Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys.
It is famed for its high mountain peaks and range of trekking opportunities, its diverse, natural Shangri-La, a variety of landscapes, and an incredible array of fauna and flora, from subtropical valleys to alpine peaks.
Bhutan is one of the most unique places to visit on our planet. By law, 60% of the whole country’s national forest is protected, and it makes Bhutan tours perfect for trekkers, monastery-lovers, Buddhist pilgrims and the merely curious.
Bhutan is home to some exceptional wildlife including Himalayan Black Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Red Panda, Himalayan Musk Deer, Sloth Bear, Leopards, and the Gray Wolf.
What’s included in the Bhutan tourism fee?
Your daily fee for Bhutan includes:
- Licensed Bhutanese guide from an official Bhutanese tour operator.
- Driver and transportation – a new 4×4, or a tour bus. Do not cover any internal flights.
- Accommodation – includes a 3-stars hotel. If you want something more luxurious like 5-star hotels expect to pay several hundred dollars more per day.
- Entrance fees to tourist sights
- Food and most non-alcoholic drinks.
- Trekking gear.
- All taxes within the country.
Most travelers are not well informed what that fee includes and they fill like it is on the expensive side but as you can see, the Bhutan tourist fee covers all of your necessary expenses within Bhutan.
Photo credit: Christopher Fynn / Wikipedia
The capital Thimphu
Thimphu is the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and with a population of around 80,000 is the nation’s largest city. The city is the political and economic center of Bhutan, has a dominant agricultural and livestock base, which contributes 45% of the country’s GNP.
Settlements in Thimphu Valley has existed since 1216. In 2008, the national stadium was completed together with a new river-side park.
Thimphu is well endowed with attractions. Some of the most popular attractions are:
Changangkha Lhakhang – constructed in the 15th century, this is one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley. The temple offers wonderful views over the entire valley.
The National Memorial Chorten – located off Jangchhub Lam, the stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third king.
Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill is a 51.5mt bronze statue of the founder of Buddhism.
Museums/Galleries – National Folk Heritage Museum, the Royal Textile Academy, Alaya Gallery, Water Dragon Gallery are just a few.
Trashi Chhoe Dzong. – the present dzong was built in the 18th century by Shabdrung Rinpoche to house government officials.
Simtokha Dzong – built-in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Simtokha was the first dzong to be built in a unified Bhutan.
The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. Serbithang botanical garden offer a peaceful and relaxing environment to spend a few hours. Botanists will find the wide selection of indigenous trees and plants of interest.
Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts, near the National Library, was established in 1971 to preserve the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan, and visitors are able to observe students honing their skills.
Thimphu Centenary Farmers Weekend Market is by far the largest domestic market for the farmers of Bhutan. Farmers from as far as Lingshi in the north, Tashiyangtse in the east, and Sarpang, Dagana and Tsirang in the south bring their farm products to the market. Across a cantilever footbridge, Kuendeyling Bazaam, to the west bank is a collection of stalls housing clothing, fabric and handicrafts.
Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered throughout the area. In addition, the Paro Valley is wide and verdant and is recognized a one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan.
The only international airport in the kingdom is located at Paro, and there are two national airlines operate flights to Bhutan: Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Along with Jakar and Punakha, Paro forms the ‘golden triangle’ of popular tourist destinations in country. Some of the main attractions here are:
Taktsang Monastery, (Tiger’s Nest). Precariously perched on the edge of a 1,200-meter cliff, this monastery creates an impressive sight and is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. It is about 2-3 hours, totally up-hill hike from the parking lot to the monastery, though there is a cafe located on the ridge across from the Taktsang (about 90 minutes into the walk) that provides a welcome opportunity to take a rest and purchase refreshments and snacks.
National Museum of Bhutan. Located in a former watchtower above the dzong, the museum displays artifacts from Bhutan’s history as well as examples of indigenous flora and fauna.
Rinpung Dzong, which was constructed in 1646.
Drukgyel Dzong This dzong (fortress) was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces.
Drakhapo, above Shaba (keeping Shaba School to the right, follow the dirt road to the end. The complex is a five-minute walk from here). Drakhapo is a monastic complex perched on a cliff. Guru Rinpoche spent two months here after completing a retreat at nearby Taktsang, and during his stay placed many treasures (terma) into the cliff. The area also has several hand and footprints embedded in the rock.
Kichu Lhakang is one of the 108 monasteries that were miraculously constructed by King Songten Gampo in one night. It is located just off the road running between Paro bazaar and the Taktsang.
Jangsarbu Lhakhang, located behind Paro Dzong. This small and insignificant looking temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa, and also houses the protector deity of Paro.
Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon / Wikipedia
The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungthang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang, is the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures.
Dechen Phrodrang Monastery
This was once the original dzong of the city. Dechen Phrodrang. meaning “Palace of Great Bliss”. is a Buddhist monastery in Thimphu, Bhutan. The monastery contains a number of important historical Bhutanese artifacts including 12th-century paintings monitored by UNESCO and a noted statue of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal
Changlimithang Archery Ground
Changlimithang Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in the capital Thimphu, which serves as the most-used National Stadium. The stadium was initially constructed in 1974 for the coronation of the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Located 2,300 meters (7,500 ft) above sea level, the stadium is one of the highest in the world with seating for around 10,000 people.
Photo credit: Bernard Gagnon / Wikipedia
Tashichhoedzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimphu in Bhutan.
Want to learn more about Bhutan? Check our other posts about Bhutan.