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Top 5 Homestay Experiences in Bhutan


Bhutan Himalaya Editors

With thoughtful itineraries honed since 1999, we unveil the depths of Bhutan's happiness philosophy, the daily physical adventures through the beautiful Himalayan landscape complemented by the intimate and in-depth cultural experiences sensitively curated for you every day. 

Through the eyes of a select few informed leaders we saw the dilemmas of a culture: A hitherto sheltered nation discovering the arguments for and against remaining a cloistered society in this 21st Century. I loved the adventure, and I loved the discovery. Unlike anything else I have ever experienced!

Lola W., California 



Try your hand at traditional plough-and-ox farming at the Happiness Farm

#5. The Happiness Farm in Paro: Bhutan’s first true agrotourism stay

The Happiness Farm in Paro, Bhutan, offers a unique travel experience that encapsulates the nation's dedication to Gross National Happiness and environmental conservation. Perched on a hillside with panoramic views of the Chunzom River valley and surrounding mountains, this farm provides a tranquil setting for guests to immerse themselves in Bhutanese culture and nature.

Operated by travel professional and cultivation enthusiast Dorji, and his wife Kezang, the farm is rated at a comfortable 3-star level and integrates traditional Bhutanese farming practices into its daily operations. Visitors can engage in a variety of eco-tourism activities designed to foster a hands-on understading of sustainable development practices and respect for the environment. Innovative activities include night excursions to potentially spot wild Himalayan Black Bears (not for the faint-hearted!), participating in an “adopt-a-fruit tree” program, and practical agricultural work such as planting, harvesting, and tending to the farm's organic gardens.

The farm's location in Paro, a region celebrated for its breathtaking landscapes and its rich cultural heritage, allows easy access to famous sites like the Taktsang Monastery and the National Museum. Guests at the Happiness Farm can also join cooking classes that use fresh, organic ingredients from the farm, learn about local agricultural techniques, and collect eggs from the chicken coop.

Additionally, the farm's secluded setting makes it an ideal spot for stargazing, offering guests the chance to observe constellations, shooting stars, and the Milky Way in clear skies. Through these activities, the Happiness Farm not only provides a unique and enriching travel experience but also contributes to Bhutan's efforts to preserve its natural and cultural assets.

#4. The Happiness Fields Homestay

Gatshothang, a name that means “Happiness Fields,” the popular homestay in Punakha, Bhutan, offers an immersive cultural experience. Located in Gubjithang, the house features stone-clad walls, black wooden frames, and a smoke-covered kitchen wall, giving it a rustic charm. The homestay, run by Aum Karma Yangchen, a passionate designer and traditional Bhutanese textile dye expert who has won several awards for her handcrafted products, is one of the most popular places to visit among local expatriates.

Staying at the Happiness Fields Homestay allows you to participate in traditional textile dyeing with Aum Karma, explore the vast kitchen garden, milk cows, and make butter. The location offers breathtaking views of the opposite mountains and the early sight of morning mist settling on the river as the sun rises.

Home-cooked meals at the homestay are a highlight, with a delicious range of Bhutanese dishes prepared with vegetables from Aum Karma’s organic kitchen garden. The homestay, located in a part of Punakha that often goes unnoticed by tourists, provides a unique and authentic local experience. Accessible only by a private suspension bridge and over 21 acres, the homestay offers a perfect getaway within a few hours from the nation’s capital, Thimphu. Services at the homestay include overnight stays, all meals, hot stone baths, and camping in an open field beside the Puna Tsangchhu River.

A delicious Bhutanese spread at the Happiness Fields Homestay

#3. Ama Om’s Homestay

Ama Om’s Homestay, nestled amidst fields, orchards, and a vibrant mountain stream, offers a unique glimpse into the heart of Bhutanese culture and hospitality. The endearing rustic charm of this serene homestay is heightened the hanging frames of sepia-toned historical family photographs and an eclectic collection of Bhutanese contemporary art, thanks to its association with Asha Kama Wangdi, a leading figure in modern Bhutanese art. Known affectionately as “Asha,” Kama Wangdi grew up on this very homestead, which is now managed by his sister, Ama Chimi Om.

The home is a testament to Bhutanese tradition, with rooms made colorful by the carefully preserved antique heirloom furniture and artifacts, alongside paintings by Asha Kama and his students. The culinary offerings at the homestay are equally traditional, with meals prepared from locally grown ingredients and ancient recipes, including the heady rice wine still brewed faithfully, in keeping with old family traditions, by Kama’s sister.

One of the highlights of staying at Ama Om’s is the traditional hot stone bath experience. Guests are invited to soak in wooden tubs filled with water heated by red-hot stones, a practice deeply embedded in Bhutanese healing traditions. This experience is enhanced by the natural beauty of the surroundings, where Himalayan cherry blossoms and the sounds of a rushing stream create a backdrop reminiscent of a Japanese haiku.

The essence of Bhutanese hospitality is palpable throughout the stay, from the warm welcome by the family’s dogs, Kongtu and Ruby, to the comfort provided by the homestay’s low-ceilinged rooms, and the cozy kitchen. Visitors are treated to scratch-made local delicacies like mengay, a rich Bhutanese rice “pizza,” served by Ama Om, her daughter Risel, and kitchen helper Doema, making each guest feel like part of the family.

Ama Om’s Homestay offers visitors a deep connection to the land, its people, and their traditions. It stands as a beacon of the Bhutanese way of life, preserving the simplicity, honesty, and graciousness that are the hallmarks of the nation’s heritage.

The lovely old house where the founding father of Bhutanese contemporary art grew up is at the heart of Ama Om's homestay. © Karma Dorji

#2 The Mendegang Heritage Home

This property is not just a residence but a symbol of cultural and historical significance. Nestled in the ancient capital region of Punakha, this ancestral home has been the seat of a noble family that has contributed prominent figures to Bhutanese society, including a former Prime Minister and a high-ranking reincarnated lama. 

The home itself is situated on a piece of land that, from afar, resembles a mandala—a sacred symbol in Himalayan Buddhism representing cosmic harmony. This resemblance has made the Mendegang Heritage Home a focal point for communal gatherings and religious celebrations.

Mendegang Heritage houses three shrine rooms dedicated to the three primary figures of Bhutanese Buddhism: Maitreya, the Future Buddha; Shakyamuni, also known as Prince Siddhartha or the Buddha of our current eon; and Guru Rimpoche, the revered "Lotus-Born" saint of Bhutan. These shrines are adorned with intricate Buddhist murals—painted with natural pigments—drawn from the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma Buddhist traditions. It's a striking example of traditional Bhutanese architecture, reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, surrounded by beautiful hanging wisterias and bougainvilleas. The property also boasts a lovely Buddhist stupa that welcomes visitors, enhancing the spiritual ambiance.

The home's connection to the land is palpable, with gardens that yield fresh produce like beans, maize, onions, and leafy greens, and an orchard that bears pomegranates when in season. These ingredients are used to create authentic farm-to-table meals for the guests, allowing them to savor the flavors of the region.

For visitors, the Mendegang Heritage Home offers a genuine experience of Bhutanese lifestyle and culture. It stands as a testament to the agricultural heritage of the Punakha region and provides a serene retreat for those looking to immerse themselves in the authenticity of Bhutan.

This handsome old ancestral house in Mendegang, Punakha, makes for an unforgettable homestay experience.
Through its scalloped Bhutanese windows, one of the most storied homes in Bhutan provides a graciously authentic glimpse into the kingdom's history and folk culture. © Karma Dorji

#1 The Ogyenchhoeling Manor and Museum

Deep in the serene Tang Valley of central Bhutan lies the Ogyen Choling Manor & Museum, a fortress dating back to the 14th century that now serves as one of the most authentic lodging experiences in the country. This historic manor, once the residence of regional rulers and nobility, is currently managed by Ashi Kunzang Choden Roder, a 20th-generation descendant of the original founders, and her husband Walter Roder, a Swiss forester. 

The couple has revitalized this Bhutanese heritage site, transforming it into a distinctive lodge that offers travelers a rare chance to immerse themselves in a homestay deeply rooted in local history, culture, and community revitalization. Ashi Kunzang, a renowned Bhutanese author and literary figure, has lived and worked across the globe, including in the United States, Laos, India, and the Philippines. Her literary contributions include popular works such as "The Circle of Karma," "Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti," and "Dawa: The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan."

The guest house at Ogyen Choling is a testament to environmental stewardship and community engagement, utilizing solar power for most heating needs and discouraging the use of plastic bottles. The on-site restaurant and guest services prioritize the use of local produce grown on the estate, ensuring that most daily necessities are sourced from within the vicinity of the historic structure. The manor also houses a comprehensive folk museum, boasting one of the most extensive collections in Bhutan.

Accommodations at Ogyen Choling include a variety of unique options. The Tshamkhang, or Hermitage, is an independent cottage with two bedrooms and a shared living room featuring a traditional wood-burning stove. The Nubgothang, or West Gate Field, offers four rooms, while the Shagor, a two-story building that encloses the central tower, provides eight guest rooms. Each room is equipped with individual heating facilities, including the region's distinctive wood-burning stoves known as Bukhari, as well as electric heaters. All rooms come with attached bathrooms that include Swiss-imported sanitary installations.

Guests at Ogyen Choling can indulge in a variety of activities during their stay. They can relax in the peaceful surroundings, explore the museum, visit significant Buddhist sites and temples in the valley, learn about local agricultural and weaving practices, meditate in the holy cave of Longchen Rabjam, and participate in cooking classes, lectures, and interactive sessions on topics such as culture, gender, agriculture, storytelling, and the history of weaving when available. This immersive experience at Ogyen Choling not only provides a tranquil retreat but also offers a deep connection to the cultural and spiritual heritage of Bhutan.

HOMESTAYS ARE AN excellent way to experience local culture and stay with a Bhutanese family. These are our top 5 homestay experiences in Bhutan.

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