Taktsang Monastery on the side of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)
Article Words : Wanderlust team | 07 August

The Wanderlust guide to the best of Bhutan

The last of the Himalayan kingdoms, there’s nowhere on earth quite like Bhutan. Thanks to a long history of isolation and controlled modernisation, a trip to Bhutan feels like a journey into the past...

Bhutanese men still stroll the streets in traditional dress, the countryside is dotted with wooden houses and dramatic Buddhist monasteries, and the whole population takes part in colourful festivals.

Bhutan’s natural environment is equally cherished: vast swathes of the country are protected in national parks and plastic bags are outlawed. If Shangri-La exists today, Bhutan is the most likely candidate.

This Shangri-La comes at a price. To keep visitor numbers down, the Bhutanese government imposes a high daily tourist tariff. You’ll have to book an arranged trip and be accompanied by a local guide. However, you can customise your trip to see and do pretty much what like – whether your interest is culture, wildlife, trekking or all three.

Temple in the Himalaya (Shutterstock.com)Temple in the Himalaya (Shutterstock)

Looking for inspiration?

There’s nowhere on earth quite like Bhutan. But your time there will be limited, so it’s important that you decide what you want to see and do and tailor your itinerary accordingly. Bradley Mayhew has put together a Bhutan Travel Blueprint that suggesting a number of different options and outlining what each has to offer. If you’re going there to trek, you’ll want to check out our list of Bhutan’s 7 best treks.

Paul Bloomfield offers more specific advice on exploring the mountain monasteries of Bhutan, Lizzie Matthews explores western Bhutan and Sarah Baxter wanders the various footpaths to enlightment, both natural and man-made.

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Bhutan Travel Blueprint – Bradley Mayhew

7 treks for BhutanWanderlust Team

Exploring mountain monasteries in Bhutan – Paul Bloomfield

Bhutan: Footpaths to enlightenment – Sarah Baxter

Kingdom of heaven: exploring western Bhutan – Lizzie Matthews

House phallus, Bhutan (Marie Javins)

Bhutan's secrets revealed

As befitting a country cut off from the rest of the world so long, Bhutan is a land of secret and mysterious ways. With that in mind, Bhutan expert Ilka Staschen has put together a handy guide on how to visit Bhutan without offending locals. Exchanging gifts is an important ritual when visiting someone’s home for example. Just make sure you don’t open yours in front of your host.

Marie Javins spent a considerable amount of time in Bhutan too and reveals what she learned about the country, where to find the legendary three-legged dinosaur of Bhutan and just why the country is so obsessed with phallic symbols. That obsession intrigued guide book guru Hilary Bradt too. She discusses her findings in her regular column.

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How to visit Bhutan without offending anyone – Ilka Staschen

What I learned in Bhutan – Marie Javins

The three-legged dinosaur of Bhutan – Marie Javins

The true meaning of Bhutan's phallic obsession – Marie Javins

Hilary Bradt talks: phallic obsessions in Bhutan – Hilary Bradt

Monks walking to Trongsa DzongMonks walking to Trongsa Dzong (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

Photographing places of worship is a sensitive business, especially in a country as isolated as Bhutan. The single most important thing to keep in mind when you are photographing religious places is that they are sacred. Not causing offence is far more important than any picture you might want to take. Thankfully, our photographic sensei, Steve Davey, is on hand to help you capture the atmosphere in style, without causing offence.

If you’re looking for inspiration, make sure you check out the photos taken by our readers on their travels in Bhutan. They’re out of this world.

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Photography tips: places of worship – Steve Davey

Readers' photos from Bhutan

Masked dancers in Bhutan (Shutterstock.com)Masked dancers in Bhutan (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Bhutan Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by the Bhutan Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news from Bhutan too.

If you have a particular question about Ireland, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about Bhutan. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Bhutan Travel GuideWanderlust Team

Bhutan Essential InformationWanderlust Team

Latest travel news from Bhutan

Forum posts about Bhutan

Community content about Bhutan

Prayer Wheels in Bhutan (Shutterstock.com)Prayer wheels in Bhutan (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours from our partners. From temple tours and wildlife adventures in search of elusive black-necked cranes to treks to Bhutan’s Sacred Summit, there’s something for every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Bhutan

Main image: Taktsang Monastery on the side of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan (Shutterstock)