Places to visit in Bhutan – A Destination Guide

A road trip in a country that used to feed its pigs marijuana promised to be an interesting affair. During our 12 days in in Bhutan, we were accompanied by our guide and driver – it is not possible for most tourists to visit the country independently, but we did create our own itinerary of places to visit in Bhutan.

This post highlights the most popular places to visit in Bhutan.

Related: Travel to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon – Planning a trip. 

Here’s our list of places to visit in Bhutan

We always promote independent travel, without the need of an organised tour, but if you have difficulty planning your own trip, or you are short on time, we suggest that you take a look at the trips by Viator and G Adventures.

Places to visit in Bhutan – Punakha

One of our first destinations was Punakha. On our way there, we traversed via the Dochula Pass, a mountain pass at 3100m, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Himalayan mountain range but unfortunately the thick fog obscured the view although it was still a great spot in which to enjoy some hot tea and cookies. 

The Punakha dzong - places to visit in bhutan

Punakha Dzong

The main attraction in the former capital is the majestic Punakha Dzong, aka “The Palace of Great Happiness”, situated at the point where the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers meet. This was the first of many Dzong (Himalayan fortresses) visits but at the end of the trip both Nikki and I agreed that it was the most beautiful especially considering its spectacular location.

Nikki looking at a giant wooden phallus at a restaurant - places to visit in bhutan

In restaurants too!

The Chimi Lhakhang Village with its phallus-painted houses and Temple of Fertility is located a few kilometres outside Punakha and is surely worth visit even if just for the walk through the lush countryside,  making it one of the most interesting places to visit in Bhutan.

We spent our afternoon in Punakha rafting on the Po Chu river in Class 2-4 rapids. Our driver tested his off-road driving skills to take us to the rafting location, to which there was no clear path, and we must say he did a great job! Having rafted on more exciting rivers, we found the activity pleasant enough but not particularly stimulating.

Places to visit in Bhutan – Bumthang

Bumthang is the collective name for an area of four valleys – Chokhor (Jakar), Tang, Ura and Chhume. Jakar Town is mostly one long road containing different shops catering to the small town’s needs. Our hotel was located on a hillside at the end of the village with lovely views of the valley below. To our surprise the hotel staff handed us a cute, pink invitation card and informed us that we were invited to the birthday celebration of the owner’s little grand daughter that night! Appreciative of the kind gesture, we quickly went for a walk in the village to look for a suitable gift for a child, which proved very hard to find! After visiting all the shops in the area, a convenience store sold us a very odd, shabby-looking soft toy and some chocolate which were, thankfully, greatly appreciated by the family. The party was a grand affair – tables with home-made delicacies and wine were set up in the courtyard and a large bonfire was lit. We were asked to sit around it and feast to our heart’s content along with family members, friends and other hotel guests. Awesome start to our stay in Bumthang!

Bumthang includes many sacred sites such as the Kurjey Lhakhang which is said to contain a body print of the Guru Rinpoche preserved in a cave, and the Jambay Lhakhang one of 108 monasteries that are said to have been miraculously constructed by a Bhutanese king in one night.

Related: Tourism in Bhutan – Discovering the Magic Kingdom of Bhutan

We spent four days in Jakar where we attended the Tamshing Phala Festival, a traditional event where dancers wearing masks of demons, monsters and animals danced to the sound of cymbals, drums and horns accompanied by the chanting of Buddhist monks. Be sure to fit in a festival in your list of places to visit in Bhutan – it provides a true opportunity to interact and socialise with locals.

 A masked dancer at the a festival in the Bumthang region of Bhutan - places to visit in bhutan

Masked dancer at the Tamshing Phala Festival

Other places of note were the Membar Tsho (Burning Lake), a holy pilgrimage site, and the Ugyencholing Palace Museum in the Tang valley where the heir of the family that has lived in the palace for centuries, gave us an insight into Bhutanese life over the past 100 years.  

Places to visit in Bhutan – Phobjika Valley

A stunning, remote valley where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. It is also home the Gangtey monastery – one of the oldest in the country and an unmissable landmark in our list of places to visit in Bhutan. Our room here had large glass windows with a spectacular view over the valley and in winter it is possible to spot the rare black-necked crane in the valley. 

Prayer flags at the Yotong La pass during out road trip around places to visit in bhutan

Prayer flags at the Yotong La pass

Places to visit in Bhutan – Thimpu

We spent our first night in Thimpu, the country’s capital. There’s one piece of advice that you should heed if you plan on sleeping in Thimpu – be sure to take earplugs! The capital’s stray dogs seem to take over the streets and throw a massive party at night – their loud barking continues non-stop until early morning and no matter how exhausted you might be, falling asleep turns into a frustrating struggle.

There’s lots to see and do in Thimpu. Highlights include the Memorial Chorten, the School of Traditional Arts and the Changangkha temple but for us the absolute highlight was the Takin Preserve, home the the Bhutanese national animal which looks like a cow with a goat’s head.

The Takin were previously kept in a zoo but the King of Bhutan had declared that it was against Buddhist principles to keep the animals confined and had set them free. The animals had become so domesticated that they refused to run off into the wild and roamed the streets of Thimpu instead, after which the Preserve, an enclosed, forested area in Thimphu was set up.

Thimpu is also home to a few western-style restaurants catering to those tourists missing their pizza and burgers.

A rural scene of a house set amid hills and forests in Bhutan

Bhutan’s rural landscape

Places to visit in Bhutan – Paro

Paro valley is Bhutan’s superstar and one of the more mystical places to visit in Bhutan. Home to several beautiful buildings, temples and monasteries, life in the valley is very slow-paced despite it being one of the most popular destinations for visitors.

A view over Paro valley in Bhutan

Paro valley

Nikki practicing his archery skills in Bhutan

Nikki practising Bhutan’s national sport

Nikki and I experienced a homestay on a farm in Paro valley where we got to try out the traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath and drink butter tea. Moreover the hosts gave us an insight into their rural lifestyle and explained that living in simplicity makes them happy and they certainly do not crave western-style wealth which, in their opinion, leads to frustration and unhappiness (three cheers to that!).
Paro is also home to Bhutan’s most spectacular temple – the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the edge of a cliff which Nikki and I trekked up to. This is definitely tops the list of places to visit in Bhutan.  Another building which is surely not as grand but which I found just as fascinating, is the ruined
Drukgyel Dzong, a fortress located just outside of Paro, destroyed by a butter-lamp fire years ago; we were the only foreigners visiting the site but we did find some locals picnicking under the trees inside. They were setting up for a game of archery and invited Nikki to join in, teaching him a few tricks in the process, through they laughed at his wild shots as much as I did.

Bhutan’s little town and villages are home to some of the most peaceful people that I have ever met. It is clear that respect towards each other and respect towards nature are some of the strong pillars upon which their little nation is built and it was no surprise to learn that crime is uncommon here. Although it may be too late for rest of the world to take up Bhutanese principles, I sincerely hope that Bhutan itself will continue keeping its people happy.

Read more about Bhutan


  1. Divya: Gone With A Whim

    Bhutan looks wonderful, a world apart and the Tamshing Phala Festival – how thrilling! I was supposed to go last year but my plans fell apart, I can’t wait to actually go there, thanks for the guide Michelle and Nikki 🙂 Pinterested for when I do go.

    • Cheeky Passports

      Hi Divya, we do hope you get to go soon! Bhutan is a wonderful country and we had some great experiences there! Get in touch if you have any queries before going!

  2. Chelsea George

    Hi Cheeky Passports,
    I’m just beginning to plan my trip to Bhutan from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have a flight to Dhaka from Manila on April 23, and then I fly back from Dhaka to Manila on May 17. So that gives me about 3 weeks for Bangladesh, transit through India and onto Bhutan. Since the cost will be $250/day at that time of year to visit Bhutan, I’m thinking about 6 days is what I will have. I could stay longer if I could fly from Bhutan back to Dhaka. I guess there is just one airline Druk, I believe, that flies to and from Bhutan.

    So, do I have to go through an agency, or how do I show that I’m spending $250 a day if I travel independently? Can I get the visa at the border or do I need to get it in San Francisco before I leave for the Philippines? How did you arrange your home stay?

    Thanks so much,


    • Cheeky Passports

      Hi Chelsea,
      Druk air is the most frequent, but there is also another airline called Bhutan Airlines. There are connections to Dhaka with Druk air. A word of advise is to book these WAYYYYYY in advance (like 4 months ahead) as seats are limited. Unless you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh and Maldives, you may not do Bhutan independently, and would need to pre-arrange the visa in advance. These Visa’s are applied for through a registered agency (even online), not through an embassy, whatever your location is. You can find this explained in more detail on our other Bhutan post ‘Planning a Trip’ 🙂 Believe us, Bhutan is worth the visa hassle!

  3. Basil Sylvester Pinto

    The simple, lucid narrative style brings to mind imagery I can relate to to a considerable extent that I have was in Bhutan for a 6 nights, 7 days only until the other week.
    Sadly to say, My time in Thimphu was affected due to the after effects of Cyclone Fani but I still managed to have a good time. The Takin Reserve sadly was disappointing and the animals were injured too. I could not get good shots of the Takin as they stayed distant and it was quite misty too though I risked my 250 mm lens for a few unclear shots. The deers were kinda close and I had good takes.
    It is an immense pleasure getting to know about you guys, and keep up the radiant vibe of joyous travel and living.

    • Cheeky Passports

      Sorry to hear that you were affected by the cyclone and also that you found the Takin Reserve disappointing! Glad you managed to have a good time anyway though! 🙂


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