Between March and May, the season of renewal sees Bhutan at its most beautiful, when the Himalayan landscape comes alive with colour. Hikes around Gangtey are enlivened by forests of resplendent rhododendrons, while the jacaranda trees surrounding Punkaha Dzong erupt into mauve clouds of blossom. The pleasant warmth of the air is perfect for picnics, and the rivers around Punakha – replenished by meltwaters from the past winter – offer perfect conditions for whitewater rafting.
From June to August, the Bhutanese summer brings sapphire skies, balmy temperatures and refreshing rains. It is the ideal time to explore the historic monasteries and dzongs scattered throughout the valleys, or to embark on personal wellbeing journeys on a yoga-enriched spiritual retreat. The land turns lush and green, and a cornucopia of rare ingredients come into season, including Bhutan’s legendary green chilli – only available for a few months – making summer ideal for gastronomic experiences.
Cooler and with clearer skies, but still mild and dry, the autumn months of September to November bring prime conditions for trekking and biking on Bhutan’s mountain trails. The season is the photographer’s friend, as willow trees shed their golden leaves and the changing light casts Himalayan summits – including some of the world’s tallest unclimbed peaks – into sharp relief. Autumn is also a season of festivals, such as the annual celebration of the return of the kingdom’s beloved bird, the endangered black-necked crane, which returns to winter in the Phobjikha Valley every November.
December onwards brings crisp air, clear skies and snow-capped summits to the mountain realm, and winter nights are characterised by a pinprick panorama of stars. Although the temperature drops after dusk, days are still warm and pleasant – ideal conditions for hiking and exploring Bhutan's western districts of Paro, Punakha and Thimphu. From Aman Gangtey, the Phobjikha Valley is especially enchanting this season, as the rolling plains and bamboo shrub lands are populated by roosting cranes, and nomadic yak herdsmen usher their cattle down from the snowy highlands.