A HIMALAYAN KINGDOM PARADISE
Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas between China and India, the small Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan opened itself to the outside world only in 1960s. Hithertho, it had been largely mysterious even to its neighbours but abandoning its self-imposed policy of isolation had it grappling to find a precarious balance between modernization and the preservation of its culture and traditions.However, it does seem that Bhutan has found the perfect balance between the two and now though it is making tremendous developments in all sectors, it also manages to hold onto its unique identity that makes it unlike any other country in the world with a population of just over 0.7 million.
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The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between two neighboring giants: China to the north and India to the South. Bhutan lies between 88 degrees 45′ and 92 degrees 10′ longitude East and 26 degrees 42′ and 28 degrees 15′ latitude North. It is a landlocked Himalayan nation that has managed to preserve its sovereignty and strong cultural identity despite infiltration of foreign cultural forces especially with the advent of television and internet in 1999.
Bhutan has a total area of 38,394 square kilometers with an aerial distance of around 350km from east to west and around 150km from north to south.
There is a great variation in altitude from the southern foothills that range from 100 meters above sea level to 7,200 meters above sea level in the northern passes. From east to west, the altitude ranges from 3,000 to 3,500m.
According to the 2014 estimation, the population stands at 754,951.
There are 20 districts in Bhutan. They are divided into four regional zones: east, west, north and south. The people of each zone have their unique traditions and culture plus they usually have their own dialects.
The Capital town of Bhutan, Thimphu, is an interesting blend of modernity and tradition. While you may see hip youngsters on the streets, you will also be awed by the Bhutanese way of living that is deeply engrained in the culture.
It is one of the two capital cities in Asia without traffic lights (The other is Pyongyang in North Korea).The traffic is directed by traffic policemen in blue uniforms who show the way through graceful hand motions.
Since the Fourth King abdicated the throne in 2006, and the Fifth King officially ascended the throne in 2008, Bhutan went from being an absolute monarchy to a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy.
Why is Bhutan known for the word Happiness?
Bhutan is known famously as the first country in the world to measure progress based on happiness. To do so, the 4th Druk Gyalpo coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH). From then on, GNH was used to measure the country’s development instead of Gross National Product (GNP).
The happiness of the Bhutanese is more important than material growth and there should be a balance between to two. A GNH Commission was created to take an annual measure of how the people fare. The poll is based on an index of nine domains. Living standards, education, health, cultural diversity and resilience, community vitality, time use, psychological wellbeing, ecological diversity, and good governess are the nine domains that are taken into account. According to the GNH Commission, 81.5% of the population of Bhutan is deeply happy. The Commission is still working on ways to achieve total happiness for 100% of Bhutanese.
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For Bhutan, Bhutan Trek & Travel will arrange the visa for you. The cost of the visa is included in the tour price. The Bhutanese visa is issued to your passport on arrival. No passport photos are currently required for this, but it’s always good to travel with a couple current photos.
In order to arrange the Bhutan visa, you must provide Bhutan Trek & Travel with the following:
– Arrival and Departure flight details for Paro
– Scanned colour passport copy, which must meet the following requirements: the image must be extremely clear with no obstructions covering any part of the passport; it must have all details (including background letters) on the passport page in readable print; and there must be absolutely no reflections (due to flash photography) on the image itself.
These details need to be submitted to us 35-40 days before departure.
We will then arrange the Bhutanese visa for you. The visa letter will be forwarded to you 2-5 business days before departure. We cannot get the visa letter issued any sooner, as it is issued by the Bhutanese government. Please print out the visa letter, you will be required to show this before boarding your flight to Paro.
Important: If you are planning to extend your stay in Bhutan, pre- and post-tour accommodation MUST be booked through Bhutan Trek & Travel in order for us to issue a valid visa for the duration of your stay.
If arriving and departing Paro from India, please note that the Indian government has recently made some changes to visa regulation due to misuse of the Tourist visa. We encourage all passengers to contact the Indian consulate or embassy in their home country to get up to date information on entry requirements. This is especially important for those planning on entering India multiple times in a two month period.
Foreigners holding an Indian Tourist visa, who after initial entry into India plan to visit neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan or Sri Lanka and then re-enter into India within 2 months need to get special authorisation.
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1. Tiger’s Nest – Also known as Taktsang, is said to be the most spiritual place in Bhutan. The temple sits on the edge of a mountainside above the Paro Valley. The walk is 3,000 feet over the valley where you can experience the peaceful and tranquil Bhutan landscape. The temple was built to commemorate Guru Rinpoche. He came to that location the back of a flying tigress. After meditating for 3 years, Rinpoche worked to convert the Bhutan people to Buddhism.
2. Punakha Dzong – Surrounded by Jacaranda trees, the Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautifully crafted dzongs in Bhutan. It was the second dzong built in the kingdom as its capital. Later in the 1950’s, Thimphu became the country’s capital city. The Punakha Dzong rests on the edge of the convergence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu Rivers. Over the years, a flood, an earthquake, and several fires have damaged he fortress, but it continues to be rebuilt with its ancient architectural integrity.
3. Festivals/Tshechu – Tschechus are religious festivals honoring Guru Rinpoche. Families gather to receive blessings and enjoy masked dancers as well as other performers that entertain the crowd. The festivals are held in several dzongs and goembas throughout the year. One of the most popular is the Punakha Tshechu and Drubchen, which is the only festival that reenacts the 1634 Battle of the Five Lamas.
4. Bumdra Trek – Bhutan offers a 2 or 3-day trek to the Bumdra Monastery. This guided tour is complete with the addition of a cook, assistant, and horses to carry your belongings. Starting at the Sang Choekhor Buddhist College, you will journey through a clearing that holds magnificent views of the Bhutan valleys and mountaintops. The first night will be spent in The Cave of a Thousand Prayers, which is just beneath the Bumdra Monastery. Visit the monastery and then travel on down the mountain to the Taktsang Monastery and on to the Paro Valley.
5. Soi Yaksa Trek – This trek is a 12-day tour of the Bhutan Kingdom. The trekking level is moderate, meaning that some of the terrain is smooth and easily travelled, while other parts are quite arduous. Reaching elevations of 4700 meters, you will explore wildlife, mountain peaks, and ancient temples.
6. Bumthang Valley – Bumthang Dzongkhag is a massive region that is made up of the Choekhor, Tang, Chhume, and the Ura Valleys. Choekhor Valley is the largest of the region as is considered the Bumthang Valley. This peaceful valley is filled with apple orchards, dairy farms, potato patches, and rice and buckwheat fields.The first Swiss cheese making facility in Bhutan began in Bumthang. The factory is also a brewery that houses the best beer in Bhutan named the Red Panda. Guests can tour the brewery and cheese factory during specified hours.
7. Uma Punakha – The Uma by COMO Punakha is a resort style retreat that offers 11 luxury rooms with exquisite views of the Punakha Valley. The hotel contains a romantic restaurant with intercontinental and traditional Bhutanese cuisine and a luxurious spa with relaxing hot stone bath treatments.
8. Black-Necked Crane – The crane is a wildlife creature that comes to the Phobjikha Valley every winter. It is an endangered species and is celebrated by the Bhutanese annually with the Black-Necked Crane Festival. This 9-day event is intended to bring awareness to the bird’s importance. The Crane Festival is held on the King’s birthday, November 11th.
9. Traditional Textiles – Traditional textiles are generally created by Bhutanese women. The material is handwoven and dyed with intricate patterns making each garment unique. The National Textile Museum is in Thimphu.
10. Gom Kora – The Gom Kora or Gomphu Kora is a beautifully erected temple that is covered with Buddhist carvings. This is the site where the Guru Rinpoche meditated. He left his impressions on a rock. It is said that Rinpoche was meditating in a cave and was so startled by an approaching demon that he left his imprint on a rock. Once he turned into a garuda, he left an imprint of his wings on nearby rocks. Guru Rinpoche struck a deal with the demon to allow him to finish his meditations. The deal was sealed with two fingerprints left on the rocks that can still be seen.
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A high volume of tourism may seem like a good thing for Bhutan’s economy, but for the Bhutanese, protecting their culture and environment is most important. Bhutan’s Royal Government used to limit the number of tourists entering the country. Officials believed that unrestricted access to the country would have a negative impact on the natural environment and ancient cultural traditions. This belief led to the notion of “High Value, Low Volume” tourism. Tourism, like all Bhutanese industries must be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The government wanted tourists to understand the feel the deep-rooted culture and traditions, so they would have a higher appreciation for their surroundings.
Tourism has become the second highest economical contributions to the Bhutan economy, after the agricultural industry. Recently, the government decided to increase the tourism rate. The Tourism Council of Bhutan extended the tourism areas to include once protected communities, natural reserves, and ancient cultures.
If you are interested in any additional specific information about Bhutan or tours, please email us and our team will reply within 24 hours.