A Glimpse of Bhutan

General Information

Trip Overview

Bhutan is the last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom in the world. The lush green valleys, virgin forests, clear fast flowing rivers and an enthralling landscape have made Bhutan an exclusive tourist destination today. The Kingdom has some of the most famous sites in the world for Buddhist pilgrims. Your Bhutan holiday can be the ultimate spiritual experience. It is home to one of the most vibrant un-spoilt traditions and exciting cultures on earth.
Bhutan is a unique country known for its scenic beauty and traditional culture dating back to centuries. The serene countryside is brought alive by colourful Tsechus (festivals) celebrated with dance and music. Religious fervour is all pervading force – it determines the lifestyle of the people and moulds their thought
 Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is no ordinary place.

This is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chillies aren’t just a seasoning but the entire dish. It’s also a deeply Buddhist land, where men wear a tunic to work, where giant protective penises are painted on the walls of most houses, and where Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product. Tourism in Bhutan is also unique.
First off there are the early Buddhist sites in the cultural heartland of Bumthang Dzongkhag and the undisturbed traditional Tibetan-style culture that sets Bhutan aside as the last remaining great Himalayan kingdom. Then there are the textiles, outrageous trekking as well as the stunning flora and fauna of Phobjika Valley. Trashigang is an interesting town and also useful for launching into a trip in Eastern Bhutan.
The natural heritage is more rich and varied in Bhutan than any other Himalayan countries. With more than 70% of its area under forest cover, Bhutan is one of the leading countries in environmental preservation. Various parts of the Kingdom are declared as Wildlife reserves, and they are the natural habitats of rare species of both flora and fauna.
Bhutan is free of air pollution, traffic jams and any of kind of criminal activities that would definitely make your trip to Bhutan a wonderful and unique travel experience. An added bonus would be the friendly charm, ready sense of humour and gracious hospitality of its people
History
Archeological evidence suggests that Bhutan was inhabited by nomadic herders as early as 2000-1500 BC. Although the destruction of original documents in fires and earthquakes has left much of Bhutan’s ancient history obscure, a few of the scriptures that were saved from such natural disasters reveal the prominence of Buddhist tradition and mythology. Other sources rely on reports from British explorers, and on legend and folklore.
Recorded Bhutanese history dates back to the 747 AD when Guru Rinpoche first visited the country. Regarded as the second Buddha and the patron saint of Bhutan, he introduced the Buddhist religion in the country, providing a sense of cohesion during the middle ages.
Until the early 17th century, Bhutan was a cluster of fragmented provinces constantly at odds with each other. It was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a great spiritual personality and leader who brought an end to warring factions and unified the country into one nation, establishing a theocracy in 1652 and introducing a code of law. In the process of crushing several foreign invasions, mainly from Tibet, he initiated the building of many fortresses called Dzongs, which to this day, serves as centers of administration in the country.
The theocracy established by Zhabdrung endured until 1907 when Ugen Wangchuck was elected as the first hereditary king of Bhutan by popular consensus. Jigme Wangchuck succeeded him and ruled the country from 1926 to 1952. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, also known as the father of modern Bhutan, was king from 1952 to 1972. The present king His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne in 1972.
The current king is His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (B. 1980).
Geography
Landlocked between China in the north and India in the south, east and west, Bhutan is a small country with an area of 46,500 square kilometers. Its geography is characteristic of the Eastern Himalayas with elevation ranging from 150 meters above sea level in the south to more than 7,300 meters in the north.

Bhutan is divided into three zones. The southern zone is characteristic of low foothills and dense tropical forests. With an average temperature of 20 degrees centigrade, this region is hot and humid. The central zone is situated between 2000 and 3500 meters. While the climate in the lower valleys is semi-tropical, most of the region is alpine with a monsoon. The central zone is divided into three regions: Western Bhutan, Central Bhutan, and Eastern Bhutan. The northern zone stretches from west to east between 6800 meters to 7400 meters, forming part of the Great Himalayas

Entry Procedure

By Air:
 The best way to enter Bhutan is by Drukair – Royal Bhutan Airlines. The airport is in Paro. During monsoons and winter, unpredictable weather forces can delay flights and travelers should consider including an extra day in their itinerary. Druk Air is the national carrier of the Royal Government of Bhutan and operates to following stations:
India : Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta), Bodhgaya
Nepal : Kathmandu
Thailand : Bangkok
Bangladesh : Dhaka

By Road: 
The nearest Indian airport is Bagdogra, which can be reached by plane from Kolkata and Delhi. The road from Bagdogra connects to Phuentsholing, a border town in Bhutan. It is a 3 – 4 hour drive from the airport. It takes approximately 6 hours from Phuentsholing to Thimphu or Paro.

Visa Formalities
All visitors to Bhutan must prepay for a visa and hold a current passport. Visa fee is US$ 20 and is collected during along with the tour payment. Visa will be entered on arrival in Bhutan though they are cleared in advance and visa clearance numbers are issued.
Visas are not issued at Bhutanese embassies abroad. Visas are issued only when you arrive in Bhutan either at Paro airport or at Phuentsholing or Samdrupjongkhar (if by road). You must apply for a Bhutan visa in advance. You can send the following information and we will take care of the rest.
1. Your full name as it appears in your passport & Gender
2. Permanent Address
3. Occupation/Profession
4. Nationality
5. Passport Number
6. Date of issue and expiry of passport
It is absolutely necessary that you double-check that the information you provided us with is correct. There will be delays and complications in issuing the visa when you arrive in Bhutan if there are discrepancies in any important numbers.
Drukair will not issue the tickets to Paro until they receive the visa confirmation number from the Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.

CLIMATE
Bhutan has an unusual variety of climate influenced by varying altitudes. Southern Bhutan, which is situated at low altitudes, has mild winters and hot summers during which morning and evening showers are common.
Paro, Thimphu and other temperate regions have cold winters with sunny skies. In spring and autumn, days are warm but nights are cool. Summers are warm with light but frequent rainfall. The lower temperate regions such as Punakha and Trashigang have mild winters and warm summers.
Spring is generally from March through May, summer from June through August, autumn from September through November and winter from December through February.

MONEY

The Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum . The Ngultrum is at par with the Indian Rupee. US Dollars are widely accepted throughout the kingdom and traveler’s checks can be exchanged at the bank. Ngultrum will be required for smaller purchases of souvenirs beyond Thimphu. Credit cards are now accepted in some locations but checks are generally not accepted.

TRANSPORT

Japanese vehicles are regarded as the most appropriate for the Bhutanese conditions. To ensure comfort and safety for our guests we use vehicle of high quality. We use Toyota Coaster buses for larger groups and Toyota or Nissan cars for smaller groups. The vehicles are given an all round mechanical check up before the tours.

FOOD

The Bhutanese delicacies are rich with spicy chilies and cheese. Our selected chain of hotels; lodges and guesthouses offer delicious Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian dishes. Even on treks, our trekking team is prepared to serve Continental, Chinese, Indian and Bhutanese dishes.

TIME

Bhutan Standard Time is 15 Minute ahead of Nepali Standard Time and 6.15 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Government Office Timing:
Summer ( March-November): 9AM – 5PM
Winter (December-February): 9AM – 4PM

ELECTRICITY & PLUG TYPE

Current is 220-240 Volts. The plug is round, 3 prong, British Type.

TIPPING & GIFT

Tipping is at each visitor’s discretion. Visitors are requested not to give candy, gum, pens, pencils, balloons, etc. to children , who soon learn to demand gifts; or not to hand out medicines to local people which may be inappropriate for their medical problems and delay their seeking professional help. If you want to give children pens, pencils, etc. it is better to give them to local schools. We will be happy to arrange a visit to a local school if you indicate at the time of booking. Instead of gifts, you can show them books and pictures of your country, your home, your children, etc. or teach them a song or a game.

SHOPPING

All visitors are welcome to visit the Handicraft Centre or all local shops, which contains a very wide range of traditional and modern items. Beautiful hand woven textiles, postage traditional handmade paper, colorful bamboo baskets, thankas, ceramics, musical instruments and masks are some of many favorite items for purchase from Bhutan. The textiles with intricate patterns that take months to weave are made of cotton, wool or raw silk. Ethnic silver jewelry can also be found. The best shopping to be found is in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

PHOTOGRAPHY

All visitors should bring with them everything they need to take pictures. The photographic opportunities are immense on all trips. Also most important while visiting Dzongs, Monasteries and other religious monuments, please follow your tour guide’s instructions properly and carefully .

HEALTH INFORMATION

No vaccinations are currently required for traveling to Bhutan. However if you are arriving an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination and it shall be administered at least 10 days before your arrival into Bhutan. Also if arriving from Cholera infected area, the vaccination is strongly recommended for all travelers who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India.

CLOTHING

Because of the variety of climates you may encounter in one day, choose garments, which can be layered. This means that the majority of your clothing can be worn in layers, so that you can put on more clothing if it is cold or take off layers as it warms up. In general, from June to September cottons and a good sweater will be enough, but from October to May you will need warm clothes including long underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, and a down jacket or a warm coat. Also don’t forget to bring an umbrella or a rain jacket. Comfortable sports shoes are highly recommended and mountain boots are necessary if you come on a trek or plan to hike up to Taktsang. In Bhutan, you can get sun burnt quite quickly. Don’t forget to include a sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and barrier cream for your nose and lips in your packing list.

ACCOMODATIONS

We use what we consider to be the nicest accommodations in Bhutan (with the exception of the new resorts, which we can book). Hotels in w estern Bhutan have better standards than ones in the Central and Eastern part of the country. All accommodations are approved by the Department of Tourism, Royal Government of Bhutan. Each one is clean, comfortable, offering a warm welcome, friendly smile and restful haven that are much appreciated after a day of cultural exploration. All the hotels, lodges and guesthouses are equipped with telephones, fax machines and international dialing

Tariff:
The Department of Tourism has set minimum tariffs which are different for the high and low seasons. Individuals and groups of less than four persons must pay a surcharge. The rates are the same for both cultural tours and treks.

Season:
March-May and September-November are the high season months, while June, July and December-February comprise the low season. Bring cotton or light woolen wear in summer (maximum temperature 30 degrees Celsius) and heavy woolens and down jacket in winter (minimum 1.1 degrees Celsius).

Adventure:
Culture tour, Trekking and mountaineering.

Place of Interest

nown to the natives as Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon), Bhutan is regarded as the last paradise on earth. Its isolation, spectacular mountains, varied flora and fauna, ancient Buddhist monasteries, vibrant culture and mystic aura have made it so. Though small in size, the kingdom’s topography is one of dramatic contrasts. From the near-tropical southern border with India at an altitude of 300 m, the land rises to culminate in the over 7000-m peaks of the Himalaya in the north which form a natural frontier with the Tibetan region of Bhutan ‘s northern neighbor, China……

Bhutan offers many opportunities for tours with its splendid scenic beauty, lofty mountains and deep valleys untouched by modernization. Tours in this Himalayan kingdom is a wonderful experience for any one who enjoys meeting indigenous people and their cultures. The country ranges from the dense forest of subtropical jungles to the alpine shrubs, endowed with a wide spectrum of Himalayan flora and fauna. The land is thinly populated with scattered settlements.

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