Bhutan is also known as ‘The Land of Thunder Dragon’. It is an untouched country nestled in the central Himalayas with an area of 38,394 sq. Km. It is a landlocked surrounded by the Tibetan Plateau in the north, the Bengal and Assam Plains in the south, Arunachal Pradesh in the east and the Darjeeling and the Sikkim Himalaya in the west. The capital city is Thimphu. Bhutan is composed of high mountains and deep valleys, and with rich flora and fauna, and friendly people which makes Bhutan truly a paradise and a must for all people wanting a different place to visit.
Bhutan has several climate zones snow in the centre and subtropical in the south and is also unpredictable. Winter days are average of 15°C but drop below freezing during the nights whereas Mid December to January are clear and dry in the west but it is the place of the heaviest snowfall in higher elevation. Summers are hot with 30°C and May to late September is when the monsoon comes. September through November are usually very mild and clear, with sharp clear skies and magnificent views of the Himalaya range. Spring and fall are traditionally the best times to visit this Mightykingdom.
Bhutan has a great natural, ecological and cultural biodiversity which offers you subtropical valleys, savannah grasslands, bamboo jungles, traditionally cultivated land. It shelters 221 Global endemic birds areas, 770 species of birds, 50+ species of rhododendron and other vegetations with wide varieties of herbal plants, animals like Takin, snow leopard, golden Langur, blue sheep, tiger, water buffalo, etc. due to this it has been designated as one of the 10 biodiversity hotspots of the world. Bhutan is the only Buddhist Kingdom in the world and it is the only country in the world
whose official religion is a Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism (Drukpa Kagyu). The country is one of the safest tourist destinations in the world and free from crimes due to peoples strong and consistent belief in Buddhism. It hosts several festivals and cultural programs all the year round and coincides with Buddhism. Its rich cultural heritage is strongly promoted by the government despite the modernizations in western Bhutan which is the major reasons for Bhutan cultural and spiritual legacy. Bhutan’s colourful cultures, festivals and way of life definitely will leave a big impression on all visitors.
Geography of Bhutan
Location of Bhutan: Southern Asia, between China and India
Area of Bhutan: 47,000 sq km
Land Boundaries: 1,075 km
Border Countries: China 470 km, India 605 km
Elevation extremes: Lowest Point: Drangme Chhu 97 m
Highest Point: Kula Kangri 7,553 m
History of Bhutan
Not much is known about Bhutan’s history before the 7th century, which is when Buddhism was introduced. After this time, the chronicles kept by Buddhists record Bhutan’s history. Buddhism was brought in to Bhutan when feudal lords, not a central government, ruled the country. After monks from the Kargyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism built monasteries throughout the valleys, the Drukpa subsect became the most popular form of religion. A Drukpa monk, Ngawang Namgyal, started the first formal government in 1616 – that of a theocratic government. Namgyal was able to unite the influential Bhutanese families, this is after he defeated many challengers’ subsect leaders.
Namgyal’s government consisted of two leaders – one with spiritual responsibilities and the other with civil responsibilities. This split form of government continued until the early 1900s.
In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck became the first druk gyalpo of Bhutan and he ruled from 1907 to 1926. Jigme Wangchuck, Ugyen’s son, ruled from 1926 to 1952 and was followed by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who ruled from 1953 to 1972. The fourth Druk gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck began his reign in 1972.
Peoples of Bhutan
The official estimate of Bhutan’s population in 1990 was about 600,000 but other sources estimate the population for 2000 was just under 2 million. Those living in Bhutan of Nepali origin have been excluded from the official census since 1990 which results in such a large discrepancy in population numbers. Bhutan has four major ethnic groups: Bhutia, Sharchops, Nepali, and other indigenous groups. The Bhatia, who are descended from Tibetans, they live in the central and northern regions of Bhutan. This ethnic group dominates politics in Bhutan particularly with its contribution of government officials and monks that come from it. Believed to be Bhutan’s earliest settlers, the Sharecrops live in the southeastern and eastern region. The Nepali people are the latest immigrants to Bhutan. Living in the southwestern and south-central section of Bhutan, immigration of Nepali’s has been forbidden by the Bhutanese government since 1959. Fear of Bhutan becoming too heavily populated with Nepal is brought about this and the ban on living in the central Himalayan region. Bhutan traditions and culture are to be retained and not dilute Bhutanese distinctiveness.
Bhutanese people celebrate annual festivals like Tshechus and Dromchoes which are the spiritual occasions dedicated to the Guru Rinpoche.
Basic Information to Travelers travelling to Bhutan
Bhutan’s climate remains tropical in the south and cold in the north. But it can be unpredictable when you travel to Himalayan ranges. Winter days remains fairly warm in Thimphu and Paro valleys but drops below freezing point during nights. Summers are hot and nights are cool, Mid December to early January can be a beautifully clear and dry time in Western Bhutan whereas heavy snowfalls during late December through mid-February at high elevations.
While visiting Bhutan from May to Sep. you may bring sufficient cotton clothes, plus a woollen sweater or light jacket. Travellers here from November to the end of April need very warm clothes including thermals and a down jacket Bhutan tourist destinations have good hotels and lodges. However, simpler accommodation facilities are operated in central and eastern Bhutan but are a lot cheaper but Western Bhutan serves very good hotels, lodges and luxury. There is only road travel in Bhutan but the roads are very well maintained in every part of the country. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average driving speed of the vehicle to less than 35m.
Bhutan can be visited in any period of the year but the best season would be September to November and March to June during which many festivals and cultural occasion’s falls. During this Season their great festival called Tsechu is celebrated throughout the country. During this event whole Bhutanese gathers and celebrate it at every Dzongs, temples and Monastery.
Bhutan Visa Information
Any foreign travellers except Indian & Bangladeshi National must have Bhutan Visa to enter into Bhutan. Visa can’t be issued at Bhutanese Embassies. The visa has to be processed by local tour operators as it can directly be obtained from authorized and license tour agency. Your passport must be valid for until at least 6 months after the time you wish to visit.
Bhutan Entry Procedure is unique as independent travel is not permitted so people willing to visit Bhutan must travel through an authorized local tour operator/agency on a pre-paid basis. The government stipulates an all-inclusive entry fee per day thus; concerned local tour operator is responsible for all logistical arrangements during your stay in Bhutan.
Druk Air, the Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the only airline operating in Bhutan. It is operated daily which connects Bhutan from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Burma. Bhutan weather is unpredictable so we recommend you to keep a 24-hour gap before any onward international connections.
You can enter into Bhutan from West Bengal into Phuntsholing. Then it is about a six hours drive from Phuntsholing takes you to Thimphu. You can enter Bhutan from Samdrup Jongkhar in southeast India and Tashigang is six hours’ drive from Samdrup Jongkhar.