18 Things to do in Bhutan – A Comprehensive Guide of What Not to Miss

Many people only spend a few days in Bhutan due to it’s $250 per person per day fee. It can be difficult choosing what to see and do to make the most of your money. We’ve created a comprehensive guide of things to do in Bhutan, that showcases the most popular sites broken down by areas and districts. It’s great for first-timers and return visitors alike!

18 Incredible Things to do in Bhutan

Most backpackers spend an average of 4 days in Bhutan and that is enough to only see the highlights, but if you want to delve deeper into the trip of a lifetime, this breakdown offers a list of the must-see sites, and best areas to make a base when visiting the country.

To skip to the section of your choice, click on the links below:

  • Paro – Tiger’s Monastery and International Airport
  • Thimphu – Capital of Bhutan
  • Punakha – adventure and culture
  • Himalaya – festivals, people and treks
things to do in bhutan map of route
Map of our route in Bhutan

Things to do in Paro – Bhutan

visit the valley of apro things to do in bhutan
The beautiful valley if Paro in Bhutan

Paro houses the only international airport in Bhutan, so unless you are coming from overland in Nepal or India, chances are you will arrive in Paro.

If you have a full day in town, top sites to visit are 

  • National Museum
  • The Paro Dzong
  • The Drukgyel Dzong.

Paro is mostly a jumping off point for people venturing out to see other parts of Bhutan but there is one major attraction that nobody misses when they visit the country. People either do it on the first day they arrive in Bhutan or on the last day in the country. And that attraction is Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

If you have a short time in the country, you cannot miss seeing this incredible site.

1. Tiger’s Nest Monastery – (Taktsang Monastery)

things to do in bhutan tiger's nest monastery
Things to do in Bhutan: Visit Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Taktsang Monastery is located just outside of Paro and is the most popular thing to do in Bhutan period. It was blessed as one of Bhutan’s most sacred sites and is not to be missed.

Since so many people only spend 4 days in the country, this is popular because of how close it is to the airport and take just a couple of hours to climb. It is a 1000 meter elevation gain to an approximate height of 3000 meters.

What makes this trek so spectacular is getting to see the incredible monastery that clings to the side of a cliff. When searching images for Bhutan, chances are you will find Tiger’s Nest Monastery in the first image. It is beautiful. The monastery is working today and monks still live on the mountains.

See the video for the full experience

things to do in bhutan video

There are several viewpoints along the way including a lovely cafeteria where you can enjoy lunch or tea and take in the views.

No cameras are allowed in the monastery but it is worth exploring.

Where to Stay in Paro

things to do in bhutan Paro Riverfront
Le Meridian Paro Riverfront Bhutan

Le Meridian Paro Riverfront was exceptional and our favorite place to stay in Bhutan. It was a perfect retreat after trekking up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

With 5-star accommodation, luxury rooms and a delicious buffet, we enjoyed every minute of our stay. There is a pool, spa, and gym as well. It offers outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and the river and has wonderful places to sit outside in solitude.

Check it out on TripAdvisor / Book it today on Booking.com

Note: On Sunday’s the hotel doesn’t serve alcohol in the main restaurants and lounge. You can order room service and use the mini bar.

What to do in Bhutan – Thimphu

things to do in bhutan thimpu

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan and there are many things to see and do in the city. This is usually the next stop on  Bhutan Tour. We actually left Paro as soon as we arrived in Bhutan from Thailand and drove directly to Thimphu leaving Tiger’s Nest Monastery for the end of our tour.

It is worth spending a day or two in the city checking out all the sites. And here are the highlights that we took part in during our three days in Thimphu.

2. Buddha Dordenma

Things to do in Bhutan Thimpu Buddha Dordenma

Overlooking the city of Thimpu, Buddha Dordenma is an impressive sight. Finished in 2015 it was built for prosperity of the nation. Standing at 51 meters tall, it is a popular pilgrimage for locals and huge attraction for visitors.

Make sure to hike up behind Buddha for a look at it from above. There are tents and camps that locals use behind Buddha and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

3. Dechen Phrodrang Monastery

Things to do in Bhutan: Visit the Dechen Phrodrang Monastery
Things to do in Bhutan: Visit the Dechen Phrodrang Monastery

Dechen Phrodrang was the original dzong of the city. Dzong’s were once fortresses in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet and Bhutan. They were turned into administrative buildings and house the administrative centers of Bhutan. Dechen Phrodrang Monastery was at one point, the administrative center of the country, but today it is a monastic school.

During our tour, we learned that many of the poor attend monasteries for studies as their food, education, and clothing costs are covered. Many boys stay in the system becoming teachers.

The boys are friendly and so far (due to the low tourist numbers in Bhutan) enjoy having their photos taken.

4. Changlimithang Stadium and Archery Ground

Things to do in bhutan Changlimithang Stadium

Archery is Bhutan’s national sport. We split from our group while in Thimphu to see the sites ourselves and had a great time exploring on our own.

Archery was a must for us to see, so we made a point of heading to the National Stadium.  There are usually competitions going on at the stadium and we missed one by a day but managed to still catch a group practicing.

Their skills are impressive. It was hard enough seeing the bullseye from where we sat let along hitting the target from hundreds of meters away. You are free to watch without charge when they are practicing, just don’t disrupt their concentration.

5. National Memorial Chorten

Things to do in bhutan National Memorial Chorten

The National Memorial is clearly a hot spot on the Bhutan tour bus route judging by the number of people walking around the stupa during our time there. It seemed that waves of tourist came in and out of the chorten during our stop.

The temple was built in 1974. The Chorten is popular in Bhutan because it was built to honour the King of Bhutan who is highly revered. On a side note, we met the King of Bhutan.

Tip: A Chorten is a monument or stupa that is used as a place of meditation. 

6. Tashicho-Dzong

things to do in Bhutan Tashicho-Dzong

There are many dzongs to visit around Thimphu, and the Tashicho Dzong is the main administrative building used today. It’s massive and there are monks wandering the grounds.

You can watch the changing of the guards here as well. Unfortunately for us, I was snuggling with a cat beforehand and had a serious allergy attack.

My eye swelled up to the point that my guide wanted to take me to a hospital. The changing of the guard was only 20 minutes away, but instead, we chose to go back to the hotel so I could take some Benedryl.

Lesson learned – Don’t pat animals in a foreign country and then scratch or touch your eyes. It will ruin your day. 

There is also a textile museum and paper factory that that can be visited in Bhutan that is supposed to be fascinating.  But Dave and I didn’t blend well with our fellow journalists so we went off to explore the more adventurous side of Thimphu like the archery and monasteries, while they went the other way on the bus.

Remember, when on a tour, it’s your vacation, you don’t have to stick with the crowd, even if you feel pressured to.  Group tours are good for helping to guide you, but you can still explore on your own. 

Where to Eat in Thimphu

7. Simply Bhutan

where to eat in Bhutan

Simply Bhutan is a fun little stop in Thimphu for lunch and to take a look at all things Bhutan. It is a place to eat in Thimphu, but it is also a museum that gives you a taste of everything Bhutan including a taste of the local spirit, Arag.  (a creamy spirit distilled from rice, wheat or maize) You can try your hand at archery, see the phallic garden and try on some traditional dress.

8. Seasons Restaurant

This little place feels like it could be anywhere in the world. They offer pizzas and pasta and although we didn’t order it, others tried the  (either yak or ox – I cant’ remember which one it was) burgers and said they were great.

Where to Stay in Thimphu

Where to stay in Thimpu Bhutan

We stayed at the Le Meridien Thimphu. An SPG hotel, it was luxurious and central. We could walk to many of the popular eateries. There is a swimming pool, spa, lounge and restaurant. A delicious buffet breakfast was served in the mornings and our room was well appointed with modern amenities and the staff was beyond friendly. It was a wonderful experience.

Check it out on TripAdvisor / Book it now on Booking.com

Things to do in Punakha, Bhutan

The next stop from Thimphu is usually the district of Phunaka. Phunaka was once the capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu in 1955. It is set within the Phunaka Valley where the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River) rivers meet. There are plenty of things to do in Punakha and the tone is set immediately just a short drive outside of Thimphu when you reach your first viewpoint.

9. Dochula Pass

Things to do in Bhutan Dochula Pass

Dochula Pass is a popular stop for tour buses driving between Thimpu and Punakha. Set at 3100 meters in the mountains, there are 108 Chortens (shrines) overlooking the valley. Take your time to explore the monastery and surrounding pathways for different views.

There is also a botanical park nearby, a shop for snacks, tea and souvenirs and a temple. Most people don’t stay here for long, but we had two separate stops here and couldn’t get enough. When the weather is clear, a stunning view of the high Himalayas opens up that can be seen over the valley.

10. Phunaka Dzong

Things to do in Bhutan Phunaka Dzong

Phunaka Dzong is the most famous Dzong in Bhutan. As you now know, Dzongs were fortresses in Bhutan that were changed over to administrative buildings. They were usually massive complexes with interior courtyards surrounded by exterior walls.

Besides being administrative offices they are also monks’ accommodation and when visiting a dzong, chances are you will have the opportunity to interact with local monks.

The Phunaka Dzong is the second oldest Dzong in Bhutan built in 1637 and is considered the country’s most majestic dzong. The King even had his wedding here in 2011. Today it is the administrative center for the Phuaka District and is open to visitors.

things to do in bhutan Phunaka Dzong bridge

Taking the wooden bridge across the river sets the tone for entering the dzong. You know you are going somewhere special. Monks still walk the grounds and you share your stroll with them going about their daily business.

Visitors are free to explore all the rooms in the dzong including the temple and courtyards. The main courtyard houses a massive Bodhi Tree (a very old and sacred fig tree) and offers a serene setting to take in the extraordinary structure.

Take your time and feel the energy and serenity of the dzong. It is worth spending a couple of hours enjoying the tranquility.

11. Suspension Bridge

things to do in bhutan suspension bridge

Just a short walk from Phunaka Dzong is Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge. The 160-meter long bridge spans the Po Chhu River connecting the town of Phunaka with Phunaka Dzong.

It’s a heavenly scene with prayer flags draped over the rails all the way along. Take a walk across and keep an eye out for people whitewater rafting below.

The Very Best Things to do in Bhutan

Take a break from reading and enjoy our video to not only learn about Bhutan, but to get a feel for what it is like to be there.

the best of bhutan video

12. Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Things to do in Bhutan Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Overlooking the Phunaka Valley, this Chorten (shrine) is spectacular. It’s a 45-minute hike through rice terraces and rice fields. It takes passed prayer wheels on a dirt trail that turns into a stone path. The chorten was built by the Queen Mother as a dedication to the well being of the Kingdom.

Once you reach the temple, it offers incredible views of the Phunaka Valley. You cannot take photos or video inside the shrine due to the holy scriptures and paintings on the walls, but you are free to take out your cameras once you reach the top to take in the incredible views of the valley below.

  • Fun Fact: The 4 story building was built using measurements from the Holy scripture rather than engineering stats.

13. Whitewater Rafting

Things to do in Bhutan White Water Rafting

It’s always fun to go whitewater rafting, and just outside Phunnaka is an easy class 2-3 whitewater rafting trip that takes you through the valley. How many people can say they went whitewater rafting in the Himalayas?  You’ll go under suspension bridges, see the surrounding mountains, dzongs, and chortens.

We recommend whitewater rafting during the day for a refreshing cool off. We boarded our raft near sunset and once that sun went down, that cold water created quite a chill. But it was still a lot of fun and a great way to return back to the city.

14. Fertility Temple

Things to do in Bhutan Fertility Temple

Walking to the fertility temple is the highlight of this trip. The village is lined with shops selling phallic symbols covered with paintings and art of giant cartoonlike penises. Once you leave the village, the walk through the valley towards the temple is about 20 minutes (unless you are like us and take forever photographing and filming the incredible views)

The temple itself was surprising because once we arrived there, we saw no phallic symbols of the sort. We expected to see golden penis statues lining the yard, but was a proper temple. The temple was built in 1499 by the Divine Madman. Hew as called the diving madman because he practiced Buddhism differently than others and was considered eccentric. Women come to the temple for blessings for their children and to help them conceive.

Where to Stay in Phunaka, Bhutan

where to stay in Bhutan Dhansa Resort

The Dhensa Boutique Resort was a wonderful break from traveling Bhutan. Bhutan is a physical destination with a lot of trekking and activity. Staying in a boutique resort gave us the energy to recharge. Here we had a wonderful massage at their spa and enjoyed breathtaking views on their patio for dinner and breakfast. They offer nightly shows highlighting Bhutan culture around the outdoor fireplaces as well.

Dhensa Boutique Resort – TripAdvisor

Festivals of Bhutan

Bhutan is known as the land of festivals and you cannot visit the country without attending one. The most popular festivals take place in the main cities of Paro, Thimphu, and Phunaka. But there are festivals wherever you go. Getting out of the main tourist towns can give you a more authentic experience.

15. Festivals – Royal Highlander Festival

Things to do in Bbhutan Highlander Festival

We highly recommend checking with your tour company or with the government website to see if there is one near your route. We attended the Royal Highlander Festival in the Himalayan village of Laya; one of the most remote villages in all of Bhutan. Located above 3000 meters, there are no cars in this village.

Things to do in Bhutan Royal Highlander Festival

The King himself started this festival to promote the culture and highlander communities of the region and when we attended, we met the king! He made himself available to everyone going down the line saying hello.

In case you missed it above, see our full video fo the Royal Highlander Festival

royal highlander festival bhutan things to do

To Find out where and when festivals take place in Bhutan, visit the government website. 

16. Meet the locals

things to do in Bhutan Locals

What makes travel so special to Bhutan are the people. Bhutan has a happiness index that has given it the distinction as the happiest country on earth. Because Bhutan has kept tourism to a minimum by imposing a $250 per day tariff, the people of the country aren’t jaded to tourists yet. They are still excited to see you and enjoy talking about life in Bhutan and asking about your home country.

what to do in bhutan meet the locals


Many of our most memorable moments in Bhutan were when we stopped to say hello and have a conversation with the local residents. They were eager to call us over and have a chat. It is as if the Bhutanese are there to make sure you are having the best time possible.

17. Try the Food

Things to do in Bhutan Try the food

Food travel is an important part of any cultural experience. Bhutanese food has a distinct flavour and you will have plenty of opportunities to taste.

  1. Momos – Dumplings that can be bought at any roadside stand, shack or fine dining establishments.
  2. Ema Datshi – a local curried stew mixed with cheese, potatoes, and onions.
  3. Ara (Arag) fermented wheat, corn or rice spirit creating a milky texture.
  4. Kewa Datshi – Scalloped Potatoes, my favorite!
  5. Zaow – This puffed rice is poured into milk and tastes a lot like a cereal I ate in my youth.

18. Trekking to the Himalayas

things to do in Bhutan Trekking

And last, but not least, when visiting Bhutan, you must trek into the Himalayas. I would have put this at the top of things to do in Bhutan, but it seemed like a cop-out. Everyone knows that when you go to the Himalayas, you must trek into the mountains!

Treks in Bhutan range from 2 days to 25 days. They can be fairly easy for the relatively fit, to the most grueling trek on earth. If you have limited time, there are several day hikes that will give you a glimpse of what it is like to hike in the mighty Himalaya mountain range.

We had the opportunity to hike from Gaza to Laya. Laya is one of the most remote villages in Bhutan and the trek is a wonderful 2-day hike taking you above 4000 metres. In total it is four days return. Longer if you hike from Gaza village proper. We had the luxury of taking a mini bus to the valley entrance.

Check out our trek to Laya

what to do in bhutan laya trek

If you have more time, try the  Snowman Trek. It has the distinction of being the toughest trek on the planet. It is a 25-day trek that has a sustained elevation over 4000 meters.

Packing tips for Bhutan

Bhutan is a country nestled in the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world. When packing, be sure to include layers and warm clothing. In cities like Paro and Thimphu, it can be very warm, so you will also want to have summer apparel too.

Must have items for Bhutan Travel:

Besides what you would normally pack for any backcountry adventure, we’ve highlighted a few items that are importannt when traveling to Bhutan.

  • Steripen – to purify water. When trekking this is especially important and you minimize your plastic waste.
  • Hiking Boots are a must – Make sure you have broken in your hiking boots and that they are waterproof and lightweight.
  • Layers – base layer, mid layer and outer waterproof/windproof layer for changes in weather and temperature: read our guide to winter layering. 
  • Hat – When you are above the clouds the sun is harsh, pack a peaked hat to protect from sunburn.
  • Lip balm and sunscreen – as stated above, the UV rays are harsh above the clouds, be sure to protect your skin.
  • Headlamp – You will be traveling to remote places, have a headlamp to get around at night hands-free. We like the rechargeable USB Headlamp by BlackDiamond. 
  • Portable charger – You may go a few days without proper electricity for charging, bring a USB charger to keep your camera and cell phone batteries charged.
  • Personal first aid kit – chances are you won’t be able to get a lot of medication or first aid in Bhutan, so have a full kit with you. Here’s our travel first aid kit list. 
  • Sleeping Bag – If trekking, pack your own sleeping bag that is at least -10 Celcius for optimal comfort and cleanliness.
  • Gloves and Wool Hat – Temperatures fluctuate and gloves and hats are excellent for keeping warm and for sleeping in tents.

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Things to do in Bhutan Guide
18 Incredible Things to do in Bhutan

Some of the above items link to Amazon, we receive a commission if you click on the links and make a purchase. It is no extra cost to you.

Bhutan is a magical destination that very few people on earth have the chance to visit. If you are looking for a dream trip to somewhere unique, you should put Bhutan at the top of your list!

For tours to Bhutan information visit https://graylangur.com/

Have you been? What do you suggest for the best things to do in Bhutan?

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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

26 thoughts on “18 Things to do in Bhutan – A Comprehensive Guide of What Not to Miss”

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive guide. Travelling to Bhutan has always been my dream especially since its so near to my place. The next time I go, I am making this guide my go to reference.

    Reply
  2. Great blog ,we get a complete idea for planning a Bhutan trip.For adventure, i think Bhutan will be the best option.From the above mentioned spot the image that attracted to my mind is Tiger’s Nest Monastery.Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful article.

    Reply
  3. We love Bhutan so much! Your post made me nostalgic and now I can’t wait to plan another trip to the land of happiness. Such incredibly warm people.

    Reply
  4. Hi , which month did you visit Bhutan. Also, I am planning on visiting in end days of april. Is it a recommended time to travel ? How’ll be the scenery like at that time of the year.

    Reply
  5. Thank you so much for this informative post. Here you explained everything about this post. I really appreciate your writings. You have perfectly explained all the details of the topic.

    Reply
  6. Amazing blog with great information. Thanks, dear for sharing this amazing blog with us and keep it up and I will definitely visit these places with my friends

    Reply
  7. I guess this’s the best post with fulled the program, photos, videos in bhutan. good news for who’s love to discover this place!!! even me 😀

    Reply
  8. Great information and sure will help me to understand about my upcoming trip to Bhutan, we are planning to visit there soon!

    Reply
  9. Thanks for sharing this useful and understandable Bhutan travel guide, Dave and Deb! We all need to try and discover new places to go on an adventure to and it looks like Bhutan is one to be put on the list. This guide is truly informative as you recommended us almost everything we need to bring and do during the trip. Plus the illustrative photos makes it all the more exciting!

    Reply
  10. I am so in love with your writings and since I have been to Bhutan, I can relate it all. However, I regret spending such a short period of time in this beautiful country. After reading your article it inspires me more to plan a trip soon. Perhaps this time I would explore the mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful Haa Valley of Bhutan. The explore the sacred lakes and the mountain where the dead infants rest. I am glad I came across Planet D. Thank you so much for these wonderful travel treats that we receive through your writings.

    Reply
  11. This place is mind-blowing…
    Bhutan has a very dramatic landscape and beautiful plains, mountains, and valleys…

    Reply
  12. Hello
    Thanks for such useful and easy to use Bhutan travel guide, As all of us from time to time need to discover new adventure in unique destination like Bhutan but a lack of information make us cannot take the risk,But your guide put every thing in our hand as you tell us places to visit, things to do , place to stay and more about city in addition to illustrative video and photos so you feel that you travel Bhutan by your mind , I really appreciate the effort excreted to make such guide appear in this form.

    Reply
  13. Bhutan has always been on my list of must places to visit and your article has beautifully essayed it. Thank you for sharing it. Keep traveling and keep inspiring.

    Reply
  14. Bhutan is most beautiful destination and its things are so amazing to enjoy. you shared good tips to visit most famous things of beautiful Bhutan. stunning photos you shared of that beautiful place. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post!

    Reply
  15. Having recently returned from Bhutan, your post brings back fond memories. I would like to add a couple more recommendations.

    There is a nice 4.5 day trek from Paro (where the airport is) to Thimphu (the capital – and its best to trek in this direction so you don’t have such a steep first day) called the Druk Trek, part of the old Silk Road. Near the top, the mountains are COVERED in dwarf rhododendrons that will bloom late spring (just before to go before the monsoon season beginning mid- June!). Our highest altitude was just under 14,000′ so it’s a doable trek for most fit folks. We missed the rhododendrons blooming so we could go to the Paro Tshechu festival, one of the most popular in this region. The local’s colorful national dress, plus the crazily costumed masked monks dancing at the festival are etched in my brain – highly recommend! If you want to see more photos, videos, etc I have them on my website plus featured my Bhutan trip on my podcast.

    It was such an amazing adventure that I am already planning on returning next year to visit the central section to see some of the exotic animals and now after reading this post, may have to tack on the Laya trek – Thanks for a great post and wonderful recommendations! PS – Now that Bhutan is being ‘discovered’, it’s a good idea to go sooner rather than later. (It is VERY safe, fyi).

    Reply
  16. Nice article! I would love to go there just to eat some momos, they are so tasty! People there looks so in peace, maybe like in Laos in Luang Prabang, because of the buddhism Terevada culture.

    Reply
  17. Oh my, the photos look absolutely beautiful! I really hope to visit the Kingdom one day, perhaps when they drop the daily fee, as that’s making a trip there way too expensive. Thanks for the inspiration D&D 🙂

    Reply
  18. Nice read. Very informational. Was looking out for a blog this kind. Have been planning for a trip to Bhutan late this year.

    Reply
  19. This looks really nice! You shared awesome list to do things in Bhutan. Your pictures make me want to visit. I will plan a trip here someday. Thank you for the great information and more destinations to add to our list..

    Reply
  20. I’ve been waiting to visit Bhutan (putting it off) but now this really makes me want to go. Such a helpful guide and thanks for letting us know what tour company you went with!

    Reply