50 breathtaking photos of Bhutan to make you pack your bags and go

Photographic evidence of an epic 3 weeks in Bhutan with Gray Langur Tours, through 50 of my favorite photos of Bhutan.

 

Together at the top of a mountain, we watch ominous storm clouds roll in the distance. Biting winds tangle hair as prayer flags slap and clap behind us, but we’re all too distracted by the view to care. A green valley sprawls below us, forests and roads and rice paddies intertwining to weave a lush Bhutanese vista.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Clouds over valley along the Druk Path between Thimphu and Paro - Lost With Purpose travel blog

For the umpteenth time, the beauty of Bhutan overwhelms me.

I’ve been in the country for almost three weeks, but every time I look around, it feels like I’m seeing the country for the first time. No matter which direction you look, everything is too surreal, too beautiful. I say as much to Sebastiaan and Gabriel (founder of Gray Langur Tours), my trekking companions atop the mountain.

“I know what you mean,” Gabriel laughs into the wind, “Sometimes I look at a view and want to shout ‘Oh come on, this can’t be real!’”

I grin. That’s exactly it.

Thinking about a trip to Bhutan? Let these 50 photos of Bhutan serve as inspiration for your travels! These are 50 of my favorite photos from more than 3 weeks in Bhutan, both on and off the beaten track. Click through for more stunning photos of Bhutan.

Is Bhutan really so beautiful? 

Since that moment atop the mountain, I’ve met endless numbers of people deathly curious about Bhutan.

I attempt to describe my love for Bhutan and its people, and though my conviction (and/or foaming at the mouth) seems to get my point across, I struggle to verbally do Bhutan justice.

Seeing is believing; it’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that such an idyllic kingdom exists without some photographic evidence.

So let’s go on a little visual jaunt of my time in Bhutan… because sometimes words just don’t cut it.

Photos of Bhutan: a visual journey through one of the most beautiful countries in the world

Stunning photos of Bhutan - New temple in Tingtibi, Zhemgang district - Lost With Purpose

Tingtibi, a small town in the Zhemgang district of Southern Bhutan, was my first stop. The town’s temple blew my mind; little did I know that this is nothing compared to what I’d see in the coming weeks!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Birtii village, Zhemgang district - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Next destination: Birtii, an off the beaten track village in Bhutan amongst the hills with only 23 houses!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Homestay host picking beans in Birtii village, Zhemgang district - Lost With Purpose travel blog

I requested Gray Langur choose homestays over hotels for my itinerary, and my wish was granted! We stayed in a homestay in Birtii, and despite not speaking any English, our hostess plied the group full of delicious rice beer, known as singchiang, and some damned tasty (and spicy) stir-fried beef and vegetables, Bhutanese style.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Hand picked beans in Birtii village, Zhemgang district - Lost With Purpose travel blog

… all made with ingredients from her own garden, of course!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Boy standing in a traditionally painted Bhutanese window - Lost With Purpose travel blog

After Birtii, winding mountain roads took us through village after village of picture perfect houses. Bhutan’s government requires all architecture in the country to use traditional window styles, and the result is a visual treat.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Inndocholing dzong - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Inndocholing Dzong was the first of many impressive dzong fortresses to come. Dzongs in Bhutan were originally constructed as military fortresses, but these days, they’re mostly used as joint monasteries and administrative centers. This dzong would’ve seemed timeless…

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Young monks playing football outside Inndocholing dzong - Lost With Purpose travel blog

… but for the group of young monks playing a heated game of football in Crocs outside the walls!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Golden fields of rice in Kuengarabten village - Lost With Purpose travel blog

A few hours down the road, Kuengarabten was supposed to be a quick stop en route to another town. But with views like this, I couldn’t bring myself to leave… so we didn’t! Karma, guide and friend extraordinaire, arranged for us to spend the night in his cousin’s house.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Kuengarabten dzong at sunrise - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Good thing he did, otherwise I would’ve missed out on this sunrise view of Kuengarabten Dzong!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Trongsa dzong interior with blue sky - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Trongsa, a “city” of sorts in central Bhutan, was our next stop. The mountainside city wraps around Trongsa Dzong, the longest in the country. Monks’ sandals clapped the stone floors on the monastic side as the formal shoes of administrative officials clicked on the other.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Village houses in Phobjikha Valley AKA Gangtey - Lost With Purpose travel blog

After driving away from Trongsa over mountain passes and along cliff sides, we ended up in paradise, AKA Phobjikha Valley.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Gangtey Monastery in Phobjikha Valley - Lost With Purpose travel blog

More commonly known as “Gangtey”, Phobjikha Valley is home to Gangtey Monastery, one of the most impressive in the country. First established in the 1600s by Rigdzin Pema Tinley, the monastery is home to more than 100 monks, and is lookin’ mighty fresh these days thanks to a full restoration in the 2000s.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Man walking in traditional gho in Gangtey Monastery - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Visitors to the monastery—and all other monasteries and dzongs in the country—must dress respectfully. For foreigners, this means covering up bare arms and legs. For Bhutanese men, this means donning a gho and kabney, a traditional robe and scarf like this man.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Gangtey village hilltop at sunset - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The monastery sits atop a hill overlooking Phobjikha Valley, surrounded by small but pretty Gangtey village.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Farmhouse in Phobjikha Valley - Lost WIth Purpose travel blog

Pleasant as the village was, it was filled with hotels. I’m all about local experiences, so rather than stay in a hotel in Gangtey, Gray Langur opted for one of the “farmhouse” homestays down in the valley.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Farmhouse homestay in Phobjikha Valley - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Twenty minutes of bumpy driving into the valley brought us to our farmhouse retreat. The home was cozy despite the cool air, and the greenery of the surrounding vegetable fields and forests was enough to calm even the most hectic of minds (… it sure worked on mine!).

Photos of Bhutan - Homestay host in Phobjikha Valley cutting up chilies - Lost With Purpose travel blog

From mouthwatering homemade food, to the softest beds of the entire trip, there were plenty of reasons to love the homestay…

Photos of Bhutan - Grandmother in Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan - Lost With Purpose travel blog

… but the adorable amma, grandmother, might have been my favorite!

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Grandmother praying in Phobjikha Valley - Lost With Purpose travel blog

She stood outside to watch us go, praying for our safe travels as I said my goodbyes.

 

Planning your travels to Bhutan? Here are 50 photos of Bhutan for some inspiration, taken over more than three weeks in Bhutan both on and off the beaten track. Click through for more stunning photos of the remote and mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan.

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Stunning photos of Bhutan - Sunrise over mountains overlooking Gasa - Lost With Purpose travel blog

During a long drive from Phobjikha Valley to Punakha to Gasa, we joined up with a Gray Langur tour group to begin our journey to the Royal Highlander Festival. Following a night of camping under the stars, we woke up to this view in Gasa, the starting point for our trek.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - View on the Gasa to Laya trek - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The two-day trek to Laya, Bhutan’s highest settlement at almost 4,000 meters above sea level, was a long and wet slog. Between rain and muddy trails, pack mules hurtling along the narrow paths, and a misunderstanding about distances (a common occurrence in South Asia…), it tested everyone’s patience.

Stunning photos of Bhutan - Layap women at the Royal Highlander Festival in Laya - Lost With Purpose travel blog

… but snow-capped mountains, a lively festival, and nomadic cultures I could never even imagine greeted us in Laya. The festival at the end well justified the (rather soggy) means.

Photos of Bhutan - Layap woman with yak at the Royal Highlander Festival - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Yaks in outfits, the finest livestock this side of the Himalayas, and a royal visit—just another day at the Royal Highlander Festival! Don’t miss this Royal Highlander photo essay for the full-on festival experience.

Photos of Bhutan - Punakha dzong lit up at night - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Two days of nomadic display, two days of trekking down the mountains, and the group ended up back in Punakha, home to Bhutan’s largest and most spectacular dzong.

Photos of Bhutan - Bridge into Punakha dzong - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The outside was already breathtaking, but I assure you, the interior is even more impressive.

Photos of Bhutan - Monks walking inside Punakha dzong - Lost WIth Purpose travel blog

The ornate dzong was once the seat of Bhutan’s government, before the capital shifted to Thimphu in 1955. Like others in the country, the dzong serves as both an administrative building and a monastery.

Photos of Bhutan - Interior of Punakha dzong - Lost With Purpose travel blog

… oh, and a sweet ceremonial hall, of course! The current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema tied the knot here in 2011.

Photos of Bhutan - Fog over Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten near Punakha - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Stunner as it is, Punakha’s dzong is not the city’s only draw. On a hill outside of Punakha sits the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which supposedly wards away bad spirits and brings peace to Bhutan and the world. It wasn’t, however, very effective at warding away fog.

Photos of Bhutan - Rolling mist in a valley near Punakha - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Fog and mist plagued the trek up, but with a little luck (and a lot of patience), the clouds eventually cleared to reveal the golden valley below.

Photos of Bhutan - Devotees sitting at a talk at Buddha Point in Thimphu - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Punakha sightseeing complete, the group headed to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Buddha Point, the city’s most famous sight, was abuzz with people; His Holiness Je Khenpo, one of the most respected monks in Bhutan, was preaching at the foot of the Buddha for several weeks! An immensely colorful crowd in traditional gho and kira gathered to sit and listen to his words.

Photos of Bhutan - Woman folding traditional fabric for gho in Thimphu - Lost With Purpose travel blog

After ogling all of the beautiful traditional clothes, I was excited to peruse Bhutanese textiles on my own in the shops and markets around Thimphu. This woman showed me swathes of fabric in every color of the rainbow… and let me try on a women’s kira to boot! (Note: super comfy.)

Photos of Bhutan - Tiger's Nest Monastery - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Retail adventures complete, it was time for the Gray Langur tour group to head towards the Paro airport to end their journey… but not before stopping at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan’s most iconic sight.

Photos of Bhutan - Tiger's Nest Monastery behind prayer flags - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Compared to other sights in Bhutan, the monastery, also known as Paro Taktsang, was busy with tourists. To escape the small crowds, I followed a path diverging from the main drag. Hundreds of fluttering prayer flags framed my view; only the sound of rustling pine needles reached my ears.

Photos of Bhutan - Dzong on a hill on the way to Haa Valley - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Though the Tiger’s Nest was the last stop for the Gray Langur group, my tour wasn’t over yet! Sebastiaan, Karma, and I drove out towards the often overlooked Haa Valley, several hours’ driving from Paro. Though Haa was pleasant enough, the scenery en route was the real show stopper.

Photos of Bhutan - Jolly man on the side of the road - Lost With Purpose travel blog

On our way through the mountains, we saw an old couple on the side of the road, hands out in the hopes of hitching a ride. As a fellow hitchhiker, who was I to deny them a ride in our spacious tourist car? I asked the driver to stop and give them a lift.

Photos of Bhutan - Chilies drying in the fields - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The couple were delighted. As we drove along the road, they told us they were going to their sister’s house to help her harvest chilies. Easier said than done; from the point where we dropped them off, they said they’d trek for four hours to reach their sister’s house.

Photos of Bhutan - Decorations on the White Temple in Haa - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Upon arriving in Haa, we made our way to Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo, more commonly known as the White and Black Temples. The freshly restored walls of the White Temple greeted our arrival, and the deep vibrations of pounding drums and chanting monks drew us further in.

Photos of Bhutan - Prayer flags and yaks atop Chele La mountain pass - Lost With Purpose travel blog

After watching the monks perform their rituals, we piled back into the car, zigzagging up the mountains until we reached the highest point of the day: Chele La pass. At almost 4,000 meters above sea level, freezing gusts of wind stung my cheeks as I climbed to the top… but I was too busy stalking the yaks grazing amongst the thousands of prayer flags to mind.

Photos of Bhutan - Double rainbow over a temple - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Ominous clouds rolled past as I stood atop Chele La, and I eventually returned to the car rather than be caught in the rain (or snow). Good thing I did; we encountered multiple rainbows as we began our descent down the other side of mountain. Why yes, Bhutan, you really did outdo yourself.

Photos of Bhutan - Storm clouds forming over Jele Dzong - Lost WIth Purpose travel blog

After a day of rest in the capital, Sebastiaan, Gray Langur’s founder Gabriel, and I set out on the final leg of the trip: two nights and three days on part of the Druk Path, a trekking trail running between Paro and Thimphu. Though sun shone down on us for most of the day, clouds began to gather as we approached our first camp below Jele Dzong.

Photos of Bhutan - Storm clouds over the Druk Path - Lost WIth Purpose travel blog

We knew we should rush down and take shelter in our camp, but we couldn’t resist the spectacle of watching snow blanket the mountains along the horizon. Eventually, the winds picked up, and darkness began to fall; it was time to concede to the elements, and take shelter in the camp.

Photos of Bhutan - White snow at sunrise over Jele Dzong on the Druk Path - Lost With Purpose travel blog

A massive amount of snow and hail fell from the clouds, transforming the grassy hills into a wintry wonderland. The next morning I woke up with the sun, trekking back up to Jele Dzong as the first golden rays of light illuminated the freshly frosted mountain.

Photos of Bhutan - Prayer flags in front of snowy mountains on the Druk Path - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Alas, within a few hours, the warmth of the day melted the icy coating on the ground (if not the snow on the horizon).

Photos of Bhutan - Trees along the Druk Path - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Camp packed and ready, we carried along the Druk Path past grassy fields and mossy forests, ending up in a clearing overlooking a valley.

Photos of Bhutan - Sunrise over the Druk Path - lost With Purpose travel blog

Despite below freezing temperatures, I emerged from my toasty sleeping bag an hour before dawn the next morning. I clawed my way up a steep slope of trees, pine needles, and deep snow just in time to catch the sun rising over camp. For the thousandth time, I was lost for words.

Photos of Bhutan - View of Memorial Chorten from a hotel room - Lost With Purpose travel blog

But all good things must come to an end: several hours’ traipsing down the mountain, and we were back in the car en route to Thimphu for our last day in Bhutan. After freezing in the mountains, I was delighted to have a hot shower and admire the view from the hotel room window… but then I realized that’s no way to spend my last day in the country!

Photos of Bhutan - Tour guide Karma laughing in a football stadium in Thimphu - Lost With Purpose travel blog

I called my guide, Karma, about going to lunch, and what began with lunch evolved into an adventure. During the day, we roamed the capital’s streets; at night we shared beers with another guide, and chilled with Karma’s friends in his Thimphu apartment. A far better ending than a night in at the hotel!

Photos of Bhutan - Plane wing while flying out of Paro - Lost With Purpose travel blog

With a heavy heart (and a slightly fuzzy mind) I leaned my head out the car window the next morning, watching landscapes roll by on the way to the airport. I didn’t want to leave Bhutan, and I didn’t know when I would next return. As the plane took off, the mountains of Bhutan receding beneath me, only one thing was certain: that I would find my way back somehow, someday.

Want to travel to Bhutan?

I traveled to Bhutan with Gray Langur Tours, who sponsored the entirety of my three weeks in the country, both off and on the beaten track. In case you didn’t notice, I had a blast, and totally fell in love with the country. I recommend them (and, more importantly, their guides) to anyone interested in visiting Bhutan.

Gray Langur offers both set and customized tours; contact them on their website for more details and prices.

 

Still deciding if you want to pay out for Bhutan? Here’s why I think Bhutan is worth your money.

 

Planning your travels to Bhutan? Here are 50 photos of Bhutan for some inspiration, taken over more than three weeks in Bhutan both on and off the beaten track. Click through for more stunning photos of the remote and mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan.

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

One thought on “50 breathtaking photos of Bhutan to make you pack your bags and go

    Sandy Noto says:

    These are gorgeous! My husband has been wanting to visit Bhutan for a while and we’ve done some initial planning but this was good motivation to go and figure things out a bit more.

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