Bhutan, a landlocked country with Tibet (China) in the North and India in the south is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, used to be the most isolated nation in the world. The kingdom of Bhutan is a mountainous country ranging from the little above the sea level up to 7600m elevation of the high Himalayas with varying climatic conditions asserting from hot humid to alpine depending upon different altitudes and seasons. It is perhaps the last of Sangrilas which is even known as the Druk-Yul- the land of thunder Drag. The areas of Bhutan is similar with Switzerland occupies only over 47000sq km with little over 6000,000 populations.
Bhutan consists with some of the breathtaking sceneries, is considered as the best trekking destination in the world along with a rich Buddhist culture. Trekking in Bhutan offers a diverse climatic condition with natural wealth of flora and Fauna, magnificent mountains, scenic beauty, forest, crystalline air, a self sufficient and friendly people, terrific art and architecture and deep valley untouched by modernization which is a wonderful experience for any visitors who enjoys hiking and camping in rich natural habitat.
October and November and May and March are the best seasons for Bhutan trekking for all the high altitude treks going over 4000m. But some short trek like Druk path trek, Bhumthang cultural trek, Gangtey natural trek can be undertaken at any time from October to May through the winter.
Visa is necessary constituent to travel to Bhutan. The Royal Government of Bhutan issues the visa after the receipt of full payment in advance. No other foreign mission or institutions are authorised to grant tourist visa. It costs the US $ 20.00 for the visa and it could be extended by paying the additional US $ 15.00. Visa fee has to be paid along with other payment. Visa application must reach Bhutan prior to the arrival date allowing enough time for processing. Visa is stamped in the passport on arrival at the Paro Airport. The two copies original passport size photos are essential o arrival and the visa USD is for 14 days that can be extended with an additional fee of USD 15.
Travelling in Bhutan
All independent travel is prohibited in Bhutan so, every tourist (group and individual) must travel through a government travel company which must be pre- planned and prepared. The work of guided, package tour or custom designed must be prepared on time.
As the government issues visa only after the receipt of full tour payment, it is mandatory to make tour payments a month in advance of the arrival date in Bhutan.
Druk Air (Royal Bhutan Airlines)
The Government of Bhutan has made it mandatory for all visitors to travel by Royal Bhutan Airlines (Druk Air). Only Druk Air is permitted into Paro Airport.
Glimpse of Bhutan
Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
Area: 47,000 sq km
Climate: Varieties; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valleys; severe winters and cool summers in the Himalayas.
Terrain: mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna
Population: 1,951,965 (July 1999 est.)
Religions: Lamaistic Buddhism 75%, Indian- and Nepalese- influenced Hinduism 25%
Languages: Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects
Places to visit in Bhutan
Thimpu, the capital city of Bhutan is the main centre for marketing agricultural goods produced in the surrounding valley and terraced hillside area which includes rice, maize and wheat. It lies on the River Raidek at an altitude of 2000m with 48,300 populations in its area. As per the description of history, we come to know the facts that the late King Jigme Dorje Wangchuck built the Thimpu and declare it as the capital city of Bhutan, replacing the ancient capital of Punakha before 30 years ago. Tashichhodzong, the seat of Royal Government and Central Monastic body is the most striking and magnificent visual landmark of Thimpu. Many institutions like the Royal school of performing arts, the school of traditional painting, the national textile museum and Institute of Traditional medicine etc. were established in Thimpu in order to provide the information and to get the insight of the Bhutanese cultures.
Thimpu is the two nation’s capitals in Asia which have no traffic lights but the country takes pride in its traffic police who provide traffic signals with their dance like movements of hands and arms.
The most attractive and unique valley in Bhutan among many others is paro, which has historical importance of the center of two important trades routes in Tibet. It is 52km far away from Thimpu and said that the houses in paro area are the most beautiful in country. It is a small but eye-catching township with the only Bhutan’s airport served the tourists as the gateway to the Kingdom. The town is enclosed by many gorgeous surrounding and interesting places for visiting. In the main street of paro you will get probably the best traditional architecture with decorated buildings and housing, restaurants and many institutions. However, the most interesting place is Paro Dzong, the fortress monastery. Furthermore, the picaresque place Dungste Lakhang is the other impressive sites for visiting. In the Hill above the Dzong stands an ancient watchtower the national museum of Bhutan since 1967 became the mysterious places which should visit once in life.
Punakha is an ancient capital of Bhutan and the seat of Government till 1955, the capital is moved to Thhimpu. With the comparison to Thimpu, it is the quite warm in winter and hot in the summer season which is different from climate of Thimpu. At the distance of 72 km lies Punkha city with an elevation of 1,200 m above the sea level, which takes 3 hours drive by car from Capital city, Thimpu. This is a popular place as it is used to be the home of the Bhutan’s central Monastic body led by HH Je Khenpo.
The valley is model rice growing place in Western Bhutan as the both red and white crops are grown along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chhu Rivers in the punakhan Wangdue valley. Till 1907, Punakha Dzong was the main site of coronation of Ugen Wangchuk (or Deb Nagpo), the first king of Bhutan.
Bhumthang with its unique geographical feature established itself as a distinctive region of all others. ‘Bhumthang’ is composed of ‘Bhum’ and ‘Thang’ which directly translated as “Beautiful Fields” means field or flat place. Some says the name also described that this is the valley of Beautiful girls. The vale is considered as the religious centre of Bhutan and became the home of many oldest Buddhist temples. It is mainly popular for its festival Bumthang Tsechu together with the Paro and Thimpu Tsechu in Bhutan and Jambey Lhakang, Kurje Lakhang, Tamshing Lakhang, Jakar Dzong are some of the important place for seeing.
Wangdue is the last town in the highway before entering central Bhutan built in 1638. You can find well provided shops and hotels in this town. There are three paved roads in Wangdue Phodrang dzongkhag. The Lateral Road enters from the west at Dochu La Pass, crosses the Pana Tsang Chhu at Wangdue Phodrang dzong, and continues east to Tongsa.