Bhutan Travel Guide
We have compiled a comprehensive travel guide containing essential tips and information to help you plan your trip to Bhutan and ensure you have a safe, enjoyable and memorable trip.
We have compiled a comprehensive travel guide containing essential tips and information to help you plan your trip to Bhutan and ensure you have a safe, enjoyable and memorable trip.
The following dates are tentative and subject to change
Sl.no Festival Place Dates
1 Punakha Drubchen Punakha Dzong, Punakha 19th -24th February
2 Punakha Tshechu Punakha Dzong, Punakha 25th -27thFebruary
3 Bhutan International Marathon (Annual event organized by Bhutan Olympic Committee) 5th March
4 Gasa Tsechu Gasa Dzong, Gasa 24th -26th March
5 Paro Tshechu Rinpung Dzong, Paro 27th-31st March
6 Rhododendron Festival Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula, Thimphu 20th – 22nd April
7 Ura Yakchoed Ura Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang 26th -29th April
8 Coronation Marathon Paro 2nd June
9 Nimalung Tshechu Nimalung Dratshang, Bumthang 21st-23rd June
10 Haa Summer Festival Town festival Ground, Haa 8th-9th July
62 Annual Mushroom Festival Genekha, Thimphu 12th-13th August
11 Masutaki Mushroom Festival Ura, Bumthang 23rd- 24th August
12 Tour of the Dragon (Bicycle Race) Bumthang to Thimphu 2nd September
13 Thimphu Dromche Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu 15th September
14 Thimphu Tshechu Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu 19th-21st September
15 Tamshing Phala Choedpa Tamshing Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 18th-20th September
16 Bhutan Birds Festival Tingtibi, Zhemgang 8th-10th October
17 Jhomolhari Mountain Festival Dangojang, Thimphu 4th-5th October
18 Royal Highland Festival Laya, Gasa 23rd-24th October
19 Jambay Lhakang Drup Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 24th -27th October
20 Black necked Crane Festival Gangtey Goenpa, Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang 11th November
21 Jambay Lhakang Singye Cham Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor,Bumthang 23rd November
22 Drukwangyel Tshechu Dochula,Thimphu 13th December
23 Lhuentse Tshechu Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuentse 15th -19th December
24 Trongsa Tshechu Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa 15th-18th December
25 Bhutan Birds Festival Tingtibi, Zhemgang 15th-16th December
To commemorate the 15 years of diplomatic ties between Bhutan and Australia, the Royal Government of Bhutan is pleased to present the “Bhutan-Australia Friendship Offer”. The offer extends discounts and exemption of the minimum daily tariff policy for Australians visiting Bhutan in 2018
The Bhutan-Australian Friendship offer will be valid from June till August 2018. All Australian nationals visiting Bhutan during the promotional period will not be subject to the mandatory all inclusive minimum daily tariff. Australians will only have to pay the sustainable development fee of USD 65 per person per night. All other travel arrangements such as hotel reservation, ground transportation and local guide services, travelers may select the best deal offered by local tour operators.
The special offer includes the following:
Visitors can choose not to pay the all inclusive minimum daily tariff of USD 200 per person per night. Instead they will only pay the mandatory sustainable development fee of USD 65 per person per day.
Visitors do not have to pay the surcharge of USD 40 per person per night for solo traveler and USD 30 per person per night for 2 persons.
Up to 30% discount on Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
Up to 50% discount on all hotel reservations with partner hotels.
Terms and Conditions Apply:
Offer is valid from June till August 2018.
Offer is valid for Australian nationals only.
Travelers must book their tour through a local tour operator.
A one-time visa fee of USD 40 is applicable.
The festival is celebrated annually in the idyllic Phobjikha valley on 11th November. Every winter the cranes migrate south to the valley from Tibet and fly back early spring. In pursuit of Bhutan’s commitment to conserve and strengthen the ecological system, the winter habitat for these endangered birds has been identified and protected.
The festival is an occasion for the locals to celebrate the arrival of the majestic birds to their valley. The committee organizing the festival constitutes many locals who are committed to growing and preserving this tradition. The festival aims to raise awareness and encourage locals to conserve the environment for these endangered species and also offer economic incentives for the locals. The festival generally includes cultural program such as folk songs, masked dance performed by locals, students and monks in the community.
BHUTAN CULTURAL TOURS
Discover the Land of the Thunder Dragon
Bhutan Bhadra Tours & Treks range of Bhutan cultural tours are designed to bring clients into close contact with an unspoiled land that is home to a vibrant Buddhist way of life, and as close in spirit to Shambala – or paradise – as an earth bound kingdom can be.
Our popular Bhutan tours cover the valleys of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Gangtey Phobjikha, Trongsa, Bumthang and Trashigang. In these townships you can really discover the spirit of the Bhutanese, as well as visit numerous sacred sites, Dzongs, temples, landmarks, monasteries, markets, farmhouses, schools & museums. All our tour programs are flexible and can be easily tailored to suit.
Guests have the option of staying in either our range of carefully selected, government approved tourist class hotels and lodges, or upgrade (additional costs) to superior, luxury hotels and resorts. Further upgrade options including specialised transport can be utilised as part of our range of luxury tours. Visit Ultimate Bhutan, The Cloud Kingdom and The Last Shangri-La to view sample itineraries of luxury tours that we can customise.
To enhance your Bhutan cultural tour why not consider a specialised activity including cycling, photography, camping and walking as featured on our Specialised Tours page, or a unique Bhutan festival tour or one of our many Value-Added Options to provide an more in-depth experience of Bhutanese culture.
Haa summer festival is a celebration of nomadic tradition and unique culture of the Haa valley.The festival celebrates the traditional living–culture and it is to present an insight into the lifestyle of nomadic herders.
Summer is the season of festivities for the mythical valley of Haa. Set among pristine lakes and an elevated alpine valley, Haa is located at 2 hours drive from Paro international airport via the Chelela mountain pass. Haa summer festival is a celebration of nomadic tradition and unique culture of the Haa valley. The festival has become remarkably popular among both locals and international tourists. Haa valley is home to a rare flower called White Poppy (Meconopsis Superba) which is only native to this valley in the whole world.The summer Haa festival celebrates the traditional living–culture and it is to present an insight into the lifestyle of nomadic herders.
Things to Experience at Haa Summer Festival: (Festivals within a Festival)
The Annual Alpine Festival:
The Haa Summer Festival includes a festival called the Annual Alpine Festival which is remarked as the celebration of the Yak herders and their nomadic lifestyles. The visitors can learn and witness the art of Yak Shearing and wool making. The visitors can also watch the art of weaving a Yak hair into a traditional tent demonstrated by the local craftsmen.
Celebrating the food of tradition:
Haa valley is known for its buckwheat dumplings locally known as “hoentoe”. Hoentoe is only made by the people of Haa Valley and is made only on special occasions like festivals and on New Years. Visitors can enjoy these hearty dumplings along with other delicious Bhutanese cuisines.
Songs of tradition:
The visitors can also enjoy songs and dances performed at the Festival. Mask Dances and traditional folk songs are also performed along with the famous Haa-pi Ausa, a song only sung by the people of Haa valley. The Haa-pi Ausa is sung as praise to their Yaks.
Tourists can enjoy watching or even try playing the local sports like archery and khuru(dart).
To truly experience Haa, tourists can spend a night at one of the farm-house home-stays. The home-stay experience provides the tourists with an insight into the lives of the villagers and their living-culture. Spend a night with the locals to take in all the festive energies.
This mountain festival combines one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan with a cultural festival celebrated at the base of the Mount Jomolhari.
The festival is a community based initiative aimed at promoting and raising awareness of the conservation of the snow leopard and also celebrates the highlander’s life and unique culture. The event also aims at improving economic opportunities for the highlanders; The festival includes cultural performances, traditional sporting activities such as dart, horse riding and also sampling of the local delicacies of the highland. During the trek, tourists will come across picturesque landscape and diverse flora and fauna however the highlight of the trek remains the spectacular view of the Mount Jomolhari from
Rhododendron festival is an exhilarating event that marks the spring season with full bloom flowers and lush green forest in Bhutan. Much alike to the Cherry blossom festival in Japan, where Japanese celebrate the spring season with the blooming of cherry blossoms, here in Bhutan we celebrate the spring season with the Rhododendron festival.
The festival is a three-day event held at Lamperi Botanical Garden. Some 35 km drive from Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Lamperi Botanical Garden is a must visit eco-tourism attraction in Bhutan.Bhutan has currently recognized and recorded some 46 species of Rhododendron and Lamperi houses about 29 Species of it.
Showcasing different Rhododendron species that are in full bloom, the three-day Rhododendron festival was first initiated in 2013 as an event to celebrate the rare blooms and to encourage eco-tourism. The main purpose of the festival is to focus on ecology, culture, food, and entertainment of the local communities which live in harmony with these eco-parks. It also serves as an opportunity to incorporate the ecological and cultural themes through this activity. The Rhododendron festival is an annual event.
How to get the best out of the festival?
The tourists and the local visitors can enjoy the traditional dances and the songs performed by the local communities which are mostly praises to the rare flower. They also entertain the visitors with bear and tiger mask dances.
Food stalls are set up by the local communities. Simple delicious traditional dishes, snacks, tea and other beverages made by members of the local community at very reasonable rates can be available. For tourists who are looking for a variety of non-Bhutanese food, it is available at the Park cafeteria.
For tourists who are looking to take souvenirs to remind them of this extraordinary experience or just simply looking for gifts for loved ones back at home, they can avail it from the souvenir stall that are put up at the festival.
The visitors can also choose to explore on their own and take short or long hikes along the trails in the park to engage and immerse in the ecological richness.
The visitors can take the opportunity to boat on the Lamperi pond and spend some time to immerse in nature.
The visitors can choose to stay back and camp on the Park camping ground and spend a night amidst the vibrant blooms and star gaze at night.
The festival will be incomplete without a little fun activity such as horse-back riding, yak-riding, and other traditional games, Rhodo-wish-game, and instant photo program are also available.
Probably the only capital city in the world without streetlights and an airport of its own, this small city is home to some 100,000 local residents including the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Like any other capital city, it is the political and economic center for the country. The city has a 17th century fortress which houses the Office of His Majesty the King and The House of Parliament stands on the eastern bank of the Thimphu River opposite to the fortress. Thimphu has successfully preserved its culture and tradition despite growing exponentially and rapidly. Any traveler exploring this unique city will have the luxury of modern convenience and witness ancient monument and traditional way of life simultaneously.
Getting to Thimphu
Thimphu is 56 kilometers away from Paro International Airport. It is an hour drive from Paro. For travelers entering the country from southern border town of Phuntsholing, Thimphu is 176 kilometers away. It takes 5 hour drive to reach Thimphu from Phuntsholing.
The temperature in Thimphu ranges from -2.5 degree Celsius in winter to 25 degree Celsius in summer.
Thimphu Elevation: 2334 meters
Attractions in Thimphu
Thimphu Tshechu starts on the 10th day of the 8th lunar month. Staying true to the age old tradition, locals dressed in their finest outfit gather at the Thimphu Tashichoedzong. This spiritual social event brings people together unified by the common culture, tradition and beliefs. The sacred mask dance (Chaam) is believed to invoke deities blessing all who witness the Chaam.
The monks perform a series of meticulously choreographed religion inspired dances wearing grand silk robes and exquisitely crafted mask. It take years learning and mastering the art of mask dance and months of meticulous practicing and rehearsing for the grand event. The three day event presents selection of age old Chaam which includes Dance of the Lords of the cremation ground and the theatrical presentation of the judgment day after a person dies which is quintessential to Buddhist beliefs.
Aside from the main event, the main street in the capital city gets flooded with local residents drawn to the makeshift market. Vendors sell clothes, food and some organize games to celebrate the festival.
Tour of the Dragon is an annual international mountain bike race organized in Bhutan. Regarded as one of the toughest one day mountain bike race in the world, the event has attracted daring cyclists from across the globe to participate in this competition of which many have failed to complete the race. Determined to either complete or win the race, the competition gets many repeat participants every year.
The race starts from Bumthang district in central Bhutan and finishes in the capital Thimphu covering a total distance of 268 kilometers. Racers will have to cross four major mountain passes ranging from 2800 meters to 3500 meters in elevation. In the ten to fifteen hour journey, racers will experience drastic change in elevation, fight tough Himalayan terrains all the while dealing with the thin
mountain air. It will truly test the endurance of any respected cyclist.
Other Upcoming Events
Apr 21 – Apr 23
Bhutan Australia Friendship Offer 2018
Jun 1 – Aug 31
Haa Summer Festival
Jul 14 – Jul 15
Take note of peak & non-peak periods
The peak tourist seasons are Spring: March – May and Fall: September – November. In particular, March, April, October and November are especially busy. If you’re considering visiting during these months, it’s best to book your tour package and flight tickets at least 3 months ahead to ensure your reservation.
Back in 2010, Drukair tickets were sold out for 3 consecutive weeks, so to avoid disappointment, we’d advise you to plan ahead. More tourists tend to travel during this period as they are the ideal months for festivals and trekking, which are naturally big draws.
If you want to avoid the crowd of the peak tourist period, consider travelling during the non-peak period.
Cost difference between peak & non-peak periods
During the peak tourist seasons of March – May and September – November, the daily tariff costs US$250 per day. For the non-peak season of December – February and June – August, the daily tariff is US$200 per day. If you want to travel to Bhutan but have a tight(er) budget, plan your trip during the off-peak months.
Surcharge for groups of 2 travellers or less
Travellers intending to go alone or as a pair should take note of the daily surcharge as follows:
Single traveller – US$40 per night
Group of 2 travellers – US$30 per person/per night
Group of 3 travellers or more – No surcharge (so gather 2 of your friends along, save some money and form lasting memories!)
The annual matsutake festival is held at the picturesque Ura valley in Bumthang in the central part of Bhutan. Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), or Sangay Shamu in the local language is a ground fungi and is also known as pine mushroom because it mostly grows under pine trees. This mushroom only grows in abundance in Ura valley.
The annual matsutake festival is held at the picturesque Ura valley in Bumthang in the central part of Bhutan. Ura valley is known for its beautiful valleys and hospitable people inhibiting the valleys. Ura is located at about 50 kilometers from Jakar, the main town in Bumthang district.
Every year since 2008, when the festival was first initiated, hundreds of people including tourists gather at Ura valley to observe the festival. Tourists from all over the world, especially from Japan, come to participate in mushroom picking activity during the annual three-day mushroom festival.
The tourists will learn to identify and how to carefully pick these fabled fungi.Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), or Sangay Shamu in the local language is a ground fungi and is also known as pine mushroom because it mostly grows under pine trees. This mushroom only grows in abundance in Ura valley. The mushroom is well-known for its delicious taste and several nutritional values and aphrodisiac properties. The mushroom is also proven to have effective medicinal properties that help in fighting different cancers. The mushroom is also being exported to other countries, particularly to Japan.
Things to do at the festival:
Visitors can learn to identify matsutake along with other edible mushrooms and get on with their mushroom hunting excursions. While on their journey they can enjoy and explore the pristine woods and the beautiful valley sight. They can also try some matsutake recipes of their own with the mushrooms that they pick.
Sing and dance in Ura:
The visitors can enjoy the festival by engaging in songs and dances performed by the locals. They can also choose to take part in it. The mask dances and songs are all native to the valley.
The tourists can choose to rejuvenate and relax after the exhausting mushroom hunt by taking an open-air mineral bath.