5 Travel tips to know before planning your Bhutan Tour

5 Travel tips to know before planning your Bhutan Tour

5-Travel-tips-to-know-before-planning-your-Bhutan-Tour

Bhutan is a paradise full of amazing people, deep history, and mesmerizing culture unlike anything else in the world. Here, the past is ever-present and alive from its people to the architecture and everything in between. A perfect destination for travelers who want an air of mystery and vibrant city life mixed with tradition and spirituality.

Travel to Bhutan is easier than before thanks to the country slowly opening up to tourists from around the world. However, unlike most tourist destinations, Bhutan puts heavy emphasis on sustainable tourism which is in line with their commitment to being one of the most sustainable countries in the world.

There are a lot of fun things you can do in this lovely country like going outdoors or visiting temples. If you have not figured out what to do yet, here is a great Bhutan Travel guide you should definitely check out. But before you go, here are things you should consider when traveling into this wonderful nation.

Book a tour package

Unlike most countries today, tourists and visitors are not able to freely enter the country. One must book with one of the government accredited tour companies to be allowed to visit this country. The visa application costs $250 per day which can be very steep for most especially budget travelers.

But the high cost actually includes all the things you need during your visit such as hotel accommodations, choice of water or tea, entrance fees and your driver and guide including your own private transport. A large part of this fee also goes directly to funding the country’s education and health programs which makes you a direct contributor to the betterment of the country.

Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians are exempted from the only guided tour policy. They are free to enter the country—either via land or plane—and are entitled to a 60-day Bhutan visa upon entry. If you are not a citizen from these countries, however, you need to coordinate with your travel agency to get your Bhutan visa application approved. They will send you a visa clearance letter from your tour provider which you will need to present before you are allowed to enter. Once inside, you are not allowed to travel between cities without your guide however, you are free to explore the city alone as much as you like.

Prepare for the climate

5 Travel tips to know before planning your Bhutan Tour

By ©Christopher J. Fynn / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3441831

Bhutan has varied elevation throughout its entirety. From the lofty Himalayan peaks of the north to the low lying valleys scattered throughout the country. This could mean you get to experience in a wide variety of weather conditions depending on the locations you want to visit and the time of the year. Packing light is the best way to go for maximum mobility.

Spring and fall are the best times for a Bhutan trip. Though it can get cold, this offers clear skies perfect if you want to marvel at the great Himalayan peaks without the clouds blocking your view.

The weather would also be perfect for people who enjoy the outdoors without breaking a sweat. Bring a couple of outerwear like a jacket as it could get really chilly at times.

Summer is Monsoon season in Bhutan. Though heavy downpour is a rare occurrence, trecking might still be difficult and could even be temporarily closed off. Bring appropriate rain gear and footwear as trails can be really muddy. It usually rains for a couple of hours in the morning so try scheduling your treks a later in the day so you get to enjoy the trail without getting soaked.

Read up on local customs

Bhutan is still a very conservative country and visitors are expected to follow local courtesy and etiquette. Acquainting yourself with some of these basic courtesies ensures is crucial especially for first-time travelers. Never demean or insult the Royal family in any way as the Bhutanese people hold them in very high regard. Avoid being loud and rowdy especially around holy places like the temple complexes.

When visiting Dzongs⁠—a kind of fortress structure with religious and administrative buildings inside⁠—you should be wearing appropriate attire for you to be allowed in temple interiors. Proper attire includes long pants and long-sleeved shirts that completely cover your legs and arms respectively. Jackets need to be properly worn, i.e. not tied to the waist and should be buttoned and zipped. Hats and other head covering should be removed when entering temples although they are allowed outside the Dzongs or the courtyard.

Another thing you should prepare yourself for is the prolific use of phallic symbols all across the country. For outsiders, especially western tourists, this can be quite shocking to see. In Bhutan, these symbols are meant to ward off evil spirits and are therefore painted near entrances and doorways to homes and businesses.

Get the necessary medical preparations

So you have your itinerary all sorted out, you have also packed all the necessary things you will need on the trip. All that’s left now is to prepare your body for the journey. Before traveling to the country, it is a great idea to visit your doctor and get yourself screened. Going to a new unfamiliar place, it is best to get all the necessary vaccine shots in order to protect yourself. For starters, it’s great to get MMR and Hepatitis A shots. Getting a tetanus shot is also a good idea since you will be spending some time in the outdoors. If you need medications, it is best to get them ahead especially for hard to get medication.

Prepare for the Bhutanese food experience

Prepare for the Bhutanese food experience

If you’re a fan of hot and spicy food, Bhutan’s food is definitely up your alley. Bhutan’s food is known to be very spicy as chili has been deeply ingrained into Bhutanese society that they consume the spice on the daily. Ema Datshi⁠—Bhutan’s national dish⁠—is made with rice and a special cheese sauce all topped with very hot chili. A definite must-try for foodies worldwide. Do not worry though as your guides will ask you before-hand if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies. Most of the restaurants in the cities are also quite accommodating and will cook up a non-spicy batch for you provided that they are informed beforehand.

Interesting Facts about Bhutan

15 Interesting facts about Bhutan you didn’t know.

Interesting-Facts-about-Bhutan

  1. Tourism in Bhutan began in 1974 coinciding with the coronation of the 4th King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wanchuck – with the arrival of 287 tourist in the same year. Bhutan tourism corporation, a tourism regulatory body was formed in the same year.
  2. As most citizens don’t know their date of birth, the government listed them as born on New Year’s Day in their identity cards. As such, all citizens officially become one year older on New Year’s Eve.
  3. At 24,840 feet, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest point in Bhutan—and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
  4. Plastic bags are banned in Bhutan.
  5. Bhutan is the only country in the world where there is a festival to welcome migrating birds.
  6. Animal slaughter is banned in Bhutan.
  7. The University of Texas at El Paso, USA, has been built in traditional Bhutanese architectural style.
  8. In Bhutan, inheritance is generally passed on to the daughter rather than the son. And so, after marriage, a man often moves into the home of his new wife.
  9. Television and Internet came to Bhutan only in 1999.
  10. Bhutan is the only country in the world that has no traffic lights.
  11. Chili is the main dish in Bhutan. All other dishes merely take up space along the edge of the plate.
  12. Bhutan is the first country in the world to ban tobacco.
  13. Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon negative – meaning that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits.
  14. Bhutan got its first paved road only in 1962.
  15. The Bhutanese believe that phalluses help ward off evil. Hence it is common to find phallus drawings in most houses.

Bhutanese Folk Dance

Folk dances of Bhutan are traditional dances of Bhutan with unique form and style which defines the rich culture of Bhutan that has been performed since ancestral paradise and passed on to generations.

Bhutan Folk dances originated during the early period of Buddhist saints and Zhungdra is one of the oldest folk dances of that period.  In early years Folk dances were performed in the court yard of Palace and also inside the Dzongs to entertain Royals and the Guests. Now they perform during festivals (Tshechu) and special Occasions to entertain Special guests.

Cham (mask dance) is also one of the traditional dances, which is originated during 8th century by Buddhist saints and later developed and performed during Tshechu of different regions during different months of Bhutan according to Bhutanese calendar.

Bhutanese Folk dances are performed as a welcome dance in the beginning of Special events and Occasion.

Bhutan’s traditional dance has become a daily life activity of Bhutanese passed on to generations. It is the natural ability of all the Bhutanese to perform local folk dance during local village festivals and marriage ceremonies. Now it has become Tourist attraction which is performed to entertain tourists on demand by special group of people organized by RAPA (Royal Academy of Performing Arts).

Bhutan host to over 11,000 species of biodiversity

Bhutan is a host to more than 11,000 species of biodiversity as per the Biodiversity statistics of Bhutan released yesterday. The figure accounts for 0.8 per cent of the total biodiversity recorded for the world. There are 1.4 million species of biodiversity listed in the world to date.

Bhutan-host-to-over-11,000-species-of-biodiversity

Plant and animal species account for more than 93 per cent of the 11,000 plus species. The country recorded 5,114 species of animals and 5,369 for species of plants. Although not so significant, there are also a number of species of fungi, bacteria, chromista and protista in the country.

Bhutan hosts 13 vulnerable, 11 endangered and two critically endangered mammal species. Likewise, the country has 22 vulnerable, four endangered and four critically endangered bird species. There are also eight vulnerable and three endangered fish species, 11 vulnerable, five endangered and two critically endangered amphibians, and one vulnerable butterfly.

Courtesy: BBS

In Happy Bhutan, The PM is a Doctor on Saturdays

Despite recently taking office as the new prime minister of Bhutan, 51-year-old Lotay Tshering, president of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (the Bhutan United Party), has found a measure of social media fame as he still finds time to put his medical training to good use, attending surgery and seeing patients on Saturday mornings and undertaking academic rounds with trainee medical staff and new doctors every Thursday morning.

In Happy Bhutan, The PM is a Doctor on Saturdays

Tshering, a trained urologist, was sworn in as prime minister of the Himalayan kingdom in November last year, but his reluctance to completely give up treating patients has seen pictures of him at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in the capital Thimphu shared widely on social media to an enthusiastic reception among Bhutanese Facebook users.

“I won’t leave my practice for anything. All that I am today is because of that, even becoming a prime minister. Therefore, even today I see patients and conduct surgeries every Thursday and Saturday morning,” Tshering is quoted as saying on Facebook. “I was not born a doctor, but I will die as one.”

Born in 1968, Tshering graduated with an MBBS degree from Mymensingh Medical College under Dhaka University in Bangladesh in 2001. He studied urology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2007, becoming the only practicing trained urologist in Bhutan. Tshering obtained a fellowship in endourology at Singapore General Hospital, and Okayama University, Japan and in 2014 he received an MBA from the University of Canberra, Australia.

Courtesy: Global Buddhist Door.

01/01/Year Bhutanese Citizens’ Happy Birthday!

July 7, 2016.

Thank you, thank you. I may tell you, my birthday always takes me by surprise, every time, every year. You know I don’t know my birthday.

My mother didn’t record my birthday. I don’t blame her. I suppose she was in a great deal of pain. My father, I guess, was too excited. I don’t blame him either. I was born, around this time of the year, coinciding with the paddy transplantation season, which starts with the onset of the monsoon. I cooked up my date of birth for my school records.

Bhutanese Citizens' Happy Birthday

Photo Courtesy: Insider-journeys

Apparently, I am not the only guy who doesn’t know his birthday. A delegation of Bhutanese folk singers was traveling to Germany for an international festival. At an airport, they lined up, at the immigration counter, in their finest silk Gho and Kira, not to mention the colorful tsholham. The immigration official on duty, a lanky fellow sporting a beard and wearing a turban, examined the passport of the delegation leader. He absentmindedly noted that the portly, balding Bhutanese gentleman was born on 1st January. He peered at the photo on the passport and studied the face of the gentleman standing ramrod straight in front of him, looked back at the passport, casually examined it again, stamped it and sent him through. The next guy in line, another man, with a fast receding hairline and an ever expanding waistline, promptly approached the counter. The immigration official noted he was born on 1st January too. He was bemused but he sent the man through too after carefully examining his passport and stamping it with a thud.

The next delegation member jumped in line. The immigration official saw he was born on 1st January too. By now he was bewildered. He thought to himself, how on earth could all the guys on the same delegation, traveling on the same flight, to the same festival be born on 1st January. Nonetheless, he examined the passport. There was nothing wrong and he was also sent through. The fourth delegation member stood in from of him. She was also born on 1st January. By now, the immigration official thought, something was amiss. He called his supervisor, another lanky fellow with a beard and a turban. They whispered to each other for what seemed like a long time and together they rounded up the entire delegation. They made some calls. They were joined by a few officials. They spoke to each other and politely asked the delegation members to wait in a cordoned off area. The time to board the plane to Germany was fast approaching.

Apparently it was not the first time they were held up at an international airport. The delegation leader whipped out his smart phone and made a call. Before long, a Bhutanese official, neatly dressed in a spotless white shirt and black pants, appeared on the scene. He spoke to the immigration guys briefly. They all laughed good humorously. The immigration officials, still laughing, apologized to the waiting Bhutanese delegation and waved them through.

It is not just the delegation members who were born on 1st January. My father was born on 1st January. So was my mother. So were my uncles and aunts. And they are not alone. Almost everybody in my village was born on 1st January. They were most likely recorded as having born on 1st January by some imaginative immigration official when he visited the village to carry out the census registration.

And I bet, that would be the case in every village. Not many people recorded the date of birth in the past and not many people celebrated birthdays. So there you go. A very happy birthday indeed.

Article Courtesy: Kaka Tshering

School among Glaciers

A school teacher is assigned to Bhutan’s remotest school. Midway into his session he is told that the school has to be closed as the inhabitants leave the valley to escape the winter. One of the best documentaries from Bhutan and the first one to win several international awards in Japan, South Korea, Netherlands and Switzerland, School Among Glaciers is truly a masterpiece.

Courtesy: Bhutan Documentaries

Man who Bagpipes around the World makes Bhutan the 82nd Country he has played at

In his quest to be the first to bagpipe across the globe, Ross OC Jennings was in Bhutan, the 82nd country he has travelled to since 2014.

During his bagpiping journey, he plays his folk music in his kilt, knee-high socks and a white shirt. “These shoes have travelled to 40 countries. This is the second pair of shoes,” he said showing his worn out pair.

In Bhutan, Ross, 28, has performed for the students of Bayta Primary School in Phobjikha, Wangdue and for HRH Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck in Thimphu. “I wanted to perform at the Tiger’s nest but it would be disrespectful, so I did not perform there,” he said.

His bagpiping adventure began in 2014 when attending a travel expo in London.

No sooner had he quit his job at a technology start- up, and kicked-off his kilted adventure in Tunisia, he was frisked by the Tunisian police. That was in May 2014.

With little knowledge in French, Arabic, and Tunisian—the languages spoken in Tunisia, he said he could barely understand that he was in a problem.

Courtesy: Kuensel Online

Lyonpo TT’s Ted Talk

The Hindu Kush Himalaya region is the world’s third-largest repository of ice, after the North and South Poles — and if current melting rates continue, two-thirds of its glaciers could be gone by the end of this century. What will happen if we let them melt away? Environmentalist and former Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay shares the latest from the “water towers of Asia,” making an urgent call to create an intergovernmental agency to protect the glaciers — and save the nearly two billion people downstream from catastrophic flooding that would destroy land and livelihoods.

Courtesy: TED

 

The Nomadic herdsmen of the Eastern Himalayas(the “Brokpas”)

The Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng

The Brokpas : “Brok” meaning Highland and “Pa” meaning inhabitant, are a unique semi nomadic tribe who reside in the two blocks of Merak and Sakteng valleys of far eastern Trashigang district bordering Arunachal Pradesh, India. In fact there are Bokpas in large numbers in Arunachal and Tibet too. According to their oral history, the Brokpas originated from the Yarlung Village in the Tshona region of South Tibet and came to Bhutan after they beheaded a tyrannical king in their ancestral village. The King’s palace never had enough sunlight due to the shade of a hill, so he issued a decree to cut down and level the hill.

The villagers were then induced to kill the King by Aum Jomo in the disguise of a woman with a little child. Led through the mountains by the deity Aum Jomo and the Guru Lam Jarepa, they first landed in present day Arunachal Pradesh in India and then into Bhutan and  brought along with them scores of religious texts, their form of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, and their distinct culture. They however, could not settle in Somathang village in Arunachal because of famine and snakebites. Lam Jarepa consulted Aum Jomo, who waved a white fabric towards the east. During the journey, lam Jarepa is said to have cleared a path by piercing through a treacherous rock. This rock can still be found at Arunachal Pradesh and Sakteng border. On reaching Tsholung (evil lake that disappeared humans into clouds), lam Jarepa divided the lake into three. Each belonged to the three ethnic groups of Brokpas (Kom, Lon and Rok).  The three lakes still exist in northern Sakteng, where nomads today use the surrounding as grazing land (Tsamdro).

The Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng

The Brokpa people are semi-nomadic yak herders who have lived largely in isolation since arriving to Bhutan. The Brokpas are transhumance pastoralists whose profession and livelihood is dependent on yak rearing and use resources like high mountain pastures characteristically by their unique mobility patterns. Several of their villages, like Sakteng, Tengma, and Borang Tse, still have no road access today. Others, like Merak, can be reached by car safely only during the dry season. As a result of their remoteness in the country, the Brokpa’s language and customs are very unique than other Bhutanese ethnic groups.

The interesting legendary story that goes around says that after entering Bhutan from Tibet, a group of weaker ones couldn’t cross a high mountain pass, The Nakchungla Pass (4153m), so they settled in the Sakteng valley area and the rest went further on to the Merak valley and settled there. So between the two valleys, the joke that goes is that the Brokpas of Sakteng are the weaklings compared to the ones in Merak. It’s just an oral story, so the authenticity can’t actually be verified.

These Brokpas’ main source of livelihood are the yaks, though they raise sheep, pigs, chicken etc. Only 3% of their land is arable so they depend on their yaks and move with them according to the weather. Their principal crops include corn, buckwheat, barley, and beets. They work for long hours in the fields in order to get produce enough produce to feed their families in the harsh climate. Other important activities include herding yaks and sheep, and spinning and weaving wool.

The Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng - Yaks

So the Brokpas move seasonally with their animals with their system of transhumance mobility which are basically yaks and sheep between fresh pastures while keeping their eyes open for the revered yeti, or “migoi”, an animal so important in this part of the world that Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary was created to protect it. In the autumn Brokpa men on horseback race to the sacred mountain Jomo Kukhar (after Aum Jomo) to honour their protective deity, the mountain goddess Jomo Kuengkhar.  Racing is followed by rounds of home-brewed wine, prayers, songs and dances offered in return for blessings for prosperity. The immense privilege of trekking in this remote wilderness is to find a people whose culture seems frozen in time as they continue to live and practice their age old customs and traditions in much the same way as their ancestors did. The intrepid travelers who make it here though the deep valleys and over the 4153m Nachungla Pass might even be lucky and be treated to Ache-Lhamo nomadic celebration or a Yak Cham  or ” the dance of the yaks”.

Brokpa women

The Brokpa women wear their hair long and they typically wear red and white silk ponchos, red silk jackets decorated with animal designs, and red wool capes. They may also wear braided black wool jackets. The men wear leather or cloth pants under big, white wool trousers; red wool jackets; and sometimes sleeveless outer garments made of leather and felt. Both men and women wear turquoise earrings. The most distinctive part of the Brokpa outfit, however, is the unique felt hat like discs made from yak hair and has five tail-like “spouts” that allow water to drain and the head to stay dry. They follow the “Red Hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditional Tibetan shamanism is also practiced by some. The shamanists believe in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits. They depend on a shaman (priest or priestess) to communicate with the spirits on their behalf. Most Buddhist families have shrines for worship inside their homes.

Now that modernity has set in, there is even a 7 day Merak Sakteng Trek for travelers.

Max Elevation 4,100 m
Min Elevation 1,500 m
Difficulty Medium
Season March, April, May, September, October, November
No. of Days 7 Days

Itineraries

Day 1: Chaling – Damnongchu

Day 2: Damnongchu – Merak

Day 3: Merak – Miksa Teng

Day 4: Miksa Teng – Sakteng

Day 5: Sakteng Day Halt

Day 6: Sakteng – Jyonkhar Teng

Day 7: Jyonkhar Teng – Phongmay

Why visit Bhutan? Bhutan Travel Guide.

Why visit Bhutan? Bhutan Travel Guide.

1. About Bhutan:

Bhutan is a small country, mountainous and predominantly Mahayana Buddhist with a geographical area of 38,816km² with a sparse population of about 7,50,000 people in the eastern Himalayas. The natives are generally nice, simple and unsophisticated in nature, smiling most of the time with great hearts. Bhutan is often described in the entire world as the last “Shangri La” on earth, a Himalayan Utopia with its own unique charm and identity. The kind of tradition and culture you will get to see and experience in Bhutan is so different and unique that it could be the experience of a life time for you.

All along its history, it was never conquered or colonized by any foreign power. It has had a very interesting geographical river valley system wherein there the valleys are separated by the high mountains and a river flowing through them mostly from north to south. It’s in these broad and narrow valleys where the majority of the populace resided. That was because of the fertile land in those valleys and the freely available water for agriculture. So every valley has its own character and the valleys are never close enough, and because of the inhospitable and inaccessible mountainous terrain, communication was not always at its best. So this self isolation even from the rest of their own countrymen may have been the primary reason why the Bhutanese have been so independent minded all through the ages. Your Bhutan Travel/Travel to Bhutan can be a very interesting one if you understand these finer details of the country that most visitors haven’t.

2. 5 reasons why Chef Vikas Khanna loves Thimphu:

(Award-winning Chef, Vikas Khanna is the owner of New York’s Michelin star restaurant, Junoon).

3. The history of Dzongs:

Bhutan Travel Guide

In those ancient times, every formidable valley or area used to have large fortresses called “Dzongs” that housed the administrative and monastic HQs of that particular region which are still in use even today apart from the various monasteries, temples known as “Lhakhangs” and other religious sites. The Architecture of Bhutanese Dzongs is perhaps unique to just Bhutan. Thus we have Dzongs like the Punakha Dzong, the Rinpung Dzong, Simtokha, Wanguephodrang, Trongsa, Jakar, Trashigang, Mongar Dzongs et al with their own area of jurisdiction. The biggest among them is the Trongsa Dzong, followed by the Punakha and Trashigang Dzongs. Most of the important and powerful Dzongs except the Trongsa Dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who himself came to Bhutan via Laya in Gasa district in northern Bhutan from Ralung in Tibet in the 1600s.

He in fact built the Dzongs and unified Bhutan into one and introduced the administrative and monastic systems. These Dzongs were always built at such strategic places from where the attacking enemies could be easily subdued and driven away. The Zhabdrung used to get visions for the sites of Dzongs to be built at night from The wonder saint “Guru Rinpoche”, who came to Bhutan from India in the 8th century. Prior to his arrival in Bumthang in central Bhutan, the Bhutanese mostly practiced the Bon religions and believed in protective deities. Guru Rinpoche introduced Buddhism to the Bumthang valley and then preached and spread it to the rest of the country.

Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Trongsa and Bumthang for example are the must visit places along with other various historical places and monumental sites. Each place, each Dzong has its own unique history and tradition. Plus the numerous monasteries and Lhakhangs that exist at different places in the whole country.

4. 10 Must visit places in Bhutan:

Most of the important places are in excess of 2000m and the highest motorable mountain pass is Chele La Pass at nearly 4000m between the Paro and Haa Valleys. Rice cannot be cultivated beyond a certain elevation so the Bhutanese grow buckwheat, millet, corn, turnips etc. The thin and rarified atmosphere up in the high elevations and the “cold factor” could pose difficulties for those accustomed to living in the low plains and low altitudes near the equator. So please come prepared with a pack of medicines to be used for “high altitude sickness”. The best advice is to spend a day or two in Paro and Thimphu, to acclimatize yourself and get the hang of the altitude. Because of the rugged mountainous terrain, weather can be quite erratic most of the time. And also be prepared to brace the winding roads at those high elevations. So pack your woolens and other paraphernalia accordingly or get your advice from your Tour Operator to make your travel to Bhutan/Bhutan Travel a successful one. Also try to plan for a homestay tour where you get to see the real rural Bhutan for yourself. Farm House Experience in Bhutan 1

5. Bhutan travel tips:

Please click here for important tips for your Bhutan Travel

6. Bhutanese cuisine:

Bhutanese cuisine

A unique and distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillies, big long jalapeno types, are a very essential part of almost every dish and is considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy enough. Chillies are used as a vegetable, not as a condiment!

Ema Datshi, a dish which is made with chilies and cottage cheese, is considered the national dish but is prepared very differently at every home. It’s spicy and is typically eaten with every single meal. Veterans will proclaim  that you really haven’t visited Bhutan unless you’ve had Ema Datshi. Have your guide ask for it at your hotel or restaurant as it may not be served with your meals because it could be  too spicy for many visitors. An yet another hot fiery rough chili mixup in its own right is  Ezzay which the Bhutanese people just love to have.

Suja, salted Butter tea is served on all social occasions in Bhutan, as is prevalent among all Buddhist communities of the Himalayas (from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh). At traditional homes in the Bhutanese hinterland, the serving host will sit beside you with a jar full of hot butter tea and will almost instantly fill your cup up to the brim  after you have had a sip!, a part of the Bhutanese tradition, of course.

Chang is a local beer and Aara is a clear alcohol distilled from various grains cultivated in the mountains.

The diet in the high mountains includes the indigenous red rice which is the main dish with side dishes of chicken, fish, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, etc. Soups and stews of meat, rice, fiddle-head ferns, mushroom, lentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with peppers and cheese are a favorite meal during the cold seasons. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows are also popular and in fact almost all milk is made into butter and cheese.

A typical tourist class hotel serves a western style breakfast and Bhutanese style lunches and dinners which are adjusted for the western palette. Some hotels and restaurants, however, forego Bhutanese cuisine entirely for a more international fare which is quite a shame as Bhutanese food is quite good!

Bhutanese Food: 25 Best Dishes To Eat When You’re In Bhutan!

(Mark Wiens, based in Bangkok is a world known Travel and Food Blogger)

7. Bhutan Festivals

Why visit Bhutan? Bhutan Travel Guide.

Tshechus (Festivals) of Bhutan are world famous. So are the Cultural, Special Interest Tours and Treks. Please check the festival dates beforehand. Thimphu and Paro Tshechus are the biggest draws.

Cultural Tours

8 days Bhutan travel package/

Trekking in Bhutan

2 days trekking tour in Bhutan

An important advice to prospective visitors who plan for a Bhutan Travel/Travel to Bhutan is to plan the Bhutan tour at least three months in advance. The Druk Air planes are small, Airbus A319 has a capacity of only 118 seats, 16 in the business class and 102 in the economy class. So the planes are not like the massive jumbo jets that you may be familiar with because these Druk Air planes are adapted to suit the mountainous terrain and the seats are mostly sold out months in advance during the High Season. A new A320 plane with a seat capacity of 140 will be introduced in 2019.

8. Flora of Bhutan

The government’s policy as mandated in the constitution is to maintain 70% of the land under green cover at all times. The present ratio is even higher, with a remarkable 72% of the country covered with green vegetation, forests of fir, mixed conifers, temperate and broad-leaf species. Bhutan’s forests also has 7000 vascular plants, 360 orchid species, 46 species of rhododendron, and other rare and endemic species, including over 500 species of medicinal plants. It is a true biodiversity haven for nature lovers and specialists consider the whole country as one beautiful natural park.

9. Fauna of Bhutan

Bhutan has been identified as one of the top 10 bio-diversity hotspots in the world, with an estimated 770 species of birds and animals which includes the plumage, the Himalayan griffin, the unique high- altitude wader, the ibis bill, the spectacular horn-bill, barbets, sun birds, fulvattas, yuhinas, cuckoos, and many more. The country also has a great variety of endangered species like the black- necked cranes, the monal pheasant, peacock pheasant, raven and the Rufous-necked hornbill. Along its southern border, the narrow tropical and subtropical belt supports the Asiatic elephant, one-horned rhinoceros, gaur, wild water buffalo, hog deer, tiger, clouded leopard, hornbill, trogon and other mammals and birds. Only 150 kilometers to the north, high Himalayan fauna include the blue sheep, takin, musk deer, wild yaks, snow leopard, Himalayan wolf and other species characteristic of the Palearctic realm. Bhutan is also known for about 500 birds of the vulnerable black-necked crane in the valleys of Phobjikha and Bomdeling that migrate from the extreme cold Tibetan Highlands come November and stay till the end of February. About 300 settle down in the cup shaped glacial Phobjikha valley out of the 500 or so that land in Bhutan.

10. Bhutan and its development policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH):

Bhutan and its development policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH)

Bhutan has several parallels with Tibet, Sikkim, Western Arunachal pradesh and Nepal. The religion, culture and tradition, the cuisine, they are almost similar, the similar Mongoloid blood, even the dress and attires among many other things.

The one of a kind concept of the government that Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product (GNP) is a first theory that any country has introduced or embraced in the entire world, because it believes the happiness of its citizens is more important than wealth… the prosperity and happiness of the mind is far more important than material richness.

Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before because travel is the only thing that makes you richer in the mind and heart. To travel to Bhutan is to discover that everything is wrong about others’ views and opinions about Bhutan. Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place like Bhutan can occupy you in the entire world. To awaken alone in a strange place is one of the pleasantest sensations one would ever experience. The basic aim of travelling is to regulate imagination into reality and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people can’t be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime. Because 25 years from now on, you will be more disappointed about the things you missed about Bhutan than by the ones you did do.

Now putting all these points onto a broader prospective, analyzing about it.., its but your opinion and decision  how you’d make your Bhutan Travel a unique and interesting one.

Welcome to Bhutan!!!

TAKTSANG MONASTREY – THE TIGER’S NEST

TAKTSANG MONASTREY – THE TIGER’S NEST

General Information:

The Senge Samdup cave in the Tiger’s Nest premises, perched high up in a rocky cliff, 900m above the Paro valley, is where the legend, Guru Rinpoche, the great Indian saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, meditated in the 8th century.

Guru Rinpoche flew to the cave on the back of a tigress, hence its popular name – the Taktsang, which literally means “Tiger’s Nest”. The flying tigress is believed to be Yeshe Tsogyal. It was inside the same cave that he meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours.

Later the caves became important holy shrines and numerous learned Buddhist monks have visited and meditated in the caves since the 8th century. The ultimate desire of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (early 17th century), the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state, to build a monastery near the famous holy caves was fulfilled only at the end of the 17th century. Paro Taktsang Monastery was built around the holy caves in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye – Bhutan’s 4th Druk Desi. He founded the monastery by putting its first stone during a visit to the holy caves in 1692.

In 1998, a big fire almost completely burned down the Paro Taktsang, and was restored to its original splendor by 2005.

Elevation : 3120m (900m above the Paro Valley)

Trek Distance and Time : About 5+ km uphill and downhill from the base camp at the foot of the mountain. It can take 1 1/2 – 2hrs hour going up, down a bit shorter.

Tips to Hiking to.the Tiger’s Nest:

  1. Get a hang of the altitude/ get acclimatized on the first day at Paro.
  2. Eat a light and easy breakfast, it helps immensely.
  3. Carry chocolates, energy bites and drinks
  4. Carry a light backpack.
  5. Start as early as possible.
  6. Wear a hat and sunglasses, a walking stick is an added advantage.
  7. Maintain your own pre-meditated pace but don’t be too slow.
  8. Stop to catch your breath whenever you are tired
  9. Don’t ever sit down anywhere along the way, you won’t want to get back up again!
  10. Try to hike in a group and encourage and help each other whenever needed.

You can also opt to for a horse ride and after 45 min there’s the cafeteria where you can  rest and stop to enjoy tea. The toilets here are surprisingly nice and clean.  After  another 45 minutes, you arrive at a second stop where you have to bid the horse goodbye. You have no option but to hike the rest of the trail as horses aren’t allowed beyond it. The horseback ride is only 600 Bhutanese Ngultrums (10-11USD) and it’s well worth it if you aren’t much of a hiker. But you may have to inform your guide beforehand so that he can organize it in time.

As you continue to climb up the trail, you’ll pass by random shrines along the way in the forests. As you get closer to the monastery, there are 850 steps (both up and down) that you have to climb before you get to the entrance.. As you start to take on the steps, you’ll also notice  prayer flags all over the sides of the walkway.  Since the Tiger’s Nest is a pilgrimage site, people have strung prayer flags in the final end of the trail leading up to the monastery. You’ll see a waterfall to the left and a short wooden bridge to cross.  After the bridge it’s about 2-5 minutes of uphill steps and then you’re at the entrance of the Tiger’s Nest!

Some Interesting Facts:

  1. The Taktsang Monastery is made up of four temples and a collection of residential shelters that are uniquely designed to rest on the cliff. Wooden bridges and stairs carved into the cliff connect the buildings. Each building has a balcony with a beautiful view of the Paro Valley 900m below.
  2. There are several paths leading to the monastery. The most popular path takes you through a pine forest and past the colorful prayer banners that protect the temple from evil spirits. Another path is from the north passing through a plateau called “A Hundred Thousand Fairies.” There are also paths for mule and pony treks; however they do not go all the way to the top.
  3. The big prayer wheel in the courtyard of the main shrine is rotated every morning by the monks that marks the beginning of a new day.
  4. The Tiger’s Nest earns visits from royalty. In 2015, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton made the trek to the monastery while visiting Bhutan.
  5. Many caves surround the monastery. Two of them worth visiting are Tholu Phuk and Pel Phuk. These were supposedly the first caves Guru Rinpoche visited and meditated in. Today monks meditate and live in those caves for years as part of their religious practice.
  6. Sometime during March end or early April, the 10th day of that Buddhist Lunar Calendar, the Paro Tsechu Festival is held at grounds of the magnificent Rinpung Dzong in the Paro Valley. This festival honors and remembers Guru Rinpoche as he had performed dances in the valley in the 7th century. The three-day festival consists of various Mask Dance performances to vanquish off evil spirits and praise spirits of life and health. Visiting the monastery during the festival is a big draw as you experience ancient preserved Buddhist traditions and cultural history blended together even today. However, the Paro valley is more likely to be busy and crowded around this time and flights and bookings have to be had months earlier as there’s always a dead rush with everyone wanting to travel to Bhutan at the same time to witness the Festival.

TRAVEL TO BHUTAN WITH YAK HOLIDAYS INT’L AND DISCOVER THE BEST BHUTAN WITH US..

Laya Bhutan is a remote village in Gasa District in far north Bhutan

Laya Bhutan is a remote village in Gasa District in far north Bhutan

LAYA BHUTAN 3850 m

Laya Bhutan is a remote village in Gasa District in far north Bhutan

Coordinates : 28.06362 North: 89.6828 East

4 h 11 min (97.5 km)  Punakha to Gasa, and a two day hard trek from Gasa to Laya.

Laya, Bhutan is a remote village in Gasa District in  far north Bhutan, very close to the Tibetan border. It is inhabited by the indigenous Layap people,  and is the highest inhabited settlement in the Bhutan. The hike from Gasa may be arduous, but its worth the effort.

Inhabited by the Layap tribe, who are akin to Tibetans.. They actually settled from Tibet several centuries ago. Population about 3000, approx 140 households. They call their village the “BEYUL”, or the hidden land. The distinct attire of Layap women wearing conical pointed bamboo hats is so unique, though the men have stopped wearing their original traditional dress. Yaks are herded, which is the main way of sustenance.

Some facts about Laya.

  1. Theres a Lakhang in the village, one another above.. In 2002, a school was started with 110 students. Above the school is an old temple,..where the Zhabdrung stayed when he first came to Bhutan . Some of his belongings are still there, a precious stone and a big brass jar full of water.
  2. In 1944, there was a major flood in Laya, glacial of course.
  3. In 1959-60, Tibetan refugees arrived with the livestock and Layaps bought yaks from them for only Nu 3 or 4 per head!
  4. Around 700 sheep were given by the government but they all died within 2 months, probably from eating poisonous grass.
  5. The first tourists arrived in 1987.
  6. In 1996, solar lighting was installed.
  7. In 1998, mountains bears attacked yak calves, killing 20-30. In 1999 wild dogs killed several yaks. There are several stories of cats of all sizes attacking their cattle.
  8. Above Laya are the HOLY Lakes, @ 4450m, Kharkhil Tsho, Paro Tsho, Onemo Tsho.
  9. Prosperous Layaps own more than 300 yaks.
  10. The conical hats of women are associated with fertility, and the fact that the women are actual yak herders. The same clothes are worn by the powerful local deity, Aum Chomo Nosey Gayem. The belief is to ensure that the yaks always remain healthy.
  11. In a traditional gesture of respect for visitors, Layap women, at the end of an evening entertainment, will remove their conical hats and throw them in a heap.

Advent of Buddhism in Bhutan

Advent of Buddhism in Bhutan

The advent of Buddhism in Bhutan began after the arrival of Guru Rinpoche in Bhutan in the 8th century, the Bon religion and the protector deities played a very vital role for different places, communities and clans across the entire spread of Bhutan. The thoughts and beliefs differed from place to place, from one valley to another, they were never the same at all. The differences were omnipresent, everywhere. But the guiding force, the pivot, the consolidator, the leader, the Guru wasn’t around.

Advent of Buddhism in Bhutan

And the Padmashambhava, the great lotus born saint was the Guru-in-waiting. The Guru knew exactly about the fate of Buddhism in India that it would be more than erased by the Mughal emperors. Even after the great flourishment of the Buddha Dharma in Tibet, it would actually, finally fall on a decline because of the Chinese. Nepal didn’t offer much scope, it was a predominantly Hindu nation and that didn’t actually connect to his likeliness. So Bhutan was his natural choice. Mountainous and remote, hidden in the inner Himalayas, the Mughals or the Chinese Hans had no chance to come to Bhutan and plunder the Buddha Dharma. So Bhutan was where the Buddha Dharma would prosper and flourish forever. That was his belief, his vision. And it came out true in so many ways as we see and analyze it now, wonder saint and philosopher, a gem and like they say diamonds are forever. It was also in Bhutan where he later hid several Buddhist holy scripts, religious documents, texts and relics, to be discovered and found by his chosen entity, Pema Lingpa of Bumthang, several centuries later in the 17th century.

bumthang-membar-tsho

Membar Tsho in Bumthang

Guru Rinpoche is actually credited with the founding of the Nyingma lineage, also known as the Red Hat sect of Mahayana Buddhism which became the dominant religion of Bhutan at that time.

He himself was found lying on top of a lotus flower floating on a pond. There are no records to prove where he was born or who his actual parents were. He just materialized on top of the flower one fine day! This was in the Swat valley, the historians say, in present day Pakistan. Quite big, handsome and impressive in size for a small child, the king took him as his own, adopted him as his son, made him the crown prince. So he grew up as a prince in his initial years, quite like prince Siddhartha, the eventual Buddha. So there is actually quite a similarity here if we can relate the two in the same context. As he grew up, he found it more arduous with his meaning of life in the garb of a prince. He could see, foresee several things that were to come and happen in the world. More like a Nostradamus with a very interesting religious twist. One fine day he decided to undergo such an act that could lead to his banishment from the kingdom. His father, the king had no choice but to banish him forever. Having set himself free, he traveled to several places, to Tibet and to Nepal which had so many similarities and parallels. Some historians say he must have been in Nepal when he got this invitation from the ailing Sindhu Raja of Bumthang.

Jakar-dzong-at-bumthang

Jakar Dzong – Bumthang

Sindhu Raja was a powerful Indian king of Bumthang, who ruled from an iron fortress. Although a powerful monarch, Sindhu Raja lost his son and sixteen chieftains when feuding with another strong rival Indian king of the south named Nachhoe or “the big nose”. This incident so deeply disturbed Sindhu Raja that he ordered the desecration of all the temples dedicated to the chief deity and protector of Bumthang, Shelging Karpo. Shelging Karpo quickly retaliated to take revenge and performed a ritual that severed the life force of Sindhu, bringing him very close to death. Unable to find an antidote to his sickness, one of his close counsels sent an urgent appeal to Guru Rinpoche requesting for his supernatural powers to save the Raja. The great yogi agreed to the request, which he probably already knew, and after his arrival in Bumthang, meditated leaving a “jey” (imprint) of his “kur” (body) on a rock, now surrounded by the Kurjey Lhakhang. Hence the name Kurjey.

Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang

Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang

Guru Rinpoche was offered Sindhu Raja’s daughter, Tashi Kheudon. But he instead sent her to fetch water in a golden ewer. While she was away, the Guru transformed into eight manifestations and together, they started to dance in the field by the temple. The dances were so spectacular that  every deity of the entire area appeared to watch them, all except the stony faced Shelging Karpo, who stayed away in his rocky hideout. But this was not to dishearten the Guru. When the princess returned, the Guru transformed her into five beautiful princesses each with a golden ewer. The golden sunlight emanating out of those ewers finally attracted Shelging Karpo, who appeared as a snow lion, which in turn was immediately recognized by the Guru. He himself transformed into a giant eagle, a Garuda, flew high up and subjugated the lion. The defeated Shelging Karpo thus gave back the life force to Sindhu Raja and was made to pledge to be a protector deity of Buddhism. Both the rival kings converted to Buddhism and Guru Rinpoche was allowed to preach Buddhism in their respective kingdoms. To seal the agreement, the Guru planted his staff in the ground at the temple in Bumthang. Its cypress tree descendants, the national tree of Bhutan, continue to grow and tower over the area at Kurjey Lhakhang till this date.

This event marked the beginning of the Dharma taking root in Bhutan, and a body imprint of Guru Rinpoche meditating in a nearby cave serves as a tribute to this occasion. So this was how Buddhism was first introduced to Bhutan by Guru Rinpoche, which later went on to become the state religion of the nation. But this divine connection between Guru Rinpoche and Sindhu Raja is something that we sometimes forget to remember and recognize.

The eight sacred dances also marked the beginning of the introduction of Tshechu(s) in Bhutan featuring the famous mask dances which have then been repeated year after year for centuries till today. So the first ever Tshechu in Bhutan was conducted by Guru Rinpoche in Bumthang! Tshechu, which literally means “Day 10” of any particular Buddhist lunar month, featuring the mask dances and religious festivals are now conducted in all the districts of Bhutan. On the final day of a Tshechu, a massive thangka painting, called the Thongdrel is displayed for public early in the morning and rolled up again before sunrise, which features Guru Rinpoche and his two principal cohorts and his eight manifestations, to be displayed again the following year on the same exact date.

Helpful Tips to have before Planning a Trip to Bhutan

1. Debunking the myth that surrounds your visit to Bhutan

Debunking the myth that surrounds your visit to Bhutan

Its highly likely that the first time “would be visitor” somehow has this notion that its very expensive to visit Bhutan. “Bhutan?? way too expensive!!” or ” What’s so special about it anyway?” without necessarily understanding the intricacies surrounding the hearsay myth of this last Shangri-la on earth.
Yes, on the face of it, Bhutan may seem like an expensive destination than nearby Nepal, India or elsewhere, but it’s actually not a bad deal, if you consider all that is included and packaged within that fee. This fee actually includes a 3 star accommodation, a private guide and a driver for transportation, entrance fees to sites and all meals and Camping Equipment and Haulage for Trekking Tours, during the entire course of your stay within the country. Also included in the fee is a $65 per day royalty that goes to the government towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation.
So when you are actually touring Bhutan, you will pleasantly realize that you really don’t need to dig your purse often as most of the things involving the visit has already been organized and paid through by your Tour Operator! And that you are actually a hassle free tourist on tour with your guide and driver as guardian deities 24×7.

2. Erasing the understanding that only limited tourists are allowed into Bhutan.

Erasing the understanding that only limited tourists are allowed into Bhutan

There are no limitations on the number of tourists visiting Bhutan. Till 1999, the limit was 5000 visitors but that has long ceased to exist. According to the Bhutan Tourism Monitor Annual Report (2016), a total of 209,570 foreign individuals visited Bhutan in 2016 which is an increase of 35% over 2015.

3. Ask yourself about “The Best Times to Visit and Travel to Bhutan”

Ask yourself about The Best Times to Visit and Travel to Bhutan

The Tourism Council of Bhutan categorizes the tourist season into the “high season”” and the “low season” depending upon several factors like climate etc. and there are different daily tariffs for both the seasons. The high season months are March – May and Sept – Nov. March, April, Oct and Nov are the busiest months and most visitors try to come during these months. These are also the best months for trekking and festivals.
If you plan to visit Bhutan during these months, please book your tour packages at least three months prior to your visit. The two airlines that fly to Bhutan are Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines, so at most times the flights are packed in advance. Please check the flight schedules well in advance from their websites or your Tour Operator.
But if you want to travel in peace and avoid over crowdedness, you can try the low season months as well.

4. Getting into Bhutan

Getting into Bhutan

If you are from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia or thereabouts, take the thrice a week Druk Air flights from Singapore’s Changi Airport to Paro. Singapore – Kolkata – Paro with a brief stopover at Kolkata. Bangkok has direct Druk Air flights to Paro.
Likewise, if you are coming from USA or Europe, travel east through Europe, then West Asia and then to Delhi or Kathmandu and get the connecting Druk Air flights to Paro.
Note : Paro, about an hour drive from Thimphu, is the only international airport.

5. Daily Tariff

Daily Tariff

During the low season months (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug and Dec), it costs $200 USD per person, per day and on the high season months (Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct and Nov), it costs $250 USD per person per day, for groups of three or more. For groups of two, it costs $280 USD per day, per person and for a solo traveler, its $290 USD per day, per person.
Note that it costs $30 more if you are in a group of two and $40 more if you are solo. So you can indeed save costs if you are in a group of three or more. So why not go for this option?

6. Factor in the difference in the Daily Tariff in the low season.

Factor in the difference in the Daily Tariff in the low season

Bhutan can be visited all the year round! Even in the busy seasons it is not terribly crowded, so there are even fewer tourists in the off-peak seasons. The reason we recommend travel to Bhutan during the summer/monsoon season is for cost reasons, Since it’s the low season, you can save as much as 20% of your daily tariff!
Furthermore, most of the time, you will have the whole place to yourself e.g. restaurants, hotels, sight seeings, so no waitings at long queues. For example, during your visits to most places, you may be the only guests in the entire hotel and can land yourself the best rooms with the best views they have on offer. So you can definitely give it a thought.

7. Tour Operator

Tour Operator

It is mandatory by law that you can only book your tour package to Bhutan through a registered Bhutanese Tour Operator. All visa processes will be managed by Tour Operator.

8. Rainy Season (Monsoon)

Rainy Season

Rainfall or Monsoon generally starts from June till August but it’s not like the continuous daily rains in India. Yes once in a while they are heavy but not always.

9. Places/Things of Interest

Places Things of Interest

It really depends on what you hope to see and experience during your tour to Bhutan. Following is a list of options that you may consider.
Magnificent Dzongs (Fortresses);
Buddhist Monasteries and Monuments;
Stunning, pristine Valleys, Mountains & Passes;
Ancient Bhutanese Art and Artifacts;
Unique Bhutanese Architecture;
Colorful Mask Dances; the Festivals of different valleys, Paro and Thimphu Tshechus;
Various Mountain Treks on offer (Druk Path Trek was the most popular in 2016);
The Bhutanese culture and tradition that is still intact and cocooned even today.
Preservation efforts by the government have ensured that Bhutan is still a living museum. Bhutan’s landscape and culture is so diverse across different regions that it offers distinctive charms and environs for exploration and experience to the enthusiastic traveler.

10. Other Miscellaneous Tips

Food & Cuisine

National Language : Dzongkha, but English is widely spoken. Your guide will speak fluent English.

Currency & Money : Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum (Nu). Its value is pegged to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. However Indian Rupee notes in 500 and 2000 denominations are not acceptable. US Dollars are widely accepted.

It is best to obtain some Bhutanese Nu from the Paro airport ATM (right of exit door).
ATMs are available for use by visitors in western & central Bhutan.

Food & Cuisine : Rice (white Indian rice or the indigenous red variety), is the main dish, accompanied by several side dishes of pork, beef, chicken and veggies and “Emma Datshi”, the national dish with lots of chilies n cheese. You can also try “Momos”, the Tibetan dumplings. But most hotels, restaurants and eateries do modify the cuisine to make it more palatable for visitors and also do a variety of Chinese, Continental and Indian dishes.

Climate & Weather : Bhutan has four distinct seasons : Spring, Monsoon/Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit and travel to Bhutan (end of Feb till May) and (Sep till Nov). Summers are usually warm (avg. temperature ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius), while winters are cold (usually below 15 degrees).

Tobacco & Smoking : It is against the law to sell or purchase cigarettes or tobacco products while travelling in Bhutan. It is, however, not forbidden to smoke in appropriate areas. You may carry a small supply for personal use. Please note a 200% duty applies to all imported tobacco products and you must show a valid receipt of purchase to avoid confiscation.

Communications & Internet : The country has a good network of communications facilities. Almost every town has an internet café and IDD calling booths from where you can log and connected with the world. Bhutanese SIM cards are available at a SIM counter located in the post office (to the right of the terminal exit door) at Paro Airport.

Electricity : 230 volts, 50 cycles AC system. The standard socket is the Indian-style round pin socket. We always suggest bringing a universal plug adaptor.

Photography : Bhutan is an ideal place and frequent haunt of photographers and offers immense opportunities for photography, especially during outdoor sightseeing trips. However on the other hand you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as it’s not allowed inside Dzongs, temples and monasteries or religious institutions.

Health Innoculations : Before embarking on a tour to Bhutan it’s advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.

Safety Precautions : Bhutan still remains an extremely safe destination with an exceptionally low risk of theft or harassment. Foreign tourists are usually held in high esteem. However we recommend you to keep all cash & valuables either on your person or in your vehicle where they will be safely managed by your driver whom you can trust implicitly. Please do not leave cash or valuables on display in hotel rooms. Your guide and driver can be your best safety advisors.

Some useful words in Dzongkha, the national language
Kuzuzangpo La – Respected Greetings.
Tashi Delek – May all good things come to you. (use this as a farewell)
Kardenche La – Thank you.
Goempa – Meditation Centre.
Lhakhang – Temple.
Chhapsa – Toilet.
Chhu – Water.
Bang Chhang – Rice Wine.
Toh – Rice.

Travel to Bhutan from Australia

A brief introduction of Bhutan

A brief introduction of Bhutan

If you are Australian and intend to travel to Bhutan from Australia, Bhutan is a small, mountainous Buddhist kingdom, about the size of Taiwan, landlocked and sandwiched between China on the north and India in the west, south and east in the Himalayas. The standard time is 6hrs ahead of GMT. Bhutan is called “The Land of the Thunder Dragon” and also known as the last Shangri-la on earth! The landscape ranges from sub tropical foothills (150m) the south to alpine forests and snowcapped mountains (7000m) in the north. It’s about 300km from west to east and 150km from north to south. With a population of just about 700000, about 70% of the land is still under forest cover, so it naturally has a well maintained and rich biodiversity with more than 700 species of birds, 50 species of rhododendron and an estimated 300 species of medicinal plants and orchids. The national language is Dzongkha, but English is widely spoken throughout the country. Your guide will speak fluent English as most young Bhutanese do.

Bhutan – Lonely Planet

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/bhutan

Bhutan – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutan

Kingdom of Bhutan | Bhutan Travel | History | Culture | Government …

www.kingdomofbhutan.com/

Visa Formalities / Bhutan Visa

Visa Formalities Bhutan Visa

All visitors require a passport, and an visa authority letter/visa clearance for Bhutan which must be pre-approved prior to your arrival in Bhutan. All visas are issued at Thimphu (a Bhutan visa costs $40 USD) and are only issued to tourists booked with a local tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by your tour operator and takes at least 7 days to process. Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance. Please remember, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines that fly into Bhutan. A visa authority letter is issued after prepayment for your travel arrangements and the actual visa is entered into your passport on arrival at Paro Int’l Airport. Please carry the same passport that you submitted for your Bhutan Visa or you will be denied entry. When you arrive at Paro Int’l airport, all visitors are required to provide fingerprints and a facial image along with 2 passport photos.

Visa policy of Bhutan – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Bhutan

Visa | Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)

www.tourism.gov.bt › Trip Planner

Visas and customs in Bhutan – Lonely Planet

www.lonelyplanet.com/bhutan/visas

Drukair

https://drukair.com.bt/images/Include/OurOffices.htm

Sydney Australia Bhutan Flights | Bhutan Travel | Druk Asia

https://www.drukasia.com › Bhutan Tour

Flighs to Bhutan and Roads in – Bhutan and Beyond

https://www.bhutan.com.au/getting-to-bhutan/

Daily Tariff

Daily Tariff

During the low season months (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug and Dec), it costs $200 USD per person, per day and on the high season months (Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct and Nov), it costs $250 USD per person per day, for groups of three or more. For groups of two, it costs $280 USD per day, per person and for a solo traveler, its $290 USD per day, per person.

The minimum price includes :

All internal taxes and charges (including the royalty of $65 USD)
3 star Accommodation
All meals
All travel with a licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide
All internal Transport
Camping Equipment and Haulage for Trekking Tours
There shall be no charge for children up to the age of 5 years. However, for those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by elders/guardians 50% discount on daily rates and 100% on royalty.
Full time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall be given a 25% discount on daily rates.
A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11-15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons.
50% discount on royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on royalty after the 14th night.
Visitors availing discounts under sections 1,2and 3 shall not be eligible under section 4.
Very confused about the Daily Tariff & Visa requirements! – Bhutan …

https://www.tripadvisor.com › Asia › Bhutan › Bhutan Travel Forum

Bhutan Visa & Visiting Fees – Is It Worth it? – Jessie on a Journey

jessieonajourney.com/bhutan-visa-travel-fees/

Addresses and website URLs of Embassy of Bhutan in Australia for Possible and Helpful tips to get Bhutan visa from Australia

Embassy of Bhutan in Australia – Bhutan visa – VisaHQ.com.au

https://bhutan.visahq.in/embassy/australia/

Embassy Of Bhutan In Canberra | EmbassyCanberra.com

www.embassycanberra.com/bhutanese/

Travelling Tips to Bhutan from Australia

Travelling Tips to Bhutan from Australia

The most convenient way to travel to Bhutan from Australia is to first fly to Singapore, then to Bangkok, Kolkata and finally to Paro Int’l Airport in Bhutan. Paro is about an hour’s drive from Thimphu, the capital.

Detailed info on flights, tour and trekking programmes, festivals, places of interest, hotels, etc. can be obtained from the tour operator.

Travel Requirements | Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)

www.tourism.gov.bt › Trip Planner

Bhutan travel guide :: Lonely Planet India

www.lonelyplanet.in/travel-guides/201/bhutan-travel-guide

Money and costs in Bhutan – Lonely Planet

www.lonelyplanet.com/bhutan/money-costs

Places of tourists’ interest in Bhutan

Places of tourists' interest in Bhutan

It really depends on what you hope to see and experience during your tour to Bhutan from Australia. The magnificent Dzongs (Fortresses), Buddhist Monasteries and monuments; the stunning, pristine valleys and mountains; the ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts; the unique architecture; colorful Mask Dances; the Tshechu festivals of different valleys ; the various mountain treks on offer; and the Bhutanese culture and tradition that is still intact and cocooned even today. Preservation efforts by the government have ensured that Bhutan is a living museum even today. Bhutan’s landscape and culture is so diverse across different regions that it offers distinctive charms and environs for exploration and experience to the spirited traveler.

Dzong architecture – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzong_architecture

Tshechu – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tshechu

Festivals | Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)

www.tourism.gov.bt › Discover › Activities

Bhutan’s magical mask dances – BBC News

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-24642016

Western Bhutan

Western Bhutan

Considered the gateway to Bhutan and the circuit comprises Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue and Haa districts. Paro is home to the spectacular Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) at 900m above the Paro valley and the famous Drugyel Dzong or the “Fortress of Victorious Drukpa People”. Paro valley is also the rice bowl of Bhutan. Thimphu, the capital city, is a vibrant cultural centre of all aspects that emanates Bhutan as a nation. Punakha, the ancient capital till 1950, enchants tourists with the magnificent Punakha Dzong at the confluence of the Pho-Chu and Mo-Chu (Male and Female rivers). And the Gangte Monastery overlooking the bowl shaped alpine wetland valley of Phobjika (3000m), where the black necked cranes migrate every winter from the Tibetan highlands at Wangdue district. The west, especially, Thimphu, Paro and Punakha, is also the starting point for many of Bhutan’s famous treks which traverse to the north of the country. Laya, Gasa, Lingtshi and the northern reaches of Bumthang and Trongsa complete this circuit.

Paro Tourism (2017): Best of Paro, Bhutan – TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.in/Tourism-g321541-Paro_Paro_District-Vacations.html

5 Best Places to Visit in Punakha (2017) – TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.in › Asia › Bhutan › Punakha District › Punakha

Thimphu 2017: Best of Thimphu, Bhutan Tourism – TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.com › Asia › Bhutan › Thimphu District

Central Bhutan

Central Bhutan

Central Bhutan is the spiritual heartland of the nation and comprises the four valleys of Bumthang and the district of Trongsa. The temples and festivals of Bumthang and the historical grandeur and significance of Trongsa, showcase a rich and lively cultural heritage. With the initial experience of having travelled Western Bhutan under the belt, a sense of real insight begins to set in on the traveler’s imagination and analysis of Bhutan – as a mystical, historical place and a very interesting country for you to discover.

Bumthang Tourism (2017): Best of Bumthang, Bhutan – TripAdvisor

https://www.tripadvisor.in › Asia › Bhutan › Bumthang District

Trongsa – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trongsa

Eastern Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan, a congregation of six eastern districts, is a world away from the world, be it the distinct and characteristic way of life of Merak Sakteng or the fabric, art & craft and woodwork in Trashigang and TrashiYangtse. This region of Bhutan has ethnically the most diverse people resulting therefore, in a large mix of local customs and traditions. The Drametse Monastery at Mongar where the famous “Drametse Ngacham” Mask Dance is performed is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Drametse Ngacham – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drametse_Ngacham

Merak Sakteng Trek | Tour Operator Directory

www.tourism.gov.bt › Trek

Our destination specialists at Yak Holidays Int’l will offer the best recommendations as per your travel preferences, and you can in fact choose the exact Bhutan Tour Packages for Australia from our website www.traveltobhutan.travel/. Many travelers incorporate Paro (2280m), Thimphu (2320m), Punakha (1310m), Wangduephodrang (1320m), Gangte (2800m), Trongsa and Bumthang (2800m), though some travel solely for the pleasure of trekking in the High Himalayas.

The choice is for you to make..

Welcome to Bhutan!!