Adorned with arresting landscape and an unparalleled spiritual aura, Bhutan is unarguably a land where happiness and peace of mind are contagious. Landlocked and snuggled against the mighty Himalayas, this last great Himalayan Kingdom is a tourist destination for nature lovers, adventure aficionados, wildlife enthusiasts, culture buffs, and anyone who is looking forward to a holiday amidst tranquil surroundings.
Bhutan is home to some of the sacred most Buddhist sites which exude spirituality that inspires the culture and traditions of the country as well. This unique destination is also a habitat for rare species of animals like snow leopard and red panda along with more than 700 species of birds. Bhutan is one of those destinations where time has slowed down in your favour so that you can relish a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation in this Himalayan paradise.
Snuggled against the Himalayas and owing to its unique ecosystem, Bhutan is an all season destination and thus, many of its parts are accessible year round.
Replete with postcard landscape, sacred Buddhist monastries, and rich culture, Bhutan’s top destinations include surreal Paro, modern and traditional Thimphu, sacred Punakha.
For a common Bhutanese, it might be incomprehensible why foreign tourists want to stay extremely quiet while trekking and hiking in Bhutan’s best trails including the one to famed Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Well, the quietude that this resplendent country offers is unlikely to be found anywhere around the world. The dense forests, the lofty snow-capped peaks, and the vast fields, all create a first impression difficult to be forgotten. Bhutan, the country that evaluates Gross National Happiness as its prime economic success, is truly a holiday travel destination you may not want to miss. Tucked between India and China, this country is indeed a slice of heaven for anyone in search of beauteous holiday destination which can be one’s little getaway secret as well. Bhutan is a land of imposing dzongs (forts) and monasteries; a stunning landscape that ranges from thick foliage to pretty fields; and a culture that has plenty to impart.
However, don’t mistake Bhutan to be only a rustic and quaint destination, this lovely undogmatic country will not hesitate to embrace anything that is new and happening. Expect Bhutan vacation travel guide to include classy clubs and pubs, conventional singing bars and plenty of fine dining places to convince you that this must-visit country knows how to have/offer a good time. For family vacations, there can be no better tourism destination like Bhutan that is steeped in history and culture. Also being a Buddhist country, it offers the perfect settings to those inclined towards spiritual tours. This tiny Himalayan country also offers its visitors with delectable food that not boasting about it back home is almost impossible. Adventure lovers have a plethora of treks to embark on whereas the honeymoon couples can stay satiated with the scenic settings and brilliant hospitality on tap. Bhutan is a paradise, and there is no denying in it, if you haven’t visited here, then you have indeed missed the finest tourism place in the world.
Blessed with unique ecosystem, protection of the Himalayas and the diverse relief features, Bhutan makes for an all season tourist destination. The spring season is when the rhododendrons and other flowering plants decorate the country, whereas the winters make Bhutan like nothing short of a fairytale land.
With one international airport in Paro, three open borders – Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu for excellent road connectivity, Bhutan is easily accessible from many parts of India and countries of Asia like Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Bhutan is a landlocked country located in South Asia. It is situated in the Eastern Himalayas and borders Tibet in the North, the Chumbi valley of Tibet and the Indian state of Sikkim in the West, the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the East and the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal in the south.
The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is divided into 20 districts or dzongkhags, as they are commonly called.
The official and the national language of Bhutan is the Dzongkha.
The constitution of Bhutan proclaims it as a Buddhist country. The official religion of Bhutan according to its constitution is Vajrayana Buddhism.
Bhutan is also a predominantly Buddhist country by population as an overwhelming majority of the people here practice it. Buddhism also plays a key role in the traditions, festivals, culture and the everyday lives of the people here and forms a key part of the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.
The early history of Bhutan remains unknown to the world due to its protected and hidden location amidst the Eastern Himalayas. In the 7th Century A.D., this place was ruled by the Cooch-Behar King, Sangaldip. The 12th century saw the establishment of the Drukpa Kagyupa School which marked the Drukpa Kagyupa branch of Buddhism as the country’s dominant religion.
The 17th century saw the rise of Ngawanag Namgyal from an ordinary Tibetan lama to a successful emperor who defeated foreign invasions, codified the Tsa Yig (Buddhist code of moral discipline) and created a comprehensive system of law and order. His death created a huge power vacuum in Bhutanese Politics which resulted in a long and drawn out civil war lasting the next 200 years. Finally, Ugyen Wangchuck came to power in 1907 and immediately began building close relations with the British crown which was ruling over the Indian subcontinent at that time. King Ugyen of Bhutan and the British Crown signed the treaty of Punakha in 1910 which solidified the sovereignty of Bhutan. His son Jigme Wangchuk acceded the throne in 1926. In 1947, the neighboring nation of India became independent from the British. The new Indian administration followed a policy similar to that of the British when dealing with Bhutan which led to the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations in 1949. In 1971, Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Jigme Singye Wangchuck became the King of Bhutan in 1972 and continued the successful development plan of his predecessor.
In spite of being an off-beat travel destination, Bhutan is still a paradise for shopaholics. Here are the things that one should definitely buy during their vacation in Bhutan:
Bhutan is the second least populous country of South Asia after Maldives. It is also the ‘least corrupt country’ in the region and ranks first in economic freedom, ease of doing business and peace. Bhutan is also the only country in the world to measure its prosperity in terms of its Gross National Happiness. It is also a mesmerizingly beautiful country nestled in the laps of the Eastern Himalayas and comprising of a rich biodiversity and an excellent forest conservation system. Apart from these, there are also some important factors which makes Bhutan one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world:-
According to the Worldometers elaboration of the latest United Nations Data, the current population of Bhutan as of October, 2019 is 765,459.
Bhutan has a total of four Airports. They are:
The best time to visit Bhutan is during the spring months from March to May when the weather is pleasant and the region is adorned with the colors of the blossoming flowers.
October is also a good time to visit this ‘Himalayan Kingdom’ due to the presence of clear skies and a mild but not too cold weather. It is the ideal time for trekking and adventure activities.
Bhutan boasts a plethora of culinary delights and so, it would be impossible to pick out a single dish as the most popular food of Bhutan. Therefore, to do justice to the delicious and varied cuisine of Bhutan, we have compiled a list of the most popular and must-taste foods of Bhutan.
The official and accepted currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (BTN). It is used for all economic trades and purposes at both professional and local levels.
Bhutan offers a plethora of accommodation options ranging from luxurious hotels and resorts to budget hotels and little homestays in traditional Bhutanese homes and settings. All the hotels and homestays in Bhutan maintain a high level of cleanliness and aim to provide tourists with an unmatched hospitality and service.
In the offbeat destinations of Bhutan, you’ll not find a lot of fine accommodation options. However, you can reside in the numerous homestays and lodges available in these secluded destinations.
Bhutan is a mountainous country with very little air connectivity and no rail connectivity between its different cities. Therefore, the length of your stay in Bhutan depends on a few factors:
How much of the country are you willing to cover
Most of the tourists who visit Bhutan only travel to the major cities and destinations of the country like Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. Generally speaking, one should at least spend 2 nights at each of the major cities of Bhutan to get a fulfilling traveling experience. For those tourists who are willing to travel to the offbeat destinations of Bhutan, it is recommended that they spend at least 9 nights in this beautiful Himalayan country which will give them ample time to also visit Trongsa, Bumthang and the Royal Manas National Park.
At what time of the year are you visiting Bhutan
The weather plays an important role in determining the length of your stay in Bhutan. Monsoon months should ideally be avoided for traveling as the roads become impassable during this time of the year. The Winter months of December and January should also be avoided as the roads tend to become frozen and dangerous in many parts of the country. The ideal time to spend a thrilling and unforgettable holiday in Bhutan is during the spring months of April and May and from October to November when the roads are clear and allow for safe and fast traveling.
According to the latest data published in 2013, there were 32 hospitals throughout Bhutan. Most of the districts/dzongkhags had at least one hospital with the exception of Gasa. The capital city of Thimphu had 5 hospitals. Apart from the major hospitals, smaller medical facilities are also available at most of the dzongkhags.
In 2011, Bhutan launched a telephonic Health Help Centre (HHC), with the aim of providing Emergency Response and Healthcare Helpline services through both landline and mobile phones.
The Bhutan Food Act of 2005 regulates the public health and safety of the people living here. The Act also launched the National Food Quality and Safety Commission and the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority which come under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Easily at all times in these places. However, the internet and cellular connectivity in the smaller and remote destinations of Bhutan are very limited or poor. However, most of the hotels and homestays here boast a decent cellular and internet connectivity. It is advised that one either buy a local Bmobile SIM (Bhutan Telecom, the state mobile network provider) or a TrashiCell SIM card after arriving in Bhutan to enjoy unlimited high-speed internet and cellular connectivity.
One can find ATM’s in all the major towns and tourist destinations of Bhutan like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Trongsa and Bumthang, where money can be easily withdrawn using a Visa or a MasterCard. However, tourists are advised to carry sufficient cash with them at all times when traveling in Bhutan, especially in the remote and off-beat towns of the country which have a distinct lack of proper and well functioning ATM’s.
All international travelers except the citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives require VISA to enter into Bhutan. A valid passport is also required to visit Bhutan. Before traveling to Bhutan, it is advised that you get your VISA clearance from Thimphu. The VISA clearance is required to obtain the VISA as without it, air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased. For this, you are required to send the photo-page of your passport to your local Bhutanese tour operator.
The VISAs are approved at the capital city of Thimphu and issued to tourists who have booked their holidays in Bhutan with a local licensed tours and travels operator either directly or through a foreign agent after the submission of the tourist visa application to the Tourism Council of Bhutan in Thimphu. The VISA fee of $40 must also be paid to get your VISA processed. After the payment has been made, it takes around 72 hours for the VISA clearance to get approved. Your VISA is issued once you show your VISA clearance letter at the point of entry.
For the citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives, a permit needs to be obtained at their point of entry in Bhutan, which can be easily done by producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian Nationals may use the Voters Identity Card).
It is not advised to drink the tap water in Bhutan. Bottled water is available at all places in Bhutan and one should always drink water from the same. Also, one should always carry a bottle of mineral water when traveling in Bhutan.
Since Bhutan is a land of high Himalayan Mountains, it is, thus, very common for tourists to get hit with Altitude Mountain Sickness during their travels through this ‘Himalayan Kingdom’. Therefore, it is advised to pace your journey when in Bhutan and avoid rapid ascents. Let your body get acclimatized with the harsh conditions of this place and the low level of oxygen in the air. It is also recommended to not to skip any meals and to take plenty of rest during your travels in Bhutan. If you feel any symptoms of AMS like headache, nausea, indigestion and bloating, contact your tour operator and the local medical facilities immediately.
The CDC and the WHO recommend the following vaccines one should take before visiting Bhutan:
Yes, Credit Cards are widely accepted in Bhutan. Almost all the hotels, restaurants and shops in the major cities like Thimphu, Paro, Bumthang, Punakha and Trongsa accept payments through Credit Cards. However, if you are visiting the offbeat locales of Bhutan, it is advised to carry sufficient amounts of cash with you at all times.
Yes, Bhutan is a remarkably safe country for both tourists and locals alike. The country ranks very high amongst its South Asian contemporaries in Public Safety, Crime and Theft and it is almost completely devoid of scams and frauds. Nevertheless, it is advised that one should follow the below protocols when traveling in Bhutan:
Bhutan enjoys excellent electricity supply during almost all times of the year. Tourists visiting Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Bumthang and Trongsa will get regular electricity supply at all times. However, in the remote and less-visited places of Bhutan, you may get some power outages.
The energy used in Bhutan is clean and renewable, generated from its massive hydroelectric power plants. As of the data of 2011, around 60 % of the rural households in Bhutan are fully electrified.
The Time Zone of Bhutan is the Bhutan Time (BTT), which is +06:00 hours ahead of the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC+06:00). There are no Daylight-Saving Time Clock Changes in Bhutan.
The Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan bans the cultivation, harvesting, production and sale of Tobacco and Tobacco related products in Bhutan.
The consumption of Tobacco and Smoking is largely banned in all the public places of Bhutan. However, tourists can still bring 200 cigarettes with them but they can only smoke in specific smoking rooms after seeking the permission of the owners of these smoking rooms.
Although Bhutan is a comparatively safe country to visit and there are no immediate health risks and requirements, it is still advised that you should ensure that you have a proper health insurance for hepatitis and rabies before visiting this country.
Bhutan requires all of its visitors to hold a valid and comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes cancellation and emergency evaluation cover. It is also mandatory for motorcyclists planning to ride their ‘over 250cc motorcycles’ in Bhutan to hold a valid travel insurance policy.
Warm and comfortable clothing is recommended to wear in Bhutan along with sturdy and soft-soled shoes. The climate of Bhutan remains mild and pleasant throughout the year and therefore, it is advised to always carry light woolens with you in addition to heavy cotton clothes in Summers and heavy woolen wear in Winters.
The Visa Fee for Bhutan is $40 which must be paid to get your Visa processed.
Yes, Bhutan is very safe for solo female travelers. It is also one of the most progressive countries of South Asia and ranks high in Women Safety amongst its contemporary nations.
The best season to enjoy the many trekking trails and hiking routes of Bhutan is during the spring months from March to May and the autumn season from October to November.
Bhutan’s independent and sovereign history gave rise to a rich and distinct culture over the ages, heavily influenced by the teachings of Buddha. The people here, due to their self-sufficient lifestyle and Buddhist teachings of contentment, welcome travelers with their warm hospitality.
Bhutan is renowned for its non-discriminatory attitude towards girls and progressive values. Marriages in Bhutan are simple low-key affairs and divorces are not considered ‘taboo’ or disgrace in the Bhutanese society.
The marvellous architecture of Bhutan consisting of sloped roofs and intricate wooden work is another feature of the country’s unique culture.
Bhutanese people are very proud of their culture and carry it with immense respect and put a strong emphasis on its preservation.
The arts and crafts of Bhutan comprise of excellently designed handicrafts, traditional Bhutanese jewelry, exquisitely woven shawls, handmade textiles, beautiful Buddhist paintings, exotic statues, Tibetan horns and marvelous metal works. The hand-woven textiles of Central Bhutan are woven from sheep wool and yak hair and praised all over the world for their wonderful and intricate designs and creativity. Bhutan is also famous for its beautifully designed paintings, prayer flags, beads, incense and decorated silver treasure chests.
Yes, tourists can operate drone cameras in Bhutan with permission from the Department of Civil Aviation. They must also follow the guidelines listed below in order to fly their drone cameras:
Yes, you can bring tobacco to Bhutan. Bhutan allows tourists to bring with them 30 pieces of cigars or 200 sticks of cigarettes.
No, there is no minimum fee that needs to be paid to visit Bhutan except the Visa Clearance Fee. All international tourists except those having the citizenship of India, must pay $250 per person per day if they are visiting from March-May and September-November. For those tourists who are traveling to Bhutan from December-February and June-August, the rate is $200 per person per day. An additional surcharge of $40/30 must be paid by those traveling solo/in a group of 2. These costs cover the costs of visa ($40), accommodation, transport in Bhutan, food, guide and entry fees.
The official language of Bhutan is the Dzongkha. It is also spoken by the majority of the people here. Apart from this, there are 19 other languages and dialects spoken throughout the Kingdom of Bhutan. The three other languages except Dzongkha that are predominantly spoken by the people here are:
English is also widely spoken and understood by the people of Bhutan.
Yes, you can travel throughout Bhutan in your own car after getting a permit at the Phuntsholing border. For this, you will need to contact your tour operator and ask him to handle the paperwork. If the vehicle has an overseas registration number, then you will need a carnet in order to get through India. It is advised to obtain a Bhutanese driving license issued by the Road Safety and Transport Authority.
Indian tourists can travel across Bhutan in their own vehicles after getting their insurance policies, registration papers, fitness and emission certificates and driving license endorsed by the Road Safety and Transport Authority at the border. The traffic regulations in Bhutan are similar to those in India and they are strictly enforced.
Please note that an International Driving Permit is not valid in Bhutan. However, the Indian Driving License is valid in Bhutan.
Yes, Bhutan boasts a splendid but unexplored nightlife in its major cities of Thimphu and Paro. Here are some of the best places in Bhutan where you can groove to your favorite music and experience a fun filled evening:
Just like most of the places in India, Bhutan too enjoys four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Spring prevails from the months of March to May which serves as a great time to enjoy rafting on Po Chu River, the Druk Path trek, visit the Dochula Pass, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and so on.
Summer in Bhutan spans from June to August, which is a great period for exploring the outdoors. One can enjoy the best of wildlife safari, a trek to the Dagala trail, enjoying horse riding, be a part of Nimalung Tshechu Festival, and much more in the summer season. While Autumn is considered to be a perfect season to explore Paro Valley via cycling, and mountain biking, one can also go trekking in the Pilgrim Valley from September to November. Last but not the least, Bhutan enjoys a beautiful winter season from the months of December to February during which one can explore the largest Trongsa Dzong, hike the Haa Valley, go on bike tours, and enjoy a lot more activities that lets one witness the real beauty of this paradise.
Yes, One can travel to Bhutan with their pets but they can only step in the country via Paro Airport where all the necessary checks are done. While an evidence of rabies vaccination is a must, all the pets are also required to obtain a permit which is issued from the local office of BAFRA (Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority).
To your surprise, you only need either a passport or a voter identity card to get an entry permit in Bhutan which can be obtained from Gelephu, Phuntsholing, and Samdrup Jongkhar. In addition to that, one would require 2 passport-sized photographs, birth certificate or school ID for kids below 18 years, and a confirmation receipt from the hotel booked.
The entry permit, be it the usual or the special one, is only valid for a period of 7 days in Bhutan.
It is very easy to get a local sim in Bhutan. The travelers can buy a sim card by submitting a photocopy of their passport, and a passport-sized photo from the local sales shop or from any of the authorized vendors of either BMobile or Tashicell.
The food in Bhutan is nothing but delicious and whatever you eat, you can expect a lot of rice to be involved in or along with almost every dish. Dishes like Ema Datshi, and red rice are very famous in Bhutan. While rice dominates in most parts of Bhutan, one can also treat themselves to some juicy chicken, pork, lamb, and yak meat.
While Bhutan is not only the Land of the Thunder Dragon but also the monasteries, there are some of the famous ones that no traveler should miss out on. Paro Taktsang, Punakha Dzong Monastery, and Memorial Chorten in Thimphu, are some of the best monasteries to see in Bhutan that are soaked in the goodness of the old-world charm and its culture.
Although Bhutan is a country that follows Buddhism as the main religion, there is a certain amount of population that also practices Hinduism in the country. While the number of temples is nowhere compared to the number of monasteries, the famous temples that one can visit in Bhutan are that of Jayanti Mahakal Temple, Bhutan Samtse, Vijay Mata Mandir, and Bhairabkunda Shiva Temple.
Some of the most astonishing places like that of Thimphu the capital, the evergreen Paro Valley, the lush Phuentsholing, the architectural masterpiece of Punakha, the adventurous Gelephu, etc.are all beautiful and best destinations for a honeymoon trip in Bhutan.
Gasa, the Royal Manas National Park, Trashiyangtse, Laya, Dochula, Wangdue Phodrang, etc.are some of the best offbeat places to visit when in Bhutan.
Be it lodges, bed and breakfasts, homestays, cosy inns, or the budget hotels, one can easily find comfortable accommodation options in Bhutan while traveling on a shoestring budget. Properties like that of Nirvana Lodge, Gnathang Residency, etc. are some of the best budget places to stay in Bhutan for a comfortable vacation.
While all the places in Bhutan do not receive snowfall, some of the places like Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Paro, and Bumthang receive heavy snowfall during the period from December to February.
The cost of flights to Bhutan is dependent on tourist season. It is suggested to always book the flight for Bhutan in advance.
Yes. One of the best ways to explore the beauty of Bhutan at your own pace is to stay at one of the beautiful homestays that are spread across the country. Some of the famous ones are Aum Om Homestay, Namgay Homestay, Ugyen Homestay, Damchoe’s Homestay, and many more.
While Indian nationals do not require a visa to enter the Kingdom of Bhutan. However, for those who are traveling to Bhutan via flight can obtain a visa on arrival at Paro airport, and those who are traveling via road, can obtain the same either at Gelephu, Phuentsholing or Samdrup Jongkhar.
Some of the best villages to explore the best of rural Bhutan and a relaxed lifestyle are that of Sakteng where you can witness a nomadic lifestyle; Gangtey or Phobjikha for the lovers of snow; Dhur for exhibiting an impeccable cultural setting; and Merak that is quite popular amidst the photography enthusiasts for its astonishing landscapes.
Bhutan observes a public holiday on many occasions. The festive day of Losar, Winter Solstice, the traditional day of offering, birth anniversaries of kings and gurus, Dussehra, the National Day, anniversary of the fourth Druk, rainy day, etc.are some of the public holidays celebrated in Bhutan.
It depends on the particular needs and the intent of the traveler. In case someone wants to go backpacking or a solo trip and is more interested in a DIY trip, then it’s a matter of their choice. However, one can also book value for money tour packages through leading travel portals online for a hassle-free trip to Bhutan.
Literally translating into the “tenth day”, a Tshechu is a religious festival that is celebrated annually in every district of Bhutan. Based on the Tibetan lunar calendar, Tsechu festivals originate from the lineage of Drukpa and every district celebrates their Tshechu in every particular month that is dedicated to that district.
An estimate of about 400 plus black-necked cranes flock to Bhutan in the winter season. While December happens to be the best time to catch a glimpse of this endangered species, one can head to the Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan to see these birds in great numbers.
A well-thought of alternative to the economic measure of the gross domestic product, the Gross National Happiness or GNH is an index that was introduced by the King of Bhutan that measures the evolving and well-being of its citizens. It measures the growth and progress of morals in one’s life and considers a good amount of qualitative factors.
Two of the major airlines that provide international connectivity to Paro Airport in Bhutan are that of Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
Yes, Bottled water is easily accessible in Bhutan at all the hotels, shops, and restaurants. Also, it is the only safest option than opting to drink tap water.