Bhutan is a small landlocked country that borders India and Tibet. It’s a Buddhist country known for its vibrant festivals, gorgeous landscapes, and diverse wildlife.
We’ll cover the best time to visit Bhutan and general tips for planning your trip in this guide!
Why You Should Visit Bhutan
Bhutan is sometimes known as Druk Yuk or “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” In old times, it was also known as Lho Mon, or “Southern Land of Darkness.” As if that’s not cool enough, there are tons of reasons to visit Bhutan!
Bhutan has some majestic landscapes unmatched by many other countries. This is partly due to their dedication to protecting 60% of their land from deforestation. This is a part of their constitution as one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy.
If you’re interested in the four pillars of Gross National Happiness, they are:
- Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
- Conservation of the environment
- Preservation and promotion of culture
- Good governance
This four-pillar system is deeply rooted in Buddhism, in which much of the country is deeply devout. This was designed as a replacement for Gross Domestic Product and attempted to focus on the happiness of the collective people rather than their production.
One significant side effect of the four pillars is that Bhutan is an exceptionally safe and peaceful place to visit. The people generally are courteous and neighborly, while the crime rate is relatively low. There is almost no major crime, with some minor crimes like pickpocketing.
One thing that Bhutan is indeed known for is its festivals. These colorful spectacles honor the culture and art of Bhutan. During these festivals, it is common to see locals walking around in their traditional clothing (the Gho and Kira), to see traditional dances, and to experience music and demonstrations of the 13 traditional arts.
One of the most popular festivals is the Tsechu or Bhutanese festival.
This festival takes place in March and April or September and October, depending on what part of the country that you’re in. During Tsechu, you can enjoy reenactments of historic moments in Bhutan culture.
You will also see monks performing in masks and costumes. Past visitors have described the festival as being genuinely unforgettable.
Another prominent festival is the Black-Necked Crane Festival which takes place in November. The black-necked crane is the only alpine bird in the world. This bird is sacred to Bhutan and is considered a symbol of longevity.
These birds have a red crown, black neck, and an impressive eight-foot wingspan in the wild. They can be truly spectacular to see, so it is little wonder that Bhutan treats them so highly!
Bhutan has gone so far as to protect the cranes that they have enacted laws and regulations to protect their migration route by installing power lines underground rather than across the land. Bhutan’s emphasis on preserving the country’s green spaces has also helped protect its habitat.
The Black-Necked Crane Festival started in 1998 and has become incredibly popular as the people of Bhutan and visitors celebrate the arrival of this majestic bird in Gangtey Goemba. There are also cultural displays, masked performances, songs, and dances during the festival. There is, of course, a focus on the conversation of the cranes during the festival.
The festivals that take place during the year help bring a lot of money to this small country. This money is usually put back into their environmental efforts.
Some other things you may enjoy in Bhutan include hiking through its expansive wilderness. A popular spot is the Tiger’s Nest, pictured above, which is a 300-year-old monastery in Paro Valley.
While you’re out in the wild, enjoy the subtropical climate and watch for wild animals like the Asian elephant, red panda, Bengal tiger, Himalayan black bear, sloth bear, black-necked crane, leopards, and gray wolf.
For foodies, you’ll love the world of spicy food the country offers, such as curries and stews! These dishes are often packed with chili peppers to give them a flavorful kick.
For those looking to relax, Bhutan is naturally a peaceful place to visit. The country is a beautiful place to stop, reflect, and meditate. Aside from that, there are also hot stone baths you can check out and unwind.
The climate is subtropical to alpine, depending on where you are. If you visit in the summer, you can expect temperatures to stay between 55-87 and 30-66 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
The weather in Bhutan is usually described as sunny and cool, but it can get quite cold at night. If you’re visiting, it is recommended to pack warm layers.
Overall Best Time to Visit Bhutan
Bhutan has distinct seasons and something to do when you visit all year! The overall best time to visit is during the fall, especially the month of November.
During this time, the weather is still fair and it’s drier than in the summer. Additionally, you get to enjoy several festivals across the country. This is not only the time of year for the Black-Necked Crane festivals, but many local festivals take place around the same time.
In the summer, you can enjoy the Haa Festival, celebrated in the alpine regions. This festival is a celebration of Bhutan culture and their way of life.
It’s worth noting that the nights still get cold in the summer, and summer can experience some heavy rain periodically, so remember to pack some waterproof layers.
In the winter, you experience the Punakha Dromche and the Tshechu festivals. For some, this may be the best time to visit Bhutan as the Tshechu is considered the biggest and most famous festival of the year.
If you’re thinking about going in the winter, you should note that there’s always a chance of heavy snowfall. You may have to change your plans at a moment’s notice as the roads turn impassable quickly.
The spring is the time for the Jacaranda blooms and the Tshechu festival in Paro. Spring tends to be the busiest time for Bhutan, and flights, hotels, and services tend to book quickly.
Cheapest Time to Visit Bhutan
As with most trips, any destination has peak seasons and low seasons. You can expect to spend a bit less during the low season. In Bhutan, the cheapest time to visit is during the summer, between June and August, and winter, between December and February.
If you go at these times, you’ll be able to save some money with cheaper accommodations and flights. But you’ll also miss out on some of the more prominent festivals that many people consider the main reason to go.
There are a few general tips if you still want to go during the peak seasons cheaply:
- Try to use public transit as much as possible. This will be a significant factor in lowering your costs, especially if you want to see a lot of the country.
- Avoid traveling alone. Traveling as a small group will make the trip cheaper since you’ll be able to split costs with your fellow travelers!
- Plan your trip extensively to try and make the most of every dollar. Scouting out the best deals and places to eat and stay ahead of time can make a big difference in how much your trip to Bhutan costs.
Even with all of these tips put in place, remember that Bhutan is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. This is mainly because of the fee of $200 per person, per day that all visitors are expected to pay when they come to Bhutan.
Least Busy Time to Visit Bhutan
The least busy times to visit Bhutan are between June and August and December to February. These periods are nestled between the main festivals of the year and are much quieter and less crowded.
Both will be excellent times to visit if you’re looking for a more meditative trip to Bhutan. This may be the time to focus on hiking the wilderness, visiting the famous monasteries, or enjoying a more intimate, slowed-down version of the culture.
In general, we recommend December to February over June to August. Why? June to August is the monsoon season, and unless you are good with a lot of rain, you may want to avoid it.
December to February, however, is drier and colder. There will be some snow, but it shouldn’t affect your trip too much. Overall, if you want a laid-back trip to Bhutan with fewer crowds, anytime during December, January, or February will be perfect.
Worst Time to Visit Bhutan
One time of year to avoid Bhutan is from June to August. This time of year is the monsoon season and can be met with steady and heavy rain.
You won’t want to go outside much with all that rain, so hiking or exploring the wilderness is likely out. This time of year also falls during the low season when few festivals are happening.
The rain may not seem so bad, but the weather during this season tends to be humid and uncomfortable. In July, as the temperatures soar, you can expect tons of rain with high humidity. It’ll be like walking around in a sauna.
If you’re planning a trip to Bhutan during this season, we highly recommend coming prepared with waterproof gear and being prepared for rain. You’ll want to be flexible with your plans, which may be difficult with a guide.
At the end of the day, if you visit during this time of year, you’ll just have to come with the expectation that you’ll get wet.
Things to Consider
If you’re planning a trip to Bhutan, there are a few things that you need to consider before booking your ticket.
- Tourism in this country is strictly controlled. You must apply to visit this country, and you will be expected to pay a fee every day you’re in the country. This fee (about $200 per person, per day) goes towards their environmental efforts to maintain the forests. You will also only be permitted into Bhutan with an official guide. The only exception to this rule is if you are from India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives.
- You’ll need a guide, no matter what. While a guide will always lead you, you will have some freedom to explore. This will include enjoying your hotel stay in peace and exploring the city alone.
- Tour groups can make the travel process so much easier. Tour groups handle everything from your hotels, food, driver, and attractions. Since you must stay with a guide, a tour group can make this process easier and cheaper.
- When booking with your guide, you can make requests. By default, your itinerary may show a lot of visits to monasteries and other historical buildings. Still, you can request to go to a cultural activity on one of the days instead to switch it up!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions that come up about visiting Bhutan. You might be able to find your answers below!
How many days should you stay in Bhutan?
Most tourist agencies will recommend staying in Bhutan anywhere from a week to 10 days. This amount of time will give you plenty of space to visit the natural wonders, see the famous monasteries, and experience the rich culture.
At a minimum, four days can be enough to get the highlights of Bhutan. Remember that you need to pay that $200 (roughly) per person, per day fee when you visit, so take that into account for longer trips.
What is the hottest month in Bhutan?
The hottest month in Bhutan is July, by far. This is the dead center of monsoon season in Bhutan and it can get quite rainy and wet. The nights are cool and mild, dipping to about 57F.
At its peak, July can reach temperatures of 88F. It’s also very humid during July, making the temperature seem much hotter!
Where can I get a visa to visit Bhutan?
There are a few different ways to get a visa to enter Bhutan. In most cases, you need the approval of some government body or agency to visit. When you apply for your visa, you’ll need copies of these approval letters in your application package.
You will also need to include your filled out application and a photocopy of your passport. You can find the exact details on how to apply through their official government website.
It’s worth noting that if you’re a resident of India, the Maldives, or Bangladesh, you do not need to follow these guidelines. You’ll be free to enter Bhutan without a visa or the essential guide required for most other guests.
Additionally, if you failed to apply for a visa before your trip, you can still apply in person. This is not recommended and is often only considered in emergency situations. The visa office will only accept 50 applications in person per day.
Can you see Mount Everest from Bhutan?
Technically, yes. There are several mountain peaks you can see from Bhutan. This includes Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjunga, and Mount Makalu.
If you are flying to Bhutan – depending on your flight – you may end up flying right past Mount Everest as well. Talk about a great view!
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Bhutan?
All things considered, fall (especially November) is the best time to visit Bhutan. During this time of year, the monsoon rains have stopped, the humidity lifts, and the winter snow hasn’t fully set in. Weather aside, this is also the time of year for the famous Black Necked Crane Festival!
That being said, nearly any time you visit Bhutan, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful country full of rich history, stunning landscapes, and peaceful people. You can’t really go wrong when you plan your trip. But if you’re heading out during the “worst” time to go (June through August), don’t forget your raincoat!