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The Kingdom of Bhutan lies towards the eastern extreme of the Himalayan Range, between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and India to the south, southwest and east. Other neighbours include Nepal to the west, Bangladesh to the south, both separated by small stretches of Indian territory. Bhutan is a very compact, landlocked nation, with just a small bit more length than width and a size of approximate 46,500 square kilometres.

The Himalayas dominate the north of the country, where many mountain peaks reach seven thousand metres. Further south, the highlands are the most populous part of the nation, with the capital of Thimphu lying in the western highlands. This region is characterized by its many rivers, the isolated river valleys that house most of the population, and the expansive forests that cover seventy percent of the nation. The extreme southern strip of the nation consists mostly of tropical plains, more typical of India. It is largely agricultural land, producing mostly rice. Only two percent of Bhutan is arable land, with most of it found in this southern strip.

Facts


Official Name: Kingdom of Bhutan
Capital:          Thimphu
Population:     716,896 (CIA world factbook, July 2012 est.)
Languages:     Dzongkha (official), Nepali, English and numerous regional languages
Main Religions: Buddhism, some Hinduism
Time Zone:     6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+6 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed
Voltage Requirements: 220 Volts
Telephone Code: 975, country code

 

 

Bhutan has five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Bhutan's generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April.

Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues through the premonsoon rains of late June. The summer monsoon lasts from late June through late September with heavy rains from the southwest. Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfalls at higher elevations. From mid November until mid March, winter sets in, with dry weather and frosts throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 metres. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds down through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name - Drukyul, which in the Dzongkha language means Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical to a polar-type climate! The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general, the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country. The central valley of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, while Thimphu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow fall in winter.

 

 

We arrange your visa for you and we must begin processing the visa request a minimum of 60 days prior to your arrival in Bhutan.

You will need to fill out a visa application form and send it to us. When the visa request is approved, we will send you a visa authorisation letter that you must print out and present along with your passport on arrival in Paro. Then you will be issued with your visa.

Please note: You may also be required to present the visa authorisation letter when you board your Druk Air flight into Bhutan.

Visas are initially granted for stays of up to 14 days, but extensions are possible with an additional fee per person.

Stone tools, weapons, elephants, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC, although there are no existing records from that time. Historians have theorised that the state of Lhomon (literally, "southern darkness", a reference to the indigenous Mon religion), or Monyul ("Dark Land", a reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BC and AD 600. The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon (country of four approaches), have been found in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.

About three quarters of Bhutanese practice Buddhism and about one quarter practice Hinduism, although there are still a few priests and followers of the ancient Bon religion and there are a small number of Christians.

While the law provides for religious freedom, the Drukpa sect of the Kagyupa School, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, is the state religion, and the law prohibits religious conversions. This sect incorporates both the ideology of the classical Buddhist scriptures and the indigenous pre-Buddhist animistic beliefs called Bon.

The Nyingmapa school of Mahayana Buddhism is also practiced, although primarily in the eastern regions.

Among Hindus, the Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Shakta, Ghanapath, Paurinic, and Vedic schools are all represented.

While there is so much to see here, following is a list of recommended places to visit in Bhutan. There is of course much, much more, but this will get you started...

Bhutanese food is spicy and varied, and has strong Tibetan and Indian influences. Most meals are served buffet style and consist of several dishes. Traditional Bhutanese food always features chillies, and one dish called emadatsi, actually uses hot green chillies as the vegetable rather than seasoning!

Religious festivals are important events throughout the Buddhist world. Festivals commemorate the deeds of Buddha, or those of the great masters of the past associated with one Buddhist tradition or another. The main Buddhist traditions in Bhutan are Drukpa, a subsect of the Kagyupa School of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Nyingmapa School which is mostly practiced in the east of Bhutan.

Tshechus

Tshechus are festivals celebrated with great fanfare in each district on an annual basis. These religious festivals are held by most Dzongs and monasteries and pay homage to Guru Rinpoche, who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tshechus feature dances (most of which are performed by monks) which bring blessings on the onlookers as well as instructing them about Buddhism. They usually take place on or around the 10th day of the month according to the lunar calendar and the normal duration for a Tshechu is three days. Tourists are welcomed to Tshechus under the provision that they act in a respectful manner....

Great things to shop for include colourful masks, hand-woven bamboo items, wood carvings, stamps (great collector’s items), silver, silk and bronzes. Handmade paper products, Buddhist paintings and religious thangkas are also popular items.

It’s best not to purchase antiques as they will not be allowed out of the country. One of the local specialties is, of course, the traditional clothing; Kira for women and Gho for men.

Markets are held regularly, generally on Saturday and Sunday, and are a rich source of local clothing and jewellery, as well as foodstuffs.

The handicraft emporium on the main street in Thimphu is open daily except Sunday and offers a magnificent assortment of hand-woven and handcrafted goods.

Silversmiths and goldsmiths in the Thimphu Valley are able to make handcrafted articles to order.

Shopping is otherwise limited and bargaining is not customary.

Shopping Hours

Mon-Sun 0800-2000 for most shops.

Try these books to learn more about Bhutan:

'Beyond the Earth and Sky: A Journey into Bhutan'  by Jamie Zeppa a Canadian teacher working in Bhutan. We read about her transition as she grows to understand that Bhutan is more than the Shangri-la she came to experience and begins to appreciate the complexities and realities of life in Bhutan.

'Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon'  by John Berthold is a unique photographic portrayal of the country by region and cultural group. Something to treasure when you come home and something to awaken your senses to the trip before you go.

'Buttertea at Sunrise: a year in the Bhutan Himalaya'  by Britta Das, a physiotherapist who writes well and honestly about a year working at a small hospital in remote Eastern Bhutan. Great for an understanding of more than just the romantic aspects of this Buddhist Kingdom.

'So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas'  by Barbara Crossette is a very readable book about Buddhism in the Himalayas. It focuses largely on Bhutan because it's the last remaining Buddhist monarchy of the Himalayan region. Although it is unashamedly biased in favour of the Bhutanese monarchy, despite their dubious record of human rights violations toward the Hindu minority, this book is a great introduction to the context of religion in Bhutanese life.

'Birds of Bhutan: Field Guide'  by Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp, Richard Grimmett. Bhutan has immense natural diversity and the birdlike is just one part of this. This

And of course the 'Lonely Planet Bhutan Country Guide' is a good collection of information and things to know and learn about to appreciate your trip to Bhutan.

               ”kimkim