This small, landlocked mountain kingdom is celebrated for its pristine nature, well-preserved Tibetan Buddhist cultural landmarks, high-quality accommodation options, and stunning treks. While it's mainly known for its lofty peaks, Bhutan has a variety of landscapes and terrains, and the climate varies accordingly. In the south are lush subtropical plains at an altitude as low as 200 feet, for example, where the steamy jungle climate is similar to what you'd experience across the border in India.
But much of Bhutan is quite high in altitude. The main towns of Thimphu and Paro are 7,657 feet and 7,201 feet above sea level, respectively. Most visitors to Bhutan hope to tour the hills, valleys, and mountains of the higher-altitude regions. This kind of trekking is best to tackle in the spring and autumn months. In fact, some trekking opportunities are only available in those seasons: snow makes crossing certain high passes impossible in winter.
When is the best time to visit Bhutan? The answer to that question certainly depends on what you want to see and do, but there are benefits of traveling to Bhutan at any time of year. In the peak seasons, the weather and views are at their best, but prices are higher. In the winter and summer, certain areas are inaccessible due to rain and snow, but prices are cheaper. No season is off-limits to travelers, and the famous warmth of the Bhutanese people — as well as real peace and quiet — are available year-round.
Spring in Bhutan (March-May)
March to May, spring in Bhutan, is an excellent season to visit. It's the best time for trekking. The air is usually clear, the sun bright, and temperatures warm without being too hot.
Some key festivals fall at this time of year. They include Tsechu (also spelled Tshechu), or religious festivals performed throughout the year in honor of Guru Rinpoche, an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Colorful masked dancers (usually monks or local men) perform folk dances at temples, monasteries, and dzongs (fortresses) throughout the country. As well as enjoying the performers and dances, visitors can admire and have fun with Bhutanese people who come out in their finest traditional clothes to celebrate. Two of the most important Tsechu festivals are held in Paro and Thimphu.
Nature is also at its best during this time of year. Trekking through blooming rhododendron forests full of red, pink, purple, and white blooms is a memorable experience. In fact, there's a trekking trail through the center of the country that was specifically designed for trekkers to enjoy the rhododendron forests. It's called the Gazamchu Rhododendron Trek. In addition to that, there's a rhododendron festival held in May at the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi, a short drive from Thimphu.
For more on the best treks that Bhutan has to offer, check out this recommended 14-day tour.
Monsoon Season (June-August)
During the monsoon, Bhutan's countryside is green and full of life. Don't expect rain all day, every day: precipitation comes in bursts, leaving plenty of hours in between to get out and about.
Not many travelers choose to come to Bhutan at this time, so prices are lower and you’ll practically have the country to yourself. There are a number of gorgeous boutique and luxury hotels in Bhutan — and in the off-season, they're considerably more affordable.
Perhaps needless to say, it's not a good season for trekking. Access to some routes is difficult (if not impossible), trails are muddy, and views aren't at their best. To have the best time in Bhutan during the monsoon months, stick with cultural attractions and sightseeing.
High Season (September-November)
Autumn is Bhutan's high season, and its busiest, in terms of tourism. There's a good reason for that: it's an excellent season for trekking and festivals.
The Thimphu Tsechu, held every September, is one of the most important Tsechus in Bhutan. The Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival is also held at this time of year, in October. During this spectacular event, there's a fire ceremony featuring locals running under a large flaming gate. Later, masked dancers perform naked in the middle of the night. There's an objective to the ritual: the idea is that infertile women will be blessed with children as a result.
In terms of trekking, there are numerous options for travelers this time of year. There's also a greater variety of routes to choose from, depending on your experience, fitness, and preference. A classic that is considered one of the hardest treks in the world is the Snowman Trek, which requires the crossing of nine passes above 15,850 feet and takes around 25 days to complete. A shorter (but still adventurous) trek that takes around two weeks is the Jomolhari Laya Ghasa Trek. Sometimes called the most scenic in Bhutan, the route takes trekkers past alpine meadows, across high mountain passes, and through lush jungles.
Low Season (December-February)
The winter months see fewer travelers. You'll pay low-season prices during these months — and Bhutan's lovely lodgings can be particularly cozy in the winter, with fireplaces and traditional hot stone baths to enjoy.
Trekking at high altitude is impossible in some cases, and uncomfortably cold in others. But some shorter treks are still possible. The skies are a stunning, clear blue in the winter, so if mountain views are your priority, the winter is actually a good time to come. The Punakha Winter Trek, for example, passes through villages, forest, and farmland, and doesn't go too high in altitude.
If you want to do a nature tour, winter is actually the best season to visit the southern Manas National Park. The altitude of the park is very low compared to the rest of Bhutan, at just 200 to 360 feet above sea level — and it's located near the border of India, where tigers, rhinos, elephants, and leopards roam.