Tourism in Bhutan - the very words give us glimpses of a remote land replete with monks, monasteries, yaks, Buddhist art and much more. Today, with time, Bhutan is no longer so remote and features as a must-see destination for many travellers.
When it comes to scenes of rural life or culture or even sights and sounds and even spirituality, Bhutan is different – it has its own charms.
And one of its biggest charms is that it measures the happiness quotient, making it the happiest country in the world. Modern life has touched it but not too much. Everyone has mobiles now and monks can be seen with laptops, but you will still get a rural village feel, even in Thimpu, its capital.
Nestled between India and China, Bhutan literally means “Thunder Dragon”. This kingdom is made up of The Sub-Himalayan Foothills, The Greater Himalayas and The Inner Himalayas.
Each differs vastly from the other in both season and sights and altitudes, so please check where and when you will be going before you pack for your trip. Travel tips include carrying umbrellas or raincoats, walking shoes, slippers that come off easily when you visit monasteries, torches for power cuts and trekking gear.
The best time to visit Bhutan is spring and autumn. For trekkers, the monsoon makes the ground slippery and there are leeches everywhere. So be warned.
For regular tourists and families, it just means keeping raincoats or umbrellas handy and walking around in waterproof shoes.
If you want the snow and are comfortable in very cold weather and high altitudes, come for the winter. Carry thermals and warm and waterproof clothing in layers. Also, if camping is your idea of fun, carry your own sleeping bags as camps provide everything but those.
There is also another factor to consider – if you are visiting the North East region in winter, it brings gale force winds, so please carry warm and sensible climbing gear which is made for rugged mountains and storms.
To give you an idea, summer and spring temperatures vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius. And winters above altitudes of 3,000 meters above sea level have cold weather and snow, with the average temperature being 11 degrees to even 0 degrees Celsius.
The people of Bhutan practise a form of Mahayana Buddhism, strongly inspired by an ancient Bon Shamanist religion in Tibet. Its isolation from the world till the 1960s ensures a pristine kind of flavour. Modernity lives here but ancient ways of living and preservation of animals and flora and even culture largely remain as is.
Bhutan’s National Sport is archery. You must catch a local competition or can even plan ahead for one of the big ones. Archery contests are held everywhere and throughout the year, but Bhutan makes these distinctive because even now, it never kills animals. Go for a match and the skill of the competitors, the beautiful bows and arrows and the crowd’s fervour will make for a truly fantastic experience.
A touristy Bhutan Tour can vary from a Buddhist tour. Soak in the rich culture and be a part of colourful Bhutanese festivals. Take a happiness tour with your family. Explore the rugged wilderness and make it an adventure.
For those who want a bit of everything, a Bhutan Tour can be arranged to offer you a heady mix of it all.
For adventure seekers, Bhutan Tourism offers camps, treks, walks, climbs that are beautiful and worth the effort. For families, Bhutan Tourism offers a trip packed with great local dining, museums, street shopping, handicraft hunting and drives up many scenic routes. If you are travelling with young children or senior citizens, we recommend you opt for leisurely walks to explore and drives to higher altitudes as the treks are challenging.
For couples who love thrills or solo travellers who want to embrace the mountains and are reasonably fit, Bhutan Tourism offer tons of options for trekkers across the land. Climbing up to worship at monasteries is a spiritually enriching experience and once there, you can marvel at the Buddhist murals and find peace in the serene chanting of monks.
You could even trek up to see wild flora and fauna – the fields, the flowers, the yaks – a word of caution though – don’t come too close to yaks or they will attack you with their horns!
For those who want a more cultural experience, Bhutan Tourism has many dramatic festivals with locals dressed up and monks who all gather together and dance in its streets. This is a unique experience and if you plan ahead, you must catch at least one of them.
Some Dos and Don’ts in Bhutan
Don't take a very short trip. This land of marvels needs slow exploration. SOTC has more than ten Bhutan tour packages that will take you to Bhutan for a different experience. Whatever tour you decide on, you’re sure to come away happy as this is the happiest place on earth and its happiness is indeed, infectious.
And here is some more advice on what you must do in Bhutan:
• Visit two or three dzongs – they are all unique and rich in folklore and tangkhas, murals and architecture.
• Catch some wildlife. Be it the black-necked cranes in the Phobjikha valley or the national park. It is fun for people of all ages.
• Eat local. Sample the cuisine. It can be spicy, but you can ask them to temper it down for you.
• Take a lot of photographs. This country is full of the unusual and striking.
• Read a local book – it could be culture, history, a travelogue – absorb something beyond its sights.
• Visit a monastery. It is a lesson on how you can be happy with so little.
• Be present for one Bhutanese festival. They take place all year round so book ahead and plan accordingly.
This is a land of the plenty, but the people here are god-fearing and tend to live humble, spiritual lives. Bhutan may not just be a journey for your family or the two of you or you – it may be a journey of your mind. Set off on this journey of self-discovery with one of SOTC’s holistic Bhutan tour packages.