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Plan your trip to Bhutan - The Bhutan Odyssey

Often regarded as the Last Shangri La, Bhutan or Druk Gyul is blessed with abundant forests, pristine valleys and spectacular mountains, Bhutan is a magical land that will amaze you in a number of unimaginable ways. While you may have heard about the breathtaking landscapes, Bhutan is much more than that. To us, Bhutan is probably mankind's most successful attempt to bring harmony between tradition and development. It draws a unique balance between major forces of human nature - our nature that makes us cling to our history, culture and tradition; and our nature that pushes us to evolve embracing change, modernization and development. You have to see it, to believe it.


In our previous blog ‘Introduction to Bhutan’ of the series ‘The Bhutan Odyssey’, we introduced you to the people, politics, religion and interesting facts of Bhutan. We also wrote about the location, geography and climate of Bhutan. In this second blog of the series, we will help you to plan your trip to Bhutan with recommendations on places to visit and the ideal itinerary to follow. We have also highlighted procedure to obtain permits and restricted area permits.

Suspension bridge ladden with colorful Buddhist flags, Bhutan
Suspension bridge ladden with colorful Buddhist flags, Bhutan
 
 

Best time to visit Bhutan

The best seasons to visit Bhutan are spring and autumn i.e. March to May (Spring) and late-September to November (Autumn). The weather during these times is warm, dry and sunny. Many flowering plants bloom during the spring season adding a variety of colours to the beautiful landscapes making spring one of the most popular season to visit Bhutan.

Blooming jacaranda flowers at Punakha dzong, Punakha - Bhutan
Blooming jacaranda flowers at Punakha dzong, Punakha - Bhutan

Autumn is the another best time to visit Bhutan mainly due to various festivals that happen during this time.‘Tshechus’ (district festivals) happen separately for each district. Thimphu tsechu and Paro tsechu are the biggest tsechu celebration in Bhutan in terms of audience and participation. While Paro tsechu takes place in the month of March/ April, Thimphu tsechu is celebrated in September according to lunar Tibetan calendar.

Colorful face masks used in the district festivals 'tsechu' in Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey
Colorful face masks used in the district festivals 'tsechu' in Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey

Places to visit in Bhutan

Best places to visit in Bhutan are:

1. Paro

The city of Paro lies in the district also named as Paro. Paro hosts Bhutan's only international airport and is the second largest city in Bhutan. Paro is located at an altitude of 2200 meters from the sea level. The most popular place to visit in Paro is Taktsang monastery also famous as Tiger's Nest monastery and Rinpung Dzong or Paro Dzong, which is a monastic fortress that overlooks the Paro valley. Paro also has a few lovely historic temples and museums worth visiting. You can read more about Places to visit in Paro in our dedicated article on Paro.

The Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery in Paro, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey
The Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) monastery in Paro, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey

2. Thimphu

The city of Thimphu lies in the district also named as Thimphu. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan and is located in the central western part of the country on the banks of Wang Chhu River. It is the political and economic centre of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Thimphu is located at an altitude of 2334 meters from the sea level and is 50 kilometres away from Paro. The statue of Buddha Dordenma, Thimphu Dzong, Memorial Chorten and the Takin Nature Preserve are the most visited places in Thimphu beside museums, temples and the market. If you are a trek lover, then Tango and Cheri monastery in north Thimphu are worth visiting. You can read more about Thimpu in our detailed article.

Statue of Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey
Statue of Buddha Dordenma in Thimphu, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey

3. Punakha

The city of Punakha lies in the district also named as Punakha. Punakha was the capital city of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu. Today, Punakha remains the administrative centre of the Kingdom of Bhutan. It is located at an altitude of 1242 meter from the sea level. Two major rivers named Mo Chhu and Po Chhu flow through the district of Punakha. Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lhakhang and the Punakha Suspension bridge are the most visited places in Punakha. You can read more about Punakha in our separate detailed article.

Punakha Dzong in Punakha, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey


4. Phobjikha

The town of Phobjikha lies in the district named as Wangdue Phodrang. Phobjikha lies at an altitude of 3000 meters from the sea level. It is located in central Bhutan. The main attractions in Phobjikha are the Phobjikha valley popular for the black-necked crane festival and Gangtey monastery. Phobjikha valley is also worth a visit as it provides a unique experience staying in smaller villages compared to other tourist spots which are mainly cities. You can read more about Phobjikha in our separate dedicated article.

The Phobjikha valley in Phobjikha, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey
The Phobjikha valley in Phobjikha, Bhutan_Plan your trip to Bhutan_The Bhutan Odyssey

5. Bumthang

The town of Bumthang lies in the district also named as Bumthang. Bumthang is located in central Bhutan and is considered to be the religious heartland of Bhutan. It is located at an altitude of 2800 meters from the sea level. Bumthang has the most number of temples and historic site than any other city/ town in Bhutan. Bumthang valley and several temples and monasteries form the places to visit in Bumthang. Bumthang also has a domestic airport connecting it to Paro.

Jakar Tshechu near Bumthang - Photograph & copyright by Arian Zwegers used as is from Flickr under creative commons license
Jakar Tshechu near Bumthang - Photograph & copyright by Arian Zwegers used as is from Flickr under creative commons license

6. Phuentsholing

The city of Phuentsholing lies in the district named as Chukha. Phuentsholing is regarded as the trading, financial and industrial capital of Bhutan. It lies on the border of Indian town named Jaigaon and is the main entry point from the Indian side. It is located in the south western part of Bhutan. Phuentsholing is a low-lying town and lies at an altitude of 293 meters from the sea level. Bhutan Gate, Karbandi monastery and a couple of temples are the famous places to visit in Phuentsholing.