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Should you visit Bhutan?

Listed as one of the Top Travel Destinations in the World, the Paro Valley in Bhutan is definitely worth a visit, and here’s why:

the mesmerizing panorama of Bhutan from above

Bhutan - a beautiful Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge known for its monasteries, fortresses, and awesome landscapes

Where is Bhutan

The Happiest people in the world (What Bhutan is Really Like)

Bhutan is a small landlocked country located in the eastern Himalayas in South Asia. It is bordered by China to the north and northwest, and by India to the south, east, and west. Nestled between these two giant neighbors, Bhutan is renowned for its stunning mountain landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a unique commitment to measuring its success through the concept of Gross National Happiness.

Getting There

Paro is home to Bhutan’s International Airport (Dzongkha: སྤ་རོ་གནམ་ཐང༌ paro gnam thang) (PBH).

Landing in Bhutan is often talked about because it’s considered one of the most challenging landings globally, adding a touch of adventure to your journey.

Picture this: as your plane descends, you might find the takeoff from Kathmandu quite nerve-wracking, especially if you catch a glimpse of the majestic Mount Everest with its breathtaking mountain views. But then comes the landing in Bhutan, and it’s beautiful.

In fact, the landing in Bhutan offers a unique experience. The landscape below is filled with stunning scenery, showcasing the natural beauty of the Himalayas. As you touch down, you’ll be greeted by not only the picturesque surroundings but also by a charming airport that adds to the overall appeal of your arrival in this enchanting kingdom. It turns what could be a daunting experience into a memorable and visually pleasing one.

 

Travel Tip(s)

If you want to get a good view of the Himalayas while flying to Bhutan, request a window seat on the left side of the aircraft.

View the video:

Play Video about Is Bhutan airport landing scary

So, while the rumors about the challenging landing might be true, the reality is that it comes with its own share of beauty and awe.  Don’t be scared, just enjoy the beauty.  The pilots know what they’re doing.

Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are the only two commercial airlines that fly to and out of Bhutan.

What is most important to Bhutan's people

Bhutan, often called the ‘happy kingdom,’ keeps a close eye on the number of visitors to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded. But here’s the thing – don’t expect big shopping malls or fast food spots in this almost-secret valley. You won’t even find a traffic light!

What matters most to this country is the happiness of its people. That’s why they have something called the “gross national happiness” index. It’s like a scale that measures how happy everyone is based on things like culture, traditions, family, friends, values, and the environment. Money doesn’t take the top spot here – being happy with your everyday life is what really counts.

And that’s what makes a trip to Bhutan so special. It’s not about being rich; it’s about finding joy in the simple things and cherishing what matters most.

Bhutan Kingdom

A city without lights...

Bhutan is known for not having any traffic lights. This adds to the country’s distinct charm and reflects its commitment to maintaining a serene and unhurried pace of life. Instead of traffic lights, you’ll often find traditional hand-painted signs and courteous drivers, contributing to a unique and tranquil traffic system in this enchanting kingdom. The absence of traffic lights is a small but symbolic part of Bhutan’s emphasis on preserving its cultural heritage and promoting a harmonious way of life.

What you need to know before you go to Bhutan

Quick reference travel guide

FAQ: What Travel Documents Do I Need?

Visa and related documents.

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You can expect

Fresh air and relaxation

Don’t anticipate a fast-paced tourist spot where you have to hurry through your checklist. Instead, plan to take things at a more relaxed pace, soaking in the experience. That includes savoring the freshest air you’ll ever breathe. In reality, 70% of Bhutan is covered in protected forests, and a significant portion of the country is dedicated to agriculture, with rice paddies scattered throughout the landscape, creating a picturesque view everywhere you go.

Natural Beauty

High above, in the Himalayas, you’ll find the Jomolhari (a popular hiking destination), as well as the Paro Taktsang Monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), situated on the cliffs above Paro Valley.  Make no  mistake, it is a very difficult uphill walk to get to Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan’s # Nr. 1 tourist attraction, but the views are spectacular. 

The photos above are of Paro Taktsang Monetary. (Tiger’s Nest)

National Sport and Fun Activity to do

A favorite amongst the locals is their National Sport, which is Archery.  An age-old tradition that was previously practiced with only bows made from bamboo.  Today more varieties are being used.  The “Zhu”(a Bhutanese bow) can be a

  • single stave bow made of bamboo (called the Changzhu)
  • a bow made from two pieces of bamboo held together by two iron bands (called the Tapzhu)
  • or the modern compound Bow  (basically made of fiberglass)

Should you have the opportunity to join in some informal local fun, do so.  Even William and Kate joined in some archery fun on their visit to Bhutan.  

Is Bhutan expensive

Yes, Bhutan is generally considered a more expensive destination compared to some other countries, and there are specific reasons for this. Bhutan follows a unique tourism policy known as “High-Value, Low-Impact Tourism,” which involves a minimum daily tariff for all tourists. Here are some factors contributing to the perceived expense of visiting Bhutan:

Daily Tariff:

  • Bhutan imposes a minimum daily tariff for all tourists, set by the government. This tariff covers accommodation, meals, transportation within the country, and the services of a licensed guide. The aim is to ensure a more exclusive and controlled tourism experience.
  • Sustainable Tourism Policy:

    • Bhutan prioritizes sustainable tourism and aims to minimize the environmental impact of tourism. This approach often involves higher costs for maintaining responsible and eco-friendly practices.
  1. Visa Fees:

    • In addition to the daily tariff, there is a visa fee for entering Bhutan. This fee is not included in the daily tariff and is payable separately.
  2. Limited Independent Travel:

    • Independent travel is not widely permitted in Bhutan, and tourists are required to book their trips through approved tour operators. This limitation can contribute to the overall cost of the visit.
  3. Exclusivity and Cultural Preservation:

    • The higher costs are also intended to limit the number of tourists and preserve Bhutan’s unique culture and environment. This exclusivity contributes to a more personalized and authentic experience.

It’s important to note that while Bhutan may be perceived as expensive due to the daily tariff, this approach also ensures a more immersive and curated travel experience. The country’s stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique traditions make it a sought-after destination for those willing to invest in a distinctive and mindful travel experience.

What are all the flags in Bhutan about

Bhutan is adorned with prayer flags, a vibrant and spiritual tradition deeply rooted in the country’s culture and Buddhism. These flags are colorful rectangular pieces of cloth, often strung together and hung in various places, including mountain passes, bridges, and around temples.

The prayer flags carry sacred mantras and prayers, and the belief is that when the wind blows through them, it spreads these blessings into the surroundings. The five colors of the flags represent the five elements: blue for sky, white for air, red for fire, green for water, and yellow for earth.

The practice of hanging prayer flags is a symbolic and auspicious act, believed to bring good fortune, happiness, and harmony. It’s a visual representation of the interconnectedness of life and the spiritual essence that permeates Bhutan’s landscape, making it a truly special and culturally rich experience for visitors.

Travel Tip(s)

What you should Never do in Bhutan

Don’t view places adorned with flags merely as photo opportunities…  Immerse yourself in the deeper significance behind them.  Take a moment to appreciate the cultural and spiritual importance of these flags. Feel the breeze that carries the blessings. 

what you should never do in Bhutan

Discover the Paro Valley

The Paro Valley stretches from the meeting point of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom, all the way up to Mount Jomolhari at the northern Tibetan border. This picturesque region offers scenic routes, bordered by stunning rice fields, and accompanied by the soothing flow of the river through the Paro Valley. It’s not just beautiful; it’s a serene and tranquil part of Bhutan, inviting you to experience the peaceful essence of this enchanting kingdom. The lush landscapes and the gentle murmur of the river create a harmonious environment, making it a truly captivating and peaceful destination within Bhutan.

We highly recommend booking a tour with a well-known travel operator, as you might need a little help when traveling to this beautiful country:

Traveling to Bhutan

Travel with approved operators.

Celebrate and save on seasonal and holiday deals.

Travel Tip(s)

Scan for seasonal deals before booking your stay.

If you have a bar fridge in your hotel room, check with reception whether the content is on the house, or pay as you use.

Things to do

To make your vacation in Bhutan truly memorable, consider these must-do experiences

  1. Visit Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang): This iconic monastery clings to the side of a cliff and offers breathtaking views. The hike to Tiger’s Nest is a challenging but rewarding adventure.

  2. Explore Punakha Dzong: This stunning fortress is situated at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers. It’s known for its beautiful architecture and historical significance.

  3. Witness a Tshechu Festival: If your visit coincides with one of Bhutan’s colorful festivals, known as Tshechus, it’s a must-attend experience. These celebrations showcase traditional dances, masked performances, and vibrant cultural events.

  4. Discover the Haa Valley: Embrace the tranquility of this isolated valley, known for its pristine alpine forests, mountain peaks, and unique cultural experiences.

  5. Experience Bhutanese Cuisine: Try the local delicacies, such as Ema Datshi (chili and cheese), momos (dumplings), and traditional Bhutanese butter tea. Exploring the local food adds a flavorful dimension to your trip.

  6. Attend the Archery Tournament: Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, and catching a traditional archery tournament provides insight into the country’s sporting culture.

  7. Engage with the Locals: Bhutanese people are known for their warmth and hospitality. Interact with locals, visit a farmhouse, and gain insights into their way of life.

Bhutan has many monasteries:  More than 155 temples and monasteries.  The Bumthang district is a spot where you’ll find many of the country’s oldest temples and monasteries.  Known as the “cultural heartland” of Bhutan, Bumthang encompasses a cluster of valleys with ancient temples, monasteries, and sacred sites, including the historic Jakar Dzong. The district offers a serene escape with its verdant meadows, traditional villages, and the picturesque Bumthang Owl Trek. 

  1. Participate in a Meditation Session: Embrace the spiritual side of Bhutan by engaging in a meditation or mindfulness session, perhaps in one of the serene monasteries.

  2. Explore Bhutan’s National Parks: If you’re a nature enthusiast, visit places like Jigme Dorji National Park to witness the diverse flora and fauna.

what is there to see and do in Bhutan

The Capital City:  You should definitely visit the Capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, (Thimbu).  Just walking through town and seeing the lovely buildings decorated with beautifully painted and carved wood, is an experience on its own.

Where to stay

Normally you can request a specific place to stay when booking with your travel guide.  There are beautiful places in Thimphu, but we do recommend somewhere rural…as you often get fabulous views as a bonus.

CityHotel, Thimphu

where to stay in Bhutan Best hotels

You can stay here:  4-Star Hotel in Thimphu.

Willing Resort, Trongsa

best places to stay in Bhutan

THE TIGER NEST CAMP

unique places to stay in Paro Bhutan

And for a unique place to stay in Paro, Bhutan, book here.

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