Bhutan

Bhutan, a mountainous Buddhist kingdom, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. Venture into a world that will touch your heart and soul. Unknown to much of the world for so long, this nation measures the happiness of its people over material wealth. And there is much to celebrate daily in Bhutan; it bursts with magnificent mountains vistas, lush valleys, thick forests, a serene lifestyle and traditions unchanged for centuries. Towns are tiny, little more than villages, with quiet streets lined by decorative shops and houses.

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What to Expect

The essence of Bhutan is happiness. A visit here takes you on a mystical journey, casting aside Western influences and creating fresh trails that overflow with vibrancy and spirituality.

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Bhutan unveils the last Shangri-La, with Buddhist culture evident everywhere you look and everywhere you go. Nestled in the Himalayas, expect to adjust to the altitude for a few days—slow your pace, breathe deeply, in tune with the quiet vibe of the nation. The iconic Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.  The capital city of Thimphu is home to a bustling weekend market, a surprisingly thriving punk scene and ornate architecture. The historic Punakha Dzong, built in 1637, sits at the juncture of 2 rivers and hosts a lavish, multi-day religious festival that features masked dances and music. Bird watchers will flock to the Phobjikha Valley a habitat for rare black-necked cranes and other species. Cloistered from the world for many years, Bhutan now warmly welcomes visitors.

Don't Miss Out

The Essence of Bhutan — Follow in the footsteps of past kings and holy men as you hike to the Taktshang Monastery outside of Paro.

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Named for the legend that maintains Buddhism was brought to Taktshang by Guru Rinpoche after being carried from Tibet on the back of a tigress, this spiritual center is known as Tiger’s Nest and is one of the most famous sites in Bhutan. Only accessible by foot or horseback, hundreds of colorful prayer flags wave in the breeze as you steadily climb the trail toward Tiger’s Nest. The trail offers staggering views of the Himalaya, the surrounding valley, and the monastery precariously clinging to the cliff.

Go on Safari! — In Bhutan’s south, adjacent to India’s Manas National Park in Indian Assam, forming an important trans-national conservation area lies Royal Manas National Park. Here you can go ‘on safari’ to see diverse species including the highly endangered Royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, Greater one-horned rhinoceros, Clouded leopard, Himalayan black bear, Gangetic dolphin and pangolin. Found virtually nowhere else in the world is the especially rare golden langur, a primate of extraordinary grace and beauty with its long, silky blond fur. Bird-lovers will find over 360 species within the park’s borders.  Slightly different to an African safari packed with dense numbers of wildlife, you will need to bring your patience as you search the rugged terrain for its residents.

Valley of the Black-Necked Crane — The Phobjikha Valley is home to the lovely walking trail known as the Gangtey Nature Trail. Wind between the Gangtey monastery along marshlands to the spiritual statues of Buddha near Khewang Lhakhang. This location is also home to the annual Black-Necked Crane Festival each November, when the birds arrive to roost. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered bird which becomes an inseparable part in their daily lives during the winter months. The festival generates awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the majestic Black-Necked Cranes. The festival includes cultural programs such as themed folk songs, dances, mask dances performed by the local people, and environmental conservation dramas by school children.

Hidden gem— In our busy Western lifestyles, it is sometimes hard to find some time to relax your body and mind to reflect on our place in the world. Meditation and Buddhism are integral parts of Bhutanese life and you can immerse yourself in both should you choose to experience the power of being still. Perched above a mountain pass, a tiny nunnery sits with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. It is a quiet peaceful place you reach after a tranquil hike. The temples and retreat huts are kept by the nuns who devote themselves to spiritual pursuits. Take a moment (or more!) to feel the energy of meditation as it wraps itself around you on your journey.

Need to know

Bhutan is mostly accessed by commercial flights via India, Nepal, or Thailand.

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  • We recommend at least 7-9 days in Bhutan and more if you wish to trek; it is recommended to combine Bhutan with a trip to India, Nepal or Sri Lanka.
  • Bhutan is an excellent destination for all travelers who are seeking beauty and serenity. Couples, small groups, families, and honeymooners will find a transformative journey before them.
  • Visas are required for visitors and are obtained by our partners in Bhutan as part of your travel arrangements. We advise visiting a traveler health clinic to ensure your inoculations are up to date.
  • Travel in country is mainly overland. Roads between the major points of interest are windy and steep.
  • Most Bhutanese speak Dzongkha, but English is widely spoken throughout the hospitality industry.
  • Bhutan requires that you are escorted throughout your travels by a licensed guide and tour operator. Guides and drivers are trained well and qualified.

When to go

The best times to visit Bhutan are Spring and Fall, between March through May and then October through November.

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In the Spring, you can expect dry pleasant days with wildflower blooms and clear panoramas throughout the country. It is best to avoid visiting during the annual monsoons that encroach from India during the summer (June-September), when humidity, rainfall, and heat are at their peak. In late September, the dry, crisp, cool weather brings about ideal travel conditions once more before the winter when colder, windy and snowy conditions prevail in December-February.

Accommodation

Bhutan is home to select accommodations controlled by the government to limit development.

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You will find some international ultra-luxury brands in the Central and Western parts of the country, all with excellent amenities and facilities. Throughout the remainder of the country there are family-run guesthouses and hotels in restored historic buildings. A simple, yet comfortable, experience is a farmhouse homestay or overnight in a monastery. There are few options in the ‘mid-range’ in Bhutan. Every property booked on a Rothschild Safari is vetted by staff and offer the highest standards in each category.

What our travelers say

Amy Lundberg

Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing. 

Betsy Robertson

We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome! 

Dawn Jacobs

Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.

George Kowalski

It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.

Jackie Smith

My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.

Jamie Scarlett

Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding. 

Joe Moravec

On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.

Kim Mather

Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted! 

Lisa Anderson

Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.

Mary & Rob Johannigman (and family)

It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.