the forest
Yaks grazing in the forest

4. Seasons in Bhutan

Months
Season
March, April, and May
Spring
June, July, and August
Summer
September, October, and November
Autumn
December, January, and February
Winter

Bhutan has four different seasons all around the year, and each season has its own significance.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Huge trees, colorful leaves in Motithang PreserveThe scenic beauty in ParoHills covered by cloudsThe meandering road,trees, the cloudy sky, indicate the advent of winter, on the way to Chele LaTowering mountains, thick white clouds, pristine blue sky, the distant valley
Huge trees, colorful leaves in Motithang Preserve
Huge trees, colorful leaves in Motithang Preserve
The scenic beauty in Paro
The scenic beauty in Paro
Hills covered by clouds
Hills covered by clouds
The meandering road,trees, the cloudy sky, indicate the advent of winter, on the way to Chele La
The meandering road,trees, the cloudy sky, indicate the advent of winter, on the way to Chele La
Towering mountains, thick white clouds, pristine blue sky, the distant valley
Towering mountains, thick white clouds, pristine blue sky, the distant valley

5a. Favorable months to visit

Prefer to plan a vacation in these months:

1. March-May

The mesmerizing beauty of rhododendron-laden valleys makes the place look surreal. Why give it a miss?

2. October–December

Usually, you get a clear view of snow-capped mountains. Such an incredible view makes the vacation in Bhutan a memorable one.

5b. Less preferred seasons to visit

1. Winter

Some high-altitude areas may receive snowfall, which makes accessibility challenging.

2. Summer

Some areas experience hot and humid summers, which might spoil the vacation mood.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lovely flowersA rose with other flowersFlowers and plantsBushes with flowersBeautiful flowersTwo sunflowers blooming on the roadside Various flowers viewed while enjoying a nature walkA beautiful flowerLovely flowers
Lovely flowers
Lovely flowers
A rose with other flowers
A rose with other flowers
Flowers and plants
Flowers and plants
Bushes with flowers
Bushes with flowers
Beautiful flowers
Beautiful flowers
Two sunflowers blooming on the roadside
Two sunflowers blooming on the roadside
Various flowers viewed while enjoying a nature walk
Various flowers viewed while enjoying a nature walk
A beautiful flower
A beautiful flower
Lovely flowers
Lovely flowers

6. Stupas or Chortens

You can find Stupas or Chortens on roads, in buildings, various locations. These are spiritual heritage structures and are of various sizes.

One of Bhutan's famous Stupas is the Memorial Stupa of Thimphu in Thimphu, also known as the Thimphu Chorten.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stupas on the road enroute ThimphuStupas in Karbandi Monastery
Stupas on the road enroute Thimphu
Stupas on the road enroute Thimphu
Stupas in Karbandi Monastery
Stupas in Karbandi Monastery

7. Four harmonious friends

The popular story of four harmonious friends or four harmonious animals (a bird, a rabbit, a monkey, and an elephant) is interesting and insightful.

The moral of the story talks about love, respect, and support and cooperation.

The story is also a favorite theme for murals and wall paintings.

Four friends: elephant, monkey, rabbit and bird standing under a tree bearing fruits. The elephant is carrying the monkey on its back, the monkey carrying the rabbit, and the rabbit carrying the bird.
Four friends: elephant, monkey, rabbit and bird standing under a tree bearing fruits. The elephant is carrying the monkey on its back, the monkey carrying the rabbit, and the rabbit carrying the bird.

8. Constitutional Monarchy and Monastic Body

Bhutan is governed by Constitutional Monarchy. The government is called the Royal Government of Bhutan.

Bhutan's Monastic Body or Dratshang takes care of its religious matters. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in the spiritual and cultural matters.

8a. Constitutional Monarchy

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo or "Dragon King" of the Kingdom of Bhutan is the reigning monarchy.

People respect and love their King. The photos of the King and other members of Bhutan's royal family are displayed in shops, administrative offices, educational institutions, hotels, restaurants, financial establishments, and other places throughout the nation.

8b. Monastic Body

The Monastic Body comprises acharyas, lonpon, preceptors and prefects, religious administrators, and junior monastic officials.

The Monastic Body includes:

  1. Central Monastic Body - Khenpo is the Chief Abott
  2. District Monastic Body - Lam Neten is the head of the monastic community.

9. Currency, Districts, and Language

Ngultrum (Nu) is Bhutan's currency.

Bhutan has 20 districts or Dzongkhags.

Over 19 dialects are spoken in Bhutan. Dzongkha is the national language.

Guides, drivers, and hotel staff converse well in English. This is perhaps one of the reasons that encourages global travelers to visit the land.

10. National dress of Bhutanese

Both Bhutanese men and women wear national dress, which shows their love for the country and their unity.

10a. Men's national dress

Bhutanese men wear the following:

Gho: It is a long robe worn until the knee and hoisted up to form a large pocket. The pocket can hold wallets, papers, books, mobiles, tabs, and other articles.

Kera: It is a cloth belt worn over Gho around the waist.

10b. Women's national dress

Bhutanese women's national dress includes the following:

Kira: It is a long ankle-length dress.

Koma: These are broach-like hooks that hold Kira on the shoulder.

Kera: It is a belt that is worn over Kira on the waist.

Wonju: It is a blouse worn below Kira.

Toego: It is a short, open-outer jacket.

10c. Designated scarf color

Scarf color
Who wears
Yellow
King and Chief Abbot
Orange
Ministers
Green
Judge
Red with white stripe
District Administrator
White
Common people

Bhutanese must wear the scarf for entering Dzongs and other places as specified by the government.

11. Prayer Wheels

A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather, or coarse cotton. Om Mani Padme Hum is the primarily used mantra in the prayer wheels (Wikipedia).

The prayer wheels should be spun in the clockwise direction in which direction the mantra is written and the movement of the sun.

11a. Prayer wheels and their types

Types
Description
Mani Wheel
It is the hand prayer wheel with a cord or a chain and is mounted on a wooden or metal handle. The handle is rotated clockwise by the wrist.
Water Wheel
It is turned by flowing water. After being touched by the wheel, the water is believed to become blessed.
Stationary Prayer Wheel
It is a large, fixed metal wheel. Several stationary wheels are placed side by side. These wheels in a row are spun clockwise.

Other types of prayer wheels are Wind Wheels, Fire Wheels, Electric Dharma Wheels, and Digital Prayer Wheels

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A small Mani WheelWater WheelStationary Prayer WheelA stationary prayer wheelStationary prayer wheels in a row
A small Mani Wheel
A small Mani Wheel
Water Wheel
Water Wheel
Stationary Prayer Wheel
Stationary Prayer Wheel
A stationary prayer wheel
A stationary prayer wheel
Stationary prayer wheels in a row
Stationary prayer wheels in a row

12. Fascinating Bhutanese architecture

The engineering marvel of Bhutanese architecture leave travelers spell bound.

The table below provides a list of different types of architecture found throughout the country.

Types of Architecture
Examples
Phodrang (palaces)
Dechencholing Palace in Thimphu or Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro
Dzongs (fortresses)
Punakha Dzong (in Punakha) or Paro Dzong (in Paro)
Lhakhang (temples).
Chimi Lhakhang (in Punakha) or Changangkha Lhakhang (im Thimphu)
Chorten (stupas)
Memprial Chorten (Thimphu) or Druk Wangyal Chortens (in Dochula Pass)
Monasteries
Paro Taktsang (or Tiger Nest Monastery)
Gates to enter different cities or within the cities in Bhutan
Bhutan Gate (in Phuentsholing) or Thimphu Gate (in Thimphu)
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Punakha DzongParo DzongChangangkha LhakhangStupaTashichho DzongBhutan GateA gate within the Thimphu cityThe entry gate of National Museum, Paro
Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong
Paro Dzong
Paro Dzong
Changangkha Lhakhang
Changangkha Lhakhang
Stupa
Stupa
Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong
Bhutan Gate
Bhutan Gate
A gate within the Thimphu city
A gate within the Thimphu city
The entry gate of National Museum, Paro
The entry gate of National Museum, Paro

13. No traffic lights

Bhutan is devoid of traffic lights, but that does not disrupt the smooth movement of the traffic.

Vehicles stop at Zebra Crossing to let pedestrians cross the road.

You can barely hear cars honking. This helps in curbing noise pollution and maintaining the tranquility of the surrounding.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Spectacular sculpture
Spectacular sculpture
Spectacular sculpture

14. Clean and wide roads

One of the best ways to explore Bhutan is by road. The road trip from Phuentsholing to Thimphu through soaring mountains, deep valleys, lush greenery, and picturesque landscapes is an exhilarating experience.

The roads, in both plains and hilly regions, are clean and broad making the travel by road quite comfortable and enjoyable.

15. Warm and friendly people

The warmth, gentle behavior, simplicity, and friendliness of Bhutanese leave a long-lasting impression on the minds of travelers.

16. Restaurants and bars

Restaurants, both big and small, offer different types of cuisines, including Asian and Western. They serve freshly prepared food, as serving stale food in Bhutan is not encouraged.

Hard drinks are generally available in almost all the restaurants. Many restaurants have a designated bar section.

17. No tobacco selling

Bhutan is constantly making efforts to keep the environment pollution free. Tobacco selling within the country and cigarette smoking publicly are prohibited.

This also contributes significantly in the increased footfall of global travelers.

18. Use of plastic bags prohibited

Another preventive measure against pollution is banning the use of plastic bags.

This too benifits the country to maintain its carbon negative status.

19. No slaughterhouse

Bhutan imports meat as it has no slaughterhouse.

20. Rules of Dzongs and other places displayed in English

The rules are also displayed in English on the notice board in Dzongs, temples, museums, monasteries, and other places.

This help global travelers read, understand, and follow the instructions.

21. December 17—National Day of Bhutan

Bhutan's National Day is celebrated on 17 December every year. The First King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuk, was coronated on this day.

With all government offices and agencies remaining closed on the day, no permits are issued by the government offices.

22. Festivals of Bhutan

Bhutanese celebrate their festivals with pomp and splendor.

One of the popular dances performed during the festivals is Cham Dance or mask dance. It is Bhutan's traditional dance performed with drums. The dancers wear colorfully painted and beautifully decorated masks and vibrant costumes.

A spike in foreign travelers is witnessed during the festivals.

Name of the festival
Place of celebration
Thimphu Tshechu
Thimphu
Paro Tshechu
Paro
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu
Punakha
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Bumthang
Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu
Wangdue Phodrang
Haa Summer Festival
Haa Valley
Black Necked Crane Festival
Wangdue Phodrang

23. Towering mountains and stunning rivers

23a. The virgin peak

Gangkhar Puensum is Bhutan's highest peak and has remained a virgin peak until now.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

23b. Rivers or Chhu

Many spectacular rivers (or Chhu in Dzongkha) flow through the lush green valleys of Bhutan. Some of them flow gently while some flow wildly. The sight of the beautiful rivers with towering mountains in the backdrop and valleys covered with trees and colorful flowers is captivating.

Some of the rivers of Bhutan are:

  • Drangme Chhu
  • Mo Chhu
  • Pho Chhu
  • Wang Chhu
  • Amo Chhu
  • Thimphu Chhu
  • Paro Chhu
  • Haa Chuu

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The river in WangdueParo ChhuNear the confluence of Mo Chhu and Pho ChhuThe river in Thimphu
The river in Wangdue
The river in Wangdue
Paro Chhu
Paro Chhu
Near the confluence of Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu
Near the confluence of Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu
The river in Thimphu
The river in Thimphu

24. National flower, tree, bird, and animal

Flower
Himalayan Blue Poppy
Tree
Himalayan Cypress
Bird
Raven
Animal
Takin
Huge trees, blue sky, white clouds, and wide road enhance the beauty of the place
Huge trees, blue sky, white clouds, and wide road enhance the beauty of the place

25. Traditional food and beverage

The Bhutanese cuisine primarily comprises red rice, vegetables, lentils, and meat.

Ema datshi is the staple food of the Bhutanese. "Ema" means chili and "datshi" means cheese in Dzongkha. It is a spicy dish made with chilies and cheese.

Other popular traditional Bhutanese food and beverage include:

  • Jasha maru (chicken dish)
  • Phaksha paa (the dish comprising dried pork cooked with chili peppers, spices, and vegetables)
  • Thukpa (noodle soup)
  • Momo (dumplings)
  • Butter tea
  • Milk tea
  • Ara (rice wine)

Bhutanese generously use chilies and cheese in food. Let them know your preference for chillies and cheese in food while placing the order for food.

Red rice (raw)
Red rice (raw)

26. Sports

Archery or Dha is the national sport of Bhutan. You can watch the sport in any of the grounds. Check the schedule and venue with your guide.

Football and futsal are popular in Bhutan as well.

Bhutanese also play other sports, such as khuru, soksom, digor, pundu, and basketball.

A view of the multipurpose stadium, Changlimithang Stadium
A view of the multipurpose stadium, Changlimithang Stadium
A few moments of soccer match being played in Changlimithang Stadium
A few moments of soccer match being played in Changlimithang Stadium

27. Thangka paintings

Thangaka (meaning rolled out) is a traditional art of painting on silk or cotton that depicts various incidents of Buddhism.

Thangaka can be an ideal souvenir to gift family or friends.

28. Phallus paintings

Phallus paintings are found on the walls of several houses and buildings.

Bhutanese believe that the symbol protects them, brings fortune, and keeps evil spirits away from their lives.

29. Railway Stations and Airports in Bhutan

29a. Railways

Bhutan has no railways.

29b. Airport

Bhutan has one international airport and three domestic airports.

Thimphu does not have any domestic or international airport.

International airport

Paro Airport is the only international airport of Bhutan.

The beautiful airport is situated in a deep valley of Paro close to Paro Chhu (Paro River) and surrounded by soaring mountains.

Flights in Paro Airport fly between sunrise and sunset.

Domestic airports in Bhutan

Name of the airport
Location
Gelephu Airport
Samtenling, Gewog (close to the Gelephu town in the Sarpang district)
Bathpalathang Airport
Jakar
Yongphulla Airport
Trashigang
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Paro Airport from viewpointBus terminus in Phuentsholing
Paro Airport from viewpoint
Paro Airport from viewpoint
Bus terminus in Phuentsholing
Bus terminus in Phuentsholing

Closing Words

Bhutan's rich biodiversity and mesmerizing scenic beauty have increased its popularity among the global travelers.

While vacationing in Bhutan, enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Bhutan, explore the beautiful places, respect the sentiments (religious and royal family) and the culture of the Bhutanese, and keep the country clean.

It is quite an experience of visiting a beautiful, carbon negative country.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Prantika Samanta

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