Browse our Bhutan Tours
Our Bhutan tours makes you feel like an explorer stumbling upon Shangri-La. In Bhutan, shimmering monasteries cling to cliffs and commanding Dzong fortresses stand guard over winding rivers, quaint farmhouses, and terraced rice fields. When the scent of rhododendrons and the rustling of thousands of colorful, crisscrossing prayer flags fill the air, Bhutan’s beauty is otherworldly. For even the most demanding and seasoned traveler, a tailormade Bhutan holiday enthralls and enlightens.
Backyard Travel offers bespoke Bhutan tours for spiritual pilgrimages, visits to historical monuments, and adventurous treks across the Himalayan foothills to distant, secluded villages. Enjoy the peaceful small-town vibe of Thimphu and Paro, take a drive out to panoramic hilltop views, and escape from the clamor of modern times to this mountain kingdom
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On the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is made up of snowy peaks, rolling meadows, and precipitous river gorges. The country’s tallest peaks are located in the icy north region, which gradually give way to the fertile hills of central Bhutan and the subtropical plains at the southern border. Beautifully preserved by strict environmental protection, this rough, changing landscape not only makes for panoramic vistas but provides a habitat for rare species such as snow leopards, macaque monkeys, and black-necked cranes.
Most of Bhutan’s population lives in the green river valleys of the central highlands. The capital city, Thimphu, is located in western central Bhutan. Also in the west are the tranquil town of Paro and the grand old capital city of Punakha, where some of Bhutan’s most imposing dzongs stand tall after centuries.
Click on a city to discover more about travel in magical Bhutan.
We loved Bhutan. It is a very special little country; the people are kind, their Buddhist beliefs make them patient and happy and it is amazing to be in country where everyone seems so well adjusted. We had an amazing time, and Mr Arun and Mr Sonam, our drivers, were very professional and kind.
Z. Khan (Bhutan, September 2015)
The experience in Bhutan was an overwhelmingly positive one. Accommodation and meals were pretty much uniformly excellent and the standard of the guiding and driving was exemplary.
Duncan Forgan (Bhutan, June 2015)
Some Questionsabout our Tours of Bhutan
We’re glad you asked, because all international tourists require a visa for Bhutan. Local law states that to enter the country, travelers must book a tour with a licensed travel agency, who will pre-arrange visas prior to arrival. An exception is made for Indian, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian nationals who are eligible for a free visa on entry. Tourist visas cost US$40, plus a $3 ‘tourism fee’ per person. Once you’ve booked your tour, Backyard Travel will apply for your visa through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The process takes about 5 days, and your visa will be stamped into your passport on arrival.
Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world where a daily tour fee is strictly controlled by the Royal Government and Tourism Council. The fee includes all services (hotels, meals, tours, transport, and entrance fee; visa fees, however, are not included). The ‘standard’ tour fee can be broken down follows: US$250 per person per night during peak season (March, April, May, September, October, and November) and US$200 per person per night during low season (December, January, Feb, June, July and August).
The law does require a surcharge to be applied if you are traveling alone or in a group of two. Solo travelers pay a US$40 surcharge per night, and groups of two pay US$30 per person per night. If you are traveling with a group of more than three people, these charges do not apply.
In your Bhutan travel package, we will make sure that your daily fee and surcharge, if applicable, are accounted for. Don’t forget these fees are all-inclusive and will essentially cover all expenditures you may have on your trip.
Bhutan has one international airport, Paro International Airport, serviced by two carriers Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Direct flights to Paro are available from Singapore, Kathmandu, Calcutta, and many other locations in India. If you’re planning to travel into Bhutan overland, you can do so at the country’s three land crossings along the Indian border at Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. Contact us for a customized Bhutan tour to enter and travel by land.
This depends on how you envision your voyage. Bhutan can cater to snow-loving winter trekkers as well as mild-weather seekers who love to play in the sun.
The Bhutanese countryside is abloom in the spring, with wild flowers and Rhododendron jungles blazing with color. The fall, however, offers the most impressive cultural events, with the largest Bhutanese tshechu, or festivals, occurring from September to November. Skies are clearest in late fall and winter, revealing unbeatable views of the Himalayas in December, marking this period as the best time for to visit Bhutan for many. Gazing at the soaring, white peaks of the Himalaya, you’ll truly feel like you’re standing on the roof of the world.
Part of the low tourist season corresponds to Bhutan’s monsoon season, when it rains nearly every night from June to September. But the country is at its greenest during these wet summer months, which can make for some beautiful panoramas. Because many tourists prefer to avoid the rain, Bhutan is less crowded and the government-imposed daily fee is reduced this time of year.
Surprisingly, Bhutan is at the same latitude as sultry cities like Miami and Marrakech, but the kingdom’s Himalayan altitude makes for wild temperature fluctuations and microclimates. While the low-lying south of Bhutan is practically tropical, the mountainous north is the frigid home of glaciers and year-round snowy peaks. In the south, average temperatures range from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius (60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit), and in the north, temperatures can range between negative 5 degrees (23 degrees F) in the winter to over 30 degrees (85 degrees F) in the summer. In the far north, temperatures hover around 0 degrees (30 degrees F) year round.
Most of the country’s rain occurs during Bhutan’s monsoon season, from June to September. The heaviest rainfall occurs in the south, but the mountainous north also sees its fair share of wet weather. During the monsoon season, you can expect rainfall nearly every night, with some trekking path closures and loss of visibility at high altitudes.
While Western Bhutan is the most accessible region for tourists, with the airport, capital city, and highest-rated accommodations grouped here, adventurers may be inspired to journey to the central region of Bumthang, and further east to Mongar and Trashigang, which are opening to tourism more and more. Here you’ll find remote villages and local dzong (monastery fortresses) that are humbler than the grand edifices of the west but are tourist-free and earnestly serve the locals. Bird watchers will be delighted by the diversity of feathered creatures found in little-explored Zhemgang, gateway to the east.
No matter the region, there are numerous places to visit in Bhutan which are filled with cultural experiences and small settlements off the beaten path. Trekking, camping, attending local festivals and visiting remote hamlets all offer a less-touristy experience. Our local travel experts who call Bhutan home would be happy to help you craft an itinerary less traveled.
Definitely. Bhutan is safe and easy to travel through. It’s a wonderful place to learn about a different culture and Buddhism, and it offers pristine nature, wildlife sightings and lots of options for outdoor activities, such as cycling, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, and even archery, the national sport. You can also arrange to visit a Bhutanese school with our local guides. With a Bhutan family trip, you’ll be sure to create special memories. Do remember, though, that car travel can be slow and tedious, with some rough patches. If this might affect your family holiday in Bhutan, we’ll tailor an itinerary with the shortest transfers possible. And here’s an added plus: depending on age, children receive discounts and fee waivers on the daily tariff.
Because Bhutan is a religious country, dress modestly and respectfully. Cover up from your shoulders to your knees, especially when entering places of worship.
Don’t light up! Tobacco products are banned in Bhutan, so avoid bringing them into the country as penalties apply and smoking in public is not accepted.
Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive. Try to refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
LGBT visitors should be warned that homosexuality is illegal in Bhutan, and displays of affection are best kept private.
Religious iconography is everywhere in Bhutan in the form of stupas, mani stones, shrines and temples. Always show respect for these sacred objects by avoiding sitting or posing in front of them.
Please do not bring pens, sweets, chewing gum, etc., to hand out to children, as this encourages begging. Instead, we suggest donating money to a reputable charity of your choice that has a strong mission of helping disadvantaged children.
While some larger hotels and shops in major tourist areas, like Thimphu, may accept credit cards, you shouldn’t expect to use credit cards in Bhutan too often. Transactions can be difficult and additional fees may apply. ATMs are available in the capital Thimphu, as well as areas frequented by tourists, but not in remote areas.
While the Indian rupee is widely used, the larger 500 and 1,000 rupee notes aren’t accepted at many smaller shops and restaurants. Exchanging US dollars at the airport or at exchange counters in Thimphu are the best way to go.
Remember, package tours to Bhutan include all services (guide, transport, hotels, and three meals per day), so the only time you’ll need to spend cash or use your credit card in Bhutan is to buy drinks not included in your meals, or for gift shopping.
In many areas of Bhutan, especially in more urban locations, you’ll have mobile phone coverage with smart-phone capabilities. Local Bhutan SIM cards can be purchased for roughly US$2 plus call credits at Bhutan Telecom and Tashi Cell for 2G and 3G phones.
Most hotels in Thimphu and Paro will have Wi-Fi. Cafés in city centers are also likely to have Wi-Fi, though the connection may be slow. The international dialing code for Bhutan is 975.
Bhutanese cuisine is a zesty mix of regional ingredients with Tibetan, Chinese, and Indian influences. While you’ll be able to find international food options in tourist destinations like Paro and Thimphu, our first Bhutan travel tip for foodies is to savor the local specialties like ema datshi, a spicy blend of chili peppers and roasted yak cheese that is sure to warm you on even the coldest Himalayan night. In the highlands, signature dishes tend to be heavily seasoned hot stews made from yak, pork, mutton, or beef with vegetables, lentils, or buckwheat.
Popular spices include curry, pepper, garlic, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric. Most foods are served with Bhutanese red rice, a high-altitude rice variety with a rough texture and a subtle nutty taste. For rice alternatives, try the momo, steamed dumplings with a meat or veggie filling, or barthu, noodles that can be fried or come in a bowl of soup.
Bhutan has some truly interesting beverage choices as well. Fancy some butter tea? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Or how about a cup of home-distilled spirits with a fried egg in it? We’re not kidding! Or, for the more tame, the locally brewed Red Panda beer is absolutely delicious.
Tipping in Bhutan is not a norm in hotels and restaurants, but it’s commonly expected for personal drivers and guides. Although it’s up to your personal preference as to how much to tip, a good rule of thumb is that a group normally pays their guide $10 per day and their driver $5–7 per day.
Many of the hotels in Bhutan are cozy, clean, and accommodating, but you shouldn’t expect 5-star luxury in every town. World-class hotels such as those run by Uma and Aman hoteliers are available in the bigger towns of Thimpu, Paro, Bumthang, Gangtey, and Punakha. In most other areas, expect to stay in converted farmhouses and family-run hotels that are welcoming and comfortable but offer a more rustic experience. We can also arrange a local homestay in Bhutan—just contact one of our Travel Specialists.
With the country’s high altitudes and thin air keeping bacteria and infectious diseases at bay, health risks are relatively mild, and no vaccinations for Bhutan are required. However, the World Health Organization recommends that all overseas travelers are up to date on all their MMRs (measles, mumps and rubella) and boosters for hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and typhoid. We also recommend having comprehensive insurance that covers the cost of medical evacuation. Check your government’s travel advisory on Bhutan for up-to-date information.
Sights & Experiences
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS & INSIGHTS
Courteous and openhearted, shy and devout, the people of Bhutan have deeply rooted customs and beliefs that form the foundation of their cherished Buddhist kingdom. They are much more interested in nature and simplicity than modern materialism.
Spring and autumn are ideal seasons for travel to Bhutan. Monsoon rains between June and August can close trekking paths and cause travel complications, while low winter temperatures can make travel uncomfortable. Any time of year, expect crisp mountain weather.
Bhutan’s vibrant performing arts culture puts on lively displays of folksong and masked dances. These performances reach a crescendo during Bhutan’s yearly Buddhist festivals when sacred rituals are performed alongside cheerful dance routines.
Relatively isolated from the world until the 1960s, Bhutan holds on to a well-preserved cultural heritage. Much of Bhutan’s culture is shaped by the country’s fierce Buddhist devotion, although many regional folk customs predate the introduction of Buddhism.
Bhutan’s official language is Dzongkha, closely related to many of the Tibetan dialects spoken across the border. Although Dzongkha predominates in the central western highlands, local languages are widely spoken in the south, north, and east of Bhutan.
Meet the Bhutan Team
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