A week in Bhutan

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
8
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
7
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
9
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
4
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
80 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Bhutan
Length of time
Around a week
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 1,400
Time of year visited
March
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
40th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

Stunning Himalayan scenery and a traditional culture that permeates throughout your whole visit – a visit to Bhutan is a great experience and one that is anchored in the Bhutanese prides in maintaining its traditional culture, environment and people’s happiness rather than focusing on purely economic factors.  This extends to the tourist industry where the minimum spend of USD250 and a strong government hand restricts some of the more commercialised downsides of the industry and makes it feel like you’re stepping back in time to this slightly forgotten Himalayan kingdom

 

You’ll have to go with an agency (and pay the minimum spend of USD250 per day), but considering you don’t have to travel as a group, can arrange your own itinerary and the $ includes everything other than flights, it’s a good deal.  We went with Swallow Tail Travels on a 7 day / 6 night trip for USD1400, who we would recommend.  This is the itinerary

highlights

#1 Hiking Bhutan's most famous trek - the Druk Path and having 4 days of isolation and stunning mountain scenery

#2 Climbing up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery, perched high up on one of the mountain sides

#3 The Bhutan people! Genuinely super friendly and happy people

#4 The feeling of isolation as you emerge from your frozen tent and look at some of the still unclimbed Bhutanese mountains in the distance

#5 Seeing the wonderful colours of the various buddhist Monasteries and Fortresses all so close together

#6 Experiencing the altitude as you pass Labana La Pass at 4,235m

#7 The splashes of colour from the Buddhist flags that give that real Himalayan mountain vibe

Rough itinerary

Day 1 – land in Paro and head out straight away to check out the fortress of Punakha Dzong, Paro Dzong (the mini fotress that overlooks the valley), the National Museum and the monstery of Tronga Dzong

Day 2 – visit in the morning the most famous spot in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched high on the sheer cliffs.  See Climbing to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery for some tips on this experience.  The afternoon is for trying archery and visiting the Kyichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in Bhutan

Day 3 – Day 6 -hiking the 54km famous Druk Path which takes you from Paro to Thimphu and with views of nearby Mt Jomalhori and Mt Gangkhar Puensum.  Moderate difficultly and can easily be squeezed into 4 days, but some take 5-6 days.  As with most things in Bhutan, you’ll have it largely to youself.  See Hiking Bhutan’s Druk Path at the end of winter for more tips and details

Day 6 afternoon – visit the Buddha Dordenma, a 51m / 167ft Buddha statue gilded in gold, and wander round Thimpu

Day 7 – fly out from Paro

Travel Tips

  • Time of Year – we went in March, which was cold, but added to the overall experience when trekking in the snow
  • The main highlights of Bhutan are relatively compact.  You can check out Punakha Dzong, Paro Dzong, the National Museum, Trongsa Dzong and Kyichu Lhakhang easily within a morning or afternoon
  • Accommodation – we stayed, all arranged by the tour company, at Taktsang Boutique Resort & Spa on the first two nights and Hotel Thimphu Tower on the final night.  Both were nice
  • Various activities – there’s always bits and bobs to do in the evenings and quieter times, such as archery, hot stone baths, cooking classes, traditional dances, traditional crafts etc.  Time fillers to a degree, but they just seem to be a bit more genuine than the usual commercialised tourist approach.  Similarly, the Bhutanese take no offence if you’re just not in the mood
  • Flights – flights can be a little restrictive, but your agency will help you see your various options

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone