Lonely Planet Bhutan

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#1 best-selling guide to Bhutan *

Lonely Planet Bhutan is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Join the pilgrims at colourful Changangkha Lhakhang, hike to the dramatic cliff -hanging Taktshang Goemba, or explore the busy weekend market at Thimpu; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Bhutan and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Bhutan Travel Guide:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - festivals, architecture, Buddhism, customs, wildlife, history, traditional arts
  • Over 37 maps
  • Covers Thimphu, Paro Dzongkhag, Trongsa Dzongkhag, Mongar Dzongkhag and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Bhutan. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA

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Thimphu

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The capital of one of the world's most intriguing destinations, Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country's natural conservatism and Shangri La image. Vehicle traffic, unheard of a handful of years ago, now crawls through the centre of town during an equally new phenomenon – rush hour. However, the juxtapositions of old and new remain part of Thimpu's charm. Crimson-robed monks, government ministers clad in traditional dress and camera-wielding tourists all share pavements lined with shops selling SIM cards and Buddhist accessories.

For the visitor, Thimphu offers the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. In addition to its traditional Buddhist sights and attractions, it offers cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the old and the new – is the key to getting the most out of this charming city.

 

Western Bhutan

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Whether you arrive by air at the dramatic, mountain-bound Paro valley or by road at steamy Phuentsholing, it soon becomes clear that you have arrived at a special destination. Prayer flags flutter from nearly every rooftop, men and women dress in traditional garb, chortens and stupas decorate river and road junctions, and fortress-like monasteries command mountain tops.

The west is the region of Bhutan that most tourists see and for good reason. It's the heartland of the Drukpa people and is home to the major airport, the capital, the most popular festivals and the most spectacular dzongs (fort-monasteries) in the kingdom. Throw in the trekking, the scope to get off the beaten track and the minimal driving times, and the appeal is obvious. Whether it's the beginning of your trip or the only part of Bhutan that you will explore, the west is a spectacular introduction to this magical country.

ASeptember to November are the ideal months to visit Western Bhutan. You'll get great weather, clear mountain views from Dochu La, and dramatic festivals at Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang.

 

Central Bhutan

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Central Bhutan's evergreen mountains and neatly cultivated valleys comprise the country's cultural heartland, accented by several of Bhutan's oldest and most significant temples and monasteries. Spectacular festivals celebrate tradition and there are dozens of great day hikes throughout the region.

Across the 3420m-high Pele La and the Black Mountains is the magnificent and historically important Trongsa Dzong, commanding the junction of three major roads. From Trongsa, a short, steep drive over the Yotong La (3425m) leads to the four valleys of Bumthang, a magical region of saints and treasure-seekers, great demon-subduing struggles and fabulous miracles, rich with relics, hermitages and sacred sites from the visits of Guru Rinpoche and Pema Lingpa.

Central Bhutan sees fewer tourists than western Bhutan, though Bumthang's airport makes travelling here easier than ever. To really get off the beaten track, head south to visit remote village lhakhangs and the wildlife-filled jungles of Royal Manas National Park.

 

Eastern Bhutan

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The wild and rugged east of Bhutan sees far fewer tourists than the western regions, which is reason enough to go. Intrepid travellers venturing east will be rewarded with group-free dzongs and temples, beautiful silks and embroidery, and lush, bird-filled forests. Food and accommodation options can be modest and simple, attesting to the region's remoteness. However, despite this remoteness, the east is surprisingly densely populated. Most of the population live in remote settlements; secreted high above the road or in isolated valleys, some are home to minority ethnic groups comprising fewer than 1000 people.

The east is opening up to tourism but it remains a frontier for adventure travel in Bhutan. The new airport at Yongphula is not yet a reliable gateway, but there are new hotels and trekking routes being developed, and the east–west highway has been widened. If you want to get off the beaten track, this is your place.

The lower altitudes mean that late spring and summer here are hot, humid and sweaty, with insects aplenty. This is the best time for birdwatching in the lush broadleaf forests. Monsoon rains between May and August regularly cause havoc on the fragile roads carved into the steep mountains, so expect delays after heavy downpours. Late February to mid-March is a good time to visit for comfortable temperatures, low-season crowds, interesting festivals and spring blooms.

 

Directory AZ

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For more accommodation reviews by Lonely Planet authors, check out http://lonelyplanet.com/hotels/. You’ll find independent reviews, as well as recommendations on the best places to stay. Best of all, you can book online.

Tour operators will book you into hotels approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). Since most visitors effectively pay the same rate across the category, it makes sense to ask for information about the various options when you make your travel arrangements.

AHotels Tourist-quality hotels range from simple but comfortable pine-clad rooms included in the daily fee to luxurious five-star resorts attracting a premium tariff.

ALocal Hotels These hotels tend to be noisier and with firm mattresses and are a last resort only.

AHomestays The only accommodation in some parts of the east and providing unparalleled immersion into local culture.

 

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