The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small landlocked country in the Himalayas between Tibet and India. Besides a surprising way of measuring the well-being of its population, Bhutan is both culturally and environmentally a unique country where Buddha-wisdom is key.
What the Happiness!
Bhutan’s government has a unique way to measure the well-being and happiness of its citizens. On 18 July 2008, the government enacted the “Gross National Happinesses” index or in short “GNH”. Gross National Happiness is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population.
GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all the facets of life that are essential; for our happiness.
Preparing your trip
Bhutan is a unique landlocked country and has some unique rules to be followed by the tourists who want to visit Bhutan. Except for the Citizen of Bangladesh, India and Maldives, citizens from other countries must obtain a visa before arriving in Bhutan and tourists must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner) The operator will also make sure that the Visas are applied for online. Fortunately, it’s not required to visit a Bhutanese Embassy or consulate.
The holiday program and the visa will cost you US$ 40 and must be paid in full upfront by the tour operator, clearance takes no longer than 72 hours. Its possible to extend your visa Visa through your local tour operator.
The total cost for a Bhutanese visa is US$ 250/person/night during high season (March, April, May, September, October, and November), and US$ 200/person/night during low season (January, February, June, July, August and December). This cost includes basic accommodation, transportation, meals, unlimited bottled water and entry fees. Discounts apply for minors and larger groups, while surcharges exist for groups smaller than three. At an extra cost, you can choose to upgrade hotels, transportation, and meals.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Bhutan is by air. The international airport is based in Paro, which is in the south-west of the country. Air transport is mostly served by the country’s flag carriers “Druk Air” and the privately owned airline “Bhutan Airlines”. Your flight will most likely have at least one stop-over in either Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, so make sure you are aware of the visa requirements before transmitting.
Show me the Magic
The autumn and spring are the best seasons for trekking. In the summer, the paths are too muddy, in winter they are snow covered.
Every village in Bhutan has a unique festival. Tshechu is the most important and largest religious festival in Bhutan and is celebrated in the late Summer and Fall throughout the country (see city articles for local information), though Thimphu Tshechu is the most famous festival. The highlight of the tshechu ceremonies are the masked dances by monks
Hot Stone Bath
Hot baths can often be found near a riverbed and are preferred to be visited after dark in the open air.
Paro Takstang (Tiger Nest)
Taktsang Monastery is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark. It is a Buddhist temple clinging to a cliff, which is 3120 meters above the sea level. The temple is based on the upper Paro valley, approximately 10 km north of Paro town. To reach it, visitors must trek for around two or three mainly through a stunning pine forest.
Paro Takstang was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for three years, three months, three days and three hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it.
Dochulla pass is located at one of the highest points of Bhutan, on the way to Punakha from Timphu at an elevation of 3100 meters. This place offers a fabulous 360° panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear and warm days, During winters, the snow-clad mountains form a majestic backdrop against all the 108 chortens.
Punakha Dzong is considered as the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan, It stands on an island between the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chuu rivers. it was the second dzong to have been built in the country and served as the seat of government until 1950. The crowning of the Kings of Bhutan took place at the Dzong. Punakha Dzong also serves as the winter residence of the official monk body of Bhutan known as the Dratshang.
Buddha Dordenma statue (Buddha point)
The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park overlooking the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfils an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D. This massive Buddha statue (Shakyamuni statue) is made of pure bronze and gilded in gold. With its 169 feet high, it is the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world. The Buddha Dordenma statue is surrounded by 125,000 smaller Buddha statues, also made of pure bronze and gilded gold.
The memorial was built in 1974 in memory of the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, and is located close to the centre of Thimpu City. It’s also known to be an important place of worship in Thimpu.
Things to keep in mind
- Whenever passing sacred objects such as mani stones, stupas and other religious objects make sure to never sit on it and use the right side when passing such objects. When using turn prayers wheels, make sure to turn it in a clockwise direction;
- Be sure to always wear pants and a long skirt, remove shoes and headgear when visiting temples;
- Smoking is illegal at monasteries and public area’s. Tobacco and products containing tobacco are banned.