29 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Bhutan
Why Vacationing in Bhutan Is a Bliss?
Bhutan is a tiny, landlocked nation in Asia. Vacationing in Bhutan is a unique experience as it offers amazing vistas and tranquility
Diverse geographical features, spectacular architectures, serene beauty, varied vegetation, friendly people, rich culture of Bhutan fascinate adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, leisure travelers, and culture vultures from far and wide.
Nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan is home to the happy people.
Before heading to Bhutan, note the following points to make the most of your vacation.
1. Reduced carbon footprint
Bhutan is environment friendly and a carbon negative country, as it emphasizes on curbing pollution.
Connecting with nature and enjoying the fresh air amidst lush greenery is a bliss.
2. High happiness quotient
The peaceful ambience of the land indicates that happiness is crucial for the people there.
Therefore, Bhutan is called "the land of happiness" and ranks high in Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index.
Waking up to the picturesque sunrise, witnessing the beauty of the landscape, and enjoying the cool breeze and calmness evoke happiness.
3. Activities to do in Bhutan
If you love trekking, hiking, rafting, and other outdoor activities, go through the list provided in the table below and choose your pick.
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 months to visit
The mesmerizing beauty of rhododendron laden valleys during this period makes the place look surreal. Why to give it a miss?
During these months, travelers usually get a clear view of snow-capped mountains. It makes the vacation in Bhutan a memorable one.
5b. Less preferred seasons to visit
Accessibility to some high-altitude areas become difficult during the winter, as some of these areas receive snowfall.
This may dampen the spirit of holidaying.
Some areas experience hot and humid summer.
This may interfere with the joy of vacationing.
6. Stupas or Chortens
Stupas or Chortens are spiritual heritage structures that are found throughout the nation. They are seen in approaches to significant locations, buildings, on roads, and other places.
The Memorial Stupa of Thimphu in Thimphu, also known as the Thimphu Chorten, is the country's one of the famous Stupas.
7. Four harmonious friends
The popular story of four harmonious friends or four harmonious animals (a bird, a rabbit, a monkey, and an elephant) is interesting and insightful.
The moral of the story talks about love, respect, and support and cooperation.
The story is also a favorite theme for murals and wall paintings.
8. Constitutional Monarchy and Monastic Body
Bhutan is governed by Constitutional Monarchy. The government is called the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Bhutan's Monastic Body or Dratshang takes care of its religious matters. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in the spiritual and cultural matters.
8a. Constitutional Monarchy
King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo or "Dragon King" of the Kingdom of Bhutan is the reigning monarchy.
People respect and love their King. The photos of the King and other members of Bhutan's royal family are displayed in shops, administrative offices, educational institutions, hotels, restaurants, financial establishments, and other places throughout the nation.
8b. Monastic Body
The Monastic Body comprises acharyas, lonpon, preceptors and prefects, religious administrators, and junior monastic officials.
The Monastic Body includes:
- Central Monastic Body - Khenpo is the Chief Abott
- District Monastic Body - Lam Neten is the head of the monastic community.
9. Currency, Districts, and Language
Ngultrum (Nu) is Bhutan's currency.
Bhutan has 20 districts or Dzongkhags.
Over 19 dialects are spoken in Bhutan. Dzongkha is the national language.
Guides, drivers, and hotel staff converse well in English. This is perhaps one of the reasons that encourages global travelers to visit the land.
10. National dress of Bhutanese
Both Bhutanese men and women wear national dress, which shows their love for the country and their unity.
10a. Men's national dress
Bhutanese men wear the following:
Gho: It is a long robe worn until the knee and hoisted up to form a large pocket. The pocket can hold wallets, papers, books, mobiles, tabs, and other articles.
Kera: It is a cloth belt worn over Gho around the waist.
10b. Women's national dress
Bhutanese women's national dress includes the following:
Kira: It is a long ankle-length dress.
Koma: These are broach-like hooks that hold Kira on the shoulder.
Kera: It is a belt that is worn over Kira on the waist.
Wonju: It is a blouse worn below Kira.
Toego: It is a short, open-outer jacket.
10c. Designated scarf color
King and Chief Abbot
Red with white stripe
11. Prayer Wheels
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 (Wikipedia).
The prayer wheels should be spun in the clockwise direction in which direction the mantra is written and the movement of the sun.
11a. Prayer wheels and their types
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. Fascinating Bhutanese architecture
The engineering marvel of Bhutanese architecture leave travelers spell bound.
The table below provides a list of different types of architecture found throughout the country.
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
Bhutan is devoid of traffic lights, but that does not disrupt the smooth movement of the traffic.
Vehicles stop at Zebra Crossing to let pedestrians cross the road.
You can barely hear cars honking. This helps in curbing noise pollution and maintaining the tranquility of the surrounding.
14. Clean and wide roads
One of the best ways to explore Bhutan is by road. The road trip from Phuentsholing to Thimphu through soaring mountains, deep valleys, lush greenery, and picturesque landscapes is an exhilarating experience.
The roads, in both plains and hilly regions, are clean and broad making the travel by road quite comfortable and enjoyable.
15. Warm and friendly people
The warmth, gentle behavior, simplicity, and friendliness of Bhutanese leave a long-lasting impression on the minds of travelers.
16. Restaurants and bars
Restaurants, both big and small, offer different types of cuisines, including Asian and Western. They serve freshly prepared food, as serving stale food in Bhutan is not encouraged.
Hard drinks are generally available in almost all the restaurants. Many restaurants have a designated bar section.
17. No tobacco selling
Bhutan is constantly making efforts to keep the environment pollution free. Tobacco selling within the country and cigarette smoking publicly are prohibited.
This also contributes significantly in the increased footfall of global travelers.
18. Use of plastic bags prohibited
Another preventive measure against pollution is banning the use of plastic bags.
This too benifits the country to maintain its carbon negative status.
19. No slaughterhouse
Bhutan imports meat as it has no slaughterhouse.
20. Rules of Dzongs and other places displayed in English
The rules are also displayed in English on the notice board in Dzongs, temples, museums, monasteries, and other places.
This help global travelers read, understand, and follow the instructions.
21. December 17—National Day of Bhutan
Bhutan's National Day is celebrated on 17 December every year. The First King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuk, was coronated on this day.
With all government offices and agencies remaining closed on the day, no permits are issued by the government offices.
22. Festivals of Bhutan
Bhutanese celebrate their festivals with pomp and splendor.
One of the popular dances performed during the festivals is Cham Dance or mask dance. It is Bhutan's traditional dance performed with drums. The dancers wear colorfully painted and beautifully decorated masks and vibrant costumes.
A spike in foreign travelers is witnessed during the festivals.
Name of the festival
Place of celebration
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu
Haa Summer Festival
Black Necked Crane Festival
23. Towering mountains and stunning rivers
23a. The virgin peak
Gangkhar Puensum is Bhutan's highest peak and has remained a virgin peak until now.
23b. Rivers or Chhu
Many spectacular rivers (or Chhu in Dzongkha) flow through the lush green valleys of Bhutan. Some of them flow gently while some flow wildly. The sight of the beautiful rivers with towering mountains in the backdrop and valleys covered with trees and colorful flowers is captivating.
Some of the 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 staple food of the Bhutanese. "Ema" means chili and "datshi" means cheese in Dzongkha. It is a spicy dish made with chilies and cheese.
Other popular traditional Bhutanese food and beverage include:
- 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)
Bhutanese generously use chilies and cheese in food. Let them know your preference for chillies and cheese in food while placing the order for food.
Archery or Dha is the national sport of Bhutan. You can watch the sport in any of the grounds. Check the schedule and venue with your guide.
Football and futsal are popular in Bhutan as well.
Bhutanese also play other sports, such as 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.
Thangaka can be an ideal souvenir to gift family or friends.
28. Phallus paintings
Phallus paintings are found on the walls of several houses and buildings.
Bhutanese believe that the symbol protects them, brings fortune, and keeps evil spirits away from their lives.
29. Railway Stations and Airports in Bhutan
Bhutan has no railways.
Bhutan has one international airport and three domestic airports.
Thimphu does not have any domestic or international airport.
Paro Airport is the only international airport of Bhutan.
The beautiful airport is situated in a deep valley of Paro close to Paro Chhu (Paro River) and surrounded by soaring mountains.
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)
Bhutan's rich biodiversity and mesmerizing scenic beauty have increased its popularity among the global travelers.
While vacationing in Bhutan, enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Bhutan, explore the beautiful places, respect the sentiments (religious and royal family) and the culture of the Bhutanese, and keep the country clean.
It is quite an experience of visiting a beautiful, carbon negative country.
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