The Kingdom of Bhutan located in the eastern Himalayas and China is on the southeastern border and India on the west. Bhutan’s Land oscillates considerably in altitude from just 100 meters in the lowlands to over 7000 meters in the Himalayan plateau to the north. The population is very sparse and mostly concentrated in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Bhutan is a kingdom state led by both crowned heads and priests. The official language is Dzongkha, as well as numerous other dialects, although English is extensively spoken, being integrated into the educational system.
The land is prosperous in striking dissimilarity depending on the different regions offering three distinct climates. The inner Himalayas temperate, rich in forestland and populated by boar, bear, sambar, while higher Himalaya region features breathtaking mountain slopes home to a variety of different species, including blue sheep and snow leopard.
In the hills, the climate is tropical with lush vegetation, including wild orchids as well! As bountiful wildlife; one can spot different animal species, such as deer, leopards, and tigers as well as the rare golden langur monkey. Traveling through the country must be organized by tour operators, planned and registered at the Bhutan Government. The Number of tourists allowed to visit is also limited to preserve the environment as well as the social and cultural stability.
Bhutan is very affluent culturally and historically, one can visit the country’s largest monastery in Thimphu, the national library where the holy scriptures and the books are kept or even the national museum of Bhutan in Paro where one can admire antiques, weapons of Bhutanese artifacts. Throughout the country majestic temples rise in the valleys as well as many superb ancestral homes offering spectacular views in the dramatic backdrop of Bhutan’s beautiful landscape.
The unrefined and natural beauty of the earth characterizes much of Bhutan’s environment that has made it so stunning and captivating to visitors. From the tropical plains right up to the alpine highlands, Bhutan’s environment is as diverse as its culture. The land of the thunder dragon is today, one of the world’s top global hotspots, boasting a rich and varied biodiversity.
Dos and Don’t and some helpful information, when you are there
a) Tourists are expected to respect the culture and spirituality, the king and royalty.
b) Women are empowered, most visible in market economy and hospitality
c) Emphasis is given on birth, death and for astrology etc.
d) No smoking in public, tourist can bring cigarettes and tobacco up to a certain limit paying 100 percent tax.
e) Restaurants vary in prices and palates Most food is pre-ordered an hour or so before with very particular closing hours.
f) Alcohol is not restricted but in permitted restaurants or bars only.
g) Alcohol is used for rituals and ceremonies.
h) Pointing fingers around sights and monuments, places of worship etc is conspired rude, directions with palm upwards,
i) Tourist needs to clear on veg or non-veg if non-veg of choice not to eat beef or pork. Dishes like
j) Ema Datshi is must chilly and cheese.
Few Things to know if you are a tourist
a) Vehicle and hotels, homestay, service apartment’s rate may differ during offseason
b) All tourist guides, drivers, and guidelines are strictly monitored by Tourism Council of Bhutan and Home department, Dept of immigration.
c) Road Entry for Bhutan via Phunentshuling near the Indian towns of Jaigaon and railhead near Hashimara and Alipur Duars.
d) Flight to Paro limited per week, Group bookings may give discounts, but kids under 12 years some concessions
Bhutan is known by different names. The word ‘Bhutan’ means ‘start of the mountains after Indian plains’. and few other says the meaning of Bhutan means ‘the start of the foothills’
Bhutan has only allowed entry to foreigners for around 40 years. Entry to the country is still strictly controlled so that the traditional culture can be preserved. Tourism is still in its infancy and visitors can only enter the country on an all-inclusive tour. The King is highly respected and very protective of his people and their culture. Banning smoking in 2005 due to health issues.
Please note: it is illegal to sell or purchase tobacco products in Bhutan. Up to 200 cigarettes may be imported, on the payment of tax and import duty of 200%. You must have your customs receipt on your person if in possession of tobacco products. If you cannot produce it on demand by police you will be charged with smuggling and can expect a prison sentence of three years. Smoking is forbidden inside public spaces such as hotels, restaurants, and bars.
Traveling with a local guide, you will gain a wonderful insight into a way of life that has only just begun to change after centuries of isolation and still primarily influenced by Buddhist religion, traditions, and values. It is the unchanged way of life which makes Bhutan such a fascinating place to visit.
Travel story and photo-gallery by: Sanjeev Dutta, Owner, East-India Travels