What is Bhutan like?
Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, the enchanting kingdom of Bhutan is a treasure trove of cultural richness and natural beauty.
Often referred to as the "Land of the Thunder Dragon," Bhutan is a nation that prides itself on its commitment to preserving its culture and the environment. With monasteries, dramatic landscapes and lively festivals, Bhutan provides you with the opportunity to glimpse into a world where tradition meets the present day.
If you are thinking about a trip to Bhutan then you will probably be wondering when the best time to go is, so before embarking on your journey to this unique country, we will examine its diverse climate and the array of activities you can enjoy to help you plan your Bhutan adventure.
Let’s look at the seasons
Low Season in Bhutan (December to February)
The low season in Bhutan is during the winter months as the temperatures during this season can drop significantly. If you travel during the low season then you can expect chilly days with daytime temperatures ranging from 5 to 10 degrees Celsius (40 to 50 degrees Farenheit). While this might not be the ideal time for everyone, this season does have a charm of its own.
Best Things to Do During the Low Season
- Bhutan celebrates several vibrant festivals even during the low season and one of the most famous is the Punakha Drubchen, which usually takes place in February, you can see traditional masked dances and immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture.
- Bhutan is known for its picturesque monasteries and dzongs. You can take advantage of the lower tourist numbers to visit iconic sites like Punakha Dzong, Taktshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) and Gangtey Monastery.
- While some trekking routes may be closed due to snow there are still plenty of lower-altitude treks that are accessible during the low season, you can though go on shorter treks like the Phobjikha Valley or Punakha Valley treks.
- Warm yourself up with a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath. This extremely therapeutic experience is perfect for the chilly weather and will leave you feeling relaxed.
- Bhutan's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are home to a variety of wildlife and the low season is a good time for birdwatching and spotting animals like the Himalayan black bear and red panda.
- Try Bhutanese cuisine, Ema datshi (cheese and chili), phaksha paa (pork with chili) and momo (dumplings) are worth a try.
- Soak in the natural thermal springs of Gasa or Chubu during the colder months, it's a great way to unwind and enjoy the scenic landscapes.
- With fewer tourists around, you'll have more opportunities to interact with the friendly Bhutanese locals and learn about their way of life.
- If you like taking photos then the low season provides unique opportunities for photography, with its snow-covered landscapes and misty mornings creating stunning vistas.
- Sometimes, the best thing to do during the low season is to simply relax by the fireplace in a cosy traditional Bhutanese guesthouse, sipping on butter tea.
Remember to check weather conditions and road accessibility before planning your activities, as the low season can also bring some road closures due to the snowfall. Despite the colder weather, Bhutan's low season offers a peaceful and culturally rich experience that's worth exploring.
Shoulder Season in Bhutan (March to May) (September to November)
Spring (March to May)
In Bhutan, during the spring shoulder season the temperatures typically range from 10°C to 20°C in Celsius, which is about 50°F to 68°F in Fahrenheit. It's a pleasant time to visit as the weather begins to warm up and the landscape starts to come alive
Autumn (September to November):
In the autumn shoulder season, Bhutan experiences temperatures ranging from 10°C to 25°C in Celsius, approximately 50°F to 77°F in Fahrenheit. This season is known for clear skies, crisp air and has stunning foliage, making it a popular time to visit.
These temperature ranges however can vary slightly depending on the specific location within Bhutan and the year, but this gives you a good idea of what to expect during the shoulder seasons.
Best things to do in Bhutan during the Shoulder Season
- The weather during these seasons is quite pleasant which makes it an ideal time for trekking. Try the famous Druk Path Trek, Jomolhari Trek or the Snowman Trek if you're up for a challenging adventure.
- Bhutan is known for its festivals and many of them occur during the shoulder seasons. The Paro Tsechu and Thimphu Tsechu are two of the most famous, showcasing traditional dances, music and elaborate mask performances.
- The clear skies and moderate temperatures make it a great time for sightseeing. Visit iconic places like the Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery), Punakha Dzong and the capital city Thimphu. The temperatures are comfortable for exploring.
- Bhutan is rich in biodiversity and the shoulder seasons are excellent for wildlife enthusiasts. By heading to national parks like Jigme Dorji and Royal Manas you may spot rare species like the Bengal tiger, snow leopard and red panda.
- Interact with the friendly Bhutanese people and immerse yourself in their culture. Visit local markets, try traditional Bhutanese cuisine and even stay in a homestay for an authentic experience.
- The picturesque landscapes of Bhutan are at their best during the shoulder seasons, capture lots of stunning shots of valleys, rivers and mountains in their full glory.
- Soak in the natural hot springs in places like Punakha and Gasa to relax and rejuvenate after your adventures.
- Bhutan is a haven for bird watchers and the shoulder seasons are when many migratory birds visit the country so grab your binoculars and explore the diverse birdlife.
- Explore local markets for unique Bhutanese handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs, the Thimphu Weekend Market is a great place to start.
- The shoulder seasons coincide with important Bhutanese festivals, creating a festive atmosphere throughout the country.
Remember to check the specific dates for festivals and trekking permits, as these may vary from year to year. Overall, the shoulder seasons offer a well-rounded Bhutanese experience with pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
When is the rainy season in Bhutan (June to September)
In Bhutan, the rainy season typically occurs from June to September. During this period the Southwest Monsoon brings heavy rainfall to different parts of the country though the temperatures during the rainy season in Bhutan can vary depending on the region you're in.
In the western part of Bhutan, which includes popular destinations like Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha, the temperatures during the rainy season tend to be mild and pleasant, daytime temperatures usually range from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), making it quite comfortable for outdoor activities, however, nights can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°C (50°F).
In central Bhutan, particularly in places like Bumthang, the temperatures during the rainy season can be cooler than in the west, daytime temperatures may range from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F) and night time temperatures can drop to around 5°C to 10°C (41°F to 50°F).
The eastern part of Bhutan, including Trashigang and Mongar, experience more rainfall during the rainy season. Daytime temperatures here typically range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), and night time temperatures remain relatively mild, around 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F).
It's important to note that while the temperatures in Bhutan during the rainy season are relatively moderate, the rainfall can be heavy, leading to occasional road closures and trekking challenges. Travelling during this time means you should be prepared for rain and pack accordingly. However the landscapes and vibrant greenery brought by the rainy season can add a charm to your Bhutanese experience.
Things to do in Bhutan during the rainy season
Exploring Bhutan during the rainy season can be a unique experience. With its lower prices for accommodations and tours it could be a good time to go if you are travelling on a budget. Here are some activities you can enjoy during the rainy season in Bhutan:
- The capital city, Thimphu, and the picturesque Paro Valley are relatively less crowded during the rainy season and you can visit iconic sites like the Tashichho Dzong, Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest Monastery) and the National Museum in peace.
- Bhutanese festivals, known as Tshechus, often occur during the rainy season and watching these colourful and culturally rich events can be a highlight to your trip.
- Try a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath as it's not only relaxing but also a great way to warm up on a rainy day. The hot stones are placed in a wooden tub filled with water and medicinal herbs to create a soothing experience.
- While trekking at high altitudes might not be ideal during the monsoon, there are still some lower-altitude hikes you can enjoy. Trails like the Dochula Nature Trail and the Phojoding Trek near Thimphu offer beautiful scenery without the risk of heavy rains.
- Rainy days are perfect for exploring local markets. Weekend markets like those in Thimphu and Paro are where you can find handicrafts, textiles, and fresh produce and don't forget to haggle a bit for your souvenirs.
- Some hotels and cultural centres will organise traditional Bhutanese cultural shows with the performances allowing you an insight into Bhutanese culture, including their folk dances and music.
- Rainy weather can create a mystical atmosphere which is perfect for photography so take your camera and capture the misty landscapes, rain-soaked flora, and the unique ambiance of Bhutan.
What Is the Best Month to Visit Bhutan?
Bhutan is a beautiful destination with a lot to offer throughout the year, but the best time to visit largely depends on your preferences.
If you're looking for pleasant weather and clear skies then the ideal months are September to November, the autumn season. During this time the air is cool and crisp and the landscapes are changing.
However if you prefer warmer temperatures and want to witness Bhutan's stunning rhododendron blooms then spring, from March to May, is fantastic. The valleys come alive with colourful flowers during this period.
Keep in mind that the winter months (December to February) can get quite chilly, especially in the higher regions, so be prepared for cold weather if you choose to visit then. Summer (June to August) can be rainy and less ideal for outdoor activities, but it's still possible to explore Bhutan during this time.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Bhutan depends on your interests and what kind of experience you're seeking.
When Is the Best Weather in Bhutan?
The weather is generally pleasant during the shoulder seasons, with clear skies and comfortable temperatures. So, March to May and September to November offer the best weather for most travellers.
What Months Are Cheapest to Visit Bhutan?
The cheapest time to visit Bhutan would be during the monsoon season from June to August. During these months, you can find lower prices for accommodations and tour packages. However, do keep in mind that the weather can be quite wet, with heavy rain and the possibility of landslides, so it's essential to be prepared for these conditions. If you prefer a drier and more comfortable experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November), when the weather is pleasant, and you can still find reasonable prices without the heavy rains. It's all about striking the right balance between budget and weather conditions when planning your trip to Bhutan!
How Many Days Are Enough to Spend in Bhutan?
To truly experience the essence of Bhutan, a trip of 7 to 10 days is recommended. This allows you to visit key destinations and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Is Bhutan Expensive?
Bhutan operates on a "high-value, low-impact" tourism model, which includes a daily tariff. While this may seem expensive, it covers many expenses like accommodation, meals, and guides, ensuring a unique and sustainable travel experience.
What Is the Rainy Season in Bhutan?
Bhutan's rainy season typically spans from June to August, making it the least popular time to visit due to heavy monsoon rains.
The best time to visit Bhutan largely depends on your interests and tolerance for weather conditions. Whether you choose to explore its cultural richness, embark on thrilling treks, or simply revel in its natural beauty, Bhutan has something to offer year-round.
So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the mystical kingdom of Bhutan!