Bhutan, officially known as “The Kingdom of Bhutan” is a Buddhist country in the Eastern Himalayan mountains sandwiched between India to the south and China to the north. This small South Asian nation was once isolated from the world until the 1960s. As of 2020, Bhutan has a population of approximately 770,000.
This Himalayan Kingdom is often perceived to be the last Shangri-La on earth owing to its pristine natural environment, awe-inspiring landscapes, centuries old monasteries and majestic fortresses (dzongs).
The Natural Beauty of Bhutan
One of the most impressive aspects of Bhutan is its clean, fresh and untouched nature. Bhutan’s constitution mandates the country to be at least 60 percent forest cover and today, the forest coverage is at least 70 percent . In fact, it is the only carbon negative country in the world where it absorbs more carbon than it emits.
Bhutan is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna and it is enriched by the different climatic zones from subtropical lowlands, temperate midlands to the alpine highlands. The ecology richness is not just a paradise to the nature lover but also to trekkers alike due to the low volume of trekkers each year. This will allow trekkers to indulge in their treks and take in the stunning views of the majestic Himalayas. If you are a mountain lover, you will definitely be mesmerised by the charm of Mount Jomolhari, Mount Jichu Drake or Mount Masangang. If you are an avid hiker and game for more adventurous trails, you could embark on one of the world’s toughest treks, the 21-day Snowman Trek.
Culture and Tradition of Bhutan
One of Bhutan’s greatest strengths is in its distinctive identity as culture preservation in Bhutan is serious business. The preservation and promotion of culture is one of the four key pillars of the nation’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) development philosophy. Some aspects of cultural heritage preservation include the preservation of traditional architecture, festivals celebration, use of the national language ‘Dzongkha’, and how one should dress or behave in an official setting.
To preserve customs, it is compulsory for Bhutanese to don their traditional costumes in schools, government offices and all formal occasions. Men wear a ‘gho’, a knee-length robe tied at the waist with a “kera” – hand-woven fabric belt. Women wear a ‘kira’, an ankle length rectangular piece of brightly coloured cloth over a silk blouse called a ‘wonju’ with a jacket ‘tego’ worn over it.
The culture and traditional values in Bhutan are also deeply rooted in Buddhism. Spirituality and Buddhism is an integral part of daily life in Bhutan where behaviours, perceptions and daily routines are largely guided by Buddhist principles. Bhutanese ladies wearing the traditional dress called ‘Kira’.
Tshechu also known as ‘Mask Dance Festival’ in Bhutan. Photo by Lester V. Lesdema
Bhutan’s richness in cultural diversity is further enhanced by the elaborate and colourful religious festivals that are celebrated throughout the country. One of the most popular festivals is the annual Tshechu ‘Mask Dance Festival’, where everyone will wear their finest clothing and congregate at their local temples or monasteries. These festivals are held in all districts in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century.
Places to Visit in Bhutan
There is much to see and experience in Bhutan. For the cultural buff, you can indulge in the architectural magnificence of the different ‘dzongs’ (fortresses), visit centuries old Buddhist monasteries and don their traditional attire. Tshechus happen throughout the year in different months. For the adrenaline junkie, you’ll definitely want to check out the different stunning Himalayan trails or try out the white water rafting.
Takstang Monastery, popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, the national icon of Bhutan is definitely a must-see when you are in the Kingdom! The majestic sacred Buddhist monastery perched on the cliff top, 2950m above sea level provides an unforgettable hiking experience with awe-inspiring sceneries to all travellers. Historical places of importance include Tashichho Dzong, Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lhakang, Kyichu Lhakang, while Dochula Pass, Bumthang valley, Gangtey (Phobjikha valley) and many more offer scenic views. Takstang Monastery at Paro, also famously known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’.
Best time to visit Bhutan
Spring (April – May) and Autumn (October – November) are generally regarded as the best time to visit Bhutan due to the favourable climate and temperature. Spring is a time to experience the stunning blossoms of a wide range of flora in Bhutan, while Autumn is the perfect time to witness the golden fields of ripening of rice crops with beautiful turquoise sky. Both seasons also have the highest concentration of local Tshechu.
Summer is a time of evergreen with light showers typically in the late afternoon, while Winter is a time to photograph the crisp blue sky with the snow-capped mountains. Bhutan experiences mild winter, with snowfall reaching the populated centres only once to thrice throughout winter. If you would like to have an exclusive experience in Bhutan with lesser crowds, summer and winter are the time with the least footfall.
Buddha Dordenma, one of the largest buddha statue measuring 51.5 metre in height located in the capital city of Thimphu.
How To Reach Bhutan
Getting to Bhutan is relatively easy. There are 5 countries in the Southeast Asian and South Asian region – Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India – that provide direct flights to Paro International Airport in Bhutan.
If you are planning to explore the Southeast Asian region, you might want to consider flying to Bhutan from Bangkok in Thailand or Bhutan from Singapore. Southeast Asia is definitely the more popular region for tourists, especially backpackers.
Get in touch with a travel consultant
All foreign citizens are required to apply for a visa to enter Bhutan. Travelling to Bhutan can only be arranged through a licensed tour agency. If you are keen to find out more information or book your trip to Bhutan, you can reach out to Bhutan Travel Specialist, Druk Asia, Drukair’s official representative in Singapore. Their dedicated consultants will be able to assist you with the visa application, travel arrangements and planning your most memorable trip to Bhutan. Druk Asia has served more than 16,000 travellers from more than 90 countries.
Whether you are seeking for a cultural tour, a trekking tour, a luxurious getaway, or an adventurous trail, just let your Druk Asia travel specialist know and they will be able to tailor an authentic experience customised to your needs.