THE LAST PARADISE Known to the natives as Druk Yul , Bhutan is regarded as the last paradise on earth. The Kingdom’s isolation, Spectacular Mountain terrain, varied flora and fauna and its ancient Buddhist monasteries, vibrant culture and mystic aura have made it so.
Through small in size, Bhutan ’s topography is one of dramatic contrasts. From the near-tropical southern border with India at an altitude of 300 m. the land rises to culminate in the over 7000m. Peaks o the Himalayan in the north which form a natural frontier with the Tibetan region of Bhutan ’s shorthorn neighbor, china.
THIMPU Lying in a valley (elevation 2350 m.) Thimpu is unlike any other capital in the world. The traditional architecture of its houses and buildings is particularly striking.
The places to visit are the Memorial Chorten, dedicated to the late king Jingme Dorji Wangchuk; Tashichho Dzong, seat of the government of Bhutan and the summer residence of the central monk body; the Traditional Medicine Hospital where herbal medicines are prepared; the National Library, a treasure trove of ancient texts; the Painting School where children learn the traditional techniques of drawing and painting; Dechenchholing to see traditional gold and silver smiths at work; Changangkha Lakhang which contains ancient scriptures and thanks painting; and Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan’s oldest fortress which now houses a school for Buddhist studies.
AROUND BHUTAN Western Bhutan: Paro is 65 km (two hours drive) to the southwest of Thimpu. The Taktsang Monastery where Guru Rinpoche meditated to subdue evils spirits; Rinpung Dzong, venue of the Paro Tsetchu (religious festival); Ta dzong which houses the National Museum; the ruins of Drukgyel Dzing, built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan aggressors; Kyushu Lakang, one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan; and Dungtse Lakhang with its extraordinary collection of religious paintings, are the places to see in the valley
Punakha 77km (3 hours and 15 minutes drive) northeast of Thimpu, served as the capital of Bhutan until 1995 and, even today, it is the winter home of the central monk body. The Punakha Dzong houses many sacred artifacts and temples. The road from Thimpu to Punakha crosses the 3115-m. Dochula pass.
Wangdi Phodrang (or Wangdi) is situated 70 km (three hours’ drive) southeast of Thimpu. The Wangdi Phodrang Dzong played a key role during the unification of Bhutan . En-route from Wangdi to Tongsa is the Gangtey Gompa, the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan .
VISA AND TRANSPORT Foreign travelers must posses a visa for Bhutan which is granted initially for 14 days. While the actual visa is stamped on arrival in Bhutan upon payment of US $ 20, visitors need to obtain visa clearance from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB) in advance. Visa can be extended in Thimpu for up to six months. The operator making your arrangements will handle the official formalities.
Transport is provided by tour operators who have their own fleet of luxury buses. All the major places of interest are connected by the paved roads.
GENERAL INFO Bhutan has a strip of plain in the south, a network of valleys in the central parts and over 7000m. high mountains in the north.
Access: Druk air, Bhutan ’s airline, operates flights to Paro from Bangkok , Calcutta , Dhaka, Kathmandu and New Delhi . There are two overland entry exit points one if from the Indian State of West Bgngal into Phuntsholing in the southwest Bhutan . Phuntsholing is four hours’ drive from Bagdogra, the nearest Indian airport and seven hours’ drive from both Gangtok ( Sikkim ) and Darjeeling . The drive from Phuntshoing to Thimpu takes six hours. The other point is Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast, 110 from Guwahati, India . An inner line permit to enter Assam will also be required to enter/exit through Guwahati. Trashigang is six hours’ drive from Samdrup Jongkhar.
Tariff: The TAB has set minimum tariffs which are different from the high and low seasons. Individuals and groups of less than four persons must pay a surcharge. The rates are the same for both cultural tours and treks.
Seasons: March-May and September-November are the high season months, while June, July and December – February comprise the low season. Bring cotton or light woolen wear in summer (maximum temperature 30 degrees Celsius) and heavy woolens and down jacket in winter (minimum 1.1 degree Celsius). Adventure: Trekking and mountaineering. Accommodation: Modern hotels are available in Thimpu. The outlying areas have comfortable resorts and lodges.
Bhutanese Culture Being remote and isolated independent kingdom in the foot of Eastern Himalaya and the last bastion of the Tibetan Buddhist Culture and religion in its purest form, despite opening up to tourism in the late 70\"s it has managed to minimize the effect of the outside influence and the country is virtually untouched, in terms of the environment, religion, architecture and life style, Bhutan has the youngest reigning monarch in the world, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk who guards Bhutan\'s culture and national identity fiercely.
It is remarkable country an dthgis journey offers to see not only Bhutan\'s exquisite Himalayan Scenery but to experience to its rich and ancient tradition in Thimpu, the capital city and Paro is second largest city, Only few people have the privileged experiencing Bhutan in the light of the fragility of such a small nation and tradition, culture in this age of superpowers this slice of an old world may, in the future, let us serve you smiling.
LIFESTYLE & ENTERTAINMENT BHUTANESE LIFE STYLE Most Bhutanese live on farms, in remote hamlets, amidst sylvan settings. The fast life that is both the badge and bane of modern living is alien to the season-paced lifestyle of these agrarian folk.
Bhutanese society is egalitarian in its apparel; regardless of social stratum, everybody dresses alike. The national dress is a distinctive one, finely woven from multi-colored, vibrant-hued wool, cotton or silk. The male attire is called a \"gho\" and the female, the \"kira\". Jewellery is primarily coral, turquoise, pearls and agate set in exquisitely crafted gold and silver.
The cuisine of the country is robust with lots of meat, cereals and vegetables, liberally spiced with chillies. Salted butter tea, called \"suja\", which may sit strangely on occidental tongues, is customarily and frequently served along with puffed or pounded rice and maize. Potent rice, wheat and barley wines are brewed locally.
Archery is the popular and perennial national sport played usually with bamboo bows and arrows. An integral part of most festivities, archery matches are gala affairs with music, dances, drinks and fun.
The ancient and traditional forms of music and dance of the different regions in Bhutan , usually loaded with sacred symbolism, have been scrupulously preserved. The gentle grace of the folk dances and the dramatic gusto of the energetic and resplendent masked dances are bound to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
MUSIC & DANCE Bhutanese religious dances are called \"CHAM\" and there are a large number of them. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks, which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls, manifestation of Guru Rimpoche or just the simple human beings.
Religious dances can be grouped into three categories; INSTRUCTIVE OR DIDACTIC DANCES; which are dramas with a moral (Dances of the princes & princesses, the Dance of the stag and the hunting dogs, the Dance of the judgement of the dead), DANCES THAT PURIFY AND PROTECT A PLACE FROM DEMONIC SPIRITS (the dance of the master of the cremation grounds, the dance of the stags, the dance of the fearsome gods, the dance of the black hats, the dance of the Ging and the Tsholing) and DANCES THAT PROCLAIM THE VICTORY OF BUDDHISM AND THE GLORY OF GURU RIMPOCHE (all dances with drums, the dance of the heroes, the dance of the celestial beings, the dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Rimpoche).
Like the dances, religious music reflects a strong Tibetan influence. Music gives rhythm to the dances and religious ceremonies, and it punctuates the singing or recitation of the texts.