High in the Himalayas, Bhutan is a wonderful country full of high peaks and history, here is our travel guide for your trip.
Nature’s bounties, pristine lakes, unspoilt mountains and according to many, the happiest country. Hard to imagine in this modern era but this is the only carbon negative country in the world. Welcome to Bhutan.
Nestled between India and China, the nation on the southern slopes on the the east side of Himalayas came up with what is called the Gross National Happiness Index based on the following factors to measure the happiness of its people:
- Psychological well being
- Time use
- Cultural diversity and resilience
- Good governance
- Community vitality
- Ecological diversity and resilience
- Living standards.
Green, Green Bhutan
Seventy percent of the country is covered by forests. And you have awe-inspiring mountains.
The highest mountain, Gangkhar Puensum which goes up 7,570 meters is higher than any peak in Europe, Africa, the Americas or Australasia and is mostly clad in snow but skiing is not permitted.
Unlike the sides of the Himalayas favoured by mountaineers which are strewn with litter right up to Mount Everest, on this side you will find only immaculate and natural beauty.
Mountains are considered sacred here. You may go trekking but mountain climbing is not allowed.
Interesting Bhutan Facts
Both polyandry and polygamy are practised in many parts of Bhutan. After all, according to studies by reputed western institutions 97% of humans are not monogamous by nature. But that’s another story.
Tobacco is banned. They have a relaxed attitude towards liquor which is particularly cheap and of good quality. Almost every restaurant serves good beers, local and imported and wines are brought mostly from France.
The local tipple is Ara which carries quite a punch and is good. This is made from high altitude barley, rice, wheat, maize or millet, grains that are said to be compared with those grown in the plains.
You will be served by beautifully dressed men and women in their local attire, who are not servile but friendly and dignified.
The government has made sure that tourism remains limited. It’s not cheap by any standards to visit the country.
An individual must spend $250 per day during peak season and $200 during the off-peak season.
To ensure that you actually do pay up, to visit the country you must sign with an authorised Bhutanese travel agent and deposit the amount.
Despite this, tourism has been on the increase and particularly Thimphu, the capital, is relatively noisy compared to, say, 10 years ago.
All of this said, the average per person income in Bhutan is a little less than a dollar per day and yet people look content.
It’s a common sight to see the locals peacefully go about their work during the day, meet and play games or music during the evenings, often sharing food.
The national dish is Ema Datshi which is delicious and made from chillies and local cheeses which obviously doesn’t cost much.
Another interesting couple of facts about the country are that it was never colonised and is a constitutional monarchy.
The government and the people are constitutionally obliged to protect the environment.
Bhutan’s Dos and Do Nots
You can shake hands in the capital but largely the popular greeting is to outstretch your arms with palms facing downwards and bow a little.
When visiting a home take off your footwear at the entrance.
When visiting a temple take off your slippers and tour the place clockwise.
Don’t pass negative comments. Negativity is not appreciated.
People are friendly and will receive you well. They don’t mind being photographed with you or by you.
Dress modestly. It’s quite cold anyhow, and use your right hand while giving and receiving.
Do not swim in the lakes. It is not allowed. But, do visit the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It is absolutely worth it.
Since you’re going to be spending 200 to 250 dollars a day per person, stay at a 5 star resort or a hotel. They are all excellent.
Visit the 51 metre-tall statue of Buddha right outside Thimphu.
Learn archery, the national sport.
Visit the national memorial and the national museum.
Try out the local foods while you can get all kinds of cuisine. Similarly, try out ara even though you can buy very good beers, wines and spirits. Ara is excellent in its own way.
Visit other monasteries high up in the mountains. Talk to the monks.
Visit Phunaka Dzong even though the fortresses are being used as administrative buildings.
Walk on the suspension bridge on the Po Chhu river.
Trek in the Phunaka Valley. In fact, trek everywhere. The views are breathtaking and the air among the cleanest in the world. Do you like adventure sports? Go whitewater rafting.
Bhutan not for you? How about Malaysia?
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