BHUTAN

Happiness is a place

There is a place on earth that even the most seasoned traveller consider a privilege to visit. And although it is voted one of the world’s top travel destinations, very few make it. This is Drukyul, Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. You cannot find a more enlightening travel destination today.

Bhutan is marked by raw natural beauty where the dense foliage changes dramatically as the sub tropical jungles at sea level merge into a fertile temperate zone and rises up to the great northern glaciers. The pristine environment is home to exotic wild life and is the last refuge for endangered species like the Black-Necked Crane, the Blue Sheep, the Golden Langur, the Takin and even the Royal Bengal Tiger.

The kingdom of Bhutan today remains as one of the last un-ventured destinations. And Bhutan does not have traffic lights even today. That is how the Bhutanese people would like to keep it. Thus the carefully managed tourism policy of the government based on ‘High value, Low impact’, in essence: ‘take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints’.

Bhutan

Happiness is a place

It is no surprise that the main goal in life for Bhutanese people is happiness. Even the mandate of modern Bhutanese state is Gross National Happiness. In translation, this means that economic development, a goal for much of humanity, is only a means to the real goal of happiness. Bhutan’s Brand tagline ‘Happiness is a place’ simply assures that happiness can be found in simple things and these simple things can be found anywhere and in anything.

Quick Facts

Area 38,394 sq.km
Forest coverage 72.5%
Population 741,822 (2013)
Official Language Dzongkha
Currency Ngultrum (BTN / Nu)
Country Code 975
Capital Thimphu
Local Time 6 hrs ahead of GMT
State Religion Mahayana Buddhism
Bhutan's Tourism Policy

'High Value, Low Impact' Tourism

The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes that tourism is a world-wide phenomenon and an important means of achieving socioeconomic development particularly for a developing country like Bhutan. It believes that tourism, in affording the opportunity to travel, can help to promote a deeper understanding among people and to strengthen ties of friendship based on a deeper appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.

Towards achieving this objective, the Royal Government, has adopted a very cautious approach to growth and development of the tourism industry in Bhutan. Its tremendous potential as a truly indigenous industry and the clear comparative advantages Bhutan enjoys, are compelling reasons to promote Bhutan as a high-end tourist destination in a manner which accords with the tenets of Gross National Happiness.

The Royal Government of Bhutan adheres strongly to the policy of ‘High Value, Low Impact’ tourism.

Best time to visit Bhutan

Bhutan is an year-round destination with four distinct seasons and each season has its own beauty and charm, hence, it is entirely up to your preferences:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 cov- ered in snow.

Spring and Autumn seasons are, however, commonly favored as the best time to visit Bhutan with Paro and Thimphu Tsechu (Festival), by far the most popular festivals in Bhutan, also taking place during theses seasons respectively.

Getting into Bhutan

The country has so far only one international airport that caters to the needs of visitors. The international airport at Paro is located at a height of 7,300 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 ft. There are flights from destinations that include Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bagdogra and Bodh Gaya.

The flight between Paro and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. In fine weather, as you soar higher up, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.

And there are domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan that Drukair operates to.

Weather

The climate in Bhutan is extremely varied, which can be at- tributed to two main factors-the vast differences in altitude present in the country and the influence of North Indian mon- soons.

In the Central parts of the country which consists of temper- ate and deciduous forests, the climate is more seasonal with warm summers and cool and dry winters. In the far Northern reaches of the kingdom, the weather is much colder during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain. Southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Tem- peratures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius (59- 86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Bhutan has four distinct seasons in a year. Bhutan’s gener- ally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June. Autumn, from late Sep- tember or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. From late November until March, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters.

Food

The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy.

Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is ac- companied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spin- ach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, on- ions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.

Ema Datshi (literally translating to ‘Chilli Cheese’) is the most popular dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chilies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country.

Attractions

01

Paro Taktsang

Bhutan’s most famous monastery perched on the side of a cliff at a height of 900m above the Paro valley and popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” is one of most venerated religious sites.

04

Nature & Wildlife

Bhutan has the largest proportion of land designated as protected areas in the world. Its minimum 65% forest cover comprises a suite of varying habitats and an amazing diversity of plants and animals. The endangered Black-necked Cranes of Phobjikha valley are justifiably renowned.

07

Mountain Flight

Flying in and out of Bhutan offers you an opportunity to experience a bird’s eye view of some of the otherwise inaccessible wonders of Bhutan – the stunning mountain panorama and myriad scenery from the towering heights of the Eastern Himalayas to the sub-tropical forests of the foothills.

02

Punakha Dzong

Superbly situated where two rivers converge, Punakha Dzong is postcard perfect and serenely monastic. Built by the Zhabdrung in 1637, it is the winter home of the Monastic Body of Bhutan and the venue for the coronation of kings of Bhutan.

05

Mountain Trekking

Bhutan’s treks are physically demanding but hugely rewarding. They generally reach high altitudes and remote regions, and several are justifiably renowned in trekking circles including the Jomolhari Trek and Snowman Trek.

08

Phobjikha Valley

Against the backdrop of western slopes of the Black Mountains in Wangdue Phodrang, lies the bowl-shaped Phobjikha valley that offers breathtaking views of vast expanses of green fields. It is home to the endangered Black-necked Crane that winters here, also called Gangtey, a breathtaking glacial valley.

03

Tsechus

Most of the Dzongs and Goembas have annual festivals featuring mesmerizing masked-dance dramas. The largest of these festivals is the Tsechu – with dances in honor of the Guru Rinpoche

06

Bumthang Valley

The valleys comprising Bumthang make up the cultural heartland of Bhutan and are ideal for day hikes to monasteries. Witness the imprint of Guru Rinpoche, hoist Pema Lingpa’s 25kg chainmail, and stare into the churning waters of Mebartsho (the Burning Lake), where Pema Lingpa uncovered hidden treasures.

09

Traditional Textiles

Hand-woven and embroidered textiles are generally recognized as Bhutan’s premier handicraft. Centuries of tradition have honed the techniques of textile dyeing, weaving and stitching. There are small shops throughout the country selling vibrant fabrics that make a colorful souvenir.

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