BHUTAN, also known as ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’ is known for its stunning landscapes, legendary ancient temples, happy and friendly people, spicy yet delicious food, colourful festivals, and most of all, its authenticity. It is the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom. It is so peaceful, serene, and blissful that it will rejuvenate your mind and make you feel relaxed and happy.
Bhutan even regulates tourism in the country to safeguard its pristine beauty and way of life. Visitors are only allowed to travel as part of prearranged package tours and are charged a minimum fee of $250 a day. The fee is all-inclusive and takes care of your hotels, food, sightseeing, taxes, and transport. Backpackers and independent travellers are discouraged. It remains elusive and exclusive, with not more than 100,000 tourists in a year.
Bhutan experiences four distinct seasons: spring from March to May, summer from June to August, autumn from September to November, and winter from December to February. However, the weather conditions in the country depend largely on the altitude. In the northern regions, where the mountains can reach up to 7,000m, the temperature is often very cold, resembling that of the Arctic. But as you move towards the southern parts, the climate becomes hotter and more humid, similar to that of India.
The summers in Bhutan are usually hot and humid, while winters can be extremely cold. The monsoon season brings heavy rainfall. If you’re planning to explore the lower lands or the southern part of Bhutan, winter is the best time. However, during this season, travelling to higher altitudes is not recommended as the mountains are freezing.
Overall, the ideal time to visit Bhutan is during spring and autumn. These seasons are dry, warm, and sunny, making them perfect for outdoor activities. Although the weather can be warm during these seasons, it’s always advisable to pack some warm clothing regardless of the time of year.
As of now, Bhutan only has one international airport, which is located in Paro. Likewise, only two airlines, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines, operate flights to Bhutan, and the departure points are as follows:
Kolkata and New Delhi (India)
Other than airways, an individual can also travel to Bhutan via the Indian Overland by road. The main border crossing in Jaigon is Phuentsholing; the others are Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. In the current context, travelling to Bhutan is quite pricey, unless you are from one of the three selected countries: India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives. Despite the price, Bhutan is gaining more and more attention from avid travellers from all around the world, and the natural and cultural beauty the country has to offer is beyond any price tag.
The name Bhutan comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Bhotant’ which means the end of Tibet. Others claim that the name comes from ‘Bhu-uttan’ which means ‘high lands,’ To the world, the country is known as Bhutan, but the natives themselves call their land Druk Yul, meaning The Land of the Thunder Dragon. The history of the kingdom dates back to 747 A.D., and it is believed that Guru Padsambhava flew from Tibet across the mountains on a Tigress’s back and arrived in Paro Valley. The Kingdom is a majestic place with a history that lures everyone.
Bhutan is indeed a country very rich in cultures and traditions. Bhutan celebrates at least one festival in every month of the year, excluding December. While there are only a few months, like March, when there is only one festival, other months are all about the celebration of festivals, ranging from the Rhododendron Festivals to the Bhutan International Marathon. Meanwhile, the majority of these festivals are celebrated in all districts of Bhutan, and the guru who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche, is also honoured. The festivals are mostly celebrated according to the Bhutanese calendar during auspicious days and months. The Bhutanese festivals are something to look forward to as they are a big family and social celebration, and people dress in their best attire and jewellery of turquoise and corals.
Bhutan’s culture and lifestyle are highly influenced by Buddhism, and it is quite similar to that of Tibet’s. Since the very early days, Bhutan’s culture and lifestyle have been linked to farming and animal husbandry while making time to visit and worship at monasteries. Bhutanese are widely known to follow the Buddhist calendar, and as per the calendar, they pick an auspicious month to go on a pilgrimage every year. Both men and women in Bhutan sport their cultural attire, Bakhu, which is silk and satin with woolen garments. The only difference is that men wear head gear while women do not. Likewise, women in Bhutan keep their hair short, and with their bold look, they wear their traditional dress and look radiant as ever. Bhutanese also tend to keep holy threads of necklaces with themselves and pray during their free time. Some even carry praying wheels, which are often made of wood, bronze, or silver. Now, talking about the food, Bhutanese food is quite similar to Tibetan food, including a lot of vegetables, meat products, and much more. But one of the most popular Bhutanese dishes is loaf-momo (dumpling) noodles. Bhutanese tend to be very close to their old culture and traditions and believe in living in harmony with nature.
For people carrying passports from India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives, they can easily get a visa for Bhutan on their arrival at the Bhutanese airport without any processing. However, for all the other people in the world, you will have to apply for a visa beforehand. For the processing, an individual will have to send a clear photocopy of his or her passport before the travel date of 15–20 days. The visa is processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TBC), and once all the procedures for fees and other procedures are complete, the visa clearance will be processed within 72 hours (working hours). At the entry point in Bhutan, you will present your visa clearance letter to the authorities, and the visa will be stamped into your passport at the same time.