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Bhutan in December – What to Expect During Bhutan’s Winter

Do you ever get some silent callings from certain places, beckoning for your visit? Ever since I had a wild idea to travel to the mysterious Bhutan, and I really went there, I have not been able to forget Bhutan ever since.

Bhutan in December – A Winter Unlike Others

In the winter months from December till February, the temperature in Bhutan dips to the lowest, especially in Paro at night. It was mid-Dec when I went Bhutan with Druk Asia – the mildest among the three months. I was glad we chose those dates (earlier I was in Japan to see Mount Fuji), because Bhutan gave me a deep impression (and thousands of photos to edit) from that near-perfect-weather trip.

It’s all dramatic mountains of Bhutan..

Never have I seen mountains like Bhutan’s.

Paro Airport | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
Paro Airport’s carpark
Paro Airport | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
Paro Airport

We arrived at dawn, already feeling the nerves having previewed the mountain peaks that surrounded our tiny selves. As our vehicle wove through the winding roads from Paro to Thimphu, I was trying to keep up with the majestic sights, the new information that my guide was sharing, as well as translating the necessary to my parents.

Buddha Point, Thimphu | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
Buddha Point, Thimphu
morning tea | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
morning views outside the hotel restaurant

Bhutan is home to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world – Gangkhar Puensum. In Bhutan, for religious reasons, mountaineering is forbidden for those that peak above 6000m, and Gangkhar Puensum soars into the sky at 7500m (which is like nine copies of Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, stacked on top of each other).

Well, even if you can’t go to the highest mountain, at least you can get to the highest, motorable road in Bhutan. Called Chele la Pass, this place is 3,988m above mean sea level. It took many winding curves on the road – part of which already had frost as it’s cold up in the mountains. But well worth the journey. Chele la Pass remains one of my favorite sights in Bhutan! Swipe the Instagram post below to see more photos.

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Bhutan in Winter = Sunny & Clear Weather

In clear weather, Bhutan’s skies will bless you with breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountains, as what I saw at Dochula Pass while making our way to Punakha from Thimphu.

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

The sky remained clear during our trip! Read till the end of my post for all the tips for travelling to Bhutan in December.

hiking in Bhutan | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

prayer flags | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

In December, Bhutan’s rivers are clear in color.

One thing you might have missed reading elsewhere is, in winter, the rivers and streams in Bhutan are smooth currents and clear-colored.

This is a strong contrast compared to summer, when the glacial lakes will melt, increasing the water level in Bhutan’s rivers. The water currents will be stronger and thus turn the water muddy.

Paro | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

prayer flags along Bhutan's longest suspension bridge | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
prayer flags along Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge

Which makes winter the best time to do rafting in Bhutan! The ride will be smooth and calming for the soul.

| Check out the fun we had rafting down Bhutan’s rivers! |

suspension bridge, Punakha | Rafting in Punakha, Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

rivers in Punakha | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

You get a good view of rice terraces and temples..

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess Punakha | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

December in Bhutan also gives you the perfect weather to visit Dzongs & places of religion.

Dzongs are unique, fortress architectural buildings that you can find only in Bhutan and Tibet. In Bhutan, dzongs operate as administrative offices AND religious institutions, signifying the balance of power and importance between the two.

Bhutan’s dzongs are usually built on high grounds and mountains. They’re surrounded by fortified walls to defend against invasions by the Tibetans back in the 17th century.

When visiting Bhutan on your first time, you’ll be brought to the most popular Dzongs.

Punakha Dzong | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

Tashichho Dzong, Thimphu | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

Punakha Dzong | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
Punakha Dzong

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

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The colorful Druk Wangyel Tshechu festival in December

Our trip coincided with one of the most unique festivals in Bhutan: Druk Wangyel Tshechu. Taking place at Dochula Pass, that day marked the most number of humans I’d ever seen in Bhutan. Yes, Bhutan is not crowded, but it’s not because no one wants to go Bhutan haha! Read about this on my complete Bhutan guide here!

If you’ll like to join these colorful festivals in Bhutan, time your trip to match the festival =)


Bhutan’s Seasons

Is Bhutan worth visiting in December?

In December, the weather forecast is sunny and cool, which sounds like the best time to visit Bhutan in my humble opinion. Photos will turn out best in sunny weather, and you can dress in layers! If you’re lucky, you might get to see Bhutan blanketed in snow. Well, even if there’s no snow, you’ll be rewarded with clear skies, bright days, and cool/cold nights.

December is low-season for visiting, which means you’ll be paying the USD$200/day for the minimum daily tariff, instead of USD$250/day.

| This post has all my travel tips on visiting Bhutan for the first time! |

prayer flags | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
monk meditating

 

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Hiking in Bhutan in December is wonderful

In Bhutan, you’ll be doing a fair amount of hiking, with the climax being Tiger’s Nest, of course. I’d heard of summer rains in Bhutan makes hiking a lot more challenging. We were blessed with great weather during our hikes!

hiking in Bhutan | Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess
everyone strolls in Bhutan, even for hiking

 

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Hike to Tiger's Nest, Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess


Tips for visiting Bhutan in December!

  1. How to dress for winter in Bhutan: Layers. The weather and temperature can range quite widely within the day, and of course across different districts. For example, we landed at Paro Airport at 7am, in -2°C, and in that same afternoon when we were in Thimphu, it was 22°C. The temperature in Paro dropped to 4~5°C at night when we stepped out for dinner after sunset. Bring a good jacket with you!
  2. Don’t use iOS Weather app to check the weather. For some reason, iPhone’s weather forecast of Bhutan isn’t accurate. It gives a crazily much-colder temperature forecast, especially for Paro and Punakha. Use AccuWeather instead.
  3. On another note, take the temperature forecast with a pinch of salt. In each area of Bhutan, you’ll be at varying altitudes, which means the temperature also varies. As mentioned, always keep a good jacket by your side!
  4. Bring sunglasses. The sun gets very glaring, to the point that I couldn’t spot a plane land when I was at the ‘Paro Airport View Point’, simply because it was too bright!
  5. As with winter, the air in Bhutan in winter is very dry. Bring a good skin moisturiser and hand-cream. Read my skincare tips to survive winter!
  6. Photography can be quite a challenge because of the brightness, so take note! All my none-iPhone photos in this post were taken using a Fujifilm X-T20 camera.

For more specific travel tips, check out this post that answers
All Your First-World Questions About Visiting Bhutan“!

Druk Asia banner • The Petite Wanderess


Visited: Mid-December 2017
Districts covered in this photo journal: Thimphu, Punakha, Paro
With special thanks to Druk Asia. Full credits are at the end of my first Bhutan post. Check out Druk Asia’s website for tours and testimonials and its Facebook Page!

More Bhutan articles on the blog!

All Your First-World Questions About Visiting Bhutan!
• Hiking to Tiger’s Nest without a Flying Tigress
River-Rafting in Punakha – Not to be Missed!

Follow my footsteps on social media!

Bhutan in December – It Might be the Best Time to Visit Bhutan • The Petite Wanderess

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