Overview

Nestled in the Himalayas, the remote kingdom of Bhutan is a land of fertile valleys and primeval forests overlooked by glittering, snow-capped mountain peaks. Challenging topography and political dogma of the past, that restricted visitors to this hidden kingdom, has helped retain a beautifully preserved and unspoiled destination that is reputed to be the happiest country in the world and considered the inspiration for mythical Shangri-La.

Spirituality abounds, in temples, in fortress-like dzongs, in the smiles of the locals, in dances, in textiles, in handicrafts and in this nation's enlightened approach to the environment - Bhutan absorbs more carbon than it emits and measures Gross National Happiness! A sustainable approach to tourism that limits the number of visitors and enforces a minimum daily spend ensures that accommodation is of the highest standards - not for those seeking budget backpacker-style travel.

Highlights

With an amazing heritage and spectacular scenery, Bhutan is endlessly fascinating with its blend of and the ancient and modern.

Discover the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan

Top of everyone's Bhutan must-see list is Taktshang Goemba - 'Tiger's Nest Monastery', one of the the Himalaya's most incredible sites that’s perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of the Paro Valley. The climb of a thousand steps to this sacred site is well worth the effort. Relics, statues, murals and scared caves and chapels offer tales of religious legends related to this World Heritage site that was the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Colourful mountain hikes

Trek through fluttering prayer flags, rhododendron trees and conifer forests on an ancient trails from Paro, stay overnight at Bumdrak, then descend through grassy meadows before taking a short drive to Thimphu.

Explore some of the country's most beautiful dzongs

Religion and government intertwine in dzongs - grand administrative buildings that accommodate both civil officials and monks. Massive fortress-like dzongs across the country conceal a complex of courtyards, temples, administrative offices, and monks' accommodation. Punakha Dzong is arguably the most beautiful in the country, especially in spring when it is surrounded by lilac-coloured jacaranda trees.

Local arts and crafts

Commonly known as 'the painting school', the National Institute for Zorig Chusum in Thimpu teaches many of Bhutan’s traditional art and crafts. Spend time watching craft demonstrations by its young students then pick up an authentic piece of local art in the showroom.

Visit one of the world's largest Buddha statues

Pay homage to one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world - made of bronze and gilded in gold. Seated on a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park at the southern entrance to Thimphu Valley and said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness, Buddha Dordenma is filled with 125,000 smaller Buddha statues.

When to visit

January and February can be cold but from then until April the climate remains dry and pleasant. In late spring the valleys are alive with colour as the famous rhododendrons bloom. From May it becomes hotter and more humid and from June to September the monsoon rains come. With clear, sunny skies and refreshing air, October to December is an ideal time to visit.