Even though shopping in Bhutan and the handicrafts industry is small due to the financial limitation on tourist numbers, the selection of finely-made and uniquely-designed souvenirs is impressive. Favorites are the colorful textiles, which are bright but not brash, along with traditional rugs, jewelry, and carved and painted wooden artifacts. The unique Himalayan brown-and-cream hardstone beads are considered precious and are expensive, but for those who like the style, reproductions can be found at great prices.
The vibrant colors and designs of Bhutanese stamps are a popular collectors’ fad, and can be bought at Thimphu’s Central Post Office, where there’s a display of first-day issues. Silk and wool fashions and homewares are great buys here, as are the traditional thangka wall hangings decorated with saints, deities, animals of the zodiac, and religious motifs. Buddhist artworks are Tibetan in style and make an unusual gift. Jakar is the place for fine woolen textiles, made up as throws, bags, jackets, and rugs, as well as decorative wall-hangings.
A magic place to buy gifts and souvenirs is the huge weekend market held in Thimphu. The market is packed with stalls selling traditional Bhutanese clothes and goods, as well as Bhutanese honey and local delicacies. In all the main towns are many small handicraft shops specializing in locally-made crafts, including small, portable pieces of furniture and storage boxes with typical painted decoration. Buddhist bronzes are also found, but collectors should remember it’s illegal to buy or sell antiques in Bhutan. Bargaining is also not customary at shopping venues.