Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist nation and is tucked between China and India in the Eastern Himalayas. Perhaps most famous for it’s Paro Taktsang monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest which clings to mist-covered cliffs high above the forested Paro Valley. One of the other main attractions of Bhutan is how the nation prioritizes the peace and happiness of its citizens. Bhutan’s government and its people believe that Gross National Happiness is of far greater value and more importance than Gross National Product. In the western world it’s quite the opposite. For this reason Bhutan is considered one of the happiest nations in the world year after year.
BHUTAN TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Visit Tiger’s Nest
Perched on the cliff face 900 meters above Paro Valley sits the Taktsang Lhakhang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This famous image and main tourist attraction adorns every book, brochure, and website on Bhutan. As the legend goes, Guru Rinpoche arrived here on a flying tiger and chose this site to meditate. The trek might sound harsh, but the view from the top is breathtaking and ensures that if visited, the place will remain in your memories forever.
Visit Buddha Dordenma
A 51 meter tall statue of Lord Buddha overlooking Thimpu. This impressive structure was completed in 2015 and is a construction to help the prosperity of the country. An important pilgrimage site for locals, who have camps here and will welcome you wholeheartedly. If you pay a visit then hike up from behind the statue for the best view.
Bhutan’s Famous Suspension Bridge
The longest suspension bridge in Bhutan lies a short distance from Phunaka Dzong. This 160 meter long bridge runs over the Po Chu River and connects Phunaka Dzong with the town of Phunaka. The bridge is beautiful with prayer flags swaying in the breeze all around. As you walk across the bridge you will probably see people white water rafting in the river below.
White Water Rafting
White water rafting is always fun and if you’re visiting Bhutan you can experience this just outside the town of Phunaka. Here a white water rafting tour will take adventurous rafters through the valley. Admire the mountains, pass under the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and cross Dzongs and Chortens.
Explore Phunaka Dzong
The most famous Dzong in Bhutan. Dzong were fortresses converted into administrative complexes with a vast interior courtyard and surrounded by high outer walls. Apart from being the administrative buildings they are also home to monks. Phunaka is Bhutan’s second oldest Dzong constructed in 1637 and is the most majestic. In 2011, the king’s wedding took place here. Currently, it is open to tourists so seize the opportunity to pay a visit!
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BHUTAN TOP 3 FESTIVALS
This festival takes place on the tenth day of the eighth month of the Lunar Calendar and is the most famous and biggest festival in Bhutan. Lots of people wearing colorful traditional attire gather in the capital to take part in the dance, activities, and festivities that mark the beginning of this three-day festival. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. Mask dances like the Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) and Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) are performed.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival
In November, Bhutan celebrates Jambay Lhakhang Drup which has fire dancing, naked dancing and mask dancing. The people celebrate the foundation of Jumbay Lhakhang Monastery and honor Guru Rimpoche through their traditional dance performances. The celebrations continue for four days and is witnessed by thousands of tourists each year.
This could be the most unique festival celebrated in Bhutan. The local military recreates some important scenes and moments from the 17th century Tibetan Army battle. It is celebrated to pay homage to the villagers who came forward and saved their country by driving out the Tibetan army.
Language: The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha with the significant population of the county speaking this. However English is the language used in schools and so you will find most people in big cities can speak some English.
Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum.
Visa: Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Bhutan is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Bhutan has a 320 V A.C. electricity supply with a frequency of 50Hz. The power sockets are D, F and G type. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Bhutan: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN BHUTAN
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Bhutan are listed below. Don’t drool!
Ema Datshi: Datshi in Bhutanese is cheese, and Ema Datshi is the national dish of Bhutan. It is somewhat like a stew made from chili and cheese and might be excessively spicy for some. Chilies are vertically split, deseeded and mixed in cheese, garlic, oil and water to form a thick stew. Red, white or brown rice accompanies the dish.
Shamu Datshi: Another staple cheese dish of Bhutan is Shamu Datshi; cheese with mushrooms. People cook the local Bhutanese mushroom from the Himalayas with butter in a saucy cheese stew. Just like Ema Datshi, the locals eat this dish with rice.
Shakam Pa: Shakam pa is a tasty Bhutanese dish made of dried beef cooked in dried red chilies and with some radish. Since the meat used is dry and preserved, be prepared to chew and the whole dried chilies make the dish extra hot.
Jasha Tshoem: A spicy stew prepared with beef and flavored with ginger, garlic, chili, onions, pepper and sometimes mushrooms. Locals eat this with bread, but sometimes it’s served with brown or white rice.
Ara: Ara is Bhutan’s traditional alcoholic beverage made by distilling and fermenting rice, maize, wheat, millet, buckwheat or barley. It might be whitish, creamy or clear in appearance and extremely strong in taste and smell. Ara may also be boiled with eggs and butter.
WHERE TO STAY IN BHUTAN
Bhutan is a reasonably affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Bhutan is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Bhutan affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Bhutan will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Bhutan can cost less than $30 dollars. If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Thimphu.
If you’re traveling to Bhutan during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Bhutan is a very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Bhutan. However, if you are backpacking in Bhutan or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
The best time to visit Bhutan for warm, dry and sunny weather is between October and March. As Bhutan heats up in April and May travel prices begin to drop and you can get some excellent value trips. Monsoon season arrives in May and ends in September and if you’re visiting Bhutan during this time expect a lot of torrential rain. The hottest time of the year is in May and June and most travelers choose to visit Bhutan during the winter between October and March.
BHUTAN TRAVEL BUDGET
Bhutan is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Bhutan really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
IS BHUTAN SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is not a concern for either gender traveling to Bhutan. Bag-snatching, pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of travelers are not at all common here. Travelers should still be mindful of local customs and dress appropriately to show respect to their host country. Based on many years of solo travel around south Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance, even when visiting a relatively safe place like Bhutan. I would never leave home without insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Bhutan trip.
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BHUTAN FLIGHT DEALS
BHUTAN TOURS & ACTIVITIES
BHUTAN PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Bhutan, like most other places in Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Bhutan and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for very cold morning and evenings depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater, coat, gloves and hat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Bhutan include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected.
Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.