Eccentric, exclusive and somewhat expensive, Bhutan is like no other. Bhutan travel is all-inclusive and all tourists on Bhutan holidays or tours to Bhutan must travel on a pre-planned itinerary as this is the only way to explore, but the delights of this fascinating, mystical kingdom, whose name translates as ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon', more than make up for it.
Bhutan has a culture that seems to have remained unchanged since the beginning of time – yet you'll find modern delights in luxury hotels that lie in the shadow of awe-inspiring landscapes, historic monasteries and exquisite temples. Start in the pretty capital Thimpu, all ancient buildings in a spectacular deep valley – but it's most well-known for its Buddhist sites. The massive Tashichho Dzong is a fortified monastery and government palace with gold-leafed roofs that dominates the bright buildings below, while the Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed structure with a gold spire, is a revered Buddhist shrine dedicated to Bhutan’s third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The Golden Buddha Dordenma is unmissable, too – an enormous mountain statue that celebrates the 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck and is home to 100,000 other smaller bronze, gold-gilded Buddha statues.
Dramatic scenery abounds, but some of the most striking can be seen on the flight into Paro from neighbouring Nepal, when you'll pass eight of the world's ten highest peaks before touching down. Just an hour’s drive from the Bhutan capital Thimpu, Paro is home to the sacred Tiger’s Nest cliffside monastery that clings to the mountains above the eponymous valley's dense forests. Sacred sites and historic architecture abound, contrasted with terraced rice fields and tiny farmhouses that dot the valley – but go higher and you're afforded stunning views of the winding Paro Chhu River. In this mountainous country there's plenty of options for trekking; tackle the Jhomolhari or Snowman Trek for particularly spectacular views.
Punakha and its amazing Punakha Dzong is one of the most stunning structures in Bhutan with its rolling green hills and picturesque river – reaching here from Thimphu to Punakha affords those who make the journey stunning views over the Dochula Pass and even the big-name peaks of the spectacular Himalayas.
Gangtey is carved by glaciers in a region named Phobjikha, filled with myriad hiking trails and religious sites such as the Gangtey Goempa Monastery perched atop the valley, while the country's spiritual centre is Bumthang. Home to many precious Buddhist sites, dzongs, temples and palaces, this region is made up of four main valleys, Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor, all carved by the ancient glaciers.