Bhutan is small Himalayan country located in South Asia between China and India. Officially, the country is known as the Kingdom of Bhutan. Every year thousands of tourists visit this small state to visit the stunning natural scenery and experience its unique culture and traditions. In the world, Bhutan is the only country where the majority of people follow Vajrayana Buddhism. One can see the influence of this religion in all traditions and in all aspects of local life. Bhutan is also known as ‘The Last Shangri-La’ because of its unspoiled environment and harmonious society.
In Bhutan, most tourists do cultural tours where they visit important travel destinations. The travel destinations are Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdu and Jakar. Major attractions in these destinations are Buddhist monasteries and dzongs (forts). Dzongs are ancient forts that now serve as the administrative headquarters of each district. They were built in unique architecture without the use of cement, nails or plans and house many art treasures. The major dzongs are Tasichho Dzong (also the seat of Bhutan’s civil government), Punakha Dzong, Trongsa Dzong, Jakar Dzong, Simtokha Dzong, Gasa Dzong and Rinpung Dzong.
Bhutan is also famous for the outdoor activity of trekking. The Druk route is the most common trek starting from Paro and ending in the capital Thimphu. However, many other impressive treks are available. Jomolhari and Laya Gasa treks are other very popular treks. The Snowman Trek is considered one of the toughest treks in the world, taking around 30 days.
Bhutan is a country that can be visited all year round. But the best time to visit this country is spring and winter season. In spring (March to June) the Jacaranda and Rhododendron trees can be seen in bloom. In winter (October to December) visitors get an unparalleled view of the snow-capped Himalayan range as the skies clear with little to no rain.
In Bhutan, Paro International Airport is the country’s only entry point by air. It is located in the southwest of the country near the capital Thimphu. Flag carriers Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines offer flights to Kathmandu (Nepal), Bangkok (Thailand); New Delhi (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Singapore.
There are only three land border crossings along the southern border with India. They are Phuntsholing in the west, Gelefu in the central region and Samdrup Dzongkhar in the east. No border crossings are open on China’s northern border. Road permits are also required; However, these are processed by your tour operator along with your visa.
Bhutan is a unique travel country and as such has some unique rules. All tourists except India, Bangladesh and the Maldives must obtain a visa before departure. (All tourists must book their trip through a tour operator). Visas are applied for online by your tour operator and you do not need to visit the Bhutanese embassy or consulate. Your holiday must be paid for in full via wire transfer to the Bhutan Tourism Council’s account before the tourist visa is issued. Visa clearance takes no more than 72 hours, once full payment is received. At your point of entry, a visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$20, two passport photos will also be required.
Visa extensions can be obtained through your tour operator at a cost of Nu.510 (1 Ngultrum = 1 Indian Rupee) and tourists will be subject to a daily tariff for additional days. Visas on arrival are issued only to residents of India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Indian citizens are allowed to stay in Bhutan indefinitely with a valid passport.
In Bhutan, the Tourism Council of Bhutan operates a daily tariff for all tourists entering the country. It is not possible to enter Bhutan as a tourist to pay this tariff unless you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Daily Tariff Cover: Minimum 3-star accommodation – luxury hotels may charge extra, all meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide, all domestic transport – excluding any domestic flights, camping equipment and transport. Trekking tours, all internal taxes and duties and a royalty of US$ 65.
Minimum charge (for groups of 3 persons or more): US$250 per night for March, April, May, September, October and November and US$200 per person for the months of January, February, June, July, August and December. If tourist groups of two or less are subject to a surcharge, above the minimum daily rates: Individual, US$ 40 per night and 2 persons, US$ 30 per night.