The Kingdom of Bhutan is a state situated in the Himalayas between China and India. The city of Thimphu serves as a capital.
The climate in the country differs depending on how high the area is. There is a highland climate and mountain tropical monsoon climate. The best time for visiting Bhutan is the period between the seasons.
Dzongkha is the national language in Bhutan but people also speak Nepal and Tibetan dialects. The officially recognised religion is Drukpa, the branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Among the local people, there are also the followers of Hinduism and Islam.
The lovers of mountains come to Bhutan to enjoy the beauty of the Kula Kangri mountain, the Jomolhari mountain, and the Gankhar Puensum mountain. By the way, no one has ever conquered the latter mountain. Climbing is officially prohibited in the country.
Laya village is the main destination for ecological tourists. If you prefer active holidays here you can go trekking and hiking to the Alpine meadows. Besides, in the village, the tourists can learn more about the ethnic life of the region.
If you like excursions, you can visit the palaces and museums in Paro and Thimphu.In the capital city, the tourists will have a chance to witness traditional archery competitions and play golf.
The pilgrims and the tourists interested in religion should visit the ancient capital city of Bhutan Punakha and Trongsa, the city of Bhutan ruling dynasty.
One can go shopping to the trading centre Tishigang, various stores and the market in the capital city.
In the Black Mountains National Park, anyone can go kayaking in the mountain rivers.
There are no direct flights from CIS and EU countries to Bhutan. The only airlines with official authority to fly to Paro is the local Druk Air.
To get to Bhutan, the tourists will have to make a transfer in such cities as Delhi, Calcutta, Gaya, Bombay, Katmandu, Bangkok or Singapore. The EU tourists can take advantage of the services of the following airlines: Air France, Air India, Austrian, Swiss, Singapore Airline, and British Airways.
Transaero and Aeroflot offer flights from Russia, IUA from Ukraine, and Uzbekistan Airways offer flights to Bhutan from Tashkent. The citizens of other CIS countries will have to choose the flights with, at least, two stops.
There is a regular bus route from the Indian city Siliguri to the border town on the south of Bhutan Phuntsholing.
EU and CIS citizens must obtain a visa to travel to Bhutan. It is a tow-staged process. First, the tourists have to get a visa permit with the help of a travel agency.
The time for processing the documents for a visa can be as long as 10 working days. Be aware that you will not be able to buy a ticket without this permit. A visa is issued on arrival at the airport.
The tourists can import and export foreign currency without restrictions provided that the money is declared. It is not allowed to cross the border of Bhutan having the national currency.
According to the Customs legislation the tourists can import the following goods duty-free:
- some alcohol and tobacco;
- clothes, shoes, and accessories for personal use;
- photo and video gadgets (they must be declared);
- professional equipment and tools.
It is prohibited to import:
- plants and animals;
- goods made of animals’ bones, skins, and shells;
- certain drugs.
The tourists are not allowed to import the items having historic and artistic value without special certificates.
The cuisine of Bhutan will delight the fans of a healthy diet because all the products are grown in ecologically clean areas. The staple food here is yak milk, rice, buckwheat, corn, mutton, pork, beef and poultry, fresh and dried vegetables (depending on the season).
We recommend spicy pork with beans Fing, dumplings Momos, beef stew with rice and mushrooms Tshoem, roasted poultry with vegetables Jasha maru, boiled pig legs Kangchu maru, and piquant pork with radish Phak Sha Paa.
Staying in Bhutan, do not miss a chance to try cheese, butter and cottage cheese made of tamed yak milk.
For the first course, order the national Bhutan cheese soup with pepper, tomatoes, and garlic Ema datshi.
A meal is traditionally served with asparagus, vegetables, mushrooms, and apples. The noodle Thukpa and red rice are a common side dish in Bhutan. Red rice is believed to have a recovery and rejuvenation effect.
For a dessert, the locals prefer sweet yellow rice or sweet banana soup.
The most popular drink in Bhutan is tea, There are a lot of varieties of this drink. You should definitely try Sauza tea with butter or herbal tea Tsheringma.
The people in Bhutan like to drink warm wheat beer and cold beer Changi. You can also try a strong alcoholic beverage Ara.
The official currency in Bhutan is the Bhutanese ngultrum which is equal to 100 chetrums. The Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan issues the banknotes from 1 to 500 ngultrums, 1 ngultrum coins and coins from 5 to 100 chetrums.
In touristic areas, you can pay with US dollars or Indian rupees.
The tourists can exchange the currency at banks. Those who plan to visit country resorts should have enough cash.
Credit cards are accepted only in large hotels and stores in Thimphu.
There are not ATMs in Bhutan.
Traveller’s checks are accepted at banks and in many hotels in the capital city.
Although the criminal situation is quite favourable in the country, do not leave valuable things and documents unattended.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Bhutan
In Bhutan, there are no UNESCO sites, but there are eight UNESCO candidate sites.
- Those who are interested in history should visit the Ancient Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong near Paro. The scientists say that it was built in 1649. This is a significant monument depicting the establishment of the country and its protection.
- In Bhutan, anyone can visit the Dzong or the centres of temporal and religious authorities Punakha Dzong, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Paro Dzong, Trongsa Dzong and Dagana Dzong. The centres were built in the 12th century as the places of support of Buddhist schools and with the aim of control over the region. The history of these buildings reflects the development of the state and culture in Bhutan.
- The Tamzhing Monastery is a must-visit place for the pilgrims. It is situated in the Bumthang valley. On the territory of the Monastery complex, there is a temple and the monks’ rooms. The Tamzhing Monastery preserved the culture of temple dances reflecting the epoch of Pema Lingpa who was an outstanding historical figure in Bhutan.
- Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants are also very popular among the tourists. There sixteen such places in total. They include Jago Dzong, Tango, Gomdra, Thujedra, Gawaphu, and Langthangphu.
- The lovers of nature should visit the Royal Manas National Park, which is the oldest protected area in Bhutan. In the park, there are various ecosystems from ice fields to tropical forests. Within the territory of the park, there are several isolated authentic settlements.
- The largest reserve in Bhutan is the Jigme Dorji National Park. It has three climatic zones and you can see such rare animals there as the Himalayan black bear and the snow leopard.
- Do not leave Bhutan without visiting the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary with protected Eastern Himalayan ecosystems.
- One more interesting place in Bhutan is the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary which was founded with the purpose of protecting the Yeti from extinction. The access for the tourists is restricted.
Souvenirs in Bhutan
To remember your travel to Bhutan, the tourists usually buy:
- textile and handmade carpets;
- silver jewellery and jewellery with semi-precious gemstones;
- ritual masks;
- Dzi beads;
- wooden figurines;
- Buddhist-style pictures.