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BHUTAN TRAVEL GUIDE

Capital: Thimphu
Official Language: Dzongkha
Religion: Mahayana Buddhism.
Population: 750000
Location: Located in the eastern Himalayas; Bhutan is bordered Tibet in the north and the Indian states of Assam and west Bengal in the east west and south.
Altitude: Varying from 180mmetres to 7550 meters above the sea level.
Local Time: Six hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian Standard Time.
National Sport: Archery.
National Dress: Gho (Men) & Kira (Women).
National Tree: Cypress.
National Flower: Blue Poppy.
National Bird: Raven.
National Animal: Takin.

History of Bhutan

Bhutan’s early history stepped in Buddhist folklore and mythology; it features tremendous deeds and begins with supernatural powers. It is said that a saint who had the ability to appear in eight different forms, one of them being Guru Rinpoche, visited Bhutan on a flying tiger and left the imprint of his body and his hat on rocks.

Many of the important events in the country early history involved saints and religious leaders and were therefore arranged only in scriptures. Most of these original documents were destroyed in fires in the printing works of Sonagatshel in 1828 and in Punakha Dzong in 1832. Much of what was left in the old capital of Punakha was also lost in an earthquake in 1897 and more record was lost when Paro Dzong burned in 1907. Therefore much of the early history of Bhutan relies on reports from British explorers, on legend and folklore, and the manuscripts that escaped these disasters.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 1500-2000BC by nomadic herders who lived in low-lying valleys in winter and moved their animals to high pasture in summer. Many Bhutanese still lived in low-lying valleys in winter and moved their animals to high pastures in summer. Many Bhutanese still live this way today. You will come across Layap people migrating to Punakha during winter. If you happen to take Laya Gasa Trek in Bhutan, one day program is to camp in Laya village.

The valleys of Bhutan provided relatively easy access across the Himalaya, and it is believed that the Manas River valley used as a migration route from India to Tibet.

Some of the early inhabitants of Bhutan were followers of Bon (Known as Ben Cho in Bhutan), the animistic tradition that was the main religion throughout the Himalayan region before the advent of Buddhism. It is believed that the Bon religion was introduced in Bhutan in the 6th century AD.

Buddhism was probably first introduced to parts of Bhutan as early as the 2nd century, although most historians agree that the first Buddhist temples were built in the 7th century AD.

The kingdom of Cooch Behar, in what is now West Bengal, influenced Bhutan from the early days. The rulers of Cooch Behar established themselves in Bhutan, but their influence faded in the 7th century AD as the influence of Tibet grew along with the introduction of Buddhism.

What are the best places to visit in Bhutan?

13 Traditional arts & crafts of Bhutan

craft woman in bhutan

In the land of Drukyul, all the series of traditional skills and crafts is basically defined as zorigchusum. (ZO stands for the ability to make, rig means the science or craft, and chusum is thirteen).

Zorigchusum refers to those practices that came to picture as a result of its steady development through the centuries, often passed down from generations to generations with its long-standing relations to a particular craft. Even though theses skills were existed from our grant grandparents time all over the country, Bhutanese believed that the Zorigchusum was first formally categorized during the rule of the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye(1680-94). The school is located in Thimphu. You must visit this place.

The following guidelines provide a glimpse of the thirteen traditional Arts and crafts of Bhutan:

  1. Dezo-Paper Art: The traditional Bhutanese paper commonly called as deysho are made mainly from a plant called Daphne and gum from a root of creeper.
  1. Dozo- Masonary: Stone arts are widely used for the construction purposes. It is used in constructing stone pools and the outer walls of Dzongs, monasteries and some other building.
  1. Garzo-Blacksmithing: This art stresses on the manufacture of iron goods like swords, farm tools, knives and other utensils.
  1. Jinzo-Sculpture: The basic function of this piece of art is to make objects used at the time of performing rituals and religious statues, pottery and is also essential in the construction of buildings using mortar, plaster and rammed earth.
  1. Lhazo-Painting: This is one peculiar type of arts where is deals with the images on religious wall hangings (Thangkas), statues and walls painitings and finally, to the decorations on window-frames and furniture.
  1. Lugzo- Casting: Lungzo functions with the production of bronze statues, ritual instruments and bells, in addition to household items using sand casting and jewelry.
  1. Parzo-Carving: The carving is depicted on stone, wood or slate which is used for making items such as printing blocks for religious texts, masks, furniture, altars, and the slate images containing many shrines and altars.
  1. Shagzo-Woodturning: This technique of arts applied in making diverse of bowls, plates, cups and other containers. An example can be dapa and za-phob.
  1. Shingzo-Woodwork: The vital application of this form of art is in the construction of dzongs, temples, houses and some other household goods.
  1. Thagzo-weaving and dying:The intrinsic pattern of our national dress is the fantastic outcome of this art. It includes all the process of weaving starting from the preparation of yarn, the dying and its final weaving to produce different patterns and designs of various forms.
  1. Troko-Ornament Making: This is basically dealt with shaping and processing ornaments. Its working requires gold, silver and copper to make jewelry and other essential items used for rituals and household purposes.
  1. Tshazo-Care and bamboo working:The production of unbelievable instruments of numerous styles and patterns like baskets, bows and arrows, utensils, drinks containers, traditional fences and mats and some of the musical instruments are the achievement of this art.
  1. Tshemzo-Embroidery and stitching:Among the different forms of arts Tshemzo works with needle and thread      to make and stitch various clothes, boots and thangkas.

Bhutan Textiles

Textile

The Bhutanese textiles become more evident in the last century. As textile production moved beyond the confines of clothing to artistic expression of individuals and communities, patronage from the royal household was vital. Although the founders of the Wangchuk dynasty are from Bumthang, their ancestral home is in Lhuentse district, which was historically recognized as the home of the most celebrated weavers in the country.

The role and influence of royal women in sustaining and furthering the weaving tradition must be acknowledged. Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal built the Wangdichholing palace in 1857 the loom house (Thagchem) accommodating 30 to 40 weavers, were built around the same time near the palace and existed until the mid 1900s. During your tour of Bhutan donot miss textile museam in Thimphu.

Bhutanese textiles are a unique art form inspired by nature made in the form of clothing, crafts and different types of pots in eye-catching blend of color texture, pattern and composition. Bhutan textile represents a rich and complex repository of a unique art form. They are recognized for their abundance of color, sophistication and variation of patterns, and the intricate dyeing and weaving techniques. The weavers are mostly women, must not be seen merely as creator of wealth but also as the innovators and owners of artistic skills developed and nurtured over centuries of time.

We can also organize Textile Tours.

The National Emblem (The Royal Crest)

The National emblem, contained in circle, is composed of a double diamond thunderbolt placed above a lotus, surmounted by a jewel and framed by two dragons. The double diamond thunderbolt represents the harmony between secular and religious power; which results from the Buddhist religion in its varying form. The lotus symbolizes the purity; the jewel-sovereign power; and the two dragons, male and female stand for the name of the country-the thunder.

Paintings in Bhutan

School of traditional Arts

Most Bhutanese art, including ‘Painting in Bhutanese art’, known as lhazo, is invariably religion centric. These are made by artists without inscribing their on them. A Thangka, variously spelt as Tangka, Thanka or Tanka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.  Thagkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front. So treated, Thangkas can last a long time, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture will not affect the quality of the silk.

Most thankas are relatively small, comparable in size to a Western half-length portrait, but some are extremely large, several meters in each dimension; these were designed to be displayed, typically for very brief periods on a monastery wall, as part of religious festivals. Most thankas were intended for personal meditation or instruction of monastic students. They often have elaborate compositions including many very small figures. A central deity is often surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. We take our guest to visit few handicraft shops to give more picture of how Thangka existed in your Bhutan Travel itinerary.

Sculptures

Zorig Chusum

Bhutanese are famous for the quality and the intricacy of their clay sculpture, representing deities and religious figures. The basic material used for making the sculptures is clay, which is known as Jinzob. The most renowned craftsmen come from Heyphu monastery (Neyphu) in Paro valley and have worked the world over. The quality of the image also comes from the mixture of clay and other materials such as paper, used. The mixing ad beating of clay is done by hand and then the artist on a bamboo or light wood framework shapes the image. Pottery is most of the time included under sculpture although the daily utensils have a simple shape. Women often did pottery. Do not forget to include this Neyphu monastery in your Bhutan Tour.

Paper making in Bhutan

Handmade paper known as deysho is in popular usage in Bhutan and it is durable and insect resistant. The basic material used is the bark of the Daphne plant. This paper is used for printing religious texts; traditional books etc. In 1990, the Ministry of trade and industry established the Jungshi handmade paper factory (Jungshi meaning natural) in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, to expand the old domestic skill for commercial purposes, and thus gave ancient art relevance in the modern world. Today, they export their products to US, Japan, Europe, India and Nepal. We were invited to get a closer look at all the steps involved in the manufacturing process, from raw material to finished product. This factory will be included in your Tour program.

Wood Carving

Wood carving known as Parzo is a specialized and ancient form of art, which is significantly blended with modern buildings in the resurgent Bhutan. Carving in Bhutan has been experimented with and perfected in a variety of materials like stone, wood and slate. Traditional Bhutanese designs carved on these materials are the most wonderful piece of artwork. Since Bhutan has an abundant variety of wood, woodcarving is seen in many forms. Carved wooden masks of various shapes and sizes are used in religious dances, decorations are found engraved on houses, Dzongs, palaces, temples and monasteries. Wood carving was introduced in CTAS in the 2002-2003 academic years.

Bamboo Craft

Bamboo Craft made with cane and bamboo is known as thazo. It is made in many rural communities in many regions of Bhutan. Few special items of this art form are the belo and the bangchung, popularly known as the Bhutanese “Tupperware” basket made in various sizes. Baskets of varying sizes are used in the homes and for travel on horseback, and as flasks for local drink called the Arra. People in central Bhutan often spend the quieter winter months-after harvest is over in making bamboo crafts for daily use. Bamboo baskets and cane containers (Bangchus) are used in every home as plates and containers. Traditional cane hats are popular while tea strainers, winnowing baskets, and bamboo mats are utilities. Bhutan’s cane craftwork is colored in natural dye like turmeric and lac.

Bhutan weather and climate

This Bhutan Travel Guide will help you to know the best time of the year to travel in Bhutan. Here we give you the details of temperature and overall weather pattern so that your plan to travel Bhutan is not wasted.

The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general and we hardly have any tourist traveling to southern Bhutan. The east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country,you can also check our East West Bhutan Tour. The central valley of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, while Thimphu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow fall in winter.

Winter in Bhutan starts from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry with day time temperature of 16-18° C and night time temperature falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. Autumn starts from September to November.

Place Jan/Feb Mar/Apr May/June July/Aug Sep/Oct Nov/Dec
Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min
Paro +13 +3 +15 +3 +23 +13 +25 +15 +22 +10 +12 +3
Thimphu +14 0 +16 +6 +22 +14 +27 +17 +20 +13 +16 +1
Punakha +18 +7 +24 +9 +22 +10 +26 +13 +25 +11 +22 +9
Wangduephodrang +17 +7 +24 +11 +28 +18 +29 +20 +26 +17 +22 +7
Trongsa +12 +1 +16 +2 +20 +14 +18 +14 +17 +13 +16 +9
Bumthang +10 +1 +16 +5 +18 +10 +21 +13 +19 +11 +15 +2
Mongar +23 +10 +27 +11 +30 +20 +35 +22 +30 +18 +25 +8
Trashigang +16 +4 +19 +7 +20 +13 +22 +14 +20 +11 +16 +9

Bhutan Travel Guide to Check Distance & driving time between various places

All mode of transport within Bhutan is by motor vehicle as there is no frequent domestic airline or trains.We do have domestic airline operating from Paro to Bumthang,Paro to Yonphula and Paro to Gaylegphu but this flights are very rare since Bhutanse people donot use them because of high airfare. The routes is operation only during tourist season.

However, motor roads are well maintained and link all parts of the country. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average driving speed of vehicle to less than 35 kilometers per hour.

From To Distance [in Km] Driving Time [approx]
Thimphu Paro 54 1 Hrs.
Thimphu Phuntsholing 172 5 Hrs.
Thimphu Wangdue Phodrang 70 3 Hrs.
Thimphu Punakha 76 3 Hrs.
Punakha Wangdue Phodrang 17 40 Mins.
Wangdue Phodrang Trongsa 129 5 Hrs.
Trongsa Bumthang 68 3 Hrs.
Bumthang Mongar 198 7 Hrs.
Mongar Lhuntshi 76 3 Hrs.
Mongar Trashigang 91 3 Hrs.
Trashigang Chorten Kora 52 2 Hrs.
Trashigang Samdrup Jongkhar 180 7 Hrs.
Samdrup Jongkhar Guwahati (India) 110 3 Hrs.
Samdrup Jongkhar Phuentsholing 380 10 Hrs.
Phuntsholing Bagdogara 170 4 Hrs

Road Map of Bhutan

Map-of-Bhutan

14 tips to know while Traveling Bhutan.

Financial Security:

A member of Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators and Toursim Council of Bhutan operates under the license issued by the Department of Tourism, Royal Government of Bhutan. The Department of Tourism’s role is to regulate the Tourism industry, in particular to frame policy directives, which will ensure the Industry’s healthy growth.

As a rule, all monetary transactions are approved by the Department for release only after the Tour is completed and the standards are met. As such, there is no risk involved while booking your Tour of Bhutan through Excursion to Himalayas. All your Bhutan travel arrangement will be done by us including your Bhutan Visa. How to apply your Bhutan Visa?

Food In Bhutan

Bhutanese Delicacies are limited with spicy Chillies and Cheese. However you will be served a Buffet of continental food with some local dishes too. On Treks, our trained cooks prepare dishes suitable to western tastes ranging from continental to Chinese and Bhutanese to Indian. Read more about Trekking in Bhutan.

Currency in Bhutan:

Bhutanese unit of currency is the Ngultrum. 1Nu. = 100 Chetrum. The Ngultrum is at par with the Indian Rupee.  Approx. 1 USD$ = Nu. 75

What Clothing to carry?

Bhutan Travel can be tricky if you don’t plan well due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. From May to Sep. cotton clothes are sufficient, plus a woolen sweater or light jacket. From November to the end of April, you will need very warm clothes including long underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, and down jacket or coat. During visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institution, you should not wear shorts, hats and should be properly dressed.You can also contact us for more information on what to wear in Bhutan in different months?

What to pack in your Bhutan Tour?

Clothes as per season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella, camera, film and accessories, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, sun screen cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, preparation for the relief of sunburn. You may not be tuned to the Asian drugs so it is always better to bring own brand.

Bhutan Travel Guide for Photography in Bhutan:

Bhutan is best place to visit if you love to take picture. Best time to travel Bhutan for photography is Spring and Autumn.

The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. If you wish to record the local people, their houses and shops etc. You can always ask by gesture, if it’s ok to take pictures. Also while visiting Dzongs, monasteries, and religious institutions; please follow your guide’s instruction carefully. Photography inside the Dzongs and monuments are not allowed. Although films and batteries are available locally, it is best to bring it yourself.

Filming regulations in Bhutan:

The rules and rates for filming in Bhutan differ from that of normal treks and tours. Tourists or professionals intent on filming in Bhutan must abide by the Bhutanese Filing Regulations, 1995, available with the implementing agency, the Department of Tourism. Applications for a filming permit must be submitted to the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

  1. Synopsis of the film ~ theme/background/objective/purpose.
  2. Specific locations/objects/activities.
  3. Composition of the team and list of equipment, accessories/ consumables (members of the team will have to pay the full daily tourist tariff).

Letter of recommendation from sponsoring agency (application forms can be obtained from the TCB on payment of Nu/300.00) at least 30 days in advance. The application must be accompanied by:

Filming Royalty:

  1. First 30 Minutes or part thereof ~ US $10,000
  2. 2. Next 30 Minutes or part thereof ~ US $6,000
  3. 3. Every additional 30 Minutes or part there of US $3,000

In addition a security deposit of US $5,000 must be deposited with the DOT. This deposit will be refunded upon completion of the film to the satisfaction of the DOT.

Medical and Health:

Anyone who enjoys out door life and is physically fit can participate on our treks and tours. We have given the details of Tours and Treks available and how you can plan to take this Tours and treks.

How ever some treks maybe rigorous and difficult because of high altitude and therefore a good training of fitness for at least a month at home is required for treks going to an altitude in excess of 4000 mts/1500 ft. there are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Bhutan or within the continent. However it is recommended that you be protected against Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A, Malaria, especially if you are traveling out of Bhutan. If you have heart condition, please check with the doctor to ensure that it is ok to undertake high altitude treks.

Travel Insurance for Bhutan Vacation:

The costs that we offer do not cover your Travel Insurance. It is imperative that you have full comprehensive insurance cover to protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps during your vacation in Bhutan. Such policies are not available in Bhutan. It should adequately cover baggage and travel delays etc. and helicopter evacuation, transportation and medical assistance incase of treks.

Single Room Supplement:

Rooms and Tent camp accommodations are provided on double occupancy basis. If you wish to reserve a single tent or Hotel room, an additional surcharge of USD 40 is applicable per person per night.

Alternation of Itineraries:

Excursion to Himalayas reserves the right to modify or alter many trip itineraries due to circumstances beyond our control such as Flight cancellation, weather condition, political strikes or restrictions etc.

Customs and Regulations:

The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious Antiquity or antiques of any type. All personal electronics, Cameras, Video Cameras, Computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the custom form provided on arrival at Paro airport and will be checked on departure. Two liters of alcohol and reasonable quantity of cigarettes may be brought into the country without duty.

Ear Plugs:

Compared to other towns, Thimphu has a high number of Stray dogs. You may be disturbed by the barking of the dogs at night. So we highly advise you to bring ear plugs.

Bhutan Travel Guide for Indian Travelers:

As indian national traveling Bhutan do not need to buy prepackage tour of Bhutan or apply permit. They can travel Bhutan as a backpacker or join groups. For more information please check Bhutan Travel Guide for Indian.

Flights to Bhutan

Bhutan Travel Guide also helps to find flights to Bhutan. Bhutan operates from many major destination. Bhutan have two local airlines Drukair and Bhutanairlines. They fly from India,Thailand,Singapore and Nepal. All tourist traveling Bhutan have to book their flights only from this two airlines. No other international airlines operates in Bhutan due to small airport and mountain terrain.

Paro is the only International airport in Bhutan. Check our page for more information on Bhutan Flights schedule.