A holiday in Bhutan is a privilege, with only a limited number of lucky visitors making the journey each year. Famously protective of its glorious natural habitat, ancient traditions and happy culture, the nation keeps tourism to a high quality minimum, allowing those who do visit to enjoy its superb Himalayan landscape in unpolluted peace.
Nevertheless, the Bhutanese welcome strangers with open arms (and armfuls of Buddhist blessings), and you can look forward to plenty of cheerful encounters as you amble through the awe-inspiring mountain scenery...
Fresh air & mountain scenery
As a famously carbon-negative nation, Bhutan works hard to protect its forested mountain landscape from development and pollution. Tourist numbers are carefully controlled, and even the capital, Thimphu, has an otherworldly aspect to it, despite the occasional nod to ‘progress’. The result is a gloriously refreshing environment, a relaxing mix of green rural valleys and broad Himalayan vistas. It’s the perfect place to retreat, rejuvenate, and truly get back to nature.
Dzongs, tsechus, monasteries & celebrations
Bhutan’s plunging valleys and mountainous peaks are dotted with ancient monasteries and temples. Paro's Tiger’s Nest temple is easily the most famous of these, and rewards those who climb its many steps with stunning panoramas over the valley. Another highlight is to mix with the locals at a tsechu. These exuberant festivals take place throughout the year, with masked dancers performing elaborate dances within the dzongs (the imposing fortresses that house both religion and government throughout Bhutan). In the towns, tsechus draw huge crowds, while those in more remote areas have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Archery competitions are popular, with bowmen representing their towns and villages in Bhutan’s national sport. And there are also festivals to celebrate natural events, such as the arrival of Black-Necked Cranes in Phobjikha Valley each winter.
Low-impact wellness focused luxury
At the end of a day spent wandering the valley-sides and breathing in lungfuls of fresh mountain air, there’s nothing quite like retreating to a cosy fireside and a warm bed! Luckily, Bhutan’s pursuit of low-impact, high-value tourism has led to the creation of a handful of enchanting mountain retreats, which are both unobtrusive and deeply luxurious. We particularly love the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary and Gangtey Lodge, which nestle amongst the woodland on verdant mountainsides, and offer responsible, holistically focused luxury with easy treks in the surrounding landscape.
The world’s highest unclimbed peak — the sacred mountain of Gangkhar Puensum — can be found in Bhutan, and the country’s scenic terrain is excellent for trekking. Whether you go on a short day hike or a longer trek, walking really is the best way to take in the awe-inspiring scenery of the Eastern Himalayas. Whatever your ability level, there are many satisfying treks available across Bhutan. Multi-day journeys can be as simple or grand as you prefer, whether you want to simply walk, or be accompanied by specialist guides, camp staff and horsemen to carry your equipment.
Things to love in Bhutan
What to do in Bhutan: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
Peppering your holiday in Bhutan with unique birding opportunities is a great way to see the landscape from a new angle, and gives you the chance to experience some of Bhutan’s best festivals, as many take place during the height of bird watching season.
Bhutan is famous for its flamboyant festivals, known locally as Tsechus, which are typically held in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the most important Buddhist figure in Bhutanese history. Each plays a crucial part in preserving the kingdom’s rich culture and traditions. The festivals are understandably a big draw and influence Bhutan's high season dates.
From late October to the end of February, flocks of migrating Black-Necked Cranes swoop down at sunset to roost in the sheltered Phobjikha Valley, a swish of beating wings announcing their arrival as they land. Take time to observe these elegant birds strut confidently across the untamed wetland landscape.
The national sport and at times perhaps closer to an obsession, archery in Bhutan is to be enjoyed for its purity. You won't hear talk of transfer markets or foul play. The precision, elegance and heritage of archery takes on renewed energy in Bhutan, where this ancient pursuit has become a symbol of culture and community.
Undoubtedly Bhutan's most iconic image, Taktsang Monastery - known as the Tiger's Nest - is worthy of all its fame. Despite being a fixture on most first visit itineraries, you do have to earn your prize, trekking along mountain trails to reach the gleaming pearl clinging to the mountainside above the Paro Valley.
Discover your Bhutan
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The Selective difference
With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
Our Brighton-based Destination Specialists spend each day working closely with colleagues and partners across Asia. This ensures we stay several steps ahead when designing inspiring holidays, staying up to date and overcoming obstacles, which means your holiday will be crafted using both local and international expertise.
The welfare of our destinations and their communities is incredibly important to us. We are focused on ensuring that your money makes a positive impact, as often as possible, by supporting communities and wildlife conservation through dedicated initiatives and by very carefully choosing our partners in Asia.
We may be partial to the occasional bad pun, but we don’t joke around when it comes to designing first class travel experiences. Over 90% of our clients rate us 5/5 after their holiday, and we're not ashamed to crack a proud grin on behalf of our award-winning teams in the UK and Asia.
We know your time is precious, before and during your trip. We want you to have a smooth and relaxing experience so that your main concern on holiday will be whether to order noodles or rice. There will be no hidden extras, and your holiday will be orchestrated seamlessly by your Destination Specialist plus our local guides and behind-the-scenes crews in your destination.
Explore Bhutan's highlights
Responsible Travel in Bhutan
Bhutan is the only country in the world to be carbon negative, absorbing three times the carbon it produces. Its focus on low number of visitors helps the tourism industry keep to good sustainable practices, thus protecting its environment and communities.
Bhutan's hotels all have an impeccable record when it comes to sustainability. From the luxurious Amankora and culturally immersive Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary to modest home stays by using local materials for their buildings, sourcing local ingredients for its dishes or using little to no plastic.
Bhutan has made happiness official business with its Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, which is prioritised over GDP
Tiger’s Nest temple
Clinging implausibly to a Paro cliffside, the 17th century Paro Taktsang temple rewards determined pilgrims with spectacular views
This form of Tantric Buddhism was spread through Bhutan by the Divine Madman, an unorthodox 15th century saint
There’s no getting around them! Many of Bhutan’s rural buildings are painted with cheerily graphic fertility symbols, said to ward against the evil eye
These towering fortresses act as administrative & social centres as well as housing for monks
Forget carbon-neutral - Bhutan absorbs three times its own carbon output
For the Bhutanese, spiritual activities are closely woven into everyday life
These elegant birds are greatly revered throughout Bhutan, enjoying protected status and their own annual festival
Chilli-cheese (ema datshi, the national dish) appears with every meal, and chillis are eaten as vegetable as well as a spice
Bhutan was the first country to ban smoking in public places, and has already banned the sale of tobacco and plastic bags
Annual Buddhist festivals held in each district, tshechus are a chance for remote communities to socialise and enjoy elaborate masked dances
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Stories from Bhutan
23rd January 2020
Birding in Bhutan: bird watching in the Happiest Country on Earth
Whether you’re a keen birder or new to the pastime, a Bhutan bird watching holiday gives you a fresh perspective on this quiet country’s rich wildlife wonderland. Peppering your holiday in Bhutan with unique birding opportunities is a great way to see the landscape from a new angle, and gives you the chance to experience some of Bhutan’s best festivals, as many take place during the height of bird watching season.