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Making Bhutan travel easy and enlightening

Bhutan travel

The dragon takes centre stage in Bhutanese culture, even in its alternative name, Druk Yul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon. It’s a country that excites prospective visitors, but it can also intimidate them a little as it has some unique tourism rules in place. It’s far from a dragon, however, but simply seeking to protect its precious natural and cultural heritage, and avoid some of the tourism trappings that other countries have fallen into. We have written our top tips and answered some of your questions on Bhutan travel below, to take the heat out of the dragon’s roar and guide you on a route to Bhutan that is easy and enlightening. 

Is Bhutan worth visiting? 

A basic one for starters. It always strikes us as incredible that people ask this question, because Bhutan really is one of the most extraordinary, welcoming and unforgettable places to visit. Consequently, in addition to our specific trekking holidays, such as the Druk Path Trek and Jomolhari Base Camp, we always recommend and will book optional excursions to western, central or eastern Bhutan, either to acclimatise or simply to maximise on its magnificence. 

bhutan travel
When your acclimatisation hike is to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, at 3,180m, you realise that the Bhutanese set the bar pretty high.

Isn’t there an expensive daily tourist tax for tours in Bhutan? 

Bhutan welcomes visitors but has been leading the way for some time now in charging a significant tourist tax to avoid some of the harmful impacts of tourism that we see in other parts of the world. These Bhutan entry requirements are seen as controversial by some, but we see it as being totally understandable. A precious place needs protecting and, post pandemic, the tourist tax, officially called a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) went up from $65 to $200 per day, per person, with the Bhutan government defending this move saying: “In the long run, our goal is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.” 

We incorporate this cost into the price of your holiday in Bhutan and handle all administration of the fee for you. The government states that it uses the monies raised for conservation, renewable energy and community-led tourism projects. Expensive, yes, exquisite, double yes and, controversially, triply exclusive for many. 

How easy is it to get a Bhutan visa?

It’s very easy because, like the Sustainable Development Fee, we do all the work for you and the Bhutan visa cost ($40) is included in the tour price. Please note: you do not need to submit your passport in advance for us to get the visa, which is entered in your passport upon arrival. You don’t need passport photos either, but we always recommend travelling with a couple of current photos anyway. 

You do, however, need to send us your arrival and departure flight details for Paro (unless you have booked your Paro flights through us), and also a scanned copy of your passport, in colour. We will send you details of this at time of booking, and it must be provided 35-40 days before you travel. Note that Paro is the sole international airport of the four airports in Bhutan.

We then arrange the Bhutan visa for you, and will send it to you two to five business days before departure, which you need to print out and show before boarding your flight to Paro. 

What if I decide to extend my stay after trekking in Bhutan? 

Don’t worry, we have your back in Bhutan and we are delighted that many of our guests do want to stay longer, especially after travelling such a long way. However, this does mean a bit of planning in advance, as you may want to save the hassle of changing visa dates at the last minute, and including them at the time of booking your trekking tour with us. 

This is why we have a collection of optional Bhutan Discovery Extensions to be taken before or after your trek, which we can book and include in your final tour price, including the extended SDF fee. This saves you a lot of time and energy, and also means that you will be travelling with our tried, tested and very much treasured Bhutanese partners. 

When is the best time to visit Bhutan?

All of our Bhutan trekking tours are available between April and November, with the exception of the world famous Snowman Trek, which runs between March and May, September and November. As our trips are privately guided, they are flexible so there are no fixed dates during these periods, and you can start your holiday on a date to suit you. 

With our Druk Path Trek, trek to Jomolhari Base Camp and Jhomolhari Trek II, April to November are best because the weather is relatively dry and daytime temperatures are generally pleasant. During spring months of April and May, nature is at its most abundant with flowering floral carpets and rhododendron forests, and temperatures range from 6C in March dropping to zero at night sometimes, to 16C in May. The autumn season between September and November offers clear skies and great views, with temperatures ranging between 10-23C.  

bhutan travel
The Druk translates as the Thunder Dragon in Bhutanese mythology, and this Druk Path Trek certainly roars on all cylinders.

What is Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness all about? 

“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product,” were the words that were soon to become world famous, delivered by the King of Bhutan in 1974. This concept of adding wellbeing and a holistic approach to developing a country was unheard of until then. They created and still work with the Gross National Happiness Index as a way of measuring not only the economic state of its Kingdom, but also sustainability, equity, human values, psychological well-being, ecological diversity, living standards and good governance. 

It has nothing to do with an ephemeral, fleeting mood ― happy today or unhappy tomorrow due to the slightest variations in external conditions. Its vital importance to humankind and society is made clear by compelling evidence and our deep-seated knowledge that most human problems arise from one single reason – the failure to stay onthe path of true happiness.” His Excellency Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime minister, Kingdom of Bhutan

bhutan travel
The Bhutanese ritual dance tradition at Dochula Pass.


On that happy note, we don’t think you will have any fleeting moments of happiness on our Bhutan tours, but many long lasting ones. If you would like some help in finding the right paths to follow, check out our natural adventures in Bhutan and please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.