Bhutan is nestling in the heart of the great Himalaya. The country’s history stretches back to the origins of Buddhism and its spiritually rich people are enterprising, Pragmatic and delightfully humorous. They live in harmony with nature and have evolved a unique identity’ derived largely from a religious and cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayas, between Tibet to the north and the Indian territories of Assam and west Bengal to the south. The Kingdom has a total area of about 47, 0000 square kilometers. Has for centuries remained aloof from the rest of the world. Since its doors were cautiously opened in 1974, visitors have been mesmerized: the environment is pristine, the scenery and architecture awesome and the people hospitable and charming.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world where Buddhism is the official religion and is endorsed by the government. To ensure the perpetuation of Buddhism, normally, one son from each family attends monastic school. The Buddhist faith plays a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life, bringing with it a reverence for the land and its well-being. Annual festivals (Tshechu and Dromchoes) are spiritual occasions in each district and are dedicated to either Guru Rimpoche or other deities.
Mahayana Buddhism was the state religion, and Buddhists comprised about 70% of the population in the early 1990s. Although originating from Tibetan Buddhism, Bhutanese Buddhism differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization. The government through annual subsidies to monasteries, shrines, monks, and nuns has long supported the state religion financially. Throughout Bhutan, stupas or Chortens line the roadside commemorating a place where Guru Rimpoche or another Shabdrung may have stopped to meditate. Prayers flags are even more common as fluttering on long poles they maintain constant communication with the heavens.
The majority of Bhutan's Buddhists are followers of the Drukpa sub-sect of the Kargyupa School, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kargyupa literally means a concept tying the realization of emptiness to freedom from reincarnation. This school is a combination of the Theravada (monastic), Mahayana (messianic), and Tantrayana (apocalyptic or esoteric techniques of meditation and a repertoire of sacred icons, phrases, gestures, and rituals that easily lend themselves to practical interpretation) forms of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism holds that salvation can be achieved through the intercession of compassionate bodhisattvas (enlightened ones or deities which occupy the center of a richly polytheistic universe of subordinate deities) who have delayed their own entry into a state of nibbana, or nirvana, enlightenment and selfless bliss, to save others. Emphasis is put on the doctrine of the cosmic Buddha, of whom the historical Buddha - Siddhartha Gautama (563 BC- 483 B.C) is only one of the many manifestations.
Monasteries and convents are common throughout Bhutan. Both monks and nuns keep their heads shaved and wear distinguishing maroon robes. To bring Buddhism to the people, numerous symbols and structures are employed. Religious monuments, prayer walls, prayer flags, and sacred mantras carved in stone hillsides can still be found all over Bhutan. Among the religious monuments are Chorten, the Bhutanese version of the Indian stupas. They range from simple rectangular "house" Chorten to complex edifices with ornate steps, doors, domes, and spires. Some are decorated with the Buddha's eyes that see in all directions simultaneously.
The earth, brick, or stone structures commemorate deceased kings, Buddhist saints, venerable monks, and other notables, and sometimes serve as reliquaries. Prayer walls are made of laid or piled stone and inscribed with Tantric prayers. Prayers printed with woodblocks on cloth are made into tall, narrow, colourful prayer flags, which are then mounted on long poles and placed both at holy sites and at dangerous locations to ward off demons and to benefit the spirits of the dead. To help propagate the faith, itinerant monks travel from village to village carrying portable shrines with many small doors, which open to reveal statues and images of the Buddha, bodhisattavas, and notable lamas.
The royal family alternately practices the Nyingmapa and Kargyupa forms of Buddhism.
The minority religion of Bhutan is Hinduism, whose followers - those of Nepalese origin - officially constitute 28% of the population. Major Hindu festivals are recognized as national holidays, and even the royal family participates in them. There is a small percentage of the population, about 5%, who practice Islam. Although foreign religious personnel are permitted to work in Bhutan as educators, the government does not let them proselytize.
Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, are present in very small numbers throughout the country. There was reportedly only one building used for Christian worship in the south of the country, the only location where the concentration of Christians was sufficiently large to sustain a church building. Elsewhere, families and individuals practiced their religion at home.
Approximately one-quarter to one-third of the population, ethnic Nepalese who live mainly in the south, practices Hinduism. The Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Shakta, Ghanapath, Paurinic, and Vedic schools are represented among Hindus.
A very old form of worship, which was followed before Buddhism prevailed, is Bon, a kind of an animistic and shamanistic faith. It is a Tibetan word meaning invocation or recitation and has priests - bonpo - who perform exorcisms, burial rites, and divinations to tame threatening demons and to understand the wishes of the gods, which revolves around the worship of nature. The arrival of this faith to the country predated that of Buddhism. Bon priests still can be found in the country, but very few citizens adhere to this faith. Bon rituals sometimes are included in the observance of Buddhist festivals. Bon has in a way conversely influenced popular Buddhism and has established a canon of teachings, which continue to be practiced in present day Bhutan.
Climate of Bhutan
Bhutan is a mountainous country with some fertile valleys and savanna. Its climate varies greatly: tropical in the southern plains; cold winters and hot summers in central valley’s; and severe winters and cool summers in the Himalayas with year-round snow on the main summits. As in most of Asia, the, monsoons dominate the weather patterns, and the altitude and elevation also has a huge impact; hence conditions can vary dramatically from place to place; and day to day.
The three relief zones (the foothills, the Central Himalayan valleys and the High Himalayas) also define three climatic regions: tropical, temperate with monsoon and alpine with monsoon. The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country. Western Bhutan is particularly affected by the monsoons that bring between 60 and 90 percent of the region's rainfall. Mid December to early January can be beautifully clear and dry here. Fluctuations are not so dramatic in summer and daytime temperatures often rise to 30° Centigrade.
In the Thimphu and Paro valleys, daytime temperature in winter averages 20° Centigrade during clear winter days but drops well below freezing during the night with light snowfall and occasional snowstorms. The Punakha and the central valley’s tend to be warmer and enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters. The high mountain peaks are snow covered through the year and the mountain passes, especially Thrumsing La (between Bumthang and Mongar), can be treacherous during winter. Bhutan's generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. With splashes of color everywhere it is supremely multihued and can only be compared to an artist's palette. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues through the premonsoon rains of late June. The summer monsoon lasts from late June through late September with heavy rains from the southwest. The monsoon weather, its northward progress blocked by the Himalayas, brings heavy rains, high humidity, flash floods and landslides, and numerous misty, overcast days. The views of the Himalayas are completely obscured by clouds and rain from May to August while spectacular rhododendrons bloom in the verdant valleys in this season. Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfall at higher elevations. From late November until March, winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 meters. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds down through High Mountain passes, giving Bhutan its name - Drukyul, which in the Dzongkha language means Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Facts for the Traveler
Visas: Despite popular mythology, you don't need special 'pull' to get a visa, neither is there a limit on the number of tourists allowed to visit. However, to minimize the perceived threat to Bhutan's unique culture, the government has established a stringent set of rules, which means you must travel on a pre-arranged itinerary and pay around 165.00-200.00, depending on the time of year, a night for the privilege, all costs included. Apart from that, the process is relatively straightforward. All visa applications must be channeled through the Department of Tourism (DOT) from a selected tour operator. With notification of approval and receipt of full payment, visas are issued when you arrive in the country. It's actually an extremely efficient system and you can set up a trip with as little as 10 days planning.
Best time to visit Bhutan
The best time to visit is October and November and during major festivals. The climate is best in autumn, from late September to late November, when skies are clear and the high mountain peaks are visible. This is the ideal time for trekking and for travelling throughout the country. You're likely to get wet no matter what the season, but avoid the monsoon, June-August, when an average of 0.5m (1.5ft) of rain buckets down in Thimphu and up to 1m (3ft) saturates the eastern hills.
Bhutan Attractions Thimphu
Thimphu lies in a beautiful, wooded valley, sprawling up a hillside on the bank of the Thimphu Chhu river, and it is the only world capital without traffic lights. Despite recent development, Thimphu retains its charming, medieval feel thanks to its brightly painted, elaborately decorated facades.
It sounds like a blues bar in America's deep south, but Bumthang is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan and home to its most ancient and precious Buddhist sites. Bumthang encompasses four major valleys; the main one, Choskhor, is home to the most important dzongs, temples and palaces.
If you come to Bhutan by air, you'll probably land in Paro. Western Bhutan is the heartland of the Drukpa people and you will be confronted with the largest, oldest and most spectacular dzongs in the kingdom and you will immediately realise you are well off the beaten track of world tourism.
Phobjika is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. It borders the Black Mountains National Park which is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country because of the large flock of rare, endangered black-necked cranes that winter there.
Laya, in the far northwest of Bhutan, is one of the kingdom's highest villages at 3700m (12,136ft), under the peak of the Tsenda Gang. A group known as Layap, comprising about 800 people with their own language, customs and dress, lives here. The village women in particular strike dashing figures.
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary
This 650 sq km (253 sq mi) sanctuary, in the easternmost part of the kingdom, is unique as the only reserve in the world created specifically to protect the habitat of the yeti, known in Bhutan as the migoi (strong man).
The pretty, lively town of Trashigang is a good jumping-off point to visit the kingdom's wild east. Few travellers make it here but, as long as you're happy to leave behind the relative comforts of Thimphu and Paro, exploring this neck of the woods can have its rewards.
Bhutan Tour Package 1: (3 Nights/ 4 Days)
Day 01 : Arrive at Paro airport & transfer to the Hotel. O/n
Day 02 : Half day sightseeing at Paro. Drive to Thimphu Evening at Leisure in town. O/n Hotel .
Day 03 : Half day sightseeing at Thimphu. Drive back to Paro. O/n .
Day 04 : Transfer to airport, departure.
Bhutan Tour Package 2: (4 Nights / 5 Days)
Day 01 : Arrive at Paro airport & transfer to the Hotel. O/n Hotel Drunk. Paro.
Day 02 : Full day sightseeing at Paro. Drive to Thimphu. O/n Hotel
Day 03 : Full day sightseeing in Thimphu. Evening at leisure. O/n Hotel.
Day 04 : Excursion to Dochula Pass - drive to Paro. O/n .
Day 05 : Transfer to airport, departure.
Bhutan Tour Package 3: (5 Nights / 6 Days)
Day 01: Arrive at Paro airport & transfer to the Hotel. O/n Hotel.
Day 02: Full day sightseeing at Paro. O/n
Day 03: Drive to Thimphu-Half day sightseeing in Thimphu. O/n Hotel
Day 04: Drive to Punakha - Sightseeing in Wangduephodang. O/n Hotel
Day 05: Drive to Paro - excursion to Chelala. O/n .
Day 06: Transfer to Airport, departure.
Bhutan Tour Package 4: Lunana Snowman Bhutan Tour (5night/6Day)
Day 01: Arrival Kathmandu, Transfer to Hotel
Day 12: Drive to Paroto Shana Camp.
Day 03: Trek to Soi Thangthankha Camp.
Day 04: Trek to Lingshi Camp.
Day 05: Thimphu to Paro over night stay at hotel BLD plan.
Day 06: after breakfast drive back to paro and visit to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and farm house. Overnight stay at Hotel
Day 07: After breakfast transfer to airport in time for your departure.
Bhutan Tour Package 5: Glimpse of Bhutan tour (6Night/7day)
Day 01: Arrival Kathmandu and transfer to Hotel B/L/D plan.
Day 02: Arrival in Paro and Drive to Thimphu over night stays at hotel B/L/D plan. Upon arrival in Paro, clear customs and immigration. Keep your copy of visa clearance letter handy. P.P size pictures are no longer required and your visa has been paid. Meet your guide and Driver outside the terminal building and transfer to Thimphu. Stroll around the city in the evening. Overnight at Thimphu
Day 03: Thimphu sightseeing: Today’s exploration of Thimphu begins we will take in more of the Kingdom’s rich culture at the National Library, Folk Heritage Museum and School for Traditional Arts. We will also visit Changangkha Lhakhang, nunnery temple and Tashichho Dzong, the main Government Secretariat building, where the government ministries, the Office of His Majesty the King and the Throne Room, the offices and living quarters of the monk body and the Chief Abbot’s housed. Evening drive back to Paro. Overnight stay at Hotel Khangkhu.
Day 04: Paro Tiger’s Nest : After breakfast we will drive through the beautiful Paro Valley and stunning hike on foot or perhaps on the back of a few accommodating mules to the Taktsang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. The hike which is all the way uphill takes about 2 hours through pine forests. The Goemba which clings to a huge granite cliff 900 meters, it is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. It is a pilgrimage place.
Day 05:In the afternoon we will visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang the sacred monastery th dates back to 7 century, Drugyel dzong , the fort defended the Paro valley from the Tibetan invasion from the north in the early 17th century. On clear weather.
Day 06: After breakfast transfer to the airport in time for your departure flight to own ward destination.
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