Nestled high in the Himalayas, beautiful Bhutan has a reputation for mystifying visitors.
Though you could go any time of year, the best time to visit Bhutan is between September and November, and March through May.
December and January are the coldest months. The summer months - July and August - have a monsoon season, so the lower altitudes of the country see the most rainfall at this time.
If it’s festivals you’re after, the country plays host to a range of them throughout the year. The more popular festivals - the Tshechus - happen monthly, with the spring and autumn ones attracting the most attendees. In general though, you can head to Bhutan year round and have plenty to do, see and experience.
Weather in Bhutan
Because Bhutan spans across different altitudes, the weather can vary. Like most of Asia, it is also affected by monsoons, which hit the western part of the country most heavily. In the southern part of the country, the climate is humid and subtropical and in the northern parts, it is usually cold with year-round snow on the summits of the Himalayas. Gale-force winds accompany the winter monsoon in the northeast, blowing through the high mountain passes and giving Bhutan its name – Drukyul – meaning Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Spring, which tends to be dry, runs from early March to mid-April. After that, occasional showers start and go through to June, when the pre-monsoon rains start.
Monsoon season goes from late June to late September, with heavy rains falling mainly over the southwest. However the higher elevations have sunny days and even some early snowfall in the very high elevations.
Winter runs from late November until March, with cold temperatures throughout the country. During these months nights can be very cold, with temperatures dipping well below freezing.
Festivals in Bhutan
Bhutan has festivals throughout the year, but the busiest months are April and October. In April, the rhododendron festival in Thimphu (Bhutan’s capital city) draws crowds from all around to admire dozens of varieties of the beautiful flower.
However, it’s the Tshechus that are the most vibrant and popular festivals in Bhutan. They take place on the 10th day of each month, in different districts around the country, and they are extremely popular. In particular, the Paro Tschechu in the spring and Thimpu Tschechu in the fall are among the most exciting and attract the most people.
The Punakha Tschechu, which takes place in March, is another popular festival that celebrates Buddhism and Bhutan’s cultural heritage. Of course, as these are the most popular festivals in the country, things can get booked up very quickly so it’s best to plan a trip during these months well in advance.
The Black Neck Crane Festival is another popular annual celebration in the Phobjika Valley. The day-long celebration marks the arrival of the migratory birds into the region, and it’s meant to generate an awareness of the importance of conserving the endangered species.
There are many other festivals in Bhutan throughout the year, so if you want to experience the festivals in a more low key way, then head to some of the smaller towns during their celebrations to celebrate the beautiful Bhutanese culture.
When is the best time to see black neck cranes?
For avid birders, the black neck cranes are a popular reason to visit Bhutan. These migratory birds usually fly in large numbers into Bhutan’s Phobjika Valley around late October, staying until the middle of February. It’s worth trying to catch a glimpse of the cranes as they arrive or leave Phobjoka: they can be seen circling the Gangtey Monastery three times upon arrival and leaving. It’s almost as if they are practicing kora, the Buddhist act of circling around a sacred site or object.