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, 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. It was mid-December when I first travelled to Bhutan with Druk Asia – December already the mildest winter month among them three. 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.
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.
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 one another).
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.
View this post on Instagram
Bhutan in Winter = Sunny & Clear Sky
In clear weather, Bhutan’s skies in December will bless you with breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountain range, as what I saw at Dochula Pass while making our way to Punakha from Thimphu.
The sky remained clear during our December trip! It was sunny in the daytime, with no rain. Read till the end of my post for all the tips for travelling to Bhutan in December!
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.
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! |
You get a good view of rice terraces and temples..
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. Although dzongs might just see to look good on the outside, the areas inside a Dzong are often interesting to discover. Temples and monasteries often took my breath away, with intricate wall murals of art or stories to discover. Punakha Dzong, in particular, is my favorite Dzong!
Join The Petite Wanderess Mailing List!
The colorful Druk Wangyel Tshechu festival happens in December
Our trip coincided with one of the most unique festivals in Bhutan: Druk Wangyel Tshechu. Taking place at Dochula Pass (actually, it’s a wide ground tucked deep away from Dochula Pass), that day marked the most number of Bhutanese people I’d ever seen in Bhutan. It was as if all the Bhutanese in Bhutan are at the festival! 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 in advance to match the festival =)
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/night for the minimum daily tariff, instead of USD$250/night.
| This post has all my travel tips on visiting Bhutan for the first time! |
View this post on Instagram
Hiking in Bhutan in December is beautiful to experience
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 which makes hiking a lot more challenging in summer. We were blessed with great weather in Bhutan’s winter during our hikes!
View this post on Instagram
What should you wear for your Bhutan trip in December?
Some examples of temperatures on my trips to Bhutan on the last month of both 2017 and 2019
• Paro Airport, 10 Dec 2017, 7am // minus 2°C
• Thimphu, 10 Dec 2017 // 22°C
• Thimphu, 1 Dec 2019, 8pm // 4°C
• Trongsa, 4 Dec 2019. 5.34pm // 3°C
• Paro, 5 Dec 2019, 7.07pm // 2°C
• Paro, 5 Dec 2019, 10.46pm // minus 1°C
• Paro – Taktsang trail (the hike down from Tiger’s Nest), 6 Dec 2019, 2.22pm // 11°C
How to dress for winter in Bhutan: Layers, many layers.
As you can see from a few samples above, 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 2017, in -2°C, and on that day’s afternoon in Thimphu, it was 22°C. The temperature in Paro can drop until 2 to 5°C at night when we stepped out for dinner after sunset.
Always, have a good winter jacket with you!
| Read my article on how to stay healthy on your winter trip using TCM tips! |
More tips for visiting Bhutan in December!
- Don’t bother using 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.
- 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!
- 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! Sunglasses will also come in handy while you’re hiking to Tiger’s Nest, when the light on the ground can feel blinding.I hiked Tiger’s Nest twice on separate Dec trips. See my hiking tips on this post!
- The air in Bhutan during winter can be very dry. Bring a good facial moisturizer, a deeply moisturizing body lotion, hand-cream, lip-balm. Read my skincare moisturizing tips to survive winter!
- 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.
- Be mentally prepared for cold hotel rooms & that includes the bathroom. Prepare your sleepwear to be thicker. A decent hotel will provide an in-room heater for your room. However, sometimes, the coldness of Bhutan’s winter is much more than a heater can warm the room fast enough. To tackle this problem, I actually skipped showering at night during my Dec 2019 trip. On some nights, I pushed the heater to be right beside my bed.
- Some of the more modern hotels’ beds might come with heated mattress pads, which you can switch on and stay in bed and also set a timer for it to switch off (so you won’t be sweating halfway). When using, don’t forget to cover your neck area as much as possible, or else you might get neck problems after your trip (I’m writing from the perspective of a TCM therapist here).
- Nothing is ever certain in Bhutan. All sorts of situations can happen, so stay calm and think of solutions. For example, the water in tanks for your hotel room might freeze over from a very cold night, resulting in no water in the bathroom at all (I experienced it in early Dec 2019!). Tip: boil water in your room’s kettle, mix with cold water from another bottle, and continue to wash up.At times, the hot water tap might just not work, or hot water runs out halfway during your shower. No matter what, be prepared to drop your first-world expectations when you head to Bhutan.
For more specific travel tips, check out this post that answers
“All Your First-World Questions About Visiting Bhutan“!
Any other questions about heading to Bhutan in December? Drop me a message below!