Top FAQs for Bhutan Tour from Kathmandu: how to get to Bhutan from Nepal, how to get Bhutanese Visa
Traveling to Bhutan from Kathmandu is one of the easiest of the ten routes available for travel to the kingdom. Travel to Bhutan can only be done on one of the two Bhutanese airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. These two airlines run flights to Bhutan from ten locations in five countries, which are India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Thailand. As the closest country to Bhutan, Nepal is often the departure location of choice for international tourists.
How to Enter Bhutan from Kathmandu?
Getting to Bhutan from Kathmandu can only be done on the Bhutanese Airlines, and both have services from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Bhutan has only one international airport at Paro, some distance from the capital of Thimphu. This airport is rated as one of the toughest landings in the world, dropping fast from the mountains and landing on a short runway. Only expert pilots are permitted to fly this route.
Getting to Bhutan from Kathmandu by flight
Bhutan Airlines currently has only three flights per week, which normally run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, although in the peak weeks for tourism in Bhutan this can increase to as many as five flights per week. Druk Air operates flights daily from Kathmandu to Paro, although there is only one flight per day each way. Flight times vary depending on the season, and all flights to Bhutan from Nepal take around 1 hour 15 minutes. Prices are pretty reasonable as well with the lowest cost tickets starting at around 200 dollars.
How to Book Bhutan Tour with a Registered Bhutanese Travel Agency or Reliable Travel Agency in Kathmandu?
Booking a tour to Bhutan is relatively simple, and somewhat similar to booking a tour to Tibet, its close neighbor to the north. Independent travel is also prohibited in Bhutan due to strict regulations on tourism, and all tourists must book their tour through one of the numerous tour operators in Bhutan or through one of their approved Reliable Travel Agents in Nepal. The tour operator provides almost everything you need for your tour in Bhutan, with the exception of buying personal items such as drinks, snacks, and gifts, which is all covered by your tour cost.
Bhutan’s tourist industry is hugely competitive, and there are now thousands of “approved” tour operators that offer tours to Bhutan. However, it should be noted that there are a lot of travel agencies that offer tours of limited quality. You should make sure that your tour operator has a good reputation and good reviews from previous clients.
Booking the Bhutan tour with a reliable local travel agency
Once you have decided on a tour operator, they will run through all the tour options with you and you can finalize your itinerary. Your itinerary is pretty much set once the tour has been confirmed with the Bhutanese tourist bureau, although small changes can be allowed once you are on the tour, as long as they do not affect the itinerary too much.
Most of the bookings for a Bhutanese tour operator will be done online and via email. The same can be done with the travel agencies that are approved for providing a tour operator’s tours from Kathmandu, and there are a large number of travel agents in Kathmandu that offer these tours through Bhutanese tour operators.
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When to Visit Bhutan from Kathmandu
Bhutan is an all-year-round destination for tourists, though it does have high and low seasons for tourism. The high season in Bhutan runs from September to November, when the weather is milder and less rainy and the festivals are at their peak. September sees the start of the hiking season in Bhutan, and the temperatures can still be as high as 25 degrees during the day. October is the busiest month of the year and the peak period for trekking. The temperature is milder and the skies are clear.
You can appreciate stunning blossoms when traveling Bhutan in spring
March to May is the spring season, and one of the shoulder seasons for Bhutanese tourism. The spring brings out the new blossoms and the land is lush and green with new growth. Temperatures are fairly mild and pleasant, and trekking is popular during the spring months.
Summer, from June to August is the low season for tourism in Bhutan. As the monsoon rains fall on the kingdom, it is not ideal for trekking as the rains cause muddy and waterlogged trails. However, it is not a time of non-stop rain, and as with most monsoon countries, most of the rain falls in the late afternoons and evenings, leaving the day free for exploring.
From December to February it is the coldest time of year in Bhutan, where temperatures in the mountains can often drop below freezing. The skies are clear and there is almost no chance of rain, and the snows in the mountains make for a spectacular landscape for photography. This is still a good time to visit, though, as the weather is pleasant and sunny, despite being a little cold.
How to Get Bhutanese Visa for the Visit?
Getting a visa for Bhutan is not as simple as for other countries. Bhutan does not have many embassies around the world, and those few there are do not issue visas for tourists. The only way to get a visa is to book a trip to Bhutan through a registered tour operator. Once your tour is booked and paid for, the tour operator will make the application on your behalf. Using a scanned copy of your passport, along with your itinerary and booking details, the tour operator applies for the visa. Once it is approved, an approval letter is sent to the tour operator as well as the two Bhutanese airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
Your tour operator will send you the letter by email, which is your invitation to visit the country. You will need this letter of approval for your flight, as the two airlines will not accept bookings from tourists that do not have an approval letter. Once you arrive in Bhutan at Paro Airport, you simply need to provide your passport and approval letter to the immigration officials, who will issue your visa and allow you entry to the kingdom.
What's the Daily Cost for Bhutan Tour?
Bhutan has a system of environmentally and ecologically friendly tourism, and tourists are required to be on tours for their entire trip. It is this requirement for organized tours that allows the country to continue to promote and practice its eco-tourism policies.
For every tour in Bhutan, tourists have a Minimum Daily Fee that has to be paid for the entire tour. For peak months, this equates to around US$ 250 per day, dropping to US$ 200 per day in the low season. While this may seem expensive, it does cover everything you require for your tour, and includes all your travel expenses within the country, your hotel accommodation, all meals (except snack and drinks when out, and all alcoholic drinks), entry to all the attractions in your itinerary, the cost of your guide/driver and private vehicle, and your transfers to and from Paro Airport.
The hotel accommodation listed within the Minimum Daily Fee are a minimum of three stars, although you can pay more for better hotels if you wish. Part of the Minimum Daily fee goes to the government and is used to provide schools and education and to reduce poverty within the kingdom. So while the tour may be expensive, it is good to know that your holiday is helping the people, not just lining the pockets of the businessmen.
Top Things to Do in Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha Respectively
Paro Dzong is one of the pinnacles of Bhutanese architecture and its massive walls tower above the town, visible the entire length of the Paro Valley. Once the meeting hall of the kingdom’s National Assembly, it now houses the local monastic council and the offices of the district government. While many of the chapels are closed to the public, there are enough still open to tourists to make it worth a visit.
Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, lies perched on a cliffside more than 900 meters above the Paro Valley. Built on the site of the meditations caves of guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, it is one of the most popular places to visit in Paro and the long and arduous trek to the monastery heralds some of the best views in Bhutan.
Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital, is the home of the stunning memorial chorten, one of the most visible structures in the kingdom. While it may not be ancient, having been built in 1974 to commemorate the end of the reign of the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, it is the most popular chorten in Thimphu and has a steady stream of visitors coming to pay homage, from the elderly to the very young.
Buddha Dordenma Statue
One of the greatest monuments in Bhutan, the Buddha Dordenma Statue stands 51 meters tall and guards the entrance to the Thimphu Valley. Made of steel, the statue includes a three-story base that houses a huge chapel, and the inside of the massive statue contains another 125,000 smaller Buddha statues.
No visit to Bhutan can be complete without stopping to see the stunning Punakha Dzong, arguably the most beautiful monastery in the kingdom. In spring, the jacaranda trees that surround the monastery are in full bloom, covered with beautiful lilac blossoms that bring a lightened sensuality to the stark white walls of the dzong. The second dzong to be built in Bhutan, it once held the seat of government and was the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is still the place where all Bhutanese kings are crowned.
Wangdiphodrang Valley, in the south of the Punakha Region of Bhutan is one of the richest areas of pastureland in Asia, lying at the confluence of the Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu Rivers. The valley is well known for its unique and decorative stone carvings and its bamboo products, which are sold throughout the country, and are exported to other neighboring countries.
What Bhutanese Holidays You Must Enjoy for Bhutan Tour
Bhutan has a set festival season, which normally starts in September for the major Bhutan festivals. The Punakha Drubchen Festival is a unique recreation of the battle with the invading Tibetan forces in the 17th century, led by Mongolian troops, which was repelled by the locals in the north of the kingdom. One of the most stunning festivals in the country, the recreation used authentic costumes from the period and is a spectacle of immense proportions.
Enjoying Thimphu Tsechu Festival
One of the biggest festivals in the year, the Thimphu Tsechu is held in mid-September in the kingdom’s capital and thousands of Bhutanese flock to the city for the celebrations. Listed as a national holiday that lasts for three days, the crowds pack themselves into the Tashichho Dzong for the entire three days to watch the stunning dance displays where the performers wear glamorous and colorful costumes and masks.
The Jambay Lhakhang Drup is held in mid-October in honor of the Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 7th century. Guru Rinpoche was responsible for the establishment of the Jambay Lhakhang Monastery in the Bumthang District, where it is said an ogress was killed and dismembered and her body parts scattered across Bhutan and Tibet. One of the most popular ceremonies of the festival is the Tercham, or Dance of treasure, which is held in the middle of the night and features naked masked dancers. It is believed that the dance will bless infertile women in Bhutan to enable them to bear children.
Best Places for Trekking in Bhutan
Bhutan has some of the world’s best treks, thanks to its proximity to the mighty Himalayas on its northern border. One of the best is the Jhomolhari Trek, which attracts visitors from around the world for its stunning views of Mount Jhomolhari. Crossing passes that reach to almost 5,000 meters, it is a moderately challenging trek that takes around eight days.
Druk Path Trek
One of the best introductory treks in Bhutan, the 6-day Druk Path trek starts near Paro and takes you across the mountains to Thimphu. The highest point of the trek lies at around 4,200 meters, and travels through some of the country’s massive pine forests, passing several large alpine lakes along the way.
Punakha has become a center for trekking in Bhutan, with lush low valleys fringed with high alpine mountains. The treks in Punakha region are usually short, lasting for around 3-4 days, though some of the alpine mountain treks can last for as long as eight days. Treks are rated from EASY to HARD and cater to all levels of experience in alpine trekking.
How to Arrange Accommodation and Dining in Bhutan?
Your accommodations and dining in Bhutan is normally taken care of as part of your tour package, as it is included in the Minimum Daily Fee. The standard accommodation provided for the Minimum Daily Fee is a three-star hotel or guesthouse, although you can upgrade this if you wish to whatever grade you like. However, that does mean that your Daily Fee will go above the minimum, and the tour will cost you a lot more. Breakfast and dinner are normally included in the hotel, and lunch is also part of the package, though your guide will normally advise you on which restaurants you can eat at in the area. You have the option of eating lunch in the hotel, if you are within the area at lunchtime. If you want to eat elsewhere from your guide’s advice, then it may cost you a little more, which you will have to pay at the time of the meal. Eating out in the evening is not included as part of the package, and if you wish to dine out for dinner, it is normally at your own expense.