Bhutan the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” is known to have lived for ages as independent and sovereign nation between the two giant neighboring countries, with India in the south and Tibet in the North. Bhutan has remained so far as an independent and isolated country for centuries because of its tiny size and less revered fames. Most of its geographical highland, such as rugged mountains in the north and its deep forest with fast flowing rivers and malaria infested bushes of the southern foothills, prohibited foreign aliens and visitors to get into Bhutan. However, when the powerful force of globalization and modernization appeared in the western world the isolated independent nation of Bhutan shook to change and accepted the concept of modernization and now stands on the thresholds of historical change. Throughout its process of evolution Bhutan under the guidance of its values and priorities has helped remain a unique country in a rapidly changing world through achieving carefully its modern development. Bhutan has proven itself to the world with all well equipped modern amenities and has proven to be one of the exotic tourist destinations in the world. Bhutan hopes to survive by clinging on to the age-old values that rest of the world has lost.
Capital City: Thimphu
Total Area: 38,394 sq km [14,824,006 sq mi]
Total Population: 753, 9476 [est.2013]
International Airport: Paro [Western Bhutan]
Time Difference: 06 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country
Office Hour: Summer Timing: 09 AM – 05 PM [March – October end]. Winter Timing: 09 AM – 04 PM [November – February end]
Religion: Buddhism 75%, Hinduism 20% Other: 5%
Bhutan Currency: Ngultrum [Nu] at par with Indian Rupee
Power Supply: 220/240 volts
Sockets: Round whole two-pin and three-pin power outlet
National Language: Dzongkha. English is also a medium of communication and most Bhutanese speaks English
Popular Dish: Ema Datshi [Chili and Cheese]
Popular Drinks: Suja [Butter tea], bangchang [homebrew beer], Arra [Rice spirit]
Bhutan Visa: Other than Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa. Visa are only issued to tourists booked their holiday with a local licensed tour operator like Wild Mountain Adventure Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process.
GEOGRAPHY: Bhutan has an area covering around 38,394sq.km, stretching 300km from East to West with North and South axis is around 140km. Topographically ascending from South to North the country’s land has been linked to a staircase, climbing from the foothills which lies at 985ft/300m to the Himalayan peak in the Northern border of Tibet that are at highest as 24735ft/7541m. Beginning from subtropical foothill through inner Himalaya and to the great Himalaya, Bhutan’s mountainous geography and rugged topography is more than 72% under forest cover. The importance of environment under national policy and law is to preserve 60% of the country under forest cover. More than 26% of the land is under protected areas with 09 protected areas, which are into strict nature reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries representing typical biodiversity at different levels of species, genetic, landscape and eco-system.
Today the country pride itself in its biological diversity and rich flora and fauna. Within its biodiversity realm, more than 7000 vascular plants, 360 orchid species, more than 46 species of rhododendron and about 500 species of medicinal plants were found. Bhutan is also home for many wild animals like – snow Leopard, blue Sheep, red Panda, tiger, takin, marmot and must dear which are found in the high altitude along with Tiger, Leopard, Goral, grey languor, Himalayan black Bear, Red Panda, Samber, Wild Pig and barking Deer which are found in the temperate zone. The subtropical forest or the plain in the south is known For Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Elephant, One Horned Rhino, Water Buffalo, Golden Languor, Gaur, Swamp Deer and Hog Deer.
The rich forest of Bhutan also provides diverse home for bird species. There are more than 800 – 900 bird species has been recorded. About 106 species known birds are winter migrant with 16 species vulnerable birds. Bhutan is also home to many bird species that are in danger of extinction, including Imperial Heron, which is the fifth rarest birds in the world and the rare Black-necked Crane, which breeds in Tibet and then migrates over Himalayas to Bhutan during the winter months of mid October to early March.
CLIMATE: Climatic conditions in Bhutan vary vastly across the country because each valley virtually has an independent ecosystem varying different temperature. The temperature in the central valleys, where you will be spending most of your time, is much lower – during the summer the maximum temperature does not exceed above 30’C and night usually stays between 15-20’C range. During the winter, the day temperature stays along 15’C but night it gets cold, and temperature falls below sub-zero. Snowfall in the winter around the valley will be low but the mountains and passes surrounding the valley usually covered with snow throughout the winter months. The region of Trashigang, Mongar, Pemagatsel and Samdrup Jongkhar, Trongsa, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang has a lower average altitude and is warmer than Thimphu, Phobjikha, Bumthang, Haa, Paro, and Gasa. Bhutan experience a reasonably heavy monsoon between (June to August), and the average rainfall is around 350cm per year. During the monsoon the valleys are enveloped in magical swirling mist and the whole region is unimaginably lush green but you rarely catch a glimpse of the snow clad peaks and mountains.
The overriding climatic and temperature influence zone of Bhutan
- Sub Tropical Himalayan foothills has a vegetation particularly tropical forest of broad-leaf evergreen forest with rich wildlife and the average rainfall received by this region reaches up to 200 inches with climate range from warm, humid, damp and misty in the hills. The altitude in this subtropical foothills, range from 985ft/300m to 3280ft/1000m.
- Inner Himalaya or the second layer the temperature usually gets cooler as you climb higher and the region here in the inner Himalaya provides with major wetland in the country. It offers a broad valley with densely populated forest along the hillsides. All the major settlements and towns of Bhutan are situated in this zone and is the core of the country. The region’s forest covered here thick with blue pine, conifer, oak, magnolia, maple, birch, rhododendron, willow, poplar, walnut and other flowering trees and plants. The climate in this region varies from 3280ft/1000m to 11480ft/3500m.
- Greater Himalaya or Alpine Himalaya usually the large part of this region stays covered with snow all year round. The region is also bewitchingly beautiful with many permanently cover snowcapped peaks, glacier lakes and alpine meadows covered with beautiful wild flowers. It has few inhabitants and those are mostly engaged in yak herding. This major geographical zone has a forest cover below the snowline are fir, juniper, hemlock, dwarf bamboo, dwarf rhododendron and alpine meadow. The alpine region of the north lies at an elevation beginning from 11480ft/3500m to that of the greater Himalayan high peaks of Mt. Gangkar Puensum towering at 24735ft/7541m.
Bhutan is an all season destination, one that combines the roots of tradition with the wings of modernity. This quaint little kingdom is a treasure trove of unique experiences waiting to unfold and truly makes for an excellent holiday destination. Spring and summer fill the landscape with myriad flora and fauna. Autumn casts a bright golden glow on the landscape. The crisp winter air and the clear skies have all the makings of an ideal environment for capturing some of the best mountain views.
All year round, there is a unique sense of peace and contentment in the environment marked by traditional festivities as people celebrate their festivals according to ancient local traditions. None that the marvels of modern science have to offer has overwhelmed the Bhutanese; they still hold dear the age-old tradition and customs passed on by their ancestors, practiced in earnest at every moment of their lives. Gifted with astonishing natural beauty, scenic landscape, rich cultural heritage and customs, and simple but content people, Bhutan is all about an authentic experience.
Spring: March, April, and May
The spring season offers the visitors an amazing display of flowers. It has the pear and apple in blossoms which add a dainty touch to the valleys as their pink and white blooms add a sense of new wonder to the land that is about to burst with abundant growth again. Rhododendron, Magnolia and many other flowering shrubs are in full bloom.
Summer: June, July and August
Summer is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in bloom and the valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweep the banks of many of the rivers and the pinecones glisten in the sun, so full with resin they are ready to plummet to the ground. This season is a botanist’s delight as rhododendrons, wild azaleas, and masses of wildflowers including the edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet.
Autumn: September, October and November
Autumn casts a bright golden glow on the vast landscape and is one of the more crowded times of the year for tourism to Bhutan. In fall, rice fields ripen to a golden brown under crisp blue skies. The merry pink and white of cosmos flowers dot the countryside. During this season, you will miss the profusion of color but will be rewarded with superb view.
Winter: December, January and February
Winter is another best time to visit Bhutan. It is recommended for those who do not mind the cold. The winter months have it’s own moment. The days are full of sunshine while evening can turn chilly though generally it is not too cold. The winter landscape lays bare the majestic of the mountains and the sweeping valleys. Soft tufts of cold drape lazily over mountaintops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape. It provides the best for spectacular snow views of the Greater Himalayas under the blue sky.
Today with vast network of motor able roads and air, travelling to Bhutan is easy and convenient with modern, dependable transportation system. The main point of entry are through Phuntsholing in the south that links Bhutan with the Indian plains of West Bengal, through Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar the motor able road links with Indian state of Assam. Paro in the heart of Western Bhutan caters all the international flight and is the only international airport that caters Druk Air and Bhutan Airline.
Travel by Air
The country has so far only one international airport that caters to the needs of visitors coming in and out trough flight. However, within Bhutan, there are domestic flights to Yongphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in the central Bhutan, and Gelephu in the south-central Bhutan. The international airport at Paro is located at a height of 7,300 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 feet.
Druk Air flies to the following international destination:
- Nepal: Kathmandu
- Bangladesh: Dhaka
- Thailand: Bangkok
- India: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota, Bodh Gaya, Bagdogra and Guwahati
Bhutan Airline flies to the following international destinations:
- Thailand: Bangkok
- Nepal: Kathmandu
- Bangladesh: Dhaka
- India: Delhi & Kolkata
- Flight Timing
Due to its geographical location and operating challenges, Bhutan flight schedule is severely dependent on the weather conditions that hinders the flight schedule frequently and the flight schedule timing are subject to change without prior notice. Travelers are requested to check your flight timing with the airline for the latest information. Please allow a minimum of 24 hours transit time between your international flight and your flight to Bhutan.
Kindly note that reporting time for flight is two hours prior to departure. The entire flight counter will be closed thirty minutes prior to the schedule departure of the flights. All travelers must ensure to present your travel document like visa at the check-in counter.
The check-in baggage allowance is of 40 kilograms in business class and 30 kilograms in economic class. A child under 2 years of age and not occupying a seat is not entitled to baggage allowance.
Travel by Land
Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar in eastern Bhutan are the only land border area open for international tourists.
- Phuntsholing is located approximately 170 kilometer east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuntsholing, your journey then begins its mountainous climb through numerous turns and hairpin bends until you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The travel time for the 171 kilometers stretch can be about six hours.
- Gelephu in the south-central Bhutan is another entry point to the country. It is approximately 250 kilometers from Thimphu and the journey will take you through the sub-tropical areas of Bhutan before entering the alpine zone and then finally into Thimphu. One will have to traverse across three districts and travel time will be about ten hours.
- Samdrup Jongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kilometers away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourist entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will take you to Trashigang, the largest districts in the country, and from there over the lateral route to Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then finally into capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kilometers and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu.
Traveling within Bhutan
Despite the major hurdle posed by the inaccessible terrain, a good road network connects the high mountain passes, all major towns and important places of visit. However, an important feature of the road system is the innumerable curves and bends that one will have to negotiate. Beside the bends, another characteristic road network is steep ascents and descents that slow down car travels. An average speed for road travel rarely exceeds 40 kilometers an hour, with tourist buses making even slower progress. One is however, generously rewarded for the long and tiring car journey by spectacular views of the mountains, the lush green jungles, the ancient villages, the majestic temples and monasteries and the many roadside restaurants and inns.
The roads are well sealed but the rides can still be bumpy as the lanes are single and narrow at most points. The advantage is that the Bhutanese are well accustomed to driving such lanes, know their land well, and are careful drivers.
The government appointed body, Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) acted as overall tourism regulatory body in the country, managing entire responsibility for tourism planning and policy, product development, management, promotion, marketing and branding destination Bhutan. Since 1991, travel and tourism has been in the hands of more than six hundred private Bhutanese agencies; however, they must all follow the rules set down by Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
Tourism Pricing Policy
Bhutan Government uphold a strategy of “High Value, Low Impact” tourism, which serves the purpose of creating an image of exclusive and high- yield destination among travelers. The minimum cost outlined by the government samples the charms of the isolated Himalayan kingdom, which was founded on the principle of sustainability. The government initiated tourism policy is to maintain its environment, ecological friendly, preservation of social-cultural and economically viable, prevent from overrun mass tourism and while at the same time to ensure visitors get the most out of their trips. In addition, tourism has become a global phenomenon and it helps in developing the socioeconomic of a developing country like Bhutan.
All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan must obtaining visa clearance prior to their travel. It must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator like Wild Mountain Adventure through an online system.
There are several types of Bhutan visa, depending on the purpose.
- Transit Visa (type A & B)
- Short Term Visa (type C)
The most common visa to Bhutan is Short Term (type C), which is used by all business travelers and tourist alike. Your Bhutan visa is issued by the Department of Immigration through the local Bhutanese Tour Operator like Wild Mountain Adventure accredited with Tourism Council of Bhutan. Travelers need to wire the full tour payment via-bank transfer to the jointly account between Wild Mountain Adventure and Tourism Council of Bhutan, and after receiving the full payment the local tour operator we will apply your Bhutan visa. Bhutan does not encourage or issue visa for backpackers. Movement in the country beyond the set program developed by Wild Mountain Adventure and unaccompanied tour guide is strictly prohibited.
To obtain your Bhutan visa need to send the clear scanned copy of the photo page of your passport to Wild Mountain Adventure, who will then apply for a visa? Make sure your passport should be minimum six months validity. As mentioned above the visa will be formalized only after the full tour payment of your stay including the visa fee is made to our account. Your tour payment will go directly to the government account and it is all the way safe. The process of visa takes more than 72 working hours.
At the point of entry to Bhutan, you need to provide the copy of your Bhutan visa, which, we will send you prior your travel and after which it will bear the special stamp in your passport.
Document required for visa permission
- Original clear scanned copy of the photo page of your passport
- Visa Validity minimum six months
- Conformed ticket of both incoming and outgoing flight
- Conformation of the hotel in Bhutan
- Conformed Itinerary
- Statement from the bank
- Visa Fee: USD 40 and must wire along with your tour payment