Langong Shomu, Paro
Sangchoker Road Nemjo Remphakha Near royal construction office Paro, Paro
Opposite Paro international airport Damsebu, Paro Bhutan, Paro
Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas between Tibet and India. Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors. Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world, and the profound teachings of this tradition remain well preserved and exert a strong influence in all aspects of life. Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called "The Last Shangrila."
Bhutan can culturally and geographically be divided into three regions, which are further divided into 20 districts or dzongkhag (singular and plural):
Official website of National Parks and Protected Areas in Bhutan: 
Bhutan is a unique country both culturally and environmentally. Perched high in the Himalayas, it is a Buddhist kingdom. It has developed the philosophy of Gross National Happiness; where development is measured using a holistic approach of well-being, not just based on gross domestic product. It is still termed as a third world country with subsistence farming practiced in much of the country. In broad terms the land is fertile and the population small. In addition, the current generation receives free education, and all citizens have access to free, though rudimentary, medical care. The sale of tobacco products is banned and smoking in public areas is a fineable offense.
Major sources of income for the kingdom are tourism, hydroelectric power and agriculture.
While traditional culture has been very well preserved, the opening of the country to TV and internet in 1999 has had a major effect, and modern-day culture is mostly centred on bars and snooker halls. As a result, there is very little or no evidence of quality contemporary art, theatre or music.
Culturally, Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist with Dzongkha as a national language (although there are regional variations - such as Sharchopkha, the predominant language in Eastern Bhutan), and a common dress code and architectural style. Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese, and Lhotshamphas (Southern Bhutanese), a people of Nepalese Gurkha origin, respectively. The Ngalops primarily consist of Bhutanese living in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of their neighbor to the north, Tibet.
The ideology of Gross National Happiness was the brain child of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who, having gained a modern education in India and the UK, realized that mere economic success did not necessarily translate into a content and happy society. Consequently, soon after his coronation in 1974, the young king began to float the idea of developing a new set of guidelines by which to govern the country. Slowly these ideas took shape, and in 1998 the GNH indicator was established. GNH stands for "Gross National Happiness" and is defined by the following four objectives: to increase economic growth and development, preserve and promote the cultural heritage, encourage sustainable use of the environment, and establish good governance. While the concept of GNH receives much international praise and is a major draw for tourists, potential visitors should be aware that the idea is very much in its incubation stage, and there is very little evidence of GNH in the country itself.
On 19 July 2011, 68 countries joined the Kingdom of Bhutan in co-sponsoring a resolution titled “Happiness: Towards a holistic approach to development,” which was adopted by consensus by the 193-member UN General Assembly. In follow up to the resolution, the Royal Government of Bhutan convened a High Level Meeting on “Happiness and Well Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” on 2 April 2012 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. This meeting initiated the next steps towards realizing the vision of a new well being and sustainability based economic paradigm that effectively integrates economic, social, and environmental objectives. Following this resolution, Bhutan continues to be a champion of the resolution and actively promotes the concept internationally.
The first humans probably arrived sometime after the Ice Age, and little is known about Bhutan's prehistory. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and established monasteries.
In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned the areas of Bhutan annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India's responsibilities in defense and foreign relations.
In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred power to his oldest son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, bestowing upon him the title of the fifth Druk Gyalpo. The official coronation took place in November 2008. The Fifth King is Boston and Oxford educated and is held in high esteem throughout the country.
Although geographically quite small, Bhutan’s weather varies from north to south and valley to valley, mainly depending upon the elevation. In the North of Bhutan on the borders with Tibet it is perennially covered with snow. In the western, central and eastern Bhutan (Ha, Paro, Thimphu, Wandue, Trongsa, Bumthang, Trashi Yangtse, Lhuntse) you will mostly experience European-like weather. Winter lasts here from November to March. Punakha is an exception as it is in a lower valley and summer is hot and winter is pleasant. Southern Bhutan bordering with India is hot and humid with a sub-tropical climate. While the monsoon affects northern Indian it does not command the same influence in Bhutan. Summer months tend to be wetter with isolated showers predominately in the evenings only. Winter is by far the driest period while spring and autumn tend to be pleasant.
There are four distinct seasons similar in their divisions to those of Western Europe. Temperatures in the far south range from 15°C in winter (December to February) to 30°C in summer (June to August). In Thimphu the range is from -2.5°C in January to 25°C in August and with a rainfall of 100mm. In the high mountain regions the average temperature is 0°C in winter and may reach 10°C in summer, with an average of 350mm of rain. Precipitation varies significantly with the elevation. The average rainfall varies from region to region.
Bhutanese holidays are rooted in the Drukpa Lineage of Kagyu Buddhism, the House of Wangchuck and the Tibetan calendar. Even secular holidays, however, have a measure of religious overtone, as religious choreography and blessings mark these auspicious days.
In addition to the above national holidays, there are also Tshechu holidays which are celebrated regionally.
Bhutan is a unique destination and as such it has a few unique rules. Most tourists must obtain a visa before arriving in Bhutan. Visas are issued on receipt of full payment of your holiday by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, and the fixed rates start from US $200/person/day. The money remains with the Tourism Council until your travel in-country is complete before the local tour operate is paid. Bhutan does not restrict tourist numbers any longer and operates an open door policy.
All tourists not from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives must obtain a visa prior to departure. All tourists must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner). Visas are applied for online by your local tour operator and it is not required that you visit a Bhutanese Embassy or consulate. Your holiday must be paid in full, via a wire transfer, to the Tourism Council of Bhutan account before a tourist visa is issued. Visa clearance takes no longer than 72 hours, once full payment has been received. At your point of entry the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US $20, two passport photos will also be required. Visa extensions can be obtained through you local tour operator at a cost of Nu.510 (1 Ngultrum = 1 Indian Rupee) and the tourist will also be subject to the daily tariff for the additional days. Visas are issued on arrival to residents of India, Bangladesh and Maldives only. Indian citizens are allowed to stay in Bhutan indefinitely with only a valid passport.
As travel to Bhutan almost invariably requires at least one flight change in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, ensure that you meet the visa requirements of those countries before transiting through. Nepal and Thailand offer visas on arrival or visa waiver for many nationalities. India generally requires visa procedures to be completed before arrival, and this can take up to two weeks.
For citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives only, visas are issued on entry. A photograph and a valid Passport (or Voter ID Card for Indian residents only), is required (along with a photocopy of either). Fill the document with purpose "Tourism". At land border crossings you will only get 7 days for Paro and Thimphu. For extension of duration apply in Thimphu at the Immigration office at the northern end of Norzin Lam. For visiting other districts you will need to apply for road permits at the same office. They are best applied in the morning and you will receive the document in the afternoon. In case you are defence official without a passport or a student without the above three accepted identification papers, you can request the Indian consulate further up the road to provide you an identification endorsement document but this takes time.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan operates the daily tariff for all tourists entering the country. It is not possible to enter Bhutan as a tourist without paying this tariff, unless you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
The daily tariff covers:
The minimum tariff is (for a group of 3 persons or more):
The rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. Groups of two or less shall be subject to a surcharge, over and above the minimum daily rates applicable, as follows:
There is no charge for children up to the age of 5 years. Children aged between 6 and 12 years accompanied by parents/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty. Full-time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given a 25% discount on daily rates. A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11 to 15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons.
A 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and a 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
It is illegal to undercut tariff prices, and any tour operators found to be undercutting will have their licence terminated.
The only other options for visiting the country are to receive an invitation by a Bhutanese citizen, where proof of the relationship must be presented on applying or through an NGO.
Paro International Airport (PBH) is the only entry point to Bhutan by air, located in the south west of the country near capital Thimphu. Long served only by flag carrier Druk Air , Druk operates 2 planes (two airbuses) which fly routes to Bangkok in Thailand; Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya/ Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati in India; Kathmandu in Nepal; Dhaka in Bangladesh and Singapore. In October 2013, Druk's monopoly was broken when Bhutan Airlines  launched daily flights to Bangkok.
The other option is Bagdogra Airport (IXB) , serving the city of Siliguri in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, Bagdogra is a four-hour drive from the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. Bagdogra receives frequent flights from major cities within India, and Druk Air operates flights from Bangkok at least weekly.
There are three land border crossings located along southern border to India only. Phuntsholing in the west, Gelephu in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar in the east. No border crossings are open along the Chinese northern border. Road permits are also required; however, these are processed by your local tour operator, along with your visa.
There are no railways in Bhutan. The nearest options (both in India) are:
Route permits are required to travel around Bhutan, and there are check posts in most districts east and north of Thimphu where you are required to produce these documents in order to proceed. Route permits are processed by your local tour operator on applying for your visa. These permits are issued by the immigration office in Thimphu (Northern end of Norzin Lam).
Plane travel is a fast and relatively safe alternative to tackling Bhutan's twisty roads, but schedules are sparse and flights are cancelled at the drop of a hat. Druk Air and Bhutan Airways (aka Tashi Air) fly from Paro (Thimphu) to Yongphula Airport near Trashigang and Bathpalathang Airport in Jakar, Bumthang region. A third airport in the southern central region, close to the Indian border, technically opened in 2012 but is not served by scheduled flights yet.
The roads that cross the country are characterized by their twists, turns, and steep inclines, but despite the difficult topography, they are generally very well-maintained and safe. Local and inter-district bus services are not so comfortable and stop frequently. Your local tour operator will provide a vehicle and driver for the duration of your stay. This cost is included in the daily tariff. However, traveling by local or inter-district bus or taxi can also be organized. It is recommended that you drive in Bhutan only if you have experience driving in mountainous regions. The quality of road surface is variable with endless mountainous hairpin bends. It is recommended that you pack travel sickness tablets.
As the public transport running between towns in Bhutan is infrequent, hitching is a very common way to get around. The thumb in the air symbol, however, is not recognized, and you will need to flag down a passing vehicle in order to get one to stop. NB: As some drivers pick up passengers as a means of supplementing their incomes, it is customary to offer payment when getting out of the vehicle (the amount depends roughly on the distance, but it will be comparable to the cost of traveling by bus). However, most drivers require nothing, and are more than happy just to have some company and the opportunity to make a new friend. If you plan to hitch a lot (and in some rural areas there is no other way to get around), it is a good idea to take a few small gifts to offer the drivers as an expression of your appreciation.
Due to the mountainous terrain, roads are frequently blocked by rock falls during the summer season. Therefore, it is best to avoid traveling long distances from the beginning of June to the end of August. However, if you must travel at this time, carry ample bottled water and snacks as if the landslide occurs it could take some time to clear the road.
At an altitude of 3750 metres, the section of road that runs through the Thrumshingla Pass connecting Bumthang and Mongar is the highest in the country and offers some spectacular scenery. However, due to the steep sides of the valley it is especially susceptible to rock falls, so be prepared for long waits during the wet periods in particular.
While there are ample restaurants on highways between main towns and the hygiene standards at such places is acceptable, the quality of the food is very low and the choice of dishes limited. In addition, the dining halls offer an environment no better than a bus station waiting room. Therefore, it is generally better to prepare food and refreshment for the journey at the point of departure.
The majority of tourists do "cultural tours" where they visit important destinations. Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, and Jakar are popular destinations. Further afield, the unexplored region of Zhemgang (birders paradise, excellent wildlife viewing) and Eastern Bhutan have just been opened up to tourism. If you are an adventurist and want to explore the unexplored the east of Bhutan is the place for you. This unique and yet untouched part of the country offers the ultimate experience.
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Paro. This is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, and Guru Rinpoche visited here in the 8th century on his second visit to Bhutan. It is the most recognized and visited monument in Bhutan. It is believed that he arrived on the back of a winged tigress, hence the name, Tigers Nest. The temple is built on a 1,200 metre cliff and was built in 1692.
Hundreds of monasteries dot the landscape in some of the most pristine and remote areas.
Kurje Lhakhang, Jakar. A temple built around a cave with a body print of Guru Rinpoche embedded in the wall. Guru Rinpoche practiced meditation here on his first visit to Bhutan and as such it is the earliest Buddhist relic in the country.
Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue under construction in the mountains of Bhutan. The statue will house over one hundred thousand (one hundred thousand) smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself, will be made of bronze and gilded in gold. The Buddha Dordenma is sited amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the thirteenth Desi Druk, overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Upon completion, it will be one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world, at a height of 169 feet (51.5 meters). Although its completion was planned for October 2010, construction is still ongoing as of February 2014.
The dzongs are ancient fortresses that now serve as the civil and monastic administration headquarters of each district. Apart from the architecture, which in itself makes a dzong worth visiting, they also hold many art treasures.
Dzongs dot the countryside and were built without the use of cement, nails or plans. Dzongs which you can visit are:
Trekking is also extremely popular. The Druk path is the most commonly trekked from Paro, to the capital Thimphu. However, many other more impressive treks are available, see the complete list below. The Jomolhari, and Laya Gasa trek are also very popular and the Snowman Trek is reported to be one of the toughest treks in the world, taking an approximately 30 days. The recommended season for this trek is mid-June to mid-October.
Other treks include:
Bhutan pristine environment offers ecosystem which are rich and diverse, due to its location and great geographical and climatic variations, Bhutan’s high, rugged mountains and valleys boast spectacular biodiversity, earning it a name as one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity hotspots. Recognizing the importance of environment, conservation of its rich biodiversity is one of its development paradigms. The government has decreed that 60% of its forest resources will be maintained for all time through a recently enacted law passed by government. Today, 72% of the total land area is under forest cover and 26% is protected in four parks.
35% of Bhutan is made up of protected national parks. Namely, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (1,300 km2), TrumshingLa National Park (768 km2), Royal Manas National Park (9,938.54 km2), Jigme Dorji National Park (4,349 km2), Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (1,545 km2) and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (650 km2).
Festivals or Tshechu (“tenth day”) are another major draw card to Bhutan and are held every year in various temples monasteries and dzongs across the country. The Tshechu is mainly a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of lunar calendar corresponding to the birth day of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the month of Tshechu depends place to place and temple to temple. Tshechus are large social gatherings where people from various villages come together to witness the religious mask dances which are based on incidents from as long as 8th century from the life of Guru Padmasambhava and to receive blessings from lamas. The event also consists of colourful Bhutanese dances and other entertainments.
It is said that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to receive the blessings and wash away the sins. Every mask dances performed during Tshechu has a meaning or a story behind. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men. Among many Tshechus in the country most popular are Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals many tourists from across the world are attracted to this unique, colourful and exciting culture.
Other festivals which happen throughout the year are:
The currency of the country is the Bhutanese Ngultrum, denoted by the symbol "Nu." (ISO code: BTN). It is fixed to the Indian rupee at an exchange rate of 1:1.
Rice is a staple with every meal; traditionally red rice, but white rice is now common too. Vegetable or meat dishes cooked with chili and/or cheese comprise the accompanying cuisine.
Bhutanese food has one predominant flavour - chili. This small red condiment is not only added to every dish but is also often eaten raw. So, if you don't like spicy-hot food, make this abundantly clear before ordering a meal. Otherwise, you'll be spending the next hour dousing your mouth with cold yoghurt or milk.
Kewa-datsi and shamu-datsi tend to be less hot than ema-datsi; all three dishes are generally served with rice.
Imtrat run canteens that sell excellent Indian dishes along with tea from 9:30AM–4:30PM. The quality of the food is very good, while the price is low. The canteens are located throughout the country, especially along main highways.
All towns connected by motorable roads have hotels, though the standard varies considerably. International standard hotels are mostly found in tourist areas or major towns, while five star accommodation is only available in Paro, Jakar, Punakha, Gangtey and Thimphu.
It is important to note that the hotel rates shown on the city articles are only relevant to people who have residency, visa exemption (generally this only applies to Indian nationals) or who are visiting the country as an invited guest. Other visitors can only enter the country as part of a tour, for which the daily rates are set by the Bhutanese authorities at around US$250 per person per night irrespective of the hotel rates (except for very expensive hotels where a surcharge is added).
Weaving - Bhutanese woven cloth is prized throughout the world for its unique designs and high quality, and there is a weaving centre in Khaling in Trashigang.
There are a few NGOs based in Bhutan, so it is possible to arrange volunteer work. However, Bhutan is very selective about who it engages in this field. In addition, it is highly unlikely that a position can be found while visiting Bhutan, so those interested in undertaking volunteer work here should first seek employment with NGOs overseas and then express a preference to be located in Bhutan.
Bhutan has a number of embassies and consulates, including those listed below .
#1 best-selling guide to Bhutan *
Lonely Planet Bhutan is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Join the pilgrims at colourful Changangkha Lhakhang, hike to the dramatic cliff -hanging Taktshang Goemba, or explore the busy weekend market at Thimpu; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Bhutan and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet Bhutan Travel Guide:Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - festivals, architecture, Buddhism, customs, wildlife, history, traditional arts Over 37 maps Covers Thimphu, Paro Dzongkhag, Trongsa Dzongkhag, Mongar Dzongkhag and more
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.
About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.
*Best-selling guide to Bhutan. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA
What does Bhutan understand about happiness that the rest of the world does not? Award-winning journalist and author Madeline Drexler recently traveled to this Himalayan nation to discover how the audacious policy known as Gross National Happiness plays out in a fast-changing society where Buddhism is deeply rooted--but where the temptations and collateral damage of materialism are rising. Her reported essay blends lyrical travelogue, cultural history, personal insights, and provocative conversations with top policymakers, activists, bloggers, writers, artists, scholars, religious leaders, students, and ordinary citizens in many walks of life. This book is sure to fascinate readers interested in travel, Buddhism, progressive politics, and especially the study and practice of happiness. A Splendid Isolation was a Finalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet Bhutan is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Visit Tiger's Nest, Bhutan's most famous monastery, marvel at the dance routines of the tsechu festival, or trek through the mountainous regions of Bhutan; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Bhutan and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet's BhutanTravel Guide:Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including religion, customs, history, art, architecture, literature, dance, music, landscapes, wildlife and politics Over 35 maps Useful features - including Month by Month (annual festival calendar), Booking Your Trip, and Planning Your Trek Coverage of Thimpu, Paro, Haa, Dagana, Punakha, Gasa, Trashi Yangtse, Wangdue Phodrang, Chhukha, Trongsa, Jakar, Mongar, Lhuentse, Trashigang, Gom Kora, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Bumthang, and more
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Lindsay Brown and Bradley Mayhew.
About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.
TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category
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Tucked away in the eastern end of the Himalayas lies Bhutan-a tiny, landlocked country bordering China and India. Impossibly remote and nearly inaccessible, Bhutan is rich in natural beauty, exotic plants and animals, and crazy wisdom. It is a place where people are genuinely content with very few material possessions and the government embraces "Gross National Happiness" instead of Gross National Product. In this funny, magical memoir, we accompany Linda Leaming on her travels through South Asia, sharing her experiences as she learns the language, customs, and religion; her surprising romance with a Buddhist artist; and her realizations about the unexpected path to happiness and accidental enlightenment. As one of the few Americans to have lived in Bhutan, Leaming offers a rare glimpse into the quirky mountain kingdom so many have only dreamed of. For over ten years, Leaming has lived and worked in the town of Thimphu, where there are no traffic lights and fewer than 100,000 people. "If enlightenment is possible anywhere" she writes, "I think it is particularly possible here" The Bhutanese way of life can seem daunting to most Westerners, whose lives are consumed with time, efficiency, and acquiring things. But Leaming shows us that we don't necessarily have to travel around the world to appreciate a little Bhutan in our own lives, and that following our dreams is the way to be truly happy.
“Color-drenched images . . . capture the vibrant rainbow palette of intricate Bhutanese weavings, ceremonial garb, painted pottery, and the ubiquitous wind-whipped prayer flags.” ―Passport MagazineTucked away between China and India in the heart of the Himalayas, Bhutan remains a uniquely distinct country. Few photographers have been granted permission to reside in this long-inaccessible kingdom, now a democracy, where life quietly unfolds to the rhythm of traditions amid the magnificent, unspoiled landscape. Matthieu Ricard, a monk and photographer, spent eight years in Bhutan with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a revered Tibetan Buddhist master, and has continued to return to the “land of the thunder dragon” throughout his life, discovering on each occasion another of its invaluable treasures. His experiences are recorded here in this exceptionally beautiful book, a voyage to the heart of Bhutan, a land where spirituality and daily life are intimately linked. 184 color illustrations
Mysterious and remote, the Land of the Thunder Dragon is endlessly fascinating. Written by two authors who live and work in Bhutan, The Bhutan Bucket List goes beyond the ‘Shangri-la’ clichés to reveal this incredible country’s realities, its surprises, and its hidden treasures. Intended to provoke, entertain, inform and challenge, it contains a mixture of the spiritual and the worldly, the majestic and the zany, the delightful and the downright odd. Whether you are planning a trip, reflecting fondly on a past visit, or simply dreaming of the mountains from your easy chair, The Bhutan Bucket List will provide you with a great time! To learn more about The Bhutan Bucket List visit our Facebook page TheBhutanBucketList. And please take time to leave Feedback here after you’ve received your book.
In the West, we have everything we could possibly need or want—except for peace of mind. So writes Linda Leaming, a harried American who traveled from Nashville, Tennessee, to the rugged Himalayan nation of Bhutan—sometimes called the happiest place on Earth—to teach English and unlearn her politicized and polarized, energetic and impatient way of life. In Bhutan, if I have three things to do in a week, it’s considered busy. In the U.S., I have at least three things to do between breakfast and lunch. After losing her luggage immediately upon arrival, Leaming realized that she also had emotional baggage—a tendency toward inaction, a touch of self-absorption, and a hundred other trite, stupid, embarrassing, and inconsequential things—that needed to get lost as well. Pack up ideas and feelings that tie you down and send you lead-footed down the wrong path. Put them in a metaphorical suitcase and sling it over a metaphorical bridge in your mind. Let the river take them away. Forced by circumstance and her rustic surroundings to embrace a simplified life, Leaming made room for more useful beliefs. The thin air and hard climbs of her mountainous commute put her deeply in touch with her breath, helping her find focus and appreciation. The archaic, glacially paced bureaucracy of a Bhutanese bank taught her to go with the flow—and take up knitting. The ancient ritual of drinking tea brought tranquility, friendship, and, eventually, a husband. Each day, and each adventure, in her adopted home brought new insights and understandings to take back to frantic America, where she now practices the art of “simulating Bhutan.” This collection of stories, impressions, and suggestions is a little nudge, a push, a leg up into the rarefied air of paradise—of bright sunlight and beautiful views.
Explore deep in the Himalayas, in the tiny Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, by walking beside the author along a 100 mile trek through surreal landscapes and knee-wrenching passes at 5,000 metres. Meet herders in high summer pastures making cheese from yak’s milk, and hear tinkling prayer wheels spun by waterfalls in remote gorges. Climb to Taktsang, the spectacular Tiger’s Nest of temples atop a 1,000 metre cliff. Visit ancient Kyichu Lhakhang to absorb the sanctity of centuries in the haze of incense, glowing butter-lamps and chanting monks. Then hold tight along precipitous hairpin bends to Thimphu and Punakha to witness monastery rituals, and meander through shops offering the world’s most exquisite weaving and carving. This vivid and lyrical travelogue leads you into Bhutanese culture and history, and with infectious humour, draws the characters of her American and Australian travelling companions. For discerning readers, Appendices include a glossary of Dzongka words, a historical timeline and a ‘Survival Guide to Bhutanese Buddhism’.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching is common. Ensure that personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Traffic drives on the left. There are no railroads and few roads. In the mountains, sharp curves, limited visibility and narrow roads create dangerous road conditions. However, tourists rarely drive in Bhutan. Their visits are arranged through tour operators and they must travel in groups with experienced drivers.
There are two ways to enter Bhutan: by road or by air. By road through Phuentsholing on the southwest border with West Bengal, India,and Samdrup Jongkhar on the far east border with Assam, India, or by air by Drukair, Bhutan’s national airline. The border with China is closed. Flights are subject to disruptions due to weather and technical difficulties.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Tourist facilities are very limited. Persons with physical disabilities may find it difficult to travel in Bhutan.
Dial 113 to reach police and 112 for an ambulance.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.
Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.
Tourism is carefully regulated. Independent travel is not permitted. Travel must be pre-arranged through an authorized travel agency. Further information may be obtained from the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Buying or selling tobacco in Bhutan is illegal. Imported tobacco products for personal use are subject to a 200 percent tax. Keep your customs receipt; you could be charged with smuggling and face imprisonment if you cannot produce it for police. Smoking is prohibited in public places.
Homosexual activity is illegal.
Personal computers, cellular telephones, cameras or any other electronic device should be registered with Bhutanese Customs upon arrival. These items will be checked at the time of departure from Bhutan.
The export of all antiques is strictly monitored.
The currency is the ngultrum (BTN). Indian rupees in denominations of 100 or less are also accepted. There are no automated banking machines in the country. Credit cards are not widely accepted. Traveller’s cheques can be exchanged in any branch of the Bank of Bhutan. U.S. dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended. Major hotels in Thimphu and Phuentsholing will exchange foreign currency.
Bhutan is located in an active seismic zone.
The rainy (monsoon) season extends from May to October. Landslides occur frequently. Mountain roads can be hazardous, even in good weather. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.