Bhutan Weather and Tour in December: is December a proper time to pay Bhutan a visit?
December is the start of the winter low season in Bhutan, and while this may be the start of the winter months, Bhutan is still an amazing place in December. With fewer tourists in the kingdom, once December rolls around, Bhutan is a much more interesting place, as the true culture and people of the kingdom are more easily recognizable, without the entire tourist-oriented attitude. As the winter months begin, it is a great time to head for his last Himalayan kingdom and experience the ancient and modern life of Bhutan side by side.
Unlike some of the Himalayan countries that have severe winters, Bhutan in December is relatively mild, with clear crisp skies and pleasant weather more akin to parts of central and northern Europe than the expected cold of the Himalayas. There is very little snow in Bhutan in December, and what little there is normally only falls on the high mountains on the northern border with Tibet, where the temperatures are colder at higher altitudes.
The Climate and Weather Condition of December in Bhutan
While most of the Himalayan regions are already getting cold in December, Bhutan is still a relatively warm country, and even at the higher altitudes of Thimphu and Paro, the temperatures only get down to below freezing at night in the most extreme cases. Average temperatures across the northwest of the country, where most of the major attractions are, range from 4 to 12 degrees, making it a pleasant time of year to visit.
As you get higher towards the mountains, the temperatures may drop to closer to freezing, especially at night when the sun has gone and the clear skies let all the heat of the day out. The central region of the kingdom is still fairly warm in December, and with almost no snow or rain, is an ideal place to travel to for trekking and sightseeing. Days can reach as high as 12-14 degrees in Trongsa Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang, a stark contrast to the near-freezing temperatures in Paro and Thimphu.
Paro weather in December
Average Maximum Temperature: 13°C
Average Minimum Temperature: -1°C
Average Temperature: 6°C
Paro in December sees almost no snow, except in the highest mountain areas, and the temperatures can still get as high as 12 degrees in the daytime, dropping to just below freezing at night. There is almost no rainfall throughout the entire month, as the dry and arid weather of the northeast monsoon creeps over the mountains to keep the northwestern areas pretty dry. Average temperatures of around 6 degrees make it comfortable for the lower-altitude treks, and the bright sun makes it feel comfortably warm.
Thimphu weather in December
Average Maximum Temperature: 12°C
Average Minimum Temperature: -1.5°C
Average Temperature: 5°C
Rarely seen fluffy snow falling from the sky of Thimphu in chilly winter
Thimphu and Paro have similar climates, and with December in Thimphu comes a little cooler weather, with average temperatures barely getting up to around 5 degrees. Highs of up to 12 degrees are normal throughout most of the month during the day, though it does start to get colder towards the end of the year. Lows can get down to around -2 degrees at night, which means that those warm sweaters and jackets may be needed when wandering around the city in the late evenings.
Jakar weather in December
Average Maximum Temperature: 12.5°C
Average Minimum Temperature: -2.5°C
Average Temperature: 5°C
Out in the Bumthang Dzongkhag, Jakar sees some lower temperatures than back in Thimphu, though the high daytime temperatures can still reach as high as 12-13 degrees. Nights are colder, dropping to as low as -3 degrees, and getting much colder as the year draws to a close. This gives a similar average temperature to the capital area, dropping to around 5 degrees across the area. Rain is almost non-existent, with only around 3mm falling throughout the entire month, mostly at night as light showers.
Bumthang weather in December
Average Maximum Temperature: 11.5°C
Average Minimum Temperature: -3.5°C
Average Temperature: 4°C
The Bumthang Region as a whole is colder than most areas, with highs of just 11 degrees during the day, and dropping to almost -4 degrees at night. This colder weather is pleasant though, with bright sunshine that makes you feel much warmer, and crisp fresh weather that is still comfortable for trekking in the lower areas of the Dzongkhag.
Punakha weather in December
Average Maximum Temperature: 18°C
Average Minimum Temperature: 6°C
Average Temperature: 12°C
Punakha is one of the warmer areas of Central Bhutan, with daytime highs that can still reach as high as 18 degrees, and nightly lows that are around 6 degrees, which is far from the freezing nighttime temperatures of the capital. The lower elevation allows for warmer average temperatures, often around 12 degrees, but means that there may still be a few more rain showers through the early half of the month, though these will die out as the year ends and January comes around.
What about Bhutan tours in December?
December is still one of the deal months to get out and about in Bhutan, as the weather is pleasantly warmer in most of the country, with only the colder weather hitting the high mountains of the far north. December is a great time to start taking sightseeing tours of the kingdom, traveling around the areas of Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha to visit the amazing dzongs and gompas that cover the kingdom and which are popular tourist attractions.
Black-necked cranes flock in Punakha Valley in winter
Paro and Thimphu are the best areas of the northwest and central regions for touring in December, as the weather is cool but sunny, and the winter cold has not yet come to the country. However, it is a good idea to have some warm clothes with you, as the weather can be colder at night than in the balmy daytimes. December is also the start of the lower-cost months for winter in Bhutan, with the Minimum Daily Package cost coming down from 250 dollars per day to only 200 dollars per day. This makes it a cheaper yet just as comfortable time of year for Bhutan travel.
Below we have carefully selected some Bhutan classic tours with short treks for you in December. Most of the routes will take you to the Punakha area where the rarely-seen black-necked crane can be spot.
How about Bhutan trekking in December?
Trekking can sometimes be discouraged in many areas in December, as the weather can be unpredictable. But for most of the main treks around Thimphu, Paro, and Bumthang, there still have kinds of Bhutan trekking tours available for you to take, though the nights can be a little cold. If you are intent on trekking in December, then the areas of Punakha and Bumthang can be pleasant, as can the Wangdue Phodrang region of the kingdom.
Winter trekking along the majestic mountain trail in Bhutan
If you are planning on trekking, then make sure that you are keeping an eye on the weather in the country on the run up to your trip, as it can be unpredictable and changeable at a moment’s notice. Trekking is not guaranteed in December, but if the weather holds then it can be an amazing time to see the snow-capped mountains of the north.
In Bhutan winter, trekking is absolutely possible, however, the long day trek is inappropriate to be recommended.Below are two short-term winter trek tours with specific routes and arrangements for you:
>> 3 Days Classic Bumthang Culture Trek
>> 3 Days Bumthang Owl Trek
Festivals in December
There are still a good number of festivals throughout December, and it is a good time to travel to Bhutan for the festivals this month, as there are fewer tourists crowding the events, making them a little more pleasant and authentic. The earliest December festival is the Mongar Tsechu, held at the Mongar Dzong in Mongar Dzongkhag from the 3rd to the 6th of December, in the eastern central region of Bhutan. People from all across the region, including as far away as Trashigang and Lhuentse, come to the festival, where the Cham dances that are performed are unique to the Mongar District.
The annual festival at Trashigang is one of the largest festivals in the Bhutanese calendar, and people from all over the eastern region of the kingdom travel to enjoy this stunning festival. One of the most important festivals for the ethnic nomad communities of the Merak and Sakteng areas, known as Brokpas, the performances are mainly ethnic folk dances that are as old as the cultures themselves. The highlight of the festival is the unfurling of the giant thongdrol tapestry, which depicts the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. The festival runs from the 3rd to the 5th of December every year.
Locals are celebrating Druk Wangyal Tsechu in December.
A unique festival in Bhutan, which is performed by the Royal Bhutan Army instead of the lamas and monks, the Druk Wangyal Tsechu is a tribute to the fourth king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The festival is also a celebration of the security and stability of the nation, provided by the Bhutanese military, and this one-of-a-kind tsechu, which is held in Thimphu on December 13, sits against the backdrop of the magnificence of the Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.
What to pack for visit Bhutan in December?
December can be a fairly cold month, when compared to the summer months of July and August, and while the temperatures may get up to 12 degrees in the daytime, the nights are quite cold across most of the country, dropping to well below freezing in many parts of the more popular tourist destination in Bhutan. Warm sweaters and fleece or down jackets are needed for the colder days and freezing nights, and long underwear can help to keep the biting winds and colder air out.
Strong waterproof hiking boots are needed in December, even if you are not planning on hiking. Much of the kingdom is not paved or asphalted, so the ground can be rough and rocky in many places. Warm woolen socks are a must once more, as the cold of winter is on its way, and layers of clothing are best to keep out the cold and regulate your own temperature. A light raincoat is a useful accessory to have with you, just in case, though it does rarely rain in December. Alternatively, a small travel umbrella will suffice.
Warm pants or a long warm skirt for women is recommended in December, as the weather can be cold on the legs. Most Bhutanese wear long skirts, even the men, so it is not out of place in the kingdom, even in the remote areas. Leggings under the skirts can help to stay even warmer.
Is it easy to get the Bhutan Visa in December?
Visas are never much of a problem for Bhutan, and for getting the Bhutan Visa in December - the low-season of Bhutanese tourism - there is not going to be any problem, as long as you are traveling with a good registered tour operator. Only the tour operator can apply for the visa on your behalf, and once it has been approved, you will be sent a visa clearance letter to show to the airlines and at the immigration desk, where your actual visa will be stamped into your passport.
With December being the low season, visas that are said to take around five days to process can sometimes be faster, even as quick as 2-3 days, and as long as you meet all the requirements for the visa, then you will not be declined. Contact us for more information about the Bhutan visa policies, and to book your tour for 2019.
December may be the start of winter, but it is not as cold as you may think for a Himalayan country. The lower altitudes than places like Tibet mean that the weather is milder and warmer in the last month of the year, with almost no snow except in the higher mountains and no rain across the north of the country. Cold winds can be troublesome, but warm clothes and a windcheater can solve that concern easily. If you are trekking, make sure you have warm long layers of clothing to regulate your temperature and comfort, and keep a jacket handy for when you stop.
Bhutan in December is a wonderful place to visit, and the milder climate and sunny disposition of both the skies and the people make this an awesome experience that will leave you dying to come back for more.