Things to do in Bhutan


Our top activities in Bhutan

Trekking – Hike your way through Himalayan history

Most cultural tours will happily shift some itinerary points, so you can enjoy a couple of hours off-the-beaten-track walking through Bhutan’s breathtaking landscape, but trekking provides more of an escape – from other people, from modern trappings, from the noise of everyday life – and more freedom to simply learn: your tour team will likely include a guide, a horseman, a cook and an assistant who will be happy to have their beautifully-spiritual brains picked about traditional Bhutanese life.
You’ll need to be relatively fit to get the most out of the country’s hiking, but fear not, in Bhutan when the walking gets tough, the tough get talking - you’ll soon forget your uphill struggles as your journey gets punctuated as much by emerald rivers, hillsides flush with flora and glacial mountains, as it does by stories of reincarnation, levitation, demons and deities.

Culture and history – Find your zen in the dzongs

If the country’s glorious dzongs are anything to go by, big is definitely beautiful in Bhutan. Used as much for administrative purposes as they are celebratory and religious, there are 15 dzongs, most sat protectively on mountain spurs, across Bhutan, each its own elegant expression of harmony and proportion, with some standing upwards of 25 metres.

Explore a wildlife & nature wonderland

In line with their Buddhist beliefs, the Bhutanese have always lived in harmony with and with great respect for their natural world. One of the planet's 10 biodiversity hotspots, you’ll find dense forestation, lush green valleys, snow-capped peaks and ice blue lakes alongside over 165 species of mammal. It is a land of tigers, elephants and butterflies, monkeys, sheep and yaks, not forgetting the majestic snow leopard.
Up in central-northern Bhutan, the Wangchuck Centennial Park only came to be in 2008 and captures middle Himalaya’s landscape of blue pine forests, wolves and black bears. Further south, the Royal Manas National Park is the oldest in the kingdom and includes habitats from lowland tropical forest to fields of permanent ice. As well as being the only park that the greater one-horned rhino chooses to call home, the Royal Manas is a twitcher’s delight with over 360 species of bird.

Party time, Buddhist style

Tshechus are not something you say to pardon a sneeze, but deeply religious and vibrant expressions of the country’s centuries-old Buddhist culture and one of the best things to do in Bhutan. An explosion of colour that involves the whole community - be that five people or 500 - the festivals are between one and five days long and are centred around the Cham Dances. These are banned in neighbouring Tibet and see locals dressed in bright costumes and masks, expressing moral stories of saints and sinners from Bhutan’s rich past.
Written by Polly Humphris
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Jonathan Choe] [Trekking: Ian Cochrane] [Culture: Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)] [Wildlife: Ian Cochrane] [Party time: Arian Zwegers]
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