Bhutan is the only place in the Himalayas where the Vajrayana Buddhist culture survives intact. In Bhutan, trekkers will find an alternative to the overcrowded trails of Nepal. Serious photographers will be impressed with the country’s traditional architecture and abundant wildlife; rare snow leopards, blue sheep and black-necked cranes can sometimes be spotted. Visitors can also discover unique religious festivals (tsechus) that are held throughout the year at various fortress monasteries (dzongs).
The Vajrayana Buddhist kingdom has roots dating back to the 1600s, when a Tibetan refugee, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, transformed the area from a collection of rival fiefdoms into a unified nation and built the extensive system of dzongs. Following the Shabdrung’s death, penlops (governors) and dzongpons (chiefs) who had settled in regional dzongs were involved in numerous power struggles until the late 1800s. Ugyen Wangchuck, Penlop of Tongsa, finally emerged as the first king (Druk Gyalpo).
For most of the 20th century, the tiny landlocked kingdom called Druk Yul (Land of the Dragon) was virtually unknown to outsiders: telephones, electricity, paved roads, airports, hospitals, formal education, postal service and foreign relations were nonexistent. Business was conducted on the barter system. It was only in the 1960s that these elements of infrastructure were put in place, and only in 1974 were tourists allowed into the country.
Located in the Himalayan range, Bhutan is bordered on the north by Tibet and the south by India. Much of the country is heavily forested, and the central region has abundant farmland. The southern part of the country, which is closed to visitors, is temperate and semitropical.
The fabled Buddhist monasteries are in central Bhutan, which is divided from the west by the Black Mountains, excellent terrain for trekking. Eastern Bhutan, which has lower altitudes and a warmer climate, contains extensive farmland and is renowned for handwoven clothes and textiles.
The best months to visit are April and May, and October and November, when days are normally sunny, clear and fairly warm (around 60 F/15 C). The springtime offers the additional advantage of the rhododendrons in bloom. December-March can also be beautiful but cold, especially at night. Summer months (June-September) are the monsoon season, when the advantages of warmer temperatures (usually near 70 F/21 C) are offset by heavy rains (washing out the roads), clouds (obscuring the beautiful views) and the onset of the leech season.
VISA / ENTRY PERMIT
All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior the travel to Bhutan. Visas are processed through an online system by your licensed Bhutanese tour operator directly or through a foreign travel agent. Exception for visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other visitors travelling to Bhutan need a visa. At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.
The Royal Government of Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages to Bhutan. These must be paid in US dollars prior to arrival in Bhutan. The minimum daily package applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan for tourists travelling in a group of 3 people or more is as follows: USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December and USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.