Which region of Bhutan you decide to visit will most likely depend on how much time you can afford to spend here. The vast majority of visitors quite naturally focus on the west and Thimphu. With its excellent tourist infrastructure, fantastic sights and spectacular festivals, it allows you to see the most of Bhutan in the shortest amount of time.
Central Bhutan on the other hand sees fewer tourists and is a quieter, dreamier collection of alpine valleys and historical monasteries. The winding roads east are for adventurers, weaving researchers and migoi (yeti) hunters. It offers warmer, wetter and wilder climes, tougher travel and, some would say, the 'real' Bhutan, untouched by group tourism or even much of the modern age.
Thimphu not only has the best handicraft shops in the country (it does), it's also the best place to actually see the products being made, from traditional paper and incense factories to local silversmiths and weaving workshops.
The best general museums are not in Thimphu (try Paro and Trongsa instead), but for specialised interests such as Bhutanese medicine, traditional country life and the country's rich textile tradition, this is the place.
Thimphu is the beachhead for globalisation in Bhutan. It's the place for contemporary Bhutanese art and culture, as well as espresso coffee and pizza. And there's nowhere better to witness cultural collisions that sum up Bhutan's inherent quirkiness – monks with mobiles and lamas with laptops are a daily sight.
If you only visit two towns in Bhutan, make them Paro and Punakha. The west is blessed with the country's loveliest dzong (Punakha), one of its oldest lhakhangs (Kyichu Lhakhang) and its most dramatic monastery (Taktshang Goemba). These are the big sights that you simply have to see.
From awesome Jhomolhari to the remote land of Laya, and the well-worn trails of the Druk Path, Bhutan's most popular trek, the west offers you lots of opportunities to combine cultural sights with a walk in the mountains.
In October or November, a trip to the Dochu La, with its view of Himalayan peaks framed by chortens and prayer flags, is a literal highpoint, rivalled only perhaps by views of Jhomolhari from the upper Paro valley.
The heartland of central Bhutan is Bumthang, a delightful collection of Swiss-style valleys sprinkled with golden-roofed chapels, remote red-walled goembas and sacred temples, including the fabulous 1500-year-old Jampey Lhakhang.
Bumthang offers the best day hikes through bamboo forest and yak meadows, past chortens to remote monasteries. The delightful Bumthang Cultural trek goes through moss-covered forests, while the villages of Ura and Shingkhar are great for strolls.
The line separating fact and fiction can be fuzzy in Bhutan. Stand where Guru Rinpoche wrestled a snow lion, run your hand over meditation caves etched with the body prints of saints and peer into a lake full of treasure visible only to the virtuous. It's a sacred landscape.
Off the Beaten Track
Bhutan's wild east is for the hardy. Long, winding drives ending in simple accommodation is the norm here. Temples and villages are more traditional and you are likely to have them to yourself. Just don't come during the monsoon…
Roads in the east often inch along sheer cliff faces on a ledge not quite wide enough for two vehicles. Expect a thrilling drive. The variety of landscapes is equally impressive, from the heights of Thrumshing La and the lush Himalayan foothills down to the subtropical.
Eastern Bhutan is the heartland of the country's rich weaving traditions. Enthusiasts can wander the village looms of Khoma and find out which natural dye comes from insect secretions at Khaling.