Thirteen of the best places to visit in Bhutan

Bhutan may be a relatively small country, but it is packed with tourist attractions from quintessential to quirky. From lofty monasteries offering incredible views to the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Poignant memorials, beautiful rhododendrons and an array of wildlife also await.  And where else in the world would you find a monastery decorated with sacred phalluses?

Thirteen of the best places to visit in Bhutan

We hope this selection of wonderful destinations will inspire you to visit unique Bhutan.

1. Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taktsang Monastery)

No visit to Bhutan is complete without a trip to one of Bhutan’s most photographed landmarks. Tiger’s Nest Monastery (also known as Taktsang Monastery) is nestled into the side of a lofty cliff and this sacred Buddhist site is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan.

Although the uphill walk is strenuous, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the forested hills and snow-capped mountains that are the perfect setting for the monastery’s fluttering prayer flags and golden pagoda roofs.


Tiger's Nest Monastery, Paro Taktsang), Bhutan

2. Gangtey

If you want to learn about village life, arts, and religion, then head to the Gangtey Valley in Bhutan. This stunning location offers stunning panoramas, deep forests, verdant fields, and traditional ornate buildings.

The hilltop Gangtey Monastery is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan, displaying Bhutanese architecture. You can also visit the Black Crane Centre with its observation room for migrating birds.

Gangtey Village and Goemba Buddhist Monastery, Bhutan

3. Chimi Lhakhang Monastery

In our book, this is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan as it’s just so unique. Chimi Lhakhang monastery, also known as the ‘Monastery of the Divine Madman’, is a reminder of the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (the ‘Divine Madman’ himself) known for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism through singing, humour and outrageous behaviour.

Be prepared for phalluses – they adorn the walls, are carved into the eaves of houses and in the monastery you can see the original ten-inch wooden phallus used to bless pilgrims with a tap on the head.

Chimi Lakhang Temple, Buddhist monastery, Punakha District, Bhutan

4. Dochula Pass

This beautiful and heart-warming memorial was created in remembrance of the 108 Bhutanese soldiers who died in a 2003 military operation. Dochula Pass comprises 108 stupas (monuments) arranged in three concentric circles and on a clear day you can enjoy incredible 360-degree panoramic views of the Himalayas.

Visit between September to February to see the Himalayas glistening with snow or late  February and early March for the beautiful rhododendrons and magnolias in bloom on the hillside.

Monument with 108 Choten, Dochula Pass, Bhutan

5. Paro

Paro is Bhutan’s main arrival point for foreign visitors, via an incredible flight path that only a few Bhutanese pilots are qualified to fly.

Paro’s highlight is the imposing Rinpung Dzong Buddhist monastery which you can reach via a covered cantilever bridge. It contains a wonderful enormous embroidered tapestry depicting the dzong’s founding father Guru Rinpoche. Thousands of locals in colourful national dress congregate once a year for the annual unrolling of the tapestry at the tshechu (festival).

Rinpung Dzong, Paro, Bhutan

6. Punakha

Get a real flavour of rural Bhutan in Punakha, one of the best places to visit in Bhutan. It is home to one of the country’s most famous monasteries, built in 1638 and located at the meeting of two rivers. The monastery is a truly authentic showcase of Bhutanese artistry, with an beautiful assembly hall furnished with detailed murals and beautiful clay figures.

The dzong is the location of the Punakha Tshechu festival each February or March, where a gigantic and exquisitely appliquéd thondrol (sacred flag) is unfurled to grant merit to onlookers.

Mo Chhu River, Punakha, Bhutan

7. Thimphu

The capital of Bhutan since 1961, and the only world capital without traffic lights, Thimpu is a quirky destination that we adore. If you’re brave, why not try the local delicacies of fried fern and jellied cow skin in the weekly market? Or you could get the opportunity to touch the takin, Bhutan’s national which is a cross between a cow and a goat.

There are also imposing dzongs (fortress-monasteries), the King’s Memorial chorten, the Buddhist painting school and the National Folk Heritage Museum, a 150-year-old former residence resembling a traditional farmstead.

National Memorial Chhorten, Thimphu Bhutan

8. Trashigang

One of the main attractions in lofty Trashigang is the Dzong (monastery), nicknamed the ‘Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’. Built in 1659 it still contains the rifles Indian soldiers were required to deposit after the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The dzong hosts the four-day Trashigang Tshechu festival every year with about 1,500 people attending the celebrations.

Trashigang is also a useful base if you’re attempting the Merak Sakten Trek through the Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary, rumoured to be the home of the legendary Yeti, along with the reclusive endangered snow leopard and red panda.

Trashigang Dzong, Bhutan

9. Bumthang Valley

Get away from it all in wonderful Bumthang. Awash with stories and legends, temples and some of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries, the broad valley has picture book villages and coniferous woodland.

Bumthang Valley is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan because it is home to Bhutan’s only brewery producing Red Panda wheat beer, after the rarely-sighted bear living in the temperate forests.

Bumthang Valley, Bhutan

10. Haa Valley

Haa Valley is the home of Bhutan’s oldest holy sites including the Lhakhang Kharpo and Lhakhang Nagpo temples both dating back to the 7th century.

Haa Town, punctuated with ornate houses and buildings decorated with painted pillars, beautiful wooden eaves and exposed timber is the main settlement and has a handful of restaurants and a bustling bazaar. Haa Valley is well worth exploring for its taste of historic life it offers, traditional villages, rice fields and remote walking trails.

Haa Valley, Bhutan

11. Trongsa

With its spectacular views of the surrounding deep valleys, Trongsa is the central hub of Bhutan and is where you’ll find Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive dzong (fortress monastery) of Bhutan guarding the town from its hilltop perch. The Trongsa watchtower is now a museum and is the perfect place to learn about the kingdom’s history.

Every monastery in Bhutan observes the five-day Trongsa tsechu festival celebrating the arrival of Buddhist master Guru Rimpoche in the 8th century, where Buddhism triumphed over evil.

Trongsa Dzong, Bumthang, Bhutan

12. Mongar

The journey to Mongare alone makes it one of the best places to visit in Bhutan. The road is breathtaking, passing sheer cliffs and winding amidst verdant green pastures and fir forests to the Rhododendron garden with its endless varieties of rhododendrons. From the garden you can see Gangkhar Puensum, the world’s highest unclimbed mountain, on a clear day.

Mongar Dzong is one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs as it was built in Built in 1930. It hosts an annual tsechu (a religious Bhutanese festival) for a week every November.

Wildlife lovers will adore Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and Thrumshingla National Park for their flora and fauna. Mongar is also famous for its fragrant lemongrass, weaving and textiles. The fabrics produced in Mongar are considered some of the best in the country.

Close Up Traditional Dance and Colours in Mongar, Bhutan

13. Samdrup Jongkhar

Samdrup Jongkhar is one of the best places to visit in Bhutan as this quiet, laidback town is one of the oldest in Eastern Bhutan. It is famous for a busy market crossing the border to India and the oldest cinema in Bhutan attracting the Assamese from across the border to watch the screenings of Bollywood films.

To get your animal fix, head to the Mithun Breeding Farm to see the large domestic cattle also known as gayal and Drung ox that are only found in Northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Yunnan.

Buddhist Monastery, Samdrup Jongkhar, Bhutan

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best places to visit in Bhutan. If there are destinations you’d like to visit, then please get in touch so we can craft a tour tailored to your exact requirements.