The Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by India. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while farther south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Bhutan’s capital and largest city is Thimphu.
Bhutan has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically and as a result the Bhutanese culture is one of the oldest (dating back to the mid 17th century) and well preserved cultures in the world. In fact it has only been in the recent decades of the 20th century that foreigners have been allowed to visit the country, and only in limited numbers. Bhutan has an estimated population of 600,000 which is sparsely distributed throughout the country.
Bhutan’s ancient Buddhist culture and breathtaking scenery make it a natural tourist attraction.
Tourism is restricted; visitors must travel as part of a pre-arranged package or guided tour. Backpackers and independent travellers are discouraged.
You can travel to Bhutanby Drukair or overland through Phuentsholing, a small town in southern Bhutan bordering India. Drukair, the only national airline of Bhutan flies to Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, Kolkotta, Dhaka and Singapore. Recently, another local airline, Tashi Air has been added to Bhutanese sky.
Overland entry from Phuentsholing is more convenient for those who wish start touring in Sikkim and Darjeeling.
Bhutan visas should be arranged through any of the tour operators in Bhutan (all the tour operators are registered by the government of Bhutan). No foreign missions or embassies abroad sanction tourist’s visas. As per government regulations, you are required to make full tour payment in advance and upon receipt of full payment, your tour operator will process with the government. It normally takes 2-3 working days to clear your visa. The Bhutan visa confirmation letter will be sent to you and your actual Bhutan visa will be stamped in your passport on arrival at Paro airport after this letter is provided. You will have to carry this copy along with you always. Some airports do not allow you to board Drukair flights if you do not have this copy.
Bhutan tour tariff is set by government and is mandatory for all tour operators to provide this tariff to people wishing to travel to Bhutan. Tariff is the same for cultural tours, treks and any other special interest tours. Although all tour operators are registered by the government, there are some tour operators who often run tour below the government set tariff. This is often termed as “under quoting” and if government comes to know, your visa will be revoked. So be wise in choosing the tour company for your travel to Bhutan.
The set Bhutan tour tariff is $250 USD per night per person for high season months of March-May and September-November. For low season months of January-February, June-August and December tour tariff is $200 USD per night per person. If you travel solo or with just one more person, you are liable for the surcharge of $40 USD per night for solo traveller and $30 USD per night for 2 travellers. The cost include meals, government taxes, hotels, tour or trekking guide, driver, land transport within Bhutan, necessary entrance fees and sightseeing but does not include your personal experiences such as drinks and beverages, bottled water, phone calls, laundry, tips and insurance of any kind.
Kayaking and rafting are becoming increasingly popular because of the many rivers in Bhutan, ranging from turbulent alpine streams to quieter wide sub-tropical rivers. These adventures offer splendid views of fortresses and people going doing their daily chores as town and villages are all located alongside rivers. Grades range from the basic to beyond most dangerous.
Several new routes have been developed on ancient mule tracks that make mountain biking a wonderful experience in Bhutan. Just traversing Bhutan’s lateral highway is an exhilarating adventure in itself. Fresh air, limited traffic and the scenic beauty of the routes make mountain biking a most worthwhile way of enjoying Bhutan.
In Bhutan, the biggest draw for travellers is the annual religious festivals called Tsechu held in all districts. What appears as a gala fest of mask dances and people in bright attire is actually one of profound religious significance to the Bhutanese. These festivals are enactments of the teachings of Guru Rimpoche or the second Buddha, devised centuries ago so that the laity would understand. To attend the festivals is to be blessed. The timing has also been set ingeniously after the harvest so that people can also celebrate a year of hard work on the farm.
Trekking in Bhutan is a wonderful way to experience the charm of inner Himalayas. With large assortment of trekking supplies and crew, you will trek through wild and verdant forests with abundant birds and animal lives, across high passes against the back drop of towering snow-capped mountains and along ice-fed gushing streams. The trails are clean and unspoiled and the wilderness still pristine in its natural beauty.
Whatever you chose for your adventure in Bhutan, pack Dramamine for the six to eight hours minibus rides as there is no country in the world that has as many winding roads as Bhutan.
For more information about adventure travel contact one of our experienced Travel Agents.