This devoutly Buddhist kingdom is ruled by the young King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, whose father introduced the famous theory that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. As a result, Bhutan is the only country in the world which measures its inhabitants’ happiness. So far, the experiment seems to have been successful.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons and each season has its own beauty and charm. Bhutan is an year-round destination. So, it is entirely up to you to decide your travel period.
Spring (March, April & May) : Spring is a botanist's delight as various flowers start to bloom and plants start budding after their long dormancy in winter. Flowers such as rhododendron, wild azaleas, and edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet and add a new sense of wonder.to the Bhutan's landscape.
Summer (June, July & August): It is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in full bloom and valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweep the banks of many of the river and pine cone glisten in the sun, so full with risen they are ready to plummet to the ground.
Autumn (September, October & November) : This is the time when the entire landscape turns into golden color. The farmers harvesting their crops in the golden colored paddy fields under the crisp blue skies is just an amazing view of Bhutan's landscape in the Autumn season.
Winter (December, January & February) : Winter has its moments. The days are full of sunshine while evenings can turn chilly. Soft turfs of clouds drape lazily over mountain tops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape. The winter season in Bhutan gives one a clear view of the world's highest Himalayan mountain ranges covered in snow.
Official language: Bhutanese
Excavations and ruins suggest Bhutan was settled as long as 4,000 years ago, although the written history of the area begins around the time Buddhism was introduced to the central region of Bumthang, in the 7th century. Legend states the great Tibetan lama Guru Rinpoche visited Bhutan in the 8th century. Influenced first by neighboring Tibet and in the 14th century by Yuan Dynasty China and its Mongol rulers, the country’s political development has been strongly affected by its religious history.
Previously divided into warring fiefdoms, Bhutan was finally unified in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a military leader and Tibetan lama who escaped persecution by fleeing Tibet. Shabdrung was responsible for the series of defensive fortresses still visible today and initiated a legal code to bring the local rulers under central control. Both moves were instrumental in protecting Bhutan from raids by the warlike Tibetans.
During Shabdrung’s rule, Bhutan was visited by Portuguese Jesuit explorers on their way to Tibet, which was the first contact the country had with Europeans. After Shabdrung’s death in 1651, which was kept secret for an astonishing 54 years, Bhutan again returned to internal conflict and, in 1711, began a war with the powerful Mughal Empire. This unwise move led to an unsuccessful attack by the Tibetans in 1744 and chaos in the country.
By 1772, Bhutanese forces had captured the nearby state of Cooch Behar, whose ruler appealed to the British East India Company for assistance. In 1774, having driven the Bhutanese forces out of the occupied state, the British East India Company attacked Bhutan itself. A peace treaty forced the country back behind its earlier borders, and conflict with British forces continued for 100 years until the Duar War in 1864, which was won by the British.
Civil war raged on in Bhutan from the late 19th century to 1907, and the establishment of the monarchy did little to bring peace. When India won independence from British rule in 1947, Bhutan was the first country to recognize the sub-continent as an independent country, and, in 1953, the third Bhutanese king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, formed a national assembly followed by a cabinet in 1964. Hindu Bhutanese originally from Nepal were forced out of the country in the 1990’s in an effort to strengthen the country’s Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist identity and culture.
Bhutan’s culture is strongly based on its Tibetan form of Mahayana Buddhism, which contains a sprinkling of Tibet’s ancient Bon shamanist religion. The country’s rich heritage, protected by Bhutan’s isolation from the modern world until the 1960’s, is still very much in evidence. For most visitors to the country, Bhutan’s traditions and uniqueness are the main attractions, just ahead of its spectacular and mostly unspoiled natural beauty.
Bhutanese national dress is still worn across the country, and its design is tightly linked to class and social status. Men wear a belted, knee-length robe and women wear ankle length dresses, again belted at the waist. The texture of the fabric, its colors, its embroideries, and its woven decorations all determine the wearer’s class, as do the colors of the scarves and shawls carried by women. In Bhutan, traditionally a feudal society, status plays a strong part in human interaction.
Bhutanese law requires the wearing of the national costume in all public places, especially during the many religious festivals. These occasions see women in their finest, bedecked with heavy jewelry which is ornamented with coral and uncut turquoise stones. Family life revolves around the temples, and inheritance passes through the female line. Arranged marriages are common in rural areas and, occasionally, polygamy is an accepted state.
Etiquette here is important, with a government ministry responsible for maintaining the standards and prerequisites of clothing, eating, speech, and respect to officials and the Buddhist clergy. The long-protected indigenous forms of the Buddha’s teachings are preserved by a charitable institution set up in 2002. The two main languages of Bhutan, Sharchop and Dzongkha, are closely related to the Tibetan language, while Bhutanese art with its innumerable divine beings is closely related to Tibetan art.
The Bhutanese national sports of archery and digor, which involves the throwing of horseshoes and metal balls, are firmly rooted in the cultural heritage of the country. Archery contests are regularly held, and involve as much a social element as competition. Dancing, music, food, and drink are part of the riotous challenges between villages, with local supporters doing their best to distract the rival team. Another popular team sport involves throwing heavy wooden darts at a target between 30 and 60 feet away.
The weather in Bhutan varies from place to place depending upon the altitude of the region. In general the weather is warm during the day and night during summer. Spring and autumn are very pleasant with warn days and cool nights. Winter is usually in cold in Bhutan with chilling mornings and evenings. The temperature level may go down even below zero. You may get warmth of the sun during the day in winter. Due to the vivid geographical condition of the kingdom Bhutan experiences subtropical climate. The Inner Himalayas regions that ranges up to 2,250m (7,400 ft) experience cold winter and warm summer. The greater Himalayas that range from 2,250 m to 4,500 m (17, 7556 ft) are considered as cool zones where pasturelands are suitable for summer grazing. Any regions above 4,500 m have permanent snow line for all year long.
The citizen of Bangladesh, Maldives and India do not require VISA to enter Bhutan. People from other countries except from Bangladesh, Maldives and India need a VISA permit while traveling to Bhutan. The VISA processing for Bhutan requires a readable color copy of passport via email that has at least six month of validity from the date of exit from Bhutan. The file (Scan Copy) should be forwarded to via email in JPEG or PDF format. The passport number and picture of the applicant should be visible in the e-document.
The application should be processed at least 10 days prior to the date of entry to Bhutan. The tourism council of Bhutan then issues a VISA clearance letter and fax or email it to the local travel agent. Please note that the VISA service is not offered in Bhutan, travelers have to buy full service package from the local tour operator. Travelers traveling by air are required to produce a printed VISA clearance copy at the time of check-in for Druk Air flight. People traveling by land to enter Bhutan via Phuentshoking or Samdrup Jonkhar are required to produce a VISA clearance letter at the immigration center. The actual VISA is stamped in your passport on your arrival in Bhutan.
VISA Fee: USD 40 per person (included in your tour package)
Note: There is an additional charge for Visa Extension.
Transportation facility in Bhutan is rapidly growing as the country is gradually developing its infrastructures. Until 1961 traveling in Bhutan was quite difficult as there was no proper means of transportation in the country. One had to travel even on foot or on mule/horse back. The modern roads construction began after the first development plain was implemented in 1961. Bhutan then saw some big development in the transportation sector. Most of the districts and towns started to get interconnect via roadways. There are comfortable ground transports in the country and public vehicles are also accessible in major cities. Different luxurious cars, SUVs, buses and coaster buses are available for tourists.
The following information acts as a guide when traveling to Bhutan. This practical advice is not a comprehensive list but should provide some useful information for you as you plan your travelling.
Travel / Medical Insurance
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Travel insurance can be provided through your Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. You may also visit the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan website at www.ricb.com.bt for more information.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee which is widely accepted in the country.
In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.
Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that cater to the needs of the people.
Some of the banks that you can avail of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Traveller’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged for local currency. Many of these banks provide internet banking facilities.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
Bhutan offers immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips.
However you should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens.
Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colourful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. We leave it up to you as to whether you want to give a gratuity to your guides and drivers. However, if doing so, we recommend that you place the gratuity in an envelope.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Most hotels and cafe’s offer Wi-Fi internet access. Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also assessable.
Clothes & Other Paraphernalia
With great altitudinal variations, weather is quite mixed in Bhutan. So be prepared to face the unforeseen weather conditions.
We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
Measures, Weight & Time
Bhutan ascribes to the metric system and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). The standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, please seek advice from your doctor with regard to vaccinations and appropriate medication you should have prior to your travels. As a minimum you should have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world however you should still exercise caution when visiting. Please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. Please refrain from leaving such items within sight or in locked vehicles while sightseeing.
Avoid drinking tap water which has not been boiled or ice cubes in drinks at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated. One can easily acquire affordable treated and bottled water.
Also, Bhutan has a duty to protect its citizens from drugs and tobacco products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. Please co-operate if stopped and asked about your baggage. Please do not carry tobacco goods in excess of the set limit. For more information please see following link. Tobacco Control Act
Public holidays are observed throughout the nation. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of regional holidays that are observed especially during the annual Tshechus (Religious festivals). For such a list, please contact your service provider or travel agent.
Bhutan opened its territory for the international tourists only after 1947 when the government of Bhutan decided to promote the country through tourism. Bhutan is a religious country so there are many things that are considered taboos. The tourists visiting Bhutan should be aware about some basic dos and don’ts while traveling in Bhutan. Do's Have a printed VISA clearance copy at the time of check-in for the flight to BhutanFollow the proper dress etiquettes. Please make sure your dress code doesn’t harm the religious sentimentsBe courteous to old people and treat then with respectCarry enough cash as many business do not accept credit cardsRespond to the assigned tour guide and follow their instructionDo register your expensive personal belongings at customs as you need to show the proof of their existence while exiting the country. Don’ts Avoid tight/skin revealing clothes while visiting religious sites as they might be considered vulgar Remove sun caps while visiting temples or DzongsAvoid slangs while visiting religious sitesDo not feed birds/animals while visiting natural sitesDo not smoke anywhere you like. Look for the designated smoking zoneDo not point finger at people or artDo follow the traffic rules and regulations.
tan opened its territory for the international tourists only after 1947 when the government of Bhutan decided to promote the country through tourism. Bhutan is a religious country so there are many things that are considered taboos. The tourists visiting Bhutan should be aware about some basic dos and don’ts while traveling in Bhutan.
Have a printed VISA clearance copy at the time of check-in for the flight to BhutanFollow the proper dress etiquettes. Please make sure your dress code doesn’t harm the religious sentimentsBe courteous to old people and treat then with respectCarry enough cash as many business do not accept credit cardsRespond to the assigned tour guide and follow their instructionDo register your expensive personal belongings at customs as you need to show the proof of their existence while exiting the country.
Avoid tight/skin revealing clothes while visiting religious sites as they might be considered vulgar
Remove sun caps while visiting temples or DzongsAvoid slangs while visiting religious sitesDo not feed birds/animals while visiting natural sitesDo not smoke anywhere you like. Look for the designated smoking zoneDo not point finger at people or artDo follow the traffic rules and regulations.
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