The Kingdom of Happiness Bhutan

Blend of pristine nature with social harmony in a deeply spiritual land, that has earned this gentle nation the title “The Last Shangri-la”.

Bhutan, The Land of the Thunder Dragon, is an extraordinary little kingdom in the Himalayas that lies in between India and Tibet. With stunning landscapes, Bhutan is a dream for all lovers of nature and the outdoors. But it is the country's strong sense of tradition and culture, passionately preserved to the present, that holds the enduring image that most travellers will endear to.

Vajrayana Buddhism influences every aspect of Bhutanese life, its teachings form the very essence of a distinct identity that belongs to its population of 750,000, who incidentally are the surviving believers of this ancient school of Mahayana Buddhism.

Another unique characteristic that defines Bhutan is its own emphasis on the country's Gross National Happiness index, which highlights the importance of economic growth and development, cultural preservation, environmental sustainability and good governance, to name a few. By virtue of these guiding principles, Bhutan has taken a strict stance concerning environmental preservation to protect the country's flora and fauna—that is just as rich as its Buddhist traditions. Bhutan might be a poor nation compared to many in the world but its fertile lands, small population and its unorthodox emphasis on happiness makes it a richly balanced country. It is this blend of pristine nature with social harmony in a deeply spiritual land that has earned the gentle kingdom of Bhutan the title "The Last Shangri-la".  

10 Things to Do

1 Observe the Himalayan Snow Peaks

A window seat on the left side of the plane might offer some amazing views of the Eastern Himalayan range during your flight into Bhutan.

2 Hang Prayer Flags

Spread prayers and goodwill in the wind by hanging prayer flags—an ideal spot is by the waterfall high up at Tiger's Nest.

3 Taste the Local Cuisine

Emadatse (chilli cheese), buckwheat pancakes and yak butter tea are just some of the many Bhutanese dishes and foods that will offer both novelty and familiarity for your taste buds.

4 Snack on the Local Treats

Popular Bhutanese snacks like Momo (dumplings), jellied cow skin, dried yak cheese and fresh betel nut will stave off the munchies.

5 Indulge in the Local Brews

The Bhutanese beer, Red Panda, is just as thirst quenching as any of those world renowned ones while the traditional Ara might offer an unusual route to merriment.

6 Watch an Archery Match

Bhutan's national sport is also a favourite pastime among the Bhutanese. A duel between archers is quite a common sight in Bhutan and you will find they take their targets pretty seriously.

7 Climb Tiger’s Nest

Elevate your sense of wonder with a hike by foot or horse ride up to see the most famous temple in Paro.

8 Soak in a Hot Stone Bath

Have a lovely soak in a stone-heated wooden bathtub in the serene tranquility of the woods after a day of activity.

9 Light Butter Lamps

Lighted butter lamps represent the illumination of wisdom. They also focus the mind and aid meditation.

10 Spin Prayer Wheels

Turning these wheels with inscribed mantras clockwise is said to have the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. One good turn deserves another!

Signature Journeys

Path to Taktsang, 5 days

Thimphu & Paro

A short yet lasting introduction to Bhutan's must-sees.

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Path to Haa, 6 days

Thimphu, Haa & Paro

Uncover Bhutan's natural beauty.

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Path to Punakha, 7 days

Thimphu, Punakha & Paro

Observe the splendid serenity where two great rivers of Bhutan meet.

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Path to Phobjikha, 8 days

Thimphu, Phobjikha (Gangtey), Punakha & Paro

Explore the scenic splendour of Bhutan's glacial paradise.

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Path to Choekhor, 10 days

Thimphu, Phobjikha (Gangtey), Bumthang, Punakha & Paro

Venture into the spiritual heartland of Bhutan.

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Path to Trashigang, 14 days

Trashigang, Mongar, Bumthang, Phobjikha, Punakha, Haa & Paro

From the busiest cities to the most secluded valleys—discover the best of Bhutan in a fortnight.

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Festivals

Tsechus are colourful festivals with masked performances and pageants held annually on the tenth day of the lunar month at various monasteries and dzongs across Bhutan. Though it is supposed to correspond with Guru Rinpoche's birthday, the actual date a Tsechu is held varies every year for each temple and location.

2017 Calendar

2 – 6 Mar Punakha Drubchen Punakha
7 – 9 Mar Punakha Tsechu Punakha
11 & 26 Apr Chorten Kora Trashiyangtshe
4 – 6 Apr Gomphu Kora Trashigang
7 – 11 Apr Paro Tsechu Paro
18 – 20 Apr Rhododendron  Thimphu
7 – 10 May Ura Tsechu Bumthang
1 – 3 Jul Nimalung Tsechu Bumthang
3 Jul Kurjey Tsechu Bumthang
2 Sep Tour of the Dragon (Bicycle Race) Bumthang to Thimphu
25 – 29 Sep Thimphu Drubchen Thimphu
28 – 30 Sep Wangdue Tsechu Wangduephodrang
30 Sep – 2 Oct Tamshing Phala Chhoepa Bumthang
30 Sep – 2 Oct Thimphu Tsechu Thimphu
4 – 6 Oct Thangbi Mani Bumthang
1 – 3 Nov Pemagatshel Tshechu Pemagatshel
3 – 6 Nov Jambay Lhakhang Drup Bumthang
4 – 6 Nov Prakhar Tsechu Bumthang
11 Nov Black-Necked Crane Festival Phobjikha
25 – 28 Nov Mongar Tsechu Mongar
26 – 29 Nov Trashigang Tsechu Trashigang
3 Dec Jambay Lakhang Singye Cham Bumthang
3 – 5 Dec Nalakhar Tsechu Bumthang
13 Dec Druk Wangyel Tshechu Thimphu
25 – 28 Dec Trongsa Tsechu Trongsa
25 – 28 Dec Lhuentse Tsechu Lhuentse

Accommodation

Combo

Prefer to both relish your rugged side and spoil yourself? You can experience a mix of both worlds by beginning your journey at a local lodge and capping it off at one of the best hotels! Simply pick "Combo" in the itinerary planner and we will arrange the perfect combination for you to truly experience what Bhutan has to offer.

Going to Bhutan

Licensed Operator

All trips to Bhutan, including applications for visas and route permits, have to be prearranged through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) or one of their international partners. Amala Destinations is licensed under and registered with the TCB as "Amala Travel in Bhutan".

Visa & Route Permit

All visitors to Bhutan, except those of Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizenship, are required a visa (with a processing fee of USD 40) before entry. With a scan of your passport, Amala Destinations will be delighted to process your application. Please note that a visa clearance letter has to be presented at the airport check-in counter before your flight to Bhutan and at the point of entry.

Minimum Daily Package

The Royal Government of Bhutan requires its visitors to spend a minimum of USD 200 per person per night throughout the low seasons and USD 250 per person per night during the high seasons. The respective amounts may include your expenses for accomodation, meals, transportation, guides, tours, etc. It also includes the Sustainable Tourism Royalty (USD 65 per person per night).

Free Independent Traveller (FIT) Surcharge

Groups of less than 3 adults will be required to pay an additional surcharge levied by the Bhutanese government. The Free Independent Traveller (FIT) surcharge is USD 30 per person per night for a pair of adults and USD 40 per night for single travellers.

Mahayana Buddhism

Vajrayana Buddhism, the kingdom's state religion, influences every aspect of Bhutanese life, its teachings form the very essence of a distinct identity that belongs to its population of 750,000, who incidentally are the surviving believers of this ancient school of Mahayana Buddhism. The heart of Mahayana is a deep compassion for all sentient beings; as a mark of respect, visitors are encouraged to practice the same mindfulness and resist every urge to swat flies or stamp on ants.

Bhutanese Cuisine

The Bhutanese love their food spicy. Chillies feature quite prominently in the local dishes and most diners are properly satisfied only if their meals pack a lot of heat. A typical meal features rice, vegetable dishes and chicken, beef or pork for protein. A favourite among the Bhutanese is Ema Datshi, a simple comforting dish involving a savoury mix of chilli and cheese.

Bhutanese Dress

The kingdom's traditional dress has evolved over thousands of years to establish itself as a distinguishing element of Bhutan's cultural heritage. The Gho, worn by men, is a knee-length robe similar to the Japanese kimono, and tied at the waist by traditional belt called a Kera. The women wear the Kira, an ankle-length skirt, and an inner layer called a Wonju, with a light outer jacket called a Tego.

Festivals

Tsechus, or festivals, feature masked dances and musical performances and offer the perfect oppurtunity to glimpse at and discover Bhutanese traditions. Tsechus are held all over the country but the more notable ones are the Paro and the Thimphu Tsechus. Flights and hotels get filled up very quickly during these occasions, we recommend making reservations 9 months ahead to witness these events.

Spring (March to May)

Spring is clearly the season for rebirth and reawakening as apple, pear, cherry and peach trees blossom from March to April while forests of rhododendrons flower right through to May. Only the lucky ones get to witness the jacarandas bloom at Punakha Dzong because they appear only for a month. It stays rather cold in March with temperatures ranging from 0-16°C and gets warmer in April and May with temperatures as low as 6°C and as high as 26°C.

Summer (June to August)

The summer months of Bhutan see more rain than usual, though it is a common misconception that summer in Bhutan is also its "monsoon season"—it only drizzles lightly with showers not lasting longer than an hour; the rain does get slightly heavier when autumn looms. While it is easier to access the sought-after sights and spots, the summer climate allows for seasonal produce like the rare Matsutake and Chanterelle mushrooms to flourish. With bushier trees and thicker grass lushly regrown over the hills and mountains of red clay soil, green is very much the colour of the season. Temperatures range from a low of 12°C to a high of 29°C.

Autumn (September to November)

With paddy fields all golden, autumn is the time to harvest. Markets are filled with the freshest produce and the festivals are a spectacle to behold even for the Bhutanese. Temperatures stay relatively warm till October, when it gets as cold as 6°C and as warm as 20°C.

Winter (December to February)

The eastern Himalayas become outstandingly visible during the winter months of clear blue skies. While the air is crisp, dry and cold, the winter conditions invite black-necked cranes to make their seasonal pilgrimage to Phobjikha Valley. Temperatures range from below freezing to 14°C.


All trips to Bhutan, visas and route permits have to be pre-arranged and booked through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) or one of their international partners. We are licensed and registered in Bhutan under "Amala Travel in Bhutan".

With most other agencies, that usually entails selecting an existing package that does not allow for much flexibility.

At Amala Destinations, we believe in creating your ideal trip with you. After speaking with one of our knowledgeable destination planners, we take your requirements into consideration before coming up with a specially designed itinerary and handling all the necessary travel logistics.

All you need to do is pack your bags and set off on your journey.

For travel during the high seasons from March to May and September to November, we advise that you approach us at least 6 - 9 months in advance.

  • Step 1 / Fill up online form

    Please fill up our online planner form and our destination planner will be in touch within 24 hours to plan your journey.

  • Step 2 / Planning your journey

    You may prefer to speak to one of our destination planners in person, please call us directly at our office number or via Skype.

  • Step 3 / Approve custom itinerary

    Once you have discussed with our destination planner your journey preferences, we will be able to get back to you within 3 working days or less with your journey options. After confirming your final itinerary, we will need another 2 - 3 working days to confirm all your flight bookings and hotel reservations. When all bookings are confirmed we will then require from you a 50% deposit payment, with the balance payment due 50 days prior to your departure date. For bookings made within 50 days, full payment is required.

  • Step 4 / Visa application and trip coordination

    As visa applications take approximately 4 weeks to process, we highly recommend all enquiries to be made at least 2 months in advance. We will then arrange a date for us to meet you in person to hand over all your travel documents once your visa is approved. During low season months, it may be possible to process your booking within 3 - 4 weeks.

  • Step 5 / Ready to go

    After receiving all your travel documents about 2 - 3 weeks before your departure date, you are now ready for your journey to Bhutan! Do remember to follow our recommended packing list for the different seasons in Bhutan.

Your wish, your journey

Amala Destinations takes the chore of planning off the traveller. With bespoke and customisable packages, we endeavour to fulfil almost every desire.

Plan Your Journey