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Why Go to Bhutan for A Visit?

Known as the Last Shangri-La in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a country that has a charm that is unique in the world, isolated from the outside world for centuries. It is this isolation that has produced a unique culture in Bhutan, where the people and government care greatly about the environment, and where tourism is eco-friendly and wholly environmental.

Travel to Bhutan is not the cheapest in the world, and tourists are expected to pay the Daily Minimum Fee for their trip, as per the government policies on international tourism. However, this unique kingdom on the southern edge of the mighty Himalayas is one of the most astounding places to visit, for a huge number of reasons.

Go to Bhutan for the Incredible Landscape and Superb Environment

Bhutan has a very varied landscape, ranging from high mountains in the northern areas of the kingdom to low-lying plains and sub-tropical jungles in the south, along the Indian border. The west of the country is composed mostly of average-height mountains in the north, only a few reaching up to over 7,000 meters, and lower foothills as you head further south. - Learn more of the Bhutan road condition.

Idyllic farm scene in BhutanIdyllic farm scene in Bhutan

The central region of the kingdom is where the higher mountains can be found, lying along the northern border of Bhutan with Tibet in China. Most of the mountains in the far north are snow covered all year round, and gradually fade as you head south into the foothills and lush deep valleys that are popular areas for trekking. As you head south to the border, the altitude drops dramatically from the foothills to the lower jungle areas of the southern sub-tropical region.

Eastern Bhutan is at lower altitudes than the west and central regions, with only the edges of the Himalayas in the farthest northeastern area, and lower foothills dropping down to sub-tropical valleys and jungle as you move further south towards the border.

Bhutan has some rather unique policies on tourism too, opting for the “Low Volume, High Value” kind of tourism that is rarely found elsewhere in the world. The policy of environmental protection and eco-friendly tourism has produced a unique tourism policy, where the importance of the environment is higher than the importance put on the tourist industry in the kingdom. Bhutan has actually done so much to protect its environment over the last 30 years since opening up to tourists, that they are still the only country in the world that has a “Negative carbon footprint”.

Go to Bhutan for the Discovery of Exotic Bhutanese Culture and Custom

Meet the Hospitable and Innocent Local Bhutanese

The people of Bhutan following their long period of isolation are a peaceful and hospitable nation, with an air of innocence that is rarely seen anywhere else in the modern world. While modern aspects of the world of today have reached this isolated kingdom, such as cellphones, internet, and modern cars, much of the country still lives out their daily lives in the same manner as their ancestors did.

 Amicable Bhutanese family in Paro Amicable Bhutanese family in Paro

One of the best ways to learn about a culture is to interact with the local people, and in Bhutan that is never truer. Local people in Bhutan enjoy sharing their way of life with outsiders, and will often invite foreign travelers to meet them at home for lunch or a bowl of milky tea. A home-stay in Bhutan is one of the most popular ways to meet and get to know the local people, and these can easily be arranged through tour operators, though it is often much more real if you just talk to the people and they invite you without a prior arrangement. - Find out how to choose different accommodations in Bhutan.

Alternatively, you can visit the local schools and learn more about the people and children, and it is thoughtful to bring a gift of pencils or notebooks, rather than candy. The same applies to meeting other people as well, and you guide can help you with what is appropriate for a gift for your hosts.

Bhutan has a policy known as Gross National Happiness, whereby they value the well-being of the people over having a rich Gross National Product that can be sold to other countries. It is this policy, along with their other policies on tourism, that has made visiting Bhutan the most unique experience in the world.

Witness the Traditional Textile and Handicraft Skills in Bhutan

Bhutan has a history of preserving their natural handicrafts and skills, passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. It is this passing on of skills and abilities that have allowed them to treasure their natural and local crafts, such as the making of the rich textiles that are renowned throughout Asia, especially in China and India.

 Bhutanese monks Curious Bhutanese monks looking at the travelers

Bhutan is rich in handicraft workshops, where young apprentices learn the skills they will need to carry on the trades that their ancient forefathers learnt thousands or hundreds of years ago. These workshops are also open to visitors, to allow them to see the work in progress, how the crafts are made, and even to try it out for themselves. This is a unique opportunity to get a closer look at how the traditional crafts of the people have developed over the centuries, and how the traditional crafting methods have been kept to make them unique and a part of the ongoing history of the kingdom, preserving them for future generations.

The “Thirteen Arts” were officially recognized in the 17th century in Bhutan, and were given an official protected status ever since. This way, the kingdom has preserved their ancient arts and trades in a way that no other country has managed throughout history. The Thirteen Arts are: carpentry, masonry, carving, painting, sculpture, casting, blacksmithing, gold & silver work, bamboo work, weaving, embroidery, woodturning & papermaking.

Join the Lively Tsechu Festivals in Bhutan

The Bhutanese “Tsechu” is the local customary festival in the kingdom, and there are many Tsechus throughout the year, some religious and some cultural. It is always possible to visit these amazing celebrations throughout the year, and you can even arrange your tour of the kingdom to coincide with certain festivals, as there is no time of the year when you cannot visit Bhutan. The word Tsechu actually means “day ten” and the festivals are always held on the tenth day of the month in the Bhutanese calendar.

 Lively Paro Tsechu performance in Bhutan Lively Paro Tsechu performance in Bhutan

The two top festivals in Bhutan are the Thimphu Tsechu and the Paro Tsechu. The Thimphu Tsechu is the biggest festival in the country, and is held in the Bhutanese capital for three days from the tenth day of the 8th month (October 8 in 2019). The festival is attended by thousands of local people who travel many miles to get to the capital for this amazing experience. The festival also includes mask dances, and is preceded by several days and nights of prayers and rituals.

Paro TsechuLocals are celebrating the famous Paro Tsechu.

The Paro Tsechu, the second biggest in the kingdom, is another great festival that is visited by many thousands of people every year. Held in honor of the Guru Rinpoche, also known elsewhere as Padmasambhava, the Buddhist master who brought the religion to Bhutan from Tibet, the festival highlight is the unveiling of a giant thongdroel, the local form of thangka painting in Bhutan.

Explore the Exquisitely-built Bhutanese Dzongs

A dzong is a distinctive type of building that is only found in a few areas of Asia, mainly in Tibet and Bhutan. In Bhutan, the dzongs are ancient fortress buildings that were used as either religious, military, or administrative centers in the various districts (Dzongkhags) of the kingdom. These Dzongs are often used as sites of religious festivals, or Tsechus, and there are literally hundreds of different dzongs across Bhutan.

 Magnificent Punakha Magnificent Punakha, believed to be the most beautiful architecture in Bhutan

Two of the most popular are the Punakha Dzong, in the Punakha Dzongkhag, and the Taktshang Dzong, in Paro Dzongkhag. The Punakha Dzong sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu (rivers), and was built in around 1637 as the winter residence of the monks from the northern areas of Punakha, where the winter weather is too harsh to live. The second Dzong to be built in Bhutan, it is often regarded as the most striking of them all, surrounded by jacaranda trees that give splashes of lilac color against its whitewashed walls in the spring.

The Taktshang Dzong in Paro is renowned as one of the most sacred in the kingdom, and the complex of this unique temple sits on the sides of the cliff that overlooks the Paro Valley. The temple was first built in 1692 on the site of the famous Taktshang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Credited with the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan, Padmasambhava is also the tutelary deity of Bhutan. The temple is also one of the most popular short hikes in Bhutan as travelers have to make their way along the path up the cliff face to reach the dzong.

Go to Bhutan for the Great Outdoors

Enjoy the Scenic Treks in Bhutan

Bhutan is renowned for its unique trekking, and there are a huge number of treks in Bhutan that are suitable for people of all rages of experience, from the novice to the most experienced trekker. Most of the treks take you through the mountains in the north of the country, in both the western and central regions.

 Trek in the woods of Bhutan Trek in the woods of Bhutan

With so many to choose from it can sometimes be hard to know which treks are the most appropriate, and we can always help with you deciding which to take on, depending on your experience in trekking. The trek to the Taktshang Goemba is one of the shortest, and is suitable for anyone, while the vast Snowman Trek is the kind that only the hardiest and most experienced trekkers should undertake. Covering a vast distance and taking around a month to complete, the Snowman trek is renowned as the hardest trek on the planet.

Other treks, such as the trek around the lakes of the Dagala Thousand Lake Trek, or taking on the Jomolhari Trek around the base of one of the kingdom’s highest mountains, are great treks for average to moderate trekkers. Meanwhile, the Druk Path trek, between Thimphu and Paro, is suitable for only mildly experienced trekkers.

Witness the Rarely-seen Wildlife in Bhutan

While it may be a small and landlocked country in the Himalayas, Bhutan has a wealth of wildlife at your fingertips, some of which are actually indigenous only to this small country. The national animal of the kingdom is the Takin, also known as the Gnu Goat, an unusual species of large animal that looks like a mush ox, but is more closely related to the sheep. This unusual creature is only found in a few small areas of the western Himalayas, mostly within the borders of Bhutan.

Bird in BhutanBhutan is a great place for birding.

The country has a number of other wild animals and birds that can be seen on treks and travels through the kingdom, including the Bengal tiger, one-horned rhinos, golden langurs, clouded leopards, hispid hares, and sloth bears, which live in the sub-tropical temperate zone in the south of the country. As you travel north, you can see common leopards, gorals and serows (similar to the Takin but smaller), black bears, red pandas, blue sheep, wolves, and musk deer, to name a few.

Bhutan also has a number of national parks, most of which have been set up over the last 50 years. These include the Jigme Dorje national Park, the Royal Manas National Park, the Jigme Singye Wildlife Park, and he Phrumsengla Park.

Experience the Mountain Biking and Kayaking in Bhutan

Aside from the usual trekking and cultural tours Bhutan has an ideal landscape for kayaking and mountain biking, the country’s natural landscapes, with its mountainous topography and varying degrees of gradients, make this the perfect place to head for taking that tough mountain bike off road to explore the spectacular scenery of the kingdom. From the challenging uphill struggles to the adrenaline-rush of the downhill races and the gentle rides through the lush valleys, a mountain bike tour is a perfect opportunity to be more at one with nature.

Mountain biking in BhutanEnjoying the mountain biking in Bhutan

Kayaking is also a great adventure sport in Bhutan, and with the numerous rivers that crisscross the country, there are plenty of places where you can get out on the water and explore the rivers and streams that cover this Himalayan paradise. Bhutan has six major rivers where you can experience both calm kayaking and white water kayaking, including the Wang Chhu, Sunkosh, Puna Tsang Chhu, Mangde Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Dangme Chhu, as well as some of their larger tributaries. - Learn more of Bhutan adventure tours.

Conclusion

Bhutan may be an expensive pace to visit for some, but it has a wide range of things to see and do, from the amazing ancient Dzongs that are found across the entire country to the stunning Takin and even leopards and tigers. Travel by bike or on foot, or take a driven tour to some of the most outstanding places in the world, all in the last Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland.With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate and humorous, he devoted his entire life guiding and serving international tourists travelling in Tibet.As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience , he once had an exclusive interview with the US media. Currently he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into troubles, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

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