Bhutan is located in South Asia. A small country in the
Himalayas, located between China (part of the autonomous region of
Tibet) and India.
Bhutan is a small quiet mountainous country in the Himalayas, hugged from the north by China and from the south by India.
Aside from the stunning natural scenery, the country's enduring image for most visitors is a strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors. Bhutan is the only Buddhist Vajrayana country in the world and the deep learning of this tradition remains well preserved and has a strong influence in all aspects of life. Because of its ancient environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called "The Last Shangri-La."
Bhutan is a unique country in terms of culture and ecology. Lost high in the Himalayas, this is the last remaining Buddhist kingdom. Here they developed the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, when progress is measured not with the help of gross domestic product, but with the help of a holistic approach to well-being. Hot chili is considered a vegetable, and ema dachi is a national dish. Ema dachi is made from green hot peppers seasoned with Bhutanese cheese sauce.
Bhutan is still considered a third world country with subsistence agriculture in most of its territory. In general, the land is fertile and the population is small. In addition, the current generation receives education for free, and all citizens have access to free health care. The sale of tobacco products is prohibited, and smoking in public places is subject to a fine of 175 Euros.
The kingdom's main sources of income are tourism, hydroelectric power and agriculture.
Although the traditional culture is very well preserved, the opening of the country to TV and the Internet in 1999 had a significant impact. The capital Thimphu is growing rapidly due to the migration of many residents from eastern Bhutan to cities in the west of the country.
Culturally, Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist, with Dzongkha serving as the national language (although there are regional variations such as Sharchopkha, which predominates in Eastern Bhutan), and a common style of dress and architecture. The population of Bhutan is mainly made up of Ngalops and Sharchops, who are respectively referred to as Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese. Ngalops mainly live in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to the culture of their northern neighbor, Tibet.
In March 2008, at the initiative of the fourth king, the kingdom became a parliamentary democracy.
Gross National Happiness
This ideology was conceived by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who, having received a modern education in India and the UK, realized that economic success in itself does not necessarily make society contented and happy. Accordingly, shortly after his coronation in 1974, the young king began to promote the idea of developing new principles for governing the country. Gradually, these ideas were formulated, and in 1998 the GNA indicator was adopted. The GNH stands for Gross National Happiness and is defined by the following four goals: enhancing economic growth and development, preserving and developing cultural heritage, promoting environmental stewardship, and promoting good governance.
On July 19, 2011, 68 states joined the Kingdom of Bhutan, initiating the resolution "Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development", adopted by consensus of the UN General Assembly. As a follow-up to the resolution, the Bhutanese government hosted a high-level meeting on "Happiness and Well Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm" on 2 April 2012 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York . At the meeting, the next steps were proposed to realize the vision of a new economic paradigm based on well-being and social and environmental responsibility, which in fact combines the achievement of economic, social and environmental goals.
The first people may have settled here after the ice age, little is known about this prehistoric era of Bhutan. The first historical information appeared with the advent of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and founded monasteries.
In 1865, England and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan received an annual subsidy in exchange for the cession of some border territories. Under British influence, a monarchy was introduced in 1907; three years later, an agreement was signed under which the British agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan, and Bhutan allowed Great Britain to manage foreign relations. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, an official Indian-Bhutanese agreement returned the Bhutanese lands annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies received by the country, and determined India's responsibility in the field of defense and foreign relations.
In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck handed over power to his eldest son, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, giving him the title of the fifth Druk Gyalpo. The coronation ceremony took place in November 2008. The fifth king was educated in Boston and Oxford and is highly respected in the country.
Despite the small size of Bhutan, the weather there varies from north to south and from valley to valley, primarily depending on the height above sea level. In the north of Bhutan, on the border with Tibet, there is always snow. In the western, central and eastern parts of Bhutan (Ha, Paro, Thimphu, Wandue, Trongsa, Bumthang, Trashi Yangtse, Lhuntse) you will most likely encounter European-like weather. Winter here lasts from November to March. The exception is Punakha, as it is in a lower valley with hot summers and pleasant winters. In the southern part of Bhutan, bordering India, it is hot and humid, the climate is subtropical. Although the monsoons strongly affect northern India, they do not affect Bhutan to the same extent. The summer months are wetter, with occasional showers mostly coming only in the evenings. Winter is a much drier season, while spring and autumn are rather pleasant.
The four seasons are clearly distinguished, like Western Europe. Temperatures in the far south range from 15°C in winter (December-February) to 30°C in summer (June-August). Thimphu fluctuates from -2.5°C in January to 25°C in August with 100 mm of precipitation. In the highlands, the average temperature is 0 °C in winter and can reach 10 °C in summer, with an average rainfall of 350 mm.
The amount of precipitation varies considerably depending on the altitude. Average rainfall varies by region.
January 2 - Winter Solstice (Western Bhutan only)
January 24 is the traditional day of sacrifice (a day for feeding hungry creatures - celebrated as the New Year in Eastern Bhutan)
February 22-23 - (Year of the Water Dragon) - New Year (losar)
February 21-23 (annually) - Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck
May 2 (annually) - anniversary of the birth of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (Jigme Dorji Wangchuck)
Rolling May 1 - Shabdrung Kuchoe (commemorates the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1651)
June 4 (moving date) - celebration of the anniversary of Parnirvana Buddha
June 29 (rolling date) - Guru Rinpoche's birthday anniversary
July 23 (rolling date) - First Buddha Ceremony
September 21 (rolling date) - Drubchen Thimphu (only in Thimphu)
September 25-27 (rolling date) - Tsechu Thimphu (only in Thimphu)
September 22 (rolling date) - Rain Blessing Festival
October 24 (rolling date) - Hindu ceremony Dashain (Dashain)
November 1 (moving date) - coronation day of His Majesty the King
November 6 (moving date) - the festival of the descent of the Buddha
November 11 (annually) - Birth Anniversary of the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
December 17 (annually) - National Day commemorating the coronation in 1907 of the first hereditary king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck
In addition to the national holidays mentioned above, there are also regional Tsechu holidays.
Travelers and Magicians, the first Bhutanese feature film to receive international recognition, was made in 2003 and highlights life in Bhutan.
Beyond the Sky and the Earth (buy) - a novel by Jamie Zeppa that tells the true story of a young Canadian teacher teaching in a Bhutanese school - very interesting and informative.
The Raven Crown (buy) A book by Michael Aris about the origins of the Buddhist monarchy in Bhutan.
The Circle of Karma is a brilliant novel by renowned local writer Kunzang Choden that tells the story of the lives of Bhutanese women.
A number of media outlets are published in English:
Kuensel. A newspaper published for 40 years with state participation. Comes out daily.
BBS. State Television of Bhutan
The Bhutan Times. The independent source of information about Bhutan is the commercial press of a somewhat tabloid type. It comes out once a week on Sundays.
The Bhutan Observer. An independent source of information about Bhutan is a social newspaper with analytical articles. It comes out once a week on Fridays.
Radio Valley. The first private FM radio station in Bhutan. The program "With Love From Home" can be listened to on the Internet.
Kuzoo FM English-language radio channel - a mixture of youth music and discussion programs - FM 105.
Centennial Radio is a program in English and Dzongha (the national language).
Bhutan is divided into 4 major regions, which include administrative regions:
Western Bhutan: Chukha, Khaa, Paro, Samtse, Thimphu
Eastern Bhutan: Lhuntse, Mongar, Pemagatshel, Sandrup Jonkar, Tashigang, Tashiyangtse
Southern Bhutan: Bumthang, Sarpang, Tongsa, Jemgang
Central Bhutan: Dagana, Gasa, Punakha, Tsirang, Wangdi Phodrang
Thimphu is the capital and largest city of the country
Jagar is a city and administrative center in the north and the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan
Mongar is one of the largest cities in eastern Bhutan.
Paro is the city where the international airport and Taktsang monastery are located.
Punakha is the former winter capital of Bhutan.
Phuntsholing - a city on the border with India, the point of entry for tourists coming by bus from Kolkata
Samdrup Jongkhar is a city and administrative center in the southeast, near the border with India.
Trashigang is a picturesque city and administrative center in the east
Trongsa is a small town and administrative center famous for its dzong and trong tower.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Royal Manas National Park
Thrumshing National Park
Bomdeling Nature Reserve
Khaling Nature Reserve
Phibsoo nature reserve
How to get there
Bhutan is a unique place with some unique rules. All tourists must obtain a visa prior to arrival in Bhutan. Visas are issued upon receipt of full payment for your trip by the Bhutan Tourism Board. The money remains with the Tourist Board until the completion of the trip around the country and the payment of the services of the local tour operator. Bhutan no longer restricts the number of tourists and has an open door policy.
Before departure, all tourists must obtain a visa. All tourists are required to book a tour through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner). The visa application is submitted online by the local tour operator, so there is no need for you to visit the Bhutanese embassy or consulate. Your trip must be paid in full by wire transfer to the Bhutan Tourism Board prior to the issuance of a tourist visa. Obtaining a visa takes no more than 72 hours after receiving full payment. Upon entering the country, the visa will be stamped in your passport for a fee of $20, and two passport photographs will also be required. The visa can be extended through a local tour operator by paying 510 Nu (1 ngultrum = 1 Indian rupee), and the tourist will also need to pay additional days of the daily fee. Visas are issued on arrival only to citizens (residents) of India, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Since traveling to Bhutan almost invariably requires a layover in India, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, make sure you meet the visa requirements of those countries before departure. Nepal and Thailand offer visa-on-arrival or visa-free travel for citizens of many countries. A transit visa to Singapore (up to 96 hours) for Russian citizens is issued at the border. India generally requires a visa prior to arrival, which can take up to two weeks.
Paro International Airport (PBH) is Bhutan's only air gateway. It is located in the southwest of the country and is served only by the national carrier Druk Air. Since April 1, 2008, electronic tickets have been sold. Druk Air operates 2 aircraft (two airbuses) that fly to Bangkok (Thailand); Delhi, Kolkata, Bodhgaya/Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati (India); Kathmandu (Nepal); Dhaka (Bangladesh). There are also two domestic airports. Yongphulla Airport is located in Trashigang in the east, Bathpalathang Airport is located in Jakar in Bumthang region. At the end of 2012, Gelephu Domestic Airport is due to open. It is located in the south central region, next to the Indian border. From September 1, 2012, flights from Singapore and Mumbai will be accepted.
Bagdogra Airport (IXB). Serving the city of Siliguri in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, Bagdogra Airport is located a 4-hour drive from the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. Bagdogra has frequent flights from major cities in India, and Druk Air flies from Bangkok on Sundays and Wednesdays (return flights depart on Tuesdays and Saturdays).
There are three border crossings only on the southern border with India. Phuentsholing in the west, Gelephu in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar in the east. On the northern (Chinese) border, border crossings are closed. This requires obtaining road permits, but this is handled by your local tour operator along with the visa.
From Kolkata: The Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan runs a bus service to Phuntsholing. Buses depart from Kolkata's Esplanade Bus Station at 7:00 AM on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and from the Bhutan Post Office at Phuntsholing at 3:00 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The trip takes about 18 hours and costs 300 Rps/Nu. The buses are comfortable, but since the highway to Kolkata is mostly like the surface of the moon, don't count on getting enough sleep on the way.
From Siliguri: Buses between Siliguri and Phuntsholing/Jaigaon are frequent. The journey takes about four hours. Government of Bhutan buses leave from the bus station opposite the main highway, next to the Heritage Hotel, at 7:30 and 13:30 daily. Tickets cost 62 rupees and are sold at the entrance to the bus.
From Phuntsholing: There are private buses and minibuses from Phuntsholing to Thimphu, but there is a comfortable option: book a seat on the Bhutan Post bus (170 Rs / Nu), which leaves the post office every morning at 7:00 (Bhutan time).
There are no railways in Bhutan. The closest options (both in India):
Hasimara on the Kolkata/Siliguri highway in Assam is the nearest railway station to Phuntsholing, 17 km away. Indian Rail trains #13149 and #4084 stop here. As of October 2010, some sections of the road from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Phuntsholing are in very poor condition. Continuing the train journey to Hashimara will save you energy for Bhutan.
New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri is a popular option for tourists traveling to Bhutan by land. Minibuses run from New Jalpaiguri to Jaigaon, or you can also take a bus from the bus station in Siliguri. A taxi from the railway station to the bus station costs a maximum of about 80 rupees. Or you can also take the local train to Hashimara which costs about 40 rupees and takes about 3 hours. Trains from New Jalpaiguri should be booked in advance as these stations are popular with the locals. There are no tourist quotas on trains departing from this station.
The Bhutan Tourism Board charges a daily fee for all tourists entering the country. You cannot enter Bhutan as a tourist without paying this fee.
The daily fee includes:
Accommodation in a three-star hotel - hotels of a higher class may charge an additional fee
Three meals a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accompanied by a licensed Bhutanese guide throughout your stay
All domestic transport - except domestic air travel
Equipment for camping and transportation of goods for hiking
All internal taxes and fees
$65 royalty (included in fee)
The minimum fee is (for a group of 3 or more people):
USD 250 per person per night during March, April, May, September, October and November.
USD 200 per person per night during January, February, June, July, August and December.
Fees are charged per tourist per overnight stay in Bhutan. Groups of two or fewer people will be charged an additional amount on top of the applicable minimum daily rates in the following order:
Individuals - USD 40 per person per night
From 2 persons - 30 USD per person per day.
Children under the age of 5 are exempt from paying the fee. Children from 6 to 12 years old accompanied by parents (guardians) receive a 50% discount on daily rates and a 100% discount on royalties. Full-time students under the age of 25 who hold valid student ID cards also receive a 25% discount on daily rates. A 50% discount on daily rates is given to one person in a group of 11 - 15 people. 100% discount is given to one member of a group of more than 16 people. 50% royalty discount after 8th night and 100% royalty discount after 14th night.
Reducing the cost of collecting is illegal, while the license of the tour operators convicted of this is revoked.
The only other way to visit the country is to receive an invitation from a citizen of Bhutan, when when applying, proof of a family relationship or through an NPO must be presented.
The royalty that is included in the per diem fee is a fee for the sustainable tourism policy of the Bhutan Tourism Board. This $65 royalty goes directly to the government to provide free education and health care and alleviate poverty.
Prior to your trip to Bhutan, you will be asked to transfer the entire cost of your holiday to the Bhutan Tourism Board. A tourist visa will not be issued until full payment has been made prior to departure. This money will remain at the disposal of the Bhutan Tourism Board until the end of your trip. Only after that the money goes to the local tour operator with whom you booked your tour. If you are unsatisfied with the service while in Bhutan, you can contact the Bhutan Tourism Board for assistance.
Applying for a visa
Visas on arrival are only issued to citizens of India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. A photo and identification document (passport or voter ID) is required, along with a photocopy of it. Indicate in the document the purpose of arrival: "Tourism" (Tourism). At land border crossings, you will only be given 7 days to Paro and Thimphu. To extend your stay, contact Thimphu at the Immigration office at the northern end of Norzin Lam. To visit other areas, you need to apply for traffic permits at the same bureau. It is best to apply in the morning, then in the afternoon you will receive the necessary document.
The official languages of Bhutan are Dzongkha and English.
The country's currency is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN).
Most tourists take "cultural tours" during which they visit important
cities. Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue and Jakar are popular. In the
outback, the little-known Zhemgang region (a paradise for bird watchers,
a great place for wildlife watching) and Eastern Bhutan have just been
opened up for tourism. If you are adventurous and want to explore little
explored places, then East Bhutan is the place to be. This unique, still
untouched corner of the country will leave an indelible impression.
Taktsang Monastery ("tiger's nest"), Paro. This is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, the most famous and most visited monument in Bhutan. Guru Rinpoche visited him in the 8th century on his second visit to Bhutan. It is believed that he came riding on a winged tigress, hence the name, "tiger's nest". The temple was built on a rock 1.2 km high in 1692.
Kurje Lhakhang, Jakar. A temple built around a cave with the imprint of Guru Rinpoche's body on the wall. Guru Rinpoche meditated here during his first visit to Bhutan, so this is the country's oldest Buddhist relic.
Dzong Tashichho (Tashichho Dzong) is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern tip of the city of Thimphu in Bhutan, on the west bank of the Wang Chu River. It is traditionally the seat of the Druk Desi (or "Dharma Raja"), head of the civil government of Bhutan, a position that was merged with royalty after the establishment of the monarchy in 1907, and the country's summer capital. The main structure of the white stucco building is two stories high, with three-story towers in each of the four corners and three-story golden roofs. There is also a large tower in the middle, utse. The original dzong was erected in 1216.
Dzongs are ancient fortresses that now serve as the residences of the civil and monastic administration of each district. In addition to the architecture, which is noteworthy in itself, they also house many valuable works of art.
Dzongs are scattered throughout the area in abundance and were built without the use of cement, nails or projects. You can visit the following dzongs:
Dzong Jakar (Jakar Dzong)
Dzong Lhuentse (Lhuentse Dzong)
Dzong Gasa (Gasa Dzong)
Dzong Shigatse (Shigatse Dzong)
Dzong Kagyu (Kagyu-Dzong)
Dzong Lingzhi Yugyal (Lingzhi Yügyal Dzong)
Tsechen Monastery and Dzong
Trekking is also extremely popular. Most often, hikes are usually made along the Druk trail from Paro to the capital Thimphu. However, there are many other more impressive routes, see the full list below. The Jomolhari and Laya Gasa trails are also very popular, and the Snowman Trek is said to be one of the hardest trails in the world, taking about 30 days to complete. The recommended time of the year for it is from mid-June to mid-October.
Bumthang Cultural Trek
Bumthang Owl Trek
Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek
Route Druk Path Trek
Dur Hot Spring Trek
Gangkar Puensum route
Laya Gasa Trek Laya Gasa Trek
Route Merak-Sakteng (Merak-Sakteng)
Nabji Korphu Community Based Trek
Nubtsona Pata Trek
Punakha Winter Trek
Rigsum Goenpa Trek
Royal Heritage Trek
Bigfoot Trail (Snowman Trek)
Wild East Rodungla Trek
The pristine natural environment of Bhutan has ecosystems that are rich and diverse due to its location and significant geographic and climatic variations. The high, rugged mountains and valleys of Bhutan are characterized by spectacular biodiversity, making the country one of the ten most important centers of biodiversity in the world. Recognition of the importance of the environment and the preservation of its rich biodiversity is one of the paradigms of the country's development. In a recent law, the government mandated that 60% of its forest resources be conserved at all times. Today, about 72% of the total land area is covered with forest, while approximately 26% of the territory is classified as protected areas in four parks.
35% of Bhutan are state-protected national parks. These are Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (1300 km2), TrumpshingLa National Park (768 km2), Royal Manas National Park (Royal Manas National Park, 9938.54 km2), Jigme Dorji National Park (Jigme Dorji National Park, 4349 km2), Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, 1545 km2 and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, 650 km2.
Festivities or tshechu (“tenth day”) is another attractive feature of Bhutan. They are held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country. Tshechu is primarily a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar month, corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However, the month of tshechu celebration varies from place to place and from temple to temple. Tshechu are large social gatherings where people from different villages come together to watch religious masked dances based on events from the life of Guru Padmasambhava dating back to the 8th century and receive the blessings of the lamas. The event also includes colorful Bhutanese dances and other entertainment.
It is said that everyone should visit the tshecha and see the masked dances at least once in order to receive blessings and be cleansed of sins. Each masked dance performed during tshechu has its own meaning or story. In the monasteries, masked dances are performed by monks, and in remote villages by monks and villagers together. Among the many tshechus celebrated in the country, the most popular in terms of participation and audience are paro and thimpu tshechu. In addition to local residents, this unique, colorful and fascinating cultural event attracts many tourists from all over the world.
Paro and Thimphu are traditionally the most popular, but tourists are quickly realizing that the smaller and more rural festivals are much more soulful.
Other festivities throughout the year:
Black Necked Crane Festival
Chorten Kora Festiva
Gomphu Kora Festival
Haa Summer Festival
Jampa Lhakhang festival
Pema Gatshel Festival
Wangdue Phodrang Festival