October is autumn in Bhutan. September is early autumn and can still be quite wet with the monsoon lingering, but by October the skies have generally cleared. That means there's the opportunity for beautiful Himalayan views.
Most of Bhutan is at quite a high altitude, but not all of it. The jungles bordering India have a more Indian climate; the town of Gelephu near the Royal Manas National Park sees an average October high of 86° F (30° C). However, the capital, Thimphu, sits at 7657 feet (2334 m). Thimphu's average October high is 72° F (22° C). Punakha is at 4074 feet (1242 m), and has an average October high of 79° F (26° C).
If you plan to head into the mountains on a trek, you will need to be prepared for colder temperatures at higher elevations in October, but at the towns more popular with tourists, a light jacket should do.
Crowds & Costs
With the good weather comes the peak tourist season. Many popular tourist attractions will be at their busiest, but because Bhutan restricts tourist numbers by requiring a mandatory daily visa fee, the crowds are never that bad. Even traveling in Bhutan in peak season is not nearly as busy as in other nearby destinations.
That said, if you want to experience one of Bhutan's beautiful Buddhist festivals (many of which fall in October), you will need to book flights, accommodation, and tour services as early in advance as possible, as these book up fast around big festivals.
Where to Go
October is a great time to go to Bumthang, in central Bhutan. The altitude there ranges from 8530 to 14,763 feet (2600 to 4500 m), so the comparatively warmer temperatures of October are a better time to visit than the cold winter months. Bumthang is considered the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. It's also a very fertile series of valleys, with fields that glow bright green in the post-monsoon period.
What to Do
With warm (but not too hot) temperatures and clear skies, October is a good time to go trekking in Bhutan. This is the ideal month to embark on one of the longer treks, such as the Jomolhari, Druk Path, Laya Gasa, or Snowman treks. Camping in October conditions shouldn't be too uncomfortable.
October is also a suitable time for general sightseeing, and there are many tour packages that specialize in this. Although October is a busy month for tourism, the conditions are great for driving around the countryside and strolling around the monasteries and temples in the cities, interspersed with some moderate hiking, such as to the famous Tiger's Nest Monastery.
Events in October
Bhutanese Buddhist festivals are held throughout the year, but the autumn is a particularly busy time. The precise dates vary each year as they follow a lunar calendar, so if a festival falls in early October one year, it may fall in late September another. But, some festivals that often fall in October, late September or early November include:
Thimphu Tsechu, late September or early October. Held in the capital, this large festival honors Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
Wangdue Tsechu, early October. Masked dances are performed at this festival in Wangdue, with the most famous being the Dance of the Ox. A large tapestry is also unfurled at the end.
Gangtey Tsechhu, mid-October. Overlooking the Phobjikha Valley, some of the masked dances performed here are unique to Gangtey. The festival is generally held at the same time as that in Wangdue.
Royal Highlander Festival, Laya, late October. This festival is a bit different from the other 'tsechus', as its aim is to promote sustainable livelihoods for the people in the Bhutanese highlands.
Traveling to Bhutan in October? Check out these great itineraries
Bhutan Highlights: Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro: A quick overview tour for travelers short on time in Bhutan.
Highlights of Western and Central Bhutan - 13 Days: This tour takes you to the lesser-visited central and western parts of Bhutan, which are easily accessible in October.
Snowman Trek: The Bhutanese Himalaya, 30 Days: Often called the 'hardest trek in the world', the challenging Snowman Trek is best suited for experienced trekkers, and October is an ideal time to try it.