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Guide To Off The Beaten Track Travel In Bhutan


by Coral Lucio



For travelers seeking an adventure like no other, Bhutan offers a unique and off-the-beaten-track experience. Tucked away in the Eastern Himalayas, this small and mysterious kingdom is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With its untouched natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and spirit of conservation, Bhutan is a destination that promises unforgettable experiences.


Unlike popular tourist destinations, off the beaten track travel in Bhutan allows you to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the authentic essence of the country. Here, you can hike through remote landscapes, discover ancient temples and fortresses, encounter rare wildlife, and engage with local communities to gain a deeper understanding of Bhutanese culture.


One of the main reasons to choose off the beaten track travel in Bhutan is the opportunity to witness its unspoiled beauty. As you venture into the remote corners of the country, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking mountain vistas, pristine forests, and crystal-clear rivers. Whether you’re an avid trekker or simply an admirer of nature, Bhutan’s untouched landscapes offer endless possibilities for exploration and adventure.


Another compelling reason to choose off the beaten track travel in Bhutan is the chance to connect with its vibrant and rich culture. With its deeply rooted Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is home to ancient monasteries, sacred temples, and colorful festivals like the famous Paro Tshechu. Engage in spiritual rituals, interact with friendly monks, and delve into the mystical world of Bhutanese folklore as you traverse the less-traveled paths of this enchanting country.


Moreover, off the beaten track travel in Bhutan allows you to contribute to the local communities and support sustainable tourism. By opting for homestays or community-based tourism initiatives, you can experience the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality firsthand and actively participate in the preservation of its unique cultural heritage.


If you’re ready to embark on a journey of discovery and adventure like no other, follow this comprehensive guide to off the beaten track travel in Bhutan. From getting there to exploring hidden gems and embracing sustainable practices, this guide will ensure an unforgettable experience in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.


Why Choose Off The Beaten Track Travel in Bhutan

Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan offers a plethora of unique advantages that set it apart from traditional tourist destinations. Here are some compelling reasons why you should choose to explore the lesser-known corners of this enchanting kingdom:

  • Authentic Experiences: By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in authentic Bhutanese experiences. Interact with locals, discover hidden cultural gems, and witness traditional practices that have been preserved for centuries.
  • Escape the Crowds: Bhutan remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. By exploring off the beaten track, you can avoid crowded tourist hotspots and enjoy a more intimate connection with the country’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage.
  • Connect with Nature: Bhutan is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, and off the beaten track travel allows you to truly experience the pristine landscapes. Whether it’s trekking through remote mountains, exploring hidden waterfalls, or camping under a star-studded sky, you’ll find yourself in harmony with nature.
  • Discover Hidden Gems: Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan offers the chance to uncover hidden gems that are not featured in guidebooks. Explore lesser-known temples, monasteries, and fortresses, each with its own intriguing history and architectural beauty.
  • An Authentic Cultural Exchange: Engaging with local communities through homestays, village visits, and community-based tourism initiatives allows you to forge meaningful connections and gain a deeper understanding of Bhutanese culture.
  • Support Sustainable Tourism: By choosing off the beaten track travel, you have the opportunity to support sustainable tourism practices. Stay in eco-friendly accommodations, participate in responsible activities, and contribute to the preservation of Bhutan’s natural and cultural heritage.
  • A Sense of Adventure: Off the beaten track travel requires a sense of adventure and exploration. It offers a chance to step outside your comfort zone, embrace new experiences, and create lifelong memories in a truly unique destination.

Choosing off the beaten track travel in Bhutan allows you to delve deeper into the heart and soul of the country. From experiencing its natural wonders to immersing yourself in its rich cultural tapestry, this kind of travel promises a truly extraordinary and unforgettable adventure.


Getting to Bhutan

Getting to Bhutan is an adventure in itself, as the country’s remote location in the Eastern Himalayas requires careful planning and coordination. Here are some important details to consider when traveling to Bhutan:


Visa Requirements: All visitors to Bhutan, except citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, are required to obtain a visa. The visa application process is facilitated by registered tour operators in Bhutan, who will assist with the necessary documentation and visa approval.


Entry Points: Bhutan has limited entry points, with Paro International Airport being the main gateway for most international visitors. The only other entry point is at the land border with India in Phuentsholing. International flights to Paro are operated by Drukair, the national carrier of Bhutan, and a few other airlines from select cities in Asia.


Flight Connections: Depending on your location, you may need to transit through major cities such as Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, or Singapore, to reach Paro. Drukair and other airlines have connecting flights from these cities to Paro International Airport.


Restricted Access: Independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan, and visitors must book their travel through a registered tour operator. It is mandatory to have a pre-arranged itinerary, guide, and driver for the duration of your stay in Bhutan.


Altitude Considerations: Bhutan’s airports are situated at high altitudes, with Paro International Airport being located at around 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level. It is important to acclimatize and take necessary precautions to avoid altitude sickness, such as drinking plenty of water, avoiding strenuous activities upon arrival, and following your guide’s advice.


Best Time to Visit: Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are considered the best times to visit Bhutan, as the weather is pleasant and many festivals take place during these months. However, each season offers its own unique charms, and the choice of when to visit depends on personal preferences and the activities you plan to engage in.


COVID-19 Travel Guidelines: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, specific travel guidelines and requirements may be in place. It is essential to stay updated on the latest travel advisories from the Bhutanese government and follow all health and safety protocols.


While getting to Bhutan may require some logistical planning, the journey is well worth it. The awe-inspiring landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality of the Bhutanese people await you as you embark on this off the beaten track adventure.


Exploring Bhutan’s Hidden Gems

Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan unveils a treasure trove of hidden gems that are often missed by traditional tourists. Here are some of the lesser-known but remarkable places to explore in Bhutan:

  • Haa Valley: Tucked away in the western part of Bhutan, Haa Valley is a pristine and secluded paradise. Experience the serenity of this untouched valley as you explore ancient monasteries, visit traditional Bhutanese farmhouses, and witness the vibrant Haa Summer Festival.
  • Gangtey Valley: Located in central Bhutan, Gangtey Valley offers breathtaking vistas of rolling hills, meandering streams, and picturesque villages. Explore the Gangtey Monastery, take a stroll through the Gangtey Nature Trail, and witness the mesmerizing black-necked crane migration during the winter months.
  • Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary: For nature enthusiasts, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in northeastern Bhutan is a must-visit. This remote and untouched sanctuary is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the elusive snow leopard and the endangered white-bellied heron.
  • Taktsang Monastery: Also known as the Tiger’s Nest, Taktsang Monastery is one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks. Perched on a cliffside at an altitude of 3,120 meters (10,240 feet), this sacred site offers breathtaking views and a sense of spiritual tranquility.
  • Rafting in Punakha: Venture off the beaten track to Punakha and experience the thrill of white-water rafting on the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers. Enjoy the adrenaline rush as you navigate through rapids surrounded by stunning landscapes and visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most impressive fortress-monasteries.

These hidden gems are just a glimpse of what awaits adventurous travelers in Bhutan. With its abundance of natural landscapes, cultural treasures, and hidden wonders, the country offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.


Remember, when visiting these off the beaten track destinations, it is essential to respect the local customs, preserve the environment, and support the local communities. By doing so, you can help ensure the long-term sustainability and preservation of these precious treasures for future generations to enjoy.


Trekking through Remote Landscapes

One of the most exhilarating experiences of off the beaten track travel in Bhutan is trekking through its remote and untouched landscapes. Bhutan offers a range of trekking options, each providing a unique adventure and a chance to connect with nature on a profound level. Here are some remarkable trekking routes to explore:

  • Druk Path Trek: This moderate trek takes you through stunning alpine meadows, pristine lakes, and ancient monasteries, offering breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks. Traverse the scenic landscapes between Paro and Thimphu, immersing yourself in the beauty of Bhutan’s mountainous terrain.
  • Jhomolhari Trek: For those seeking a more challenging trek, the Jhomolhari trek is an excellent choice. This trail takes you deep into the Himalayas, providing awe-inspiring views of Mount Jhomolhari, pristine lakes, and remote villages. Marvel at the rugged landscapes and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this pristine wilderness.
  • Snowman Trek: Considered one of the most challenging treks in the world, the Snowman Trek is a true adventure for experienced trekkers. This long and arduous trek spans across high mountain passes, remote valleys, and pristine glaciers, offering unparalleled views of the Bhutanese Himalayas.
  • Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek: This picturesque trek takes you through the beautiful Dagala region, known for its numerous high-altitude lakes. Trek amidst rolling hills, giant rhododendron forests, and crystal-clear lakes, immersing yourself in the tranquility of this remote and unspoiled landscape.

While trekking in Bhutan, you’ll have the opportunity to camp in scenic locations, interact with local villagers, and witness the diverse flora and fauna that call these remote landscapes home. It is important to note that trekking in Bhutan requires a guide and permits, ensuring your safety and respect for the environment.


Whether you opt for a moderate trek or a challenging expedition, trekking in Bhutan offers a unique adventure that will leave you with lasting memories. From breathtaking mountain views to encounters with rare wildlife and a sense of personal accomplishment, exploring Bhutan’s remote landscapes on foot is an unforgettable experience.


Discovering Authentic Bhutanese Culture

Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan offers a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich and authentic Bhutanese culture. From ancient monasteries to vibrant festivals, here are some ways to discover and experience the unique cultural heritage of Bhutan:

  • Visit Monasteries and Temples: Bhutan is dotted with monasteries and temples that hold immense spiritual significance. Explore sacred sites like the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) and Punakha Dzong. Engage in meditation or witness religious ceremonies to gain a profound understanding of Bhutan’s spiritual traditions.
  • Witness Festivals: Festivals, known as tshechus, are vibrant celebrations of Bhutanese culture. These annual events showcase colorful mask dances, traditional music, and elaborate costumes. Attend a tshechu, such as the popular Paro Tshechu or Thimphu Tshechu, to witness the traditions and rituals that are an integral part of Bhutanese culture.
  • Explore Traditional Villages: Venture off the beaten track to visit traditional Bhutanese villages and gain insight into the daily lives of the people. Interact with locals, observe traditional craftsmanship, and perhaps even participate in a traditional Bhutanese cooking class.
  • Experience Homestays: Stay with a local family in a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse for an authentic cultural immersion. Engage with your hosts, learn about their way of life, and savor delicious home-cooked Bhutanese meals.
  • Engage with Monks: Bhutan is home to numerous monastic institutions where young Bhutanese boys become monks. Visit monastic schools known as shedras and engage with the monks, learning about their daily routines, studying Buddhist philosophy, and perhaps even participating in a meditation session.
  • Explore Bhutanese Cuisine: Embark on a gastronomic adventure and sample the unique flavors of Bhutanese cuisine. Try dishes like Ema Datshi (cheese and chili stew), momos (steamed dumplings), and traditional butter tea. Join a traditional Bhutanese food tour and learn how to prepare these delicious dishes.

Through these authentic cultural experiences, you will gain a deeper appreciation for Bhutanese traditions, values, and way of life. Immerse yourself in the warm hospitality of the Bhutanese people, and return home with a richer understanding of this unique and enchanting country.


Wildlife Encounters in Bhutan’s Untouched Nature

Bhutan’s off the beaten track destinations offer a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, with its diverse range of flora and fauna thriving in the country’s untouched and pristine natural landscapes. Here are some remarkable wildlife encounters to look out for during your journey through Bhutan:

  • Snow Leopards: Bhutan is home to elusive and majestic snow leopards, one of the world’s most endangered big cats. Trek through the high-altitude regions, such as the Jigme Dorji National Park, in search of these elusive creatures, and witness their remarkable beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Takin: The national animal of Bhutan, the takin, is a unique and fascinating creature. Visit the Motithang Takin Preserve in Thimphu to observe these gentle creatures up close and learn about their importance in Bhutanese folklore.
  • Black-necked Cranes: During the winter months, the Phobjikha Valley comes alive with the arrival of the graceful black-necked cranes. These migratory birds travel from the Tibetan Plateau to Bhutan and offer a mesmerizing spectacle against the picturesque backdrop of the valley.
  • Red Pandas: The dense forests of Bhutan provide a habitat for the rare and endangered red pandas. Embark on treks through the high-altitude forests to catch a glimpse of these adorable creatures, known for their vibrant red fur and bushy tails.
  • Golden Langurs: Bhutan is home to the endangered golden langurs, a species of monkey found in the subtropical forests of the country. Spot these beautiful and rare primates as you explore the lush vegetation of central and eastern Bhutan.
  • Himalayan Takin: Watch as the Himalayan takin, another unique species of this animal, roams freely in the remote regions of Bhutan. These magnificent ungulates are known for their stocky build and impressive horns.

Bhutan’s commitment to environmental conservation and preservation has contributed to the thriving wildlife populations within its borders. As you journey through Bhutan’s untouched nature, it is crucial to maintain a respectful distance from wildlife, observe them in their natural habitat, and adhere to guidelines set by local guides and authorities.


These wildlife encounters in Bhutan’s untouched nature provide a deeper appreciation for the country’s commitment to environmental conservation and offer an unforgettable opportunity to witness some of the world’s most remarkable and endangered creatures in their natural habitat.


Homestays and Community-based Tourism

One of the most authentic and enriching aspects of off the beaten track travel in Bhutan is the opportunity to experience homestays and engage in community-based tourism initiatives. By immersing yourself in the local culture and staying with Bhutanese families, you gain a deeper understanding of the country and contribute directly to the well-being of local communities. Here’s why homestays and community-based tourism are a worthwhile experience:

  • Authentic Cultural Immersion: Homestays allow you to experience firsthand the warmth and hospitality of Bhutanese families. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in daily activities, learn traditional crafts, and join in festive celebrations, providing an authentic glimpse into Bhutanese culture.
  • Local Interaction: Staying with a Bhutanese family opens the door to meaningful connections and cross-cultural exchanges. Engage in conversations, share meals, and learn about the customs, traditions, and way of life directly from the locals.
  • Sustainable Economic Impact: Opting for community-based tourism contributes to the economic growth and sustainability of local communities. By staying in homestays and supporting locally-run initiatives, you directly contribute to the livelihoods of Bhutanese families and the preservation of their unique traditions.
  • Preservation of Culture: Homestays and community-based tourism promote the preservation of Bhutanese culture. By actively engaging in local activities, festivals, and traditions, you help to ensure that Bhutan’s cultural heritage is celebrated and passed down to future generations.
  • Environmental Conservation: Many community-based tourism initiatives in Bhutan place a strong emphasis on environmental conservation. Through sustainable practices, such as waste management and responsible tourism activities, these initiatives aim to protect Bhutan’s pristine natural landscapes and biodiversity.
  • Unique Experiences: Community-based tourism allows you to explore off the beaten track destinations that are not easily accessible to mainstream tourists. You’ll discover hidden gems and engage in activities such as farming, weaving, or cooking traditional Bhutanese meals, providing a truly unique and immersive experience.

When choosing homestays and community-based tourism, it is important to choose reputable operators and ensure that your stay aligns with principles of responsible tourism. Adhering to local customs, respecting the environment, and supporting local businesses are crucial to making a positive impact on the communities you visit.


Through homestays and community-based tourism, you not only gain a deeper appreciation for Bhutanese culture but also make a meaningful contribution to the well-being of local communities. It’s an opportunity to create lasting connections, foster cultural exchange, and leave a positive impact on the places you visit in this extraordinary kingdom.


Sustainable Travel Practices in Bhutan

Bhutan has gained worldwide recognition for its commitment to sustainable development and environmental conservation. As a responsible traveler, there are several sustainable travel practices you can adopt to support Bhutan’s efforts and minimize your impact on the environment. Here are some key practices to consider:

  • Respect the Environment: Bhutan is known for its pristine natural landscapes. It is essential to respect the environment by staying on marked trails, disposing of waste responsibly, and refraining from littering. Leave no trace and help preserve Bhutan’s natural beauty for future generations.
  • Support Local Culture and Economy: When choosing accommodations, dining options, and souvenirs, prioritize local businesses and artisans. This ensures that your spending directly supports the local economy and helps preserve Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage.
  • Choose Sustainable Accommodations: Look for eco-friendly accommodations that practice sustainable measures such as energy conservation, waste management, and the use of locally sourced materials. Several lodges and hotels in Bhutan embrace sustainable practices to minimize their carbon footprint.
  • Minimize Plastic Usage: Bhutan has implemented a ban on single-use plastics. As a responsible traveler, avoid bringing single-use plastic items and carry a reusable water bottle, eco-friendly toiletries, and cloth bags for shopping.
  • Support Community-based Tourism: Opting for homestays and community-based tourism initiatives allows you to directly contribute to the local economy and participate in sustainable tourism. Engage with local communities, respect their customs, and learn from their traditional practices.
  • Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Bhutanese society is deeply rooted in its cultural traditions. Familiarize yourself with local customs and adhere to dress codes when visiting religious sites. Showing respect for Bhutan’s traditions helps preserve their cultural heritage.
  • Responsible Photography: When capturing memories through photography, be mindful of the impact on the subjects and the environment. Seek consent before photographing individuals, avoid intrusive behavior, and refrain from disturbing wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • Responsible Trekking: If you plan to go on treks, follow designated trails, and camp responsibly. Ensure that all waste is properly disposed of and leave the campsites as you found them. Respect the wildlife and do not disturb their natural behavior.

By practicing these sustainable travel principles, you can contribute to Bhutan’s ongoing efforts in environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and sustainable development. It’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on this remarkable country while enjoying a meaningful and responsible travel experience.


Tips for Off The Beaten Track Travel in Bhutan

Embarking on an off the beaten track adventure in Bhutan requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some essential tips to enhance your experience and make the most out of your journey:

  • Research and Plan Ahead: Before your trip, research the destinations and routes you plan to explore. Understand the logistics, permits required, and the best time to visit to ensure a smooth and fulfilling experience.
  • Engage a Local and Knowledgeable Guide: Hiring a local guide is mandatory in Bhutan, and having an experienced guide enhances your journey. They will provide valuable insights, help you navigate remote areas, translate languages, and ensure your safety.
  • Pack Accordingly: Bhutan’s weather can vary greatly depending on the region and time of year. Pack layers of clothing, including warm clothing for higher altitudes, comfortable walking shoes, a rain jacket, and sun protection essentials.
  • Stay Hydrated and Mind Altitude: Hydration is crucial at higher altitudes. Carry a reusable water bottle and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Take it slow and acclimatize to higher altitudes to prevent altitude sickness.
  • Respect Local Customs and Traditions: Bhutan is deeply rooted in its cultural heritage. Respect local customs, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and adhere to local etiquettes. It is essential to receive permission before photographing individuals or religious ceremonies.
  • Be Open to New Experiences: Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan provides unique experiences. Be open-minded, embrace the unexpected, and engage with local communities to fully appreciate the cultural richness of the country.
  • Support Local Communities: Patronize locally-owned accommodations, eateries, and souvenir shops to support the local economy. Engaging in community-based tourism initiatives and purchasing handmade crafts directly contribute to the sustainable development of Bhutan’s villages.
  • Practice Responsible Tourism: Embrace sustainable travel practices such as minimizing plastic waste, conserving water and energy, and leaving no trace behind. Respect the environment and wildlife, follow designated trails, and adhere to responsible trekking guidelines.
  • Take Time to Immerse Yourself: Off the beaten track travel is about embracing the journey rather than rushing through destinations. Take the time to soak in the beauty of Bhutan’s landscapes, interact with locals, and savor the unique experiences that this extraordinary country has to offer.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your off the beaten track travel in Bhutan. Embrace the adventure, immerse yourself in the culture, and create lasting memories in this remarkably beautiful and culturally rich kingdom.



Off the beaten track travel in Bhutan offers a gateway to a world of extraordinary experiences. This small kingdom nestled in the Eastern Himalayas is a treasure trove of untouched nature, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality. By venturing off the usual tourist routes, you can immerse yourself in the authentic essence of Bhutan, exploring hidden gems, engaging with local communities, and witnessing the country’s commitment to sustainability.


From trekking through remote landscapes to discovering ancient monasteries and fortresses, Bhutan’s off the beaten track destinations offer unparalleled opportunities for adventure and discovery. Whether it’s witnessing rare wildlife, participating in vibrant festivals, or engaging in community-based tourism initiatives, every experience in Bhutan is filled with awe and wonder.


As you journey through Bhutan, it is important to embody responsible and sustainable travel practices. Respect the environment, support local communities, and immerse yourself in the customs and traditions of this remarkable country. By doing so, you contribute to the long-term preservation of Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage and pristine natural landscapes.


In conclusion, off the beaten track travel in Bhutan unlocks a world of authentic and transformative experiences. It allows you to forge deep connections, immerse yourself in nature, and uncover the hidden treasures of this enchanting kingdom. Whether you’re embarking on a trek through remote mountains, staying in a traditional farmhouse with a local family, or witnessing magical wildlife encounters, exploring Bhutan off the beaten track promises to be an unforgettable adventure that will leave a lasting imprint on your heart.