Known popularly as the last Great Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan is an extraordinary place. Enveloped in mystery and magic, the traditional Buddhist culture embraces global developments whole-heartedly. If you are looking for high-value tourism, then Bhutan is the perfect place to visit. With the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, the Bhutanese love to boast their sustainable approach to tourism. With snow-peak mountains and shadowy forests, tourists do find many things to do in Bhutan. The picturesque landscape of Bhutan promises some plenty of amazing views. With 72% covered in forests, it’s the world’s only carbon-negative country.
Explore the famous dzongs and monasteries in Bhutan. It’s a heady mix of traditional Bhutanese culture and new-age Bhutan. Grafitti and murals on the wall make it an alluring place, a place which you would love to come back to again and again. Various motifs on the wall murals also depict goodwill and ward off evil. Bhutanese are highly religious and sensitive people as well. So, if you are travelling, make sure that you show the same respect for their culture as they have in their mind. In this article, we would cover the things to do in Bhutan and places to visit there. Let’s take a look.
Before we jump on to what are the things to do in Bhutan, let’s take a look at the essentials required when you would be travelling there.
What to pack when you visit Bhutan?
As it is the last Great Himalayan Kingdom, you already know it would be high up in the mountains. So, make sure to carry at least triple layers of warm clothing. Also, you need to remember that in places like Paro and Thimpu, it might be a bit hot. So, carry light cottons as well. Also, below mentioned are a few items that need to be packed if you are travelling to Bhutan.
- Water purification tablets – A must-have if you are going there. It can be a liquid-like Aquapure or tablets like Aquatabs. Water purifying tablets or liquids also helps in minimizing plastic waste. You just need to fill your water bottle and pop in a tablet or a few drops of liquid to purify it.
- Make sure to carry Hiking Boots – Bhutan is a rocky terrain in some places and plain lands in few. Keep away from normal slippers, floaters or any kind of flimsy footwear. Carry sturdy but lightweight boots for ease of travelling.
- Layers of clothing – Carry at least three layers of clothing which you can wear and remove as per the weather. The bottom layer should be light and should be used only when the weather outside is hot. The middle layer can be lightweight woollens and can be worn during mild breezy and windy weather. Topmost layer should be on the heavier side. Early mornings and evenings would require you to wear those three layers completely.
- Headlamp or torch – Please do carry a flashlight or headlamp. Headlamps serve best as you can walk freely. If not possible, even torches work quite fine. There are various places in Bhutan where electricity supply is limited, and you might need one. So, keep them handy.
- Hat & Shades – Afternoons can be quite exhausting, and the sun up can give you those nice lines of tan. With such harsh weather, you might feel drained out. Keep a hat and goggles handy to protect yourself from the sun’s glare.
- Carry your own portable charger – You know why. Make sure to carry one for yourself. Charge it whenever you are in your hotel room or homestay. You will need it throughout your journey.
We are now ready to take a look at some of the best things to do in Bhutan.
Best things to do in Bhutan
1. Explore the charming city of Thimpu
An intriguing destination and the capital of Bhutan, the city is located in the higher range of Himalayas. From the top, you would get the most amazing views of emerald forests and the Chuu River. Adorned with old-world charm and modernity, exploring Thimpu is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. The astonishing blend of old and new is a challenge to Thimpu’s natural conservatism and Shangri La image.
Throughout the city, you would be stumbling upon crimson-robed monks with every second step you step. They walk alone, they walk in numbers, but they are scattered throughout the city. But, there’s a certain rhythm in the way the city operates. Apart from the traditional monasteries and other attractions, you would also find bars, cafes and nightclubs.
Attractions in Thimpu:
- Trashi Chho Dzong
- Changangkha Lhakhang
- Tango Goemba
- National Memorial Chhorten
- Motithang Takin Preserve
2. Visit the charming city of Paro
Located on the banks of Paro (or Paa) Chhu, it’s a charming city in Bhutan. Within a short distance northwest, you would also find the dominating Paro Dzong. It was back in 1985 not many years back from now that the main street got constructed. The ones who travel here get mesmerized by the colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants. But with the growing commercialization and multi-storeyed high rises, the city is under threat. Slowly, it may lose its old charm.
You can say till now exploring Paro on foot is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. It’s a pretty city to be precise. With its charming demeanour, Paro stays one of the must-visit places in Bhutan. An hour or two’s stroll at the end of the day will help you know most the city.
Attractions in Paro:
- Rinpung Dzong
- Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang
- Kichu Lhakang
- Paro Taktsang
Suggested read: Top 10 beautiful cities in the world – places to visit in 2019
3. Get around the lovely Punakha
Did you ever get to see the incredible rice fields of Vietnam? Want to experience something of the same sort? Then visit Punakha. Acres and acres of lush green rice fields would keep your eyes glued for like ever. It’s one of the best destinations and must-see places in Bhutan. Mostly covered as a day trip from Thimpu, exploring Punakha is one of the top things to do in Bhutan. Off late a lot of accommodation facilities have increased the number of tourists coming in. So, rather than planning a day trip, plan to stay overnight somewhere near the district.
For those who seek some adventure, there are a lot of things to do here -River rafting, mountain biking, trekking and so on. Be assured that your time would be spent in the best possible way if you are in Punakha. Also, the weather in Punakha is relatively warmer than in Thimpu or Paro. So, you can easily travel light when there. And, it’s the old capital of Bhutan. Did you know that?
Attractions in Punakha:
- Punakha Dzong
- Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
- Mo Chhu
- Chimi Lhakhang
4. Visit the fine little city of Trongza
Located in the middle of the country, it’s one of the best Bhutan places to see. The place is almost set at the calculated junction of roads which lead up to Punakha, Bumthang and Gelephu. But the whole is divided and separated from both east and west by the highest mountainscapes. Lovely, isn’t it? Getting there apart from the cities like Thimpu, Paro and Punakha is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. In fact, to explore the whole of Bhutan, you need at least two weeks time.
With exquisite views of Black Mountains to the southwest Trongza is a charming, sleepy and pleasant little town waiting to be discovered. The lovely town is lined with typical and traditional whitewashed shops. And, all of them are prettily decorated with potted plants. In the late 1950s and 1960s, the town of Trongsa received a large influx of Tibetan immigrants.
Attractions in Trongza:
- Trongdza Dzong
- Thru Epang Palace
- The Royal Heritage Museum
- Ta Dzong
- Thruepang Palace
- Semji Village
5. Visit the Phobjikha Valley
Located on the Western slopes of the Black Mountains, it’s a bowl-shaped glacial valley. All thanks to the large flock of black-necked cranes that gather there, it’s a famous wildlife preserve in the country. Exploring the various wildlife, there is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. Apart from black-necked cranes, you would also get to see muntjacs (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, serows, Himalayan black bears. It’s mostly in the surrounding hills you would see them. But, they are a complete beauty in itself.
Also referred to as the Green Valley, it’s one of the best places to visit in Bhutan. The entire region is also referred to as the Gangte or Gangtey. It is mainly named after the Goemba which sits on a ridge located right above the valley. The Nakey Chhu River flows through the valley and reaches the Punak Tsaang chhu.
Also read: Top 10 Offbeat Places In Uttarakhand
Attractions in Phobjikha Valley:
- Gangtey Goemba
- Wangmo Hand-Woven Carpet Factory
- Khewang Lhakhang
- Black Necked Crane Information Centre
- Kumbhu Lhakhang
6. Visit the border town of Wangdue Phodrang
It is one of the largest Dzongkhags or districts of Bhutan offering a varied flora and fauna. And that too coupled with exhilarating beauty. Exploring the beautiful valleys and monasteries, there are some of the best things to do in Bhutan. You would also get to see some of the most beautiful rustic villages there. Whether you are just a nature lover or looking for a cultural experience, Wangdue would satiate the taste buds of both. The reason as to why this place is quite different than the rest is because of the sub-tropical forests which range from the south to the north. And, the areas in the north are cold and snowy.
You would get to see a host of numerous plants and animal species: Orchids, Rhododendrons, Blue Poppy and rare animals like Red Panda and Snow Leopard. You would be the luckiest to see the animals there. All thanks to the confluence of the rivers Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu, the green pastures at Wangdue gets nurtured. And, it provides a rich pasture landwang for cattle and also offers attractive scenery.
Attractions in Wangdue Phodrang:
- Wangdue Phodrang Dzong
- Temple of Sha Radap
- Gasleo and Nahee Village
- Rincheganga Village
- Adha and Rukha Villages
7. Jigme Dorji National Park
This one of a kind hidden gem is one of the must-visit places in Bhutan. You would get to see the Takin – the national animal, Blue Poppy – the national flower and Raven – the national bird. Also, Cypress – the national tree. Everything there flourishes and gets nurtured in unison. It’s a park with 300 avian species and is that perfect natural habitat to animals like serow, Indian Leopard, sambhar, pika, Marmo and so on. All thanks to the relentless and continuous conservation efforts, many of the endangered species thrive there – Bengal Tiger, Red panda, Ussuri Dhole and so on.
Did you also know that this park is also home to over 300 medicinal plants? It is also the first place monitored by World Wildlife Fund wherein Bengal tigers reside along with snow leopards. Taking a tour of this park is one of the best things to do in Bhutan. You surely can’t afford to miss this one.
Recommended: Top 10 National Parks in India
Attractions in Jigme Dorji National Park:
- Mt Jomolhari
- Mt Jitchu Drake
- Tserim Kang
- Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong
- Gasa Dzong
Note: Jigme Dorji National Park Entry fee: 150 INR
Timings: 9 AM – 5 PM (Monday through Friday)
8. Rafting in Paro Chhu
By the name, you would have known that it’s one of the best things to do in Bhutan. The Bhutanese word for river is actually ‘Chhu’ and hence the name Paro Chhu. Starting from the southern side of the 24,035 ft Jomolhari, the river meanders through meadows and deep gorges. This is before entering the Paro Valley and the town of Paro. There is a road from Paro to Thimpu, which strategically follows the river. River rafting there is one of the most thrilling sports you would get to do in Bhutan.
Apart from racing against the rapids, you would also be offered with views from the sides are quite mesmerizing in itself. Exquisite lush green valley surrounds both the riversides and is a treat to look at as you glide down the gurgling water of the Chhu.
9. Kayaking in Paro Chhu
This is yet another adventure sport and one of the best things to do in Bhutan. If you are wondering about what to do in Bhutan, the place offers quite a few numbers of adventure sports like this. Also discussed above is River rafting which is carried on in Paro Chhu. There are a number of courses for both veterans and amateurs that you can choose from. And the Paro Chhu offers a heady blend of rapids that gives you an adrenaline rush for sure. Just like with rafting even Kayaking in Paro Chhu offers a glide down the river while enjoying the mesmerizing views at the sides.
You would also get to enjoy the famous Paro Dzong and the and the beautiful forests while enjoying the activity. All in all, it makes a picturesque sight, for sure.
Even though Bhutan offers a lot of adventurous activities, people from all parts of the world with varied tastes loved to come there. It’s a land which welcomes all and has everything for everyone. Even if you are not an adventure lover, you will get to enjoy the rich tradition and cultural history of the place. The choice is yours.