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Home Global Travel Destinations Asia Destinations Visit Bhutan: Free Travel Guide Explore Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Tashichho Dzong.

Visit Bhutan: Free Travel Guide Explore Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Tashichho Dzong.

Everything you need to plan your visit to Bhutan. Start with our Quicklinks to zero in on a city, region or popular destination. Learn more from our introductory articles about the history, geography, culture, attractions and cuisine. Explore sightseeing recommendations, activities, food, lodging, entertainment, festivals and events. No time to do all this online? Download a free Bhutan Travel Guide or have Amazon deliver one to you door.

Bhutan Quick Links

Destinations

Jakar  Mongar  Paro  Punakha  Phuentsholing

Samdrup Jongkhar  Trashigang  Trongsa

Bhutan Travel Information Lists

National Parks  UNESCO World Heritage

Discover Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked mountainous country sandwiched between India and Tibet. Its pristine natural beauty and unique devotion to Vajrayana Buddhism have earned it the nickname, “the last Shangri la.”

Little is known prior to 9th century about Bhutanese history. It was then that many monks from Tibet immigrated to Bhutan to get away from turmoil and find peace. The country’s history was and still is very much influenced by religion.

A major source of power has been various religious schools. The Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism was formed in the 12th century and is the main state religion at the moment even though the country was ruled by a number of religious schools throughout its history. The Drukpa do not refer to their country as Bhutan, but rather as Druk-yul—’land of the thunder dragon’.

In 1616 Ngawana Namgyal took leadership (‘shabdrung’ – title used when addressing great lamas in Tibet). It’s believed that under his rule all were united. After his death it took 2 centuries for another to become the next powerful leader.

After India gained independence from Britain on 15 August 1947, the new Indian government recognised Bhutan as an independent country.
Currently the political system in Bhutan has changed from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy.

Bhutan is located in the Southeast part of the Himalayas. The population of the country is slowly growing in number and is currently more than 800 000 people. Its territory is rather small, 47 000 square kilometers. The capital and biggest city is Thimphu.
The beauty of the terrain enchants many with its variety of steep mountains, expansive valleys and subtropical plains.

Its climate varies as well. The lowest point Drangme Chhu is 97 m and the highest Kula Kangri –  7,553 m. The South enjoys the tropics yet the more North one travels the colder it gets, and especially severe up on the mountain peaks.

The Torsa, Raidak, Sankosh, and Manas are Bhutan’s main rivers that water most of the produce. Major crops cultivated in Bhutan are maize and rice.
The national animal is the Takin – a very rare mammal with thick neck and short muscular legs. It is believed that a Tibetan saint created it back in the 15th century. On the other hand, the stunning blue poppy is the country’s national flower – it’s also rare and can be seen only above 3000-4000 meters above the sea level.

Bigger portion of the population lives in the central highlands.
One of the many cool things about the country of Bhutan is that it is carbon negative –  it absorbs more CO2 than it produces. Under a constitutional law the people are to maintain at least 60 percent forest. If needed to cut down trees in order to build, then trees must be planted elsewhere.

For more than a hundred years, there has been a ban on the ‘most filthy and noxious herb’ tabacco. People are not allowed to produce or sale it. Bhutan is a 100% smoke-free country. There’s no smokers in public places, offices or even bars and cafes.

To address environmental issues, the government also banned plastic bags. Bhutanese and tourists now use cotton bags to do groceries and shop in general. As a result, Bhutan has become a leading country in environmental conservation.

Bhutanese people has been greatly influenced by Tibet. They are quite unique compared to the rest of the world. It’s just like they have voluntarily isolated themselves and live in their own bubble, surrounded by spirituality and abundance in scarcity.

Up until the 1960s Bhutan had no national currency, any hospitals, postal service or even telephones. Even though now the country has been modernised, its capital Thimphu is the only in the whole world without a single traffic light. Instead, policemen controls all the traffic.

Bhutanese are big on simple living. They live in the highlands, amidst nature, away from tall concrete buildings. It takes hours to get from point A to point B on the curviest of roads connecting places. In fact, Bhutan has only one highway that helps to get to India, Bhutan’s loyal friend.

Gross national happiness index is a whole philosophy that helps the government measure bliss. Bhutanese are believed to be one of the happiest nations. Happiness is an overused word in the Western world and it seems everyone is in search of it. Certainly not in Bhutan; the people there are just present, spiritual and peaceful. They don’t think about being happy, though they are without even knowing.

All tourists are to pay 250 dollars a day for being in the country. This covers all costs from food and accommodation to tour guide. Yet isn’t this a lot of money? A portion of it goes to supporting education. Thus all visitors in a way make a change.

Most Bhutanese wear on daily basis traditional formal clothing. ‘Kho‘ for men, ‘Kira‘ for women. The dress consists of long skirt, long sleeves and high neckline.

Ema Datshi is one of those foods you haven’t actually visited Bhutan if you haven’t tried. It’s essentially a stew made of chillies, milk cheese, onions and tomatoes, served along with red rice. Yet keep in mind that their chillies are hot for those who can’t do more than mild spicy.

A commonly consumed drink in the Himalayan countries is Suja or butter tea. Along with the tea leaves, water and salt some yak butter is added to it. The name literally translates to churned tea.

Another locally brewed alcoholic drink is Ara (or arag) -a fermented drink from rice, maize, wheat and millet, famous for its really strong taste.

Red rice is a staple is the Himalayan region. Grown in the fertile soil of The Paro valley, the produce is watered by pure glaciers. It goes well with everything cheese or meat-based. Its nutritious value, fast cooking time and fluten-free nature explain well the reasons why red rice is served on the table any time of the day.

Jaju is another staple in Bhutanese cuisine. It is soup made from green leaves like spinach with milky broth. Sometimes cheese is added to enhance the flavour. Traditionally served alongside a main dish like spicy chicken, pork/veggie stew, rice.

Dumplings are a famous Asian food. A more Bhutanese alternative to that is Hoentay – steamed or often fried, these momos are made from buckwheat and stuffed with anything from greens to cheese or some kind of meat. Originated from the Haa Valley in Bhutan.

Desserts in Bhutan are kept simple. The average Bhutanese family are most probably to have fruit from a locally grown orchard to finish off their meal. Peach and apricot are quite popular, along with persimmon and citrus fruits. Nuts like walnut and chestnut are another preferred dessert/snack choice.

An ancient art brings income to generations of families – ‘shagzo’ or the art of wood turning. Bhutanese make a variety of practical and decorative products like bowls, plates, vases, cups, etc. ‘Thagzo’ or the art of weaving is common as well in Bhutanese culture. Fabrics and wooden products often are made in intricate ways and fascinate visitors.

Agriculture is a major source of income in the country. Crops such as maize, rice, wheat and corn are a common sight along the roads. Root crops like ginger and turmeric as also cultivated.

Renewable energy is Bhutan’s largest export. Hydroelectricity is being sold for cheap to India and makes up around 40% of Bhutan’s exports.

A number of minerals can be found within the territory of the country – limestone, copper, mica, pyrite and many more. Even though some are used and exported, Bhutanese make efforts to conserve the environment and not (over)exploit.

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Practical Matters

   Getting into Bhutan by air is sure to be one of the most exciting experiences. Paro International Airport, which is the only international airport in the country, is situated at a high altitude. Descending into Paro Valley brings you closer to the highest mountains in the world. Book a flight between Paro and Kathmandu and if you’re lucky enough to get clear weather Mt Everest, Makalu, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse will leave you in awe.
   There are flights to and from destinations like Mumbai, Dhaka, Singapore, Mumbai and a few others.

      Getting into the country on land doesn’t present many options either. Despite Bhutan’s territory of just 47,000 square kilometers, road trips can take tedious hours. Roads are narrow and curvy, speed is slow.
      Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the only land border areas open to tourists. Taking the first two roads into the country can get a visitor to the capital, Thimphu, for up to 10 hours. 

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The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha. It belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family and its branch specifically is close to Burmese and Nepalese. The language is spoken by less than a million people in total (as first and second language). It may look a bit intimidating with Tibetan alphabet yet here is some useful phrases written in Latin:
Hi (informal)-    Kuzu zangpo
How are you? –   Gaday bay Zhu Ga?
Thank you –     Kadrin chhe la

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The best times to visit Bhutan are during the spring (March-June), when blossoms are beautiful, and the autumn (October-December), when there are clear views of the snow-capped Himalayas and little rain.

Even though Bhutan is a small country, there’s a ton to see there. We advise you stay as long as your visa allows you to. Bhutanese policy regulates the number of tourists within the country at any one time. It’s against mass tourism which can alter the country’s character. Regardless of the month you decide to visit, your stay is most probably going to be very peaceful and enriching.

Bhutan Travel Resources

Bhutan Travel The official destination portal of the Bhutan Tourism Council.

Country Information Resources

CIA World Factbook: Bhutan Country profile.

Nations Online One world database. Bhutan country profile.

Seoul Travel Guidebooks:

 

Seoul Travel Memoirs:

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