Bhutan

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.

Geography

Bhutan is a rugged land of steep mountains and deep valleys, that is easily divided into three main geographical areas.The lowlands front its southern border with India; the lesser (or lower) Himalayas cover the central areas, and its northern border with China is dominated by the massive peaks of the Himalayas. Many mountain peaks in northern Bhutan reach heights of over 7,000 meters. Bhutan's highest point is Kula Kamgri which reaches a height of 24,783 ft. (7,554 m).Numerous small rivers drain the land, including the Dangme, Mangde, Sankosh and Torsa.The lowest point of the country is the Drangme Chhu river at 318 ft. (97 m).

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit Bhutan is during the springmonths of March to May when the valleys come alive with flowers in bloom. The Himalayan peaks are at their most visible with the clear skies of October and this is the best time for trekking though temperatures will be on the cold side.

RELIGION OF BHUTAN

Bhutanese society is centered around the practice of Buddhism, which is the main religion. Religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life. Prayer flags flutter on hillsides, offering up prayers to benefit all nearby sentient beings. Houses each fly a small white flag on the roof indicating the owner has made his offering payments to appease the local god. Each valley or district is dominated by a huge dzong, or high-walled fortress which serves the religious and administrative center of the district.Approximately 23% of the population is Hindu. There is a small Muslim population in Bhutan, covering 0.2% of the whole country's population. Overall, 75% of the population is Buddhist, and 0.4% other religions.

FOOD OF BHUTAN

The staple foods of Bhutan are red rice (like brown rice in texture, but with a nutty taste, the only variety of rice that grows in high altitudes), buckwheat, and increasingly maize. The diet in the hills also includes chickenyak meat, dried beefpork, pork fat, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat, rice, fernslentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with chili peppers and cheese, are a favourite meal during the cold seasons.Zow shungo is a rice dish mixed with leftover vegetables. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chili peppers (similar to chili con queso), might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Other foods include: jasha maru (a chicken dish), phaksha paathukpabathup, and fried rice.Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned into butter and cheese. Popular beverages include: butter teablack tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine), and beer. Popular spices include: currycardamomgingerthingay (Sichuan pepper), garlicturmeric, and caraway.

FESTIVALS OF BHUTAN

1. Tshechu - Tshechu, meaning “day 10” are yearly religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district of Bhutan. Tschechus are held to honor Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), who brought a Tantric form of Buddhism to Bhutan in 8th century.

2. Thangbi Mani Festival? - Thangbi Mani festival is one of the most popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Gewog in Bumthang.Thangbi Mani is a unique festival which displays the rich tradition and celebrates the cultural heritage of this ancient monasteryThangbi Lhakang, founded in 1470 by the Shamar Rinpoche, Chokki Drakpa.

3. Jambay Lhakhang Drup - The Jampa Temple or Temple of Maitreya is located in Bumthang in Bhutan, and is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 CE on a single day, to pin down an ogress to earth forever. 

4. Punakha Dzong - The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungtang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang, is the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. 

5. Haa Summer Festival - The Haa Summer Festival is a lively and uplifting celebration of traditional living-culture, nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese traditional sports and religious performances. It provides unparalleled insight into the lives and traditions of Bhutan’s area..

 

TOURISM OF BHUTAN

Tourism in Bhutan began in 1974, when the Government of Bhutan, in an effort to raise revenue and to promote Bhutanese unique culture and traditions to the outside world, opened its isolated country to foreigners. In 1974, 287 tourists visited Bhutan. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan increased to 2,850 in 1992, and rose dramatically to 7,158 in 1999.By the late 1980s tourism contributed over US$2 million in annual revenue.Despite being open to foreigners, the Bhutanese government is acutely aware of the environmental impact tourists can have on Bhutan's unique and virtually unspoiled landscape and culture. Accordingly, they have restricted the level of tourist activity from the start, preferring higher-quality tourism. Until 1991, the Bhutan Tourism Corporation (BTC), a quasi-autonomous and self-financing body, implemented the government's tourism policy.The Bhutanese government, however, privatised the Corporation in October 1991, facilitating private-sector investment and activity.All tourists (group or individual) must travel on a planned, prepaid, guided package-tour or custom-designed travel-program. Most foreigners cannot travel independently in the kingdom. The arrangements must be made through an officially approved tour operator, either directly or through an overseas agent.

TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT

Thimpu - It is perhaps the smallest capital in the world and is pure and ethnic gallery of traditional Bhutanese art, architecture, culture, and tradition, located across the western slopes of the Wang Chhu river valley. This is the center of Bhutan and the financial and tourism hub situated at an altitude of 2,320 meters, even a walk through Norzin Lam the main thoroughfare is worth. It is perhaps the only world capital without any traffic lights. The places to visit in Thimpu is the Memorial Chorten, dedicated to the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Tashichho Dzong, the summer residence of the central monk body, the traditional medicine hospital where herbal medicines are prepared. The National Library, a treasure trove of ancient texts and the institute of Zorig Chosum for thanka painting, sculpture, wood and slate carving, gold works and embroidery.

Paro - Paro is a name of the town center as well the name of district or Dzongkhag. The small and charming town of Paro lies in the center of the valley at an average elevation of 2280m, on the bank of Pa Chhu River. Paro town was first formed in 1985 with one main street, lined with colorfully painted shops. Of recent, new constructions have taken place at the back of the main street. The head quarter of Paro district is located in nearby Rinphung Dzong. Bhutan's international airport is also located here and the capital is just over 1hour away. Paro is known to be most fertile valley. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, making Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district. Paro is one of the most tranquil and beautiful valley in Bhutan.

Punakha - Punakha is a town in the Himalayas of Bhutan. It's known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th-century fortress at the juncture of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers. The fortress hosts the Punakha Tshechu, a religious festival featuring masked dances and music. In the surrounding Punakha Valley, temples include the fertility-focused Chimi Lhakhang and the hilltop Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which has river and mountain views.

Phuntsholing - Phuntsholing, also spelled as Phuentsholing is a border town in southern Bhutan and is the administrative seat of Chukha District. The town occupies parts of both Phuentsholing Gewog and Sampheling Gewog. Phuentsholing adjoins the Indian town of Jaigaon, and cross-border trade has resulted in a thriving local economy. The town has the headquarters of the Bank of Bhutan previously but shifted to Thimphu. In 2017, Phuentsholing had a population of 27,658.

Wangdue Phodrang - The town shares its name with the dzong built in 1638 that dominates the district. The name is said to have been given by Ngawang Namgyal, the 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, who was searching for the best location for a dzong to prevent incursions from the south. At the chosen spot, the Zhabdrung encountered a boy named Wangdi playing beside the river and hence named the dzong "Wangdi's Palace".

Trongsa - Trongsa which was built in 1644, used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuck dynasty before it became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. Traditionally the King of Bhutan first becomes the Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Mangde Chhu, the dzongcontrolled east-west trade for centuries. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan (the precursor to the modern Lateral Road), passed through the courtyard of the dzong. 

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