Bhutan is a picturesque country located in the Eastern Himalayas, offering stunning mountain vistas, breathtaking landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Taking a road trip in Bhutan is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers a chance to explore the country at your own pace, connecting with its people and natural beauty. The winding roads through the mountains offer scenic views and the chance to see wildlife and experience rural life. Bhutan's strong commitment to preserving its natural and cultural heritage means that visitors can enjoy a variety of breathtaking landscapes, from lush forests and terraced fields to towering peaks and glittering lakes. The country's architecture, traditions, and religious sites, such as the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery, offer a fascinating glimpse into Bhutan's unique cultural heritage. Overall, a road trip in Bhutan is a must for anyone seeking a unique travel experience that combines natural beauty, cultural richness, and spiritual serenity.
Due to Bhutan’s policy of sustainable tourism, travelers entering the country are obliged to pay a tariff of around 250 US dollars per day of their stay. Even though initially Bhutan comes across as one of the most expensive holiday destinations in the world, the price covers everything from accommodation to the accompanying official guide. That’s pretty striking, isn’t it? The seemingly exorbitant price is compensated thanks to Bhutan’s beautiful sacred places, natural gems, and Himalayan landscape that will stay in your memory for years.
Thimphu, which it the fabulous capital of Bhutan, Punakha, and Jakar rank among the most populous and largest cities in the country. These will be ideal to start your adventure around Bhutan with examples of stunning architecture, a fine choice of dining venues, and a range of top-notch landmarks, such as Trashi Chho Dzong, the Weekend Market, or the National Textile Museum.
Travellers who are interested in peaceful locations that will bring them a feeling of bliss and happiness should definitely direct their steps to such towns as Haa, Chinakha, Gangtey, Tongsa, or Mongar.
Lhuntse, along with the surrounding district, will give you an insight into Bhutan’s royal family and its roots, whereas Sengor can become an excellent starting point for venturing into the recesses of the Thrumshingla National Park.
Among the most interesting villages in the country, you’ll find Ura, consisting of 40 closely situated houses centered around the Ura Lhakhang. For a deeper exploration of Bhutan, Chendebji, and Dechencholing are also worth consideration.
The icing on the cake is the scenic Paro with the main street dating back to 1985. While in the town, you should stop to admire the town’s beautiful architecture - Paro Dzong, Zuri Dzong, and Dumtse Lhakhang. The National Museum will become a top choice for fans of history.
Suggested Road Trips in Bhutan
Thimphu to Punakha: This road trip takes you from Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu, to the ancient capital of Punakha, and offers stunning views of the Bhutanese countryside. Along the way, you'll see ancient temples and monasteries, including the 17th-century Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of fertility. The journey culminates in Punakha, where you can explore the Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan's largest and most impressive fortresses.
Paro to Haa Valley: This road trip takes you through the stunning Haa Valley, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and alpine meadows. Along the way, you'll pass by traditional Bhutanese villages, ancient temples, and pristine forests. The journey ends in Haa, a remote valley that is home to some of Bhutan's most traditional communities.
Bumthang to Mongar: This road trip takes you from the heart of Bhutan's spiritual and cultural heritage, Bumthang, to the eastern town of Mongar. The journey offers stunning views of the Bhutanese countryside, including forests, rolling hills, and snow-capped peaks. Along the way, you'll pass by traditional Bhutanese villages, monasteries, and temples, offering a fascinating glimpse into the country's rich cultural heritage. The journey culminates in Mongar, where you can explore the local markets, sample traditional Bhutanese food, and relax in the serene mountain surroundings.
Travelling around Bhutan will be most convenient with a rental car. This option is available at airports and in major cities. Generally, driving in Bhutan will be a daunting challenge as Bhutan roads are extremely narrow and there are hundreds of trucks driving around and appearing suddenly in front of your vehicle out of the blue. In Bhutan, you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road; however, don’t worry, the flow of traffic is considerably more orderly in comparison to all other Asian countries around the Himalayan region.
When taking a road trip in Bhutan, there are several things to be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
Altitude: Bhutan is a mountainous country, with many roads crossing high passes, so it's important to be prepared for the effects of altitude, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
Road conditions: Some roads in Bhutan can be narrow, winding, and steep, with limited guardrails, so it's important to be aware of these conditions and to drive with caution.
Local driving laws and customs: Make sure to familiarize yourself with local driving laws and customs before hitting the road, such as the use of seat belts and the requirement to use headlights during the day.
Traffic: While traffic in Bhutan is generally light, it is important to be aware of other road users, such as cyclists, livestock, and pedestrians.
Road closures: Some roads may be closed during the monsoon season, or due to roadworks, so it's important to check road conditions and plan your trip accordingly.
Fuel availability: Fuel may not be readily available in all parts of Bhutan, so it's a good idea to carry extra fuel and to plan your trips accordingly.
Permits and visas: Visitors to Bhutan are required to have a valid visa and to travel with a registered tour operator, so it's important to make sure that all necessary permits and visas are obtained before starting your road trip.
By keeping these factors in mind, you can have a safe and enjoyable road trip in Bhutan, taking in the breathtaking scenery and experiencing the rich culture of this fascinating country.
The best time to take a road trip in Bhutan is from March to May and from September to November. During these months, the weather is mild and pleasant, making it ideal for exploring the country by car. The roads are generally in good condition and free of snow, making it easier to drive and enjoy the scenery. However, it is important to keep in mind that some mountain roads may be affected by rain or landslides during the monsoon season, which runs from June to August. Before embarking on a road trip in Bhutan, it is always a good idea to check the road conditions and to be prepared for potential weather-related challenges.
Bhutan is a unique and culturally rich country that is perfect for a road trip. While it is not the most budget-friendly destination in the world, the experience and sights you will see make it well worth the cost. The cost of a road trip in Bhutan varies depending on the time of year, the places you visit, and the activities you participate in.
The Bhutanese government requires all visitors to pay a daily fee, which includes accommodation, food, and transportation. For the high season (March, April, May, September, October, and November), the fee is $250 per person per day. For the low season (January, February, June, July, August, and December), the fee is $200 per person per day. Additionally, there is a one-time visa fee of $40 per person.
Renting a car in Bhutan is not recommended due to the country's mountainous terrain and narrow roads. Instead, it is advised to hire a driver and car from a travel agency, which can cost around $40-50 per day.
Accommodation in Bhutan ranges from basic guesthouses to luxurious resorts. The cost of accommodation varies depending on the level of comfort and services provided. Budget guesthouses can cost around $20-30 per night, while luxury resorts can cost several hundred dollars per night.
Food in Bhutan is typically inexpensive, and traditional Bhutanese dishes can be found for reasonable prices. Western-style food in tourist areas can be more expensive, but local eateries and markets offer affordable options.
Overall, a road trip in Bhutan can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 per person per day, depending on your travel style and preferences. While it may not be the most budget-friendly destination, the unique cultural experiences and stunning landscapes make it well worth the cost.
Bhutan is a unique and fascinating country with breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and friendly people. It's a great destination for a road trip, allowing you to explore its remote regions, natural beauty, and rich heritage. To plan your road trip in Bhutan, you will need some reliable guidebooks and road maps to help you navigate the country's winding roads and find the best destinations.
Here are some recommended guidebooks and road maps for a road trip in Bhutan:
"Lonely Planet Bhutan" - This guidebook covers everything you need to know about traveling in Bhutan, including cultural insights, practical information, and recommended itineraries.
"Bhutan: A Trekker's Guide" - If you plan to do some trekking on your road trip, this guidebook is essential. It covers the best trekking routes in Bhutan, with detailed maps and descriptions.
"Bhutan Road Map" - This map is an essential tool for navigating Bhutan's winding roads. It shows all major highways, secondary roads, and remote mountain passes, as well as key landmarks and attractions.
"Bhutan Cultural Atlas" - For a deeper understanding of Bhutan's culture and heritage, this book provides a detailed look at the country's history, customs, and traditions. It includes maps, photos, and informative essays.
"Bhutan Travel Journal" - This journal is a great way to record your memories and experiences while on your road trip in Bhutan. It includes space for notes, photos, and reflections on your journey.