Information about Bhutan:
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked nation in South Asia. It is located amid the eastern end of the Himalayan range and is bordered by India to the south, east and west and to the north by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Bhutan is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim. The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul which means "Land of the Thunder Dragon". The few visitors who make the rare journey into this extraordinary kingdom will discover that there is no other destination like this land of pure and exotic mysticism. The fortunate visitors will find a rare combination of harmony and accord, amidst a landscape of incredible natural beauty. The Bhutanese have succeeded in maintaining their cultural and spiritual heritage and belief that they live in the last Shangri-La by strictly limiting the number of tourists to the Kingdom to a maximum of 5000 each year.
People and Language of Bhutan:
Bhutan has a diverse population. It is home to four ethnic groups: Ngalop - of Tibetan origin; Sharchop-of Indo-Mongoloid origin; aboriginal, or indigenous, tribal peoples; and Nepalese. In the early 1990s, the first three groups made up about 72 percent of the population. The Ngalops are thought to be of Tibetan origin, arriving in Bhutan during the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. and bringing Buddhism with them. Most Ngalops follow the Drukpa Kagyupa discipline of Mahayana Buddhism. In a country that is deeply rooted within the Buddhist religion, many people's sect of religion, as opposed to their ethnic group, characterizes them. The Sharchops, who live in the eastern section of Bhutan, are considered to be descendants of the earliest major group to inhabit Bhutan. The Ngalops, Sharchops, and the indigenous tribal people are collectively known as Drukpas and account for about 65% of the population. The national language is Dzongkha, but English is the language of instruction in schools and an official working language for the government. The Lhotsampas are people of Nepali descent, currently making up 35% of the population. They came to Bhutan in the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly settling in the southern foothills to work as farmers. They speak a variety of Nepali dialects and are predominantly Hindu.
Geography of Bhutan:
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a Himalayan nation and is located towards the eastern extreme of the aforementioned mountain range. It is fairly evenly sandwiched between the sovereign territory of two nations: first, the People's Republic of China on the north and northwest. There are approximately 470 kilometers of border with China's Tibet autonomous region. The nation's territory totals an approximate 46,500 square kilometers. It is a landlocked country with an area and mountain range comparable to Switzerland.
Culture of Bhutan:
The culture of Bhutan is among the oldest, most carefully guarded and well preserved cultures in the world. The people of Bhutan have always been careful about conserving their centuries-old culture. Even today, Bhutan has been able to retain its old world charm by restricting the number of tourists allowed to enter. This is one of the reasons Bhutan is loved by the tourists who want to pass their holidays in ethnic pockets.
Religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life. Prayer flags flutter on hillsides offering up prayers to benefit all nearby sentient beings. Houses each fly a small white flag on the roof indicating the owner has made his offering payments to appease the local god.
Entry Procedures To Bhutan:
Bhutan is accessible by air and by road. A visa is required for anyone traveling into Bhutan. No foreign missions may grant a Bhutan Tourist Visa. Two copies of original passport size photographs are required on arrival. If you are willing to obtain your visas in Kathmandu this is also possible, you should arrive in Kathmandu at least one week prior to departure for Bhutan. The visas can also be arranged within a day paying emergency charge. Visas are not issued by Bhutanese embassies and missions abroad and are only extended in Thimphu by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Climate of Bhutan:
Like most of the Asian continent, Bhutan's climate is also largely affected by monsoons. The north-eastern monsoon brings powerful winds that pass through high mountain passes. A strange sound emerges from this natural phenomenon, lending Bhutan its nickname 'Land of the Thunder Dragon'. Various parts of the country have different types of climates. The western part of the country has monsoon climate, in the southern plains and foothills, it is humid and subtropical. The southern and central regions have temperate climates. The northern part of Bhutan has an alpine climate with Himalayan peaks clodded with snow. Winter in Bhutan begins from mid-November and ends in mid-March. At this time of the year the climate is dry, with day-time temperatures of 16-19 degrees centigrade (with sunshine and clear skies) and night time temperature falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, the rains cease and autumn suddenly arrives bringing in the best time of the year for trekking which lasts until mid-November.
Clothing and Equipment:
Due to the wide range of temperature and climate conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. For protection against cold; layered clothing is better than a few thick ones, so choose your clothes accordingly. On treks, Clothes are preferably made from natural materials which will allow the body to breathe easily. Clothes an accesories as per season, sunglasses, spare glasses or contact lenses, pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella, camera, film and accessories, books, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit, safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, nail clippers, scissors, sun cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream [for relief of insect bites], anti-diarrhea medication, preparation of relief of sunburn etc. (We will send you a checklist of things to bring based on the trip you undertake).
There are comfortable hotels and lodges at all tourist destinations. Western Bhutan has better hotels while in the central and eastern parts of the country, accommodation establishments are simple and offer minimum facilities. Bhutanese delicacies are limited with spicy chilies 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 taste ranging from Continental to Chinese and Bhutanese to Indian.