Best time to Visit Bhutan
and where to go during these seasons
Tourism in Bhutan began only in 1974. Since then, the number of tourists visiting Bhutan has grown exponentially from 287 tourists in 1974 to more than 250,000 visitors in 2017. Being the last Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan has quickly become one of the must-see destinations in Asia. With the different seasons of the magical country that is situated at the eastern Himalayans between Tibet Autonomous Region and India, it is important to know the best time to visit Bhutan before you head to the last Shangri-La.
Following are some critical information gathered from our expert local Travel Specialists so that we can offer you top advice on when and where to go.
Read on to find out which season is best for each region, where you should visit in Bhutan, as well exciting events you shouldn’t miss throughout the year.
Bhutan is a small, mountainous country with altitude ranging from 160 meters to more than 7000 meters above mean sea level. In Bhutan, the climate is influenced largely by the altitude and temperatures vary accordingly with the elevation. The climate is humid and subtropical in the southern plains and foothills, temperate in the inner Himalayan valleys of the central regions, cold in the north, with year-round snow on the main Himalayan range. From late November to March, winter sets in with frost throughout most parts of the country often with multiple snowfalls.
Bhutan's generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June. The summer monsoon brings rains and widespread cloudiness for almost half a year, but especially from June to late September, mostly confined to to Southern border region of Bhutan. The heavier summer rains last from late June through late September which are more monsoonal along the southwest border.
In general, the best time to visit Bhutan is from March to May during the spring season and autumn from September to November, when temperatures are moderate and rain is a distant worry. This is also the reason why these months receive the most visitors to Bhutan in the year. During the summer, the rains can make the roads muddy as well as having occasional landslides at some stretches of road and the clouds can hide the mountain peaks too. In winter, the weather is generally good, providing clear views of the Himalayas but it's cold in the mountains and snow can fall at high altitudes blocking some passes. Summer and Winter are off-peak seasons but have it's own charm.. this makes a good traveling period for return visits to Bhutan as well as for visitors looking to pay a lower traveling fees.
Pack warm-weather clothing with light jacket for most areas, thick jacket if visiting higher altitude regions in Central Bhutan.
Travel throughout the country is viable during this season, especially in cooler locations like Paro, Thimphu and Punakha. Expect a pleasant mid 20s temperature around the eastern Bhutan region. Temperature will gradually become warmer towards end May. On the central region though, temperatures in Phobjikha and Jakar can very cold especially in the early mornings and nights during the beginning of spring.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SPRING
Talo Tshechu, Paro Tshechu, Domkhar Tshechu, Rhododendron Festival....
Rhododendron Festival features the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural programs, guided walks and activities. The festival displays different species that are in full bloom in their natural habitat.
Paro Tshechu - Held annually since the 17th century, it is one of the biggest and most popular festival in Bhutan. A gigantic Thangkha (embroidered painting) will be unfurled on the last day of the festival.
Bring along rain gear for brief downpours, warm-weather clothing, a light jacket for evenings in the mountains.
The moist weather during the summer season is the season of mushroom collection. You will find exotic mushrooms available in various parts of Bhutan.
SPECIAL TIPS FOR MONSOON SEASON IN BHUTAN
Traveling along the highway connecting the eastern and western Bhutan is generally not encouraged during this season, as landslides and roadblocks are frequent occurrence due to the rain. However, domestic flights connecting Paro to Jakar and the eastern Yongphula are available. Visits to the usual popular districts in the west the likes of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha are still doable as long as you’re prepared for sudden showers.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SUMMER
Kurjey Tschechu, Geneykha Mushroom Festival, Matsutake Mushroom Festival....
Matsutake Mushroom Festival - Held in the picturesque Ura Valley in Bumthang. The fabled wild fungi, Matsutake is highly sought after due to its spicy-aromatic odour. This season brings the opportunity to learn more about these mushrooms, identify and harvest them through excursions around the forests and hills. Enjoy a day sampling the delicious dishes while singing and dancing alongside the locals.
Kurjey Tshechu - Celebrated only for a day to pay obeisance to Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
Pack comfortable clothing for the day, a jacket for evenings in upland regions and very warm clothing for the northern/central mountain regions.
All of Bhutan is ideal during this period, especially western and central Bhutan.
WHAT's HAPPENING IN AUTUMN
Thimphu Tschechu, Gantey Tschechu, Jhomolhari Mountain Festival, Jakar Tschechu, Jambay Lhakhang Drup, Blackneck Crane Festival....
Jambay Lhakhang Drup - One of the most interesting festivals in Bumthang Valley, Bhutan's spiritual heartland. Part of the 3 day festival, sacred naked dancers will perform after midnight on the 1st day. The dance was introduced by the great treasure discoverer, Tertoen Dorji Lingpa, on the prophecy of the Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. The fire blessing, or the Mewang, is held on the evening to bless the infertile women so that they may bear children.
Thimphu Tshechu - Another major festival in Bhutan. This festival started in 1867 ommemorate the birth of Guru Rinpoche. The Thimphu Tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). These additions introduce colour and variation to the festival without compromising its spiritual significance.
Warm clothing is a must, good winter jacket for a must for the northern/central mountain regions.
Paro and Thimphu may experience only light dusting’s of snow providing an amazing scene well worth a visit. Winter season offers cool, pleasant days and clear skies although temperatures fall below zero at night. A great time for photography and valley hiking plus the opportunity for wonderful Himalayan vistas form the higher passes. It is probably the only best time of the year to catch a spectacular view of the Himalayas. This is also the best time to visit eastern Bhutan, places like Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuentse.
WHAT's HAPPENING IN WINTER
Trongsa Tschechu, Lhuentse Tschechu, Punakha Tschechu....
Black Necked Cranes - elusive birds coming to Bhutan from Tibet annually for roosting. Usually the birds will come in the middle of November and will stay till the end of February. The popular place to spot the birds is in Phobjika valley but they can also be seen in Chummey (Bumthang) and Bomdeling Birds Sanctuary in Tashi Yangtse. Spotting them is considered to be auspicious and beautiful experience as the birds are deemed holy by Bhutanese people.
Find out more on where to visit in Bhutan here.
Find out more on festivals in Bhutan here.