It’s not only famous for its breathtaking scenery and landscape, majestic snow-capped mountain peaks all year round, a long-standing history associated with Buddhist culture and friendly, gentle people, Bhutan is also well-known for various unique and quality local products which can be brought as souvenirs for a memorable experience journey in the land of the Thunder Dragon. Bhutan offers a wide variety of high-quality natural and organic products, healthy spices and herbs, crafts bearing bold Bhutanese style. Visitors can easily find them at local markets, tourist places, shops, stalls in the journey to discover a destination known as the world’s happiest country. So, what to buy in Bhutan and what souvenirs to buy in Bhutan? Let’s check out our Bhutan shopping guide with the suggested top +19 must-buy Bhutan souvenirs and best things to buy in Bhutan as well as where to buy in Bhutan, best places to shop in Bhutan to help you find best and meaningful Bhutanese gifts, souvenirs before back home!
- Where to shop in Kuala Lumpur? — 8 best places & best shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur
- Phuket shopping guide — 13+ Must, what to buy in Phuket & where to shop in Phuket
- Where to shop in Melaka? — 10 best places to shop in Malacca, Malaysia
- What to buy in Seoul? — 33+ Must have Seoul gifts, souvenirs & best things to buy in Seoul
- Best shopping in Osaka — +11 best markets in Osaka & best places to shop in Osaka
Bhutan has everything a traveler dreams of from fascinating mysteries, heroic legends, stunning landscapes to rich in culture. But beyond that, the country also give visitors a number of unique products, handicrafts such as fabrics, Buddha statues, high-quality organic foods, household items… only found here that make visitors want to buy as gifts.
What to buy in Bhutan: Brocade fabric, sheep wool & traditional costumes
The textile industry (Thar Zo) is an integral part of Bhutanese life and culture. Handmade products made from Bhutanese brocade fabric and sheep wool are derived from natural fibers (cotton, raw cotton, silk, sheep wool, etc.), as well as completely hand-woven by skillful hands of women artisans in Eastern Bhutan. They are very high quality, soft, smooth as well as rich and diverse in colors, motifs and patterns.
The most famous is the Yathra traditional wool fabric (or yak wool), hand-woven in Bumthang district which made of Yak cow hair, along with sheep wool with motifs, patterns which are intricately woven and eye-catching. After woven into fabric, they will be processed, embroidered to make a wide range of products such as traditional costumes, shawls, scarves, pillows or bags… and are widely sold at traditional markets in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. A Kira dress for women or a traditional dress Gho for men will be a great choice as a Bhutanese souvenir because it has a very good warming effect and many beautiful and rich in design.
Visitors can find these souvenirs at traditional markets and many shops at tourist attractions. However, to buy the best products, especially Bhutanese costumes with reasonable prices, you should still consider consulting the suggestions from local people.
Best things to buy in Bhutan: Bhutan Wild Cordyceps Sinensis
As one of the precious medicinal herbs of traditional medicine, Bhutan’s cordyceps sinensis is considered the most expensive item in this country because of its rarity and benefits. This type of traditional medicine is exploited very limited and only the cordyceps that grow naturally in the environment of Himalaya mountain range near Tibetan plateau with higher use value. Cordyceps contains from 17 to 19 different amino acids such as D-mannitol, lipids, trace elements such as Al, K, Na, Si… biologically active substances with high medicinal value such as cordiceptic acid, cordycepin, adenosin, hydroxyethyl-adenosin… and many other vitamins.
This type of traditional medicine is also scientifically proven to have many positive effects in supporting treatment, improving and promoting human health, as well as having no side effects. Some of the main effects can be mentioned as follows:
- Cancer prevention
- Enhance physiological function
- Regulates breathing and strengthens the immune system
- Anti aging skin
- Prevention of diseases of cardiovascular disorders
- Regulate the amount of cholesterol in the blood
- Detoxify the body and tonify the kidneys, reduce urinary incontinence and nocturia.
To buy cordyceps in Bhutan, you need to know the source of quality standard products and ensure 100% natural cordyceps, with intact body and clear legs to ensure the product still has inherent natural nutrients. The price of this herbal medicine also fluctuates depending on its grade, ranging from 300 USD/10 gram grade C to 600 USD/10 gram grade A++ (high grade). This is also one of the products present at Made in Bhutan (A National Marketplace for Bhutan), with two grades A and A+ with a clear certificate of origin and inspection from the Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MOAF), which guarantees premium quality to customers.
In addition, you can also buy many other products with the main ingredient extracted from Cordyceps such as Cordyceps infused honey, tea, herbs, ginseng juice…
Organic Yak Butter & Cheese
One of the specialties you often see when visit the traditional markets in Bhutan is butter and cheese made from Yak milk. The type of butter that is popular in Bhutan (and also in the Tibetan plateau) is Yak butter with a natural, typical yellow color, usually sold fresh as shown in the picture, or in the form of blocks or cubes that are dried and hung on strings.
In Bhutan, people raise cows only for milk to produce butter and cheese, they are not allowed to kill cows or other animals in the territory of Bhutan. The people of this kingdom may not eat meat, but butter and cheese are indispensable. They may not eat meat for a long time, but butter and cheese are must-have ingredients their daily meal (along with the chili).
In addition to using butter as a substitute for cooking oil and as an ingredient for dishes such as Ema Datshi (Bhutanese Chili Cheese Soup), the national dish Kewa Datshi (Vegetable Cheese Stew)… Bhutanese also use Yak butter to make special butter tea and use them as candles at monasteries, temples. A kilo of Yak butter costs around 600 – 1,000 BTN depending on the store, and should be kept in a sealed plastic container before you take it home.
Bhutanese Organic Jam
Many types of Bhutanese organic fruit jams are also a great Bhutan souvenir to bring back for visitors. In Bumthang district, visitors can find these jams right in some hotels with a wide selection of flavors, from orange and strawberry to peach and plum. A popular brand of jam in Bhutan is Druk, in addition to delectable jam, it also offers fruit juices, local pickled vegetables at relatively cheap prices.
Best things to buy in Bhutan: Bhutanese Lemongrass Essential Oil
Besides well-known products such as liquor, whisky and brocade fabric, the set of products made of Bhutan lemongrass essential oil is also a popular choice as a souvenir. A gift set that includes pure lemongrass essential oil and a lemongrass scent spray – all 100% organic and distilled in Bhutan.
Bhutanese lemongrass essential oil has certified according to the European requirements for organic wild collection with a capacity of 30ml, repels insects and disinfects the air. When using, always dilute with the ratio of 5ml for 10 liters of water, you can use a nebulizer to effectively spray the mixture evenly in the air. The set from Bio Bhutan Enterprise is best used within 2 years from the date of manufacture, required to avoid skin and eyes directly contact with the product. Store the set in a cool place, out of reach of children.
Currently, Bhutan lemongrass essential oil products are also available at Made in Bhutan, a brand specializing in importing and selling products from Bhutan itself. The current price is about $9/set of products.
Bhutanese Red Rice
As an Asian country, rice in Bhutan is also very important, but the most popular in every meal of the Bhutanese people is Bhutanese red rice which is derived from Japanese red rice. Because it has been semi-milled, this type of rice still has the red bran attached, so it will cook faster than brown rice. When the rice is cooked, it will turn into light pink rice, soft and slightly sticky. Red rice is highly appreciated because it contains many essential minerals for health (such as magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus…) and is gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. In Bhutan, red rice is often served with other savory dishes, or can be made into the fried red rice dish with chicken, mushrooms or chili. This is also the only export product of the land of Thunder Dragon to the world.
Best things to buy in Bhutan: Zumzin Peach Wine & K5 Whiskey
Made from ripe, 100% organic peaches with pure natural mineral water from the Himalayas, Zumzin peach wine is considered a precious Bhutan souvenir because of its rich aroma and natural fruit flavor, leaving long aftertaste for those who enjoy this wine. The wine also has a light alcohol content (12% ABV), suitable for sipping an aperitif before a meal or in socializing. The price for a small bottle of Zumzin is about 100 BTN/350ml bottle.
In addition to Zumzin peach wine, K5 whiskey is also a unique product in Bhutan. Named after the 5th Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, K5 Whiskey is a blend of Malt Scotch Whiskey aged 8 to 12 years in Scotland and organic grain spirits, distilled together with natural mineral water source from the Himalayas. K5 Whiskey is considered the most popular and delicious of all spirits in Bhutan, with a price tag of around 850 BNT/750ml bottle. Visitors can find both wine and whisky at liquor stores across Bhutan.
What souvenirs to buy in Bhutan: Organic Soap
Most of Bhutanese soaps are organic products, of natural origin, very safe for the skin. The soap bars are wrapped in traditional deshog paper packages, cut and packed entirely by hand. Usually Bhutanese soaps have the main ingredients from mustard, beeswax, lemongrass essential oil and sage, or sometimes add turmeric and ginger to disinfect, care for the skin and create a fragrance to help the body relax.
Soap products in Bhutan are all organic and of natural origin. Most of these organic soap bars are made of mustard oil, beeswax, and distilled citronella and sage extracts, and contain natural skin care and antiseptic ingredients like turmeric and ginger. These soaps are wrapped in traditional Bhutanese deshog paper packages, and of course they are all cut and packaged by hand.
The Bhutanese soap is very good for health. They are also beautifully wrapped in traditional paper and of course completely handmade.
What souvenirs to buy in Bhutan: Chilli & Dried Red Chilli Powder
Bhutanese cuisine has spicy as the main flavor and traditional dishes here have many to many chili peppers or dried grinded chili powder. Be aware that in Bhutan chili is considered a vegetable instead of a regular condiment, and for the Bhutanese a meal without chili would be very bland and dull, similar to Thai curry without spicy too. Almost all Bhutanese home often hang chili strings (ristras) on their white walls to dry after the harvest, and if you travel to Bhutan in the time frame from September to November, you will see a typical scene of the red color covering whole cities, villages because every family takes advantage of this time to dry chili for storage and use. If you are a fan of spicy food, a little dried chili powder as a gift to bring home will be an interesting choice for your cooking passion.
Bhutanese cuisine will become “poor” if it loses its characteristic spicy taste, so fresh chili and dried chili powder is a popular spice sold here. If you are a lover of spicy foods, do not forget to buy chili powder at grocery stalls or in markets as gifts.
What souvenirs to buy in Bhutan: Organic honey
With the extremely well protection of its forests and habitat of animals, Bhutan is a country of biodiversity, fresh and owns large primeval forests, which also makes organic products from the forest always ensure the highest quality. One of them is organic Bhutanese honey. They are harvested twice a year in Bumthang district – the capital of the beekeeping industry, one in July and one in September. The July harvest gives honey with a floral flavor, while the September harvest season give honey a buckwheat flavor. Although Bhutanese honey is famous and attracts both domestic and foreign customers, the actual production output is not really stable due to the cold weather conditions, which leads to the fact that the flowers necessary for bees not growth enough, as well as honeycombs are often damaged by wild bears.
In Bhutan, there are two popular types of honey: Bottled honey with the state’s stamp of Bumthang Honey brand and local bumblebee honey. Bottled honey with the Bumthang Honey brand, the price ranges from 270 – 300BTN/jar of 275g, while the local bumblebee honey is packaged in plastic bottles with thick and black color, sold at local markets for 200BTN /bottle of 300g and 1,000BTN/bottle of 750g. Bumblebee honey is also rated by tourists as better quality than bottled honey with labels, and to buy them you should ask your tour guide to buy at local shops for a better price as reference prices above.
Bhutan souvenirs: Traditional handicrafts
In addition to textile products, handicrafts (Tshar Zo) are also play a big important role of Bhutanese culture and life. Thanks to the rich natural resources, the Bhutanese people have taken advantage of materials such as bamboo, rattan to produce handicraft items such as baskets, bags, chairs… and sell to tourists as a way to earn extra income, while maintaining this tradition.
Other handicrafts include wooden masks, mugs, cups, spoon and bowls (Shag Zo), bracelets, necklaces made of precious stones and metals (Troe Ko) and spiritual items such as bronze statues of Buddha (Lug-Zo), Tibetan singing bowls. A piece of advice for those who want to buy spiritual items for worship is to visit the shops selling to local people, because these items have all been blessed or celebrated by the Lama which is more meaningful to bring home. The prices of the above handicrafts will also vary depending on the material used to make them.
Best Bhutan souvenirs: Yathra
A brightly colored fabric made from sheep wool and dyed with natural colors. It is sold in pieces or sewn into coats, bags, rugs and hanging on wall. Yathra is available in Thimphu capital and other cold regions, but is a specialty of the Jakar region.
Yathra is a traditional woolen fabric of the Bhutanese people. These fabrics are derived from sheep hair and the ingredients used to dye them are also obtained from nature. Thanks to that, the new Yathra wool has high value and is processed to create diverse products such as coats, bags, scarves… Yathra can be easily found in the traditional markets in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. According to the locals, the Yathra fabrics woven in Bumthang are among the best in Bhutan.
They are handmade wooden cups. The two pieces of Dappa are often designed to fit together so that the user can use them to store food (like two cups facing each other). Thanks to that, Dappa can keep food sealed and not spilled. Bhutanese people use Dappa as a “mess kit” to store food when going to school, work, picnic, etc. Besides, this type of cup is also used to make both salads and cookies. Dappa is a signature craft item of the Trashi Yangtse region, but you can find it anywhere in Bhutan.
They are small woven bamboo baskets with two halves that fit together. This is a special product of southern Bhutan, but now all markets in Bhutan also sells this craft.
3D Refrigerator Magnets
Some 3D refrigerator magnets printed with landscapes and famous destinations in Bhutan will be the ideal decorations for your home refrigerator. These 3D magnets are all carved to small details and completely handmade, can be removed and re-glued in another position because the back is magnet. These refrigerator magnets can be found at the post offices or at tourist shops.
What to buy in Bhutan: Bhutanese organic dried agricultural products
Quite a lot of agricultural products in Bhutan are sold in dried form to facilitate preservation and sell to foreign tourists. These include dried and chili powder as mentioned above, dried Yak butter and cheeses, dried fish and cured meat… Most especially Juma, a specialty sausage of Bhutan made from ground meat, rice, and some mild spices stuffed in pig intestines. It has a distinctively spicy and delicious taste (due to the abundance of chili peppers) and is often eaten on its own way, or served with other rice dishes. The cheapest dried food you can buy in Bhutan is walnuts, priced from only 5 BNT/fruit.
Bhutan shopping guide: The most popular and best shopping places in Bhutan
Besides the ancient monasteries or majestic fortresses (Dzong), the shopping places with a variety of impressive and unique products also make many visitors fall in love and where you can find suitable souvenirs and gifts to take home. So, where to buy in Bhutan, below we suggest 8 shopping places you should go.
Norzin Lam Street (Thimphu)
Location: Near Taj Tashi hotel, about 2 km from Thimphu city center.
Opening hours: 8:30 am – 9 pm.
Dubbed the famous shopping street of the capital of Thimphu, Norzin Lam street is not only a familiar shopping destination for locals but also a favorite place to shop for foreign tourists as well.
You can find countless stalls selling wonderfully handcrafted items such as: High-end jewelry sets attached semi-precious stones designed by the owner herself, scarves in non-traditional colors with eye-catching ice blue, pink and green tones, beautiful turquoise-encrusted antique saddles from Tibet and Lhadakh or antique wood carvings and interesting traditional household items…
Moreover, this shopping spot is also decorated with cute and exotic shops, so you can walk leisurely and admire the beauty of your surroundings even if you don’t want to buy anything, it will be a very memorable experience.
Yarkay Central Mall (Thimphu)
Address: Norzin Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
As one of the Bhutan’s best shopping centers, Yarkay Central Mall will bring you the most wonderful and memorable experience. Besides exquisite and beautiful handmade items, you can also find here worth to buy products come from China, Nepal, Bangkok or Bangladesh… Even famous brands in the world, so anyone who wants to buy high-class gifts for relatives and friends can also freely choose.
Address: FJGP+CM4, Thimphu, Bhutan
The first Bhutanese handicraft market was established in 2011 in Thimphu, to promote and introduce talented young artists living in the countryside who have mastered the age-old traditional Bhutanese handicrafts passed down through generations to generations, thereby improving the socio-economic status of communities living in rural areas.
That’s why, the Handicraft Market is the perfect destination for you to get a glimpse into the real world of Bhutanese arts and crafts, with over 80 stalls selling various interesting handicrafts like wood carvings, bronze Buddha statues, clothes made of brocade silk, etc.
Along with thangkas – pictorial religious scrolls of monasteries, dzongs and religious images in Bhutan, pottery, handmade paper from Daphne trees, bronze items, bamboo products such as bows, baskets, boxes, musical instruments… and intricate hand-woven products such as scarves, clothes, bags…
So, it can be seen that the selection of gifts and souvenirs seems to be endless, just afraid that you do not have time and your wallet is not thick enough. Especially, the shop owners at this popular shopping destination are often artists who display their products in the store themselves, so they will explain their products better than other manufacturers.
In particular, the shop owners are also very friendly and polite, so when you walk through the colorful stalls, even if you don’t buy anything, you will still be greeted with bright smiles from the bottom of their hearts.
Centenary Farmers Market (Thimphu)
Address: FJGR+7G2, Thimphu, Bhutan
Hours: 9AM–4PM / Sunday: Open 24 hours / Monday; Tuesday: Closed
The Centenary Farmers Market, also known as the Sunday Market, specializes in the sale of local agricultural products and is the main source of livelihood for 80% of Bhutan’s agricultural population.
This market is designed into two floors, in which the ground floor mainly deals with imported products, typically vegetables and fruits, and the upper floor deals with local organic products, including vegetables, fruits, meat (mostly dried), milk and flower…
Vibrant colors, fragrant aromas and fresh produce are a highlight of the Centenary farmers market that makes residents and visitors flock here in the weekends in huge numbers.
Especially when the capital is gradually converting once fertile land into rigid concrete buildings, the demand for agricultural products is increasing. Therefore, when visiting the farmer’s market, visitors will always see a lively scene, bustling with laughter.
Besides the seasonal vegetables, one of the most sought-after products in this shopping spot is dried red chili – a food found year-round and consumed by most people in their favorite dishes. So, if you are a fan of spicy food, you definitely cannot miss this spice.
Also, just outside the Sunday market is an area that selling rice and grains from all over the country, most notably red rice – the “national” rice in Bhutan, so buy some and enjoy when you return home.
One Gewog One Product (OGOP)
OGOP is an initiative of the Queen’s Project Office, by teaching and assisting local farmers in the packaging and branding of their produce, and by encouraging them to sell their products to communities, thereby improving farmers’ livelihoods.
At the OGOP store chain, all the shelves are stocked with fresh, clean and beautifully packaged organic produce, making it one of the Bhutan’s most impressive shopping place that tourists can not help bu visit.
In particular, each product represents a story of a local farmer or an artist and family in their community, giving tourists maximum satisfaction when visiting and purchasing souvenirs here.
Address: Choki Khangzang, Pedzoe Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
Hours: 9AM–5PM / Sunday: Closed / Phone: +975 324728
Choki is a large souvenir shop, belonging to the Choki Traditional Art School, so when you come here, you will admire the wonderful collection of handicrafts made by the students of the school, typical examples are: masks, thangkas, paintings, wooden boxes and many other impressive religious crafts.
Visitors can even directly hire local painters, sculptors and weavers to design and make traditional crafts, furniture and paintings by hand on request. As for those who love to make their own crafts and want to learn how to make one of them, this shopping place is also a good place to meet their request. This is definitely special something that not every tourist attraction offers.
Moreover, here visitors not only have great shopping experiences, but also indirectly help disadvantaged students in the school by the money they spend. The trip is too meaningful and useful, isn’t it?
Paro Weekend Market
The weekend market in Paro is a great place to shop for souvenirs when traveling to Bhutan. All the popular handicrafts of the land of the “Thunder Dragon” such as Dappa, colorful wooden masks as part of their festival or Ihazo… can be found here.
You can also buy other unique traditional items such as: Kira and Gho (Bhutanese traditional costumes for women and men), Bhutanese style stamps, prayer wheel, jewelry, items made from cane, bamboo, paintings, traditional thangkas, textile products or art materials…especially incense with many kinds of scent.
What’s more, at this shopping spot in Bhutan you can also enjoy some delightful local snacks and dishes of the beautiful Paro valley.
Bhutan shopping guide: Some notes before go to shopping in Bhutan
- Almost all products at markets are all handmade crafts, not produced for tourists, so they still retain their authenticity and as a result, prices tend to be more expensive than goods in other Asian countries.
- The shops on the street will have cheaper prices than in markets, but in return, the goods will not be as delicate, so if you want to have beautiful things, you also have to pay the corresponding price.
- Most stores have fixed prices for their products and the seller will not give a discount, but you can still try to bargain if you intend to buy a few items, because maybe on a nice day, with your master negotiation skill, they will agree?!
- In particular, you are not allowed to bring antiques out of Bhutan because it is illegal in this country.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Bhutan you can refer to
- 5D4N Classic Bhutan Tour
- 9D8N Classic Bhutan Tour
- Thimphu Private Car Charter
- 6D5N Dagala Thousand Lake Trek
- 6D5N Druk Path Trek
- 14D13N Laya – Gasa Trek
- 7D6N Classic Bhutan Tour
- 8D7N Classic Bhutan Tour
- 6D5N Classic Bhutan Tour
Read more: The fullest Bhutan travel guide blog for a wonderful trip to Bhutan for the first-timers and Bhutan guide here.