Bhutan is no ordinary place. It is the last great Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystery and magic, where a traditional Buddhist culture carefully embraces global developments.
There is a place on earth that even the most seasoned traveller consider a privilege to visit. And although it is voted one of the world’s top travel destinations, very few make it. This is Drukyul, Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. You cannot find a more enlightening travel destination today.
Bhutan is marked by raw natural beauty where the dense foliage changes dramatically as the sub tropical jungles at sea level merge into a fertile temperate zone and rises up to the great northern glaciers. The pristine environment is home to exotic wild life and is the last refuge for endangered species like the Black-Necked Crane, the Blue Sheep, the Golden Langur, the Takin and even the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The kingdom of Bhutan today remains as one of the last un-ventured destinations. And Bhutan does not have traffic lights even today. That is how the Bhutanese people would like to keep it. Thus the carefully managed tourism policy of the government based on ‘High value, Low impact’, in essence: ‘take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints’.
The country has so far only one international airport that caters to the needs of visitors. The international airport at Paro is located at a height of 7,300 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 ft. There are flights from destinations that include Singapore, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bagdogra and Bodh Gaya.
The flight to Paro is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. In fine weather, as you soar higher up, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.
And there are domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan that Drukair operates to.
Bhutan’s most famous monastery perched on the side of a cliff at a height of 900m above the Paro valley and popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” is one of most venerated religious sites.
Superbly situated where two rivers converge, Punakha Dzong is postcard perfect and serenely monastic. Built by the Zhabdrung in 1637, it is the winter home of the Monastic Body of Bhutan and the venue for the coronation of kings of Bhutan
Most of the Dzongs and Goembas have annual festivals featuring mesmerizing masked-dance dramas. The largest of these festivals is the Tsechu – with dances in honor of the Guru Rinpoche.
The valleys comprising Bumthang make up the cultural heartland of Bhutan and are ideal for day hikes to monasteries. Witness the imprint of Guru Rinpoche, hoist Pema Lingpa’s 25kg chainmail, and stare into the churning waters of Mebartsho (the Burning Lake), where Pema Lingpa uncovered hidden treasures.
Against the backdrop of western slopes of the Black Mountains in Wangdue Phodrang, lies the bowl-shaped Phobjikha valley that offers breathtaking views of vast expanses of green fields. It is home to the endangered Black-necked Crane that winters here, also called Gangtey, a breathtaking glacial valley.
Bhutan’s treks are physically demanding but hugely rewarding. They generally reach high altitudes and remote regions, and several are justifiably renowned in trekking circles including the Jomolhari Trek and Snowman Trek.
Bhutan is an year-round destination with four distinct seasons and each season has its own beauty and charm, hence, it is entirely up to your preferences:
Spring (March, April & May)
Spring is a botanist’s delight as various flowers start to bloom and plants start budding after their long dormancy in winter. Flowers such as rhododendron, wild azaleas, and edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet and add a new sense of wonder to the Bhutan’s landscape.
Summer (June, July & August)
It is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in full bloom and valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweep the banks of many of the river and pine cone glisten in the sun, so full with risen they are ready to plummet to the ground.
Autumn (September, October & November)
This is the time when the entire landscape turns into golden color. The farmers harvesting their crops in the golden colored paddy fields under the crisp blue skies is just an amazing view of Bhutan’s landscape in the Autumn season.
Winter (December, January & February)
Winter has its moments. The days are full of sunshine while evenings can turn chilly. Soft turfs of clouds drape lazily over mountain tops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape. The winter season in Bhutan gives one a clear view of the world’s highest Himalayan mountain ranges covered in snow.
Most of the Dzongs and Goembas have annual festivals featuring mesmerizing masked-dance dramas. The largest of these festivals is the Tsechu – with dances in honor of the Guru Rinpoche. Spring and Autumn seasons are, however, commonly favored as the best time to visit Bhutan with Paro and Thimphu Tsechu (Festival), by far the most popular festivals in Bhutan, also taking place during theses seasons respectively.