Nine places in Bhutan that should be on your itinerary

For Globe Aware volunteers interested in trekking, Buddhist spirituality and more, here are the picks for the best places to visit. Many are included in your Bhutan volunteer vacation itinerary.

9 places in Bhutan that should be on your itinerary

By Katie Lockhart
Jan 3, 2024
Lonely Planet

Colorful monasteries, snow-capped peaks, peaceful villages lined with chili farms: the beauty of Bhutan is visible around every turn of its hairpin roads.

Internationally famous for its commitment to “Gross National Happiness,” carbon-negative status and eye-popping daily Sustainable Development Fee for visitors, Bhutan has worked hard to protect its unique culture and natural beauty – for good reason. With nearly 70% of the country blanketed in forest, the country is rich in outdoor activities and charming villages that showcase a distinctive culture found nowhere else on Earth.

And while it can take hours via car to reach each destination, the scenic drives (and those terrifying curves) are part of the experience of visiting this truly special place. For those interested in trekking, Buddhist spirituality and more, here are our picks for the best places to add to your Bhutan itinerary.

1. Paro
Best for hitting Bhutan’s highlights

The gateway to Bhutan, Paro International Airport is where travelers careen between steep mountain slopes before their aircraft touches down in the “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” Less than 10 minutes away from the airport, the historic riverside town of Paro is known for the National Museum, Rinpung Dzong fortress and iconic Taktshang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest Monastery). The town is a place you will – and must – visit in the country.

Wander Paro’s streets and the Paro Weekend Market to peruse shops and stalls offering handmade souvenirs. When you’ve worked up an appetite, stop into any number of restaurants, like Momo Corner, for fresh, handmade momo dumplings.

Planning tip: Due to its airport-side locale, Paro is either the first or last stop on any Bhutan traveler’s itinerary. Whether you’ve just arrived or are wrapping up your trip, hire a car and a guide to take in all historical and religious sights spread throughout Paro Valley.

2. Thimphu
Best for a bit of city life

Bhutan’s capital city beautifully combines culture with a cosmopolitan vibe. Spend the day creating your own stamps at the Bhutan Postal Museum, touring the massive Thimphu Dzong and watching policemen manually direct traffic (there are no traffic lights in the entire country).

When the sun dips below the mountains, enjoy the nightlife at bars and clubs like Mojo Park and the Grey Area, a popular art bar with live music where you can shout “tashi delek!” (a Tibetan expression for good luck and health) with locals over a bottle or two of Bhutanese ara (a spirit distilled from rice).

3. Punakha
Best for experiencing rural life

Beloved for rustic riverside farms where cows graze among rice and chili fields, Punakha is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan and home to what is arguably its most beautiful dzong (or monastery-fortress), which sits majestically along the Punakha River.

Life in Punakha revolves around its rivers. A short walk from Punakha Dzong, one of the country’s largest suspension bridges is wrapped with fluttering prayer flags. Travelers can also go white-water rafting along the rapids.

Planning tip: Punakha’s low elevation means its temperatures tend to be warmer and sunnier than nearby towns and districts – which means you’ll need fewer layers and more sunscreen.

4. Khoma
Best for fashion and textile lovers

Adventurous travelers can expect to peek behind the curtain (or perhaps the shawl) in Bhutan’s textile hub, Khoma. In the eastern district of Lhuentse, this village is home to roughly 100 residents – and zero cars. Khoma’s artisans spend their days weaving ornate patterns and motifs on traditional Bhutanese looms, using dyes made from the area’s minerals and plants.

5. Gangtey Valley
Best for outdoor activities

Drive past the mountainside yaks and into one of Bhutan’s most sacred places. Tranquility and peace emanate from its main attraction, Gangtey Goemba, a 17th-century monastery overlooking the valley’s farmland.

But its Gangtey’s natural beauty that really stands out. Here, you can hike myriad trails, many with relatively flat stretches. Archery, mountain biking, camping, birding and picnics are other pastimes possible throughout the valley.

Planning tip: Naturalists should plan a visit between late October and mid-March to see the famous endangered black-necked cranes that migrate yearly from Tibet.

6. Dochu La
Best for a pit stop

We’ll bet you 100 Bhutanese ngultrum that this scenic rest stop will make an appearance on your Bhutan itinerary. Known as one of the best lookouts in Bhutan, this mountain pass lies on the route from Thimphu to Punakha.

It’s marked with 108 stupas to honor the Royal Bhutanese soldiers who died in the 2003 military battle against Indian insurgents. On the opposite side of the road, you can visit a temple named Druk Wangyal Lhakhang and a restaurant serving coffee, cakes and momos. On a clear day, sparkling views of Himalayan peaks lie beyond.

7. Laya
Best for off-the-beaten-track adventures

An arduous seven-hour ride from Thimphu to Gasa only takes you part of the way to this remote northwestern village. From Gasa, you’ll strap on your hiking boots and trek three to five hours up to the highest village in the country.

And the views of the Himalayan peaks are worth it.

Home to the Indigenous Layap people, this car-free village is filled with yak herders, farmers of cordyceps (a precious mushroom) and others who honor old traditions.

Planning tip: Arrange your trip around the famous Royal Highland Festival in late October, when you’ll witness one of Bhutan’s most culturally unique and significant annual events.

8. Bumthang
Best for spirituality seekers

This centrally located and mountainous district is also one of the country’s most spiritual. In its four valleys, important sites include Jampey Lhakhang, a historic 7th-century Buddhist temple, and the Jakar Dzong, an auspicious fortress built in 1549. Rest your legs and indulge in some fresh cheese and jams at Bumthang Swiss Cheese, followed by a local beer next door at Red Panda Beer Factory.

Planning tip: Driving to Bumthang takes hours over often treacherous roads. If you’re pressed for time or prone to motion sickness, consider a domestic flight from Paro.

9. Haa Valley
Best for immersing yourself in nature

While there’s no shortage of postcard-worthy vistas in Bhutan, Haa Valley is in a league of its own. Near the China–India border three hours from Paro, you’ll find some of the country’s most spectacular hiking trails, which lead through lush green valleys and monastery-dotted villages.

Covered in alpine forests and jagged mountain peaks, this small section of the country is also one of the most unspoiled. Travelers can take off on the Haa Panoramic Hiking Trail and the multiday Sagala Trek, or simply sit by the Haa River and take in 360-degree views of pristine nature.

Best Dates to Save Money on Flights in 2024

If Globe Aware volunteers are looking for the best flight and travel deals, timing is everything. These are the best dates to book travel!

Put These 9 Dates in Your Calendar to Save Money on Flights in 2024

If you’re looking for the best flight and travel deals, timing is everything.

By Joe Erbentraut

Listen, we like to look out for you here at Thrillist. We know travel—everything from the planning of it to the actual doing of it—can be incredibly stressful, time-consuming, and expensive, so we’re always looking for shortcuts for you to get the most out of your travel experience while also minimizing your stress and out-of-pocket expenses.

And when it comes to saving money on travel in 2024, there is definitely both an art and a science to it. We recently shared our top expert tips, but it’s now January and we know you’re probably in planning mode thinking about all the places you’ll want to go this year. We thought it was time to get a bit more granular with this effort and offer you up all the dates you need to put in your Google calendar to make sure you’re getting the best deals on flights and actually turning these travel plans into travel reality.

Of course, when it comes to timing there are some key dates to know every year, especially when you are looking to either capitalize on the most popular times of year for flight sales or make sure you don’t miss what experts call the “Goldilocks Window” for booking trips around holidays that are popular for travel. Thankfully, our friends at Hopper recently shared some key dates to keep in mind for 2024 travel, and we’ve also identified the most common dates for taking advantage of travel deals. If you’re planning a trip for this year, don’t book it unless checking out the dates below first! You’ll be glad you did.

January—late February 2024

If you’re looking to book a cruise, this is the time to do it. This is known as the wave season for cruise lines, when they typically offer their biggest deals of the year on sailings. Book early for the most options.

February 9, 2024

If you’re planning an Easter weekend vacation (March 31 this year), you’ll will want to book it no later than this date, but you should be doing so ASAP to save money, according to Hopper’s data. If you’re looking to book a cheap spring break getaway, this would also be a smart cutoff date for getting the best deal.

February 29, 2024

2024 is a Leap Year, which means that airlines and other travel companies—always looking for an excuse to run a promotion and attract new customers—are expected to come out with major promotions around this time of year. Keep an eye out for deals in the weeks leading up to Leap Day and subscribe to the Thrillist newsletter Before You Go where we’ll be highlighting the best offers.

April 15, 2024

Looking to get away for Memorial Day (May 27) weekend? This is your deadline for getting a deal, according to Hopper. Even better, you should start looking for flights as early as February.

June 1, 2024

The Fourth of July falls on a Thursday this year, so why not make a four-day weekend out of it? You’ll want to book your travel for this popular weekend at least three months in advance (as early as March) for the best prices and most options but, according to Hopper, you should have your plans set no later than this day.

August 8, 2024

If you’re planning a Labor Day (September 2) weekend getaway, Hopper notes that you might anticipate some last-minute deals in the final few weeks before the September 2 holiday this year. Nevertheless, for the most options and best prices, you’ll want to book at least one to three months before the holiday.

October 31, 2024

You’ll want to book your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and other holiday travel no later than Halloween this year if you are looking to save some money, according to Hopper. Thanksgiving falls later in the month (November 28) and Hanukkah (December 25—January 2) coincides with Christmas and New Year’s this year so you might think you can wait a bit, but you’ll find the best prices and availability no later than the arrival of scary season in October.

November 29—December 3, 2024

If you love a travel deal, this is your Super Bowl. Beginning with Black Friday (November 29), a trio of faux holidays will offer major savings on flights, hotels, and more—including some last-minute deals for New Year’s travel. The deals will continue to flow on Cyber Monday (December 2) and Travel Tuesday (December 3). Make sure you subscribe to our Before You Go newsletter where we’ll share the top deals.

Early January 2025

Many airlines offer heavily discounted flights to celebrate New Year’s and this time of year also tends to be the cheapest month for flight bookings. You’ve already missed the boat for this year, but don’t make the same mistake in 2025!

Responsible Travel: 5 Essential Tips for Elderly Travellers

Traveling is a delightful pursuit with no age limit, and senior citizens are increasingly venturing into the world to explore new destinations. Globe Aware welcomes all senior travelers, and covers all these essentials with our volunteer vacations!

Responsible Travel: 5 Essential Tips for Elderly Travellers

Elderly travellers, with their wealth of experience and appreciation for different cultures, can be exemplary advocates for responsible tourism

Antara Chatterjee
January 15, 2024
Outlook Traveller

Travelling is a delightful pursuit with no age limit, and senior citizens are increasingly venturing into the world to explore new destinations. As seasoned travellers, elderly globetrotters must adopt responsible travel practices that not only enhance their own experiences but also contribute positively to the destinations they visit. Here are 5 Essential Tips for Elderly Travellers to become more responsible and sustainable wanderers.

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What happens if you miss a connecting flight?

Missed connecting flights are an unfortunate aspect of frequent air travel. Navigating the aftermath of a missed connecting flight can be intimidating and challenging, but with the right travel tips, Globe Aware volunteers can still make it to their volunteer vacation in an efficient manner.

What happens if you miss a connecting flight? These travel tips will help you save your trip

Follow these tips if you miss your connecting flight

By Amanda Teague
January 19, 2024
The Manual

Connecting flights is oftentimes a seamless experience, while other times, you may find yourself running full speed through the airport to make it to your plane. Missed connecting flights are an unfortunate aspect of frequent air travel. But what happens if you miss a connecting flight? Navigating the aftermath of a missed connecting flight can be intimidating and challenging, but with the right travel tips, you can make it to your final destination in an efficient manner.

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Top 8 travel trends for 2024

In 2024, several trends will shape the travel industry and offer unique opportunities and immersive experiences. These trends include sustainability, adventure, and wellness, all of which Globe Aware volunteers can experience on a volunteer vacation week.

Top 8 travel trends for 2024

Jan 7, 2024

In 2024, several travel trends will shape the industry in unique ways, and will offer travellers unique opportunities and immersive experiences.

As we step into a new era of exploration, the world of travel is evolving with exciting trends that promise to redefine the way we experience and engage with destinations. In 2024, several travel trends will shape the industry in unique ways, and will offer travellers unique opportunities and immersive experiences.

Sustainable travel

This trend will take the centre stage. In 2024, sustainability will not just remain a buzzword, but will be a guiding principle for many travellers. Conscious efforts to reduce carbon footprints, support eco-friendly accommodations, and engage in responsible tourism will become a norm. Travellers are increasingly seeking destinations that prioritise environmental conservation and ethical practices.

With the normalisation of remote work, the concept of ‘workations’ has gained popularity. Travellers are opting for destinations that offer a perfect blend of work and leisure. From beachside villas to mountain retreats, remote work retreats cater to those seeking a change of scenery while fulfilling professional responsibilities.

Tech-enhanced experiencesAdvancements in technology will continue to revolutionise travel experiences. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are being incorporated into guided tours and museum visits, providing travellers with interactive and immersive adventures. Smart travel apps that offer personalised recommendations and real-time updates are becoming indispensable tools for modern explorers.

Wellness trend

The wellness travel trend is evolving beyond spa retreats. Travellers are prioritising holistic well-being, seeking destinations that offer a balance of physical activities, mental health retreats, and rejuvenating natural environments. From yoga retreats in serene landscapes to wellness-focused culinary experiences, travellers are embracing a holistic approach to health.

Cultural immersion

Experiential travel that fosters authentic cultural immersion is gaining momentum. Travellers are moving away from traditional tourist hotspots, opting instead for off-the-beaten-path destinations where they can engage with local communities, participate in cultural exchanges, and savour authentic culinary delights.

Micro-cations and weekend getaways

Short getaways, often referred to as micro-cations, are on the rise. Travellers are embracing the idea of frequent, shorter trips to explore nearby destinations and make the most of weekends. This trend aligns with the desire for more accessible and manageable travel experiences.


Adventure travel is extending beyond traditional boundaries. From immersive wilderness experiences to extreme sports in unconventional locations, adventure enthusiasts are seeking adrenaline-pumping activities in unique and lesser-explored destinations.

Personalised travel experiencesCustomisation will remain the key in 2024. Travellers are seeking personalised itineraries and curated experiences that align with their interests and preferences. Travel agencies and platforms are leveraging technology to tailor trips, ensuring that every journey is a reflection of the individual traveller’s desires.

From Lohri, Makar Sankranti to Pongal; here’s how India celebrates these harvest festivals

In India, harvest festivals in January mark the beginning of festivities every year. Makar Sankranti festival marks the beginning of the harvest season and the sun’s transit to the Capricorn. Globe Aware volunteers can take part in Jaipur, and even fly kites or visit beautiful temples.

From Lohri, Makar Sankranti to Pongal; here’s how India celebrates these harvest festivals

13 Jan 2024

In India, harvest festivals in the month of January mark the beginning of festivities every year. The onset of harvest season is observed across the country under various names based on the region where it is celebrated. The festival is widely celebrated in the Indian Subcontinent and by Hindus all over the world.

North Indian Hindus and Sikhs refer to it as Maghi, which is preceded by Lohri. In Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Telangana, it is known as Makara Sankranti and also Poush Sôngkrānti. In central India, it is called Sukarat, Assamese call it Magh Bihu, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh it is called Khichdi.


Lohri festivities are followed by Makar Sankranti. This year Lohri festivities will take place on January 14. It is observed primarily in the northern regions of India, including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. While paying their respects to Sun God, people sing and dance around the bonfire. Traditional dishes like Makki ki Roti, Sarson ka Saag, Pinni, Gur Gajak, Dahi Bhalle and Halwa are the culinary delights cherished on this occasion.

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti marks the sun’s transit to the Capricorn which is followed by warmer and longer days. This day marks an end to a bitter cold spell. This period of Uttarayan lasts for around six months. Sankranti means movement of the sun while Makar Sankranti is the most important of all 12 Sankranti that fall in a year.

Makar Sankranti usually falls on January 14 every year, but as per Drik Panchang, this year the festival will be celebrated on January 15. During the festival, people worship the Sun God, take a holy dip in sacred water bodies, engage in charitable activities by giving alms to the needy, fly kites, prepare sweets made of sesame and jaggery, and worship livestock. Moreover, farmers across India pray for good crops.


Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka and Pondicherry. The festival derives its name from the Tamil word meaning ‘spilling over.’ The festivities begin with boiling the season’s first rice with milk and jaggery. Bhogi Pongal marks the begining to 4 day long festivities. It is followed by Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal on the third day. Kannum marks the conclusion to these festivities.

Rituals that mark this occasion include bathing, processions, prayers at home and temples, elaborate feasts, house decorations and worship of the Sun God.

Jallikattu, a bull taming sport is widely celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu as part of Pongal celebrations. Jallikattu event in Madurai will be held for three days, beginning from January 15. This event involves releasing a bull into a crowd of people where participants try to grab hold of the bull’s hump in an attempt to stop the bull.


The festival, also known as Uttarayan, in Gujarat and Rajasthan is marked by kite flying. In Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, this festival is associated with the popular practice of kite flying. Since 1989, the day has been observed as International Kite Festival.

Unmissable events worth travelling for in 2024

For our extra adventurous Globe Aware volunteers who want to continue their time at a volunteer vacation destination, here are some of the most exciting events travelers can participate in for 2024.

10 unmissable events worth travelling for in 2024

Sitting back and spectating doesn’t always cut it. These 10 experiences — for 2024 and beyond — will get you flying, partying, painting, swimming, dancing and racing.

DECEMBER 20, 2023

One of the most rewarding ways to plan a trip is by building it around a specific event connected to a deep interest or passion. Taking part in something meaningful on your travels creates a unique connection with a destination that can lead to memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it’s testing your athletic derring-do in an ultra-marathon in Peru or whipping out your spray cans at a graffiti festival in Bristol, we’ve rounded up some of the most exciting events for you to participate in for 2024.

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UNESCO declares Thailand’s Songkran festival as an Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO declares Thailand’s Songkran festival as an Intangible Cultural Heritage

Dec 11, 2023

Come April 2024, Thailand will have a perfect reason to celebrate Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year in a much bigger way than ever before. Very recently, UNESCO formally recognized the Songkran in Thailand as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Globe Aware volunteers can take part by booking a volunteer vacation during that time! 


UNESCO formally recognised the Songkran in Thailand, Traditional Thai New Year Festival as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. This designation solidifies the cultural significance and importance of the Songkran festival. For those curious, Songkran is a festival that is celebrated in Thailand every year in the month of April.

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Emma’s Song of Gratitude

This song of joy and gratitude for Globe Aware volunteers was written and sung by Emma Peraulta, one of our community program recipients, in December of 2023 in the Philippines. 

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