Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.
The capital, Thimphu, is home to a bustling weekend market and the ornate Tashichho Dzong, which serves as the government seat. The historic Punakha Dzong, built in 1637, sits at the juncture of 2 rivers and hosts a lavish, multiday religious festival that features masked dances and music. The Phobjikha Valley, habitat for rare black-necked cranes, is a bird-watching destination. As independent travel to Bhutan is not allowed, most visitors book through a tour operator.
Popular month for visitors are Mar–Apr (the peak period for blooming rhododendrons) and Oct–Nov (for mild weather, trekking and clear views). A good time for viewing black-necked cranes is Oct–Feb. Key events include the Black-Necked Crane Festival (Gangtey, Nov), which celebrates the arrival of the migrating birds. The rainy monsoon period is Jun–Sep.