Shopping in Bhutan
If you are looking for souvenirs from Bhutan you should read this.
Before deciding what to buy in Bhutan you should know that the Kingdom of Bhutan is Buddhist, so its culture is influenced by this religious practice. Nonetheless, the art world of Bhutan has many dimensions.
If there is one thing to buy in Bhutan, that is the handicrafts. Within this category are the textiles, the religious craftwork and the masks, which are also decorative items. You will find all these items in the street markets, particularly in the city of Thimbu, as well as in Paro.
As for religious craftwork, as this is a Buddhist country, you will be able to find an endless amount of Buddha figures and all kinds of religious objects, such as malas (prayer rosaries), prayer wheels, tangkas (religious paintings), incense burners, etc.
Alternatively, if you want to make purchases that have a certificate of guarantee and quality, you can do this at the Thimbu School of Arts and Trades, apart from their authenticity, they will give you the best prices. In this school they study up to 13 different arts which have their origins in Buddhism.
Below, we will talk about these 13 arts, as they are the best things you can buy in Bhutan during your trip.
Painting in Bhutan is part of an ancient tradition, reflecting daily life as much as the spirituality and the customs of the Bhutanese. Within this art are the Tangkas, which are beautiful hand-painted, very detailed pictures representing Buddhist deities.
You will find Tangkas of all prices and sizes. It all depends on their antiquity, but there is no doubt that their value is based on the amount of work it has taken to create these sacred paintings.
If you are looking for souvenirs in Bhutan, a sculpture or Jim-zo, is a good choice. The Bhutanese artisans work both in clay and in bronze. The former makes pieces to use every day, such as bowls, pots, etc. This is a profession practiced by both men and women.
In contrast, sculpting in bronze is used more for giving shape to deities and manifestations of Buddha. The sculptors are men and, generally, they work for the temples. Although it is forbidden to take images of Buddha out of the country, in the markets you will find many suitably-sized figures to take away as gifts without encountering any problems with the law.
Within sculpting, there is also the art of smelting, or Lug-zo, a tradition that goes back to the 17th century. This art is responsible for creating the famous Tibetan bowls which are, without a doubt, something unique to buy in Bhutan.
Paper making is another of the most deeply-rooted traditions in Bhutan. The craft is linked to the monasteries and was used principally for religious manuscripts. Later, it led to a trade which has been adapted for tourists by creating beautiful, delicate paper objects, such as photo frames, envelopes and letter writing paper.
It is the best quality paper in the world and the price is unbeatable. It is made by hand following artisan principles which have survived since the 18th century.
Wood is another protagonist of this country’s craftwork and, of course, one of the things to buy if you want to take home an attractive souvenir of your trip. More than being artisans, the Bhutanese are master carpenters who know how to carve wood with expertise.
Not only do they make wooden structures for buildings, windows, bridges, etc. but they also sculpt the most intricate figures by hand with extraordinary precision. With this in mind, you can acquire sculpted religious masks of unequalled beauty.
For those who like jewellery and ornaments, other traditional things to buy in Bhutan are pendants, bracelets, earrings, rings and all kinds of trinkets with religious designs. From beautifully hand-sculpted small prayer wheels made of copper or silver, to pendants with incredibly laborious designs.
There are also the malas (Buddhist rosaries), consisting of both 108 beads, to wear around your neck, or of 54 beads, to wear around your wrist. To make these, both seeds and wood are used, or gemstones such as quartz and turquoise.
Tailoring and embroidery, as well as textiles (Thag-zo), also form part of the traditional products to buy in Bhutan. The women wear the Kira, the traditional costume, and the men wear the Gho, a long robe which is tied with a belt. Wool, cotton and silk are used to make these and other items of clothing.
The traditional boots which are decorated with beautiful coloured textiles are, without a doubt, one of the most sophisticated and original souvenirs from Bhutan. You are sure to surprise your friends and family with such a special gift.
And up to this point, this is everything, or almost everything to buy in Bhutan, a country that knows how to attract tourism in a sustainable manner.