About Bhutan

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About Bhutan

Bhutan or the land of the Thunder Dragon is one of the most highly acclaimed travel destinations. This is a land of remarkable natural beauty with a pristine and intact environment and friendly, tradition-bound people. To the discerning international traveler, Bhutan has become an exotic and enticing final frontier. Bhutan’s present travel status comes as no surprise given that this tiny kingdom, the size of Switzerland, was zealously sequestered from the world for centuries. The door to this mythical Buddhist kingdom was opened to limited tourism only three decades ago.

Travel to Bhutan is still regulated through a policy of high-value tourism. At this time and age when tourism most often dictates national economics, travel to Bhutan is a refreshing experience. Here, a deeply ingrained sense of hospitality, a universally acknowledged ecosystem, and a living culture ensure every traveler the best that any nation has on offer. Travel to Bhutan is really an exploration. Explore a tradition and culture that has been preserved through the centuries. In Bhutan, it is not about seeing a display showcased for tourists but living and sharing an experience with the Bhutanese. From religious festivals to a celebration on a farm or a game of archery, become a part of it all. This is true interactive travel.

Geographical Co-ordinates

The Kingdom of Bhutan covers a land area of 46,500 square kilometers. The land lies between latitudes 26o 45’ N and 28o 10’ N and between longitude 88o 45’ E and 92o 10’ E. The country has a maximum latitudinal distance of 170 kilometers and a maximum longitudinal distance of 300 kilometers.

Topography

Bhutan is almost entirely mountainous with flat land limited to the meandering border river valleys. The land rises from approximately 300 meters above sea level in the south to the towering Himalayan mountains in the north of over 7,400 meters high. The densely populated central valleys are separated from the south by a 2,000m high chain of mountains within a distance of less than 175 km.

Bhutan has three major landform features: the southern foothills: the inner Himalayas and the higher Himalayas. The southern foothill rises from the plains to heights of about 1,500 meters extending to the north by about 20 kilometers. Southern Bhutan consists of a heavy network of steep hills covered with a large tracts of dense forest and jungles.

Culture:
Bhutan is comprised of a mosaic of different peoples who continue to live in valleys isolated from one another and the outside world by formidable mountain passes. Differing ethnic groups are also distributed according to the varying environments.

People and Language:
The country’s population of 600,000 is composed of three main ethnic groups. The Sharchopas, who are considered to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan, live mostly in eastern Bhutan and are of Indo-Mongoloid origin. The Ngalops populate mostly Western Bhutan, who migrated from the Tibetan plains and are the importers of Buddhism to Bhutan. The Lhotsampas who are of Nepalese origin settled in the southern foothills of the country in the early twentieth century.

Flora & Fauna:
770 bird species in Bhutan have been recorded in Bhutan and much still remains unknown. Snow leopard, blue sheep, red panda, tiger, takin, marmot, and musk deer are some of the species found in the high altitude. Temperate zone fauna includes tigers, leopards, goral, gray langur, Himalayan black beer, red panda, sambar, wild pig, and barking deer. The tropical forests in the south have tigers, clouded leopard, elephants, one-horned Rhinoceros, water buffalo, golden langur, gaur, swamp deer, hog deer, hornbills etc.

Festivals:
The festivals known as the “ Tshechus “are in Bhutan throughout the year at different locations. These festivals are celebrations of faith, legends, myths, and the history of Bhutan in the ancient rituals of colorful dance and music. The most popular for tourists are those held in Thimpu, Paro, and Bumthang.  The dance known as Cham brings blessings upon the onlookers, instructs them in the teachings of the Buddhist religion, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise evil influences. It is a religious festival and it is believed one gains merit by attending it. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people rejoice together, dressed in their finest clothing and jewelry. Bhutanese festival dates are mostly based on the Bhutanese lunar calendar. Most of the Bhutanese festival dates are given below.

Festival calendar of Bhutan in 2022:

Festival Place Date
Lhosar Bhutan 03-04 February
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu Punakha 10-15 February
Chorten Kora Trashiyangtse 18 February
Gamkora Trashigang 13-15 March
Paro Tshechu Paro 15-19 March
Chukha Tshechu Chukha 17-19 March
Ura Yakchoe Bumthang 14-18 May
Nimalung Tshechu Bumthang 08-10 July
Kurjey Tshechu Bumthang 29 June
Thimpu Drubchen Thimpu 01-05 October
Wangdi Tshechu Wangdi Phodrang 04-06 October
Tamshigphala Choepa Bumthang 06-08 October
Thimpu Tshechu Thimpu 06-08 October
Tangbi Mani Bumthang 10-12 October
Jambay Lhakhang drup Bumthang 10-14 November
Prakhar Tshechu Bumthang 11-13 November
Mongar Tshechu Mongar 02-05 December
Pemagatshel Tshechu Pemagatshel 02-04 January
Trashigang Tshechu Trashigang 02-05 December
Nalakhang Tshechu Bumthang 10-12 December
Trongsa Tshechu Trongsa December
Thuntse Tsheche Lhuntse December

Climate & Temperature:
Bhutan’s climate is as varied as its altitude and, like most of Asia, is affected by monsoons. The climate is humid and subtropical in the southern plains and foothills, temperate in the inner Himalayan valleys of the southern and central regions, and cold in the north, with year-round snow on the main Himalayan summits.

Average Temperature in Thimpu:  Winter (December-February) Max. 10 to 15 and Min. 0 to -3 degrees Celsius.  Spring (March-May) Max.17 to 23 and Min. 5 to 12 degrees Celsius.  Summer(June-August) Max. 18 to 25 and Min. 13 to 16 degrees Celsius. Autumn (September –November) Max.17 to 23 and Min. 5 to 15 degrees Celsius.

Accommodation:
There are comfortable hotels in the major towns such Thimpu, Paro, and Phuentsoling, while in smaller towns, modest, but adequate hotels, lodges, and guest houses are available. All tourist lodges & hotels are recognized and regulated by the Department of Tourism.

Food and Drinks:
Traditional Bhutanese food tends to be hot and spicy. For our visitors, however, a range of Chinese, Indian and Continental food is served. If you like, you can also try the local delicacies like the tasty, but fiery, ematatshi, the national dish of Bhutan, made with red chilies and cottage cheese.

Time Difference:
Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of India.

Currency:
The currency used is 1 Ngultrum(NU), broken into 100 Chetrum(CH). The Ngultrum is pegged to the Indian Rupee(which is also accepted as legal tender). Notes are in denominations of NU100, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1. Coins are in denominations of NU 1, and 100, 50, 25, 10, and 5 Chetrum.

Visa and Master Card:
Very few hotels and shops accept credit cards hence it is better if clients carry enough cash or American Express traveler’s cheque for shopping and paying the bar bills.

What to Bring:
Casual clothes are fine. Use a layering system, starting with thermal underwear and adding a shirt, pile jacket, and windbreaker or parka as necessary.  Some useful things are given as follows:

  • Backpack
  • Woolen/Cotton trousers
  • Wind stopper  and Down Jacket for higher altitude
  • T-shirt or long-sleeved shirts
  • Sandals or flip flops
  • Sun hat
  • Comfortable shoes(Sneakers)
  • Pairs of socks and vests
  • Torch(Flashlight)
  • Sunglasses, spare glasses, and contact lenses
  • Sun cream lotion
  • Insect repellent cream and your personal medical kit
  • Thermal underwear and long jorns will be an essential use

Most of the time, you will be outside and much of this time is at an altitude above 2500 meters so there is plenty of sun and wind. Bring a supply of sun cream and some lip protection, such as Blistex; these items are not available in Bhutan.