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27 Best Tourist Places in Bhutan and Things to Do

Beautiful Bhutan was everything I hoped for and more. This small, landlocked Asian country only opened to tourists in 1974. Since then, it has become known for its gross national happiness ethos, its tourist tax and having had a King who allowed the country to become a democracy.

This is a very mountainous country, so most towns are located in valleys with temples and monasteries on the sides of the mountains around them. The country is covered in green (72% of Bhutan is forest) and home to some stunning views from those high mountains.

In addition to its spectacular natural beauty, there are also lots of fantastic tourist places in Bhutan that can be visited. Here are 27 of the best tourism places and things to do in Bhutan.

27 Tourist Places in Bhutan and Things to do

1. Have a meal on a farm

There is nothing like having a meal at a local’s home to give visitors a sense of a country’s culture and way of life. Our tour company, MyBhutan, organised a visit to Aum Deki’s farm just outside Paro. This allowed us to see the inside of a typical Bhutanese home and experience typical Bhutanese cooking.

Paro - Aum Deki Farm house tourist places in Bhutan
Paro – Aum Deki Farm house

Aunty Deki served us a mix of local vegetables prepared in a typical Bhutanese style. The Bhutanese love their chili and use it liberally. It is considered to be a vegetable rather than a spice or flavouring.

Paro - Aum Deki Farm house chili cheese
Paro – Aum Deki Farm house chili cheese

The most popular dish in Bhutan is Ema Datshi or chili cheese. This simple dish consists of split chilies, onions, garlic, tomato and yak cheese. We also enjoyed more local vegetables, including spinach, potatoes, rice and meat, all washed down with local tea.

Paro - Aum Deki Farm house lunch
Paro – Aum Deki Farm house lunch
Paro - Aum Deki Farm house
Paro – Aum Deki Farm house

2. National Museum of Bhutan

This cultural museum opened in Paro in 1968. The museum is home to over 3,000 Bhutanese works of art and covers 1500 years of Bhutanese history. There is a “new” version of the museum housed in Ta Dzong, a stunning round building. There are some great views over Paro.

National Museum of Bhutan
National Museum of Bhutan

The “new” museum provides a great introduction to Buddhism for visitors. It covers the eight different incarnations of Buddha, the masks that are so critical to Bhutanese dancing and festivals and general beliefs of the religion. It is not possible to take photos inside the museum.

National Museum of Bhutan prayer wheels
National Museum of Bhutan prayer wheels

Once you’ve explored this stunning building (don’t miss the beautiful prayer wheels out the front), head up to the “old” museum, which sits behind Ta Dzong. Here we learned about Bhutanese festivals through exhibitions and a great video.

National Museum of Bhutan
National Museum of Bhutan

3. National Weaving Centre

The National Weaving Centre is a great place to begin learning about Bhutan’s weaving industry and its importance in the country’s national dress. Based on my trip, over half of the Bhutanese population choose to wear the national dress. I can see why, as they are very flattering and quite beautiful.

weaving centre.materials

The kira is the national dress for women and the gho is the same for men. Many of these outfits are made by hand and can take up to a year to create. The National Weaving Centre has several women working on the actual kilns creating these detailed fabrics.

weaving centre. woman working

This is also a great place to do some shopping. Of everywhere I visited in Bhutan, the National Weaving Centre had some of the most attractive scarves, fabrics, purses and all other weaving-based souvenirs. They also sell the rather fabulous Bhutanese boots.

weaving centre boots

4. National Memorial Chorten

Located in Thimpu and also known as the Thimpu Chorten this stupa was built in 1974. It is known as one of the most visible religious landmarks in Bhutan and it is busy! As visitors pass through the entrance, they will see some beautiful golden prayer wheels.

national memorial chorten view

Straight ahead is a Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal type bench, which is perfect for photos. Next up, join the people who are walking clockwise around the stupa. In Bhutan, walking around a stupa is often a kind of mindfulness activity. This stupa is quite popular with senior citizens.

national memorial chorten prayer wheel
national memorial chorten prayer wheel

It is possible to go inside the stupa, but no photos can be taken (photos cannot be taken inside temples in Bhutan). To the left of the stupa is a lovely traditional Bhutanese building that is home to many butter lamps. For a small offering, visitors can have one lit for them.

national memorial chorten lamps
national memorial chorten lamps

5. The Golden Buddha

Just outside Thimpu city, the Golden Buddha can be seen from many points in the valley. He is a big buddha and sits atop a mountain. Enter either at the same level as the Golden Buddha to the side or head up the large flight of stairs.

golden buddha
golden buddha
golden buddha
golden buddha

The Golden Buddha sits on a golden temple that features some impressive animal decorations on each side. It is possible to go inside the temple, and visitors can meditate there. There are also some great views over Thimpu.

golden buddha stairs
golden buddha stairs
golden buddha
golden buddha

6. Watch the traffic being directed

There are no traffic lights in Bhutan. Instead, in Bhutan’s only city Thimpu, one busy roundabout has a man at its centre literally directing traffic. He wears a very smart hat and coat and his gloved hands direct the traffic as if conducting an orchestra.

thimpu traffic
thimpu traffic

7. Plant a Tree in the World’s First Carbon Neutral country

Did you know that Bhutan was the world‘s first carbon-neutral country? This is a country that lives and breathes sustainability. One of the activities planned and organized for us by our tour company MhBhutan was planting a tree near Thimpu. We had a short walk through a beautiful green valley dotted with prayer flags.

thimpu tree planting

When we reached a small river, our guides handed us our trees and we trowled the earth and planted our own trees. This was a lovely experience which I would highly recommend.

thimpu tree planting

8. Takin Preserve

A short walk further up the mountain from where we planted our trees was Takin Preserve. The takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It has a thick neck and short, muscular legs and is found in areas over 4000 metres in Bhutan.

takin preserve wild boar
takin preserve wild boar

The Takin Preserve is not at 4,000 metres but it is home to some takin, allowing visitors to see the national animal without heading up quite so high. The Preserve also has local deer and wild boar.

takin preserve takins
takin preserve takins

Alas, when we visited the takin seemed to be napping, so we only saw some from a distance. Luckily there was a large statue of the takin near the entrance, so we got a sense of what it is like.

9. Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Tiger’s Nest Monastery or Paro Taktsang is the most popular tourist attraction in Bhutan and a UNESCO-listed site. It is believed that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche or the second Buddha) flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tiger in the 8th century. He anointed the location as a site for a monastery. From the 11th century, Tibetan saints and other major figures visited Tiger’s Nest to meditate.

tigers nest

The first monastery was built at the location in 1692. In April 1998, it is believed that butter lamps in the monastery caused a major fire. The majority of the monastery was destroyed. Restorations took place between 1998 and 2005. Bhutanese people from all over the country traveled to help with the restoration. It reopened to the public in 2005.

tigers nest
tigers nest

Tiger’s Nest is located about ten miles south of Paro and can only be reached on foot (or partially on horseback). For a person of reasonable fitness without health issues, the trek takes about 4-5 hours including time spent inside the monastery and comfort stops.

tigers nest
tigers nest

I have written an entire article about Tiger’s Nest Monastery that contains lots of detail about the trek.

10. The Temple of Fertility/Chimi Lhakhang

The Temple of Fertility is the most famous temple in Bhutan. It also has one of the best stories of how it came into existence.

fertility temple

In the 14th century Lam Drukpa Kuenley, or the Divine Madman, brought his unconventional methods for teaching Buddhism from Tibet to Bhutan. He believed that he had a supernatural phallus and this was his way of “spreading” his word.

fertility temple
fertility temple

When he was in the Punakha Valley, locals were afraid of a demon that was said to sit on the top of the Dochula Pass at night. The demon would kill anyone who tried to pass at night. The Divine Madman went up to the pass one evening and used his supernatural phallus to emit fire, killing the demon.

fertility temple
fertility temple entrance

The people of Punakha were so thrilled they decided to build a temple dedicated to the Divine Madman in 1499. Today, the temple still houses the wooden phallus he brought from Tibet. Couples who are trying to get pregnant come from all over the world to visit the temple and be blessed by the wooden phallus. Some couples even spend the night in the temple.

phalluses

Little Sopsokha Village is below the Temple of Fertility. It is home to a number of handicraft shops that sell an extensive range of phalluses in every size, shape and design you could imagine. This provides the opportunity for a unique souvenir from Bhutan.

phalluses

11. The Textile Museum

If I’m honest, normally, I would not be interested in visiting a textile museum or really textiles in any form or function. However, in Bhutan, textiles and particularly the clothing they produce tell visitors so much about the culture. Plus, the information is communicated interestingly and linked to understanding the culture better.

textile museum
textile museum

The Textile Museum in Thimpu is a great example. Built in 2001, the museum showcases the many costumes of the different regions of Bhutan. The costumes tell visitors a lot about life in the different regions of Bhutan, particularly those that are far away.

textile museum
textile museum

Photos are not allowed inside the museum but don’t miss the amazing floor-to-ceiling tapestry when you walk in.

12. Try Bhutanese espresso

I do enjoy reading an inflight magazine, particularly for a unique country like Bhutan. In the magazine, on my Druk air flight, I read about the Mountain Cafe. This small chain of coffee shops was opened by a Bhutanese man who visited the United States and researched the specialty coffee segment. I visited a Mountain Cafe in Thimpu and am pleased to report it is a good place to get specialty-style coffee.

mountain cafe
mountain cafe

I also visited the Ambient Cafe in Thimpu, which had great coffee and a more Western-style brunch/lunch menu if you fancy a break from chili cheese. They also make some great juices.

ambient cafe
ambient cafe

13. Watch the locals play archery

Archery was declared the national sport of Bhutan in 1971. As you drive around Bhutan it is possible to see many people (mostly men) in their Ghos playing the national support. On the Sunday I was in Bhutan we came across a group of men playing archery by the side of the road. It is great fun to watch as the sides cheer and jeer each other on. And don’t miss the wonderful dance that happens when someone hits the target!

archery

14. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Said to be the most beautiful temple in Bhutan, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten was built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan in 2004. Whilst it may be younger than many of the other temples in Bhutan, it was built in strict accordance with traditional styles over a nine-year period.

khamsum yulley namgyal chorten entrance
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten entrance

The temple is very beautiful and quite peaceful. Visitors can head inside and climb up quite a few stairs to get to the watchtower, which has extraordinary views over Punakha.

khamsum yulley namgyal chorten
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten view
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten view

Almost as lovely as the temple itself is the 30-minute trek needed to visit. After crossing the Mo Chhu river on a suspension bridge lined with prayer flags, the walk takes visitors through rice fields and very green paths. When I visited at the end of November the path was lined with red poinsettias.

punakha trek
punakha trek
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten trek
khamsum yulley namgyal chorten trek

15. River Rafting on Mo Chhu

Another surprise in Bhutan is that it is possible to go river rafting. The scale and danger level of the rafting will depend on what time of year you choose to visit. When I visited in November the Mo Chhu river was quite calm and we only had a few bumps (although I got quite wet!).

rafting

I enjoyed gaining a perspective of Punakha from the water and there were a couple of little beaches where we stopped on the way. Along the Mo Chhu river rafts can take visitors to just before Punakha Dzong. It is not possible to go all the way to the fortress.

rafting

16. Attend a Festival or see locals Dancing

Similar to my view on textiles, I tend to avoid local theatres and dancing. However, to do so in Bhutan would be a mistake as festivals and dances are so intrinsic to the Bhutanese culture. Bhutan loves festivals and there are many each year (May and October are the most popular months for festivals).

fertility temple
fertility temple festival

Festivals tend to run for several days and everyone comes out in their best and brightest outfits with a packed lunch. The dances all tell stories and act out the beliefs of the Buddhist religion. It is said that watching the dances will teach the audience lessons that will cleanse their spirits and could leave them feeling happier.

comfort camp dancing
comfort camp dancing

Festivals are a key element of the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness philosophy. They are more than entertainment. They are almost like having a spiritual treatment, for lack of a better term. I wasn’t able to attend a festival when I visited Bhutan, but MyBhutan organized for local dancers to come to our comfort camp one evening and perform some traditional dances for us.

comfort camp dancing
comfort camp dancing

17. Bhutanese Whiskey tasting

Who knew that the Bhutanese make good whiskey? Bhutan makes its own whiskey from grain spirit and also imports some malt from Scotland. The most famous whiskey in Bhutan is the K5. It was produced in 2008 to mark the coronation of the current king. I also tried some Bhutanese cognac which was my favourite.

Bhutanese whiskey tasting
Bhutanese whiskey tasting

18. Try Archery

I thought I would be very bad at archery. But it turned out to be much easier, and more fun, than I thought. MyBhutan was kind enough to set the target quite close to where I was standing so I could feel good about my efforts!

comfort camp archery
comfort camp archery

The instructions were brief and then I pulled back the bow and let the arrow fly. I didn’t hit the target but my arrows did carry quite far. Don’t leave Bhutan without trying the national sport at least once.

17. Get your own stamps

The post office in Thimpu has its own postal museum. In all honesty, the museum isn’t much, but at the museum, it is possible to get your own Bhutanese stamps produced. We borrowed a Bhutanese-style jacket from a nearby souvenir store and got a photo which was then turned it a stamp.

bhutan postal musem
bhutan postal musem

This marked the first time I have purchased post cards in some time – I had to send something with my own stamps!

bhutan stamps
bhutan stamps

18. Learn how to make Bhutanese food

One of the highlights of my trip to Bhutan was a cooking class with the amazing Kesang Choeden. Kesang runs a restaurant at the Folk Heritage Museum in Thimpu and runs a popular cooking school. She has somewhat single handedly kept Bhutanese traditional cuisine alive.

cooking class 2

When Bhutan first opened to tourism in the 1970s, the government sent some of the country’s chefs to China and Italy to learn dishes that would be popular with foreigners. The first Lonely Planet Bhutan wasn’t positive about the results. This was when Kesang decided to start collecting Bhutanese recipes and change the perceptions of the quality of the food in Bhutan.

cooking class ingredients
cooking class ingredients

Today she runs a popular restaurant that produces traditional Bhutanese meals (some of which are generally only served in people’s homes), a cooking school and a store in Thimpu.

thimpu food shop

Kesang explained the vegetables that are unique to Bhutan and those that came over when the roads opened in the 1960s. (All meat and fish in Bhutan are imported). Kesang even convinced farmers to start growing traditional foods like millet again.

chilis
chilis

I expected Bhutanese food to be similar to Indian or Chinese. However, if anything, it is more like southeast Asian food with an Indian-level passion for chili. In Bhutanese cooking, most items are first boiled and then flavors such as garlic and ginger are added.

cooking class lunch
cooking class lunch

Kesang made a huge delicious feast for us, which was very memorable. We also visited her store in Thimpu. If you are keen to take home some Bhutanese chili or anything else food related to Bhutan, this is the place to make your purchase.

cooking class eating
cooking class eating

If you’re a foodie, this is a don’t miss it experience in Bhutan.

folk restaurant
folk restaurant

19. Folk Heritage Museum

The Folk Heritage Museum in Thimpu is housed in a three-story 19th century house and is one of the last homes of its type in Thimpu. It aims to connect visitors with Bhutan’s folk heritage. The house is decorated as if it were 150 years old.

folk heritage museum
folk heritage museum

The entrance is flanked by a giant wooden phallus and dried chilis. The ground floor is where tools are kept and cows if owned by the family. The first floor is filled with utensils. The top floor is a big kitchen area and then there is a small separate room for an altar.

There were no bedrooms in homes in Bhutan at this time. The entire family would sleep in the kitchen area, which was typically quite warm.

20. Eat dumplings with the locals

After chili cheese, dumplings are one of the most popular meals in Bhutan. One of the best places to eat dumplings is the Zombala restaurant in Thimpu. You’ll be surrounded by locals as you dig into some delicious dumplings. Do bring some mints with you, as the dumpling flavors are strong.

thimpu dumplings
thimpu dumplings

21. Go Shopping

Some of the best souvenirs to bring back from Bhutan are some of its stunning handicrafts. I already mentioned the National Weaving Centre. The second place where I bought souvenirs was Kelzang handicrafts in Thimpu.

Kelzang handicrafts have a great range of products and designs and their English is excellent. And when Princess Kate visited Bhutan, this is where she sourced her Bhutanese outfit!

22. Learn about Gross National Happiness

The concept or philosophy of Gross National Happiness is synonymous with Bhutan. But what does it actually mean? How is it enacted? I was keen to learn this while visiting Bhutan.

There are four elements to Gross National Happiness:

  1. Good government
  2. Preservation and sustainable environment
  3. Cultural Preservation
  4. Economic Development

The GNH policy department of the government does a survey of the Bhutanese population every three years to monitor their happiness levels. Festivals are a critical part of Gross National Happiness. Not only do they offer a spiritual cleanse and learning for the population, but the King has also set up festivals in less visited areas like the Highlands to bring them tourism and exposure.

GNH NGO
GNH NGO

We met with an NGO in Bhutan that runs GNH programs in Bhutan’s schools. They bring the concept of a GNH club into the school and help students get it up and running. The students can then choose which areas they would like to focus on and then develop their own programs eg, bullying or teen suicide.

If you’re keen to learn more about GNH when you’re in Bhutan, MyBhutan can organise a visit to an NGO.

23. Paro Fortress

Paro Fortress or Rinpung Dzong, sits on the banks of the Paro river. This fortress and monastery contains fourteen shrines and is considered one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.

The fortress can trace its origins to a small temple in the 15th century. In 1646 the dzong was reconsecrated and established as the monastic and administrative center of Western Bhutan. It is still home to the government office of Paro and the monastic body. It is possible to visit some areas within the fortress but photography is prohibited.

paro fortress
paro fortress

Paro Fortress is one of several sites on Bhutan’s tentative list for UNESCO listing. Plus, some of the scenes in the 1993 film Little Buddha were filmed at the fortress.

24. Try out the National Dress

I love trying on the national dress in a country. Several souvenir stores in Bhutan allow visitors to rent a kira or a gho and be photographed against a major tourist attraction. I rented mine across the road from Paro fortress.

paro fortress
paro fortress

25. Punakha Fortress/Dzong

Punakha Fortress/Dzong is the second oldest and second largest Dzong in Bhutan. It is one of the most impressive buildings in Bhutan. It was constructed by Ngawang Namgyal in 1637-8. It contains Namgyal’s sacred remains and was the seat of government until Thimpu became the capital in 1955. It is also on Bhutan’s tentative list for UNESCO and is known as the Palace of Great Happiness.

punakha dzong entrance
punakha dzong entrance

The Dzong is huge and still very active today. Many monks decide to head for much warmer Punakha for the winter and it also has government offices. The fortress is used for many government activities and celebrations.

punakha dzong main temple
punakha dzong main temple

The temple at Punakha Fortress is said to be the most ornate and beautiful in Bhutan and it is extremely impressive. It contains 1000 paintings of the buddhas plus statues of the masters. As you exit the temple, there is a secret temple to your right that can only be entered by the head monk and the King himself. It is said to be where Namgyal’s remains are kept.

punakha dzong
punakha dzong

26. Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass is home to perhaps the most jaw-dropping view in Bhutan. This mountain pass (3,100 metres) on the road between Thimpu and Punakha provides a view of all seven of Bhutan’s mountains on a clear day.

Dochula Pass view
Dochula Pass view
Dochula Pass view
Dochula Pass view

It is also home to the 108 stupas. The stupas were built by Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk to honour the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India.

Dochula Pass stupas
Dochula Pass stupas
Dochula Pass stupas
Dochula Pass stupas

27. Paro airport and the flight in and out

Did you know that only ten pilots worldwide are licensed to fly in and out of Paro airport? Bhutan is a very mountainous country, so it isn’t easy to find flat land long enough to land a plane near one of its major cities.

bhutan airport
bhutan airport

The landing strip at Paro airport sits at the bottom of a valley and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. This means the plane needs to come down very steeply and then flatten out to land on a relatively short airstrip.

bhutan airport plane
bhutan airport plane

The airport itself is extremely cute. It has been painted in the traditional Bhutanese decorative style and feels like it should be a tourist attraction. Even the luggage carousel is cute.

bhutan airport luggage
bhutan airport luggage

And as if that isn’t enough, if you fly in or out of Delhi, you will be treated to some amazing views of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest, on your journey. Make sure you sit towards the front of the plane on the left from Delhi to Paro and then on the right when flying out of Paro for the best views.

himalayas
himalayas as seen from the flight

Where to Stay in Bhutan

Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary Hotel – Paro

Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary Hotel is the first and only 5-star traditional spa resort in Bhutan. The hotel is laid out in a traditional Bhutanese style. Entering the hotel feels as much like arriving at a high-end monastery as it does a boutique hotel.

spirit sanctuary entrance
spirit sanctuary entrance

Get ready to drop your jaw when you enter the main building and see the two-story floor to ceiling windows of the Neyphu Valley. We were also invited to light butter lamps and choose our own locally-made soap for our stay.

spirit sanctuary windows
spirit sanctuary windows

My terrace room was huge at 54 square meters plus an 8 square meter terrace. The rooms are simply designed with wooden floors, white walls, and wooden beams on the white ceilings. My massive bed was homed in a traditional Bhutanese structure, and I had a living area with a coach, coffee table, armchair, and table with two chairs. A small wardrobe to the side of the room took care of my case.

spirit sanctuary bedroom
spirit sanctuary bedroom

The bathroom had two sinks, a deep tub, a walk-in shower and a walk-in toilet. The floors were heated, and bathrobes were provided. In addition to the usual toiletries, Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary provides a toothbrush and toothpaste pills (just add water) for guests.

spirit sanctuary bedroom
spirit sanctuary bedroom
spirit sanctuary bathroom
spirit sanctuary bathroom

All rooms have coffee and tea facilities, including a large range of herbal teas. We also received some wonderful chocolates and a copy of the book, which was part of the inspiration for Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, The Restful Mind by Gyalwa Dokhampa.

spirit sanctuary terrace
spirit sanctuary terrace

Dinner was a six-course farm-to-table in the lovely restaurant. We began with a quirky nachos amuse bouche followed by pumpkin soup. Grilled vegetables were next, and then a single ravioli. The dessert was a creamy custard tart. We washed all of this down with some Bhutanese wine, a cabernet sauvignon from Raven.

spirit sanctuary dessert
spirit sanctuary dessert

Breakfast the next morning was just as good. We received homemade pastries, bread, local cheeses and and fruit. A selection of “main” breakfast dishes are then available, from yogurt and granola to pancakes to porridge and more. I enjoyed a cheese and vegetable omelet.

spirit sanctuary pool
spirit sanctuary pool

All hotel guests can make use of the spa. The heated indoor swimming pool is huge and has floor-to-ceiling windows. There are two saunas, one steam room, and two jacuzzis. Free yoga and meditation classes are available and there is a fitness center.

The spa has six treatment rooms. A consultation with an in-house traditional medicine doctor is included in the room rate for all guests. The doctor can then advise you on the best treatments to suit whatever is ailing you. I had two fantastic massages at Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary that worked miracles on my tight neck and shoulders.

spirit sanctuary treatment room
spirit sanctuary treatment room

After trekking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery I tried out a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath at Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary. These baths are regularly taken by Bhutanese people throughout the year but particularly in the winter. The stones are heated and then placed in a bath to heat them. It is believed that the stones contain valuable minerals that are transferred into the water and then into the guest!

spirit sanctuary hot stone bath
spirit sanctuary hot stone bath

I needed to add some cold water to my hot stone bath before I was brave enough to immerse myself. But wow once I did, it felt amazing!!! I managed to stay in the hot stone bath for only 10 minutes (one hour is recommended). However, the combination of my post-trek hot stone bath and massage meant that my muscles were virtually pain-free the day after the trek to Tiger’s Nest.

Zhiwaling Ascent – Thimpu

Zhiwaling Ascent is located just outside Thimpu near the Royal Takin Preserve. Its design is very simple but beautiful. The hotel makes the most of its beautiful green location with floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor, large windows in the room and a stunning open-air attic with 360-degree views.

zhiwaling ascent entrance
zhiwaling ascent entrance

The rooms are big, open, and airy, with polished wooden floorboards and lots of windows. The interior design is very simple, with lots of white with rich embroidered rugs. The room has been designed to focus your eye on the beautiful cypress trees outside with a small table and chairs and a lovely window seat.

zhiwaling ascent bedroom
zhiwaling ascent bedroom

The rooms also have coffee and tea-making facilities and a big-screen tv. The bathroom is big and lined with small pale grey tiles. There is a large bathtub with a shower.

zhiwaling ascent bedroom
zhiwaling ascent bedroom

Dinner consisted of four courses which included a choice of main. We began with lentil soup, followed by a melon salad with watercress, pomegranate, bacon and sherry vinegar. I had the grilled strip loin as my main course with beet puree, potatoes, steamed broccoli, carrots and beef jus.

zhiwaling ascent meat
zhiwaling ascent meat

The dessert was a banana cake with vanilla ice cream. Zhiwaling Ascent also has a nice wine list with some reasonably priced good international wines.

zhiwaling ascent outside
zhiwaling ascent outside

I enjoyed dinner at Zhiwaling Ascent, but I loved breakfast! We could sit outside and feel like we were eating in a forest. Breakfast began with banana bread, a muffin, and a croissant with a selection of preserves. We had the choice of four juice as well a coffee or tea. Multiple hot breakfast options were available. I chose the eggs florentine, which I very much enjoyed.

zhiwaling ascent breakfast
zhiwaling ascent breakfast

There is a second Zhiwaling Ascent hotel in Paro, which is supposed to be fantastic.

Dhumra Farm Resort – Punakha

Get ready for a very windy, very basic road that will make you extra glad you have a driver in Bhutan when you head to the lovely Dhumra Farm Resort. When you arrive, you will see that the road was worth it as the views over Punakha, particularly Punakha Dzong, are breathtaking.

dhumra farm resort entrance
dhumra farm resort entrance

This small resort is run by local people who also own Dhumra farm. Although the website says it is a 3-star hotel, it felt more like a 4-star. My room was very simply decorated but had a wonderful wooden floor and ceiling. There is a lot of wood at Dhumra resort which gives it a slight ski lodge feel. This is softened through colorful rugs.

dhumra farm resort
dhumra farm resort
dhumra farm resort bedroom
dhumra farm resort bedroom

My room and its bathroom were both huge. I could have fitted two standard-sized rooms in. The room has many windows, and a window seat, as well as a chair and table, lined up next to one of the windows. Of everywhere I stayed in Bhutan this felt most like staying at someone’s home.

dhumra farm resort dinner
dhumra farm resort dinner
dhumra farm resort fire
dhumra farm resort fire

The property itself is beautiful, with small paths and lovely fauna. We had a tasty dinner at Dhumra, all sourced from the farm, and they had wine! A fire pit had been lit for us outside, and we were able to enjoy stunning night views of Punakha Dzong.

dhumra farm resort view
dhumra farm resort view

The highlight of my stay at Dhumra Farm Resort was breakfast. We couldn’t resist checking out the view first thing and oh my it was spectacular. Just the right amount of fog/cloud to create some ambiance against the beautiful Punakha Dzong. And Dhumra served us a delicious breakfast outside so we could enjoy the view. This was one of the highlights of my visit to Bhutan.

dhumra farm resort breakfast
dhumra farm resort breakfast

MyBhutan Comfort Camp

MyBhutan offers a unique glamping experience with its Comfort Camp. The location regularly changes depending on the weather and the itinerary. We experienced our comfort camp not far from Thimpu. Each sleeping tent had its own proper bed and bedside table with electricity and a bedside table and lamp. I was able to stand in my tent which is always a key glamping test for me.

comfort camp tents
comfort camp tents

The comfort camp allowed us to experience some different elements of Bhutan. We were able to try out archery, and I am delighted to say that I was much better than I expected. This was followed by traditional dancing while we sat by the fire, followed by a Bhutanese whiskey tasting. Dinner was a tasty dish of vegetables and rice.

comfort camp dancing
comfort camp dancing

The camp has toilet tents for your convenience but of course no further bathroom facilities. In the morning, we were taken from the comfort camp to Zhiwaling Ascent, where an early check-in had been organized so we could use the shower facilities.

comfort camp tent
comfort camp tent

How to Travel around Bhutan

There is quite a bit of conflicting information online regarding the “rules” around visiting Bhutan. The key reason is that major changes have happened to Bhutan’s tourism policy since Covid. I will try to break down the key points visitors need to know.

thimpu tree planting prayer flags

In the past, most visitors to Bhutan paid a $USD65 “tourism tax” for each day of their stay in Bhutan. This also covered basic services such as a 3-star hotel. To stay in, say a 5-star hotel, visitors would have to pay to upgrade. Neighboring countries tended to pay a lower tax or none at all. Independent travel was not allowed.

thimpu buildings
Buildings in Thimpu

Since covid 19, the Bhutanese Government has introduced a new SDF or sustainable development fee of USD$200 a day. This must be paid by all visitors to Bhutan and does not cover any services eg visitors pay the SDF in addition to all of their other costs, such as accommodation, guides, food etc. The purpose of the new SDF is to fund local programs and prevent over-tourism.

weaving centre souvenirs
weaving centre souvenirs

Independent travel to Bhutan is now allowed. However, if you want to visit tourist attractions, go trekking, or explore outside Paro and Thimpu, a guide will be required. Also, the roads in Bhutan are of varying quality and can be very tricky due to the country’s mountainous terrain. I would absolutely recommend having a driver rather than doing your own driving.

golden buddha
Golden Buddha

A visa and travel insurance are required to visit Bhutan.

I traveled to Bhutan with the wonderful MyBhutan. MyBhutan is run by an American, Matt, who spends a good deal of time in Bhutan and locals staff the company. We had a guide and a driver for our entire stay. As I have already mentioned, I would not want to drive in Bhutan.

fertility temple
fertility temple

MyBhutan put together our itinerary and booked everything. We were able to review the itinerary ahead of the trip and provide feedback for changes, as well as ask questions on everything from the quality of the accommodation to the difficulty of the hikes. I have an allergy to spicy food. MyBhutan ensured that everywhere we ate was aware of my allergy and nothing spicy appeared on my plate.

punakha dzong bodhi tree
punakha dzong bodhi tree

MyBhutan did cover part of the cost of my trip to Bhutan. However, I only recommend organisations with whom I have worked that offer excellent services at fair prices and I highly recommend using MyBhutan for your trip to Bhutan.

When you book your trip with MyBhutan use the code BOUTIQUE and you’ll receive a free hot stone bath with your booking.

How to Travel to Bhutan

Fewer than ten pilots worldwide are licensed to fly in and out of Paro Airport. There are only two airlines that fly to Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. These airlines operate from Bangkok, Kathmandu and five cities in India (New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Gaya, and Bagdogra). However, if you fly in and out of India you will need a visa, even if you are only in transit.

himalayas
himalayas

We flew into Paro with Druk Air and I was very impressed. It is a high-end professional airline operation with relatively new planes. We were served a full meal and they have recently introduced in flight entertainment.

MyBhutan can book flights to and from Bhutan for you as part of their service.

What are the top tourist attractions in Bhutan?

tigers nest me

Some of the top tourist attractions in Bhutan include the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Punakha Dzong, Dochula Pass, the Fertility Temple, and the National Museum of Bhutan.

Is Bhutan a safe place to visit?

Paro view

Bhutan is generally considered a safe place to visit. The crime rate is low, and the country has a strong focus on preserving its cultural traditions and natural environment. However, as with any destination, it is always a good idea to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.

What is the best time to visit Bhutan?

golden buddha view

The best time to visit Bhutan depends on what you want to do and see. The weather can vary greatly depending on the region and altitude, so it is important to research the specific areas you plan to visit. In general, the best time to visit Bhutan is from November to February for cultural trips or from March to May for trekking, when the weather is mild and dry.

Do I need a visa to visit Bhutan?

fertility temple

Yes, all visitors to Bhutan must have a valid visa. Visas can be obtained through a Bhutanese tour operator or through a Bhutanese embassy or consulate. It is not possible to obtain a visa on arrival in Bhutan.

What is the currency used in Bhutan?

Paro

The currency used in Bhutan is the Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN). The ngultrum is pegged to the Indian rupee, and both currencies are accepted in Bhutan. It is also possible to use US dollars in Bhutan, but it is recommended to have small denominations as change can be an issue. There are many ATMs in Paro and Thimpu.

You might also enjoy the articles written by my travel buddy Laura on this trip. She has written about how to travel to Bhutan and the 21 top things to do in Bhutan.

I covered the cost of my flights to and from Brno and my accommodation in Brno. I attended a Traverse travel conference in Brno (which was fantastic) and then South Moravia tourism covered all of my on the ground costs for a three day trip across the region. As always, my opinions are my own. Just so you know, this post may contain some affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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