BHUTAN TOUR PACKAGE
BHUTAN TRAVEL AGENCY I TRAVEL AGENCY BHUTAN
THIS SMALL HIMALAYAN BUDDHIST KINGDOM SITUATED TO THE NORTH OF BANGLADESH IS A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY OFTEN ATTRIBUTED WITH AN AURA RESONANT WITH THE IDEALS OF SHANGRI LA, SUBMERGED IN MAGICAL LEGENDS AND IMAGERY
In the heady atmosphere of Bhutan’s high altitude passes, it would be easy for the traveller to imagine the fabled ‘lost valley’ just over the horizon.
Bhutan’s remote and somewhat austere beauty and culture remains largely natural and unspoilt. The country is best suited to those captivated by culture, breathtaking scenery and quietude, as visitors will not find the shopping, theme parks, bars, clubs and other busy distractions so common in many destinations.
The lush valleys and their forested slopes hide a wealth of quiescent cultural depth. Aside from the quaint towns and traditional villages, the landscape is dotted with the charismatic Dzong temples, so characteristic of high Himalayan Buddhism, and many other shrines with their characteristic fluttering prayer flags.
Visiting many of these structures also provides excellent opportunities to enjoy leisurely walks through the spectacular scenery whilst, above the valleys, the high passes and white peaks beckon the serious trekker. The forests are at their most beautiful in the spring, when the Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Magnolias and Primulas are in bloom.
Whilst Bhutan’s peaks do not quite rival the majestic towers of Nepal, there are nevertheless several spectacular summits in excess of 6,000 metres, including Bhutan’s highest, Gangkhar Puensum, at 7,541m, the world’s highest unclimbed peak. Before any excited mountaineers see the potential opportunity for a historic conquest, however, it should be noted that mountains are held as sacred by the Bhutanese and for this reason summit mountaineering is currently banned in Bhutan.
However, it is this very attitude towards their beliefs, culture and heritage that carefully preserves so much of the country and makes Bhutan such a fascinating place to visit. If authenticity is your watchword, this is the place to come!
Bhutan’s refusal to relinquish its cultural identity is a far-sighted approach, and does not entirely eschew the modern world, but rather takes a very measured and considered approach to new technologies, a policy at the core of which remains the preservation of its treasured heritage.
Likewise, conservation and environmental care, far from being the often cynical and vacuously false political game pervading politics and media rhetoric in many parts of the world, are reverentially regarded as pivotal in preserving Bhutanese identity.
This commendable approach to conservation is epitomised not only by the vast tracts of forest reserves set aside, but by the highly enlightened interconnecting wildlife corridors that enable its wildlife to freely traverse the entire country.
The country also has a number of mountain biking trails and, as you would expect in such dramatic landscapes, white water tumbles magnificently from the heights providing the adventure enthusiast with amazing rafting and kayaking potential.
Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours
BHUTAN TRAVEL GUIDE
All essential information about Bhutan that you’d need to know prior to your Bhutan tour with Avada Travel Bhutan
Capital City: Thimphu (100,000 people)
Religion: Buddhism (70%)
Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN)
Time Zone: 6 hrs ahead of GMT
International Dialing Code: 00972
BHUTAN VISA AND PASSPORT
All Visitors must be in possession of a passport valid for at least six months after the date of departure from Bhutan. It should also be noted that, as there are no existing arrangements in Bhutan for the replacement of lost or stolen passports, taking care of your passport is therefore especially crucial.
It may also be prudent to separately carry a photocopy of your passport and additional forms of ID.
It is not possible simply to wander into Bhutan. In all cases, entry into Bhutan is conditional on possession of an itemised tour itinerary provided through an authorised tour company, such as ourselves.
With the exception of Indian nationals, a visa is required by all visitors to Bhutan and is issued on arrival subject to your providing the requisite information to your tour company, who will make the application on your behalf.
Please note that your tour must be paid in full before your visa can be approved, after which an approval letter will be issued to your tour operator and to the national carrier, Druk Air, who will then issue your flight tickets.
Upon arrival in Bhutan, Your visa will be stamped into your passport, and will be valid for the duration of your tour programme.
Additional permits are required for entry into temples and visiting all regions of Bhutan outside the Paro and Thimphu valleys and, where necessary, these additional documents will be procured on your behalf by your tour company in accordance with your settled itinerary.
The currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (Nu), with note denominations of Nu1, Nu5, Nu10, Nu20, Nu50, Nu100 and Nu500. Coinage is incremented in values of Chetrum (cents) in denominations Chetrum 25, Chetrum 50 and Nu1. In practice, change can often be received in Indian Rupees.
At the present time, although change is afoot, Credit Cards are virtually useless in Bhutan, with only a few Government agencies and premier hotels to accept this form of payment, additionally characterised by high charges and delays. No international ATM machines currently exist.
US dollars and Indian Rupees are accepted in addition to Ngultrum by most businesses.
Well-known brands of traveller’s cheques in major currencies are acceptable in Banks and most hotels. Banks can also exchange currencies.
With the exception of Yellow Fever, for those travelling from an infected area, no vaccinations are required as a condition of entry to Bhutan. However, the decision to avoid medical precautions should either be based on medical advice from your practitioner, or personal acceptance of risk.
If planning to travel without medical protection, it may also be prudent to check for pre-qualifying conditions with regard to ignoring medical advice in your travel insurance policy.
Currently recommended vaccines may include Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningitis, Polio, Rabies, Tuberculosis and Typhoid, with a course of anti-malarials also highly advised. As Dengue Fever is also borne by mosquitoes, it is advised to use repellents and wear long sleeves and trousers at vulnerable times and places.
Trekkers visiting Bhutan intending to travel upward of 3,000 metres should also be aware of the potential problems of altitude sickness and sub-zero temperatures.
Visitors should avoid drinking tap water, or water from the wild, and should use only bottled water, even for brushing teeth. In common with many other parts of the world, it pays to examine the bottle top seals of bottled water to ensure these have not been re-filled by unscrupulous traders.
Health Care is provided in most of the major towns by the local hospital and is free. There are likewise shops in most centres that will sell medicines without prescription.
However, if you rely on particular medication or other health related products it is better to bring an adequate supply with you when you travel. It is also recommended to have a dental check prior to travelling to avoid the unforeseen spoiling your holiday.
Always remove your shoes and socks prior to entering a temple, monastery or home in Bhutan. Long trousers or skirts and long sleeves are the required attire when visiting religious sites. Photography is permitted only outside such buildings.
Also be aware that it is considered rude to show the bottom of your feet toward religious objects or people in general, which can most easily be accomplished by sitting cross-legged.
Although not mandatory, it is the tradition among the Bhutanese to leave a small donation when leaving a temple or monastery.
Handshaking as a greeting is not usual in Bhutan, though in modern areas it is becoming more of a feature in daily life. Traditional greeting takes the form of a bow with outstretched open hands palm upwards.
Never point at a person, or touch their heads. In general the people in Bhutan are not used to being touched by strangers, so tapping, hugging or putting your arm around someone is likely to regarded as a violation and cause unintended offence.
It is a common gesture in many societies to affectionately ruffle the hair of children, but the head is considered sacred in Bhutanese society and such gestures will not have the intended effect. If you need to attract attention, motion with the palm of your hand.
Avoid political comment and criticism, particularly of the monarchy.
Overt public displays of affection between couples is frowned upon, particularly in traditional areas, and shows disrespect to the native culture. Conservative dress, especially at religious sites, is recommended in public areas.
Tipping for services in Bhutan is discouraged by the Bhutanese government and is in general unnecessary, but will be accepted by tour guides.
When dining in Bhutan, food is normally eaten by hand using only the right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean. When dining with locals, the host will ask the others to eat only after everyone has been served and will not serve themselves until everyone else has begun eating.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BHUTAN?
For cultural sightseeing it is possible to visit Bhutan for most of the year, with the optimum weather occurring in the autumn between late September and late November.
Springtime, from March to May, is the next best alternative and, although skies are in general cloudier in spring, it is the best time to see the country in blossom, especially the delightful Rhododendron forests.
The winter period, from December to February, can be cool and pleasant by day, but cold at night, and it is possible to see snowfall at lower altitudes.
The period from June to August is the Monsoon season and is generally overcast, obscuring the peaks and prone to very heavy rain, which can also lead to flooding in some areas.
Nevertheless, rainfall is common in Bhutan and is likely to be encountered in some measure at any time of year.
Temperatures vary enormously not only by season but altitude. As a guide, temperatures in Paro vary from -6º C at night to 9º C by day in January rising to 15º C at night and 27º C by day whilst Thimphu ranges from – 3º C at night to 12º C by day in January rising to 16º C by night and 25º C by day in August.
If you wish to include one of Bhutan’s beautiful and substantial treks into your itinerary, the most practical times to visit are in spring and autumn, depending upon your route.
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN BHUTAN
Situated in the central west of Bhutan, Thimphu was designated the country’s capital in 1961. Though the buildings are largely modern structures, the architecture is largely tastefully styled after traditional Bhutanese buildings.
The city’s traffic is managed in the traditional manner of a now forgotten world of white-gloved waving policemen and, until recently, Thimphu was notable for being the world’s only capital without traffic lights, of which it now has a single set.
The main attractions are to be found in the north of the city and are dominated by the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, one of the country’s many fortress style temple structures so characteristic of Himalayan Buddhism, which serves as the country’s administrative centre, housing the King’s offices whilst also remaining a religious centre.
The National institute for Zorig Chusum is a school dedicated to the preservation of the traditional arts of Bhutan and provides a wonderful insight into Bhutanese artisan skills.
The traditional use of such skills are wonderfully exemplified by the elaborate mandalas and sculptures housed in the National Memorial Chorten, and yet more of Bhutan’s artistic heritage can be viewed at both the Folk Heritage Museum and the National Textile Museum.
The elaborately decorated National Library includes the world’s largest published tome, titled simply ‘Bhutan’, alongside many ancient Buddhist texts, historical manuscripts and holy books.
The Weekend Market is a great place to mingle with the locals to get a flavour of their lives and also includes a handicraft area.
South of the city is the Royal Botanic Garden and its collection of 500 plant species, whilst a number of trails around Thimphu offer variously graded one day one day walks through the surrounding forest and countryside, some providing excellent views of Thimphu valley and the Bhutanese Himalaya.
The six day Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek leaves from Thimpu into the mountains, Yak pastures and lakes to the south, affording great views across to the vast sweep of the Himalayan range and some of its iconic peaks, including the distant giants of Everest and Kanchenjunga. Another trail, the tree day Punakha Winter Trek takes you through the forests to Punakha.
Paro is home to Bhutan’s only international airport, and a large army garrison, but this belies the fact that Paro is actually a very charming town spread along a wonderfully scenic valley with a bubbling river coursing through its middle.
The small town of Haa can be found in a valley of the same name a few hours drive southwest of Paro, and reached by crossing the Cheli La Pass which sits at 3810m. From the top of the pass there are great views of Paro on one side and the Haa Valley on the other.
Gasa is a small town in the northwest of Bhutan that is famous for the hot springs that were found nearby, until a storm in 2009 washed them away. A traditional small town, Gasa consists of a small high street, with several teashops, and an archery and football ground.
The charming region of Punakha is home to one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan. It can be reached by a scenic 3 hour drive from Thimphu after you have crossed over the Dochu La Pass where, if you are lucky, you can get a view of the Himalaya mountains that form the northern border of Bhutan.
In the 17th century Wangdue Phodrang (then known as Wangdi) was considered to be Bhutan’s second capital as it commanded an important central position, close to Punakha, which allowed it to control transport routes between the west and the centre of the country.
The Phobjikha Valley
The bowl shaped Phobjikha Valley is one of the most famous scenic spots in West Bhutan. This is due to the great opportunities for gentle trekking, in sight of the Black Mountains, and also because the valley is something of a nature reserve as it is the seasonal home of the black-necked crane from November to February each year.
Gangtey sits at a height of 2900m and acts as gateway to the famous Phobjikha Valley, thus enjoying great sweeping views of the valley from its promontory position. This sleepy town, a few hours drive from Wangdi, or 5 hours from Bumthang, is dominated by the ancient Gangtey Goemba, a monastery that was founded in 1613 but has recently been restored after earthquake damage.
The small town of Trongsa can be found right in the heart of Bhutan. Its central location, surrounded by mountains, and set at the top of the gorge, has given it an unrivalled strategic position. It is little wonder then that one of the country’s most important dzongs can be found at Trongsa.
To many people Bumthang is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, with its legendary monasteries, temples and palaces. Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys – Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume – all of which possess stunning scenery and preserve a traditional way of life.
The hillside town of Mongar is the gateway to the east of Bhutan. Historically its position has meant that traffic, and the supply of goods, from east to west (and vice versa) have had to pass through Mongar. As a result many overland tours break the journey here and enjoy the local hospitality.
Lhuentse is probably the northernmost part of East Bhutan that is relatively easily accessible to tourists. The area is famous for its textiles and the few visitors that do make it to this part of the country usually come with the intention of seeing some of the best weavers, and fabrics, in Bhutan.
Trashi Yangtse is a relatively new town and as such does not have the wealth of historic sights that other destinations in Bhutan can boast. However the town is concentrated around the large and impressive Chorten Kora, which is modelled after the Bodnath Stupa of Kathmandu in Nepal, and which is much revered by visiting pilgrims.
Once an important centre of trade with Tibet & Assam, Tashigang is situated in the heart of East Bhutan. It is one of the largest towns in the region and the second largest district in Bhutan.
To dial home from Bhutan, use the international access code 00, followed by the destination country code, area code and number you wish to dial. Local numbers should be prefixed with 0.
For calls to Bhutan, the international dial code prefix may vary depending upon the country from which the call is made, but will be followed by the Bhutanese international number +975, followed by the area code and local number.
The main police emergency number is 113, which is free to call, and is suitable for use in all types of emergency. Additional free to call numbers are 110 for fire emergencies and 112 for an ambulance.
When travelling with Avada Travel Bhutan, you will also always be provided with an emergency contact number to access our help and assistance.
For mobile handsets, consult your service provider in advance of departure to activate your handset for use in Laos and seek advice concerning roaming charges, which are, however, likely to be expensive.
If your phone is unlocked, another option is to buy a SIM card locally, from the local B-Mobile company, who will require you to show your passport. For modern phones, your SIM may require cutting to size, which most B-Mobile branches can do for you. 3G coverage is widespread in towns and cities, but given the country’s mountainous topography, dropouts can be frequently encountered when travelling.
Many hotels in Bhutan provide free, but usually time-limited, Wi-Fi access, though some only provide lobby access. Internet cafes now also often provide charged Wi-Fi connections. Although improving, internet speeds are generally quite slow.
The electricity supply in Bhutan is 230 Volts, at 50 HZ.
A useful visual reference guide to the full range of international plug and socket varieties can be found at https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/, which describes the type system in use on this website.
As yet, there is no standardised socket system for Bhutan, and you will likely encounter different socket systems in hotels all over the country. There are three types of socket currently in use, being the two pin type C, and two varieties of three pin sockets, the round-pin types D and M, and the British square style, type G.
For this reason it is best either to carry a range of suitable adapters or invest in one of the new universal adapters with retractable pins which are adaptable to differing formats, particularly if you are travelling to more than one country. Usefully, some models also provide additional USB connections.
mobile phones, tablet computers, cameras etc., it may be worth bringing a multiple, preferably surge protected, outlet from your own country to avoid having to purchase several adapters, or to deal with a limited number of wall sockets.
In most cases, if your equipment normally runs on a 110 volt, 60 HZ supply, you will additionally need a portable transformer.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Although the Bhutanese have a traditional system of weights and measures, the model in everyday use is the international metric system based on the metre and gram.
Bhutanese postal services are run by Bhutan Post. Opening hours are from 09:00-16:30 on weekdays, and 09:00-13:00 on Saturdays. Bhutan Post offer very reliable mail services, including Fedex. Private DHL services are available in Thimpu.
The time zone in Bhutan is GMT+6, though it should be noted for calculation purposes that the country does not operate a daylight saving mechanism.