Although Bhutan is not usually found in lists of mainstream travel destinations in Asia, those who have travelled to this mystical country consider it to be one of the most unforgettable places to visit. Its charm comes from the traditional culture and Buddhist values the country has preserved so well through their landmarks, architecture and everyday lifestyle. Surrounded by the beautiful Himalayan Mountains, Bhutan is most admired for its scenic mountainous landscapes, iconic “dzongs” (all-around complex of temples, monasteries, courtyards and offices), traditional villages, trekking trails and sprawling lands devoid of high-rise buildings and crowded commercial centers. It remains to be the most peaceful and remote of the Himalayan countries, making it a definite must-visit for a backpacking nature trip or an enriching spiritual adventure.
For first time travellers, it is best to stay an average of 7-10 days to be able to explore the many beautiful and historically rich districts across the country. We recommend staying a few days in one area before taking a bus or rented car to the next. In terms of accommodations, there is a wide selection of hotels ranging from luxury getaways to affordable hostels.
In this article, we give you a rundown of where to stay in Bhutan and the best Bhutan hotels. We hope this guides you in planning an ideal itinerary for your Bhutan backpacking adventure.
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Where to Stay in Bhutan
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Best Places to Stay in Bhutan
1. Thimphu, for the convenience of a capital city
We start off the list with Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. Compared to the rest of the country, Thimphu is relatively modern with its urban planning but still preserved enough for you to appreciate the culture. Its organized roads make getting around is easy, cultural spots are accessible and establishments are abundant. Here you’ll find popular spots like the Tashichho Dzong (a complex that houses the seat of government, a Buddhist monastery and other temples, chapels and shrines) and the National Folk Heritage Museum. In between sightseeing, you can enjoy the shopping complexes, good Bhutanese food and a chill nightlife scene. Set along the Wangchu River, it is a good place to stay for that perfect balance between the convenience of modern necessities, the attraction of traditional culture and the proximity to Bhutan’s stunning landscape.
Things to do in Thimphu:
- Explore the Thimphu capital as your starting point before going on a 9-day adventure across the different districts of Bhutan
- Visit the popular Tashichho Dzong, and other dzongs in the area like Trashi Chhloe Dzong and Simtokha Dzong
- Learn more about Bhutan history and culture at the National Folk Heritage Museum
- Enjoy authentic Bhutanese food and shopping for locally made trinkets at the Weekend Market
Where to stay in Thimphu: Taj Tashi
The Taj Tashi Hotel is a stunning sanctuary nestled at the heart of Thimphu Valley. Guests are in a 5-star experience as it combines the best things about Bhutan’s ancient culture with modern, luxury amenities. Inside its Bhutanese-styled façade are elegant rooms, a fitness center, multiple swimming pools, the Jiva Spa offering Indian healing therapies and 4 dining options serving traditional Bhutanese cuisine and drinks. Guest can also enjoy breathtaking views of Thimphu valley’s beautiful landscape from their private rooms, as well was a walk-in closet and a relaxing bathroom set-up.
In terms of location, it is just a minutes away from popular tourist sites like the Nation Folk Heritage Museum, the Clock Tower Square market and some nature trails.
2. Paro, for an old city charm
Apart from being known as the place where Bhutan’s only international airport is located, Paro is also infamous for being one of the world’s most dangerous airports because of the surrounding 18,000-ft peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. Pilots have to manually navigate to a runway that is only visible moments before landing. Because of this, less than two dozen pilots are officially allowed to fly planes to and from this airport.
Setting aside this fun (and scary!) fact, Paro is actually an ideal place to experience Bhutan’s monasteries and old city vibe by foot. Streets are pleasantly lined with colorful wooden shops and a variety of restaurants, as well as ancient landmarks like the National Museum of Bhutan where you’ll find dzongs and a watchtower with views of the city. One of its most popular destinations is the Takstand Monastery, also called the Tiger’s Nest and often seen as symbol of Bhutan as a nation.
Upon landing in Bhutan, you can start your trip here before travelling to farther areas like Thimphu, which is slightly over an hour away.
Things to do in Paro:
- Explore Paro Valley and Paro Dzong as part of a 9-day adventure across Bhutan
- Go on a 6-day trek starting at Paro Valley all the way to Bhutan’s highest mountain, Mount Gangkar Puensum. Pass by valleys, forests, rivers and Himalayan views along the way.
- Appreciate Bhutan’s Buddhist roots by exploring the Takstand Monastery (Tiger’s Nest)
- Spend a day learning about Bhutan at the National Museum of Bhutan
- Enjoy a game of archery at the Archery Ground, sports groun
- Try local delicacies at the Paro Weekend Market
Where to stay in Paro: Le Meridien Paro, Riverfront
A personal favorite of mine in the Paro area is Le Meriedien Riverfront, a picture-perfect resort at the edge of the Paro River boasting off views of the Himalayas. Its tranquil ambiance is further felt through relaxing treatments from the Explore Spa, an afternoon spent in their heated pools or a quiet dinner in any of their two restaurants. All rooms face the Paro Valley and are equipped with luxury amenities for a comfortable night in. It is a popular choice among couples looking for peace and relaxation after a day of exploration. It is located 10 minutes from the airport and the National Museum of Bhutan.
3. Punakha, for a relaxing day in nature
Once the capital of Bhutan, Punakha still has all the beautiful buildings and ancient landmarks that once symbolized the country’s past. Tourists will automatically be drawn to the district’s picturesque Punakha Dzong, which is situated between two rivers and characterized by its ancient architecture and lush surroundings. You will find many pleasant surprises like sightings of the endangered white-belled heron and the unexpectedly charming Bhutanese village of Ritsha. If you’re planning to backpack around Bhutan, keep in mind that Punakha is a 3-hr drive from Paro and more than 2 hours away from Thimphu. Travellers usually spend a night in Punakha before travelling further east.
Things to do in Punakha:
- Explore Punakha Dzong and Punakha Valley as part of a 9-day adventure across Bhutan
- Have a pleasant afternoon stroll along the valley’s two rivers, Mo Chhu “Mother River” and Pho Chhu “Father River
- Discover the small Bhutanese village of Ritsha and learn about how locals harvest rice
- Go on a one-hour drive to Koma Tsachu water springs
Where to stay in Punakha: Amankora Punakha Lodge
The epitome of a peaceful getaway, the Punakha Lodge, Amankora allows you to retreat into a private space of comfort and class. After crossing a bridge over the Mo Chhu River, guests are greeted by a quaint Bhutanese farmhouse that has only 8 suites, all equipped king-size beds, banquette window seats, wood-burning stones and a backyard with nature views. In-house services include a two-storey spa and wellness center, dining by the outdoor terrace and many more and a private driver to take you around.
4. Gangte & Phobjika Valley, for hikes and outdoor activities
Considered to be one of the most scenic places in Bhutan, Phobijika Valley is one of the only glacial valleys in the country with its mountains, river streams, pine trees, and rich wildlife. A note to the nature lovers, make sure to look out for black-necked cranes from Tibet, wild boars, black bears, leopards and foxes. Also found in this area is the popular Gangtey Monastery, also known as the Gangtey Gonpa. Perched on a hill, tourists will enjoy seeing monks in prayer and panoramic views of the valley. It is the perfect place for a day of hiking, camping or simply appreciating the richness of nature all around.
Things to do in Gangte:
- Explore Phobijika Valley and the Gangtey Monastery as part of a 9-day adventure across Bhutan
- Go hiking and camping in the Phobijika Valley
- Spend a day surrounded by nature and the region’s wildlife
Where to stay in Gangte: Gangtey Lodge Bhutan
Gangtey Lodge Bhutan is a hidden oasis at the heart of the Phobijika Valley. With only 12 suites in this luxury lodge, guests are promised top-quality pampering throughout their stay. Rooms are designed in authentic Bhutanese style, with an open-room bathtub and cosy fireplace to be enjoyed with views of the valley. Other activities include meditation, archery, darts, mountain biking. It is the ultimate treat after a day of exploring the valley.
5. Bumthang & Jakar, for history and religion
Bumthang is Bhutan’s most historic district in terms of having the most temples and Buddhist sites in the country. Anyone curious about Bhutan’s history and religious evolution should include this place in their itinerary. Translated as “beautiful field” in English, it is also known for its four mountain valleys, collectively called the Chokhor Valley (also referred to as Bumthang Valley). In fact, it is often called “little Switzerland” because of its green grass and winding hills.
The district capital, Jakar, is the first Buddhist kingdom in the country. Fittingly so, the Jakar Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most pictured dzongs and is home to the Kurje Lhakang monastery, one of the oldest in the country where you’ll find the remains of its first three Kings. The Burning Lake is also a definite must-see, hidden in a gorge and surrounded by moss-covered boulders. Offering both nature and history, Bumthang is an ideal place for tourists looking to have an eat-pray-love kind of vacation.
Things to do in Bumthang:
- Explore Bumthang Valley as part of a 9-day adventure across Bhutan
- Visit the Buddhiest monasteries and courtyards of Jakar Dzong
- Visit some of the many Buddhist temples in the area like Jampey, Kurjey, Tamshing, Konchogsum Lhakhangs
- Discover The Burning Lake and the story behind its legend
- Unwind at the Red Panda Brewery for Weiss beer and Swiss cheese
Where to stay in Bumthang: Amankora Bumthang Lodge
Located a few steps away from the Wangdichholing Palace, the Amankora Bumthang Lodge is a place fit for royals. From the elegant rooms to the stunning courtyard, its entire style is inspired by minimalism, muted colors and wooden accents that automatically exude an atmosphere of warm luxury. The hotel offers free morning yoga sessions for guests to fully appreciate the surrounding pine trees and abundant greenery. Other amenities guests can enjoy are the library, spa, restaurant and bar.
We hope that our guide on where to stay in Bhutan & the best Bhutan hotels has helped you! Please share it with your friends and family. Do also check out our other Bhutan reads below!
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