Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon is one of the most exotic destinations in the world today. This kingdom, often referred to as the last Shangri-la, is a land of outstanding people, remarkable scenery and natural wonders, and a proud and vibrant culture. Wedged between the world's giants, India and the Tibetan region of China, Bhutan is today slowly opening up to the world through a sensitive approach to tourism. You can now discover the cultural and natural wonders of this last remaining Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom of the Himalaya.
Here is a kingdom that is just throwing off the veil of mystery, and opening its doors to visitors. Bhutan has a pristine environment, almost no pollution, and a living culture where festivals and cultural events are a part of daily life and not creations for tourism. Let us take care of your needs on your tour of this little known kingdom.
The ancient period of Bhutan that dates from the beginning till the 8th century AD, was marked by rural settlement, domestication of animals, agriculture, the first advent of Buddhism and subsequent buildings of Buddhist temples. The visit of Guru Padmasambhava and other Buddhists saints and scholars from India and Tibet marked the medieval Bhutan. Emergence of ruling clans and development of arts and architecture were also seen during this period.
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a leader of the Drukpa sect, came to Bhutan in 17th century. He introduced the dual system of Government and for the first time some degree of stability was maintained, which was unseen before. But this did not last long. After Ngawang Namgyal's death, successors became victims of intrigues and rivalries. The instability continued till the early 20th century.
The country's modern period began with the establishment of monarchy in Bhutan. The powerful Bhutanese Chief, Ugyen Wangchuk was crowned as the first hereditary ruler of Bhutan in 1907. The country's self-imposed policy of isolation continued till the reign of the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He decided to shed this age-old policy and introduced the country to the outside world, bringing the country into the international mainstream.Though the country is known as Bhutan to the outside world, to Bhutanese it has been known as Druk Yul 'Land of the Thunder Dragon'. The people call themselves Drukpas.
Bhutan is a landlocked country wedged between the autonomous region of Tibet, China, in the north and India in the south along the lofty mountains of the eastern Himalayas. It is located between 88°45'and 92°10' longitude east and between 26°40' and 28°15' latitude north. It covers 46,500 square kilometres and has population of 650,000 with seventy five percent of the population living on cultivation and livestock rearing. The country can be divided into three major geographic zones: the southern foothills and plains with hot and humid climate, the hills and valleys in the centre with moderate rainfall and the highland of the north with high mountains covered with snow almost throughout the year.
Bhutan is the land of complex gorges and valleys, soaring snow-peaked mountains and steep slopes, humid jungles and foothills, magnificent lakes and waterfalls, fast flowing rivers and streams and the richest biodiversity of flora and fauna.
he people of Bhutan can be classified into three main ethnic groups: Sharchops, who live in east of the country, are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. They are Indo-Mongoloid origin and appear closely related to the inhabitants of northeast India and northern Burma. The Ngalongs are of Tibetan descendant migrated to Bhutan in the 9th century and settled west of the country. The third group Lhotsampas are the Nepali origin that settled in the foothills of southern Bhutan in mid 19th century. There are other minority groups in Bhutan such as Layap, Brokpa, Doya, Lhopu, Dhakpa and Lepcha.
The men wear a knee-length garment called 'Gho' which resembles the Scottish Kilt. The women wear a long robe 'Kira', which is wrapped around the body covering it from neck to ankle. Women usually wear heavy silver and gold necklaces with coral, turquoise and other precious stones. Rings and earrings decorated with pearls and turquoise are also popular.
The early inhabitants of Bhutan practiced 'Bonism', a practice of making animal sacrifice and worshiping non-living objects such as mountains, lakes, rivers, trees and rocks. With the advent of Buddhism in 7th century the Bonism gradually disappeared from the country.
The country's official religion is Drukpa Kagye, school of tantric Mahayana Buddhism, which is similar to Tibetan Buddhism but has unique beliefs and practices. The religious affair of the country is looked after by the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) who also enjoys equal power as the king. The Bhutanese people of Nepali origin in the south practice Hinduism.
The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, which is widely spoken in western region. The eastern region of the country speak Sharchop, where as the people in the south speak Nepali.
English has been used as the medium of instructions in schools and institutes. The country's national newspaper Kuensel is written in English, Dzongkha and Nepali.
The staple food of Bhutanese is rice and vegetables with abundant chillies. Bhutanese eat incredible amount of chillies. It is used as vegetable rather than as spices. Most Bhutanese prefer 'Emadatse' a dish made entirely of chillies mixed with cheese. Meat is widely eaten in Bhutan. Common meat includes pork, beef, chicken, fish and yak meat. The Bhutanese also eat a variety of vegetables, including potatoes, fern, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, beans and mushrooms.
In central Bhutan, buckwheat is cultivated as one of the main cereals. The rice is not grown due to high altitude. The Bumthang region is famous for its buckwheat pancakes. The Bhutanese are fond of taking 'suja' (butter tea) and 'ara', an alcohol distilled from the brewery of locally produced rice, wheat, maize or corn. Drinks are also used as a part of offerings while performing ceremonies on different occasions.
The annual festival is called 'Tshechu'. It is one of the most exciting experiences that the visitor can have in Bhutan. It is celebrated in honour of Guru Padmasambhava who visited Bhutan in 7th century. During the Tshechu, the monks and laymen perform mask dances and the religious skits. It is also the time for the people to socialize and rejoice. Men, women and children are attired in their best silk and brocade, and intricately woven colourful ghos and kiras.In some festivals you can witness the unveiling of a "thongdrel", (a giant appliqued thangka) that is hung from a wall in the Dzong's courtyard. Punakha Dzong has the largest thongdrel in Bhutan.
Bhutan has about 72% of its area under forest cover. Over 5000 species of plants grow in Bhutan. These include 300 species of medicinal plants, over 50 species of rhododendron and 600 species of orchids. The great variety of fauna includes: elephants, tigers, buffalo, one horned rhinoceros (rhinoceros unicornis), leopards (panthara pardus), gaur, red pandas, langur monkeys, wild boar, deer, white-collared black bears, yaks (bos gruniens), tahr (hemitragus jemlahicus) and goral (naemorhedus goral). Brown trout and local fishes are found in northern rivers and lakes, while in the south the rivers are full of masheer.
The rare and exotic species found in Bhutan are: golden langur (found only in Bhutan), pangolin, pygmy hog, snow leopard, red pandas, wild buffalo, monal peasant, peacock peasant, raven, rufous-necked hornbill, white-bellied heron, common shelduck, ruddy duck, black necked crane, golden masheer, spotted deer, leopard, leopard cat, himalayan black bear, serow, snow leopard, takin, musk deer, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan marten, tiger, hornbills, pheasants, mountain goats and timid blue sheep. About 675 species of birds have been recorded in Bhutan and more than 16 different species of birds are included in the lists of endangered species.
All visitors travelling to Bhutan are required to obtain a visa and it is processed and arranged by the local tour operators. No foreign mission grants Bhutan tourist visa.
We will handle the visa procedures for you. The Govt. will sanction visa only after the receipt of full payment in advance. The cost of the visa itself is US $20, which can be further extended with an additional fee of US $15. Visa fee should be paid along with the tour payment and actual Bhutan visa will be stamped on your passport on arrival on Paro airport.
For all travellers, entering into the country by road through Phuntsholing (border town in the south of Bhutan), the visa is stamped on arrival at Phuntsholing.
Visa applications must reach Bhutan at least three weeks prior to your arrival date to allow time for processing.
How to send us your VISA details?
We will send you a visa form which you can simply fill up and send us and we will apply for your visa and send you visa clearance letter later. We do not share or trade your information. Please see our Terms & Conditions
You can visit Bhutan anytime of the year. Visitors tend to stay away during the monsoon months of June, July and August when the weather is sometimes a little too wet for sightseeing. The best time for trekking is in spring and autumn. Hence, the months of March, April, May and Sept, October, November.
Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. In the months of October, November, December, January and February, mornings and evenings will be cold. You will have to being in warm clothes (thick overcoats not necessary). While the months of March, April, May, June, July, August and September the days are warmer. June, July and August will be little wet and some rain gears would be necessary.
Bhutan offers generally modest but clean hotels. There are none of the chain hotels in Bhutan although a couple of high end resorts have been opened in some districts. Bhutan Travellers puts you up in the best available hotels that are classified and approved by the Royal Government. Visitors are advised not to expect luxury or five star hotel services. Bhutan's local hospitality is, however, an insight into a society where tourism may be a new venture, but where visitors are greeted with true warmth and friendship.
Generally, tourist facilities and services are good in western Bhutan, but the quality of service and facilities decreases the further east we go. This is because tourism is less developed in the more remote east.
Bhutan Travellers arranges comfortable passenger coaster buses for groups of seven visitors or more. You will also be travelling comfortably throughout the country in six seated Japanese hi-ace buses. Smaller groups of one to two passengers will discover the country in cars.
A variety of meals are available in most hotels – the most popular being Indian, Chinese, and the more common continental food. Non vegetarian dishes are generally available in most parts of Bhutan - pork, beef, chicken, and fish. The best advice is to ask the hotel and restaurant to recommend what is fresh and in season.
There are 2 ways through which you can enter Bhutan : By Druk Air
The best way to enter Bhutan is by Druk Air, the national air carrier. The following cities are connected to Bhutan with Druk Air flights :
India : Delhi (DEL), Kolkata (CCU) & Gaya (GAY)
Nepal : Kathmandu (KTM)
Bangladesh : Dhaka (DAC)
Thailand : Bangkok (BKK)
Druk Air is the only airline operating in Bhutan. As Druk Air flights may be delayed because of weather in the monsoon (July & August), it is advisable to keep a 24-hour gap before any onward international connections.
Bhutan Travellers can assist you in arranging your Druk Air flights. For the Druk Air reservation, we would require your full names as in your passports. We will buy your Druk Air tickets and send them to you in advance.
‘There is one overland entry and 2 exit points :
Both entry and exit can be done via Phuntsholing
You can enter/exit Bhutan overland from the Indian state of West Bengal into Phuntsholing, border town in southwest of Bhutan. Four hours drive from Phuntsholing will take you to Bagdogra in the state of West Bengal (India) which is the nearest airport from Phuntsholing. Phuntsholing serves as a convenient point for the travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal along with Bhutan. The drive from Phuntsholing to Thimphu takes six hours.
Only exit can be done via Samdrup Jongkhar is in southeast, 110 km from Guwahati, India, which is nearest to the Guwahati Airport. From Guwahati, you may fly into other Indian cities like Delhi, Bombay or Kolkata and to your onward flight connections. This exit is more convenient if the travellers do not wish to travel back the same lateral route to Paro for the flights and who would like to combine Assam trips with Bhutan.
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