Sandwiched between China and India, Bhutan wasn’t unified until the 17th century. Four hundred years later, the country’s doors were open to tourists officially in 1974. Bhutan is also known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. It is a tiny country deep within the mighty Himalayas. Bhutan is complete with stunning landscapes, legendary ancient temples and fortresses, colorful festivals, spicy yet delicious food, and mostly its authenticity. Since it is known for its amazing weather, every time is the best time to visit Bhutan.
Bhutan is not an ordinary place. It is an amply modern country and at the same time, it’s also medieval with one foot rooted deeply in its past. It has made sure that even though it’s moving forward towards modernization, it won’t lose its soul. Bhutan government emphasizes the preservation and promotion of culture and tradition, sustainable socio-economic development, and preservation and protection of the natural environment. The charms of this isolated Himalayan Kingdom are knitted strong within its cultural realms.
This special Bhutan travel guide is to give you 10 amazing reasons to visit this mystical country:
1. Hiking and Trekking
You can’t justify the magnificence of Bhutanese hills and mountains by just praising their view. To know the landscapes closely, you must go out of your comfort zone and climb those steeps. Bhutan’s treks will take you through physically challenging routes amidst high mountain passes and snow. If you’re a fan of trekking in the cold, winter months would be the best time to visit Bhutan for you.
The hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery at the height of 3,120 meters is challenging. However, it feels extremely satisfying once you make it to the top and glance at Paro valley from the peak. The Zuri Dzong offers a similar view along with the magnificent green Himalaya in the backdrop. You can also experience The Snowman Trek, which is one of the toughest trails in the entire Himalayas. The trail goes all the way to the Bhutan-Tibet border, over 13 mountain passes and beautiful alpine scenery.
2. Gross National Happiness
Can you imagine a country caring about its people’s Happiness Quotient? Well, there are other countries, and then there’s Bhutan. Bhutan came up with a philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNP), which has also been recognized internationally at the UN. The surprising part is that Bhutan gives more importance to GNP than its GDP. The King of Bhutan and its government take immense care to ensure that their citizens live happily and fulfilled lives.
Bhutanese policy, education, and healthcare are free of cost. Various recreational areas for locals is rapidly under construction. People there are literally living the values and principles taught by Buddhism, and money isn’t the main motivator for them. Every time is the best time to visit Bhutan, right?
3. Bhutanese Cuisine
There is an influence of Nepal, India, and Tibet in Bhutan. Hence, it’s cuisine comprises a unique blend of all the tastes. Traditionally eaten on wooden kitchenware by hand, their food usually consists of rice, delicious curries, and hearty stews. Since it’s a cold country, they have been accustomed to spicy food packed with chili peppers to keep themselves warm. Their national food is “ema-datshi”, which is a preparation with melted yak cheese and their hottest chilies. Momos, Tibetan version of the dumplings, are also very popular there. Variations of momos with stuffings of pork, beef or cabbages, and cheese served with extremely spicy chili sauce.
Bhutan’s most colorful festival is Tshechu. It is also its annual religious festival, to celebrate Guru Rinpoche bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. It’s conducted in all major dzongs and major monasteries. Bhutan expresses its Buddhist values, cultural richness, and legendary victories with pomp and shows during the festival. Monks and natives dress up in colorful attires and perform their traditional dance. Another significant festival is the Jambay Llakhang Drup Festival. The festival highlights a unique dance form performed by naked monks wearing colorful masks known as Tercham – Dance of Treasure. It’s presented in the middle of the night with bonfires and people gather around to be a part of it.
Even though Bhutan possesses five distinct seasons, summer, monsoon, autumn, winter, and spring, they all present relatively pleasant weather conditions and temperature making it suitable for tourists to visit all round the year. Bhutan doesn’t see monsoon-like India does. A light rainfall out there means that after a short drizzle, you can resume your journey. In peak winters, temperatures drop below zero degrees but are usually limited to -10 degrees Celsius which is more pleasant than many countries.
The months of autumn and spring is apparently the best time to visit Bhutan. It is neither hot nor cold during this period. Spring months are March, April, and May during which time, the valleys are lush green with fresh vegetation and blossoming fruit trees. The Autumn months of September and October offer a grand view of its majestic mountains. Even though chilly, December attracts tourists who are fond of snow.
6. High Value, Low Impact Tourism
One of the reasons why the population of tourists in Bhutan is less in comparison to nearby countries is its practice of the policy – high value, low impact tourism. There is a minimum fee ranging from $200-$250 USD per day for tourists from all over the world, except India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. Even though it might sound expensive, the perks that come along with it, make it completely worth it. It includes a visa, a licensed guide, driver, accommodation, entrance fees, food and non-alcoholic beverages, trekking gear, and all taxes within the country. VIP treatment is a must for all travelers in Bhutan. When in Bhutan, the fee will never sound much for the perks you are getting in return.
Besides, $65 of the money goes to the government’s sustainable development fee, which means that 30% of your money paid, is going towards free education and health, poverty relief and infrastructure. It also helps them in limiting the tourists so that, the country is visited by genuine traveler lovers and not insensitive ones, who wouldn’t litter or ruin their pride. And if you’re an Indian, you can visit the country without paying that fees; consider that to be a privilege.
The Dragon Kingdom has a history unlike anywhere else. It is a land where magic and myth become fact and reality. Buddhism was brought into Bhutan from Tibet centuries ago, the tales of which are in themselves fascinating. It is believed that the Tiger’s Nest Monastery was built after the Tibetan Buddhist Master, Guru Rinpoche. The Guru flew there on a magical tigress to fight off evil spirits. Similarly, their most famous monk, Lama Drukpa Kunley who is also known as the “divine madman” is rumored to have fought evil spirits using a thunderbolt from his magical genitalia. One of the most honored temples in Bhutan, Chimi Llakhang or the Temple of Fertility is dedicated to him, and a huge number of tourists and childless couples visit it to seek blessings to beget a child.
8. Green Kingdom
Bhutan is the only country in the whole world that is not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative. That’s proof of the fact that they take environmental responsibility very seriously. Their government has a policy that at least 70 percent of the country must remain as forest, and it’s surprising that as per the current scenario they even exceed that number. As a result, they offset more carbon dioxide than they produce. Just imagine traveling to this country on your holiday, away from all the pollution and chaos. Wouldn’t it feel like heaven?
The place reflects its authenticity through its green mountains and passes. Preservation of the rich flora and fauna is the main aim of multiple National Parks. You might come across unique mammals and birds there, even the beautiful rhododendron which is the largest lizard in the world. The fresh and crisp mountain breeze, stunning greenery, and pollution-free skies extend as far as the eye can see, making it one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world.
9. The Locals
The people in Bhutan are some of the friendliest people that you can ever meet, and they love helping travelers uncover the beauty of their nation. Since they are rich with strong Buddhist values, they believe in being kind to others, as all sentient beings are their relatives from other stages of reincarnation. This is what makes this small Himalayan nation a safe and peaceful country, for tourists to experience its virgin beauty.
10. Ancient Traditions
One of the downsides of development is that a nation usually leaves behind its traditions while moving forward with technology. However, that is not the case with Bhutan. When you visit the country, the ancient traditions and lifestyle would make you feel like you have been transported back in time. Traditional methods for cooking, farming, and other tasks are still in use. The common attire is “gho” for men and “kira” for women, which have been their traditional attires for years. Even the ancient festivals from the 16th century are still celebrated.
Located in the eastern part of the Himalayan range, Bhutan is one of the most fascinating destinations to visit. Relatively few travelers visit them, which requires a full organized tour to enter. A major part of the country is off the beaten path, but it does have some famous places like The Legendary Taktsang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. With delicious cuisine, aesthetic beauty and epic hiking trails, it is an ideal destination to visit. Since winter is around the corner and if you’re a winter lover, it could be the best time to visit Bhutan for you.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan has revised entry fees to certain places and this will be in effect from 1st January,2020. So if you have Bhutan on your list, you might want to take note of these changes.
We hope you like how we curated this Bhutan travel guide to give you a better insight into the beauty of this destination. If you need help with planning a trip to any of these places, Hire a Scout. Travel experts from all over will help you #MarkAndEmbark on a journey of a lifetime. If you need any assistance, feel free to hit us up on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.
You can listen to the #MarkAndEmbark podcast on traveling to Bhutan below. Get travel tips, stories and information on destinations when you like, share and subscribe to our podcast