5 Things To Do in Bhutan During Winter

Email

Winter is here and this is what you can do in Bhutan if you're in the country during the cold season.

Winter view from Thimphu. (Source: Bhutan Times)

 

By Kinley Yangden | Bhutan Times

Winter is officially here. Thimphu experienced its first snowfall on Dec 18, which was considered early this year and surprised many locals.

As the temperature plummets, don’t let the season bring you down - this period brings about new experiences and areas to enjoy in Bhutan.

Here are some things to do here during winter:

1. Catch a glimpse of the rare black-necked cranes

Black-necked cranes are considered as holy messengers to the Bhutanese and their arrival from Tibet spells good news for farmers. They are said to circle the Gangtey monastery three times clockwise when they arrive from Tibet and another three times before they head back. They are an auspicious symbol and can be seen on wall murals and paintings throughout Bhutan.

The cranes congregate at Phobjikha valley in Wangdue district from end November till late February. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature has set up a crane visitor centre for tourists to view the cranes from afar and keeps track of the number of migratory cranes that come to Bhutan.

To commemorate the arrival of the cranes, a Black-Necked Crane Festival is held at Gangtey Monastery every November. 

A visit to Bhutan during the winter period not complete without a visit to Phobjikha to see the cranes.

2. See the snow clad peaks of Bhutan from Dochula Pass

Photo: Bhutan Times

Winter is the best season to head to Dochula Pass, a mountain pass located at 3,100m elevation and 20km from Thimphu.

During this time, the skies are clear and blue, and this is when the majestic Himalayan ranges are on proud display in the background. Most of Bhutan’s tallest peaks can be seen from Dochula Pass, such as the sacred Mount Jomolhari and Bhutan’s highest mountain Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 meters), among others.

Dochula Pass is also home to a famous landmark: the 108 Druk Wangyel chortens, and the Druk Wangyel temple. Every December 13, a Druk Wangyel Festival is held behind the temple at the festival grounds. This festival is unique and different from other festivals in Bhutan as it is held in the open with the Himalayan ranges as a backdrop. Unlike other festivals where monks would perform the dances, most of the dances at the Druk Wangyel Festival are performed by the Royal Bhutan Army, after several months of practice.

Dochula Pass is a pit-stop for many tourists who are making their way from Thimphu to Punakha. During other seasons, Dochula Pass tends to be cloudy and misty. So if you happen to be in Bhutan during winter, stop by Dochula Pass and spend some time here to soak in the beauty of the Himalayas. Also, it looks splendid after snowfall too.

3. Head to Bhutan’s old capital, Punakha

Punakha Dzong. (Photo: Druk Asia)

Punakha district sits at an elevation of 1,200 metres, making it less cold compared to other parts of Bhutan. It may be a good idea to escape to Punakha for a day or two for some reprieve from winter.

Punakha is Bhutan’s old capital and was the seat of the government until 1955, before the capital was moved to Thimphu.

One of the most significant sights here is the 17th century Punakha Dzong, which many have described as one of the most beautiful dzongs in the country. Besides its magnificence and beauty, Punakha Dzong is important in its historical value: it was built by the founder and unifier of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and his sacred remains are housed in the dzong till this day, it was where the coronation of Bhutan’s first king took place, it houses many important sacred relics, and till today, it is the winter residence for the Central Monastic Body.

Punakha is also home to the Divine Madman, or Drukpa Kinley, an unorthodox monk who lived in the 16th century. Known for his unconventional methods of enlightening beings, Drukpa Kinley has earned the title of the “Divine Madman” or the “Saint of 5,000 women”, by combining faith with sexual lewd behaviour and raunchy humour to shock people out of their traditional morality.

Chimi Lhakhang. (Photo: Druk Asia)

Drukpa Kinley is considered Bhutan’s patron saint and is credited with introducing phallus paintings to ward of evil and for establishing the monastery Chimi Lhakhang, a must-visit for any person who wishes to head to Punakha.

4. Visit Royal Manas National Park

A trip to Bhutan is not just about temples and fortresses. While it may be too cold in winter to trek the Himalayas to stay overnight in the mountains, another option to consider is to head down south to visit Royal Manas National Park.

The park is Bhutan’s oldest national park and is what the government considers as a “showpiece of conservation”. Over here, it is an oasis of remarkable and diverse flora and fauna, amid a pristine natural habitat.

Some activities to do here include boating, hot springs, tropical safaris, and hiking. There are two eco-lodges here that come with kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities, with a few other eco-camps springing up lately.

5. Take a dip at the Gasa hot springs

Photo: Business Bhutan

Hot springs can be found throughout Bhutan, but one of the most popular ones are those found in Gasa, in northwest Bhutan. Needless to say, winter is the best time to take a dip in such waters, or tshachus, which are known for its healing properties.

The hot springs at Gasa are said to be natural remedies to rheumatism, arthritis, ulcers, indigestion, skin diseases, even tuberculosis and other ailments.

Most Bhutanese visit the hot springs during winter and some even stay up to days to maximize the potential of the hot springs. Some believe that the water has stronger curing powers in the colder months and due to the cold, it’s possible to soak for a longer period of time in the hot springs than during other months.

 



Related Posts

Nyungne - A Fascinating Winter Ritual

“Winters can get real desolate here and nyungne is the only festival that makes the place lively,” he said. “It was so...

Mar 10, 2018 21:25

Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Award Voted COMO Uma...

The Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Award is the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in...

Oct 19, 2018 18:59

Forging the Unbeaten Trail Towards Wangdue Nye

When you dedicate year 2020 to hike on unbeaten trails in Bhutan.

Jan 21, 2020 10:58

Make Your Own Personalised Stamps And Discover Bhutan’s Postal...

The Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu is also a major tourist attraction.

Jan 18, 2020 21:08

Discover The Hidden Gems Of Trashiyangtse In Eastern Bhutan

Till date, the eastern part of Bhutan is still relatively unexplored as compared to the western region.

Jan 11, 2020 23:48

TRAVEL SEASON IN BHUTAN

Just because your bank account doesn’t boast a whole bunch of extra zeroes on your monthly statement doesn’t mean you...

Jan 11, 2020 20:51

Latest

News

USD 25.3m Green Climate Fund To Address Climate Change Adaption In Bhutan

The project can help address climate change adaptation challenges facing Bhutan, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Jan 15, 2020 16:28

Bhutan’s Target To Become A 100% Organic Nation By 2020 Delayed – Pushed To 2035

Efforts to translate Bhutan’s organic vision into reality has met with various challenges thus far.

Jan 04, 2020 23:28

Features

Bhutan’s Government Ramped Up Support For More To Drive Electric Vehicles, Help Reduce Harmful Emissions

The dealers and the manager have given the taxi drivers their guarantee on battery and the important parts of the EV.

Jan 16, 2020 23:28

Pangri Zampa Lhakhang - The College of Astrology

Locals visit the monastery every year to learn about their yearly predictions about their luck, money, health, career and many more....

Jan 15, 2020 09:46

Sports

Karma – Female Archer From Bhutan Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Quota

Karma has been specialising in Olympics-style archery since 2009.

Nov 30, 2019 13:18

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08

Business

Economic Roadmap Needed To Steer Bhutan Towards Higher GDP Growth

The Lyonchhen said that the economic figures will improve in 2020 as 70 percent of the capital investments still lie unused.

Jan 17, 2020 23:38

Celebrating Bhutan’s entrepreneurs: Tashi Wangdi of iHub

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Jan 12, 2020 23:38

Travel

Forging the Unbeaten Trail Towards Wangdue Nye

When you dedicate year 2020 to hike on unbeaten trails in Bhutan.

Jan 21, 2020 10:58

Make Your Own Personalised Stamps And Discover Bhutan’s Postal History At The Postal Museum

The Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu is also a major tourist attraction.

Jan 18, 2020 21:08

Lifestyle

Relish Your Taste Buds With 8 Delectable Bhutanese Staple Food

One of the best places to try authentic Bhutanese cuisine is through a homestay, where you will get to sample what most locals eat at home.

Jan 19, 2020 21:08

Here’s What it is like inside Hotel River Valley, Punakha in Bhutan

River Valley Hotel offers professional and customer oriented services and thereby has become the leading hotel in the region ’. Experience...

Jan 05, 2020 10:48

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!