Bhutan holidays

Bhutan’s plunging valleys and mountainous peaks are dotted with ancient monasteries and temples. Small villages cluster around them, farmers tend their fields, and monks rise before dawn for morning prayers.

Entry visas are strictly limited in pursuit of low-impact, high-value tourism, to the extent that even the capital, Thimphu, has an otherworldly aspect to it, despite the occasional nod to ‘progress’. Once you step behind the veil, however, it becomes obvious that Bhutan welcomes strangers with open arms - and armfuls of Buddhist blessings.

Paro (a short drive from Thimphu over the majestic Dochula Pass) is the main point of entry to Bhutan, with the country’s only international airport. Paro's sacred Tiger’s Nest temple rewards trekkers with stunning panoramas over the valley and a sense of spiritual serenity. Central Bhutan, thick with tropical forest, is the cultural heartland; some of the country’s oldest and most significant religious sites are found here in the valleys of Bumthang, along with a slightly incongruous Swiss cheese factory.

In Punakha, the former capital, rice paddies and bountiful orchards make for blissful wandering, while the marshy terrain of the Phobjikha Valley draws hundreds of rare Black-Necked Crane every winter, prompting country-wide celebrations. Eastern Bhutan is almost completely undeveloped, and rarely visited, offering an authentic experience for adventurous travellers who make it that far. But the domestic airport has recently reopened in Trashigang, and plans are afoot to improve the main road, so the east may not be so remote for long.

The world’s highest unclimbed peak can be found in Bhutan - the sacred mountain of Gangkhar Puensum - so it should come as no surprise that mountain trekking is a popular activity, and the best way to really take in the genuinely epic scenery of the Eastern Himalayas. The Jhomolhari Trek is among the best-known routes, while the Snowman Trek, at 25 days, is reckoned to be among the most challenging in the world. Whatever your ability level, there are no end of satisfying treks available countrywide. Multi day journeys are accompanied by specialist guides, camp staff and horsemen to carry your equipment, leaving you to soak up the views.

A highlight of many Bhutan holidays is to mix with the locals at a tshechu. These religious festivals take place throughout the year, with masked dancers performing elaborate dances. The Paro and Punakha tshechus in particular, held in courtyards outside the dzongs, draw huge crowds, while those in more remote areas have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

Things to love in Bhutan

What to do in Bhutan: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights

Bhutan's Festivals

Bhutan's Festivals

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. 

Himalayan Black-Necked Cranes in Bhutan

See Himalayan Black-Necked Cranes in Bhutan

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. From a sheltered position near the RSPN visitor centre, you can take time to observe these elegant birds strut confidently across the untamed wetland landscape.

Bhutanese archer

Experience Bhutanese archery

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. 

Trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

Trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

Undoubtedly Bhutan's most iconic image, Taktsang Monastery, is known by most as Tiger's Nest Monastery and is worthy of all its fame. Despite being a fixture on most first visit itineraries, you do have to earn your prize, making a one or two day trek along mountain trails to reach the gleaming pearl clinging to the mountainside above the Paro Valley. 

 
 

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Inspirational journeys

Perfect straight ‘off the peg’ or as a source of inspiration allowing us to start with blank canvas. You decide

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.

LOCAL EXPERTISE

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.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL

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.

   EXCEPTIONAL STANDARDS

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.

WORRY-FREE

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.

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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.

Find out more about Selective Asia's Responsible Travel policy and our innovative One Bottle at a Time initiative.

What makes Bhutan tick?

 Happiness

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

 Vajrayana Buddhism

This form of Tantric Buddhism was spread through Bhutan by the Divine Madman, an unorthodox 15th century saint

 Phallic murals

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

 Dzongs

These towering fortresses act as administrative & social centres as well as housing for monks

 Carbon negativity

Forget carbon-neutral - Bhutan absorbs three times its own carbon output

 Spirituality

For the Bhutanese, spiritual activities are closely woven into everyday life

 Black-Necked Cranes

These elegant birds are greatly revered throughout Bhutan, enjoying protected status and their own annual festival

 Chillis!

Chilli-cheese (ema datshi, the national dish) appears with every meal, and chillis are eaten as vegetable as well as a spice

 Forward thinking

Bhutan was the first country to ban smoking in public places, and has already banned the sale of tobacco and plastic bags

 Tshechus

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

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.

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