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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.


Wanderlust recommends

  • Hike up to Bhutan’s most famous monastery, Taktshang Goemba – The Tiger’s Nest, so named because it clings to the cliffs high above the Paro Valley
  • Head off on the spectacular Jhomolhari trek – Winds through pristine Himalayan landscapes prowled by snow leopards
  • Paro Tsechu festival – Marvel at the spectacular costumes and masked monk dances at the springtime Paro Tsechu festival
  • Browse Thimphu’s weekend market – Discover delicacies as fried ferns, jellied cowskins and dried betel leaves
  • Trek the Bumthang valley – Packed with picturesque temples, traditional villages and ancient rhododendron forests
  • Watch Bhutan’s national sport: Archery – The boisterous cheering, singing and dancing from the female spectators on the sidelines is just as entertaining as the match

Wanderlust tips

Follow the normal Buddhist rules of etiquette: don’t point your fingers or feet at people and remove your shoes before entering important rooms or temples. Dress modestly and avoid public displays of affection. Avoid killing animals and insects.

Further Reading

Travel in Bhutan: vital stats

  • Capital of Bhutan: Thimphu
  • Population of Bhutan: 692,000
  • Languages in Bhutan: Dzongkha
  • Time in Bhutan: GMT+6
  • International dialling code in Bhutan: +975
  • Voltage in Bhutan: 320 AC 50 Hz
  • Visas for Bhutan: Visas for Bhutan
  • Money in Bhutan: Ngultrum (NU). Credit cards are little used. Travellers’ cheques can be changed at the Bank of Bhutan and the Bhutan National Bank. The Indian rupee is widely used; US dollars are also useful. Officially tipping is frowned on but an acknowledgement of good service is always appreciated in hotels, and by guides, drivers and trekking staff. <link to currency exchange site.>
  • Bhutan travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Bhutan tourist board: Tourism Council of Bhutan

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