6-Day Off the Beaten Path Bhutan Adventure: Shopping & Sightseeing

Bhutan

6 days

Yak in the Himalayas
View of a river and surrounding fields
Buddhist monk dancing wearing a colorful mask at the Paro Tsechu festival
An old woman spinning prayer wheels in Thimphu
View of the Dochula pass and some of its 108 stupa structures

About Bhutan

Bhutan, the "Land of the Thunder Dragon," is a mesmerizing Himalayan kingdom known for its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and spiritual serenity. This untouched paradise offers a unique blend of ancient and modern, where centuries-old fortresses and monasteries coexist with vibrant festivals and a sustainable approach to tourism. Experience the awe-inspiring Tiger's Nest Monastery, perched on a cliff, or the bustling markets of Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. Explore the verdant valleys of Punakha, hike through the pristine forests of Phobjikha, or immerse yourself in the spiritual tranquility of Bumthang. Bhutan's commitment to preserving its traditions and environment makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique, off-the-beaten-path experience.

6-Day Itinerary

Day 1

Exploring Thimphu's Cultural and Historical Highlights

Morning

Start your day with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, a prominent religious site in Thimphu. This stupa is rich in Buddhist symbolism and offers a serene atmosphere for contemplation.

Lunch

Enjoy a traditional Bhutanese lunch featuring local delicacies such as Ema Datshi (chili cheese) and Red Rice.

Afternoon

Spend the afternoon exploring the Folk Heritage Museum to understand Bhutan's rural past through exhibits of rural households and demonstrations of rural traditions, skills, and crafts.

Dinner

Have a hearty dinner featuring Bhutanese cuisine.

Evening

Take a leisurely stroll around Thimphu's main street for some light shopping and sightseeing.

Morning

Visit the stunning Punakha Dzong, a beautiful fortress located at the confluence of two rivers. It's one of the most picturesque spots in the country.

Lunch

Relish a picnic lunch by the riverside, enjoying the beautiful views of the fortress and the surrounding landscape.

Afternoon

Take a scenic hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the Divine Madman. This temple is a popular pilgrimage site for couples wishing to start a family.

Dinner

Enjoy a local dinner featuring Bhutanese specialties.

Evening

Relax and unwind at your hotel, reflecting on the day's experiences.

Morning

Start your day with a visit to the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery. The hike up to the monastery offers breathtaking views of the Paro valley.

Lunch

Have a packed lunch while enjoying the stunning views from the Tiger's Nest Monastery.

Afternoon

Explore the Paro Rinpung Dzong, a fortress-monastery that serves both as a civil administrative center and as a monastic home for a community of monks.

Dinner

Savor a traditional Bhutanese dinner.

Evening

Take a leisurely stroll around Paro's main street, exploring local shops and markets.

Morning

Visit the National Museum housed in an ancient watchtower. The museum has a fascinating collection of art, artifacts, and traditional Bhutanese crafts.

Lunch

Enjoy a local lunch featuring Bhutanese delicacies.

Afternoon

Spend the afternoon exploring the Drukgyel Dzong, a fortress that was once a significant defense line against Tibetan invasions.

Dinner

Have a hearty dinner featuring Bhutanese cuisine.

Evening

Relax and unwind at your hotel, reflecting on the day's experiences.

Morning

Start your day with a visit to the Jigme Dorji National Park, home to diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Lunch

Enjoy a picnic lunch amidst the natural beauty of the national park.

Afternoon

Take a scenic drive to Dochula Pass, offering panoramic views of the Himalayas. Visit the 108 memorial chortens that adorn the mountain pass.

Dinner

Savor a traditional Bhutanese dinner.

Evening

Take a leisurely stroll around Thimphu's main street for some light shopping and sightseeing.

Morning

Visit the Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic Buddha statue overlooking Thimphu. The site also offers panoramic views of the city.

Lunch

Enjoy a local lunch featuring Bhutanese delicacies.

Afternoon

Spend the afternoon exploring the Centenary Farmers' Market, the largest domestic market for the farmers of Bhutan.

Dinner

Have a hearty farewell dinner featuring Bhutanese cuisine.

Evening

Relax and unwind at your hotel, reflecting on your Bhutan journey.

Attractions in Itinerary (12)

National Memorial Chorten

1
National Memorial Chorten

A prominent landmark in Thimphu, this stupa was built in 1974 to honor the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

Attractions
Religious Sites
Architecture
Folk Heritage Museum

2
Folk Heritage Museum

Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programmes and documentation of rural life.

Museums
Cultural Experiences
Punakha Dzong

3
Punakha Dzong

Built in 1637, it's one of the most picturesque and oldest dzongs in Bhutan, located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers.

Attractions
Religious Sites
Architecture
Chimi Lhakhang

4
Chimi Lhakhang

A Buddhist monastery in Punakha, known as the 'Temple of Fertility', visited by childless couples seeking a special blessing to beget children.

Religious Sites
Cultural Experiences
Architecture
Tiger's Nest Monastery

5
Tiger's Nest Monastery

Also known as Paro Taktsang, it's a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan.

Attractions
Religious Sites
Architecture
Paro Rinpung Dzong

6
Paro Rinpung Dzong

A fortress-monastery that holds great historical significance and is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag.

Attractions
Monuments
Religious Sites
Cultural Experiences
Architecture
National Museum

7
National Museum

Located in Paro, it houses a rich variety of artifacts representing the history and culture of Bhutan.

Museums
Cultural Experiences
Drukgyel Dzong

8
Drukgyel Dzong

A fortress in the Paro District of Bhutan. The dzong was probably built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649 at the behest of Ngawang Namgyal, Zhabdrung Rinpoche, to commemorate victory over an invasion from Tibet.

Monuments
Cultural Experiences
Architecture
Jigme Dorji National Park

9
Jigme Dorji National Park

The second-largest national park in Bhutan, home to several endangered species and the picturesque glacial lake, Tshophu.

Parks
Cultural Experiences
Dochula Pass

10
Dochula Pass

A mountain pass in the snow covered Himalayas within Bhutan on the road from Thimphu to Punakha offering panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges.

Landmarks
Cultural Experiences
Buddha Dordenma

11
Buddha Dordenma

A massive statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, overlooking the Southern entrance to Thimphu.

Attractions
Monuments
Religious Sites
Centenary Farmers' Market

12
Centenary Farmers' Market

The largest domestic market for farmers in Bhutan. It's a platform for selling and buying fresh, organic local produce.

Food and Drink
Shopping

Local Food and Drinks (12)

Ema Datshi

Ema Datshi

Ema Datshi is Bhutan's national dish. It's a spicy mix of chillies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. The dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country.

Jasha Maru

Jasha Maru

Jasha Maru is a spicy chicken dish, usually served with rice. It is made with diced chicken, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and chillies. This dish is a common part of Bhutanese cuisine.

Phaksha Paa

Phaksha Paa is a pork dish made with spicy red chillies. This dish also includes Radishes or Spinach, and sometimes dried pork is used instead of fresh pork.

Red Rice

Red Rice

Red Rice is a staple of Bhutanese cuisine, grown in the Eastern part of the country. It's a medium-grain rice, similar to brown rice in texture, with a slightly nutty taste.

Momos

Momos

Momos are South Asian dumplings native to Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indian region of Sikkim. They are usually filled with meat or cheese and served with a spicy sauce.

Shakam Paa

Shakam Paa

Shakam Paa is a dried beef dish cooked with chillies and radishes. It's a popular dish in Bhutan and is often served with red rice.

Suja

Suja

Suja is a Bhutanese butter tea. It's made from tea leaves, water, salt, and yak butter. It's a common drink in Bhutan, especially during the cold winter months.

Ara

Ara is a traditional alcoholic beverage in Bhutan. It's made from fermented rice, maize, millet, or wheat, and is often served warm.

Jaju Soup

Jaju soup is a traditional Bhutanese soup made with vegetables and cheese. It's a common part of meals in Bhutan.

Kewa Datshi

Kewa Datshi is a popular Bhutanese dish made from potatoes, cheese, and chillies. It's similar to Ema Datshi, but with potatoes instead of chillies.

Zow Shungo

Zow Shungo is a Bhutanese dish made from leftover vegetables and red rice. It's a common dish in Bhutan, especially among the rural population.

Khur-le

Khur-le

Khur-le is a traditional Bhutanese breakfast food. It's a type of pancake made from buckwheat, and is often served with Ema Datshi.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Bhutan as a tourist is during the spring months of March to May when the valleys come alive with flowers in bloom. The autumn months from September to November are also ideal as the weather is clear and sunny with some of the most popular festivals taking place during this time. These seasons offer the most vibrant experiences and the most comfortable weather for exploring Bhutan's stunning landscapes and rich culture.

National holidays

Here you can find the national calendar of all public holidays for the year. These dates are subject to change as official changes are announced, so check back regularly for updates.

DateDayHoliday Name

January 3

Wed

Winter Solstice (Nyilo)

January 12

Fri

Traditional Day of Offerings

February 10

Sat

Losar (New Year)

February 11

Sun

Losar Holiday

February 21

Wed

King's Birthday

February 22

Thu

King's Birthday Holiday

February 23

Fri

King's Birthday Holiday

April 18

Thu

Death Anniversary of Zhabdrung (Zhabdrung Kuchoe)

May 2

Thu

Birth Anniversary of Third Druk Gyalpo

May 23

Thu

Buddha's Parinirvana

June 16

Sun

Birth Anniversary of Guru Rinpoche

July 10

Wed

Buddha's First Sermon

September 22

Sun

Blessed Rainy Day

October 12

Sat

Dashain

November 1

Fri

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel's Coronation

November 11

Mon

Birth Anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo

November 22

Fri

Descending Day of Lord Buddha

December 17

Tue

National Day

Please note that during national and public holidays, opening hours for establishments, museums, etc. may vary. Don't forget to check in advance!

How to get around

Bhutan's only international airport is in Paro. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines that operate flights in and out of Bhutan. Flights are available from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand.

Private cars are the most common way for tourists to get around Bhutan. You can hire a car with a driver who also often acts as a guide. This is usually arranged by your tour operator.

Taxis are available in major towns like Thimphu and Paro. They do not have meters, so you will need to negotiate the fare before your journey.

Bhutan has a network of public buses that connect major towns. However, these buses can be crowded and are not always reliable.

Ridesharing services are not common in Bhutan. Most people prefer to use taxis or hire private cars.

Bhutan is a great place for cycling with its beautiful landscapes. You can rent a bicycle in towns like Thimphu and Paro.

Trekking is a popular activity in Bhutan. There are numerous trekking routes that allow you to explore the country's stunning natural beauty.

In some remote areas of Bhutan, you can travel by horseback. This is a unique way to see the country's rural landscapes and is often included in trekking tours.

While we strive for accuracy in our "How to get around" section, the information may not always be up-to-date or 100% accurate; we highly recommend cross-checking with local resources before your travel.

Important information

Currency BTN

Time zoneUTC+6

Driving sideLeft

Emergency phoneAmbulance: 110; Fire: 112; Police: 113

Drinking waterOpt for bottled water

Power sockets

Power socket type CPower socket type DPower socket type G

Voltage230 V

Things to know about Bhutan as a first time visitor

1

Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon negative, which means it absorbs more CO2 than it produces.

2

Bhutan's currency is the Ngultrum (BTN). The Indian Rupee is also accepted in most places.

3

Bhutan is a Buddhist country and the locals are very respectful of their traditions. As a visitor, you should also respect their customs.

4

Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Shoulders and knees should be covered.

5

Bhutanese people speak Dzongkha, but English is widely spoken and understood.

6

Bhutan has a strict 'High Value, Low Impact' tourism policy. This means you must book your trip through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners.

7

The Bhutanese government has implemented a mandatory daily tariff for tourists. This covers accommodation, food, transport and an official guide.

8

Bhutan is not a budget destination. The minimum daily package for tourists is $200 during low season and $250 during high season.

9

Tipping is not a common practice in Bhutan, but it is appreciated.

10

The food in Bhutan is spicy. The national dish, Ema Datshi, is a spicy mix of chilies and local cheese.

11

Bhutan is a safe country to visit with a low crime rate. However, it's always important to take standard travel precautions.

12

The country has a strict no smoking policy. Selling and buying of tobacco is banned.

13

Bhutan uses the type D, F, and G plug. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

14

The weather in Bhutan varies greatly depending on the season. The summer months (June - August) can be quite hot with temperatures reaching up to 86°F (30°C), while winter months (December - February) can be very cold with temperatures dropping to 23°F (-5°C).

15

Bhutan is in the Bhutan Time zone, which is 6 hours ahead of GMT.

16

Internet access is available in most parts of Bhutan, but the speed may not be as fast as you're used to.

17

Bhutan has a rich culture and you'll often see festivals (Tshechus) taking place. However, it's important to behave respectfully during these events.

18

Bhutan has a lot of stray dogs. They are generally harmless, but it's best to avoid them.

19

Bhutan is a mountainous country, so be prepared for lots of hiking and climbing. Make sure to bring appropriate footwear.

20

Altitude sickness can be a problem for some visitors. It's recommended to acclimatize yourself to the high altitude before undertaking any strenuous activities.

Basic Dzongkha to know as a first time visitor

English phrase

Native phrase

Pronunciation

When to use it

Hello

Kuzuzangpo

Koo-zoo-zang-po

Greeting

Goodbye

Legshembe

Leg-shem-be

Leaving

Thank you

Kadrin chhe

Ka-drin chhe

Expressing gratitude

Yes

Inga

In-ga

Affirmative response

No

Men

Men

Negative response

Please

Gachui

Ga-chui

Making a request

Sorry

Thuji che

Thu-ji che

Apologizing

I don't understand

Nga mi sonam

Nga mi so-nam

When you don't understand something

Where is the toilet?

Chhabsang ga chi mo?

Chhab-sang ga chi mo

Asking for directions

Help

Thu encho gi

Thu en-cho gi

In emergencies

Food

Zow

Zow

When you're hungry

Water

Chhu

Chhu

When you're thirsty

Good

Legshom

Leg-shom

Complimenting

Beautiful

Zangpo

Zang-po

Complimenting

How much?

Ga dem chi mo?

Ga dem chi mo

Asking for price

I am lost

Nga thar song

Nga thar song

When you're lost

Where is...?

...ga chi mo?

...ga chi mo

Asking for directions

What is your name?

Chhoe gi ming ga chi mo?

Chhoe gi ming ga chi mo

Starting a conversation

My name is...

Nga gi ming ... in

Nga gi ming ... in

Introducing yourself

I need a doctor

Nga la menpa ngado

Nga la men-pa nga-do

In case of health issues

Packing List

  • Clothing

  • Thermal underwear

  • Warm socks

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Waterproof hiking boots

  • Lightweight shirts

  • Warm sweaters

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Warm hat and gloves

  • Sunglasses

  • Swimsuit

  • Sleepwear

  • Underwear and bras

  • Toiletries

  • Travel-sized shampoo and conditioner

  • Travel-sized body wash

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Deodorant

  • Razor and shaving cream

  • Sunscreen

  • Lip balm

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Prescription medications

  • First aid kit

  • Insect repellent

  • Travel-sized laundry detergent

  • Travel documents and essentials

  • Passport

  • Visa

  • Driver's license

  • Travel insurance documents

  • Hotel and tour confirmations

  • Emergency contacts and addresses

  • Local currency

  • Credit and debit cards

  • Guidebook

  • Electronics and gadgets

  • Smartphone

  • Charger and adapter

  • Camera and memory card

  • Headphones

  • Portable power bank

  • Laptop or tablet

  • Flashlight

  • Miscellaneous items

  • Travel pillow and blanket

  • Earplugs and eye mask

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Snacks

  • Books or e-books

  • Travel-sized umbrella

  • Ziplock bags

  • Tissues

  • Notepad and pen

Weather Conditions

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, experiences a wide range of weather conditions due to its diverse topography. The country is known for its dramatic landscapes, from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. The best time to visit Bhutan is during the spring months of March to May when the weather is generally clear and dry, and the highlands are awash with blooming wildflowers. The average temperature during this time ranges from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). This is also the time when the famous Paro Tshechu festival takes place, offering a great cultural experience. The monsoon season, from June to September, brings heavy rainfall, especially in the southern region. While the landscapes are lush and green, the downpours can make trekking and sightseeing difficult. The temperatures during this season range from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). Autumn, from October to November, is another ideal time to visit Bhutan. The weather is mild and the skies are clear, providing excellent conditions for trekking and for viewing the Himalayan peaks. The temperatures during this season range from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). Winter, from December to February, can be quite cold, especially in the mountains where temperatures can drop below freezing. However, the lower areas remain pleasant with temperatures ranging from 45°F to 60°F (7°C to 15°C). This is a great time to visit for bird watching as many migratory birds visit Bhutan during this period. Regardless of when you visit, it's advisable to pack layers as temperatures can vary greatly between day and night. Also, carry rain gear if you're visiting during the monsoon season. Always check the local weather forecast before planning your day's activities, especially if they involve trekking or other outdoor adventures.

MonthHi / Lo (°C)Weather Overview

January

10° / -5°

January is the coldest month in Bhutan, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. It's a great time for tourists who enjoy winter sports and serene, snowy landscapes.

February

12° / -2°

In February, the weather begins to warm up slightly, but it's still quite chilly. This month is perfect for those who want to avoid crowds and enjoy peaceful sightseeing.

March

15° / 2°

March sees the start of spring in Bhutan, with temperatures rising and flowers beginning to bloom. It's an ideal time for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of the country.

April

20° / 7°

April is a pleasant month with moderate temperatures, making it perfect for outdoor activities. The valleys are lush and the mountains are covered in rhododendrons.

May

22° / 10°

May is warm and the countryside is vibrant with greenery. It's a great time for bird watching and trekking, but be prepared for occasional showers.

June

25° / 15°

June marks the beginning of the monsoon season in Bhutan. While there might be some rain, the landscapes are incredibly lush and vibrant.

July

25° / 15°

July is in the middle of the monsoon season, so expect heavy rains. However, the rain brings out the beauty of the flora and fauna, making it a unique time to visit.

August

25° / 15°

August continues to be rainy, but the temperatures are warm. It's a good time to visit if you don't mind the rain and enjoy lush, green landscapes.

September

22° / 10°

September sees the end of the monsoon season. The weather is pleasant and the landscapes are still lush, making it a great time for trekking and sightseeing.

October

20° / 7°

October is one of the best months to visit Bhutan. The weather is cool and dry, and it's a great time to witness the vibrant festivals of the country.

November

15° / 2°

November is cool and dry, with clear skies offering great views of the mountains. It's a good time for trekking and exploring the cultural sites of Bhutan.

December

12° / -2°

December is a chilly month, but it's also a festive time in Bhutan. It's a great time to experience the local culture and traditions, but pack warm clothes.

Did you know?

Did you know that Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure its success in Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product?

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