Prayer flags flutter in the breeze at the start of the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which clings precariously to the side of a cliff.3/35
Here are just a few of the 108 stupas arranged around this viewpoint of the Dochula Stupa, at over 3000 metres above sea level. On a clear day, marvel at the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance.4/35
Archery is the national sport of the Kingdom of Bhutan, often played at religious and cultural festivals, and is a hugely popular pursuit for locals and tourists alike. Most afternoons you can see groups of men competing with each other, aiming at impossibly small targets about 120 metres away. Rivals taunt and tease each other mercilessly to make them lose their concentration; when they hit the target they sing and dance. A heart-warming and often hilarious spectacle!6/35
Lying in prime positions throughout the Himalayan Kingdom, the hot-anticipated Six Senses' Lodges were worth the wait.7/35
Six Senses Thimphu offers a vast outdoor terrace, complete with spacious ponds that reflect the snow-capped alpine peaks and white clouds in their mirror-still glossy surface.8/35
Our Bhutanese guides are great company and full of local knowledge. Here, your guides will escort you on the hike to the mystical Tiger’s Nest monastery.9/35
The detail and intricacy of Bhutan's traditional architecture is mind-blowing. Take time to explore the temples and courtyards of this ochre-hued palace.10/35
Watch a religious dance take place, called a cham, in the courtyard of a Buddhist monastery during the annual Paro Teschu festival. Monks perform festival dances and act out dramas as a form of meditation to personify their deity. Masked and dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes, dancers demonstrate the triumph of good over evil and the power of compassion.11/35
Experience some of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage with a cham, a traditional masked dance, at Amankora Paro.12/35
The King’s Birthday is a national holiday in Bhutan and it is customary to dress in traditional clothing. The Bhutanese partake in parades and festivities including eating emadatse and drinking home-distilled spirits.13/35
All Bhutanese are required to wear national dress everyday but at festivals, locals can be more creative with carved masks and unusual costumes that depict scenes from their rich cultural history.14/35
Take a traditional Bhutanese breakfast including butter tea overlooking the forested Paro Valley at Como's Uma Paro.15/35
You know you are in good hands when your hotel is part of the superb Como chain. Uma Paro is no exception with contemporary design contrasting with the natural environment of the Paro Valley.16/35
Bedrooms at Uma Paro are sparkling clean and stylish, in keeping with re-knowned Como ethic. Expect spacious terraces, Bhutanese fabrics and a butler on-call 24 hours a day.17/35
Admire this fresco of a fierce tiger at the Paro Dzong – a huge fortress and monastery in Rinpung.18/35
Take in the view of the misty mountains that rise above the Thimpu valley at the luxurious Taj Tashi hotel.19/35
Be captivated by Bhutan's famous hand-drawn Buddhist murals which adorn the walls of temples and local homes.20/35
Take in these epic views of the Phobjika Valley from Amankora Gangtey, Aman’s small-but-perfectly-formed luxury hotel.21/35
Follow this track through the pine forests of the Paro Valley and breathe in the fresh Bhutan air on a trek accompanied by your guides.22/35
Let your guide shed light on the ornate murals that cover the inner walls of the Punakha Dzong.24/35
This typically colourful truck makes the passage through Bhutan's high roads on a crisp winter's day.25/35
Relish in the space and tranquillity of the Amankora Bumthang's bonfire courtyard, surrounded by pine-clad mountains.26/35
Open your mind to some of Bhutan’s more unusual murals. Phallic symbols, mostly seen painted on walls of homes, represent fertility.27/35
Enjoy a traditional Bhutanese breakfast in the courtyard of Amankora Punakha and make the most of the pristine views backed by snow-capped peaks.28/35
The view from Amankora Punakha is seriously restful. Enjoy vistas of wooden valleys, the Mo Chuu River and lush paddy fields.29/35
Winter at Amankora Gangtey often provides a beautiful blanket of snow over the ridges and knolls of the surrounding valleys.30/35
Enjoy traditional stews and authentic cuisine in the wood-panelled dining room of the Amankora Gangtey, which overlooks the stunning valley landscape.31/35
There’s no better way to experience the quiet paradise of Bhutan's pristine natural landscapes than camping out overnight.32/35
For the ultimate nature experience, stay at the Tented Outposts in the Wild and enjoy their rustic, yet very comfortable, spacious walk-in tipi's.33/35
You’ll find rows of butter lamps a common sight in religious places and monasteries in Bhutan. Monks light a butter lamp every day to help focus the mind.34/35
The wonderful Six Senses Thimphu Lodge give its guests glimpses into daily Bhutanese life.35/35
Bhutan: Best time to go
Bhutan sits on the southern slopes of the Himalayas and is a year-round destination with each season having different things to offer visitors – in many respects comparable to Switzerland. There are 5 main valleys visited by tourists which are at different altitudes and have different micro-climates which range from subtropical in Punakha to alpine in Bumthang and Gangtey. For this one can’t actually say that there is a best time to visit Bhutan.
Winter months from December to the end of February have remarkably stable weather and are mostly bright, clear and crisp – there is no better time to enjoy the views of the Himalayan peaks. There will be snow on the mountain peaks and high passes, and occasionally even in the valleys but as humidity is very low it can feel remarkably warm when sunny (which is most of the time), much like when skiing in the Alps. After dark it becomes crisp and is perfect to enjoy sitting in front of a traditional Bhutanese wood-burning stove (bukhari).
Spring (March – May) is bright and warm. This is when the landscapes become visibly greener and when the rhododendrons and azaleas come into full bloom. As the temperatures rise, the visibility drops. This is a popular time for colourful festivals (called tshechus) which mostly take place in the fortified monasteries called dzongs. It is also a great time for camping treks.
In summer (June – August) the weather is warm and the landscape is at its greenest, the mountains are dotted with waterfalls and the rivers run full. There are summer rains but these tend to be short and sharp, and frequently accompanied by impressive thunder storms that reverberate through the valleys – one of the reasons why Bhutan is called the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Autumn (September – November) sees temperatures gradually drop and the rains cease. The weather is mainly mild and the trees start shedding their leaves. Like spring, it’s a great time to attend tshechus and for camping treks.
N.B. All information given here is to the best of our knowledge, however, changes do occur, sometimes at short notice. Ampersand cannot be held liable for such happenings. Of course, if you have any tips that you feel would benefit other travellers, please pass them onto us and we will add them.
When considering a holiday to Bhutan, you should bear in mind that there are no direct flights from the UK; flights to Paro go via main hubs in India such as Calcutta and Delhi, as well as Bangkok. Tailor-made tours to Bhutan can easily be combined with India and Thailand.
All visitors to Bhutan require a tourist visa which must be obtained prior to travel. We will arrange your visas as part of your holiday arrangements – visas cannot be obtained from any agency or embassy outside of Bhutan. Once your holiday has been booked we will send through a visa information sheet to be completed and returned to us as soon as possible which we will forward to Bhutan. Your visa will be issued on entering Bhutan and we will provide you with the visa approval number about a week before you depart for your Bhutan holiday. There is no visa application fee, but an entry fee of US $40.00 is included in the cost of your holiday. Please note that passports must have at least 2 blank pages and be valid for 6 months after your return from Bhutan.
It is essential to visit your GP as soon as possible to check if you need any vaccinations prior to travel. Risk for vaccine preventable diseases can change at any time. MASTA (Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad) can supply a quick and easy online Travel Health Brief. This includes easy to understand vaccination advice for single or multi-country trips. Their website is www.masta-travel-health.com.
Delhi - Paro: 2 hours 20 minutes
Calcutta - Paro: 1 hour 10 minutes
Kathmandu - Paro: 1 hour 5 minutes
Bangkok - Paro: 3 hours
We highly recommend you reconfirm your onward and return international flights at least 72 hours prior to departure.
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India