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.

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.
Dee & Martin Visit to Bhutan

Dee and Martin David visited Bhutan from 10th Nov to 18th Nov, 2016

Dear Sithar and Bhim,

Greetings from England

It was very good to meet you both the other day and we thank you for the kind gift of the book on Bhutan, it has pride of place on our coffee table in our lounge and has already been admired by family and friends.

We would also like to thank you very much for the excellent arrangements that made our tour so very memorable. It is the first time we have arranged this type of holiday directly with a tour operator in the country we are visiting, however you not only made it very easy, the communication was always clear, concise and timely. This gave us great confidence and we loved the flexibility in putting the itinerary together.

I know originally we were going to fly back from Bumthang to Paro but flights were not available because of the festival. We are really glad this was the case in the end as it gave us more time to spend with Lal and Dawa and it would have been an anticlimax to part in Bumthang.

Both Lal and Dawa are a credit to Yak holidays, they made the trip very special and even the long drives were filled with laughter and didn’t seem long at all. We have made 2 friends there and are keeping in touch.

Dowa’s driving was very safe and comfortable and at the same time we made good progress. We very much appreciate Lal’s guiding skills and know we got to do and see more than many other tourists.

We were treated as friends, not just guests, at every hotel both Lal and Dawa ensured we had the best possible room and ensured we were settled in before they left us. Lal briefed us both each evening and first thing the following morning ensuring we were happy and to discuss anything we wanted to see or buy during the trip.

We appreciate the hard work by all at Yak holidays, many thanks from us both.

Kind regards

Martin and Dee