THE LAND OF THE THUNDER DRAGON
Hidden in the Eastern Himalayas between India and China (Tibet), this kingdom, practically unknown to the outside world, presents a most fascinating yet an untouched natural beauty, unique culture and ancient traditions. Bhutan is truly a SHANGRILA, a mythical country hidden deep in the mountains. For centuries isolated, inaccessible and forbidden, this Himalayan Kingdom cautiously opened its borders to visitors. Travellers to Bhutan will experience the enchantment of a pure and exotic land, through its ancient fortresses, monasteries and temples, with their imposing architecture and superb art. Bhutan is endowed with breathtaking natural beauty, surrounded by sacred mountains, virgin peaks and holy lakes. Bhutan is definitely one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations.
The people of Bhutan are a rich mosaic of lifestyles and languages. However they are also united by their friendliness and unique cultural heritage rooted in Mahayana Buddhism that has remained isolated from western influence. They also treasure their environment, and live in harmony with its elements. The population is mainly concentrated in small towns and villages, and it is in these fascinating places that you can really discover the true spirit of the Bhutanese people. Bhutan is a place where the mountains, rivers and valleys are abodes of the gods. The constant scenes of hills dotted with ancient temples, monasteries and prayer flags are testament to this, whilst in streams prayer wheels powered by the natural water flow turn day and night. Some sites are amongst the most sacred in the Himalayas such as Taktsang Monastery in Paro, and the many ancient Buddhist sites in Bumthang, Bhutan’s spiritual heartland.
The Bhutan monarchy was formed in 1907 under the leadership of the First King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk. The King of Bhutan is formally known as the Druk Gyalpo, the Dragon King. Bhutan’s current King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was crowned in 2008. The legacy of the Wangchuck dynasty is one of peace and progress. This includes initiating the drafting of Bhutan’s first Constitution.
AWE – INSPIRING LANDSCAPES
The stunning Bhutan Himalayan peaks are permanently capped with snow, mostly unclimbed, and tower over its dense forests, alpine meadows, lush valleys and rushing streams. Bhutan hosts peaks that reach between 5,000-7,000m (16,000-23,000ft) in height, and are neighbors to Mount Everest.
FESTIVALS IN BHUTAN
Tsechus (Buddhist festival) are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan. Local people gather in a spirit of festivity, celebration and deep faith to honour Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. We have a range of suggested Tsechu itineraries, however if these departure dates do not suit you, contact us as festivals are held throughout the year.
BHUTAN CURRENCY EXCHANGE
Bhutan’s unit of currency is called Ngultrum (Nu.). A Ngultrum has the same value as the Indian rupee, which is also legal in Bhutan. One US dollar equals roughly 54 Nu. Check the current exchange rate at www.xe.com.
INR 100 & 50 Rupee denomination may be used in Bhutan, but Ngultrum cannot be used in India. Indian Rupee denomination note of INR 500/ and INR 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan. Tourist can exchange traveler’s cheques or cash at the foreign exchange desk at Paro Airport and Bank of Bhutan branches in major townships such as Paro and Thimphu. As you travel into the interior, ATM and banking facilities are almost non-existent. We suggest that you do your banking whilst in Paro or Thimphu, and take local currency with you to the countryside. Currencies that can be exchanged include the U.S. Dollar, Pound Sterling, Euro, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Denish Kroner, Australlian Dollar and Singapore Dollar. Some hotels also provide foreign exchange services, however many of these are limited to U.S. Dollar exchanges.
Credit cards only accepted in a very limited number of handicraft stores in Thimphu and high-end hotels. Limited ATM facilities are available in major townships. MasterCard and Visa international credit and debit cards can be used on these ATM’s to withdraw cash. You may need to show your passport when you exchange money or travelers cheques. We suggest bringing US$30-50 per person/per day for items not included in the cost of the trip such as some beverages, souvenirs and emergency money (if you enjoy shopping, we suggest bringing more).
BHUTAN – WHEN TO GO
Even though Bhutan is a year-round destination, climate is certainly a consideration when planning your journey, especially if you are trekking. However, Bhutan’s altitude range, from subtropical valleys to alpine peaks, and its busy festival calendar means you can visit Bhutan at any time of the year to explore its attractions and witness colourful festivals.
The most popular time to visit Bhutan is during autumn (Sep-Nov). The weather is milder, the skies are generally clearer making it particularly suitable for hiking and trekking. Spring (Mar-May) can be cloudier and have more rain than autumn, however the wildlife and flowers are at their most vivid. hough The magnificent rhododendrons, magnolias and other wildflowers are in bloom and birdlife is abundant. Many of the large festivals take place during these seasons.
Winter (Dec-Feb) can be quite cold, however the skies are usually clear providing good photographic opportunities, and there are also fewer tourists around. Please note that in January and February snow may block some mountain passes restricting access from the west to the central valleys. The summer monsoon season (mid Jun-Aug) is not highly recommended for travel to Bhutan with high temperatures and a good chance of rainfall.