Bhutan

Bhutan Travel Guide

With its rugged mountains and serene monasteries, Bhutan offers a gloriously unique experience. Mountain trekking is one of the top things to do in Bhutan—there is no mountain climbing allowed, though, due to environmental concerns—but here some other classic things to consider as you map out what to do in Bhutan:

The capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, may be the most low-key national capital you’ll ever see—some years ago, the locals protested about the installation of one traffic light. Sunday is pedestrian day, but on any day the city is bustling with people who wear the national dress, as well as young people in modern clothes. Be sure to stop at National Memorial Chorten to see local Buddhists congregate and pray. Also, stop in at the National Folk Heritage Museum, an excellent place to learn about daily life in Bhutan.

The Punakha Valley has plenty to offer. You can see the Chimi Lhakhang—the temple of fertility—in Sopsakha village, or the Chimi Lhakhang monastery, which was built in 1499 at a location blessed by Saint Drukpa Kunley. The Punakha Dzong—once the seat of the government—is another grand structure that you won’t want to miss, especially during the spring, when it is surrounded by blooming jacaranda trees.

Sitting (rather precariously, it seems) on a rock outcropping more than 2,500 feet above the Paro Valley, this The Tiger’s Nest Monastery near Punakha was built around a cave where the Indian Guru Rinpoche meditated during the 8th century. Even more colorful, he is said to have arrived here on the back of a flying tiger. While the view is great, reaching the top may be one of the most exciting (or heart-stopping) things to do in Bhutan: the climb takes several hours, and is not for folks afraid of heights.

This 17th-century fortress and monastery is set high on a cliff above two rivers.

A fantastic day hike in Phobjikha begins at the marsh where the cranes are. From there you can walk to the Gangtey Monastery.