Bhutan: Your Next Destination

Bhutan is a fascinating country, often overlooked in favour of India and Nepal. However, it is a gem not to be missed. We spoke to Managing Director Tenzin Jamtsho of Every Nation Tours about why you should visit his wonderful country!

Be sure to visit their website www.bhutanholidaytour.com to book your trip there!

Every Nation Tours and Trek is a well-established travel company in Bhutan specializing in personalized trips for guests looking for ‘the real Bhutan experience.’ Our approach to travel is authentic and personalized. We offer tourism services promoting the principle of “High value, responsible and sustainable tourism” through reliable, personalized and professional services to all its esteemed clients.

RareJaunt: Why should people want to visit Bhutan?

Happiness is the key to Bhutan’s Tourism –Bhutan prides itself on their sustainable approach to tourism. Bhutan is the only country to measure GNH or Gross National Happiness as an indicator of its prosperity.

Traditional. Authentic. Pure. Divine –Imagine what it is travelling in a country where the natives live by their traditions and values, the environment, legacy and future are of utmost importance to the government and everyone looks forward to development-the cultural way? That’s Bhutan!

 

Low Volume, High Impact –With a tariff of $250/tourist (except for tourists traveling from India, Bangladesh, & Maldives) to be spent every day makes Bhutan appear as one of the most expensive destinations. However, the amount includes accommodation, food, transport and an official guide. Moreover, to burst the myth there is no limit to tourist visas.

A Cultural Legacy –Bhutan is a land of monasteries and fortresses. Buddhism is deeply engraved in the soul of the country and is driven with interesting cultural beliefs. One of the highlight of the trip is Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched at a height of 3000m on a vertical cliff. It is believed Guru Rinpoche flew to this cliff on a flaming tigress and meditated here. This spectacular monastery is one of the most sacred sites to the Buddhist pilgrims.

Natural Wonders –Experience Bhutan’s natural wonder first-hand when exploring the beautiful nation. Travel across the mountain passes- dazzling with rhododendrons in spring. Trek across the mountains and witness the flora & fauna riches, unique mammals & birds protected in several national parks.

RJ: What is your favourite place in Bhutan?

My personal favorite places in Bhutan are the Top 5 valleys and they are:

Paro valley: This is the valley where country’s International Airport is located and the valley is well known because, of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Thimphu Valley: Thimphu is the capital city of the country, probably it is the only city in the world, where traffic lights are absent and it is manually done by the traffic police. Thimphu also has the massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold.

Punakha Valley: Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It is located at an average elevation of 1200 meters above sea level. Owing to the favorable climatic conditions, rice grows very well in this region and is the main cash crop cultivated here.

Two major rivers in Bhutan the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu converge in this valley. Punakha Dzong (Fortress) is built at the confluence of these two rivers and is the most beautiful Dzong (Fortress) in the country with very impressive architecture.

Phobjikha Valley: Phobjikha valley is at an average altitude of 3,000m, it is wide and beautiful valley designated as conservation zone within the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park and is a natural habitat for wildlife, including nesting grounds for endangered Black-necked cranes that migrate from Central Asia in the winter ( late October and stay till March).

 Bumthang Valley: It spans from 2,600-4,500m is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.

Bumthang Dzongkhag consists of four main valleys Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. Choekhor is the largest of the four mountain valleys and is widely considered as ‘Bumthang Valley’. The valleys are broad and gentle carved by the ancient glaciers. The wide and scenic valleys draw a large number of tourists each year.

RJ: What should visitors know before going to Bhutan?

Travel/Medical Insurance: The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Travel insurance can be provided through your Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. You may also visit the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan

Banking: Some of the banks that you can avail of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Traveler’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged for local currency. Many of these banks provide internet banking facilities.

Electricity: It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary; however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.

Traveling Kits: The northern regions of the country are colder than the more tropical south and it is recommended you pack accordingly. Trekkers will need to bring appropriate warm clothes and comfortable hiking boots (well broken in) preferably with ankle support and weather-proof to complement the weather and rugged terrain.

Photography: You should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted. You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens in particular.

Shopping: Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colorful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns.

Gratuities: Tipping is a purely personal matter. We leave it up to you as to whether you want to give a gratuity to your guides and drivers. However, if doing so, we recommend that you place the gratuity in an envelope.

Customs: The following articles are exempt from duty: (a) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
 (b) 1 liter of alcohol (spirits or wine)
 (c) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
 (d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
 (e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.

Clothes and Other Paraphernalia: We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.

 

RJ: Can you describe Bhutanese food? What is the national dish?

Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. … Momos: These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese.

Ema Datshi: This is the National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chilies and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.

RJ: What is the best way to travel around Bhutan?

The best way to travel around Bhutan is by road in a SUV or by bus or for some places we can take a domestic flight.

RJ: What sort of wildlife can you expect to see there?

There are countless varieties of rare plants and endangered animals living within our forests. Additionally the habitat of these animals has been well protected due to the efforts of the government and the people. As part of the country’s conservation efforts official policy dictates that 60% of the country’s landmass must remain forested, however the country currently has around 72% forest cover. Red Pandas, Barking Deer, Golden Langurs, Royal Bengal Tigers, Takins, Sheep and Himalayan Black Bears are just a few of the many rare and exotic animals that can be seen in Bhutan.

The kingdom is also an ornithological hotspot with hundreds of rare and endangered birds inhabiting its lush forests. The Pallas’s Fish Eagle, White bellied Heron, Satyr Tragopan, Grey bellied Tragopan, Ward’s Trogon, Blyth’s King Fisher, Rumped Honey Guide, Purple Cochoa, Rufous Throated Wren Babbler, Red headed Parrot Bill, Chestnut breasted Partridge, Blyth’s Trogon, Wood Snipe and the iconic Black-necked Crane are a few of the birds that can be spotted throughout the kingdom.

RJ: What is a good amount of time to spend in Bhutan?

It depends on the individual interest and expectation but generally 5 nights 6 days is a normal and a good amount of time to spend in Bhutan within 4 popular valleys, just spending over night or 2 in throughout the individual valley.

RJ: What makes Bhutan so different from other countries?

Bhutan, the birthplace of the principle of Gross National Happiness, is often perceived as one of the happiest places on earth. However, like any other country, Bhutan has its share of problems and challenges. So, Bhutan may not really be the happiest place on earth.

Yet, Bhutan is definitely a country like no other. It has no traffic lights or McDonalds, but make no mistake, Bhutan has fully embraced modernity with almost all modern amenities that make life convenient available in its most major cities and towns. But that is not one of the seven things in the list that make Bhutan unique and special.

Remember to go to www.bhutanholidaytour.com to book your trip to Bhutan! You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/everynationtoursandtreks/