29 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan
Bhutan is a preferred vacation destination of adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, leisure travelers, and culture vultures.
The reason being its diverse geographical features, enchanting scenic beauty, rich culture and tradition, and serenity it offers.
Nestled in the Himalayas, this Asian nation is an ecological hotspot. Varied vegetation, beautiful rivers, towering mountains, Dzongs, and monasteries make it an exquisite location.
Things to know about Bhutan
Know the dos and don'ts of Bhutan before planning to visit there. This makes your vacation interesting.
Here is a list of information that will help you understand Bhutan better and plan your vacation accordingly.
1. Reduced carbon footprint
Bhutan is rich in biodiversity and has successfully kept a check on its carbon footprint.
This has helped it become a carbon negative country.
2. High happiness quotient
Happiness plays a pivotal role in the lives of Bhutanese.
Bhutan ranks high in the happiness index called Gross National Happiness (GNH).
So, Bhutan is also called "the land of happiness."
3. Activities to do in Bhutan
Get your adrenaline fix in Bhutan.
Pick the activity from the following list.
Design your itinerary accordingly and experience the thrill of adventure during your stay in Bhutan.
Chele La (near to Paro)
Paro Taktsang or Tiger Nest Monastery, Paro
Motithang Takin Preserve, Thimphu
Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, Punakha
Paro Chhu, Paro
Ura Valley, Phobjika Valley, Bumthang Valley, and Haa Valley
Gangtey (a hamlet in western Bhutan), Limukha (a small village in western Bhutan), and Punakha
Near to Thimphu
4. Seasons in Bhutan
March, April, and May
June, July, and August
September, October, and November
December, January, and February
5a. Favorable time to visit Bhutan
Vacationing in Bhutan during these months is memorable as you can witness the beauty of rhododendron laden valleys.
If you intend to get a clear view of snow-capped mountains, visit Bhutan during these months.
The sky generally remains clear, and you may get the panoramic vista of the mountains. Do not forget to carry woolen clothes.
5b. Less preferred time to visit Bhutan
If you are planning for holidaying in Bhutan during the winter, be ready with your woolen as the temperature may go low in a few parts of the country.
Further, some places may remain covered with snow, restricting your movement.
Some parts of the country experience hot and humid summer.
6. Stupas or Chortens
Stupas or Chortens (in English) are spiritual heritage structures found on various places, such as approaches to significant locations and buildings or on roads. They can vary in height and designs.
The Memorial Stupa of Thimphu, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, in Thimphu is one of the most popular Chortens in Bhutan.
Travelers should respect the stupas and not hurt the sentiments of the Bhutanese.
7. The story of four harmonious friends
The story of four harmonious friends or four harmonious animals is quite popular in Bhutan.
These four friends are:
- A bird (partridge)
- A rabbit
- A monkey
- An elephant
The story has several versions but its message is more or less the same.
Moral of the story: Stay united, maintain harmony, help each other, and respect seniors.
The story is a popular theme for murals and wall paintings.
8. Constitutional Monarchy and Monastic Body
Bhutan is governed by the constitutional monarchy. The government is called the Royal Government of Bhutan.
The Monastic Body of Bhutan or Dratshang takes care of the religious matters. It also plays a crucial role in the country's spiritual and cultural matters.
8a. Constitutional Monarchy
The reigning monarch of the country is King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo or "Dragon King" of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
You will see the photos of the King and other members of Bhutan's royal family in shops, administrative offices, educational institutions, hotels, restaurants, financial establishments, and other places.
Bhutanese respect and love their King and the Royal Family. Care should be taken not to hurt the Bhutanese sentiments.
8b. Monastic Body
The Monastic Body comprises these two bodies:
- Central Monastic Body
- District Monastic Body
The Chief Abbot of the Central Monastic Body is known as Je Khenpo.
Each district has a monastic community. The head of a monastic community is known as Lam Neten.
The Monastic Body includes the acharyas, lonpon, preceptors and prefects, religious administrators, and junior monastic officials.
9. Currency, Districts, and Language
Bhutan's currency is called Ngultrum.
Bhutan has 20 districts or Dzongkhags.
Over 19 dialects are spoken in Bhutan. Dzongkha is the national language. Some other languages spoken in the country are Tshanglakha, Lhotshamkha, Khengkha, and Bumthapkha.
However, guides, drivers, or hotel staff are well versed in English; therefore, communication is not a challenge.
10. National dress of Bhutanese
Both the Bhutanese men and women are seen in their national dress almost all the time.
Gho is a long robe fastened up with a cloth belt known as Kera around the waist.
The robe is worn until the knee and hoisted up to form a large pocket.
The pocket can hold wallets, papers, books, mobiles, tabs, and other articles.
Kira is a long, ankle-length dress worn over a blouse called Wonju.
Kira is held on the shoulder by Koma, broach-like hooks.
Kera is worn over Kira on the waist.
Toego is a short, open-outer jacket worn by the Bhutanes wome.
The Driglam Namzha is the official behavior and dress code of Bhutan.
10c. Scarf color and the Bhutanese rank
Rank of the Bhutanese
King and Chief Abbot
Red with white stripe
11. Prayer Wheels
According to Wkipedia, a prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather, or coarse cotton. Om Mani Padme Hum is the primarily used mantra in the prayer wheels.
The prayer wheels should be spun in the clockwise direction in which direction the mantra is written and the movement of the sun.
11a. Types of prayer wheels
It is the hand prayer wheel with a cord or a chain and is mounted on a wooden or metal handle. The handle is rotated clockwise by the wrist.
It is turned by flowing water. After being touched by the wheel, the water is believed to become blessed.
Stationary Prayer Wheel
It is a large, fixed metal wheel. Several stationary wheels are placed side by side. These wheels in a row are spun clockwise.
12. Bhutanese architecture
The uniqueness and distinctive features of magnificent Bhutanese architecture have amazed travelers from far and wide.
Types of Architecture
Dechencholing Palace in Thimphu or Ugyen Pelri Palace in Paro
Punakha Dzong (in Punakha) or Paro Dzong (in Paro)
Chimi Lhakhang (in Punakha) or Changangkha Lhakhang (im Thimphu)
Memprial Chorten (Thimphu) or Druk Wangyal Chortens (in Dochula Pass)
Paro Taktsang (or Tiger Nest Monastery)
Gates to enter different cities or within the cities in Bhutan
Bhutan Gate (in Phuentsholing) or Thimphu Gate (in Thimphu)
13. No traffic lights and minimum honking
The country does not have traffic lights; however, it manages traffic efficiently.
Pedestrians cross the road using Zebra crossing. The vehicles stop to give way to the pedistrians to cross the road safely.
Honking is minimum and horns are used only when it is required, keeping noise pollution at bay.
14. Clean and wide roads
The clean and broad roads are a treat to the eyes. Even the roads constructed in the hilly regions are well maintained.
One of the best ways to explore Bhutan is by road. The road trip from Phuentsholing Thimphu through soaring mountains, deep valleys, and lush greenery is an exhilarating experience.
15. Warm and friendly people
The Bhutanese are warm and friendly and maintain discipline and obey the law.
16. Restaurants and bars
The restaurants in Bhutan serve freshly prepared food, as stale food is not allowed to be served.
Bhutanese generously use chilies and cheese in food, so let them know your choice while placing the order for food.
The restaurants offer various types of cuisines, including Asian, Indian, and Western.
Restaurants generally have bars.
17. Tobacco selling prohibited
Selling of this tobacco is not allowed in the country.
Cigarette smoking publicly is also not allowed.
18. Plastic bag usage stopped
Bhutan has adopted preventive measures to protect the environment.
Plastic bags are not used in the country.
19. No slaughterhouse
The people of Bhutan eat meat but the country has no slaughterhouse; Bhutan imports meat.
20. Rules of Dzongs and other places
Dzongs, temples, museums, monasteries, and other places have its own set of rules and regulations. The boards with rules are displayed in English.
Silence must be maintained in Dzongs and other places as well.
The rules regarding wearing caps, clicking photographs, or carrying or wearing any other articles inside the Dzongs or other places must be obeyed.
21. December 17—National Day of Bhutan
The First King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, was coronated on December 17, 1907. So, the day every year is observed as Bhutan's National Day.
The day is highly significant for the Bhutanese and is celebrated throughout the nation.
All government offices and agencies remain closed.
22. Festivals of Bhutan
Bhutanese festivals are celebrated with pomp and splendor. The festivals are colorful and reflect the Bhutan's vibrant culture and rich traditions.
Cham Dance or mask dance is the traditional dance of Bhutan. The Bhutanese perform the dance with drums and wearing colorfully painted and beautifully decorated masks and vibrant costumes.
Name of the festival
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu
Haa Summer Festival
Black Necked Crane Festival
23. Towering mountains and stunning rivers
Mountains of varied heights are one of Bhutan's primary attractions.
Gangkhar Puensum is Bhutan's highest peak and has remained a virgin peak until now. The name of the peak means White Peak of the Three Spiritual Brothers and is considered to be the world's highest unclimbed mountain.
The word river in Dzongkha is called Chhu. Several rivers flow through Bhutan enhancing the mesmeric appeal of the country. Some of the important rivers of Bhutan are:
- Drangme Chhu
- Mo Chhu
- Pho Chhu
- Wang Chhu
- Amo Chhu
- Thimphu Chhu
- Paro Chhu
- Haa Chuu
24. National flower, tree, bird, and animal
Himalayan Blue Poppy
25. Traditional food and beverage
The Bhutanese cuisine primarily comprises red rice, vegetables, lentils, and meat.
Ema datshi is the most popular dish of the Bhutanese cuisine and considered to be the Bhutanese staple food. "Ema" means chili and "datshi" means cheese in Dzongkha. It is a spicy dish made of chilies and cheese.
Some of other popular traditional Bhutanese food and beverage are:
- Jasha maru (chicken dish)
- Phaksha paa (the dish comprising dried pork cooked with chili peppers, spices, and vegetables)
- Thukpa (noodle soup)
- Momo (dumplings)
- Butter tea
- Milk tea
- Ara (rice wine)
26. National sport
Both traditional and modern international games are quite popular in Bhutan.
Archery or Dha is one of the famous traditional sports in Bhutan, which has been conferred the status of the national sport of Bhutan.
Football and futsal are quite famous in Bhutan as well.
Other popular sports in Bhutan include khuru, soksom, digor, pundu, and basketball.
27. Thangka paintings
Thangaka (meaning rolled out) is a traditional art of painting on silk or cotton that depicts various incidents of Buddhism .
Thangkas can be an ideal souvenir to bring home for family members, relatives, and friends from Bhutan.
28. Phallus paintings
Phallus painting are quite common in Bhutan and can be seen on the walls of many houses and buildings.
The symbol is thought to protect families, bring good luck, and keep evil spirits at bay.
However, these paintings are not found on the walls of community temples and dzongs.
29. Railway Stations and Airports in Bhutan
Bhutan has no railways.
Bhutan has 1 international airport and 3 domestic airports. Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, has no airport.
Bhutan's sole international airport is situated in a deep valley of Paro close to Paro Chhu (Paro River).
The beautiful Paro Airport is surrounded by soaring mountains and has a single terminal and one runaway.
Flights in Paro Airport fly between sunrise and sunset.
Domestic airports in Bhutan
Name of the airport
Samtenling, Gewog (close to the Gelephu town in the Sarpang district)
Travelers with global mindset respect the culture, people, and environment of the host country. They leave an ever-lasting impression on the minds of the people they meet along the way.
Adopt these approaches during the Bhutan trip:
1. Maintain cleanliness and do not encourage littering.
2. Preserve the environment and do not disturb the ecological balance.
3. Respect the people of Bhutan, their culture, beliefs, tradition, customs, religion, and other aspects.
4. Obey the rules while visiting Dzongs. monasteries, stupas, and other religious and administrative places.
5. Behave appropriately and do not hurt Bhutanese sentiments and emotions.
6. Follow the traffic rules and pedestrians must cross the road only on the Zebra crossing.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Prantika Samanta